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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):

A visit from David

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Last weekend, David was on a bike tour. He was headed to Indianapolis, by way of Bloomington. We offered to have him stay at our house overnight.

David had a hugely epic first day planned — Louisville to Bloomington — 110 hilly miles, into a headwind, carrying lots of weight. He made it as far as Bedford, IN, 80 miles into his ride, and called me to let me know he was behind schedule. I offered to come pick him up and he accepted.

It was great to have him stay with us. The evening was spent drinking beer, talking photos and GPSes, and generally goofing around. Good times.

On Sunday, David was rolling out for the second leg of his trip: 80 miles to Indianapolis. I decided to join him for part of the ride.

Read David’s post about Sunday’s ride here.

I ended up riding with David as far as Martinsville, and then turning back toward home. I had 60 miles for the day, on the Trucker, with tough headwinds and more hills on the return trip. But, I was glad to have a headwind, because that meant David would have a strong tailwind most of the day. Here’s a map of my route for the day.

In the morning, it was 40 degrees and raining — nasty. We went out for breakfast and relaxed for a while, and the rain subsided. We headed out.

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You can only sort of see them, but there were a few flowers blooming alongside the road.

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David was riding well. On the downhills, he flew well ahead of me. I guess the extra weight in his panniers pulled him down the hills at high speeds.

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David was using some new Arkel panniers. They are HUGE, and badass.

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Morgan-Monroe State Forest had some great riding in store for us.

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After riding down a big hill, we found ourselves on flat ground, with a tailwind. We were flying, for a little while.

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Before long, we reached Martinsville. We stopped at a gas station to get more water, and whatever else we needed. After this stop, we parted ways, he headed up to Indianapolis, and I was headed back to Bloomington, but I took a different route back.

My route back was hillier, and straight into the wind most of the way. It was quite tiring, and the Trucker felt absolutely dog slow. I’ve been spoiled, riding the Bianchi.

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What started out as a nasty, cold, rainy day turned into a beautiful day for riding. It must have been in the 60s later in the day. I ended up shedding layers until I was riding in just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Riding relatively unencumbered felt great.

It was a pleasure to have David stay with us, and I’m glad we got to ride together, as well.

Big South Fork: Part 2 (Sunday)

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Note: This is part two of the Big South Fork camping trip. Read Part 1 here.

Sunday morning, we slept later than expected … past 8:00 am! I’m not a morning person, but I’m usually up earlier than that when camping. We got up, made breakfast and coffee, packed up our tents, and headed out for our second big ride of the weekend.

The route Tim had planned for this day was 60 miles. We thought it would be easier than Saturday’s route, though, because it had less climbing. There were a few factors we didn’t know about/didn’t take into consideration — extremely rugged road surfaces, and several flat miles meant the climbing was more concentrated we realized. As a result Sunday’s ride ended up being at least as difficult as Saturday’s, or perhaps even more difficult. Here is the route we rode.

Our ride started on the same 6-mile flat gravel road as before. This time, instead of getting onto the paved road from Saturday, we turned onto another gravel road. The route was surprisingly flat and deceptively easy for the first 15 miles or so. The road we were on followed a beautiful creek through a valley for quite a few miles, and we passed a horse farm or two. I think we were all very stiff from Saturday’s ride and sleeping on the ground. For me, at least, it took quite a while for my legs to loosen up.

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We saw another footbridge, this one had supports made of oil drums. Sketchy?

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At times, the trees formed a tunnel around us. The sunlight turned orange as it filtered through the leaves, and leaves fell and blew all around us as we rode. It was a beautiful scene.

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We came across a spot in the creek that had a HUGE rock, and a rope swing. What fun!

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I forget what this green plant is, but Tim mentioned its name. In areas everything was overgrown with this green crawler.

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After a while, we turned onto a paved road, which remained relatively flat as well.

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We had a few moments of confusion with the route, but we eventually figured out where to go. Our road immediately went into a brutal climb, 1.5 miles and over 500 feet of elevation gain.

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The road continued with some major ups and downs. Now, this road was just amazing. A very narrow, one-lane road through the woods, sometimes winding its way along the edge of ravines. We saw very few signs of civilization along the road. This road was so remote and little-traveled that we were pondering why it even existed! Along the way, we saw more interesting rock formations. The climbing was brutal, but … what a beautiful road!

