Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for April, 2010

Popcorn and Hobbieville

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

On Sunday, I managed to get out for another longer ride. This time it was 50 miles of very hilly riding (3540 feet) west of town. I wanted to explore more of Popcorn Road, where I had ridden briefly before, and added a jaunt over to Hobbyville so I could lengthen the route. I ended up riding in three different counties: Monroe, Lawrence, and Greene.

The first several miles were highwayish, heading south of town on Old State Road 37. There were quite a few hills along the way, but I felt strong and the climbing didn’t seem too bad. The downhill sections were a blast. For a little while the road surface was scored for construction, and this made for a very rough ride. I saw a group of club riders ahead and nearly caught up with them (on the Trucker no less), but then I turned off onto Siebolt Quarry Road.

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Siebolt Quarry Road had some rolling hills on offer, with wide open fields on either side.  After the rolling hills came a longer climb and then a fast, wild descent.

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I made a friend along the way.

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I did not explore this gravel road, but I noted its presence. I am not sure that it goes anywhere, but it sure looks alluring, doesn’t it?

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The views were great, but only a hint of what was to come.

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After that I enjoyed some flat riding in a creek bottom.

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I stopped in the tiny town of Springville, which features a pretty little park and a blacksmith. Here I also found a convenience store; unfortunately it was closed on Sundays. I made use of their vending machine to top off my water bottles before pressing on.

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Next I found myself on Popcorn Road, which I figured would be the main attraction of the ride. I wasn’t disappointed, as the road turned sharply upward, and for a long time. However, the climbing paid off in excellent views, sometimes on both sides, from the ridge top.

My jaw dropped when I saw the scene in the next photo. Viewed large you can see the road goes straight ahead, then turns to the right and goes up, up, up. You can only see a small portion of the hill in the photo.

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Even from partway up, the views were not shabby.

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I came across Lowder Cemetery, which overlooked the valley. This was a great spot for a break and a snack, and some more photos.

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I enjoyed my break, but I was glad to be moving again. I thought the best was behind me, but the views didn’t let up. It’s interesting to note now, that later in the ride, I went through the valley you can see in these shots. I didn’t realize at the time that that was where I was headed.

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The route I had planned had an optional additional section of about 8 miles, and soon it was time to choose: the short way, or the long way? I opted for the long route. It would give me those extra miles, and, I thought, a chance to refill my water bottles.

So, I rode down from the ridge and turned onto Popcorn River Road, another wonderful, flat creek bottom.

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Then I spent a while on State Road 54. It’s a highway, but there was very little traffic. There were some climbs during this section that seemed to go on forever. It was a very long ride to Hobbieville, and for the most part not terribly pleasant. I don’t care for highway riding, when I can avoid it.

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When I got to Hobbieville, I instantly started getting bad vibes. I felt very uncomfortable here. I couldn’t find anywhere to get water … not even so much as a vending machine. But the real problem was, I got spooked. A few loose dogs chased me, and I was riding hard on a road that alternated paved and gravel. Buildings and vehicles were run down … and not in a quaint way, in more of a creepy way. The people who I saw outside did not look very welcoming. In hindsight I may have overreacted, but it was hard to shake the bad feeling I had. I wanted to get the hell out of Hobbieville, and fast.

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So, I rode on, as quickly as I could, with not a lot of water left. I turned and headed back to get back to the route I had detoured from. Not only were these extra miles unpleasant, but I was now running low on water. You win some, you lose some.

Fortunately Hobbieville was very small and easy to get away from. As I was looking for the road that would take me back over to Popcorn Road, I got a strange sense of deja vu. I turned onto a gravel road and stopped by a creek. I realized I had driven on this road before. Then I realized I had a HUGE climb on a rough gravel road ahead, and my heart sank. Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s in store … I normally love gravel, but this was just a cruel slog up a huge hill.

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After the hill, the pavement returned and soon I headed straight back down the other side of the hill. Now I was in another beautiful valley, the one seen from above earlier, and I enjoyed several miles of flat, bucolic bliss, as I watched the hills as I rode past, rather than fighting my way up them.

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Of course, I wasn’t done with the hills, but I did enjoy a bit of a break. From here, things get a little hazy in my memory. I climbed some rather large hills and ran out of water. I was looking and looking for a place to get more water. I was hoping not to have to go up to someone’s house and ask for help. I hate doing that. I tried a couple of wells and spigots I managed to find, but all were either locked or shut off. I did catch some more nice views along the way. Through all this, I felt surprisingly strong and was still riding well.

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Finally, I broke down and stopped at a house where a couple was outside doing yard work. They were the nicest people you’ll ever meet, they brought me water and asked if I needed anything else. I sat on the grass in the shade and talked to them about bikes for probably 20 minutes. They asked for some advice about how to use the gears on their bikes effectively, and I gave them a few pointers.

I tried to rehydrate as well as I could. I decided to move on, and my legs just felt like lead. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I started riding again. I had to stop and have a snack. That helped a little bit, but at this point I went into survival mode. I knew I could make it home, and thankfully it was mostly downhill the rest of the way, but my energy level never recovered, and the hills I did have to climb were tough going. The last 8-9 miles of my ride were really tough.

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Overall, I very much enjoyed this ride. However, I need to be more careful about making sure I can refill my water bottles along the way. Obviously, I need to check for convenience stores in advance. But I also might need to re-mount the 3rd water bottle cage on the Trucker, and/or start bringing my water filter with me again.

