Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for February, 2010

More snow

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Note: I wrote this yesterday, but forgot to post it.

We got a few more inches of snow. This morning my commute was quite interesting; many schools and businesses were closed today. There were an inch or two of fresh snow on the roads, and more snow coming down hard. My cassette and rear derailleur got clogged with snow over the course of my ride to work.

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However, I had an absolute blast.

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The Beast handled the snow well, I like the feeling of snow on my face, the way it blankets everything … I really just enjoy riding in this stuff. By the time I arrived at work, I had a silly grin on my face.

My ride home was more or less the same, but more intense.  It was colder, there was more snow on the ground, it was snowing harder, and it was VERY windy. It was snowing sideways!

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Wind blew the snow off roofs, as you can sort of see below.

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Snowbiking in Hoosier National Forest

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

I enjoyed Saturday’s wintry road ride, but the real highlight of the weekend was a mostly-gravel snow ride through Hoosier National Forest. I drove to the start of the ride; it took about 25 minutes to get there. Here’s a map of my ride.


View 2010-02-07 HNF snow biking in a larger map

My ride started on a paved road, and immediately I was loving the scenery, but for a little bit, I was riding on clear roads, and started second-guessing my choice to bring my mountain bike. But I figured that once I hit gravel, there would be some snow. It was hard to gauge what conditions would be like. We had probably four inches of snow on the ground, but in town and on paved roads, it was warm enough that the roads were clear.

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But, the deeper into the woods I went, the snowier it got. The more snow, the more fun I had.

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I passed the first of many trailheads for the Hickory Ridge trail system. Bikes are allowed on these trails, and I’ve ridden quite a few of them, but the snow had mud beneath it. No trails on this ride.

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Not that I minded. The gravel roads were quiet and beautiful, and plenty challenging in their own right.

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I reached a small creek with a waterfall, and then proceeded to climb a large hill. The road went back to being paved, and not as snowy, which made the climb a little easier. I then spent a few minutes on a state highway and some smaller paved roads before turning back into the national forest.

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After some momentary confusion about which way to turn, I turned onto a very snowy road and re-entered the woods. I rode over a small log. There were some truck tire marks, but it was obvious only one or two vehicles had been here. I was sort of impressed that they were able to drive through at all, and grateful for their tire ruts, which were well-packed and made for relatively fast riding.  However, some spots were icy, and I had to watch out for those.

The ride became even more beautiful than before. I was in awe at the snowy landscape and the way the warm, angular light struck everything was quite stunning.

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I rode on a relatively flat ridgetop for a while, and then the road turned steeply downward. I had ridden up this hill once before, and I sure was glad to be riding down it now.

I stopped halfway down the hill to explore a small pond.

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The ruts were slick and icy and I discovered that the best technique for riding down this big hill was to ride in between the ruts, where there was soft virgin snow. This slowed me down, so I didn’t have to ride my brakes, and also offered better traction.

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Looking back up … steeeep!

Once at the bottom of the hill, I turned onto a different road, where I forded a couple of creeks and started climbing. I filled up the memory card in my camera. I deleted a few photos and rode on. I took a few more photos after that, but not a lot.

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I had quite a bit of climbing to do, but it was divided into a couple climbs, with a slight break in between. Overall, not too bad. Once at the top, it was flat for a while, and then I enjoyed a long descent. This was quite tricky as it was slippery, I just took my time and made it to the bottom of the hill just fine.

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Once at the bottom of the hill, I hit paved roads for the last mile or so of my ride. It was still just lovely, and the light became even more dramatic, as the sun was nearly setting.

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I rode back to my car, very satisfied with the ride. This was one of those rides where I didn’t expect much going into it, but in the end, I was blown away by how incredible it was. The gravel roads were the perfect place to ride, given the conditions. Some snow rides end up being so hard they’re frustrating; this was a challenging adventure, but it never felt like anything other than a LOT of fun.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot since this ride is that even though I’ve spent probably dozens of hours riding in Hoosier National Forest, I’ve just barely scratched the surface of what is there, even close to home (HNF reaches basically all the way south to Kentucky). There are many trails in the Hickory Ridge system I’ve never ridden, and lots of roads that are unexplored as well. I need to ride there more often.

A lovely winter road ride

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I was in a rut, cycling-wise, before this weekend. On Saturday, I headed out for a road ride, even though we’d gotten a few inches of snow the day/night before. I was a little unsure what to expect; most of my riding this winter, except for commuting, has been on trails or gravel roads.

Fortunately, it had been warm enough that the main roads had little to no snow on them. State Road 45 was clear completely. Mt. Gilead, a side road, had some snow, but it wasn’t too bad. Still, I was riding the Trucker, with slick tires, so I had to be extra careful.  Interestingly enough, the hills were the *easiest* part, as they had large amounts of sand and salt on them. The flat sections were largely untreated, and as such has some snow and ice.

In the first few shots, you can see the progression of the road conditions, going away from town.

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Here you can see that I’m enjoying myself. It felt great to ride the Trucker after spending so much time commuting on The Beast.

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More importantly, the scenery was tremendous. I’ve ridden through this area dozens of times before, but it’s never looked like this.

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You can see how thick the sand is, on this steep, winding downhill.

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I made my way over to Bethel Lane, another back road … and the road conditions were OK at first, but quickly deteriorated. Icy snow and snowy ice made for very little traction. I was impressed at how well my slick tires handled these conditions, especially at one point when I stopped and put a foot down, only to have it nearly slide right out from under me.

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At one point, my rear tire suddenly slid sideways. I recovered without falling, but it was nerve-wracking. I just had to go very slowly for a few miles.

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I stopped to take a break for a minute and realized icicles were accumulating on my fenders. I had to break the ice off the front fender, as it was starting to rub the tire.

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I was worried about the hill that I would have to ride down to get to Lake Griffy. The road there was in slightly better shape than Bethel Lane had been, but not by a whole lot. Once I reached the bottom of the hill, the road was clear and I rode across the causeway. The lake was frozen and a lone fisherman was out on the ice.

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The road up the hill on the other side of the lake, back toward town, was clear and easy riding. Well, easy except the fact that it’s a big hill.

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Within a few minutes, I was back in town. It’s a bit jarring to turn the corner after riding past a lake and through a forest, and suddenly see one of the busiest roads in town. That’s one thing I love about Bloomington, though, you don’t have to go far to get to what is essentially the middle of nowhere.

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From there, I rode home, basically following my commute route. Some kind soul had again plowed the bike path. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a vast improvement over what it’s like when left alone. Whoever is responsible for this: thank you!

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All in all, a great ride. Just a bit over 18 miles, but it felt like more, given the conditions.

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