Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for the 'Heat' Category

Limestone Tour

Monday, September 24th, 2007

It was a hot weekend. I went mountain biking on Saturday and tested out the WTB Rocket V trial saddle the bike shop put on there for me. It was pretty good. I rode Hesitation Point, then the Aynes Loop backwards, and I was going to ride the North Tower Loop as well, but I was getting pretty tired and really hungry, so I went back down to the parking lot.

I picked up a copy of one of the Bloomington Bicycle Club‘s map books, and I’m glad I did. I have been riding a fair amount lately, but not writing much because I’ve done the same routes a lot and they’ve become routine. Now, I have around 50 new routes to try — and there’s another map book they put out that I don’t have yet. I looked through the book and chose to do the Limestone Tour, which goes by four limestone quarries on the southwest side of Bloomington.

To give you some background, one thing this part of Indiana is known for is limestone. In particular, Bedford, IN is known as “Limestone Capital of the World.” This ride didn’t take me to Bedford, but it did go a bit in that direction. The local limestone and cycling fanaticism were captured in the 1979 movie Breaking Away, which is set in Bloomington and has scenes of teenagers diving into and swimming in quarries, as well as hanging out on huge slabs of limestone and contemplating the meaning of life. I wouldn’t say the movie’s portrayal of Bloomington was particularly accurate, but there are some things it got right, including the pride so many here have in the area’s limestone. Heck, many of the monuments in Washington, DC were built out of Indiana Limestone.

While I am not really a part of the limestone culture, it’s impossible to avoid it completely, and I find it rather interesting anyways. So, this Limestone Tour appealed to me on a number of different levels. And while I’m not a huge Breaking Away fan, I do enjoy it, and rides that makes me think of that movie can be a lot of fun.

My ride got off to a bit of a rough start. I had trouble following the map/directions to get to Victor Pike. I knew a couple of ways to get there, but I wanted to see the route the directions suggested. It was pretty convoluted, but I eventually made my way to Victor Pike. Next time, I may go my own way instead, although this route went through an interesting area and right by the excellently-named That Rd.

That Rd.

I rode on Victor Pike once before when I did the Hobbieville Ride back in July. It’s a hilly road with some great views from hilltops and some pretty difficult climbs.

View from Victor Pike

After a little while, I came to Fluck Mill Road, which has the abandoned Fluck Cut Stone Company. I rode by it and checked out Fluck Mill Road, which is a narrow, curvy country road. There was a cool one-lane trip under a railroad bridge. I should check out Fluck Mill Road more in the future.

DSCF2385 DSCF2386
Going under the bridge on Fluck Mill Road / The abandoned Fluck Cut Stone Company

I got back on Victor Pike and rode through some rolling hills, and then up a huge climb to the Victor-Oolitic Stone Company. I saw this quarry before and took some photos then (including a panoramic shot), so I didn’t take a lot this time. Across the street is BTI Crushed Stone Sales, with a fleet of trucks.

Victor Oolitic sign and a cool limestone wall

BTI Trucks

This area smelled like limestone, and there was a lot of limestone dust.

Limestone dust
Limestone dust

I rode on, and suddenly a big dog ran out from behind a house and started chasing me. I had a water bottle in my hand, and debated whether to try to spray him with it, swing it at him, or put it back in the cage and ride like hell to get away from him. I chose the latter and started riding really hard. But very quickly I could tell that he just wanted to chase me. He didn’t seem like he would run out in front of me or try to bite me, so I slowed down a little bit, and he quickly tired of chasing me. The neighbors witnessed all of this and told me I should “Get some pepper spray and spray that motherfucker!” I laughed my ass off as I rode away.

The route remained familiar and took me onto a couple more roads, but then took me into a different loop than I had done before. There was a huge climb up Breeden (I don’t know how this is pronounced, but I like to think it’s like breedin’). After that, there were a pretty good downhill run and some rolling hills.

An abandoned house and an old tree

An incredible manor in the area

The route got a little complicated, but I managed to follow it through some strange turns. The map was about as clear as I could expect, given the convoluted roads in this area. I didn’t have confidence in the turns I made, but I trusted the map, and I ended up in the right place. I found myself by the Van Buren Fire Department, Station No. 19, and was reminded of the controversy about the Indian Creek Fire Department and a trustee getting their funding cut and having this station cover the Indian Creek Township, even though the stations are far apart. It was interesting that this ride took me by both stations. I stopped and got some more water from the vending machine at the fire station.

Van Buren Fire Dept. Station No. 19

I spent a very short distance on State Road 45 and felt like I was approaching civilization again (alas!), but that didn’t last long as I followed a road back to the middle of nowhere. It was a really beautiful, remote area with a winding road and some more rolling hills. It almost reminded me of my ride in the mountains in Franklin, NC, only without the actual mountains, of course.

