Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for July, 2008

McCormick’s Creek Ride

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I wanted to go for a longer ride on Sunday — something in the neighborhood of 50 miles. It had been a while since I did a ride that length. I found another cool route on Bikely that goes to McCormick’s Creek State Park. Sarah and I have done some hiking and photography there in the past, but I’ve never ridden there. I got up early, intending to ride before it got too hot, but by the time I got dressed, walked the dog, ate breakfast, and printed route maps, it was noon. I really should have prepared the night before.

The first part of the ride was the reverse of what I rode the day before, taking me through town and Cascades park, climbing up Clubhouse Drive (which is oddly not as hard as I thought it would be), up to Kinser Pike, across 37 and on Bottom Road for a while. This time I enjoyed a long descent down Bottom Road, but kept my speed down due to the rough road surface, sand and gravel on the road, and my (still weak and easy to hurt) finger that means my grip on the bars/brakes isn’t 100%. I wasn’t on Bottom Road very long, though, turning off onto Maple Grove Road.

Maple Grove was flattish and curvy for a while, later straightening out and leading into some great rolling hills. I would have done a lot better on those hills if I’d been in slightly better shape; as it was my energy often got sapped two thirds of the way up each hill and I struggled over the top, rather than carrying my momentum through the whole hill. I chuckled when I reached the intersection of Maple Grove Road and Maple Grove Road. Fortunately, I knew I needed to keep going straight. This has been a source of confusion for me in the past when driving through this area.

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Maple Grove Road

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Solitary Tree

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Intersection of Maple Grove and Maple Grove

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One of many rolling hills

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Field

The rolling hills continued relentlessly for quite a few miles. I enjoyed them, especially going downhill, and savored every bit of shade I could get. It was really heating up and I felt a bit sluggish. I rode up a hill through a new development and threw my chain. I had just washed my gloves the night before, of course. I got it back in place and rode on. This wasn’t a huge hill, but it felt like it went on for a long time. I enjoyed a fast, twisty descent into Stinesville. The Hilly Hundred route went through Stinesville and I passed the park where a band had been playing that day, where the SAG stop had been, by the creek. I could have used a stop but kept on riding, on up the big hill out of the valley where Stinesville sits. The climb was tough, but not quite as bad as I expected.

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Approaching Stinesville

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Tough climb away from Stinesville

I felt a bit energized after riding that climb well, and a few more rolling hills didn’t bother me. I rode over to State Road 46, which is a fairly busy road with high speed limits, but there’s no way to get to McCormick’s Creek State Park without taking 46 (actually I learned that there is, but since I was riding in a loop the other way was saved for the ride home).

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My handlebars, while taking a breather

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Farm

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Field and power lines

I rode less than two miles on 46, fortunately, and traffic was relatively light. I turned into the state park, glad to be there, ready for a leisurely ride through the park and hopefully a rest in the shade. In fact the roads through the park were very shady and easy to ride on — smooth and curvy but with very mild hills. It’s a beautiful park and I enjoyed the scenery as I rode through it. You can’t see a whole lot of it from the road, but my ride was strenuous enough; I didn’t feel like doing any hiking, and I was wearing my biking shoes anyway. Normally it’s a great place for a hike.

I meandered through the park for a while, planning to end up at a picnic area.

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Shady road through the park

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McCormick’s Creek

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My bicycle on the bridge over the creek

I reached the picnic area where we had a Mother’s Day picnic with my mom last year. There were some picnic tables in the sun right by a couple in the shade — perfect so I could dry out my gloves and helmet on a sunny table while getting some respite from the sun. I had a snack and relaxed a bit. Even though it was hot, and I have trouble with heat sometimes, it was great to get some good riding in. The ride sure felt longer than the 26 miles or so I’d ridden so far, with the heat and the endless hills, so I took a longer break than I normally would.

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Resting in a picnic area

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Peering into the woods behind me

After that much-needed break, I got moving again. Almost immediately after crossing 46, I enjoyed a long, winding trip down River Road with probably a solid mile of downhill riding. The wind rushing over me as I coasted easily down the hill felt great and gave just the cooling effect I needed.

Once at the bottom, the road followed the river for a little while, with a few smaller hills. It was nice to ride right by the water, and there was some beautiful farmland as well. The road surface got very rough and heavily scored at a couple of different points.

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Following the river

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Farm

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Scored road surface

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Curvy road

When I reached Pea Ridge Road, I was in for quite a surprise: it’s gravel. I’ve ridden my road bike on gravel roads before and it does well with tightly-packed gravel, but in case it seemed like the road had been paved but fell into a state of disrepair and someone scored the road and spread a thick layer of loose gravel on the pavement surface. My bicycle felt pretty unstable, and to make matters worse it was a hilly, curvy road. It was extremely challenging riding. I was glad I run relatively wide tires (28s) on my road bike, rather than the skinnier 23s or 25s a lot of roadies use.

