Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for November, 2009

“New” bike!

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I have a “new” bike. My old commuter, which was a GT Timberline from 1994 or so, finally reached the point where it could no longer be repaired. I had been watching various possible bicycle acquisition channels for some time, and finally found something suitable, a Miyata Street Runner, sort of early hybrid, apparently from 1984 or so. I picked it up for just $40 from someone on Craiglist. Sorry about the sub-par photos, but I really wanted to snap a few shots of the bike in the living room, after I finished working on it. I’ll take some better photos soon. It’s hard to tell from the photos, but it has a nice, lugged CrMo frame.

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After I bought it, and rode it a few miles, I confirmed that the frame was solid, but the components were really showing their age. I intended to try to see if I could swap some parts over from my old commuter, but I quickly realized I would be in over my head, if I tried that. So I took both bikes to a local shop and had them do it. After hearing how much trouble they had with it, I was glad I hadn’t attempted it myself. I felt they didn’t do a great job with the rack and fenders, so I tweaked them a bit myself. They’re still not perfect, but they are much improved.

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I intend to take the knobby tires off soon and replace them with some slick tires, at least until we get some snow or ice.

So far, I’ve only taken the bike for one shakedown ride, but my first impression is that it’s a lot of fun to ride. It’s a bit more upright than I’m used to, and it feels a like driving a truck. A truck that likes to go surprisingly fast, given its age and weight.

It also looks like a bike that could survive the apocalypse. I’m hoping I won’t have to find out about that, but if that should happen, now I’m prepared!

I think I’ll call this bicycle The Beast.

Ride Around Lake Monroe

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

During the week last week, I didn’t ride at all, except for riding to and from work. On Saturday, I did a routine, but great, shortish road ride (25 miles). On Sunday, I decided a longer ride was in order, and felt like repeating the Ride Around Lake Monroe, which I have done a few times, but not recently. I made a few modifications to the route this time around. Here’s a map and elevation profile.


View 2009-11-22 Ride Around Lake Monroe in a larger map

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The ride started on State Road 446, where I have ridden quite a few times. Sometimes, traffic is a problem here, especially as you approach the lake, but there weren’t many people headed out to the lake in mid-November.  Traffic was light and drivers were courteous. Last year, they covered this road in chipseal and it’s still a bit rough, and slow you down noticeably. I hope this improves in time. On a positive note, since most of the leaves have fallen now, there are some nice views in places where you normally can’t see as much.

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Soon, I reached the causeway. I always love riding across lakes, and we’re fortunate to have three lakes nearby that have bridges conducive to riding — Lake Monroe being one of them (the other two are Lake Lemon and Lake Griffy).

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Naturally, when I reached the other side of the lake, I had a big hill to climb. Looking back, from partway up, yielded another nice view.

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Once I reached the top of the hill, 446 was flat for a few miles. I rode through “Dead Man’s Curve,” a deceptively sharp turn where many accidents have occurred.

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Eventually, I turned onto Chapel Hill Road, a quieter back road. I was glad to be off the highway; even though there wasn’t a lot of traffic, highway riding always makes me a little uneasy.

I rolled for a few more easy miles, but at some point took a wrong turn, even though I had my GPS. Fortunately, a couple of signs told me in no uncertain terms that I had gone the wrong way.

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Road Ends In Water / Dead End

I backtracked, and quickly found the way I meant to go. The roads were full of twists and turns as they followed ridgetops for a few miles, generally heading downhill. I was so immersed in riding (and dodging several dogs) that I once again missed my turn.

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It didn’t take me long to get back on track. And I didn’t really mind getting off course a little … I was having fun! I had some nice views from the top of the ridge, before the road plunged downward quite steeply.

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I rode through the valley briefly, past cow pastures and over some rolling hills, and up to a spot with a great view of the village of Coveyville. I always have to stop at this spot to rest and take some photos.

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I rode back down into the valley and suddenly, it was startlingly flat for the next mile or so. Of course, this didn’t last long; I soon reached a couple of big climbs.

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From the hilltops, I could see large birds soaring. I don’t think I saw any eagles (probably turkey vultures, and I believe one hawk), but I stopped to gaze for a few minutes.

Before too long, I reached the dam. This is an interesting area of the lake where I have not spent much time. I think there may be a park near there, I need to look more closely next time.

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Looking back from atop the dam

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If you look closely, you can see a couple walking their dog by the water

I rode across the dam and turned north, toward town.

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I had a bit more climbing to do, then the road went steeply downhill, and immediately back up. Once I reached the top of the ridge, the riding was surprisingly flat for several more miles. I took a different route here than I have in the past (I’ve always missed the turn, previously) and it was nice flat riding on Strain Ridge Road.  Somewhere along here, I was passed by a guy riding a mountain bike with an engine rigged up. He zipped past me and I thought about trying to chase him down, but he went straight up a hill at about 25 mph. There was no way I could catch him. I was surprised by how fast his bike was; I had a moped as a kid and that thing slowed significantly on any hill.

During this stretch of road, I also saw a truck painting lines on the road, with cars lined up behind him, headed in the opposite direction.

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I rode past a strange combination of huge, new houses on one side of the road, and farms on the other.

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Strain Ridge got hillier toward the end of my time on it, and I turned onto Smithville Road. I had ridden here before, and remembered a big hill. I thought maybe the hill wouldn’t be as hard as I remembered, but I was wrong. After plunging into a valley, I stopped to look at more large bird overhead. Again, I don’t think I saw any eagles, but it was still cool to see.

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I knew the big climb was coming up, and I passed one road, thinking, “I’m glad I don’t have to climb that!”

