This is a tale of a broken frame, pavement, gravel, heat, humidity, wind, flooding, rest stops in a cool, shady creek and by a beautiful lake, failing brakes, a sidewall blowout, a walk of shame, and finally, a beautiful woman saving the day. All that in only about 22 miles of riding, about 9 of those miles on gravel.
I had picked up my commuting bike from the bike shop on Friday. I had it in for a tune-up, and for them to fix the squeaky/stiff steering. Unfortunately, the guy who worked on it told me one of my rear brake pieces had seized, and in his attempts to remove it, the brake boss broke off the frame. He was able to put a bolt in it with a large washer as a spacer, which he said he thought would work. At first glance it seemed OK, and it worked fine during the riding Sarah and I did on Saturday. I don’t think this was his fault — if it broke off that easily, I figure it would have broken eventually anyway. I may need to see if I can find someone to weld a new boss onto the frame. Anyone know if this is possible? It’s a steel bike, so I figure there might be some chance this might work, if I can find someone who knows how to do it.
On Sunday I decided to go on an exploration ride through Yellowwood State forest, a ride with both pavement and gravel terrain. The commuter was the best bike for the task, and this would give me a chance for a proper shakedown ride to see if that brake was going to work. I’ve really been enjoying this bike lately. My road bike wants to go fast, and that’s nice sometimes, but on this bike, it’s difficult to be in a hurry, which encourages me to take my time and stop to smell the proverbial roses. I also like that this bike has platform pedals, so I can wear any shoes I want. In fact, I opted for sandals for this ride, which I loved.
I got off to a later start than I had hoped, leaving home around noon. It was around 90 degrees, with a heat index in the mid-90s and pretty decent winds. A lot of roads in the area were flooded due to the 8+ inches of rain we received, in one storm. Some whole towns were flooded — thankfully, we did not get any flooding near our apartment. Many roads were closed due to the flooding. I tried to avoid roads I had read were closed, but I really wasn’t sure if I would encounter flooding during this ride. I assumed I would, at some point, but I wasn’t sure where that was likely to be.
It was hot outside, but I noticed the wind felt great on my feet. I’ll have to do more riding in sandals — it was a huge improvement over my cycling shoes, which are ventilated, but no ventilation can really compete with feeling the air flow freely over your toes. It’s much cooler. I really took my time, hoping to keep myself from overheating or wearing myself out too early in the ride. I knew that the gravel sections would be pretty difficult. I also looked around more than usual as I rode, trying to scope out potential campsites for future S24O trips. It’s fun to look around and consider where you might camp stealthily, as opposed to renting a campsite.
Riding east on 45
Some small rolling hills in farmland
This hill always feels much harder than it looks, for some reason
I rode through New Unionville, then Unionville, and kept riding. I stopped to take a couple of photos, and a guy rolled up in his car and asked if I had plenty of water. I said “yes,” pointing to my two water bottles in cages, and one more strapped to the rear rack, but he gave me a stern look and said, “I mean a LOT of water.” “I’m fine,” I said. Oddly enough, the guy turned around and drove the other way. I appreciate his concern, but I always take a lot of water, especially when it’s so hot outside.
One advantage of the route I’d chosen was that once I started to approach the state forest, there was quite a bit of shade. This sure was a welcome respite from the heat of the sun.
Shady section of 45
I soon reached Lanam Ridge Road, which would take me to the gravel roads I’d ride through the state forest proper.
Lanam Ridge Road goes up to the right
After a brief stint on Lanam Ridge, I turned onto Yellowwood Lake Road, finally hitting gravel. There was quite a bit of debris on the road, presumably from all the rain we’ve gotten. I think there was water running over the road at some point that left the debris.
Yellowwood Lake Road, with some debris
Shadow-speckled gravel climb
After a while, I saw an extremely steep and eroded gravel road or driveway going up on my right. I stopped to explore, hiking up since it was too rutted and steep to ride.
Steep, eroded driveway
I thought I might find a good potential campsite here, but as I crested the hill, I saw a trailer. I couldn’t tell whether it was inhabited, but I didn’t go too close in case it was. It’s pretty difficult to tell what’s private property and what isn’t, in the state forest areas; it’s a strange and random combination of public and private land.
Trailer at the top of the hill
I went back down the hill and started riding again. For several miles I mostly got to ride downhill. I kept my speed fairly low, though, as my slick tires have limited stopping power on gravel, and there was a fair amount of debris strewn across the road at times. Still, I had a fun, fast, long descent down from the ridge, losing about 250 feet of elevation over the course of about three miles.
The road followed Jackson Creek for a while, which had a lot of water in it. The sound of the rushing water drew me to stop by a waterfall to take a break. I waded into the water, took off my helmet and splashed water on my face. The cool water ran clear and felt incredibly refreshing, and I spent a few minutes cooling off by the waterfall.
Jackson Creek follows Yellowwood Lake Rd.
Another advantage to riding in sandals
My bicycle by the creek
After this break, I pressed on. I encountered a few places with moderate flooding, but so far all the water I encountered was quite shallow and I was able to ride through it.
