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Btown Biking

Crooked Creek-McGowan Ride

This Sunday I was out for 6 great hours, and covered about 40 miles, at least 10 of them on gravel. I rode straight out 3rd St, and followed SR 46 all the way into Brown County with almost no cars to harass me. On Sunday morning, very few people are traveling away from Bloomington and there is about a foot and a half of asphalt to the right of the painted line, it allows cars to pass with out leaving their lane.

Crooked Creek Road is a fast 14 miles from the Kirkwood gates, via the highway, and a few miles longer and slower when I take the half gravel “lowway”: Lampkins Ridge/Friendship/Kent/. I took Lower Schooner once I made it to TC Steele Road. There is some climbing, but nothing big, and it is just a tenth of a mile longer than the highway, plus few cars and a great view of Salt Creek, just as the road climbs the ridge.

Crooked Creek starts out gravel, but I was able to climb the 265 feet up to the ridge, spitting stones backwards in a couple spots. I rode through the quiet forest ridgetop for a while, then came rumbling down into the valley, and stopped for a break at Crooked Creek Lake. The road is 5.4 miles long, and where it runs through Yellowwood Forest, the road is gravel, but where there are homes along the side of the road, the county does a good job of paving, I’d say less than 2 miles are paved, you leave and enter the forest several times.

When I got to the boat ramp (where Crooked Creek becomes TC Steele Rd.), I found a little road that crossed the creek, and looking down stream I spotted some canoes and a yak. I took a quick picture, and gazing the boats heading downstream, and thought to myself: “How many canoers have straight brown hair all the way down their back?” and answered my own question by hollering “Hey Brian”, and yep it was Brian Richwine.

It was a much shorter ride up TC Steele to Gilmore Ridge, and it was early afternoon, so I decided to take the long way home, via Gilmore Ridge and McGowen Rd. This is the steepest of hill that I’ve found, all gravel, and then it runs through the heart of the forest east of Pine Grove. This video give you an idea of how narrow, steep and rocky they hill is.

The road then runs through the marsh flats along Salt Creek north of the lake. I got to explore this area twice this year (you aren’t allowed in October through May), and it is amazing!

Nature Journal: The trees are still mostly green, a lot of yellow, but very little red or brown yet. I saw hawk (buteo) in the salt creek valley, and a really big pileated woodpecker on Crooked Creek, I recognized the call, and so stopped and scanned the trees till he/she flew to another tree, showing its characteristic black wings with a white underneath and red plumed head. This one was bigger than most crows, quite the specimen.

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Btown Biking

Hilly Hundred 08

The Hilly Hundred comes but once a year, and we decided to ride part of the route as we did last year. This year we lasted longer on the route, riding about 20 miles with the pack.

Jojo and I headed north through Cascades Park, then up Hillview to Old 37 and down Firehouse Hill. We saw a few riders heading back our way, but they did not have numbers, and were not in the tour. When we got to Sample Road, we were warmed up, and stopped to take off layers while watching hundreds of riders going by as they turned on to Old 37.

We joined the group, and it seemed there were a lot of fast moving riders, constantly shouting out “On your left!” Sometimes they would shout it just as they were passing, sort of like those car drivers who wait till they are alongside you, then honk to scare you. I think these riders are either scared I will swerve (even though I ride straight, even uphill), or they just want acknowledgement for their superior riding skills, or perhaps they just like to shout. All three played together, but I think the last was when riders less than 6 feet apart would yell “Car Up”, one after the other, I guess it is just part of the pack culture, and is actually quite useful when not overdone.

We turned on Andersen Road, and hammered on till Bean Blossom Rd, which is about a mile and quarter miles long, rising steeply at first, leveling out and climbing again, with 275 feet of rise in elevation. At the bottom, some people started walking right away, others sprinted up the steepest grade. I just chugged along as usual, saving my energy, and to my surprise, I had enough juice left to “sprint” at the end, actually passing another biker as others had passed me.

We parked at the top, and hung with the happy crowd, then I went to the top of the hill and took this video of other folks cresting the ridge.

