Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for August, 2011

My new morning commute, in photos

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I’ve posted some descriptions and images from my new morning commute, but I thought it’d be fun to go through it step-by-step, pictorially. This is just one of my possible routes, the one I discovered recently and have been taking for a few weeks. Of course, this will change again once classes start back up.

My day starts with a climb. Not incredibly long or steep, but it can be a jarring way to get moving in the morning, immediately going into a climb.

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Then I turn a corner and I get a great downhill.

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Well, it’s great unless I get caught at a red light halfway down the hill, which almost always seems to happen …

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Then I turn onto the Bloomington Rail-Trail, which has a reasonably smooth crushed limestone surface. The trail is nicely shaded and cool, and follows Jackson Creek part of the way.

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Then I cross a busy road. I don’t normally ride over this pedestrian bridge, but I went less than half a block out of the way to get this photo.

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It’s sort of a gross creek, but I still like it.

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Now I turn onto another rail-trail, but this one is paved. This is part of the B-line trail. It’s not officially open yet, but they aren’t trying to prevent people from using it, either.

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This trail is usually wonderfully quiet, although I wonder if that will continue, once it’s officially opened. By the way, I found another trail that parallels this one, that’s unpaved. It’s fun, but there is a big tree down that makes it difficult to use the side trail the whole way.

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The B-line trail feels remote at first, then hits an industrial area.

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The Grimes Street Bridge is still under construction. This thing seems ridiculous to me. Grimes just isn’t that busy, and the trail has road crossings at busier roads. This bridge is huge and is costing somewhere over $2 million, if I remember correctly.

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I should point out that the concept art for this bridge is rather hilarious.

What are they going to do, replace Grimes Street with a canal?

This machine shop always catches my eye. It’s actually quite a production with several buildings just like this, all lined up. What’s he building in there?

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I’ve also noticed there are some other industrial buildings that appear to be vacant. I dream of buying one and converting it into a high-tech company, or an art gallery. Hmmm …

There’s definitely some blight along the way …

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But, once you get closer to downtown, things improve. This bridge over Third Street is useful, and really cool, if extravagant. Notice the Monroe County Courthouse is visible on the right side of the image.

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The downtown section of the B-Line trail has quite a bit of public art — more than I can go into here.

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Just a few more blocks from here, and I”m at work.

It’s a great new route option — I am very glad I discovered it. The B-Line trail is really coming along. It’s incredible how long it has taken to get here, and I think it could have been done a lot more efficiently, but  I’m so glad to see it’s finally becoming useful.

A few observations

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

A year ago or so, I started to get interested in stargazing. Last year, we made a concerted effort, a couple of nights, to go out and watch the Perseid meteor shower. I even took a few photos of meteors.

The last week or so has been very interesting, in terms of stargazing. A few nights this week, I saw shooting stars while out walking the dog before bed. It was only later I realized that the Perseids were back. Since we’ve had a very bright Full Sturgeon Moon and cloudy skies several nights, my intentional attempts at seeing meteors were unsuccessful.

However, last night made for some excellent viewing, even if I didn’t see any meteors. Once again, while walking the dog, I watched the sky basically the whole time. A storm had passed through town, and a huge mass of cumulonimbus clouds was still visible in the east, illuminated from above by the full moon. The light struck the clouds at an oblique angle, and the depth and texture of the cloud were well visible. Meanwhile, lightning flashed through more storm clouds to the north.

However, the tall, dense clouds in the east were now moving away from us. There was a swatch of open sky, with many constellations visible, and soon another mass of lower cloud cover blew in from the west. I literally stood there and watched a new, thick layer of clouds blow over. It washed over me, and rain began to fall once again.

It’s quite amazing to watch these events unfold in real time. And I saw all this in probably less than 15 minutes outdoors. Once again, even though I didn’t see any meteors, amazing events were unfolding above, I just had to take a few minutes to watch them.

So, my casual interest in stargazing is paying off. It’s a lot of fun and doesn’t have to be time-consuming, or expensive. I have some binoculars, but lately I’ve just been observing with the naked eye.

It helps to get yourself oriented in the sky, and find some constellations to help you put everything in perspective. I’ve used a couple different star chart books for this, but lately I’ve discovered another method. If you have an Android phone, you can download Google Sky Map. This thing is incredible. You point it where you’re looking and it tells you what you’re looking at. You can spin it around in different directions to identify other objects. Or, you can do a search, if you are looking for something specific.

If you have an iPhone, I’m sure there’s something similar available — I’ve read that Star Walk is good.

However you do it, I suggest taking a few minutes a couple nights per week and seeing what you can see. Whether you’re getting a better sense of the vast depth of our universe, or watching local weather events (or both), you just might find something interesting.

Tough day

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Thursday was a tough day, cycling-wise.

It started out well enough. We finally had a break in the heat, after something like 23 days with 90+ temperatures. My morning commute was downright cool, and the lower temperatures were just wonderful.

However, less than a block from work, a truck nearly hit me. They ran a stop sign, then, as I was signalling for a left turn, they passed me literally about six inches away. They nearly hit me, and it made me mad. I had to keep going straight, actually veer off further right, to avoid being hit. I was mad enough to file a complaint. It was an IU Physical Plant truck that cut me off. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the truck number or license plate, so there was little they could do. In all fairness, the manager seemed to take it seriously.

So, I wasn’t hurt, but the close call certainly highlighted the dangers you face when cycling, even if you’re doing everything right. In fact, the incident reinforced my habit of not hugging the right edge of the lane. I was about in the left tire track when this happened, which meant I had plenty of room to move over when the truck got too close. If I had been close to the curb, it could have been much worse.

My commute home was uneventful, and pleasant.

In the evening, I met up with a guy at Brown County State Park. He had a spare 29er wheel, and we had arranged to meet there so I could buy it from him. I bought the wheel, and brought tools with me. He helped me install the cassette, and I got the disc brake rotor installed just fine. Then I managed to get the brake and shifting adjusted adequately — all of this in the parking lot. For me, this is quite an accomplishment. I’m getting a little better with a wrench.

My friend Dave met me at the trailhead, and we headed out for a ride, once I was ready. We had planned to do a night ride, bringing lights and everything.

After we rode for a little while, we came across some EMS personnel in the woods, hauling gear with them. They told us they received a report that a rider had crashed, and they were looking for him. We rode on ahead to find him.

Unfortunately, we rode quite a ways, passing some more emergency folks, before we found the rider, nearly 4 1/2 miles into the woods. There were quite a few other people at the scene of the accident, and one EMS guy had made it there, and had the rider immobilized. I couldn’t tell what had happened. We rode back and forth a couple of times, trying to lead the paramedics back to the rider. We heard talk over the radios that DNR was sending a four-wheeler down the fire road to try to extract him.

I was glad that we could be of some help. But, one time when we stopped, to walk back with the EMS people, I smashed my toe on a root, really hard. Then had to walk a while, in bike shoes. My foot hurt, but again, I was just glad we could help a little, somehow.

Eventually we felt like we had done all we could to help with that situation, and had a decision to make. We had hoped to ride the new Green Valley trail again, but it was getting later than expected and I felt a little spooked from not one but two safety incidents in one day. We decided to head back, though we did take the long way back to our cars.

Despite the drama, we did manage to fit in some fun riding, and it felt great to ride my 29er again. So far, I haven’t heard any more about what happened. I’ll post an update, if any more information becomes available. I hope the rider is OK. I really have no idea what happened, or if his injuries were severe.

These incidents both served as a reminder that cycling can be dangerous, and we are all vulnerable, even if we’re doing everything right. So, let’s try to be extra vigilant out there, OK?

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