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Dr. T’s Funky 50; cracked rim

Monday, October 8th, 2007

I had quite a ride yesterday as I decided to do “Dr T’s Funky 50” from one of the Bloomington Bicycle Club map books. I had ridden in that area a bit before when I did the shorter Ride around Lake Monroe but this ride took me further south and took a different route back into town.

The ride started by going over to Indiana Highway 446, a two-lane highway which for a while has speed limits of 55 mph. I rode on Sunday morning this time instead of a Saturday afternoon so there was less traffic. The parts of the road with fast speed limits also have wide shoulders, so I had no problems with cars. I don’t usually ride on the shoulder but I made an exception in this case for part of the way and I felt pretty comfortable doing so. There was some debris to watch out for, but it wasn’t bad.

There was a stiff headwind that kept my head and my speed down. The first part of 446 has some rolling hills which didn’t give me too much trouble, and the road was mostly straight. There wasn’t much protection from the wind, but I did pretty well anyway. After a while the shoulder disappeared and the road began to wind, the speed limit decreasing at the same time. That was the section of road where I had some trouble with drivers before since they couldn’t pass me. I was concerned based on that experience, but I had no problems this time around.

The scenery improved, with some good hills and some parts of road carved into the limestone.  I passed by the entrance to the Paynetown State Recreation Area and the “Fishin’ Shedd,” a convenience store/gas station. The road wound around some more and went downhill through more limestone and down to the causeway. I love riding across lakes in this way and I had a particularly leisurely trip across the lake as there were no cars behind me.

Riding across Lake Monroe
Riding across Lake Monroe

View from the causeway
View on one side of the causeway

As cyclists know, if you ride down toward a body of water, you’re going to have to climb up the other side unless you follow the water instead. I climbed a formidable hill after I crossed the lake. It was fairly steep for a while but eventually became more gradual. It’s about a 1.25-mile climb and is pretty tiring, especially with my rack trunk bag on my bike with a bunch of stuff in it weighing me down.

After the causeway and the climb, 446 twisted around a bit more.

Streaks of light
Rays of light on 446

But then it got flat and mostly straight for several miles. It was easy riding but not as exciting as the hillier, curvier parts. It did allow me to cover a lot of ground pretty quickly though and it’s beautiful country, with a lot of farms and more road carved through limestone in places.

Rabbits 4 sale
Rabbits 4 Sale sign that Sarah and I have driven past countless times but never photographed

Straight, flat, easy riding
Straight, flat, easy

I noticed that a building that Sarah and I had photographed previously is now gone, all that was left was a pile of rubble. We had driven by it a few times and each time a couple more walls would disappear. Now, it’s just gone. I went across a bridge by a creek and a pond and was struck by a field with many hay bales. A man was searching for geodes in the creek.

Hay bales and a creek
Hay bales in a field near a pond and a creek

Eventually it got hillier again, and it was heating up. The forecast said it would be 92 degrees and that we might break high temperature record. I heard a little noise in the lowest gear of my cassette but figured it was just my derailleur needing some adjustment. I ignored it. I rode through more cut-out limestone sections and stopped at one to take a break and take a couple of photos.

Bike and limestone
My bike against a limestone wall

Road carved through limestone
Road carved through limestone
I went a few more miles on 446 and was really glad to turn off of it. It really was dull and there was no shade. I turned onto Gil Gal Road which followed a long line of trees for a few minutes, providing much-appreciated shade. I went into a great flowing descent, flying down a flat stretch of road before going into some curves that were tight enough to be fun, but just wide enough that I didn’t have to touch the brakes. I hit 43 mph on my way down the hill. It was an exhilarating ride and getting moving so fast cooled me considerably.

I flew by a church, the Gilgal Primitive Baptist Church, a very small church with a cemetery. Small churches with cemeteries turned out to be a theme of the ride for me, as I passed many of them.

Gilgal Primitive Baptist Church Gilgal Church Cemetery
Gilgal Primitive Baptist Church / The Gilgal Cemetery

As I rode through this valley I was struck with how hard the drought hit here. It seemed counterintuitive to me that the low-lying areas got hit the worst — you’d think that they’d get some runoff and so end up with more water than the ridges, but obviously my logic missed something. The low-lying areas looked dead.

