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Archive for the 'Holiday' Category

Thanksgiving ride

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

It’s been unseasonably warm here but all that changed on Thanksgiving. I woke up Thanksgiving morning to find temperatures in the lower 30s and a bit of drizzle. It had rained some overnight and was sprinkling a bit. But I checked the ground when I walked Rob and it seemed solid — we shouldn’t have any problem riding. I got ready and drove to the state park to meet up with Dave.We were dressed appropriately but unfortunately this means feeling quite cold at rest so we got going quickly and before long we were much more comfortable. But the trails were completely covered with leaves. If we hadn’t been familiar with them, it would have been extremely difficult to figure out where the trail was. I don’t think I’ve ever seen these trails so covered with leaves. The leaves add a lot of rolling resistance and make it impossible to see roots and rocks in the trail.

The real problem, though, was that the leaves were wet and destroyed our traction. We rode pretty conservatively so our wheels wouldn’t slip out from under us and got through the whole North Tower Loop without incident. The Aynes climb was tougher than usual with the leaves slowing us down and making the steeper parts of the climb very difficult as our rear wheels kept spinning as we rode. But we got to the top and as usual took a breather.

It was the kind of day I’d often just want to sit inside, overcast and cold and drizzling. A great day to stay in bed all day. But it felt so good to be outside and enjoying the fresh air and a quiet ride through the woods.

Dave asked if I wanted to take the lead on the descent, which sounded fine to me. The first part of the descent is the hardest, with a lot of big rocks and eroded trail right on the edge of a ravine. We made it through this section but it required intense concentration and a bit more care than usual. At this point, I thought we were pretty much home free and let loose on some fast flowing sections. I went through an off-camber turn and felt my wheels starting to slip out from under me. I dabbed and managed to keep myself upright. A few minutes later another off-camber turn got me. My wheels washed out and I wiped out, laying my bike and my self down to the uphill side of the turn. I wasn’t hurt but I got a little frustrated with my mistakes.  The same exact thing happened yet again a few minutes later, really taking me by surprise as I was riding pretty slowly at this point. Dave said it looked to him like I pedaled too hard coming out of the turn and while I’ll bet he’s right, I was surprised by just how little traction I had. I didn’t have any more problems after that and I wasn’t hurt, but some damage was done to my pride.

Thanksgiving plans; Ghost town

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Sarah’s mom came to pick her up and take her back to Fort Wayne for Thanksgiving. I don’t pick Sarah up from the bus station in Indianapolis until Sunday night, so it’ll be a few days of just Rob (the dog) and myself. Last night I rode my bike to Subway, hung out with Rob and worked on a side project I have brewing. I tried to watch a little TV, but I wasn’t feeling it and turned it off.

Tomorrow morning Dave and I are planning on mountain biking at Brown County; I’ll spend Thanksgiving afternoon/evening at mom’s with mom, my sister and my nephew. Friday will be a day of mountain biking with Dave a couple of hours south of here in either Hoosier National Forest or Ferdinand State Forest. On Saturday I plan to do a road ride with Dan on Bike. And interspersed with all the riding and family time will probably be a lot more work. I have two side projects to work on at the moment so I am keeping very busy.

My commute was really weird this morning. First of all, something just isn’t right about riding to work in a short-sleeved shirt in late November. It’s pleasant, but strange. Secondly, Bloomington feels like a ghost town right now as apparently almost all of the IU students have already left for the holiday. I was expecting to see fewer students, but technically IU has classes today and I figured at least a few people would stick around and go to class. Apparently, I was wrong.

The maintenance people have already taken advantage of the lack of students to put up some wreaths in a few places, and there are some lampposts that I swear weren’t there before. The fountain by the auditorium has been turned off so that area looked particularly dead, with no students and the now-inanimate fountain.

Independence day camping at Yellowwood

Friday, July 6th, 2007

Sarah and I decided at the last minute to go camping Tuesday night. We weren’t even sure where we wanted to go, but settled on Yellowwood State Forest. We haven’t gone camping at any of the state parks yet, but my theory is that the state forests are a little less popular, and more remote, so they probably make for a better camping experience. I think we’re very lucky to have so many places to camp within half an hour of where we live that our biggest problem is figuring out where to go — even if we don’t decide to go camping until evening. There’s a slideshow at the end of this post.

When we got to Yellowwood, we drove through all three campgrounds to find the best spot. We settled on a camping spot in the Red Pine Campground. There were a few spots from which you could see Yellowwood Lake through the trees a little bit, but those were already taken. We found a site with a good place for our tent a bit back from the road, so it felt a little more secluded.

After setting up the tent, I suggested to Sarah that we hike down the trail that lead down into a ravine from our campsite. It looked a little boggy at the bottom, and I thought we might be able to see the lake from down there. Sure enough, we didn’t have to hike far at all before we were treated with a stunning view of Yellowwood Lake. I had brought my old film SLR camera, the Pentax K1000 I got when I was in high school to learn about photography.

Yellowwood Lake II
Yellowwood Lake from near our campsite

When I snapped a few photos, this old camera that I hadn’t used for quite some time put a big grin on my face. It felt so comfortable, and it’s about as simple a camera as you can get. No auto focus, no auto exposure, and the light meter is just a needle that moves up and down to tell you whether you’re under- or overexposing from the metered reading. The camera feels solid in your hands, and even the clicking of the shutter is loud and confident. You can feel it shake a little when the shutter releases. So it’s probably not ideal for the most crisp photos, but you *know* you’ve taken a photo — with authority.

Sarah seemed a little antsy, worried about the dog, who was still in the car, and getting the rest of our stuff set up. I kissed away her worries and we enjoyed the beautiful scene a little bit longer.

All in all, this was very similar to our last camping trip. Once again, we made bratwurst. I did a better job of cooking them this time, waiting for the fire to burn down a bit more, and putting the grill a little higher off the fire. The brats were hotter throughout and took on more of the smoke flavor from the fire.

Some fellow campers were playing some music loudly early in the evening, but they turned it off before long, and most people went to bed pretty early. The rest of the world just melted away and it was just Sarah and me, and our dog, Rob. All you could hear were insects and bullfrogs, and the crackle of the fire; all you could see was our fire and the light given off by the nearly-full moon. There weren’t any lamp posts in the area, and I was very glad.

Before we went to bed, I managed to convince Sarah to go for a walk around the campground with me, despite the fact that we were both tired and drunk. It was just a small loop. We took a flashlight, but really didn’t even need it because there was so much moonlight. After our walk, I got my tripod out of the trunk and took some long exposure photos with my old camera, not sure how they’d turn out.

Moonlit Trees
Moonlit pine trees

It felt funny setting up the tripod and fooling with my camera’s very rudimentary cable release. It’s a button you push, but not an electronic one — it just pushes a wire down that opens the camera’s shutter, and it stays open as long as you hold the button down. It feels like having a direct, physical connection with the shutter.

We went to bed, hearing some kind of howling sound that may have been coyotes, but I’m really not sure. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. We woke up a couple of times during the night and felt cold, so we held each other close and tried to keep warm. I had the love of my life, my dog, and the forest to wake up to. It was great to wake up in the morning and see a line of trees leading into a ravine. We would have been warmer if we had closed the tent door, but it sure was great to be able to see out as soon as we woke up.

It was a fantastic camping trip. I really love being out in the middle of nowhere with Sarah and Rob and no distractions at all. No TV, no e-mail to check, no laundry to do or dishwasher to load — just us.

Update: I submitted two of my photos to StateParks.com’s page about Yellowwood. They accepted them; I’ll have to submit some more, both for Yellowwood and some other state parks.

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