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Archive for the 'Mixed Terrain' Category

A bit of rail-trail riding

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

I haven’t done any rides of major distance for a while. It’s been hot, and I have been busy with other things. The other night I decided to get out, in the evening, and explore some rail-trails. Most of the ride was in areas where I’ve ridden before, but I haven’t explored a lot of them in depth. Given the heat, a relatively flat, easy cruise sounded good.

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Within minutes, I was looking at scenery like this.

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The photos above were all on the more familiar (to me), gravel Bloomington Rail Trail. I also spent some time on the paved Clear Creek Trail, where I’ve only ridden a couple of times before.

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There were some huge homes right along the trail.

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A side excursion on a gravel trail yielded some interesting finds.

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I climbed up the gravel trail, and found it intersected with a road. I need to figure out where that road goes. For this ride, once I reached the end of the trail, I turned around. Here, I’m about to bomb back down the hill.

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I’m not sure what all the fuzzy stuff is in the photo below, but it captured my attention.

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I’m not normally a fan of rail-trails, but it was great to get out for an easier ride for a change, without having to worry about traffic too much. Actually, I was more in riding mode than exploration mode, and didn’t stop too often. I should ride the same trails and stop more to explore. Sometimes it’s amazing what’s right outside your front door, if you take the time to look around.

Summer mixed terrain, with friends

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Way back in February, Jon Grinder contacted me, saying that he would be on a road trip and rolling through Bloomington on July 2-3, and asking if I wanted to ride together. At that point, it seemed like Bill and Jon’s friend Brad might join us. It sounded like fun, and Sarah gave her blessing, so I said “yes!” and offered to let Jon and Brad stay with us, as well.

As planned, the ride was this past Sunday, but there was a much greater turnout than I had imagined. In addition to Jon, Brad, and Bill, we had Tim and Asher come up from Louisville, and my local friend Dave joined us as well. Including me, that meant we had seven riders, most of whom knew each other through blogs but had never met before.

Here is the route we rode:

Sarah prepared quite a spread for breakfast, so everyone was certainly well-fueled when we rolled out. Here are a couple of shots Sarah took of us before the ride.

Here are the riders at the start:

Jon and Brad (the Denver guys), Asher and Tim (the Louisville guys), and me (the Bloomington guy).

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Bill (the Fort Wayne guy) is below in the yellow jersey. In the other shot I had of him, his water bottle was covering his face.

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The ride started with some rollers to get across/around town, and there was more traffic than I expected, for a Sunday morning. I guess being a holiday weekend may have affected that.

Here we have, from close to far, Brad, Asher, and Tim.

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Here, Jon and Bill are getting acquainted in person, but I think of all of us felt like we knew each other already, from conversations on our blogs.

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Within a few minutes, we had our first mechanical issue of the day. I think it was a bag snafu, if I recall correctly.

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But, we weren’t stopped long. Once we got through the rollers and traffic, we turned into the neighborhood where I grew up. The next mile or so was on mild singletrack, rolling through the woods, which John Mellencamp owns. He bought the land so it wouldn’t be developed. I spent many days back in those woods at the end of my street, as a kid. Everyone loved the shady woods and the fun trails that we rode on. Here we’re all stopped to photograph a box turtle.

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Here are Bill and Jon, coming out of the woods.

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Next we had a big, paved descent, followed by some flat, but beautiful, bottomland, with fields, creeks, and hills surrounding us.

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Now we had the first major climb of the day: Mount Gilead Road. It was paved and very smooth, a bit steep at the bottom but not too bad after that. It does go on for a while, though.

Soon after the climb, we met up with Dave, who was starting from his house. Next we were on State Road 45, with a few ups and downs, open fields and wooded sections. It’s a highway, but we were far enough from town that there was very little traffic.

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After a bit of that, we entered Yellowwood State Forest, and finally reached our first gravel of the day. The introduction to the state forest was abrupt, as we turned onto a gravel road and went down a big hill. Now normally I climb this hill, so I am used to having more time to look around and enjoy the scenery. However, it was still just beautiful, with rolling hills, gravel roads, shade, deep green trees above and vinca below, not flowering but the lush green groundcover was lovely.

Here, Asher is approaching.

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Tim and Asher rolling out.