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Tough gravel climb

There was very little shade on this road. I really wasn’t prepared for this. The sun blazing down on me and the lack of breeze from my slow speed had me worried I’d overheat. I took it slow (not really by choice) and took a few breaks along the way. Even the downhill parts were tricky because my traction was so poor and I had to keep my speed down, knowing if I picked up too much speed I wouldn’t be able to stop. Through all this hard braking on a loose gravel road, my finger felt surprisingly good — it’s healing well. I tried climbing out of the saddle a bit but my rear tire spun out when I did so. I sat back down and spun up the hill, ever so slowly.

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Road bike tire on gravel

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Handlebars and gravel

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Right-angle turn in the road

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Greenery along the road

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More gravel

What a remote area … I only saw one car the whole time I was on the gravel road, and only a couple of people at their homes. The people I did see seemed surprised to see me … I don’t imagine they get many cyclists on this road.

While the gravel was a fun challenge in a way, I was glad when I reached a paved road. I think I spent about 2 1/2 miles on gravel, most of it climbing. It felt like much more than that. However, the paved road didn’t offer much respite. It was flat briefly but then threw at me the biggest rolling hills of the whole ride. 200 feet of elevation loss, 200 feet of climbing, a couple of times, and some smaller hills. I even walked up part of one hill (I can’t even remember the last time I did that).

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Farm

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About to descend

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Cruising

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A flatter section

I about ran out of energy during those rolling hills, but they let up and I got my second (or 17th) wind. Once I hit Vernal Pike I felt I was on the home stretch. It was still hot and there was no shade and I was tired, but I kicked up the energy level and got home fairly quickly from this point. I still felt sluggish but I did pretty well on the remaining hills.

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Stop sign

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Barn

Overall, it was a great day — but I’d say this is one of those rides that’s more fun in hindsight. Next time it’s this hot, I swear I’ll leave earlier. Really. I rode through some beautiful country, learned some new roads and got an excellent workout, but there was plenty of pain involved, too.

Yeah, it was a great ride.

Mel Currie, Sample, and Bottom roads

Monday, July 28th, 2008

I wanted to ride on Saturday but I have gotten a little tired of riding the same-ish routes all the time. I found a cool route on Bikely and figured I’d do a slightly modified version of that ride. Here is my version of that route. It took me on some familiar roads and some new ones.

It was a hot day — probably only in the mid to upper 80s temperature-wise, but it was extremely humid. I headed out 45 and within minutes I was covered in sweat. Sweating was practically futile, though, as with 75% relative humidity, your sweat doesn’t really evaporate much. Fortunately it was a bit cloudy and the route had some shady sections.

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Rays of sunlight poking through the clouds on Bethel

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Lush, green field

I took 45 to Bethel Lane to Old 37, so far all the roads were quite familiar. But this route took a detour on Mel Currie Road, which when connected with a couple of other roads just loops around and returns back to a point further down Old 37. Sort of pointless, if your goal is getting somewhere, but it’s a cool detour with a lot of rolling hills and one or two bigger hills to climb and descend.

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Rolling hills on Mel Currie Rd.

The detour also had an interesting combination of residential areas, including some new subdivisions being built, and farmland. This would be a neat place to live — close to town, but remote at the same time. To my surprise, I looked up to see a deer on my left. She saw me coming and darted off into the woods. It was late afternoon — I didn’t expect to see any deer at this time of day.

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Farm, with more hills in the distance

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A gravel road or driveway at the end of Mel Currie Rd.

After some more rolling hills, the road curved to the right and climbed a fairly large hill. The wind had a cooling effect as I coasted down the other side of the hill, as I could feel sweat evaporating. Then it was up another big hill and a twisty descent down the other side. What fun! Then the road flattened out for a couple of miles and rejoined Old 37.

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Flat section on Wylie Rd.

I was only on Old 37 a brief time, as I turned onto Sample Road, which has a hell of a climb up toward and across State Road 37.

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Sample Road climb

Once on the other side of 37, I took a meandering path through some fun, curvy roads. There were some rolling hills and several 90-degree turns that really kept me on my toes.

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Driveway

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The sun beating down on the road

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Curve

I ended up on Bottom Road for a while. I have ridden on Bottom a few times, but always in the other direction. There’s a long descent, a flat section, and then a long, brutal climb.

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Soybean field

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Creek

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My bicycle on a bridge

I crossed 37 and was now on Kinser Pike. I rode down Clubhouse Drive, where the golf course is located. There’s a big hill just past the golf course and I flew down it — I’m pretty sure I left my stomach at the top. But there’s a sharp curve right at the bottom so I had to be careful. I rode through Cascades park, which is always pleasant, and took a path through campus to get home.

