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Archive for the 'Humidity' Category

Mount Gilead / South Shore loop, and a little rain

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Last night I decided to try a new route. None of the roads were new to me, but I hadn’t ridden them in this particular configuration before. I liked it, and it serves as a reminder to try some slight variations in my routes more often. This route came to just over 26 miles, a pretty good length for a post-work ride and a bit longer than my Water Works and Shilo routes. View the route on Bikely.

There were scattered storms in the forecast, but I checked the radar before I left and it looked clear. Just a few specks of activity to the south. There were some rather dark clouds outside, so I wondered if I was going to get rained on, but I figured I could always turn back sooner if things got ugly. As I rode toward Mount Gilead on 45, I was passed by a car I recognized — it was Dave, my mountain biking buddy. I waved, and he waved back. His dog was in the car with him, sticking her head out the window (as usual).

I turned on Mount Gilead Road and it started sprinkling a bit. The road was speckled with drops of water, but I didn’t get too wet — Mount Gilead is lined with trees, which make for excellent shade if it’s sunny, and a little protection from a light rain. The rainy vibe to this whole ride was great. There’s something about cloudy, threatening conditions and a light, warm rain that I really enjoy sometimes. It feels different from riding on a sunny day, and I tend not to see very many other people on the road, making me feel more of a sense of connection to this land. I see it in all seasons, in all conditions, and in this case I was just about the only person out there.

Mount Gilead Road

I made the long descent into the valley, going very slowly since the road was a bit slick. When I reached the bottom, there was steam rising from the road and some fog in the field. It was really cool to see the steam coming off the pavement, although it was so humid my glasses fogged up. It was still raining and I did get a bit wet, but it was warm and felt good.

Steam rises off the pavement and the cornfield

Riding in the rain


I made the climb back out of the valley, taking my time and trying to keep my wheel from spinning out due to the steep, wet surface. There were some amazing clouds that I could see once I reached the top. Shortly thereafter, it stopped raining.

Awesome clouds

When I reached 45, I debated whether I should turn back. The clouds I could see didn’t look too bad, and the more foreboding ones were still to the south. I decided to keep riding. There was astoundingly little traffic. This portion of 45 doesn’t normally have a lot of cars, but I think I went 15 minutes without seeing a car. I did, however, see a wild turkey alongside the road. I tried to get a photo, but it ran off into the woods. It was an uneventful and very pleasant ride along 45. This stretch is very curvy and has some climbing and a lot of descending. Again I kept my speed down as the roads were still wet.

State Road 45

I turned on South Shore Drive and rode toward Lake Lemon. I picked up some good speed on the hill from the highway. This one is straight so I was able to let loose a little more, hitting 36 mph. Not insanely fast, but it felt good, and I maintained a speed above 30 mph for a few minutes on the flat ground.

South Shore Drive

Trees and a barn

I reached the causeway and really enjoyed riding across the lake. I always do, but there was something magical about the way the sun burned orange but interacted with the clouds, bursts of pink and purple permeating the sky and being softened by the clouds.

Reaching the causeway

Land and water on my left

More water on my right

Looking across the lake

After crossing the lake, I had to a big climb to contend with. I’ve done this climb many times before, but not much this year. It was harder than I was hoping. It doesn’t help that I have had some interruptions to my riding this year and my weight is up and I feel a bit out of shape. I struggled with this climb more than I like, but I made it up anyway. And I certainly got a good workout in the process.

Tunnel Road was scenic as always and I continued admiring the sunlight. It was rather cool outside, a pleasant change from the heat we had for a while.

Field on Tunnel Road

My shadow

The sun

I turned back onto State Road 45 (I realized this route includes three stretches of riding on 45) and headed toward home.  This road was wet, although it wasn’t raining. I must’ve lucked out as while clearly some rain had come through here, I didn’t get hit by it.

Riding home on 45

45 again

I really enjoyed this ride. It makes me want to do more rides in rain, or at times when it’s threatening to rain, anyway. On the other hand, I was lucky I didn’t get hit by any storms … that could have changed my tune considerably. The weird thing was, by the time I got home, I was pretty much soaked, but more from perspiration in the extreme humidity than rain. This was a  great ride through some beautiful country, made even more beautiful by the conditions.