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And here is Brad, who surprised me with an awesome wheelie for the camera. You can see Bill in the distance, who was having problems with his fender. The bolt wiggled loose, with all the gravel.

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Soon we were at the gorgeous Yellowwood Lake. The water level was high and the lake looked wonderful.

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Soon we were rolling again, with some gravel rollers, the ride’s only water stop, and then we were back on pavement for a while. Unfortunately during a big downhill, Dave’s rear tire slipped a bit. He managed to stay upright. Upon closer inspection, his rear tire was going flat. He patched it.

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While Dave was fixing his tire, I took a moment to document the various bikes people were riding. Here is Jon with his great 29er. I love the handlebars on this bike, and the titanium fork.

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Bill’s Specialized Tri-Cross got a good workout on the gravel and trail. Aside from his fender issues, it fared very well.

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Asher had borrowed this Cannondale mountain bike from a friend. It was a great bike, but some rear hub issues gave him fits while climbing, at times.

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Brad’s Bridgestone XO-3 surprised me. It looks like a bike that’d be good for just tooling around town, and I’m sure it would be good for that, but it handled serious hills and gravel with aplomb. It definitely helps that he’s a strong rider. He could fly on this thing. It also looks shockingly similar to The Beast, making me think that I need to get that bike rolling again.

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Brad took a moment to call the wife and daughter while sitting in the shade. Nice.

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And of course, here is my Long Haul Trucker. Somehow, I managed to not get a photo of Tim’s LHT at this time.

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Jon and Bill chatting. They really hit it off. Also, Bill has lost a ton of weight since the last time I rode with him. He looks great.

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Dave, getting ready to ride again.

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Paved loveliness awaited.

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It wasn’t long before Dave had to put more air in his tire again. Then it was about a mile of riding on the busy State Road 46. It wasn’t fun, but fortunately it was short-lived. Soon we turned onto Crooked Creek Road, which alternates between pavement and gravel. At one point, a lizard scampered across the road, and we just narrowly missed hitting it.

Dave’s tire went flat again, so we stopped again. I turned my attention to the butterflies on some wildflowers.

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Soon, we were rolling again. We had a big, steep gravel climb, the kind that goes up for a while, then evens out. Just when you start thinking it’s over, it turns sharply uphill once again. Ouch! There was a steep downhill afterwards, as well, which I took very cautiously. I didn’t feel I had very good traction.

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After that we were on pavement for a while, and things were a bit easier.

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We stopped by part of Lake Monroe, and just as we pulled up, a Great Blue Heron swooped down into the water just ahead of us. I missed getting a photo of the heron, but I at least got the lake.

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Then it was a few more miles of remote, quiet paved roads, followed by another big climb — this time, paved. Tim’s chain snapped as he was riding up the hill. Jon ended up coming partway back down the hill with his chain tool to help. That meant he had to ride back up again. It was a long, steep hill, and it was hot and humid. Tough riding, for sure.

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But, all that climbing paid off a few minutes later, with a phenomenal paved descent down T.C. Steele Road, complete with switchbacks and some straight sections where you could really let loose. This was a real highlight of the ride for me; the payoff for a bunch of climbing, and the Trucker descends so well on pavement that it was a real treat. After that, we had flat-to-rolling pavement for a little bit.

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The flowers below were particularly beautiful.

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Soon we were back on gravel, where we faced a couple of miles of very rough, loose gravel with big chunks that shook me as I rode. Jon definitely had the right bike for this section, with his 29″ knobbies. Then it was a brief stint back on the highway, another short section of rough gravel, and a climb back up toward town. Apparently I stopped taking photos around this time. It was beautiful riding, but I was definitely slowing down.

Once we were nearly back to town, Dave peeled off to ride home. The rest of us continued back to my house, by way of some serious rollers. Jon was having major cramping problems, so he and I hung back. Either we slowed down a lot, or everyone else picked up the pace, because they sure seemed to be flying. I was feeling OK, but not wanting to go fast at all. We all arrived back at my house within a few minutes of each other.

Once there, we broke out the beer and Sarah had prepared a great lunch. We all sat in the shade, drinking cold beer and eating sandwiches, wonderfully fresh fruit, and other items.

It was immensely gratifying to have such a great turnout for this ride, and to meet new friends, and longtime friends who we just happened not to have had the pleasure of riding with before. I also enjoyed showing off the beautiful land in the Bloomington area to people who seemed to appreciate it as much as I do.

