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Archive for November, 2009

Versailles State Park

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

On “Black Friday,” I went mountain biking with my friend Dave. We have made this a tradition: every year, on Black Friday, while millions of people flock to shopping malls to try to find the best sales, we go ride our bikes in the woods. It’s a great way to spend the day and avoid the crowds. This year, we went to Versailles State Park, which is a couple of hours away by car. This is also where we went on our first Black Friday ride, but there are several new trails since that ride. We rode all of the trails, in a big loop. Here’s the map and elevation profile.


View 2009-11-27 Versailles Black Friday Mountain Biking.kml in a larger map

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We started out on the new Shadow Run trail. This is an intermediate trail which begins with a climb. It was in the 30s outside and we were cold when we started riding, but this climb helped us warm up. Once we reached the top of the hill, the trail was much easier; it’s quite flat for a while, but it winds through the woods with many twists and turns. Along the way, we got some great views of Laughery Creek, and saw quite a few sinkholes. Rolling on flat ground for a while allowed us to get warmed up before hitting the harder trails.

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You can see Dave in the above shot, if you look closely.

The trail got a bit harder as turned to go downhill. It wound its way down the side of the hill, with more views of the creek and ravines below.

Next, we had to redo part of the Shadow Run climb in order to make our way up to the Cliffside Trail. This trail was more difficult; it skirts the edge of a cliff, and the trail is narrower and rockier. It even crosses a waterfall at one point. We walked this part due to safety concerns. Trail conditions were mostly good, but parts were muddy enough that traction was poor at times. We had more great views of the creek this whole time, but we had to stay focused on riding, so it was hard to take in the views, except when we stopped.

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This shot taken by Dave. The iPhone shot looks nice here!

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Stone bench along the trail

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Dave took this shot of me with his iPhone

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Next was the Center Loop. This went by really quickly. It was a fun trail, with some twists and turns and a bit of climbing, but it was over just as I was getting into it. It mostly serves as a way to reach the Grandview Trail, which at six miles long, is the longest trail at the park. When we reached the Grandview Trail, we saw this sign, which we promptly ignored, pointing us back to the trailhead (photo by Dave).

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The Grandview trail is aptly named, as it offers views of a bend in Laughery Creek some 150 feet below, as well as some nearby hills.  These views would be much obstructed during the summer, but with no leaves on the trees, we could see quite a bit. This trail has some fast, flowing riding for a while. Conditions were much better than the last time I rode here. Back on Black Friday of 2006, the trail was covered in several inches of leaves. This year things were considerably better; the trail was fairly clear and those leaves that were there had been compacted. We had only to worry about the occasional muddy section.

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Last time I was here, the Grandview Trail was also much shorter. At that point, it had a few minutes of fun, flowing riding, then a climb back to the start. We rode it twice in a row, last time. Now the trail is over twice as long as it used to be. Instead of turning back so soon, it goes down almost all the way to creek level before winding through mixed hardwood/pine forests and finally, climbing back up to the starting point. This gave us another nice perspective of the creek, as well as some extra fun.

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The rest of the ride is a blur, we were on Center Loop again briefly, then a fast-but-brief descent on the Creekside Trail, followed by a creek crossing and some very rocky sections.

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We finished the ride, right around 11 miles, in 2 1/2 hours of riding. It felt a lot longer, thanks to the climbing, mud, technical sections, and views. We contemplated riding the Grandview Trail twice, but we were tired and hungry.

The trails at Versailles are just awesome. Each has its own character, but they are all extremely fun, and all are very beautiful. I’ll definitely be returning.

A rainy, pre-Thanksgiving night ride

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Last night, I wanted to go for a ride after work. There was hardly anyone in the office, and I left a bit early. This let me get a bit of an earlier start than usual, but I knew it was going to get dark during my ride. It was cool — in the 40s, and windy. So, I brought lights and dressed warmly.

As soon as I got outside, I noticed it was drizzling. I hadn’t counted on rain, but I was dressed warmly enough that I wasn’t too worried.

I rolled away from town, heading for some back roads. I got on Mount Gilead Road and the rain picked up slightly. It wasn’t raining hard, but the roads were wet enough to be rather slick. I rode my brakes down a big hill, and at one point I felt my rear tire slipping a bit. This is the second time this has happened; I think it’s time to get a new tire.

I reached the bottom of the hill and turned onto another road. I stopped by a creek to turn on my headlamp and take a few photos. I wasn’t sure if they’d turn out, as my point & shoot camera does not do too well in low light, but the gamble paid off. Actually, if anything, the photos look too bright.

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I cruised for a few flat miles, seeing a few deer along the way. Eventually, I had to ride on State Road 46. By this time, it was getting quite dark, and the rain had picked up. I was glad I had dressed warmly enough, and glad I wore my wind and rain-resistant cycling vest. I had many lights blinking but I was still nervous about this brief section of highway. It was over in a few minutes, with no problems.

I turned onto Friendship Road for a brief section of gravel, and stopped on a bridge over a creek to snap a few more photos. I’ve taken photos here several times before, but of course it looks different when it’s raining and nearly completely dark. My glasses kept getting covered with rain drops, I would wipe them off frequently, but it didn’t seem to help much.

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After a brief section of gravel, I turned onto Lampkins Ridge road for a long climb. By this point it was completely dark, and it started raining even harder. The climb seemed very long in the dark. It was hard to tell I was, or how much longer I had to climb. It didn’t help that a dog chased me; I always hate being chased uphill, and since it was dark, I couldn’t tell if the dog had stopped chasing or not.

I made my way back toward town, soon reaching Smith Road. From this point it was only a couple of easy miles home.

This was a surprisingly fun ride, given that it was cold, windy, raining, and dark. I loved it!

Some more shots of the new bike

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Here are some more photos of my new commuting bicycle, taken yesterday during my commute to/from work.

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I stopped on IU’s campus on my way home to take the rest of these photos. It was darker than these photos indicate, but I wanted the bike to be visible.

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