Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for January, 2010

Winter mixed-terrain ramble

Monday, January 11th, 2010

On Saturday afternoon, I headed out for a ride with only a vague idea of the route I wanted to do. I ended up spending about 2 1/2 hours riding gravel roads, trails, fire roads, and paved roads … and even a bit on a frozen lake. I took my new mountain bike on this ride and once again, it fared very well.

This was a drive and ride situation, I wasn’t sure how the roads would be, and this let me get to the area where I wanted to ride in time to actually do some riding there.

I parked the car on a paved section of road, but it immediately turned to gravel. The gravel parts had snow on them, compacted somewhat by cars, but fortunately not icy.

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I reached a lake, and could see that some people had been out on its frozen surface, ice fishers and sledders, and some deer. I walked out a bit on the ice myself to check it out. Some holes had been made and you could see the ice was about four inches thick.

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After testing the ice thickness, I went back and got my bike (visible in the photo below, by the shore). I wanted to ride on the ice a little.

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I was headed across the lake, on the left side of the below photo. I considered trying to ride all the way across, but I wasn’t sure the ice was uniformly thick.

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I got enough of a sense for riding on the ice to want to do more of it. It’s just something you have to be very cautious about. I stayed within the area where others had already been, and there were several holes where I could confirm that the ice was thick.

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Making tracks on the lake

After that unique experience, I got back on the road. The route across the lake would’ve been a lot easier, but I just wasn’t sure about it.

After that, I had some more wonderful gravel riding.

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I made it over to the area I noted above, directly across that part of the lake …

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… and looked over at a ridge on the other side of the lake, which I would later climb up, and then ride down.

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I rode on, and the scenery remained quite breathtaking.

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I turned and rode on paved roads, briefly, which were relatively clear by comparison …

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… before turning onto another gravel road. The sign said “No Outlet,” but that depends on your mode of travel, and your willingness to make your way through the woods on rough fire roads and horse trails. On my bicycle, and abundantly willing, I planned on riding through.

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Around this time, my water bottles started to freeze. I had to bite down on the valve to crack the ice, and take frequent drinks to keep them from freezing shut.

The fire road/trail was just wonderful and, riding through the powdery snow was fairly easy, even if it was slick at times. Some places had footprints, but it was wide enough that I could make my own tracks off to the side. In addition to human footprints, I followed deer tracks literally for miles. Apparently, deer use trails, too! Later, I also encountered some ski tracks.

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I stopped for another drink of water and noticed the sun was setting over a distant ridge.

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At this point, I was almost finished. The trail spit me out onto a gravel road, in an odd rural neighborhood. I saw a very ramshackle house for sale,  with an RV parked near it.

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I rode down the hill …

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… and soon, I was back at my car. I have to say, this was the best ride I’ve done in some time. It was cold, and challenging, but it was also incredibly beautiful. Riding in the snow is an experience you can’t get any other way.

An interesting week for commuting …

Friday, January 8th, 2010

It’s been a fun, but challenging week, in terms of bicycle commuting. Most mornings, if not every morning, the windchill has been below zero, going as low as -9 degrees Fahrenheit. Morning temperatures have been mostly in the single digits, above zero. Last week had some mornings like that, but evenings were warmer. This week, the evenings have been cold, too, with the windchill ranging from 10 degrees down to -4.

We got our first significant snow of the year Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday and Friday. We got a total of probably around five inches of snow. Here in southern Indiana, that’s a lot. Schools were closed Thursday and Friday. People spoke of “the blizzard.” All over a few inches of snow. Now, admittedly, the roads were in poor shape, as the city does not handle the snow well.

Yesterday morning, riding to work wasn’t too bad for me because it hadn’t snowed all that much yet. Sarah’s drive to work was much worse. She was on main roads, but they were a mess and most of them had not been plowed or salted.

Here are some shots from the morning, it wasn’t too bad, but the bike path had deep snow, and some other roads had snow also, while a couple were fairly clear.

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The bike path had a fair amount of snow

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This road wasn’t much better

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When I left work, I laughed at the state of my bike. Here are shots of the bike, one from when I arrived in the morning, the other is how I found the bike after work.

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Let’s see a closeup of that drivetrain …

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… yeah, I’m glad I have this beater to ride, rather than subjecting the Long Haul Trucker to this sort of abuse.

After work, I decided to take a meandering route through IU’s campus, which is still deserted, because the students are still on winter break. This added a couple of miles to my route, and kept me away from traffic.

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Back at the bike path

I got nearly home, but I was having too much fun! I love snow. So, I rode an extra four miles or so around some neighborhoods.

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By the time I neared home, it was dark and the windchill was once again below zero. I had snow on my face and glasses, and it was sticking to my ear warmer headband and my neck gaiter. More importantly, I had a big smile on my face.

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By the time I reached home, my 15-minute commute had taken well over an hour. I loved every minute of it.

A few notes on my studded tires: I finally mounted the rear tire, so I had both tires for this ride. However, I was mostly dealing with snow; there was very little ice. The tires did very well on powdery snow. They are narrower than the knobby tires I normally run, which helps them cut through the powder. They aren’t too bad on dry pavement, but they do have a real weakness: packed, bumpy snow. Riding on the bike path, where people had walked, was very difficult. There was a lot of sliding around, and the tread is not terribly aggressive. I had real trouble on this kind of surface. On the other hand, those conditions are challenging with any tire.

There were a few interesting moments where I started to slide a little bit as I sunk into some snow, but then I could feel the studs dig in and stop me. It was cool to be able to feel them doing their job.

Bicycling in 2009

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

With all the changes in our lives in 2009, I rode less than usual. I also lacked a commute until the last couple of months, and the miles in Pennsylvania were a lot harder earned, so there were fewer of them. Here are some stats for 2009:

Total miles: 2628.91
Road biking: 2016.74
Mountain biking: 301.32
Mixed terrain: 1447.62
S24O: 99.59

In 2008, I rode over 3000 miles; in 2007, it was over 3500 miles. So these stats aren’t that great overall, but they do show a lot of variety. In particular, I did a lot more mixed-terrain riding in 2009 than ever before, and I absolutely loved it.  I also had variety in that I got to ride in various places in Pennsylvania and Indiana. And there was a lot of beautiful scenery in both states. It appears I  also took over 20,000 photographs in the process (OK, a lot of those are duplicates).

I also got a new commuter (for $40!), and a new mountain bike toward the end of the year, though I did not get to try it on any serious trails until January 2010.

I usually do a “top 10 rides of the year” — I’ll try to write that post soon.

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