I have more photos posted in my set on Flickr for this ride.

Other accounts of this ride (will add more later):

Muscatatuck – Jackson-Washington State Forest

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Last Thursday was the last day of my summer class. There’s a second summer session, but I’m not taking any more classes this summer. So I guess I’m on summer vacation! (Aside from work, of course.)

As you might imagine, I was anxious to get out for a good solid bike ride. Tim was game, so on Saturday we met at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Reserve near Seymour, IN, for a solid 56-mile ride. It was mostly paved, but some gravel and a bit of trail, as well. The odd thing about this route was that it was flat-to-rolling most of the time, except one big hill (knob) right around halfway through the ride. Here is a map of our route.

I woke up Saturday to a whole lot of thunder, and heavy rain. One good thing about riding with Tim is that I always know he’s up for riding in any conditions. There wasn’t any question about whether we would ride, just how wet we’d get.

We met at Muscatatuck around 9am, right on the tail end of some rain. The rain basically stopped as we were getting ready to ride. Our first few miles were gravel with some great wildlife — deer, herons, geese, bullfrogs.

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Then it was pavement for a while through gently-rolling farmland.

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Soon we started to get glimpses of the knobs, where we were headed. Specifically, we were going to Jackson-Washington State Forest, which contains several knobs and is part of the Knobstone Escarpment area in Indiana.

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The buggy sign below was hand-made. A nice touch.

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Before long we were in Brownstown, IN, a small town that Sarah and I have visited on a few different occasions. We stopped for water and restrooms.

Here’s Tim’s Litespeed, with a few upgrades since the last time I saw it. The bike is even better than before!

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And of course, here is my Long Haul Trucker.

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The sky grew increasingly ominous. Tim ran into someone he knew there (small world!) and an old man chatted us up. He seemed to be quite a character, but his countrified accent was so thick it was hard to understand what he was saying.

During all this time the clouds got darker and darker. It was clear we were going to get quite wet. We rolled out.

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Just a few minutes outside of town, Tim felt his rear tire going flat. We stopped, and he immediately started working on it. I took the opportunity to look around a bit.

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The rain finally started. It was coming down pretty hard.

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Here’s Tim, working on his tire in the rain. He fixed it rather efficiently but carefully. His work paid off; the fix held.

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We rolled out again, only to find our road closed.

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Of course, roads that are impassable by car are often easily navigated with a bicycle. We pressed on. Soon we saw why the road was closed. This photo stinks, but you can see the landslide debris on the road.

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We made our way over the debris and the climb up the knob started in earnest.

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Soon we saw where the landslide had started. An upper portion of the road had washed away.

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After a while, we made it to the top. We just took our time and spun up in a low gear. Almost immediately after we reached the top, we were treated to an excellent vista.

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We rode further down the road for a few more views.

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Then it was a long descent. It had more or less stopped raining at this point. The road down was so steep that Tim walked part of it. I rode it, but I did so very slowly.

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Once at the bottom, we continued on and it was back to being flat. We had a great tailwind for a while. Tim wasn’t feeling great, but the wind certainly helped us along.

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We could see numerous storm clouds, and as we rode along we were able to watch them grow and change. Very cool.

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This wheat field scene captured our attention.

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As did this very small church.

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We passed a couple of gravel roads that looked they’d be fun to explore, such as the one below, but we stuck to our route.

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Eventually, we hit gravel. A downhill, some turns, and some flat riding. The sky was different now but still quite stunning.

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Soon we were back near Muscatatuck; a short jaunt on a trail and some gravel roads took us back to our cars. My sandals were funny here, I could feel the wet grass on my toes as I pedaled.

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All in all it was a wonderful ride. The weather was spectacular, not in a picture-perfect kind of way, but it was impressive to watch the clouds and experience the rain. We somehow missed the big storms. The rain that we did encounter wasn’t bad at all.

Since this ride was mostly flat and mostly paved, it was a relatively easy 56 miles, except the few miles on the knob. Even so, I was getting pretty tired toward the end. It had been a while since I’d been on long bike ride. I feel I rode well, especially considering how little riding I’ve done lately.

I’ve got a lot of riding planned in July. I am looking forward to it!

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