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But then I saw the hill I had to climb, and it was worse …

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It’s hard to get a sense of perspective from the photos, but the bottom of the climb was very steep. The grade eased up a bit after that but it was still a long climb, about 3/4 mile total.  From the top, it was a routine ride home, with some easier rolling hills.

I finished the day with about 42 miles of riding. Not an epic ride, but it’s more mileage than I’ve ridden in a day for at least a couple of weeks. I’ve been mountain biking and hiking instead of road riding, and I enjoy all three activities, so it’s sometimes hard to choose how to divide my time.

Camping at Jackson-Washington State Forest

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Last weekend, Sarah and I went camping at Jackson-Washington State Forest.

Saturday

We had some things to do earlier in the day on Saturday, so we didn’t get down there until late in the afternoon.

We were a little worried about going on this particular weekend, because it was opening weekend of firearms deer-hunting season. We arrived to find that the place was nearly vacant. We picked out a nice campsite in a pine forest, and we basically had an entire campground to ourselves. We set up camp. By the time we were done, it was dark. We set out for a night hike.

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We hiked the Sawmill Hollow Interpretive Trail. We had hiked this once before, during the day. It felt quite different at night, and we saw glowing eyes looking back at us a few times, illuminated by our lights. We stopped at a bench and turned our lights off. Suddenly, we could see a lake. Sometimes, you have to turn the light off in order to see. It was a wonderful hike of about two miles, and we had a lot of fun.

By the time we got back to our campsite, we were very hungry. We had brought some pork chops to cook. I got a fire going and Sarah cooked the pork chops for a few minutes in a skillet, on our propane stove. Once the fire was ready, we moved the pork chops onto the grill over the fire. It’s hard to judge how long to cook things this way, but we got it just right this time. The meat was tender and juicy and picked up a lot of the smoke flavor. Some of the best pork chops I’d ever had.

We got to bed fairly early … we were tired, and there wasn’t much else we wanted to do anyway.

Sunday

We woke up reasonably early on Sunday … but not too early. I’m not sure what time it was … nor was I too concerned with the time. One thing I enjoy about trips like this is not having to worry about the time.

I had slept quite well. Sarah did not sleep as well, and she had a headache. I built a small fire and we had some breakfast.

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Another nice feature of our campsite was that it was within very close walking distance of Knob Lake. This lake had been drained last time we were here, but it has been filled back in.

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After breakfast, we packed up our campsite and headed over to the trailhead for a hike. We wanted to hike Trail 1 up to Mount Baldy (aka Pinnacle Peak). Longtime readers of this blog may recognize this as the place where I proposed to Sarah back in February of 2008. It’s an out-and-back trail, one mile each way, but it’s very rugged and feels a lot longer. Later, I would hike some additional trails. Here’s a map and elevation profile.


View 2009-11-15 Trails 1, 2, 3 at Jackson-Washington SF in a larger map

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The trail starts with a long climb up to the remains of an old observation tower. The climb starts gradually, but soon steepens.

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From here, the trail traverses a series of hills. It goes straight down the hillside — so steep it’s hard to even walk down. Then it turns and goes straight up the next hill. It repeats this pattern a few times. It’s hard, but the scenery is beautiful.

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We reached the top to find a group of people hanging out, their kids goofing around, etc. This certainly put a damper on the romantic aspect of the hike, but we stuck around for a while and they eventually left. In the meantime, we took in the views and ate some lunch.

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We headed back the way we came … and the repeated hills were just as difficult on the way back. But we were in a good mood and enjoyed it anyway.

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After a while, we were back at the old observation tower. We discussed the possibility of hiking more. Sarah didn’t feel up for it, but she suggested that I go and hike some more and meet her back at the car. Just as we were debating whether Rob would go with me or with Sarah, he laid down on the ground, obviously very tired. That settled that …

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So, we parted ways here, for a little while.  I wasn’t really sure how far I’d be hiking, or how long it would take me. I settled into a rather vigorous pace. I figured the hills would be a little easier on this trail (Trail 2);  it was described as “Moderately Rugged,” whereas Trail 1 had been “Rugged.” However, these hills were just as difficult — if not even harder. The trail was never flat for very long, it was always going up, or down, steeply.

However, the views were spectacular. I almost forgot I was in Indiana; the land surrounding these huge hills (“knobs”) is quite flat, which makes the hills seem much bigger. And the trail followed some narrow ridge tops, with drastic ravines on either side.

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You could say that these trails are not very well-designed. Generally, they go straight up each hill, and straight down the other side, with no attempt at making the grades more manageable or the climbs more gradual. However, these trails had a unique character all their own, and I felt that the design (or lack thereof) gave me a better appreciation for the sharp relief of the landscape.

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And let’s not forget the views …

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The map showed an overlook on a short side trail. I reached the side trail, only to find the trail blocked, by this:

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I made my way through the debris, and there were some nice views, but not really much better than what I had been seeing along the main trail.

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From here, I headed back. I would take Trail 2 until its intersection with Trail 3, which would take me back down to the car. The hiking was still quite difficult, for a while.

But, did I mention the views?

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Eventually, I got on Trail 3. It was a little easier. There were still a few ups and downs at first, but they weren’t as steep as Trails 1 and 2.

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After a couple of hills, the trail descended rather sharply, for quite a while. I reached the bottom, where I was finally on flat ground. I crossed a creek, and almost immediately reached the parking lot.

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Incredibly, this hike was under four miles. It felt a lot longer, with the relentless hills. But the effort paid off with some great views.

My wife was waiting in the car for me. I don’t think she’d been waiting too terribly long … I really booked it during the second half of this hike. We relaxed for a few minutes and talked about the hike, and then drove home.

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