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Williams Covered Bridge

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

On Sunday I decided it was time to do a nice long road shakedown ride on the Long Haul Trucker. I had tried riding it on a variety of terrain, but hadn’t done any long rides yet. Perhaps not ideal timing as I’m still getting the fit dialed in, but I decided not to worry about that and just ride. I chose to ride down to the Williams Covered Bridge, the longest covered bridge in Indiana. It’s located in, surprisingly enough, Williams, IN, which is west and a bit south of Bedford. I had a Bloomington Bicycle Club map of the route, which said it’s about 70 miles. I took both my digital camera and my old Yashica Lynx 5000 rangefinder camera, loaded with slide film for cross processing.

I started out riding through town, which was by far my least favorite part of the route, but it wasn’t bad. I started riding through some residential areas, soon passed a more industrial zone, and headed away from town on Old 37. It wasn’t long before things took on a much more rural feel.

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Lee Roofing Co.

I had never ridden on this section of Old 37 before; normally, I ride on Old 37 north of town. Now I was headed south and it was fairly similar. Not quite as scenic, though, and it had quite a few easy hills and a few tougher ones. Mostly, it was easy, pleasant riding, but nothing too exciting.

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Old 37

I spent over 10 miles on this road and while it was nice enough, frankly it was a little dull. I was getting a little antsy to reach some more remote roads. Even though Old 37 didn’t have much traffic, it didn’t have a lot of character, either.

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Stopping by a farm

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Passing the Starlite drive-in movie theater; entering Judah

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Getting passed by a dune buggy

After riding on Old 37 for so long, I was glad when I finally got on Judah-Logan Road. I have ridden on this road before, but in the opposite direction. I remembered climbing a big hill, and some panoramic views (see most of the way down on the linked post). I was looking forward to seeing those views again, but I turned off this road before I got that far.

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Judah-Logan Road

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I was feeling rather “Sunkist” myself — it was a sunny day, so far with limited shade.


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“Caution: Horse Drawn Vehicles” / Tiny Shell station

I saw a few cool sights along Judah-Logan, but soon arrived at the turnoff to McFadden Ridge. I had never ridden on this road before, but it looked like it was going to be fun. I was on high ground with great views of the surrounding land. I stopped to rest and take a few photos.

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Log cabin at Judah-Logan and McFadden Ridge

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View from the intersection

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Down, down, down

I took off down McFadden Ridge Road and immediately appreciated the Long Haul Trucker’s stability. It just feels incredibly solid at speed. I hit a couple of potholes and while it was jarring, the bike didn’t flex noticeably where my road bike would have. The wider tires let me lean into the turns more than I’d previously dare, especially on rough surfaces. Descending on this bike is a real joy.

I stopped again to catch some shade for a few minutes. I stopped a lot more frequently during this ride than I normally do, in part because of the heat and in part because in order to shoot with my film camera, I had to stop.

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Barns

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My bicycle resting under a tree

I had a nice rest, but I wasn’t done descending yet. I turned onto Peerless Road and enjoyed more downhill riding, this road curvier than the last. It was a blast, and it felt so good to let the bike carry me for a while longer.

Once down the hill, the road straightened out and threw several good hills at me. It was tiring, but I knew I’d have to pay for those miles of incredible downhill riding, and it was well worth it.

I passed a couple of limestone quarries and soon reached Bedford, a town of about 13,000 people known as the “limestone capital of the world.” I took a wrong turn, but realized it fairly quickly. I stopped at a gas station to rest and get some food and drink.

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Riding through Bedford on N Street

I spent a little time on a 4-lane road in Bedford, but there wasn’t too much traffic, and nobody gave me any trouble. I had to cross State Road 37 for probably the 3rd time so far on this ride, and then got on State Road 450/Williams Road.

