Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for the 'Gravel' Category

Laid back weekend

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I didn’t do a lot of riding over the weekend. I intended to, but with a heat index of 100+ degrees both days, and some strong storms, I only managed to get out for a 19-mile gravel ride in Hoosier National Forest with my buddy Dave. Fortunately it didn’t storm while we were out riding, we only had to deal with the heat and extreme humidity, and an unusually high number of dogs. We also saw several box turtles and some turkeys. I don’t think we saw a single car on any of the gravel roads.

We did a loop I’ve done a couple of times before. I have done this route in snow, rain … and now heat, too. “What’s next?” Dave asked, and I don’t know, but I’m sure some other condition will come along and I can ride there in it, too.

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Sunday wasn’t devoid of bike activity either, I washed the Trucker and did some work on the Bianchi. I ordered some Nitto Noodle handlebars for it, just like the ones I have on the Trucker, and installed them. I did a few test rides around the neighborhood. The Noodles are a big improvement over the old bars.

It was so hot that I was dripping with sweat, just from working on the bike and riding around the neighborhood. I was thinking of a road ride later in the day, but some insane storms rolled in. I’ll ride in most weather conditions, but lightning is one thing that will prevent me from riding.

Working on bikes isn’t a lot of fun for me, but it needed to be done. Hopefully now I’m in good shape for some more long rides. I’m anxious to crank up the mileage again. I’m contemplating RAIN (Ride Across INdiana) on July 17. You ride from Terre Haute, IN to Richmond, IN, in one day — 160 miles. I might need to ride another century between now and then, for training purposes.

Hoosier National Forest mini-epic

Monday, April 26th, 2010

It rained all weekend. On Sunday, I decided to go for a ride anyway. I felt like riding my mountain bike, and doing something a little different, so I headed out to Hoosier National Forest for an 18-mile ride, almost entirely on gravel roads. Here is the route I rode.

Note that it’s the same route that I rode back in February, only then, it was covered in snow. It was interesting to see how different it looked this time.

An 18-mile, two hour-ish ride is by no means epic, but sometimes epic is more of a state of mind. The rain and the muddy, sandy gravel roads contributed to this feeling. I also fondly remembered how the area looked blanketed in snow, and how much harder the ride was then. Hence the “mini-epic” title. I will have some helmet cam videos to share from this ride, but I have not yet edited them.


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The road was paved at first …

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… but it soon turned to gravel.

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The road climbed gently for a while, and then turned sharply uphill toward the small town of Normal. I remembered this being quite a climb, but I was pleased that it felt easier than I remembered. After riding past Norman, I turned back into HNF …

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… for more gravel riding.

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Along the way, I saw a number of trails for the Hickory Ridge trail system, most of which I’ve never ridden. It was too muddy today, but I am determined to spend more time in HNF this year and further explore the Hickory Ridge trailsystem.

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I rode on a ridgetop for a little while, before a wild, multi-tiered descent. It was raining hard and the lack of fenders on my mountain bike meant I got splattered with water, mud, and small bits of gravel. I was covered in water and mud by the time I reached the bottom, including my glasses, face, legs, feet, basically everything.

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I rode briefly in creek bottoms, including a couple of creek crossings …

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… and snail, wildflower, and geode sightings.

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From this point, I basically had a long climb, a bit of flat ridgetop riding, and then another long decent. I was just flying down the hill, and once again got completely covered in muck.

By the time I finished, I was drenched, covered in mud and small rocks, and quite content.

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I’ll post some video, when I get a chance.

Cedar Bluffs and other rides

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Some minor rides

I’ve done some more riding, but I have not had a lot of time to write about it. Wednesday evening, I did a brief ride of about 7 1/2 miles, exploring some new roads just a little off a favorite route, that I had somehow not yet explored. I forgot to put the battery in my camera before this ride, so I don’t have any pictures. I’ll be riding this route more, so I’ll document it later.

I also rode to work on Friday, my first bicycle commute since my surgery. It went well, except for a stiff headwind the whole way to work in the morning that took a lot out of me. I guess mother nature was welcoming me back to bike commuting, and reminding me who’s in charge — lest I forget.

Cedar Bluffs Ride

Saturday was my biggest ride since my surgery — still only about 25 miles, but it was southewest of town, where it’s very hilly. I put together a route that went by the Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve (where I’d never been) and a brief section of gravel on Cedar Bluffs Road. Some parts of the ride were on Victor Pike and Rockport Road, where I’ve ridden before, but I’m not terribly familiar. Here’s a map of my route.

