Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Clay City Century

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

I took advantage of the beautiful weather on Sunday to ride the Clay City Century. This would be my first solo century. I have been interested in trying this route since the club rode it earlier this summer, and since I realized that it goes through Patricksburg, a destination I’ve long wanted to reach by bicycle. I’ve photographed it a couple of times (the best shots are here) — it’s one of my favorite little quaint/creepy run-down little towns. However, when the club was riding it, it was somewhere around 90 degrees. I didn’t feel like a(nother) tough century in the heat, so I didn’t go. And overall, I’ve found that while I don’t really enjoy riding with the club that much, they do have a lot of great routes.

Actually, I’ve been mulling over a route to Patricksburg for some time. I have some ideas of some great roads to take, but the club route takes a very different route than I had been thinking about. After riding their route, I realized that services were scant, even going through the bigger roads and towns. My smaller-roads version would take some very careful planning to be able to execute without running out of water. Still, I hope to do it my way someday.

Anyway, here is the route from Sunday. I had to make some modifications to the club route due to construction. I also ended up with a few “bonus miles,” some intentional, as the route originally only went 96 miles, and I wanted the full 100, and a couple more due to missed turns.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky, and the day’s high only in the upper 70s. It was a bit windy, enough for the wind to make its presence known, but not enough to make riding much more difficult.

The route was fairly hilly from the start, and I rode on a number of vaguely familiar roads as I headed away from town.

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Around 25 miles into the ride, I rolled into the small town of Spencer. I made a conscious effort on this ride to spend a little more time in the towns I rode through, and took more photos in the towns to try to capture their character.

Spencer is a neat little town that I’ve photographed before. The square is always eerily vacant on a Sunday.

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Once through Spencer, I stopped at Casey’s General Store for some food and drink, and a short break.

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Unfortunately after this point I spent a couple of miles on IN 46, a busy two-lane highway. Traffic wasn’t too heavy, but the high speed limit (55 mph) made me a little nervous.

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Fortunately that was over sooner than I expected, and I turned onto Patricksburg Road. This would end up being one of the highlights of the ride. The traffic quickly dissipated and left me to climb, climb, climb, for over a mile, then immediately ride down the other side of the hill, only to climb for over a mile once again. At this point I rode along a ridgetop with fantastic views for several miles.

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As you can see, I was enjoying the climb. The cooler weather made it much more pleasant.

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A side note: I noticed several gravel roads that looked quite inviting. I’ll have to go back sometime to explore them.

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Soon, I approached Patricksburg. It has a bit of a ghost town feel, generally, with run-down buildings and often no people out. Today was a beautiful day and I saw a few more people out than I have in the past, in Patricksburg.

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It’s hard to tell in this shot, but there is a sign on the barn below that reads “Patricksburg.”

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Once I reached the edge of town, I decided this would be a good opportunity to get some bonus miles, to make sure my total would be over 100 by the end of the ride. I rode out through some farmland.

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I reached the edge of the maps loaded in my GPS. Several months ago when I loaded maps on my GPS, I loaded enough to cover a larger riding area than I thought I’d ever cover. Looks like I need to rethink that …

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After a couple miles of this, I headed back to get back on the route.

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Next I got on State Road 246, which is technically a highway, but there was no traffic. I couldn’t believe how quiet the roads were, given that it was Labor Day weekend. My time on 246 began with a huge downhill. What fun! At this point, the terrain got flatter, with just some rolling hills.

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I reached Clay City about 50 miles (halfway) into the ride. I was amused by the sign when I entered town, that proclaimed Clay City the “Mayberry of the Midwest.” Riiiiight …

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I was hoping to get some food in Clay City, but I didn’t see any options that looked appealing. There were a few local restaurants/pubs, but I was a little hesitant to go in them in full bike gear. And, I didn’t bring a lock with me.  Here are a few other shots of the town. It was another ramshackle town along the route, not as “charming” as Patricksburg perhaps, but there was more here, at least. Truth be told, though, I actually love these bedraggled municipalities.

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While I didn’t get any food, I did manage to get some water from the vending machine at the Beverage Place.

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The sign as I left town read, “Small Town, Big Pride.”

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I turned onto State Road 157, another vacant highway, where I would spend the next 20 miles. I was getting hungry, so I was pleased to see that it was merely another 16 miles to Worthington, which I thought might be big enough to have a Subway or something.

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For a while, the terrain was quite flat. The wind became more of a factor, due to the flatter terrain and several long southerly legs of the route, and a wind coming out of the south. Corn and soybean fields dominated the landscape.

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Before long I reached Coal City, which I had seen on the map, and which was smaller than I had imagined, consisting basically of a neighborhood, a couple of churches, and a couple of businesses.