Silo and a bunch of cows

It had been a while since I had seen any of the quarries, and I had a ways to go to get to the next one, but it was a truly beautiful area and a fun road to ride on. Kurtz road was especially awesome. There was a big climb, but the payoff was absolutely incredible, with a descent that had me up to 41 mph — but I was just getting started. There was another climb, but it was smaller, and I was able to carry my momentum through it, and then the road went downhill again. I kept my speed up through 2-3 more hills. It was a great run and one of the best payoffs for a lot of climbing in recent memory.

I passed Pick-A-Chic Farms, which took me a bit by surprise. I didn’t really know where they were located, but went near there a lot as a kid, as we had family friends who lived in the area. I smiled at this blast from the past and continued riding.

Soon, I came to the Independent Limestone Company and took a few photos. I had already ridden by the coolest part of it before I started shooting. I’ll have to return sometime and take more photos. It was getting pretty dark anyway, so I wanted to keep moving.

Independent Limestone Company

Part of the quarry

Panoramic shot of the quarry (view it large or original size)

I still had a ways to go, so I turned on my rear blinking light and my headlight. I passed the last quarry, the C&H Limestone Company, but all I could see from the road was a sign, and I didn’t get a photo. It was probably too dark anyway. I rode back into Bloomington and missed the turn the directions specified, instead going by work and taking my commute route home. I rode the last 20-30 minutes in the dark, but since I had both lights and was close to town by the time it started getting dark, I wasn’t worried. I could see fine and drivers were very courteous. I think they were a little unsure what was approaching when they saw one blinking headlight. I rode about 40 miles total, but they were some of the hardest-earned miles I’ve done. The hills on that side of town are brutal — I need to move some of my training rides to the other side of town.

11. Franklin, by bicycle

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

I had been planning to go on at least one road ride during our vacation. At one point, I was thinking about bringing my road bike and renting a mountain bike at Tsali, but ultimately, I decided to bring my mountain bike and slicks (road tires). This way, I could just bring one bike and not have to rent one. The map of Macon County we picked up had bicycle routes marked on it, and there were many signed bicycle routes throughout the county. We went to Smoky Mountain Bicycles and picked up some routes they had there, but I decided to come up with my own route so that I could leave directly from the cabin and explore. I wrote down some notes about the route, got ready, and headed out. I should note right away that I posted the route on Routeslip here, although it doesn’t seem to be loading at the moment.

My mountain bike, outfitted for a road ride

As do many of my rides, this turned into a very hot late-afternoon ride. It started with a very sketchy and interesting descent down the gravel road that leads to the cabin. As I mentioned in a previous post, it was very steep and had several switchbacks. I took a few photos on the way down so I’d have a record of this insanity. I knew it would be a very difficult climb back to the cabin, but I was almost looking forward to it, in a masochistic, manly pride kind of way.

The driveway to the cabin

Looking down from the end of the driveway

One of several sections of road like this

Part of a switchback on the gravel road

I took my time going downhill here, because the gravel was fairly loose and I knew if I got going too fast, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Once I reached the bottom, and a paved road, I was greeted with incredible views almost immediately.

This was just minutes from our cabin


It was flat for a few minutes, which was a good thing, because I was having trouble focusing on riding due to the scenery all around me.  I also had some trouble adjusting to riding the mountain bike on the road; I was acutely aware of just how inefficient it was, my cadence was all messed up, the gearing all wrong (though I’d later be thankful for it), etc.

I  had seen this scenery before on our drives to and from the cabin, but everything looks better from a bicycle, and I was driving before so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much. The cabin owner had said in his directions, “DO NOT TURN ON LEATHERMAN GAP ROAD,” so I had avoided that road in the car. However, curiosity got the best of me and I simply had to check it out by bicycle. Besides, I thought the route I had planned went on it, for some reason, even though you can plainly see in the photo below that the 36 sign pointed straight ahead, not to the right, where I turned.

DSCF2226  DSCF2227
A signed bicycle route by Leatherman Gap Road / Cowee Valley sign

I should have heeded his advice, because Leatherman Gap Road, which would be the wrong way to go if you were trying to get to the cabin, was also the wrong way to go for my planned bike route. I didn’t even realize this for several miles, when I reached the end of the paved road and sensed that I was in the wrong place. This would be the first of several mistakes I’d make, but I didn’t care — there was more beautiful scenery, and I didn’t have a specific destination in mind anyway. I had my trusty map, and it came in handy several times. As a part of my restitution for poor planning, I climbed the significant Snow Hill. It was a tough climb, but then I got to ride on a ridge for a bit, with great views.