I got tired of being around so many people, so we rode north on Forest Road for a while and found a picnic table, and ate some lunch. I had a route lined out through the woods to Low Gap Rd and then on Bear Creek Road, but we had already seen some of the hunters our this season, and decided maybe we could wait till hunting season is over, I’d love to try it after a good snow.

We headed back towards the crowd, but as we came to the intersection, just about everyone was gone. The Forest Road is one of those special place, it takes some real work to get here from town, 15 miles plus a couple of tough climbs, but well worth it. To the north is the White River Valley, and to the south the ridges drain either to the Bean Blossom, or Bryant’s Creek. The air here always feels clean, with the smell of fresh pine, and at 850 to 900 feet, the breezes blow strong.

The Main Forest Road ends on the west at Old 37, which runs the ridge for another mile or two, then heads down to the valley. As we just got going downhill, Sue Aquila came riding up, slowed down a bit to say hi, then took off like a shot, her training and equipment puts her at least 10 mph ahead of our normal pace, even down hill. I assume she enjoyed moving fast through the route without having to contend with the thousands people ahead, though my guess is she caught up. We stopped to listen to the bluegrass band at the lunch stop, but soon headed out to the second half of the day as we had already had lunch.

We crossed 4 lane 37 with the help of the state police, this was something quite unexpected. We had to climb up Turkey Trot hill, then took Paragon Road, which runs along the floodplain at the foot of the Hoosier Hills. We turned south and headed up Salem Road, taking it up to Burma Road. We rode a short distance more with the crowd, but then took Dittamore south to Bottom Road, which is always comfortable to ride, and we cruised through the valley. We stopped at turn in the road, and laid down in the warm sun, we were both pretty tired, our rides have been a bit shorter most days, and often broken with a hike or swim. On this ride, we were definitely influenced by all the folks trying to go fast, and so we hammered more often than usual. We were there about 5 minute when Sue came by, amazingly she had ridden out to Ellettsville, then the 50 miles of the Hilly, then back to Bottom Road to ride another 30 miles to make 100 for the day!

We hung out a bit more, then heard a combine off in the corner of the field harvesting soybeans, and headed our way, so we headed up the hill after checking out the Bean Blossom Creek, which is really down, maybe 2 feet deep at the most.

We climbed our last hill to Kinser Pike, came back through Cascades, and even with a little nap we were tired by the time we peaked the hill on College. We headed home, and I had enough left to do some chores, but we ate early, and I hit the sheets by 10 pm.

Nature Journal: Not much to report, there are few wildflowers left, and the leaves are just starting to turn, the yellows are coming on strong, but still the forest is mostly shades of green. We heard a bunch of woodpeckers, and we saw a hawk fly down the road in front of us.

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Btown Biking

Mid-October Ride-Swim

Eileen had some fun activities at the Art Museum, so I headed out to Lake Monroe, a quick 10 miles to where I like go swimming. I geo-tagged the photos of the ride, but don’t believe it, I don’t want everyone to find this spot! When I got there there were boats all over the lake, it was busy for October, but then again it was over 80 degrees even in the late afternoon. As the lake has been at normal pool level for several weeks (538′ amsl), I knew our favorite tree trunk would be out of the water for diving.

From Last Swim Ride of October

It’s been underwater for all summer, and was slippery as heck. WhenJojo and I were here during last year’s drought, the longest branch was dry and several feet above the water, but today, it was covered with slippery stuff, and about 6 inches out of the water, but that didn’t matter, and I dove time and again, marveling at how cool the water had become, even at the top. In midsummer, you have to dive a few feet down to find cool water, but it was all cool today, let’s say it was refreshing.

I was a bit worried about the CO’s showing up, but that did not happen, the boats avoid the little point, they can see the log, and don’t want to get close. I don’t know why, but the water was much clearer than a few weeks ago, I could see several feet farther under water, and it was lighter farther down. I think because so little water has been coming in, that the suspended solids have had a chance to fall to the bottom and clarify the water.

