Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for August, 2008

Gross Friendship

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

After a weekend away from bikes, I was itching to ride last night. I thought about a couple of my usual routes, but decided to mix it up a bit and check out some unfamiliar territory. I remembered some interesting route descriptions on Mitch Rice’s excellent Biking The Hoosier Uplands blog and found this post and came up wtih a route loosely based on it. It’s funny, many of the roads I rode on were completely unfamiliar to me, even though they’re just a couple of miles from where I live. There’s no shortage of great roads to ride on around here. I wanted to try some gravel riding in on the Long Haul Trucker, and I seemed to remember Friendship Road being gravel, at least. Here’s the route I ended up riding, complete with some problems, so if you’re in the area I don’t recommend riding this exactly as presented here.

Something about the Trucker in all its retro-grouch glory made me feel I should bring a film camera. I decided to take our Holga, an all-mechanical, very simple, intentionally lofi camera. It can be a bit unpredictable and while its shots can have a lot of character, you never know what the results will be like. Indeed, only about half of my photos turned out to look like anything at all — there just wasn’t enough light at times, and I believe the camera has some light leaks.

I digress. This was one of the most fun rides I’ve done in a while. Somehow the weather was perfect, in the upper 70s and sunny when I started my ride. I am really enjoying this cooler weather. I took Smith Road down to Moore’s Pike and over to 446. I got on Knightridge and took this until I reached Gross Road.

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Moore’s Pike

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Sky

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Action shot

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My bicycle, at the intersection of Knightridge and Gross

Gross Road was a lot of fun for a while, with a lot of twists and turns and a few brief ups and downs. It started heading downhill and suddenly, without warning, became gravel. Fortunately, I was expecting to hit gravel; I just didn’t know where it started. At this point I realized I had driven down this road before, and I realized that I had a lot of downhill riding ahead of me.

However, the road continued its meandering path, and with the loose gravel, I went very slowly. The Trucker handled well, but I was being extra cautious. After a while I realized that my wheels were going to slip a little bit no matter what I did, but that if I could get comfortable with a little drift, the bike would stay upright even if it didn’t seem like it would. This is where I could see having the bike loaded down might make it handle even better, as the extra weight would help keep the bike anchored to the ground.

Gross Road is, despite its name, very beautiful, with dense tree cover providing lots of shade, and views of deep ravines on both sides. I saw several deer as I rode through this area, and not a single car.

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Gross Road, after reaching the bottom of the hill

After I reached the bottom of the hill on Gross Road, I turned onto Friendship Road, which was a beautiful ride through a valley. The sun was getting low in the sky and casting long shadows while golden rays poked through the trees. A deer looked up from grazing, saw me coming, and bounded away.

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Field

Friendship Road moved in and out of forest cover and two bridges took me across creeks. I paused to listen to the trickle of one creek and admire the interesting bridge.

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Pausing on a bridge

Now I was under more tree cover, and I marvelled at how the light filtered through the trees and left speckles on the gravel road.

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Friendship Road

This was turning out to be an incredible scenic ride. The gravel made things challenging, but the Trucker handled very well. A brief climb at the end of Friendship Road took me to State Road 46.

I was determined not to ride on 46 for very long, as the traffic there moves very fast, and there’s no shoulder to speak of. I turned onto Brummet’s Creek Road, which I thought was going to take me over to State Road 45. I saw a Road Closed (local traffic only) sign and ignored it, so I could see what was going on, and if I could get through. A bridge was out and surrounded by construction equipment. I assume they’ll be rebuilding it. I turned back to try to find another way to get over to 45.

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Brummet’s Creek Road

I was in no hurry. I was enjoying the riding and the scenery, and while I knew it might get dark, I had lights with me. I rode around trying to see what roads I could get to, and ended up on Birdie Galyan. Now, looking at some maps, it looks like this road should go through to 45. I had heard it didn’t, but I had to see for myself. After some climbing and beautiful ridgetop riding, the road turned to gravel. I started to see Private Property signs, but I thought they were for the land surrounding the road, not the road itself. The scenery kept improving, and I soon found myself in a pine forest. Unfortunately the road abruptly turned into a driveway and appeared to end. I was not about to approach the driveway or house that were there, so I turned back.

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Bridge out

At this point, I decided a call to Sarah was in order. She had offered as I left to look at some maps for me if need be, so I asked her to see where I was and what was nearby that’d take me to 45, so I wouldn’t have to ride back on 46. As it turned out, I wasn’t far from Getty’s Creek Road, which could take me to Mount Gilead, which goes to 45.

