Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Three Lakes Ramble

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Sarah had to work on Saturday, giving me an obvious riding window. I thought about planning a route, but decided to wing it instead. I usually plan my rides carefully, but lately I’ve been enjoying rambling without a distinct plan, so I decided to take that approach. I did have one specific goal in mind: to see parts of the three major lakes near Bloomington, all in one ride. I love snowy lake scenes, so I thought this would be a beautiful ride, and having a mission made it fun, too. The main lakes are Lake Monroe (sometimes called Monroe Lake), Lake Griffy (sometimes called Griffy Lake), and Lake Lemon (never called Lemon Lake). Here is a map of my ride.

The forecast called for a high temperature in the mid 20s, not exactly warm, but not as cold as some of my other recent rides. There were a few inches of snow on the ground. Most roads were clear, but some had a bit of snow and/or ice on them. It was in the mid-20s and sunny, so some of the snow on the roads was melting, slightly. I headed out on the Trucker with studded tires.

I cut across part of town, and things took on a rural feeling very quickly.

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I went down a big hill into a hollow and within just a little over five miles, I reached part of Lake Monroe from Moore’s Creek Road.

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So, I checked the first lake off my list very quickly. I climbed up out of the hollow and debated which way to go next.

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I passed the always-beautiful Moore’s Creek.

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This was followed by some rolling hills, and some great views of snow-covered fields.

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The road conditions worsened as I rode away from town.

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Lake Lemon seemed like the next logical stop, but I had some route options. The main question was: pavement or gravel? I was a little concerned about the condition of the gravel roads, so naturally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to go and find out how bad the roads were, and how well my studded tires would work in a situation like this. But first, I had some paved riding to get there.

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Now I had a steep downhill into a creek bottom area.

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Soon I reached Friendship Road. I used to ride here quite frequently when I lived on the east side of Bloomington, but I’ve been there less since we moved. It was beautiful, as always , … though road conditions were poor. There were several inches of snow on the untreated gravel road, with ruts left by a few vehicles, and a crunchy surface on top.

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Peter White states that the studded tires I have, Noikian Hakkepelitta 106, are good for plowed roads but not great for untreated roads. I was anxious to put his claims to the test. Suffice it to say, the man knows what he’s talking about. As I tried to ride, I sank in and had trouble riding in a straight line. The ruts and crusty surface made things more difficult. At first, I could barely stay upright.

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As I rode, I was able to adjust my weight distribution and get better control. Still, I wouldn’t want to do a long ride this way. I’d need my mountain bike for this kind of stuff.  Fortunately, this gravel stretch wasn’t very long. I stopped on a favorite bridge for a minute.

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When I started riding again, I looked up and saw about 15-20 wild turkeys, in search of food. I stopped quietly, hoping to get a photo, but I startled them and their large wings making quite a lot of noise as they awkwardly took flight. All I managed to get a photo of were their tracks. Alas.

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I was on a highway for a few uncomfortable moments.

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Then turned back onto some back roads. Now I had a few minutes of beautiful, flat riding.

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Then I climbed out of the valley. Now I was on Mount Gilead Road.

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From there, I made my way over to State Road 45, then Tunnel Road, which would take me down to Lake Lemon. The sky was getting cloudier by the minute.

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These donkeys, and one other, were out chewing on whatever they could find. They seemed to appreciate my brief visit.

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I went down the big hill toward the lake. I decided to view Lake Lemon from Riddle Point Park, a very nice spot that I usually avoid most of the year because there’s a gate fee. In the winter, however, entrance is free. The lake views didn’t disappoint.

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As you can see, the snow I had to ride through to get here stuck to my rims and brakes. I had some problems with my brakes icing up after this. I need to find a good solution to this problem.

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The clouds grew denser. I started to think it was going to snow. For a few minutes it actually looked like the light was fading for the day, even though it was only 3:30.

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Now I just had to figure out which way to get to Lake Griffy. I decided to take Robinson Road, which goes by Butler Winery.