Whitehall and Hendricksville

Monday, July 21st, 2008

It was hot this weekend, but my finger has been feeling a bit better. I didn’t do as much riding as I would’ve liked, but yesterday, I rode a route that’s new to me on the west side of Bloomington. The route took me through three counties (Monroe, Greene, and Owen) and the small towns of Whitehall and Hendricksville. View the route on Bikely. I even got up earlier than usual (for a weekend, anyway) to be the heat. I was glad that I did — it was brutally hot later in the day.

I started riding around 10:00 am. I felt a little dehydrated at first, so I took my time and drank some extra water. Even at a leisurely pace, it wasn’t long before I was sweating quite a bit. It was hot, and humid. Fortunately, I faced a mild headwind. Normally I don’t like riding into the wind, but in this case the cooling effect was quite welcome, and the wind wasn’t strong enough to force me to increase my effort level much.

Once I got west of where I work, I rode through residential areas for a while and found myself climbing for what seemed like a long time. None of it was too steep, but it seemed like a long way of gradual climbing. Once I crossed State Road 37 on Vernal Pike, I was in a weird part-rural, part-industrial area. In a lot of other parts of Bloomington, once you reach the edge of town it suddenly feels very rural — this was not the case in this area. Instead, there were some fields and some industrial buildings interspersed.

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Vernal Pike

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After a while the industrial buildings stopped and the road started feeling more remote. The sun was very bright and burning strong, and many areas had (ozone?) haze. It was a little unsettling, but also scenic.

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Field, with some haze in the distance

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The corn is getting tall now, and I stopped to get a shot I’ve been meaning to get for a while — my bicycle leaning up against some cornstalks. I’ve done this once before, but that was in the fall, and the corn was dead in that shot.

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My bicycle by some corn

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Silos — I gave this shot the Orton treatment to increase the hazy feeling of the shot

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You can almost feel how strong the sun was from this shot. Plus, more haze.

I generally don’t do well in heat, and I don’t feel I’m acclimated to it yet, either. I have discovered though that by taking a slower pace, I can ride for hours in the heat without getting so exhausted. Sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down (my road bike naturally wants to go fast). I also enjoy the scenery more this way.

I passed a small grocery store and turned on State Road 48. I was a little nervous about this when I saw that the speed limit was 55 mph, but I only saw a few cars the whole time I was on this road, and I wasn’t on it for too long. Also, the speed limit soon decreased to 45 mph, if my memory is correct.  I turned onto State Road 43, which had a lower speed limit and still almost no traffic. It was a fantastic road to ride on, a curvy road with some rolling hills and even some shade.

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State Road 43

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Rickety old barn

I reached the very small town of Hendricksville and saw a diner that had a sign saying something like, “You gotta be tough to eat here!” Needless to say, I’ll be going back sometime to eat at that very macho diner. After Hendricksville I got a little confused. There was a road that I suspected was the one I was supposed to turn onto, but the sign said it was a different road from what was on my map. I rode a bit past it to see if there was another road that was labeled as I expected, but I didn’t find one. I went back and turned onto the road my gut said was right. It didn’t take long for me to figure out I was in the right place.

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Another Orton-enhanced photo

I rode through some fun rolling hills and then labored up a brutal climb on County Road 780 or Gardner Road, whichever it was. Looking at the elevation profile, I think it was around 250-300 feet of climbing. It felt like more, mostly because of the heat. But I think my conditioning has slipped a bit in the past few weeks of my reduced mileage. I really need to ramp up the mileage.

Anyway, once I reached the top of the hill, it was flat briefly and then I was treated to a small, fun descent followed by some great rollers. I was able to carry my momentum through the smaller hills and a few dips in the road made the ride a little silly and a lot of fun.