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Cascades

As I rode through campus I saw probably a dozen groundhogs (I think). I didn’t get a photo, but they were everywhere. They seemed pretty timid and ran off when they saw me. I don’t recall seeing these critters anywhere else, so apparently they have taken a liking to that particular part of Indiana University’s land. I also rode past Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall. It’s a little jarring riding by these huge structures after having been in the middle of nowhere just shortly beforehand. Fortunately being summer campus is mostly empty — but it’s easy to remember the hordes of people, traffic jams and wild fans and be glad I spent my afternoon riding out in the country.

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Memorial Stadium

Mount Gilead / South Shore loop, and a little rain

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Last night I decided to try a new route. None of the roads were new to me, but I hadn’t ridden them in this particular configuration before. I liked it, and it serves as a reminder to try some slight variations in my routes more often. This route came to just over 26 miles, a pretty good length for a post-work ride and a bit longer than my Water Works and Shilo routes. View the route on Bikely.

There were scattered storms in the forecast, but I checked the radar before I left and it looked clear. Just a few specks of activity to the south. There were some rather dark clouds outside, so I wondered if I was going to get rained on, but I figured I could always turn back sooner if things got ugly. As I rode toward Mount Gilead on 45, I was passed by a car I recognized — it was Dave, my mountain biking buddy. I waved, and he waved back. His dog was in the car with him, sticking her head out the window (as usual).

I turned on Mount Gilead Road and it started sprinkling a bit. The road was speckled with drops of water, but I didn’t get too wet — Mount Gilead is lined with trees, which make for excellent shade if it’s sunny, and a little protection from a light rain. The rainy vibe to this whole ride was great. There’s something about cloudy, threatening conditions and a light, warm rain that I really enjoy sometimes. It feels different from riding on a sunny day, and I tend not to see very many other people on the road, making me feel more of a sense of connection to this land. I see it in all seasons, in all conditions, and in this case I was just about the only person out there.

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Mount Gilead Road

I made the long descent into the valley, going very slowly since the road was a bit slick. When I reached the bottom, there was steam rising from the road and some fog in the field. It was really cool to see the steam coming off the pavement, although it was so humid my glasses fogged up. It was still raining and I did get a bit wet, but it was warm and felt good.

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Steam rises off the pavement and the cornfield

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Riding in the rain

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Corn

I made the climb back out of the valley, taking my time and trying to keep my wheel from spinning out due to the steep, wet surface. There were some amazing clouds that I could see once I reached the top. Shortly thereafter, it stopped raining.

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Awesome clouds

When I reached 45, I debated whether I should turn back. The clouds I could see didn’t look too bad, and the more foreboding ones were still to the south. I decided to keep riding. There was astoundingly little traffic. This portion of 45 doesn’t normally have a lot of cars, but I think I went 15 minutes without seeing a car. I did, however, see a wild turkey alongside the road. I tried to get a photo, but it ran off into the woods. It was an uneventful and very pleasant ride along 45. This stretch is very curvy and has some climbing and a lot of descending. Again I kept my speed down as the roads were still wet.

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State Road 45

I turned on South Shore Drive and rode toward Lake Lemon. I picked up some good speed on the hill from the highway. This one is straight so I was able to let loose a little more, hitting 36 mph. Not insanely fast, but it felt good, and I maintained a speed above 30 mph for a few minutes on the flat ground.

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South Shore Drive

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Trees and a barn

I reached the causeway and really enjoyed riding across the lake. I always do, but there was something magical about the way the sun burned orange but interacted with the clouds, bursts of pink and purple permeating the sky and being softened by the clouds.

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Reaching the causeway

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Land and water on my left

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More water on my right

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Looking across the lake

After crossing the lake, I had to a big climb to contend with. I’ve done this climb many times before, but not much this year. It was harder than I was hoping. It doesn’t help that I have had some interruptions to my riding this year and my weight is up and I feel a bit out of shape. I struggled with this climb more than I like, but I made it up anyway. And I certainly got a good workout in the process.

Tunnel Road was scenic as always and I continued admiring the sunlight. It was rather cool outside, a pleasant change from the heat we had for a while.

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Field on Tunnel Road

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My shadow

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The sun

I turned back onto State Road 45 (I realized this route includes three stretches of riding on 45) and headed toward home.  This road was wet, although it wasn’t raining. I must’ve lucked out as while clearly some rain had come through here, I didn’t get hit by it.

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Riding home on 45

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45 again

I really enjoyed this ride. It makes me want to do more rides in rain, or at times when it’s threatening to rain, anyway. On the other hand, I was lucky I didn’t get hit by any storms … that could have changed my tune considerably. The weird thing was, by the time I got home, I was pretty much soaked, but more from perspiration in the extreme humidity than rain. This was a  great ride through some beautiful country, made even more beautiful by the conditions.

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