My bicycle, and an incredible home in the background

I also passed through a strange, nearly-abandoned coop of some kind

I finally got back on course and rode for a while on Highway 28, a fantastic winding mountain road. So awesome, in fact, that I missed my turn off of it and had to backtrack. I realized this just as I began a climb, and continued climbing anyway simply because I was having so much fun. This gave me a good descent back toward the road on which I was supposed to turn.

If this is the wrong way to go, do I really want to be right?

I saw this cool bridge and realized that my route took me across it

Bridge over Rose Creek

The view from the bridge

The road I was on now, Rose Creek Road, was even more winding and had more ups and downs. I did a lot of climbing, but somehow, it never seemed too bad. The low gears of my mountain bike helped, but I also didn’t push it too much, as this ride was more to discover and enjoy the scenery than for fitness.

Riding directly toward a mountain

Small shack in the mountains

I stopped by the small shack above to consult my map. I found myself at an intersection, and while I knew which way I had planned to go, I was intrigued by the road leading off to the right. I wanted to explore it, but I knew I’d be chasing daylight, so I wanted to see if I had time. As I was stopped, a golf cart with two or three people in it pulled up. The people in it asked if I was lost, and I said, “Not lost, just indecisive!” It sure was weird to have a golf cart randomly drive up like that.

I just love roads like this

Farms nestled in the mountains

The road I was on ultimately looped back to Highway 28. 28 had more traffic on it, but the drivers were very courteous. In fact, people were very courteous throughout my whole ride, waving at me and some even giving me a thumbs up. I really don’t understand why I saw almost no other cyclists the whole time we were in Franklin. It has all the elements of a great cycling town: marked bike routes, a bike shop, great mountains in which to ride, roads with low speed limits, and friendly motorists.

Some traffic on 28. That’s the closest thing I saw to traffic, anyway …

I didn’t want my ride to end, but it was getting dark. I had brought my rear blinky light, but not my headlight. I should have had the headlight. I thought I might make it back before dark, but I underestimated how far I was from the cabin.

The sun sets over a mountain road

I really enjoyed my ride, and seeing the sun set was great, too. Sarah also enjoyed the sunset, but she did so from the gazebo behind the cabin.

This shot looks almost impressionist to me

It was almost completely dark by the time I reached the bottom of the gravel road. I would have to climb it without being able to see much of anything, and it was a hell of a climb. Even the low mountain bike gears were just barely low enough, especially on that loose gravel surface. My rear wheel spun a little as I pedaled on a couple of different occasions. Eventually, I made it, and Sarah was waiting outside. I had a great ride, but what a sight for sore eyes!

4. The Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

After lunch on Friday, we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Almost immediately, we saw an overlook and stopped to check it out and take some photos. We were overwhelmed with what we saw, and that was just the beginning.

Blue Ridge Overlook VII

Us, along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not an efficient way to get anywhere, with a parkway-wide speed limit of 45 mph, and many sections where it’s not safe to go that fast because it’s a winding mountain road. But our friends in Charlotte had to work that day anyway, so we figured we’d take our time getting there. The section we were on had numerous tunnels, which were pretty cool. We saw a few cyclists, and I have to admit I was tempted to get the bike off the back of the car and start riding.

It was a very hot day, but we didn’t care. I was still in awe that I was in the presence of so much beauty. Then again, that’s a feeling I get every day with Sarah. The mountains were nice, too.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has overlooks very frequently, and we had to resist the temptation to stop at each and every one. Driving on it is almost like being immersed in a gigantic slideshow, passing overlooks on both sides. Looking back at our photos, they all seem to run together now, but when you’re there, the feeling is intoxicating, and each overlook takes on its own personality.

Blue Ridge Overlook V

Sarah along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Overlook VIII

Blue Ridge Overlook II

Blue Ridge Parkway - Sarah and car

At one overlook, I stood on the roof of the car (much to Sarah’s dismay) to get a better angle. You can see a photo of me on the car on Sarah’s blog.

I experimented with some infrared photography at some of the overlooks. Here are a few examples.

Infrared Blue Ridge III

Infrared Blue Ridge

Infrared Blue Ridge II

After a while, we stopped taking photos and mostly drove through. We played some Telefon Tel Aviv in the car, which is one of our favorite groups. They also happen to make incredibly gorgeous music, which was a perfect backdrop for the scenery.

We hadn’t had enough, but we had spent so much time gaping and taking photographs that if we needed to get moving. We ended up driving about 90 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even that drive itself takes a long time.

Blue Ridge Panorama

Ear to the Breeze is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).