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Scorching pavement and weeds at the top of the hill

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Rolling hills

I had a little bit of climbing to do, but then I enjoyed a very fast descent down Airport Road. A guy on a motorcycle passed me toward the bottom of the hill. I was going about 35 mph and the guy pulled up beside me, looked at me and gave me a big thumbs up.

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More climbing

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That Road … or Leonard Springs. I’m not sure which.

I had a few other moments of navigational confusion, but at this point I mainly had to get back to town and ride across to the east side. This included riding on the awesomely-named That Road. I enjoyed That, but actually riding through town is never much fun to me. Also, I went by several churches and I was worried I’d get caught in traffic of people leaving church. That’s one of my least favorite situations to get caught in on a bicycle. For some reason people leaving church are always impatient and rude to me. I did see a few people leaving early yesterday who were very courteous. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but is there something about sitting in church for an hour that makes people aggressive?

I love riding on remote country roads, and don’t particularly enjoy riding through town on recreational rides. This explains why I spend a lot more time riding on the east side than the west side (I live on the east side, toward the edge of town). It’s surprising how different the land on opposite sides of town can feel, though, and I should spend more time riding on the west side. I always enjoy it when I do ride there.

Yesterday’s ride, while it was only about 36 miles, took me about 2 1/2 hours. That’s a slow pace for me, at least for solo rides, but I am learning that I tend to enjoy my rides more when I don’t rush things — and I’ll have more energy for the rest of the day, too.

Mixed media ride

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

This is a tale of a broken frame, pavement, gravel, heat, humidity, wind, flooding, rest stops in a cool, shady creek and by a beautiful lake, failing brakes, a sidewall blowout, a walk of shame, and finally, a beautiful woman saving the day. All that in only about 22 miles of riding, about 9 of those miles on gravel.

I had picked up my commuting bike from the bike shop on Friday. I had it in for a tune-up, and for them to fix the squeaky/stiff steering. Unfortunately, the guy who worked on it told me one of my rear brake pieces had seized, and in his attempts to remove it, the brake boss broke off the frame. He was able to put a bolt in it with a large washer as a spacer, which he said he thought would work. At first glance it seemed OK, and it worked fine during the riding Sarah and I did on Saturday. I don’t think this was his fault — if it broke off that easily, I figure it would have broken eventually anyway. I may need to see if I can find someone to weld a new boss onto the frame. Anyone know if this is possible? It’s a steel bike, so I figure there might be some chance this might work, if I can find someone who knows how to do it.

On Sunday I decided to go on an exploration ride through Yellowwood State forest, a ride with both pavement and gravel terrain. The commuter was the best bike for the task, and this would give me a chance for a proper shakedown ride to see if that brake was going to work. I’ve really been enjoying this bike lately. My road bike wants to go fast, and that’s nice sometimes, but on this bike, it’s difficult to be in a hurry, which encourages me to take my time and stop to smell the proverbial roses. I also like that this bike has platform pedals, so I can wear any shoes I want. In fact, I opted for sandals for this ride, which I loved.

I got off to a later start than I had hoped, leaving home around noon. It was around 90 degrees, with a heat index in the mid-90s and pretty decent winds. A lot of roads in the area were flooded due to the 8+ inches of rain we received, in one storm. Some whole towns were flooded — thankfully, we did not get any flooding near our apartment. Many roads were closed due to the flooding. I tried to avoid roads I had read were closed, but I really wasn’t sure if I would encounter flooding during this ride. I assumed I would, at some point, but I wasn’t sure where that was likely to be.

It was hot outside, but I noticed the wind felt great on my feet. I’ll have to do more riding in sandals — it was a huge improvement over my cycling shoes, which are ventilated, but no ventilation can really compete with feeling the air flow freely over your toes. It’s much cooler. I really took my time, hoping to keep myself from overheating or wearing myself out too early in the ride. I knew that the gravel sections would be pretty difficult. I also looked around more than usual as I rode, trying to scope out potential campsites for future S24O trips. It’s fun to look around and consider where you might camp stealthily, as opposed to renting a campsite.