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State Road 450

The road was wide and had some cars for a little while but it soon narrowed, and traffic died down. This became a really fun road to ride on. There was a big climb, followed by a big descent, but then the road began undulating, horizontally and vertically. There were lots of curves and shorter climbs and descents, with some nice views of the land from the hilltops.

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Williams Road undulates into the distance

I reached Williams and didn’t take many photos on my way through town. I wish I had. There wasn’t much there, but it would’ve been nice to have more photos. Williams is the kind of town where if you blink, you miss it — even on a bike. I continued past Williams on 450 to go toward the covered bridge.

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Boarded up building in Williams

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Riding on Williams Rd

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Cross-processed Williams Road

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Williams Garage

As I crested the top of a hill, I could see the bridge in the distance. It was great to finally be approaching the main attraction of the ride.

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The covered bridge is visible in the distance

I got off my bike and checked out the bridge. Painting on the road advised me to walk my bike, but I didn’t. I’m not sure why someone recommended that, and even go as far as to paint warnings on the road, as I had no trouble riding my bicycle through the bridge.

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Reaching the bridge

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Inside the bridge

Once on the other side, I rested for a few minutes, had a snack and watched for a while. Quite a few vehicles went by, mostly motorcycles. No one stopped to admire the bridge, which was too bad because you really couldn’t see much from the road, or from inside the bridge. It creaked from time to time as the wind blew; a few boards rattled intermittently, but the bridge showed no sign of weakness.

I found a gravel road going off to the side, and was tempted to ride on it and explore, but I knew I’d still be putting in a lot more mileage without a random side trip. I walked down a bit though and found a path down to the river. I carefully made my way down the loose, rocky path to see if I could get a better glimpse of the bridge.

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My bicycle resting near the bridge

As I said, this is supposedly the longest covered bridge in Indiana that’s still open. According to this page (which also has some cool photos), the bridge was built in 1884, and spans 376 feet across a fork of the White River. It’s a very cool bridge, and I was surprised to only see one support right in the middle of it. Given that it’s been there for over 120 years, I’d say it’s strong enough.

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Williams Covered Bridge

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Williams Covered Bridge, cross-processed

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Gravel road near the bridge

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The White River

I normally don’t take long breaks like this on my rides, but I really enjoyed taking some time to further explore the area. It’s funny because one thing I like about cycling is that it gives you a much better chance to see the land than a car. However, sometimes I still feel the need to stop and smell the roses. Sometimes even a bicycle isn’t slow enough.

I headed back the way I came, back toward Williams. I had seen a convenience store/cafe on my way here that said they had pizza. That sounded sort of appetizing, but when I got there I felt a little skeptical of the pizza and just got some chips and water. Then I spotted some Coke in 8-ounce glass bottles and had to get one. Coke always tastes better out of glass bottles, and the small size was perfect, since I didn’t want to stay long and didn’t want to take it with me.

The cafe was air conditioned and had seating inside, but I sat outside on the patio so I could better enjoy the view. Sitting in the shade on this rather hot day with a cool breeze and a cold Coke was exactly what I needed at that moment. It was refreshing and I felt energized when I got back on the bike.

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Refreshment

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View from the patio

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A goose in a recreation area in Williams

After taking 450 back a little further, I had two miles of climbing toward Fayetteville. Then another 6 miles or so to Springville, also mostly uphill. Climbing on the Long Haul Trucker is a mixed bag. It’s heavy, which makes climbing harder, and generally I find out of the saddle uphill sprints don’t work out too well. But with its super low gears, I can just downshift and pedal, pedal, pedal until I reach the top of a hill. Ultimately, it’s an exercise in patience, but being able to really take my time and not push too hard, even when climbing, is very helpful, especially when it’s hot and I’m getting tired.

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The Olde Farm: Life Tabernacle Recreation Grounds

I took another break in Springville, after which I got to ride downhill a little bit, but then faced probably the biggest climb of the whole ride. Then, something strange happened: I had about 5 miles of flat riding, I believe this was on Harrodsburg Road. So far the hills had been relentless in this second leg of the ride, so I cherished this opportunity for a few miles of flat, easy riding.