I finally got out and dried off, the air was still warm, though it was about 7pm and the sun was beginning to fall below the ridgetops. I rode back up the hill and didn’t break a sweat, and then the quick 10 miles home. It’s funny how long it seemed to get there, but I can barely remember riding back through the dusk, and yes I had my lights on. It will not be till next May that I will be swimming again, so now I am waiting for the lake to freeze so the ice riding can begin!

There are several horses living along Harrell Rd, right where I stopped to look at the sunset. They saw me from across the field, and meandered in my direction, but horses are spooky, and even though I was talking nice to them, the kept their distance. Then I noticed how short the grass was in there field, and it was just as short for one horse’s neck length past the barbed wire fence. But for a foot or so along the road, the grass was long and green rather than short and brown.

So I turned my back on the horses and started ripping up the long green grass, and when I turned around, all the horses were at the fence, ready to make friends. They no doubt heard me pulling the grass, and they could tell it was the good stuff, of this I am sure. I fed them all several handfuls, petted, patted and hugged the big creatures, then said goodbye, carrying their unique body odor in my memory.

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Btown Biking

Woodall-Woodyard Ride

This Friday I had taken a vacation day from work so I could concentrate on the Lotus World Music Festival. Thurs nite I was out late (for me, after midnight) stage managing the show at the Bus-Chum Theater. But as 2 of the groups were playing on Friday, there was only one soundcheck, and that at 4 pm, so I had the day off. I got a bit of a late start, about 10 am, and I got back after 30+ miles riding NW of Bloomington

Slideshow of Woodall-Woodyard Ride

I went out of town north using Kinser Pike to Bottom Road. This route is used quite a bit, Bottom Road is long easy ride through the valley, no climbs all the way to its end at Mt. Tabor Rd. I stopped at Muscatatuck, but no birds were around, so I went on to Woodall Road, and took it around the Nature sanctuary, but the path was closed for repairs due to the flooding. I rode to the bottom of the ridge, where the Bean Blossom cuts along right to beginning of the rise. As the water was really low, I could see that there were a number of tires in the bottom, I was tempted to try pulling them out, but I had limited time, and then what would I do? Anyone with a truck who wants to help, let me know, there are a lot of tires in our steams. But then there is charge for disposal, and gas for a truck. Maybe the MCSWMD would want to help, I know they work on illegal dumping, which this is. The tires have nickel in them, and it leaches into the water, killing the fish.

I followed Woodall to Delap Road, which runs more or less east/west. I followed it west to where it ends and Mt. Tabor and Stephens Road just north of Ellettsville. I took Stephen’s south past Bybee Stone and on into town, and more unfriendly bike town I’ve not seen in the is county. I got accross the highway, but got a little lost in the suburban style tracts, and had to ask someone for directions. I got to Tecumseh Drive, which ends at Thomas Rd, which I to Ratliff Rd., and from there went southeast along Woodyard Road back to town. Woodyard is not bad, but neither is good near where it intersects Vernal Pike. Cars travel fast both roads, but they are the best bet when on northwest side of the county.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Btown Biking

Last (boat) bike ride of August

Both Jojo and I felt the need to pedal some, but it was hot humid August, so on Sunday morning we rode a short early loop down Harrell Road and down Schact Road, then across Walnut to That Road and back up the Clear Creek trail and back to the westside via the new “safecut” from the trial via Countryside and Rogers Rds.

By the time we got back we were quite hot, ready to hit the water. We grabbed the kayak and canoe and headed for Lake Monroe, putting in at Moore’s Creek. I took the kayak first, as the canoe has a quiet electric motor, and I have been needing the exercise for my rotator cuff problems I ‘ve had for at least a decade. By strengthening my scapular muscles, I’ve been able to realign my neck, which was the source of my arm pain. I had been favoring that arm, not using it as it was painful, which is the opposite of what I needed to do, which is use the muscles, work them so they become toned and resilient.

Canoe/Kayak pictures

We paddled out to one of our favorite spots, beached and swam for a while. Then we moved across the lake and into small bay, and we went swimming again. We then crossed over the water again and found some more spots for diving, swimming and floating around. We got back in the boats and headed back, and as we passed a rock outcropping with large bird droppings, a bald eagle took off right over our heads and headed down the shoreline, and then across the bay.