Riding east on 45

Some small rolling hills in farmland

This hill always feels much harder than it looks, for some reason

I rode through New Unionville, then Unionville, and kept riding. I stopped to take a couple of photos, and a guy rolled up in his car and asked if I had plenty of water. I said “yes,” pointing to my two water bottles in cages, and one more strapped to the rear rack, but he gave me a stern look and said, “I mean a LOT of water.” “I’m fine,” I said. Oddly enough, the guy turned around and drove the other way. I appreciate his concern, but I always take a lot of water, especially when it’s so hot outside.

One advantage of the route I’d chosen was that once I started to approach the state forest, there was quite a bit of shade. This sure was a welcome respite from the heat of the sun.

Shady section of 45

I soon reached Lanam Ridge Road, which would take me to the gravel roads I’d ride through the state forest proper.

Lanam Ridge Road goes up to the right

After a brief stint on Lanam Ridge, I turned onto Yellowwood Lake Road, finally hitting gravel. There was quite a bit of debris on the road, presumably from all the rain we’ve gotten. I think there was water running over the road at some point that left the debris.

Yellowwood Lake Road, with some debris

Shadow-speckled gravel climb

After a while, I saw an extremely steep and eroded gravel road or driveway going up on my right. I stopped to explore, hiking up since it was too rutted and steep to ride.

Steep, eroded driveway

I thought I might find a good potential campsite here, but as I crested the hill, I saw a trailer. I couldn’t tell whether it was inhabited, but I didn’t go too close in case it was. It’s pretty difficult to tell what’s private property and what isn’t, in the state forest areas; it’s a strange and random combination of public and private land.

Trailer at the top of the hill

I went back down the hill and started riding again. For several miles I mostly got to ride downhill. I kept my speed fairly low, though, as my slick tires have limited stopping power on gravel, and there was a fair amount of debris strewn across the road at times. Still, I had a fun, fast, long descent down from the ridge, losing about 250 feet of elevation over the course of about three miles.

The road followed Jackson Creek for a while, which had a lot of water in it. The sound of the rushing water drew me to stop by a waterfall to take a break. I waded into the water, took off my helmet and splashed water on my face. The cool water ran clear and felt incredibly refreshing, and I spent a few minutes cooling off by the waterfall.

Jackson Creek follows Yellowwood Lake Rd.


Another advantage to riding in sandals

My bicycle by the creek

After this break, I pressed on. I encountered a few places with moderate flooding, but so far all the water I encountered was quite shallow and I was able to ride through it.

Water covers the road

My wheel in the mud

More mild flooding

Someone’s driveway

Entering the state forest (I thought I was already there … again, it can be hard to tell)

Small cemetery

There were a few climbs short, but mostly I was still going downhill. I knew riding back would be a lot harder, although I was planning to ride back on a different road, so it was hard to know how different it would be. Regardless, I knew I’d pay for all this relatively easy riding — although it really wasn’t that easy. I rode past trailheads for several horse trails (I really wish they allowed bicycles on them) and stopped to explore some kind of old logging road on foot. I didn’t stray too far from the road, but I think you could pitch a tent in a place like this without anyone finding you.

Stopping by the logging road

Old logging road

More logging road, and a few logs

Before long, I reached Yellowwood Lake, one of my favorite lakes in this area. I stopped near the Jackson Creek trailhead to take a couple of photos of the lake.

Yellowwood Lake

Me, on a small pier jutting out into the lake

I also saw a campground I always forget is there and rode over to explore it. It’s tent camping only, and you can’t park right at your campsite. However there are sites right on the lake, and it’s quite beautiful. If you got there early enough to get one of the better sites, it would be a fantastic place to camp.

View from a campsite


I rode on, figuring I’d take a break over by the shelter where Sarah and I will be getting married in September. On my way there I saw two barrels, one on each side of the road, with caution tape on them. The sides of the road had eroded and fallen away.


Road erosion

World’s largest pothole

The shelter where our wedding will be

Resting by a picnic table

I was going to call Sarah so I could talk to her from this spot that is going to have such significance in our lives, but I couldn’t get a signal on my cell phone. I also wanted to let her know my 2-3-hour estimate for this ride was off. I had already been riding/exploring for two hours, and I was only about halfway done. Whoops.