Here we are looking back on where we came from.

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After a while of this, we ended up on a gravel road. Not your typical gravel road, this one was quite rough with many large loose rocks. The riding was very rough and sketchy for many miles.

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We did see some rhododendron, which I am always a big fan of. I hadn’t seen any since I left Pennsylvania.

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Here are Tim and Dave on one of the rollers.

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Frankly, this road became a drag. It featured some rolling hills, some very tough climbs and descents,  and very little flat riding. At many points you could tell that you were close to a nice view, but couldn’t see through the trees. It got a bit frustrating. Also on this stretch of road, Tim got the only flat tire any of us would see the entire weekend.

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We did find this very cool rock face with a cave in it.

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There were some more really tough climbs. Eventually we started running out of water again. Argh! I brought 4 bottles, I think the other guys each brought 5. And yet, it wasn’t enough. I had brought my water filter with me, but there were no streams or water of any kind to filter from. We just had to keep going. I even walked a few hills, not because I couldn’t make it up them, but because I knew if I pushed it too hard without water, I’d be in bad shape.

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When we left Daniel Boone National Forest, I was hoping things would improve.

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We entered Tennessee.

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At this point, things *did* improve, at least somewhat. The road got smoother and had better flow to it. The climbs weren’t as steep. It was actually really beautiful and fun riding.

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Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enjoy it very much. We had simply been on this road for too long, with its pleasant-but-samey scenery, lack of water (or anything, really), etc. It would be pleasant on a normal day, but we needed a change.

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Eventually, we entered Pickett State Forest.

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And, after what seemed like forever, arrived the next road we would take, and it was paved!

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Riding on smooth pavement felt absolutely sublime, after all that gravel. And before long, we found water.

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My mood, and my riding, took an immediate turn for the better. Unfortunately Tim and David were both feeling sick by this time, but once rehydrated, I was feeling pretty good. I did my best to help them along. This paved road was a real stunner. Beautiful scenery, great downhills, doable (but challenging) climbs, and no traffic whatsoever. And like Saturday, the sky filled with clouds in the afternoon. It got cooler and less harsh on the eyes. Things were looking up, from my perspective.

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We entered Pickett State Park.

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Tim and David were struggling with the climbs. We just stuck together and after a while they, too, started feeling better again. In a way this started to feel like a century ride, or another long ride, where you hit a wall but ultimately get over it, feel better, and start enjoying the ride again. This ride wasn’t that long in terms of mileage, but it was in terms of time, and climbing.

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I couldn’t get enough of the sweeping descents, and climbs, on this road!

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The sky grew increasingly ominous, but no rain fell.

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We re-entered Big South Fork, and Kentucky.

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After a while — too soon if you ask me, I could have ridden on this beautiful paved road all day — we turned onto another gravel road, and stopped for another shot of the three Truckers.

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I was a little nervous about this gravel road. I knew we’d be on it for about eight miles. If it turned out to be as difficult as the earlier gravel roads, we might have a really hard time with it.

Fortunately, this road was not as rough as the earlier ones, and did not have any huge climbs. Just some moderate rolling hills, and some beautiful views. By this time it was getting a little dark so we switched our lights on.

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We went into a steep, loose, washboarded, rocky descent. I was having problems retaining enough traction. Finally, almost at the bottom of the hill, my front wheel washed out and I went down. I tried to do a leaping dismount, like I had on Saturday, but it didn’t work this time. Fortunately I was going quite slowly at the time and didn’t hit the ground too hard. I scraped my leg and landed funny on my hand, but no real injuries occurred. The worst of it is the scrape on my leg, which covers a sort of large area, but it’s not deep at all. I got back on the bike. It figures I’d wipe out in the last 7 miles of an epic weekend of riding!

Soon we were back on the road back our campground.

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We arrived safely back at the campground, loaded the bikes up, and Tim drove us back to Louisville. Once there I had to drive the two hours home. I didn’t get home until about 2:30 am. I’ve been tired and sore all week, but it’s certainly been worth it!

I’ve been thinking about these rides a lot the past couple of days. I had a great time, and it makes me long for more adventure!

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