The clouds kept piling up, as did the humidity, we took a last dip, loaded the boats, and headed home.

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Btown Biking

Moore’s Creek to Pine Grove Swim

This Sunday, like most days this August, was hot and humid. We straight out decided to swim at Lake Monroe, but took the long way to Pine Grove, riding south first then east and south.

We traveled the bike route from the YMCA to Jackson Creek School, then up Rhorer Rd. and down Harrell Road to Stipp, our favorite no brakes hill. It has been closed for many months due to the spring/summer floods that have kept the lake high for months, and going down just to ride back up is a bit masochistic, if not fun. We dipped our feet in water at the Moore’s Creek ramp. Legend has it that my daughter and her high school boyfriend once drove our car into the water here, so it has special meaning…road ends in water!

We once again survived climbing Schwartz Ridge Road and quickly made to 446, and then on to Pine Grove Road, a mile downhill with a few little hills on the way. We went straight to the boat ramp, and walked our bike around the outcropping of rock that defines the next hollow. We changed into swim suits and hit the water. It was incredible that just a few weeks ago had been diving from rocks that were now 15 feet out of the water and 10 feet from the water. Still, the channel of Salt Creek is right next to the ridge at this place (that’s why they have the boat ramp there, it gets deep quickly.) So we were able to dive, swim and dive as we wished. We eventually got out and as it was late in the day, dried off and changed.

As we were watched some yakkers launch, we were surprised to see a Conservation Officer (with gun and badge) come around the point. He seemed friendly enough, but he was checking us our for sure. We had our towels and suits drying on our bikes (we had our bikes parked in the woods nearby), and we wondered if he would roust us out of there, we’ve been thrown out of the lake before.

We chatted a bit, and he saw Jojo was drinking fruit juice (not beer) and eating a bagel. We were just a couple of graybeards, strange with the bikes, but understandable. (He had first asked the yakkers if they had DNR stickers, they did.)

We headed out after that, taking Knight’s Ridge Rd., a bit longer than SR 446, but much less traffic, noise and sun.) This road is often used by racers in training, we often hear them shouting “On your left”) as they go whizzing by, but not today, it was just too hot.

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Btown Biking

Summer Flies By

It was a warm Sunday morning and Jojo and Cornish John showed up at the BBC on time, and we quickly made our way out 10th St., riding steadily the highway as there was little traffic. We turned on Tunnel Road, then on Shilo Rd., which runs the forested ridge for nearly 4 miles before dropping 200 feet to the Bean Blossom valley. Jojo works for Wireless Deer Fence on Shilo Rd., check them out, they kept the deer out of my 3 Sisters Garden this year. Here are some pictures of the garden and my corn crop.

We stopped to watch the Bean Blossom flow by and then rode up to Anderson Road, riding the flat bottoms to Old 37. As luck would have it, we ran into Sue Aquila riding alone and fast in the other direction (we had seen her at the BBC on our way out.) She was on one of her triathlon training rides, and we all stopped and chatted a moment in the middle of the highway!

John had to get back to town around noon, but Jojo and I wanted to ride longerWe headed back south, and John had to get home to work on his floor. Jojo and I wanted to get in some more time, so while John kept riding on 37, we turned right on Wylie Rd. To our surprise we found the Bloomington model airplane club, and there were dozens of planes revving up and flying.

Everyone had either vans or trailers to transport their planes, and they all had tools and parts, even built-in workbenches. They all were talking about their planes and the latest tweak they had done, while one or two at a time took off, flew and landed.

Flyby Pictures

We climbed the ridge and crossed SR 37, but nothing matches Wylie Rd, on the other side, so we had to travel north on 37 for a bit to pick up Sample Rd, which we took to Bottom Rd. We rode Bottom back south to Bloomington, about 30 miles, and no real sweating. Bean Blossom was really low when we crossed it at Dolan and on Bottom Road. This was a good fast ride, about 30 miles with just 2 climbs, a good ride for a summer morning.