I asked her where Kerr Creek Road was, and that branches off of Getty’s Creek. I know of some singletrack that runs from Kerr Creek over to a neighborhood on the east side of town. I was really tempted to try riding the singletrack on the Trucker, but it was quite dark, especially in shady areas, and I figured I better try that during the day. That, and the light I had with me was good enough to be seen, but probably not good enough to follow a trail. But now I’m itching to try some trails on the Trucker; I think it’ll handle them pretty well.

After talking to Sarah, I enjoyed an awesome descent down Birdie Galyan back to 46. It was pretty dark in this heavily-wooded section. I quickly made my way over to Getty’s Creek, and this was some more fun and easy, meandering valley-bottom riding.

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The sun sets over the hills

Before long I reached Mount Gilead, and it was quite dark and even a bit chilly by this time. The cool air felt great, especially as I made the big climb up Mount Gilead. I worked my way back to 45 and then was only a couple of miles from home. When I got home, I walked in with a big smile on my face. I was happy to see Sarah, and I had more fun on this ride than I’ve had in a while. The Trucker handled admirably, and I was astonished when I entered the route into Bikely and saw almost 1600 feet of climbing over 25 miles. It didn’t feel like it, because it was all so much fun. That’s not an insane distance or amount of climbing, but it’s more than I usually get to do after work.

I was really glad I brought my lights with me, and I even enjoyed riding as it was getting dark, and after dark. I could’ve used more light, but didn’t have any real problems. At some point, I’ll have to get some better lights. For now, I have more lights that I can bring — next time, I should bring them.

Badi-Da

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Sarah and I went up to Green Bay, Wisconsin this weekend for the wedding of a couple of friends from college. We drove up to Chicago last Thursday night after I got off work to stay at another friend’s place there, and give them a ride to Green Bay.

Now, there’s a saying that Chicago has two seasons: winter and construction. And there’s a lot of truth to it. Last time we were there, it was winter and the high temperature was hovering around 0 degrees. This time, the drive up there, which is usually about 4 1/2 hours, took over six hours. We hit major construction and traffic on the way there. In fact, every leg of our trip was plagued with traffic jams. The drive back from Green Bay, which was supposed to be about 7 1/2 hours, took more like 10 1/2 hours. Yikes!

I’ve lived in Chicago before, and I have a lot of fond memories there — but this trip served as a reminder of just how much I prefer living in a smaller town. A place where parking isn’t an issue and the roads aren’t packed with vehicles all the time. A town that sleeps. And, a place where getting out of the city doesn’t involve driving for an hour or more. I have re-adapted to a much slower-packed lifestyle, and I love it. During some more frustrating moments, I found myself thinking of the Fred Neil song “Badi-Da:”

I get so tired
Hanging round this town
Oh this old city life
Sure brings a fella down

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

I sure get tired
Trying to sleep at night
Oh these old city lights
They keep on burning bright

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

I get so tired
Hanging round this town
Oh this old city life
Sure brings a fella down

ba da da da da da
ba da da da da da da
ba da da da da da
ba da da

On a positive note, Chicago was absolutely crawling with bicycles. I don’t remember seeing nearly as many bicycles when I lived there a few years ago. Was I not paying attention, or has bicycling exploded in popularity in Chicago in the past few years? Even late at night, we saw tons of cyclists.

It seemed like, based on what I saw, Chicago is probably a good place to ride, if you can somehow stay safe amongst all the insane drivers (and there are a lot of them).

I wish I had something to say about Green Bay, but we saw very little of it since we spent almost all of our time on wedding-related activities. It seemed like a nice city, much smaller than Chicago but big enough that it seems to have a lot going on.

The wedding, of course, was fantastic. This couple was the first of my close friends from college to get married, and I couldn’t be happier for them. Sarah and I will be next, in just over a month!

Another ride on the Long Haul Trucker

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

I don’t have time to say much right now, as we’re about to head up to Chicago, then Green Bay for a friend’s wedding. But a few more comments on the Trucker, and a few photos.

We (Sarah did most of the work) removed the decals from the bike and it looks sleeker and better than before. This was a long process involving a hair dryer, plastic knife, and citrus cleaner.

I’m getting used to the bar-end shifters, but still don’t have the fit quite dialed in. That’s a long, slow process, but I really am enjoying the bike. It was so smooth on my ride last night.

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