10,000 miles

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

In February of 2007, I started to log my cycling miles, using mycyclinglog.com. I’m not obsessive about setting mileage-related goals, but I am obsessive about documenting what I’ve done. I like numbers.

I especially like this particular number: as of this evening, I have ridden 10,011.07 miles since I started keeping track.

That number is still baffling me. 10,000 miles on a bike? Wow!

Let’s see how that breaks down:

  • Road: 6971.86 or 69.7%
  • Mixed-terrain: 1814.40 or 18.1%
  • Commuting: 1977.97 or 19.8%
  • Mountain Biking: 977.96 or 9.8%

Yes, that adds up to more than 100%. “Mixed-terrain” miles are often also tagged as road or mountain bike miles, depending on the kind of riding. The 10,011.07 total is still correct.

On a side note, we are having a very beautiful spring. I love spring in Bloomington … the town earns its name. Here are a few recent shots. First up, the weeping cherry in our front yard is a gorgeous!

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And here are some photos from some commutes and a road ride.

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I have some other activities to blog about, but I’ve been having a hard time finding time to write about them. Soon …

Finally … a nice, long ride

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Late Thursday afternoon, I learned that the office was going to be closed on Friday for Good Friday. I decided to take advantage of this unexpected time off by going for my first long ride since my foot surgery. Here’s the route I rode.

First I headed downtown to have lunch with my mom. We both work in downtown Bloomington, and eat lunch together every Friday. We had lunch at Bloomington Sandwich Company; we sat where I could keep an eye on my bike, and I saw a couple of people stop and gawk at it. The Trucker’s a great bike, that’s for sure.

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I spotted another interesting bike that I’ve seen around town, after lunch. Of note, it had a built-in LED light in the weird thick top tube. I’ve read about these bikes somewhere before, although I can’t remember where.

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Spring is in the air. Trees are blooming and in fine form. My allergies have been bothering me a lot, but I haven’t let that slow me down. The flowers downtown and through campus were absolutely beautiful.

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Once I got out away from town, the flowers were considerably less impressive. It drove home how landscaped everything in town is.

I rode down the infamous hill on Boltinghouse Road. It’s mostly infamous from a climbing standpoint, as it’s very, very steep for some time. It’s certainly not the longest hill around, or the one with the most elevation gain, but it is very steep. I’ve heard the grade estimated at around 22%.

Here’s a helmet cam video of the descent. You can’t tell this from the video, but I was riding the brakes most of the way down, and I still hit somewhere around 40 mph.

After Boltinghouse, I spent a while on Old State Road 37. I hadn’t planned an exact route, but I was riding in familiar territory and had a pretty good idea what I was going to do. I had a nice tailwind for a long time, which was nice, but gave me some pause, as I knew I’d have a hell of a headwind to fight on the return trip.

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Soon, I reached part of Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and Bryant Creek Lake. I rode out on the dam for a better view. A few people were fishing at various points around the lake.

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I got moving again, climbing up into the State Forest, and rode on the main forest road for a few miles. The smooth, flat road was a nice rolling break from the hills. It was a warm day, but there was plenty of shade in the forest.

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I stopped by a logging area/overlook, where I both reviled and enjoyed the view.

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Soon I stopped at the forest office for some water and visited Cherry Lake.

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I rolled on some more easy forest roads before they turned downhill and fell into disrepair. I took some more video, of the insane descent. Actually there are a few ups and downs, but it’s mostly downhill through here. It’s hard to tell from the video, but the road is quite cracked, smashed, and eroded in various parts. It was a tricky, rough ride down the hill. Once at the bottom I rode across flat fields for a while, with some nice views of the surrounding hills. This video is longer, but hopefully it’s worth it. The best part is the descent at the beginning. One thing I like about the video is that you can get a sense that I was on a rather narrow ridge, and see how it felt to swoop down along the top of the ridge.

Once I was on flat, wide open ground, I was more exposed to both the sun and the wind. It was in the 80s, and I don’t handle heat well. Anything over 80 is pretty hot for me, especially when I haven’t had a chance to get acclimated to it. The stiff headwind had a bit of a cooling effect, but it also sapped my energy and slowed my progress considerably.

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When I decided to take this route down from the State Forest, I did so knowing that it would add several miles to my ride, and, as I told myself at the time, “just one additional hill.” Which was true, but that hill took more out of me than I expected.

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I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get frustrated during my ride home. This was the longest ride I’d done for a while, and I didn’t really ramp up to it. It was great to spend a good portion of the day riding, but the last 20 miles or so were a real slog into the wind.

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Despite my frustrations, I overall felt great. Even though I had had foot surgery just about a month ago, my foot gave me NO trouble on this ride.

Unfortunately, I ran out of water and some of the usual replenishment places had yet to turn their water on (namely, the fire station and Cascades Park). So, I couldn’t get anything to drink until I got back to town. I stopped at a gas station for some water and saw some V8 sitting there. It looked appealing, even though I hadn’t had V8 in years, if ever, and I decided to give it a shot. It was pretty good! It’s nice to discover a new ride beverage choice, especially one that will help replenish electrolytes, but isn’t sweet.

I returned home around 5:30 pm or so, having ridden 56 miles and climbed something like 3,000 feet.

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