Water covers the road
My wheel in the mud
More mild flooding
Entering the state forest (I thought I was already there … again, it can be hard to tell)
There were a few climbs short, but mostly I was still going downhill. I knew riding back would be a lot harder, although I was planning to ride back on a different road, so it was hard to know how different it would be. Regardless, I knew I’d pay for all this relatively easy riding — although it really wasn’t that easy. I rode past trailheads for several horse trails (I really wish they allowed bicycles on them) and stopped to explore some kind of old logging road on foot. I didn’t stray too far from the road, but I think you could pitch a tent in a place like this without anyone finding you.
Stopping by the logging road
Old logging road
More logging road, and a few logs
Before long, I reached Yellowwood Lake, one of my favorite lakes in this area. I stopped near the Jackson Creek trailhead to take a couple of photos of the lake.
Me, on a small pier jutting out into the lake
I also saw a campground I always forget is there and rode over to explore it. It’s tent camping only, and you can’t park right at your campsite. However there are sites right on the lake, and it’s quite beautiful. If you got there early enough to get one of the better sites, it would be a fantastic place to camp.
View from a campsite
I rode on, figuring I’d take a break over by the shelter where Sarah and I will be getting married in September. On my way there I saw two barrels, one on each side of the road, with caution tape on them. The sides of the road had eroded and fallen away.
World’s largest pothole
The shelter where our wedding will be
Resting by a picnic table
I was going to call Sarah so I could talk to her from this spot that is going to have such significance in our lives, but I couldn’t get a signal on my cell phone. I also wanted to let her know my 2-3-hour estimate for this ride was off. I had already been riding/exploring for two hours, and I was only about halfway done. Whoops.
I hit pavement for a mile or two, and the riding got so much easier. I saw a lot of flooded fields.
Flooded fields, with a really cool split log fence
As I approached Green Valley Road/Dubois Ridge Road (pronounced by the locals as “duh-boys”), I saw that the road was under water. A couple of pickup trucks drove through it, just barely making it through; one was a DNR truck. If I had been driving my car, I almost certainly would not have been able to make it through here.
DNR truck driving through the
After the trucks passed, I rode through the water, which was fairly deep but stayed below bottom bracket level. My rear derailleur got submerged, though. I imagine that’s not good for it. After getting past this obstacle, I was on dry land but saw more flooding ahead, and it looked deeper. I looked at the bridge on the road off to the right and saw that the water level was almost exactly even with the top of the bridge, and had obviously been covering it earlier. Normally, the water is several feet lower than the bridge.
Bridge, almost submerged
The old bridge, which still stands right next to the new one, was a lot higher, but it is falling apart
Looking across the bridge — normally there is no water there whatsoever
More flooded fields
The flooding ahead of me — I was taking the road to the left
I decided to try riding through the water here, even though it looked a bit deeper. It got almost up to my bottom bracket, so I got off the bike and carried it through the water. The water came about up to my knees. Once again, I was really glad to have the sandals, rather than soaking my cycling shoes.
I waded through this part, then had quite a climb ahead
Once on dry land again, I started climbing up Dubois Ridge Road. There was quite a bit of climbing ahead of me, but I took my time and spun up the hill in a low gear. I stopped a guy headed the other way in a pickup to let him know about the flooding ahead. A couple other vehicles went by, but I wasn’t able to get their attention. I hope they didn’t end up stuck in the water. At some point, my rear brake, the one that the shop had done the hack fix on, started making weird noises, and I noticed it wasn’t hitting the rim at the correct angle. The brake arm felt a bit loose. It also lost a lot of stopping power, but since I was going uphill it really wasn’t a problem. I saw a lot more trailheads, logging roads and some potential campsites along Dubois Ridge Road.
Long, gradual gravel road climb
I had just figured that I must be almost back to Lanam Ridge Road (and pavement) when I heard a loud BANG!!! sound. Dismayed, I knew it must have been my rear tire. I stopped and looked and sure enough, there was a big tear in the sidewall, obviously caused by the brake pad rubbing the tire. I surmised that there was no way I could patch this hole and after some contemplation, I decided I needed to call Sarah to come pick me up. I carry patch kits and extra tubes, but not extra tires. My cell phone had no signal, so I hiked until I got a signal, which thankfully was probably only about half a mile. I told her how to get to where I was and that I would meet her on Lanam Ridge Road or 45, however far I could make it on foot by the time she arrived. I hiked maybe another half mile, mostly uphill, before I hit Lanam Ridge Road.
Hiking uphill with my bike
Interesting gate on Dubois Ridge Road
Reaching Lanam Ridge
Pushing my bike. Note that my GPS, which had not worked the whole trip, now started working.
I walked along Lanam Ridge for a while, which has rolling hills. After a while, Sarah showed up to save the day and she sure was a sight for sore eyes. Smart girl that she is, she brought a bunch of food, water, and Powerade. I considered it fortuitous timing that she had just gotten her driver’s license the day before. I was frustrated and a bit sad that my trusty old mountain bike seemed to be on its last legs, but still in a good mood — I had a great ride, and I got to spend the rest of the day with Sarah. What a day!
Bike update: last night I took the bike back to the shop and they tried another possible fix for the brake, but if this doesn’t work basically there’s nothing that can be done, unless I can find someone to braze on a new brake boss, and am willing to pay for that. I don’t know how much it’d cost, but I bet it wouldn’t be cheap. I did ride the bike to work today, and it was fine, but it may be relegated to around town rides for the time being, and I’ll probably be forced to retire this bike soon. Sad, as I’ve had it for since the mid-90s.