Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Green County Viaduct / Tulip Trestle

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I wanted to go for a long ride on Saturday. It was a cool, windy, overcast day, and I had a little bit of a hard time motivating myself to get out and ride. After waffling a bit on a route, I eventually decided to ride out to the Green County Viaduct (also known as the Tulip Trestle). By the time I started riding, it was nearly 2:00 pm. The route, as planned, was close to 60 miles, so this was a much later start than usual for a ride of this length.

I loosely followed one of the routes in the Bloomington Bicycle Club route book #2, making a few adjustments so I could see some more gravel roads while I was out there. Bloomingpedia says about the viaduct:

“The Greene County Viaduct […] is a half mile long train bridge in Greene County, about 21.75 miles from Bloomington […] It was finished in December of 1906 and is the third longest bridge of its kind in the world.”


“This bridge is out in the middle of nowhere and you can only get to it via a single dirt road.”

I had been there once before, with my wife, by car, and thought it’d be a great place for cycling. As it turns out, I was right. Here is my route.

The high temperature for the day was around 55 degrees, with 10-15 mph winds gusting to 25 mph; the wind certainly kept things interesting.

I started by riding through town, and along the way I passed some unfamiliar sections of town, including an urban stream and some interesting industrial areas. I also took a wrong turn or two but got back on track relatively easily.

Soon, I was headed away from town on Vernal Pike, which has a number of long, gradual climbs and a few smaller ones as well. I was heading into the wind at this point, but thankfully the hills shielded me from the wind a bit while I climbed, and I was able to coast into it while riding downhill. All things considered, it was a decent stretch of road to have to ride into the wind.

After a particularly long climb, I stopped by some rather interesting railroad tracks …




I crested the hill and the road opened up before me. I flew down the other side of the hill, with greenery and wildflowers aplenty …




… and then spent a little while in flat lowlands, surrounded by the hills. The riding was beautiful, and easy, for a while. I  was surprised by this easy section, when I spent about 5 miles on flat ground, if anything going slightly downhill. The wind became more of a factor for a while.





I hit a few more hills, but they just gave me a better vantagepoint over the fields.





Soon, I turned onto State Road 43, which was also relatively flat. Overall, miles 10-20 of this ride were surprisingly flat. State Road 43 was quite scenic, as it wound through valleys with fields and hills all around. The sky was absolutely amazing, it was overcast, but rather than dull flat grey, the sky was filled with billowing clouds in various shades of grey. It looked ominous, but it never did rain.




A bit over 20 miles into the ride, I took a break. It felt good to get off the bike for a few minutes and have a snack. I felt a little chilly, and I did throughout the rest of the ride. But, I love this kind of weather. I’ll take 50s over 80s-90s any day, I prefer to be a little cool on the bike, rather than hot. It was a perfect day for wool, and we don’t get many of those here in May. The dreary weather must have been keeping people off the roads, too, as I saw very few cars. Not that any of these roads are major thoroughfares, but still.


I rode on, enjoying the peaceful setting and feeling pensive. I reached for my camera when suddenly I heard a bark, and two dogs began chasing me.  Most dogs I can outrun fairly quickly by sprinting away from them, but this time, I mashed the pedals and accelerated as quickly as I could, but I was barely gaining any ground.

Eventually, I left the dogs behind. So much for my peaceful mood … soon I felt comfortable again. But a bit south of Hendricksville, the hills started back up. A small one first, and then a long one that felt like it went on for a long time.


Once I reached the top of the hill, 43 took me along a ridgetop for a bit, which made for some very pleasant riding. I watched as the wind blew across grassy fields, sending waves of grass swaying.




Soon, I reached the small town of Solsberry. I needed water and stopped at Yoho’s Grocery. I felt more than a little awkward as I went into this small convenience store clad in bike gear, and the place was absolutely packed with a group of older men who appeared to be swapping tall tales. They were very kind to me, but I still felt uncomfortable. I always do, when I go into a store in my bike gear. Usually I try to ride in more normal clothing, but given the length of the ride and the wind, I couldn’t justify baggy shorts.