The easy riding let me enjoy the scenery in this very beautiful area, and get a closer look at some of the wildflowers. None of my photos do them justice, but suffice it to say, the road was flanked on both sides with wildflowers during many parts of this ride.

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Farmland

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The Long Haul Trucker

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Wildflowers

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The road

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Solitary tree

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More road

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My shadow

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A great view

Soon, I was on Rockport Road and then Victor Pike, both somewhat familiar to me. I enjoyed a long, fast descent down Victor Pike. I had only ridden this hill in the opposite direction before, and it’s a hell of a climb. It was a pleasure to ride down it for a change. A few more miles and a few more hills and I was back to town.

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Victor Pike

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The last major climb

This ride took me a lot longer than I expected. I was thinking 6 hours, it took more like 7 1/2. My average moving speed was very slow, I’m sure, but I don’t know exactly since I haven’t put a computer on the Trucker yet. It was a great ride with lots of beautiful scenery, and it gave me a good chance to try my new bicycle on a longer ride. I still have some fit issues to deal with but overall it’s working out great. In total, I rode over 75 miles with about 3300 feet of climbing (it sure felt like more than that). This is about equivalent, climbing-wise, to each day of the Hilly Hundred, just with an extra 25 miles of riding thrown in, and without the SAG stops (which I could’ve used).

McCormick’s Creek Ride

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I wanted to go for a longer ride on Sunday — something in the neighborhood of 50 miles. It had been a while since I did a ride that length. I found another cool route on Bikely that goes to McCormick’s Creek State Park. Sarah and I have done some hiking and photography there in the past, but I’ve never ridden there. I got up early, intending to ride before it got too hot, but by the time I got dressed, walked the dog, ate breakfast, and printed route maps, it was noon. I really should have prepared the night before.

The first part of the ride was the reverse of what I rode the day before, taking me through town and Cascades park, climbing up Clubhouse Drive (which is oddly not as hard as I thought it would be), up to Kinser Pike, across 37 and on Bottom Road for a while. This time I enjoyed a long descent down Bottom Road, but kept my speed down due to the rough road surface, sand and gravel on the road, and my (still weak and easy to hurt) finger that means my grip on the bars/brakes isn’t 100%. I wasn’t on Bottom Road very long, though, turning off onto Maple Grove Road.

Maple Grove was flattish and curvy for a while, later straightening out and leading into some great rolling hills. I would have done a lot better on those hills if I’d been in slightly better shape; as it was my energy often got sapped two thirds of the way up each hill and I struggled over the top, rather than carrying my momentum through the whole hill. I chuckled when I reached the intersection of Maple Grove Road and Maple Grove Road. Fortunately, I knew I needed to keep going straight. This has been a source of confusion for me in the past when driving through this area.

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Maple Grove Road

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Solitary Tree

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Intersection of Maple Grove and Maple Grove

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One of many rolling hills

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Field

The rolling hills continued relentlessly for quite a few miles. I enjoyed them, especially going downhill, and savored every bit of shade I could get. It was really heating up and I felt a bit sluggish. I rode up a hill through a new development and threw my chain. I had just washed my gloves the night before, of course. I got it back in place and rode on. This wasn’t a huge hill, but it felt like it went on for a long time. I enjoyed a fast, twisty descent into Stinesville. The Hilly Hundred route went through Stinesville and I passed the park where a band had been playing that day, where the SAG stop had been, by the creek. I could have used a stop but kept on riding, on up the big hill out of the valley where Stinesville sits. The climb was tough, but not quite as bad as I expected.

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Approaching Stinesville

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Tough climb away from Stinesville

I felt a bit energized after riding that climb well, and a few more rolling hills didn’t bother me. I rode over to State Road 46, which is a fairly busy road with high speed limits, but there’s no way to get to McCormick’s Creek State Park without taking 46 (actually I learned that there is, but since I was riding in a loop the other way was saved for the ride home).