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This next shot involved a crazy coincidence. I adjusted the levels to show it better, but the sun is directly behind the pine tree, appearing like a Christmas tree topper! Completely accidental.

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From the top of the ridge on Robinson Road, when the trees are leafless, you get some great views of the surrounding lowlands.

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Including this view, which to my eyes looked like a lake of snow. In reality, it’s just a field, but it’s quite convincing as Snow Lake.

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The long downhill was a little sketchy. My icy brakes had me a little nervous, and my rear brake wasn’t grabbing well even before it got icy. With the ice, I had to stop twice and use sticks to attempt to knock the ice off the brake pads. I have got to improve my rear brake somehow. The front one works much better.

After that I  had a climb and some rolling hills. It’s hard to tell, but the house below has a child’s bicycle in front of it. The bike is not snow-covered, so it must have been used, or at least placed there, recently.

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Now I had another extended descent. The brakes worked better this time.

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Finally, I arrived at Lake Griffy. It looked beautiful, with the sun about to duck behind a ridge.

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The surface appeared solid; in fact, some folks had been walking on the ice. I’m not sure I’d trust it to be frozen, just yet. There was a hole drilled to measure ice thickness, so maybe it really was OK.

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A photographer was taking some photos from the bridge. I think he may have been trying to observe waterfowl. Around this time, my feet started to get really cold. They wouldn’t warm up for the rest of the ride, even though I was using my hiking boot/wool sock combination that has worked well for me in much colder temps. I’ve got to make some improvements there.

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Now I had a tough climb ahead of me. The light was starting to fade, but I had more than enough light to get home. I just had to ride through town, which was rather deserted, since the IU students are now gone for winter break.

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The temperature must have been dropping, because the melted ice from earlier in the day was now refreezing.

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Here I am toward the end of the ride. You can see my new helmet, a Bell Lumen. Nothing fancy, but it seems to fit me better than my old Giro.

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Here’s the bike, post-ride.

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This was a lovely ride, and it also pushed the boundaries of my experience, in these conditions. I’ve done much longer rides, and I’ve done much colder rides, but to spend 4 1/2 hours outdoors when it’s in the 20s isn’t easy.

I am loving having studded tires on a good bicycle, instead of my beater. This helps me keep doing longer rides, even now that temperatures have dropped and there is snow and ice on the ground.

9 Responses to “Three Lakes Ramble”

  1. Steve A Says:

    The man looks pretty chipper after 4 1/2 hours outside in the cold. Might rubbing alcohol brought along help deice the brakes?

  2. Tim S Says:

    Damn you Man! Looks like you visited that gravel and bridge that we were at back in April. Jealous! Great terrain there.

    Now I’m hoping we have a snow event this weekend so I can go out (after Xmas of course) and stud some more.

  3. Tim S Says:

    Damn you again Man! The map suggest that it’s a different small road with metal bridge. More great terrain!

  4. Apertome Says:

    Steve: That’s a good idea. I don’t know, but it seems like it might work.

    Tim: It’s the same road with the bridge that we took, but I took a different way down to that valley (paved descent, rather than gnarly doubletrack). Glad you’re enjoying the studs, hope you get out more!

  5. Chris Says:

    What lovely winter views! I might get out in colder weather if I had a payoff like that. Excellent route.

  6. Doug Says:

    looks like a great winter day for a ride.

  7. wil Says:

    nice documentation. Its like reading a small novel. You have similar terrain and sights that we have here in Vermont. So tell me how you post your ride maps to the blog. I have been using Ride with GPS but I don’t know how to do the cool trick you know. Thanks, Wil

  8. new orleans louis Says:

    Excellent photos. I experienced snow and cold for the first when I was evacuated to Battle Creek, Mich. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. Strange though. While there I saw no other riders besides this old fella from New Orleans, La.

  9. Chandra Says:

    You must really enjoy the low 20s — just kidding 🙂

    I loved the photo of the donkeys.

    Peace 🙂

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