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).
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.
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.
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.
Within a few minutes, we had our first mechanical issue of the day. I think it was a bag snafu, if I recall correctly.
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.
Here are Bill and Jon, coming out of the woods.
Next we had a big, paved descent, followed by some flat, but beautiful, bottomland, with fields, creeks, and hills surrounding us.
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.
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.
Tim and Asher rolling out.
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.
Soon we were at the gorgeous Yellowwood Lake. The water level was high and the lake looked wonderful.
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.
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.
Bill’s Specialized Tri-Cross got a good workout on the gravel and trail. Aside from his fender issues, it fared very well.
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.
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.
Brad took a moment to call the wife and daughter while sitting in the shade. Nice.
And of course, here is my Long Haul Trucker. Somehow, I managed to not get a photo of Tim’s LHT at this time.
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.
Dave, getting ready to ride again.
Paved loveliness awaited.
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.
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.
After that we were on pavement for a while, and things were a bit easier.
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.
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.
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.
The flowers below were particularly beautiful.
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):