Btown Biking

Duke-Friendship Loop

This ride was so good, I did it two weeks in a row! Even though it is only 25 miles or so, some of them can be tough, being out in the back country just 5 miles from town, is well worth it.

Last week Jojo was out of town when I rode this on my own, and I loved it. Just east of Bloomington, the north fork Salt Creek, which meanders down the wide valley from Nashville and beyond, turns south and cut through the ridges towards Lake Monroe.

Duke-Friendship Ride Gallery

We rode out 446 and then along Kight’s Ridge to Duke Road. The first mile of the road is well paved asphalt, but very narrow compared to most. It runs along a quiet farming ridge, but with a number of new houses as well. But then the road ends drops all pretense of 20th century progress, and in its precipitous descent goes from gravel to dirt to bedrock. This is the wildest downhill I have found yet, McGowen Road is all gravel (in the summer), and longer, you can get going too fast, Duke is more like riding down a creek bed, a ton of fun.

The first video was is pretty poor quality, but it gives a good feeling for the ride; the other I had Jojo take from above as I careened downhill.

We made it to the valley, Duke ends right where Salt Creek takes 90 degree turn to the south and winds through the delta to Lake Monroe. The valley floor is flat, and the DNR has created dykes all through the valley, making it one large wetlands for breeding and migrating wildlife. The area is closed starting on October 1 till late next spring. When the water is up at the lake as it was all summer, the whole area floods, closing both McGowen and Friendship Roads, which can be several feet under water. As the lake level goes down, the dikes hold the water and create dozens of small lakes and islands, perfect wildfowl habitat.

We rode across the dikes, but the majority of lakes were dry, and the DNR had cut wide pathways through the greenery that sprang up as soon as the water receded 2 months ago. We sing an old Ukulele Ike song called I’m Telling the Birds which starts “Through fields of golden flowers”, and riding in the lake bottoms was exactly that:

We stopped at the old Friendship Rd. bridge foundation, which we have seen before from McGowen Road, this time were on the other side of the Salt Creek. We rode around a bit more, and found an old duck blind, and like at many other state properties, a persimmon tree with the grass neatly trimmed underneath for easy pick-up of the ripe fruit.

We ended up on Friendship Lane (which is blocked to auto traffic), and just as we came out of the woods, we found some hunters camped out. It was not yet hunting season, but they were getting ready for the season, and it sounded like they had automatic weapons, we heard their drunken shooting in the distance. Not only is this area closed after Oct 1, but it could be dangerous as well, the hills will be filled with hunters for the next few months. The ride up Lampkins Ridge is a bit stiff, 150 rise in less than half a mile, but it is paved, and seemed fairly easy after pedaling through grass, stone and mud for the past couple of hours. Lampkins Ridge is 3.8 miles long, and is a great easy ride. I could see riding it back and forth a few times and getting some fast miles, I’ll definitely be riding here again.

Btown Biking

Swimming in September

Jojo was out of town, and the day was hot, so I rode straight to my favorite (secret) spot on Lake Monroe to go swimming. The ride is an easy 10 miles on pavement and about a mile down a gravel road.

I found some rocks on the shore, right where the channel is at the shoreline. I dived and swam, dived and swam, watched the birds, and finally got out and dried off just as a johnboat came buzzing up to go fishing in the deep water. I headed up the hill and on home, I can ride parts of the way up, but not the whole way, it is a half mile of gravel climbing 188 feet. My total time was about 4 hours with about 22 miles on the road and an hour or so in the water.

Btown Biking

Up TC Steele, down McGowen Rd.

Jojo was in Terre Haute, and I took off early to explore the back country past the TC Steele home. I had mentioned McGowen Rd. to Fred at the Bike Garage, and he was sceptical that I could actually ride the road on my recumenbent. Truth is, I had to walk up when we first explored here. Then it occurred to me that if I rode down McGowen, it would not be so difficult, and I was right!

Full Picture Gallery of TC Steele-McGowen ride
As it was a quiet Sunday morning, I was able to safely ride straight out 3rd St. and SR 46, all the way to TC Steele Rd, about 12 miles from downtown, in less than an hour. I climbed the hill past the TC Steele home and studio, and continued to Gilmore Ridge.

I stayed on the ridge, passing the turn to McGowen Rd, and to my surprise, the gravel road became paved once again. I kept riding the ridge, and came to the crossroads, and took the hill down to the lake where the “Road Ends in Water” The road got rougher and rougher as I descended, turned to dirt near the bottom.

I was on the south shore of the lake, directly opposite of the Pine Grove ramp. We were at this same spot in January, when the lake was frozen and we rode over from the ramp. Last year at this time the area was out of the water and filled with thousands of lotus plants, this year it is totally flooded. I hung out for while listening to the birds and watching the fish leap into the air after insects.

I walked and then rode back up the hill (on Google maps is it called Friendship Rd., and I can see how it connected through the valley/lake to the current Friendship Rd. which ends at the north end of wildlife area. There was an incredible view of the valley on Gilmore Ridge, and the riding was quiet. I turned north on McGowen Rd. and quickly started downhill. I took this video part of the way down, but had to stop before getting to the bottom, I had to use both hands to stay on the gravel.

From there, the road (which on Google maps is called E. Rogers Rd, though I have also seen it named Eldridge as well, but at the other end it is always name McGowen) is all gravel, with most of it on the road. It winds in and out the little valleys, about a third of the way up the ridges east of Pine Grove. This is deep forest, with no one making noise but me, some woodpecker and the occasional squirrel.

I took a peek the DNR buildings and equipment west of the road, and then climbed the last little hill before arriving at the corner where the old Salt Creek bridge foundation is still visible. This is a favorite spot for yakkers to put into the creek, I’ve seen someone there both times I’ve come through this year. I hope to get to the other side (from Friendship Rd.) sometime soon (before it is closed for the season on Oct 1.) McGowen Road is open all year, but it was underwater all summer, and in winter the county does not maintain it (making it all that more attractive to me!).

I got back to Kent Rd, and then took SR 46 only to Getty’s Creek, the highway is much busier on Sunday afternoon. I rode on up to Kerr Creek Rd, and even though it is considered rough riding by most cyclists, I found it easy (and quiet) after a 12 miles on the gravel. I took a shot of my favorite bluff along the road, I have a shot of it in winter as well. Kerr Creek hill is always a challenge, quite steep, and long enough to wear you down, but I made it once again, climbing is much less stressful below 80 degrees!

Total miles were 32, but 12 were on gravel, so it felt more like 40 or more. But I never pushed hard except on the hills, and kept up with my eating and drinking, so I was nowhere near bonking. I saw a great blue heron along the shore of the lake, but otherwise, not much wildlife. The small yellow sunflowers are everywhere, I saw an occasional phlox or argeratum, and there were just a few trees turning color, very few.

All in all a great ride, I hope to do it again this fall and winter.

Gallery of TC Steele-McGowen ride