I hit pavement for a mile or two, and the riding got so much easier. I saw a lot of flooded fields.

Flooded fields, with a really cool split log fence

As I approached Green Valley Road/Dubois Ridge Road (pronounced by the locals as “duh-boys”), I saw that the road was under water. A couple of pickup trucks drove through it, just barely making it through; one was a DNR truck. If I had been driving my car, I almost certainly would not have been able to make it through here.


DNR truck driving through the

After the trucks passed, I rode through the water, which was fairly deep but stayed below bottom bracket level. My rear derailleur got submerged, though. I imagine that’s not good for it. After getting past this obstacle, I was on dry land but saw more flooding ahead, and it looked deeper. I looked at the bridge on the road off to the right and saw that the water level was almost exactly even with the top of the bridge, and had obviously been covering it earlier. Normally, the water is several feet lower than the bridge.

Bridge, almost submerged

The old bridge, which still stands right next to the new one, was a lot higher, but it is falling apart

Looking across the bridge — normally there is no water there whatsoever

More flooded fields

The flooding ahead of me — I was taking the road to the left

I decided to try riding through the water here, even though it looked a bit deeper. It got almost up to my bottom bracket, so I got off the bike and carried it through the water. The water came about up to my knees. Once again, I was really glad to have the sandals, rather than soaking my cycling shoes.

I waded through this part, then had quite a climb ahead
Once on dry land again, I started climbing up Dubois Ridge Road. There was quite a bit of climbing ahead of me, but I took my time and spun up the hill in a low gear. I stopped a guy headed the other way in a pickup to let him know about the flooding ahead. A couple other vehicles went by, but I wasn’t able to get their attention. I hope they didn’t end up stuck in the water. At some point, my rear brake, the one that the shop had done the hack fix on, started making weird noises, and I noticed it wasn’t hitting the rim at the correct angle. The brake arm felt a bit loose. It also lost a lot of stopping power, but since I was going uphill it really wasn’t a problem. I saw a lot more trailheads, logging roads and some potential campsites along Dubois Ridge Road.

Long, gradual gravel road climb

More climbing

I had just figured that I must be almost back to Lanam Ridge Road (and pavement) when I heard a loud BANG!!! sound. Dismayed, I knew it must have been my rear tire. I stopped and looked and sure enough, there was a big tear in the sidewall, obviously caused by the brake pad rubbing the tire. I surmised that there was no way I could patch this hole and after some contemplation, I decided I needed to call Sarah to come pick me up. I carry patch kits and extra tubes, but not extra tires. My cell phone had no signal, so I hiked until I got a signal, which thankfully was probably only about half a mile. I told her how to get to where I was and that I would meet her on Lanam Ridge Road or 45, however far I could make it on foot by the time she arrived. I hiked maybe another half mile, mostly uphill, before I hit Lanam Ridge Road.

Hiking uphill with my bike 

Interesting gate on Dubois Ridge Road

Torn sidewall

Reaching Lanam Ridge

Interesting hillside

Pushing my bike. Note that my GPS, which had not worked the whole trip, now started working.

I walked along Lanam Ridge for a while, which has rolling hills. After a while, Sarah showed up to save the day and she sure was a sight for sore eyes. Smart girl that she is, she brought a bunch of food, water, and Powerade. I considered it fortuitous timing that she had just gotten her driver’s license the day before. I was frustrated and a bit sad that my trusty old mountain bike seemed to be on its last legs, but still in a good mood — I had a great ride, and I got to spend the rest of the day with Sarah. What a day!

Bike update: last night I took the bike back to the shop and they tried another possible fix for the brake, but if this doesn’t work basically there’s nothing that can be done, unless I can find someone to braze on a new brake boss, and am willing to pay for that. I don’t know how much it’d cost, but I bet it wouldn’t be cheap. I did ride the bike to work today, and it was fine, but it may be relegated to around town rides for the time being, and I’ll probably be forced to retire this bike soon. Sad, as I’ve had it for since the mid-90s.

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