Dead field
The effects of the drought

I made a detour to Heltonville to hopefully find some water and maybe a snack. I had some Balance bars but they didn’t sound appealing at all. According to the map, Bonehead’s Heltonville Store was only about a mile off course. I cruised past a somewhat decrepit-looking park and baseball diamond and into town, passing another church. This one was bigger, being in town, but Heltonville is a very small town. I also passed a tiny post office that I found amusing. I couldn’t find Bonehead’s store and tried a different route. I found what I believe was Bonehead’s, but there was no sign stating the name of the establishment.

Bonehead's Heltonville Store
Bonehead’s Heltonville Store (I think)

I walked in and saw some bananas which looked good, but I would have had to buy a whole bunch. There were some Granny Smith apples in a refrigerator and that looked delicious, so I bought one. I also bought some water and gatorade to replenish my fluid supply.  I put the apple in my bag and filled my water bottles so I could go eat somewhere more scenic. I also felt out of place in my cycling clothing at this small town gas station, and it was fairly crowded as I believe church had just let out.

I headed back to the park and saw that it had a shelter, so I stopped to rest and eat and rehydrate a bit. The apple I had gotten wasn’t the best apple I’ve tasted but it sure beat energy bars and Nutter Butters. It was also great to find some shade. I watched some kids play on the playground and enjoyed my snack.

Pleasant Run Park playground
Pleasant Run Park playground

I started riding again and saw a lot more dead plants. It’s really sad to see so many crops dead and gone to waste.

Cornfields Forever
Cornfield and an incredible sky

I crossed Dunn Bridge, which goes over a creek. I had to dodge some cornstalks that were laying in the road.

Dunn Bridge
Dunn Bridge

I passed a small cemetery that appeared to simply be a family cemetery with no church in sight. There was a strange combination of old, run-down houses and gorgeous new ones. Run-down barn
Decaying barn

Goldenrod, barn, blue sky
Goldenrod, old barn, blue skies

This area had a lot of rolling hills and I kept hearing more noise by my rear derailleur when in my lowest gear. I started wondering what was up but kept riding. I passed the Bartlettsville Christian Church, with another cemetery. Some people were visiting sites at this cemetery, unlike the others.

I continued riding and passed Mama Jean’s Restaurant. It claimed to be open all day or something like that, but I couldn’t tell if it was open at all.

Mama Jean's
Is that a grave by the stop sign?

Mama Jean's
Great benches on the porch … junkyard alongside the building

I have been meaning to take a photo of my bicycle leaning up against a row of corn. I don’t know why, I just got the idea in my head. I guess I wanted something showing my bicycle in the context of something that’s ubiquitous locally, which is also why I took the photo by the limestone above. I meant to do it by green corn, but I guess I missed my chance — maybe next year. Still, I think this shot turned out pretty cool.

Bicycle, corn
My bicycle by some corn

I had a huge hill to climb and heard more sounds from my gears. I also felt a bump each time my wheel went around. I stopped to check it out, thinking it must be a loose reflector or something. What I found was pretty upsetting.

Cracked Rim

Cracked Rim II
Cracked rim

I had cracked my rim somehow. I had no idea how this happened. I didn’t remember hitting any big bumps or potholes. Maybe I just wore it out or something … I’m really not sure. I took a few minutes to rest and decide what to do. It was really getting hot now. I could still ride, it seemed, but I had to avoid the lowest gears of my cassette. I decided to try to ride home but called a couple of people first to let them know what was going on, where I was, where I was headed, and that I might need a ride if it got worse. I was only 25 miles into my ride, which was supposed to be 50 miles but I knew would be a bit more due to my detour into Heltonville.