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My handlebars, while taking a breather

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Farm

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Field and power lines

I rode less than two miles on 46, fortunately, and traffic was relatively light. I turned into the state park, glad to be there, ready for a leisurely ride through the park and hopefully a rest in the shade. In fact the roads through the park were very shady and easy to ride on — smooth and curvy but with very mild hills. It’s a beautiful park and I enjoyed the scenery as I rode through it. You can’t see a whole lot of it from the road, but my ride was strenuous enough; I didn’t feel like doing any hiking, and I was wearing my biking shoes anyway. Normally it’s a great place for a hike.

I meandered through the park for a while, planning to end up at a picnic area.

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Shady road through the park

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McCormick’s Creek

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My bicycle on the bridge over the creek

I reached the picnic area where we had a Mother’s Day picnic with my mom last year. There were some picnic tables in the sun right by a couple in the shade — perfect so I could dry out my gloves and helmet on a sunny table while getting some respite from the sun. I had a snack and relaxed a bit. Even though it was hot, and I have trouble with heat sometimes, it was great to get some good riding in. The ride sure felt longer than the 26 miles or so I’d ridden so far, with the heat and the endless hills, so I took a longer break than I normally would.

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Resting in a picnic area

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Peering into the woods behind me

After that much-needed break, I got moving again. Almost immediately after crossing 46, I enjoyed a long, winding trip down River Road with probably a solid mile of downhill riding. The wind rushing over me as I coasted easily down the hill felt great and gave just the cooling effect I needed.

Once at the bottom, the road followed the river for a little while, with a few smaller hills. It was nice to ride right by the water, and there was some beautiful farmland as well. The road surface got very rough and heavily scored at a couple of different points.

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Following the river

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Farm

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Scored road surface

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Curvy road

When I reached Pea Ridge Road, I was in for quite a surprise: it’s gravel. I’ve ridden my road bike on gravel roads before and it does well with tightly-packed gravel, but in case it seemed like the road had been paved but fell into a state of disrepair and someone scored the road and spread a thick layer of loose gravel on the pavement surface. My bicycle felt pretty unstable, and to make matters worse it was a hilly, curvy road. It was extremely challenging riding. I was glad I run relatively wide tires (28s) on my road bike, rather than the skinnier 23s or 25s a lot of roadies use.

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Tough gravel climb

There was very little shade on this road. I really wasn’t prepared for this. The sun blazing down on me and the lack of breeze from my slow speed had me worried I’d overheat. I took it slow (not really by choice) and took a few breaks along the way. Even the downhill parts were tricky because my traction was so poor and I had to keep my speed down, knowing if I picked up too much speed I wouldn’t be able to stop. Through all this hard braking on a loose gravel road, my finger felt surprisingly good — it’s healing well. I tried climbing out of the saddle a bit but my rear tire spun out when I did so. I sat back down and spun up the hill, ever so slowly.

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Road bike tire on gravel

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Handlebars and gravel

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Right-angle turn in the road

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Greenery along the road

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More gravel

What a remote area … I only saw one car the whole time I was on the gravel road, and only a couple of people at their homes. The people I did see seemed surprised to see me … I don’t imagine they get many cyclists on this road.

While the gravel was a fun challenge in a way, I was glad when I reached a paved road. I think I spent about 2 1/2 miles on gravel, most of it climbing. It felt like much more than that. However, the paved road didn’t offer much respite. It was flat briefly but then threw at me the biggest rolling hills of the whole ride. 200 feet of elevation loss, 200 feet of climbing, a couple of times, and some smaller hills. I even walked up part of one hill (I can’t even remember the last time I did that).