Before I left, I couldn’t resist the temptation to get a shot of my bike parked in front, surrounded by pickup trucks.


From here it would be more or less an out-and-back ride to the Green County Viaduct, the main attraction of the ride. These few miles to the trestle ended up involving constant hills.





Soon, I flew down a long downhill and into a meadow. I stopped by a bridge over a lovely creek, and from here I could see part of the trestle.





I soon turned onto another road, which turned into gravel.





Soon, I reached one end of the Trestle. You can’t see all the way to the other end. The bridge is about 1/2 mile long, and is flanked with trees.


DSCF3728 DSCF3733

I figured this would be a good spot for another break, so I had another snack and rolled out. The sights on the other side of the trestle were just as impressive.







Soon, I turned onto an incredibly smooth paved road. What a change it was from the gravel road, which had been freshly graded and very loose and rocky.


I was glad that I had chosen to loop around this way, seeing more gravel and some of the best scenery of the entire ride, rather than heading directly back to Solsberry from here, as the Bloomington Bicycle Club route suggested.

The road surface got much rougher and went into some large rolling hills with amazing views. I had to be very careful on the downhills to avoid deep potholes and very rough patch jobs.


On one climb in particular, it looked like the road would carry me straight up into the sky.


But then, it immediately plunged back downward.



The hills never really let up. Soon I had to climb back up toward Solsberry, and this time stopped at the fire station to get some water from their vending machine.




I rolled through Solsberry again …



… but soon was out away from town, rolling on 43 for a little bit longer.



After that, I rolled along some county roads, one of which displayed a Road Closed sign. I didn’t see any sign of construction and decided to try to go that way anyway. The only real alternative I could see was State Road 45, which is a busy highway on this side of town, and very unpleasant for cycling.


I rolled along for a few minutes, thinking that there was no construction, until I came to this scene. The bridge over some railroad tracks was out.


I decided to see if I could get through. I managed to make my way down a large pile of mud to the tracks, then back up the other side. This next shot is looking back.


And here is some more mud to push through …


Once I got past the tracks, I immediately turned off onto another road. That wasn’t so bad.

From here, I had quite a few more hills to deal with, but fortunately a lot of them were rollers and I was able to use my momentum to my advantage on at least some of them.

Soon I was back in town, and of course once back in town I had to get lost. I turned onto part of the Clear Creek Trail, thinking it would connect with the Bloomington Rail-Trail. But I went the wrong way, and ended up at Tapp Road. I could backtrack a couple of miles on the trail and then connect with it and turn around and ride a couple more miles, or I could take the more direct route on Tapp Road, which is uncomfortably busy.

I opted for the latter, and fortunately traffic was rather light. I spotted a sidewalk and took it part of the way. I normally don’t ride on the sidewalk, but in this instance I thought it was the safest option, and there were few intersections and no pedestrians anyway. Once I got to the top of a hill, the sidewalk ended and I got back on the road.

This was still a busier road than I like to ride on, but fortunately now I just had a big downhill and then shortly afterwards, I could turn off. With the downhill, I had no trouble keeping up with traffic.  Soon I was home, and only slightly unnerved.

I finished the ride around 7:30 pm. All told, I was gone 5 hours 50 minutes, and covered just shy of 60 miles, with over 3800 feet of climbing, and some wild winds to deal with.

Another thing to note: I returned the camera I had ordered, and picked up a new one. The new one is a Fuji F70EXR. More on it later, but so far I’m much happier with this one.

3 Responses to “Green County Viaduct / Tulip Trestle”

  1. RANTWICK Says:

    Hey man, nice ramble! If I am ever incapacitated somewhow, I’ll just read your posts. They are the next best thing to being on a nice long ride in the country.

  2. furiousball Says:

    all of these shots are really, really cool. but my fave was the graffiti’d out trestle base

  3. bill Says:

    very cool ride – i had no idea re: the viaduct – what a great destination…a late start makes it more epic…and awesome photos as usual…but my vote for awesomest goes to the grocery store shot (and i’m usually a sucker for the flora/fauna stuff)…appears you’ve busted out of your rut?

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