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The sign below reads:

Welcome to Coal City
Town Full of Happy Folks
AND
one old GROUCH!”

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Soon I was through town and rode through alternating fields and woods.

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Soon I re-entered Greene County. I started to see hills again. One gravel road in particular looked inviting. This definitely warrants some exploration in the future.

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Some brilliantly-colored fields caught my attention.

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Soon I was in Worthington. I didn’t take much in the way of photos here. I was just too hungry.

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The best option I could find for food was a convenience store. My lunch consisted of a convenience store pizza that was a lot better than I expected. I picked up some other snacks for the road, and headed out.

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I remained on State Road 157 for a while, which in this section had been recently chipsealed. This was quite frustrating as the road was just fine before, and the chipseal made for a very rough ride. It would have been better off it they had just left it alone! I can’t figure out why the state keeps pouring chipseal over perfectly fine roads, and ruining them.

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In this next shot, you can really see how bad the chipseal is. The left part is the part they’ve “fixed,” with new chipseal. The right part didn’t get chipseal and shows the much smoother old surface of the road.

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These folks had a lovely driveway!

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I passed a construction company with a bit of limestone laying around.

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It’s hard to get a sense of scale, but the truck below is HUGE. Its wheels were probably as tall as I am. See how it appears to be taller than the building in the background? That’s not just because of perspective. It really was taller than the building.

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Fortunately, I was not on 157 much longer. I turned onto another road, which did not have the chipseal problem. I rode in a flat, shady creek bottom for a bit, but it was short-lived.

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That would be the last extended flat section of the ride. 75 miles into the ride, the hills started up again, in a big way. In fact, I would be on the Hilly Hundred route for a while … I rode other parts of it earlier in the ride.

Needless to say, I was getting tired at this point and all the hills slowed me down a lot. In fact even though it was in the 70s, all the climbing made me feel hot. Fortunately, with the hills came improved scenery.

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I stopped in Solsberry at mile 85, hoping to top off my water bottles. Alas, the store was closed. I knew there was a fire station down the road that had a vending machine, but their machine wasn’t working. I had to press on and hope I found water soon. I wasn’t out of water yet but I was getting low.

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Fortunately, in Hendricksville, 91 miles into the ride, I spotted a vending machine in front of an old, rickety building. It didn’t look like it would work, but I tried it anyway.

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I was a little surprised to find that it was turned on and appeared to have water in stock. I was even more surprised when my bottle of water came out, frozen solid!

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I bought another bottle and the second one was not frozen. Perfect. I bought a third bottle, also not frozen. Excellent. What an odd place for a vending machine …

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… and a motorcycle.

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I got back on the road. Thankfully, I didn’t have far to go now. But the hills kept coming.

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Before long, I was back home. I finished the ride, 103.8 miles, in 8 hours, 33 minutes. I had guessed it would take me nine hours, so I felt good that I finished faster than I expected. I was absolutely beat at the end — those hills in the last 25 miles were pretty harsh — but it was still a great ride.

I still want to put together my own, backroads route to Patricksburg. I would probably just turn around in Patricksburg. It would make for a shorter ride than this one, but it would be hillier.

7 Responses to “Clay City Century”

  1. David Crowell Says:

    Nice write up, and a lovely ride. Glad you are keeping the mileage up. I’ve been too busy for anything but commuting, and my new commute is quite short.

    Keep taking those lovely pictures!

  2. Jon Grinder Says:

    Have you considered using a CamelBack for your longer rides? Some people are worried about the weight, but the pack only gets lighter as you ride (and drink). 😉

  3. Apertome Says:

    Jon … I haven’t tried the Camelbak on the road bike. My gut says that I wouldn’t like it, but I should try it, I suppose. It’s not so much the weight, as having weight on my back, that bothers me.

  4. Chris Says:

    I think this the most photos I’ve seen in a single post ever. I liked the ones of you the best. It looked like you were having such a great time.

  5. bill Says:

    Dig the flora/fauna shots – but the small town photos really tell great stories. This looks like a fantastic route – and I’m pleading for any beta you can gather on the gravel you were eyeballing. Maybe you can lead a “pavel” epic ride at some point? Ran into Dave in the State Park Sunday – you guys are rolling some nice miles!

  6. Al Says:

    I’ve been following your blog for years, since you were in Kingston, Pa (I’m from NEPA)……
    Awesome photos in this post! Just looking at the photos I get the impression that you really enjoyed this century……. You had your eyes wide open everywhere you rode, to get such great pics. I like the “ghost town” and abandoned buildings the best.
    Great work! Is the trucker going out on a ride again soon?

  7. John Says:

    Highways are the best thing that has happened for us bike riders. They draw the cars off of and away from our roads so we can do rides like this.

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