This problem with my wheel put a real damper on my ride pretty quickly. The heat was also starting to get to me and I started riding very sluggishly. I had some fun downhill sections but then had a huge climb to contend with and stopped partway up to take advantage of some shade. I called Sarah, afraid I might have missed a turn. She looked up some things online for me and as far as we could tell, I was on the right road. Once I started pedaling again, I quickly confirmed that I was going the right way. I passed some more pretty areas but didn’t feel much like taking photos anymore. The problem got worse as my wheel went more and more out of true, eventually rubbing my rear brake pads as I rode, slowing me down considerably.

Judah-Logan Road Panorama
Judah-Logan Road Panorama

Before long, I reached Old Highway 37 and felt a bit relieved. I hadn’t ridden this section of it, but I felt it would be easier riding, and it was. However, there was absolutely no shade to be found. I rode for quite a while on Old 37, and was a bit like 446 in this section — wide and boring. Eventually, I made it back to Bloomington. I winged it on my way home and took kind of a stupid route through town, but I made it home. It felt like the last 15 miles of my ride were completely uphill, and even some small residential hills gave me trouble.

I enjoyed my ride, but the second half or so of it was very tough given the heat and the state of my bicycle and the brutal hills.  I think I liked the Ride Around Lake Monroe a bit better since it went through Coveyville, a small town I really like, and it was a bit more scenic. It also spent less time on 446 and none on Old 37 and skipped some more the more boring parts of the ride. However, I do like the additional distance that this ride gave me.

I went into the shop where I bought my bike on lunch today and the wheel is under warranty. They’re letting me upgrade with a credit for the value of the wheel instead of getting another wheel like the one I already broke.  If I like it, I’ll upgrade the front wheel too. I feel the wheels on my bicycle are among its weakest components.


Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Pansies. No, I’m not talking about those pretty little flowers. I’m talking about my fellow man.

It’s been raining here yesterday and today, but I’ve ridden to work anyway. I’ve lucked out and it hasn’t rained in the morning — usually, I decide whether to ride based on that. I don’t mind getting wet on the way home, but I don’t want to show up at work drenched.

There were some storms rolling through the area yesterday afternoon and around 5-5:30 pm, it was very dark outside, raining hard with some thunder and lightning. I heard someone complain, “How am I going to get to my car?” There are two places you can park if you work for my company: right next to the building or right across the street. I thought to myself, “You’ll walk! And you’ll get a little wet. Who cares?” I heard various other complaints about getting a little wet, and even one person debating whether it was safe to drive. What the hell?

I mentioned I rode my bike to work, garnering astonished looks from a couple of people. One of them offered me a ride home, which I appreciated, but politely declined. This brought more astonishment. They seemed to be thinking, “What kind of masochist would ride a bicycle in the rain?”

Honestly, I was looking forward to it. It’s still warm outside, so I can take my preferred approach to riding in the rain and just accept the mantra, “If you ride in the rain, you’re gonna get wet.” I wear clothes that won’t get too waterlogged and that dry quickly. But I get wet and I dry off and change my clothes when I get home. I don’t understand this fear so many people have of getting wet. They aren’t going to melt.

People act the same way about the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, the dark during the night, etc. They ask things like, “How can you ride in the (heat/cold/rain/dark/snow/mud)? Won’t you get (hot/cold/scared/snowed on/dirty)?” The answer, of course, is YES. If you ride in the heat, for instance, you’ll get hot. You can dress appropriately and try to make it more comfortable, but if you go out in those conditions anyway, you’ll get used to it. You might be a bit uncomfortable, but so what? Why let the weather stand in the way of doing the things you love? I know that sometimes the weather really will make it impossible or undesirable to do some things, but why is so many people’s threshold for discomfort so low?

I do understand how sometimes weather will make people lazy. It almost happened to me this morning. It looked like it could rain at any moment, so I wasn’t sure whether I should ride or drive to work. I decided to ride, and I’m glad I did. It was a beautiful morning, with the smells of the rain we got overnight. It was overcast, but everything basked in a warm glow. It was pretty muggy, but I rode slower and I was fine. It was a perfect morning to ride to work, and I got more astonished looks when I walked in carrying my bicycle helmet. I’ll probably get rained on again on my way home — and I am looking forward to it.

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.

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