On Sunday, I rode from Jackson-Washington State Forest to Clark State Forest. Once again, Sarah met me there by car. Previously, we had discussed camping again at one of the state forests that night, but we decided against it, due to the heat and the fact that we wanted to have a restful day on Monday. I had a route planned (view it on Bikely) and expected it to be about 25 miles. I told Sarah we should probably allow two hours for me to make it there, as I expected to take my time.
Annotated route overview
I got a later start than I planned. This is typical for me. Getting up, having breakfast, and breaking down the tent and everything took a lot longer than I expected. The main downside to this was that it was already heating up by the time I hit the road.
Despite the heat, I was in good spirits. It felt good to be back on the bike, and not being in a hurry makes the heat more tolerable.
Riding through Jackson-Washington State Forest
A pond on the way out
Jackson County is a very interesting place to ride. Most the land is flat, but huge hills (“knobs”) surround you. Sometimes there will be cornfields on both sides of you, and it just feels like you’re riding down the middle of a cornfield. Sometimes there are soybeans planted instead, which give you better views of the hills.
Soy fields and hills
The route I planned was mostly on back roads. I rode a bit on State Road 39, and it was quiet, but you never know with the state highways. Some are nearly vacant and have relatively low speed limits. Some are very busy and have fast traffic. There’s generally no way of knowing which kind of road any given state highway will be until you get there. I stuck with my planned ride on back roads.
It wasn’t long before I hit gravel. Quite suddenly, the pavement ended and I was riding on gravel. It was fairly tightly-packed gravel, and I had a tailwind. I rode around 20 mph on gravel for some time — I was flying, and it felt great.
Where the pavement ends
My bicycle by some corn.
Cornfields and hills
I got a little confused about the route. I thought I went the right way, but soon started seeing things again that I had seen earlier in the ride. I was going in circles. Fortunately, I had brought my Gazetteer and a compass with me. I highly recommend carrying both, if you can. I was able to figure out, fairly easily, where I messed up and where I needed to go. I otherwise would’ve had to make a series of guesses to get myself out of this mess. And I went a good 30 minutes without seeing any cars, so asking for directions wouldn’t have worked too well.
Unfortunately, I had gone several miles out of the way. It took me a while to get back on track. Fortunately, I was really enjoying the scenery and it didn’t bother me too much. I knew that given this mistake, I’d be late to meet Sarah, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at this stage.
I got back on track and had some more gravel riding to do. It wasn’t as smooth this time around, but it was still fun. This road was a bit curvier, and the turns kept me on my toes. It would have been easy to have a wheel wash out, on a bicycle less suited to gravel.
I spent quite a while on Waskum Bridge Road. I was hoping this meant I’d be hitting a bridge soon. I went over one small one but I couldn’t imagine they’d name the road after such a small bridge. Sure enough, I soon reached a bigger bridge, with one stream to the west, which branched into two on the east side of the bridge. I looked around for turtles or other wildlife but didn’t see any. I did, however, see a dirt road running alongside the stream. This was awesome, because I’ve been wanting to try riding my new bike on a dirt road, but have had a hard time finding any.
The stream splits
I didn’t ride on the dirt road for very long, but the bike handled quite well while I did. I simply didn’t want to waste too much time, since I was already behind schedule. The tires had good traction, even in the loose dirt. It had been a long time since the last rain and things were quite dusty.
My tire treads in the dust
After a while I ended up back on paved roads, and spent some time on Pumpkin Center Road, a fun, curvy country road. I was hoping I’d get to see a bunch of pumpkins or something, but no such luck. I did see yet another interesting hilltop cemetery.
Pumpkin Center Road
It was around this time that the rolling hills started. No single hill was all that big, but I rode over many hills, one right after the other. It was really getting hot at this point, so I didn’t tackle the hills with as much fervor as I normally would. I was content to spin over gradually. The Trucker’s lower gearing really came into play here and while I was moving slowly, I was able to take on the hills without exhausting myself too much.
Rolling hills on Pumpkin Center Road
I ended up on State Road 39 for a little while, and there was pretty much no traffic. I could have ridden that road most of the way down and it would’ve been more direct and an easier route to follow. However, I really enjoyed the back roads. I soon ended up on Bloomington Trail Road, which had more rolling hills, some of them much bigger. I got turned around a couple of times but soon found my way. The Gazetteer came in handy once again. I also got to ride through the Leota covered bridge, which was pretty cool.
Several times I had tried to talk to Sarah by phone to let her know I was running late, but doing fine. Eventually I managed to communicate that to her, despite the fact that our phones both had poor reception and most of the time, we were only able to exchange greetings before our signals were dropped.
Bloomington Trail Road, with big hills in the distance
The hills continued getting bigger. Still nothing too hard, but again, cumulatively I was feeling it. But I was almost there. Sarah had told me she and Rob were waiting by a church. When I was in the right area and saw a church, I figured I must have found them.
Arriving at the church
When I pulled into the parking lot, they were waiting for me.
What a greeting!
The ride ended up being longer than I expected by about 10 miles — about 35 miles total. My bicycle was a mess from all the dirt and gravel roads. And so was I. I had a great ride, but I was glad to be done. The heat was getting to me.
We hung out in the parking lot a little bit. A guy went by repeatedly on a tractor, hauling hay bales one at a time. Sarah said he’d been at it for quite some time. He waved every time he went by.
Hauling hay bales
Brooks saddle, Keven’s Bag, and my Indiana Gazetteer
We put my bike on the bike rack and drove into town to get some lunch. We found a local restaurant where my beef Manhattan looked suspiciously like Sarah’s turkey, except for the color of the gravy. It was one of those small diner-type places where everything is bland and inoffensive. It’s always nice to know where the local mediocre generic American food restaurant is. On our way out we saw the following sign.
We had planned to hike in Clark State Forest, but it was really hot and we were exhausted. We opted just to drive through. We’ll return there someday soon, I’m sure. The drive through the forest took us to the top of one of the knobs, and it was a steep, twisty climb. I simply must attempt it by bicycle sometime. The car was struggling with it a bit at times. The view from the top is absolutely breathtaking. It’s hard to believe this is the midwest with views like this. The elevation at this point was over 1,000 feet.
View from the top
It was a beautiful trip. I wished it hadn’t been soon hot as I would’ve loved to explore the area some more. But we were exhausted already, and drove home. We took the scenic route and I showed Sarah some of the things I saw on my way to Jackson-Washington State Forest.
All in all, I’d say the trip was a success. We need to streamline things in the future, but this worked fairly well. I can’t wait to go camping together again. And the touring bug has bit hard, and I’m itching to do an unsupported trip sometime soon.