I took the Bloomington Rail-Trail to reach the area where I wanted to ride. You have to ride on a fairly busy road to reach the rail-trail, but the trail is very pleasant for the most part.

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However, the part that goes under State Road 37 was flooded and had signs warning of falling objects.

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However, the biggest problem I had was that I intended to take the rail-trail through to Dillman Road. However, you reach a point where a gate blocks access and signs say, “No Trespassing.” From this point, you can see Dillman Road, but apparently they don’t have access to that last bit of land. I went under the gate and through, but I might try to find a different way, in the future. Also of interest, the trail appeared to continue beyond Dillman Road. I believe that portion is not officially open yet, but it looked quite ridable, and there were no signs saying not to enter. This warrants further exploration.

Dillman Road was pleasant. I went the wrong way, briefly, to explore a bridge I spotted.

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Soon, I made my way over to Victor Pike, with a nice view as soon as I reached the road.

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Victor Pike had a few decent hills before going into a long climb up to the quarry for the Victor-Oolitic Stone Company. I’ve ridden this hill in the past, and it’s a real challenge every time. Fortunately, the scenery is interesting along the way.

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The higher I climbed, the more turkey vultures I saw. The hill features a very steep climb right at the end, after you’ve been climbing for about two miles already. It’s pretty harsh.

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By the time I reached the top of the hill, the turkey vultures were soaring just 10-15 feet above my head, sometimes closer. It was a windy day, and I was headed into the wind this whole time; I guess the turkey vultures were staying relatively close to the top of the ridge, trying to avoid catching too much wind. It was odd to see these giant birds from below but as I rode up the hill, to get closer and closer.  They’re ugly creatures, but impressive at the same time.

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Some of my favorite views from the top of this hill have been blocked since I first rode there, but you can still catch some interesting views of the quarry, and the land beyond.

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Victor Pike had some rolling hills in store for me, and when I reached Rockport Road, there was more climbing ahead. It really felt like I was climbing almost the entire time, even though the elevation profile suggests otherwise. I remembered these roads being quite hilly, but they were even more intense than I expected. There were occasional views when the road skirted the edge of the ridge top, but they were difficult to catch on camera. Still, the rest of the scenery was nice, as well.

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Eventually, I reached Popcorn Road and took it, briefly. I was not prepared for the views I would have through here, and did not take nearly enough photos. I should have turned on my helmet cam for this whole section — it was hilly and filled with views of rolling fields, hills, and trees, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Some of the hills and views reminded me more of Pennsylvania than Indiana.

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I was only on a brief portion of Popcorn Road … there is a lot more to explore, and I can’t wait to do so. It was mostly downhill this whole time.

I turned onto Ketcham Road, another very hilly road that proved quite challenging at times. Fortunately, for a while anyway, it too was mostly downhill. I went by the Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve, where I would love to return to go hiking sometime. The entire valley here was just beautiful.

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Unfortunately, of course I had to climb out of the valley. The next hill made my jaw drop …

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It wasn’t quite as bad as it looked, and I turned off before I reached the top, onto the gravel Cedar Bluffs Road, which had some rolling hills, a short, steep descent, and a long, steep climb. Signs warned, “Seasonal Access Only.” In the next shot, you can see how the road goes down and to the right, then swoops back up and to the left. Tough climb!

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Even once back on paved roads, I had more climbing to do.

Once I reached the top of the hill, I turned onto Old State Road 37, which took me most of the way home. This was more of a highway, there was very little traffic, but the cars that were there were moving quite quickly. There were a few hills, but they were less intense than what I had dealt with so far. The next 4-5 miles were on this road, and they were the least interesting miles of the entire ride, being on a straight stretch of highway, with easier (but still not easy) hills. I might try to find some alternative to this road, in the future.

At the end of the day, I had ridden about 24.5 miles, but it felt like a lot more, with about 1900-2000 feet of climbing squeezed into that short ride. If I do some regular training rides on this side of town, I’m going to get in great shape. It felt great to be able to go for a country ride, and my foot only complained a couple of times, during steep climbs. It felt fine afterwards. I feel ready to start tackling some longer-mileage rides, and I can’t wait to do so!

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