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Farm

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About to descend

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Cruising

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A flatter section

I about ran out of energy during those rolling hills, but they let up and I got my second (or 17th) wind. Once I hit Vernal Pike I felt I was on the home stretch. It was still hot and there was no shade and I was tired, but I kicked up the energy level and got home fairly quickly from this point. I still felt sluggish but I did pretty well on the remaining hills.

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Stop sign

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Barn

Overall, it was a great day — but I’d say this is one of those rides that’s more fun in hindsight. Next time it’s this hot, I swear I’ll leave earlier. Really. I rode through some beautiful country, learned some new roads and got an excellent workout, but there was plenty of pain involved, too.

Yeah, it was a great ride.

Mel Currie, Sample, and Bottom roads

Monday, July 28th, 2008

I wanted to ride on Saturday but I have gotten a little tired of riding the same-ish routes all the time. I found a cool route on Bikely and figured I’d do a slightly modified version of that ride. Here is my version of that route. It took me on some familiar roads and some new ones.

It was a hot day — probably only in the mid to upper 80s temperature-wise, but it was extremely humid. I headed out 45 and within minutes I was covered in sweat. Sweating was practically futile, though, as with 75% relative humidity, your sweat doesn’t really evaporate much. Fortunately it was a bit cloudy and the route had some shady sections.

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Rays of sunlight poking through the clouds on Bethel

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Lush, green field

I took 45 to Bethel Lane to Old 37, so far all the roads were quite familiar. But this route took a detour on Mel Currie Road, which when connected with a couple of other roads just loops around and returns back to a point further down Old 37. Sort of pointless, if your goal is getting somewhere, but it’s a cool detour with a lot of rolling hills and one or two bigger hills to climb and descend.

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Rolling hills on Mel Currie Rd.

The detour also had an interesting combination of residential areas, including some new subdivisions being built, and farmland. This would be a neat place to live — close to town, but remote at the same time. To my surprise, I looked up to see a deer on my left. She saw me coming and darted off into the woods. It was late afternoon — I didn’t expect to see any deer at this time of day.

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Farm, with more hills in the distance

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A gravel road or driveway at the end of Mel Currie Rd.

After some more rolling hills, the road curved to the right and climbed a fairly large hill. The wind had a cooling effect as I coasted down the other side of the hill, as I could feel sweat evaporating. Then it was up another big hill and a twisty descent down the other side. What fun! Then the road flattened out for a couple of miles and rejoined Old 37.

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Flat section on Wylie Rd.

I was only on Old 37 a brief time, as I turned onto Sample Road, which has a hell of a climb up toward and across State Road 37.

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Sample Road climb

Once on the other side of 37, I took a meandering path through some fun, curvy roads. There were some rolling hills and several 90-degree turns that really kept me on my toes.

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Driveway

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The sun beating down on the road

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Curve

I ended up on Bottom Road for a while. I have ridden on Bottom a few times, but always in the other direction. There’s a long descent, a flat section, and then a long, brutal climb.

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Soybean field

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Creek

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My bicycle on a bridge

I crossed 37 and was now on Kinser Pike. I rode down Clubhouse Drive, where the golf course is located. There’s a big hill just past the golf course and I flew down it — I’m pretty sure I left my stomach at the top. But there’s a sharp curve right at the bottom so I had to be careful. I rode through Cascades park, which is always pleasant, and took a path through campus to get home.

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Cascades

As I rode through campus I saw probably a dozen groundhogs (I think). I didn’t get a photo, but they were everywhere. They seemed pretty timid and ran off when they saw me. I don’t recall seeing these critters anywhere else, so apparently they have taken a liking to that particular part of Indiana University’s land. I also rode past Memorial Stadium and Assembly Hall. It’s a little jarring riding by these huge structures after having been in the middle of nowhere just shortly beforehand. Fortunately being summer campus is mostly empty — but it’s easy to remember the hordes of people, traffic jams and wild fans and be glad I spent my afternoon riding out in the country.

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Memorial Stadium

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