Riding Indiana 2015: A Tour de Corn Vacation

Henry-County-Corn-Rows

Not the Tour de Corn ride that’s an annual Missouri event – this Tour de Corn is my own annual vacation activity in East Central Indiana.  Every year my family drives up to Indiana for a visit at the farm and, since 2012, I’ve been taking a bike and riding around the local farmland on chipseal backcountry roads and, lately as the economy has continued to worsen, on roads unpaved that were formerly paved. 

Here are my previous posts about riding through Indiana’s corn and soybean country.  Ordinarily, once I get back to Stepford, I spend a lot of time writing up Indiana ride reports, illustrating them with pictures.  This year, I think I’ll spend only a little time writing a brief narrative framework for the illustrations.  If you click on an image posted here, you’ll be shown a (usually) bigger version of the picture in its own page.

Bike Choice

Because the weather projected for our nine days stay was a good chance of rain every day, and because I remembered how the Miyata, shod with Gatorskins, was not best suited for unpaved and formerly paved surfaces encountered last year, this year I took the Jamis Supernova rain-and-rough-bike with its recently installed Clement X’Plor USH tires

Speaking of the X’Plor USH tires, the people at Clement never did respond to my email about inverted tread patterning.

This year, I noticed I was not taking pictures of things that formerly interested me on previous cycling jaunts.  Some of the novelty of riding through miles and miles of farmland, as well as upon a dedicated Rails to Trails Greenway, has worn off.  This year, in several Indiana counties, gigantic windmills are turning, and I observed them across the state, during my visit.  Their construction was last year responsible for the poor state of some of the farm roads, but it appears that compensation to municipalities for the repair of roads may have been diverted to other uses.  As I said, the worsening economy in the United States has a real effect at ground-level.

Greenway 500 Bike Shop

On the day I rode to Prairie Creek Reservoir, I stopped by Greenway 500 bike shop, near the Medford trailhead of the Cardinal Greenway Trail, to see if Mike had time to diagnose and correct a problem with the Supernova’s Ultegra front derailleur.  Turns out it got a bit bent one of the times I crashed the bike.  While I was there, shop discussion centered on the bad effect large, online retailers have on local bike shops – difficulty selling new bikes, difficulty competing with accessory and garment prices.  One of the other customers in the shop that day talked about a friend who makes a living writing reviews and who receives, as additional benefits, all-expenses-paid travel to annual events showcasing new products, bikes, etc.  The consensus seemed to be that in order to continue writing reviews in exchange for money and products (which the reviewers may get to keep and sell), the reviewer’s likely to turn out little more useful than positive ad-copy.

I don’t feel badly about buying from Nashbar/Performance, Bike Tires Direct, Jenson USA, Amazon, etc., because I don’t have a local bike shop at Stepford.  On the other hand, while riding in the Greater Muncie area, out of deference for the several bike shops in the area, but especially Mike’s, I mostly refrained from wearing my BTD jersey.

Where’d I Go?

This year, I didn’t ride into Muncie for lunch at Chic-Fil-A; I thought it would be a good idea to avoid any Obama-inspired interracial strife in that depressed, formerly industrial, urban locality.  Anyway, I wanted to ride through areas that were new to me, as opposed to repeating what I’d done in prior years.  That said, as far as I know, there were no Obama Race Riots during June/July at Muncie.

I think I rode eight of the nine days we stayed at the farm logging about 239 miles, according to Magellan Cyclo 505.  That works out to just under 30 miles per day.  A lot of riding, for me, not so much for a serious cyclist.  Of course, some days my rides were much longer, and others much shorter.  I rode MKS Lambda pedals wearing 5-10 “Canvas Guide Tennies”, and wore my usual motley collection of lycra cycling attire.  One day the temperature was sufficiently cool that I rode wearing my orange merino wool Kucharik long-sleeve jersey with bib-shorts, and was quite comfortable.  My other Kucharik garment was a “sublimated” bib-short I’d got on sale last year – a satisfactory purchase that compares favorably to the Sugoi bib-shorts I bought back in 2012.

Because temps most days were in the low to mid-seventies, I drank plain water on my rides.  Except the day I forgot my water bottles and realized it about three or four miles into the ride.  Then, I stopped and got bottles of Gatorade at a gas-station, filling one with water at lunch after I’d drunk the original contents. 

Farming Disaster

While the lower temperatures, overcast skies, and occasional rain were a treat for me, the wet conditions this season have been disastrous for many of Indiana’s farmers.  At the farm, there are about a hundred acres that could not be planted with soybeans as intended, as well as many ponded places in the beanfields that had only dried enough for planting while we were visiting.  The corn was mostly small and an unhealthy yellow-green in color.  The fields had been so wet that no side-dressing had been done when we arrived, and by the time we left, only a smaller percentage had been done.  In former times (1950’s ?) the adage had been, “Knee High by the Fourth of July.”  But corn that’s only knee high by the Fourth of July these days indicates the likelihood of a meagre harvest.  By July 4, the corn’s usually more than head-high and a healthy, dark green in color.

Animals

During my rides I saw numerous chipmunks, maybe three rabbits, several red-wing blackbirds, several large sparrow-looking birds, several bright-yellow finches, several cardinals, many geese, a woodpecker, a deer, a small herd of longhorn cattle, one small groundhog, dead possums, dead raccoons, dead field mice, and got chased by five dogs.

Snapshots

Although I took photos every day I rode, many are so similar that I’m only posting snapshots from a few rides.  Here are some of the pictures I took during the week, in rough order:

Summit Lake State Park

This year, thanks to the Magellan Cyclo 505, I was able to find the lake; I wasn’t even close, last year.  Many of the Henry County roads were unpaved, but reasonably well-maintained.  The Clement X’Plor USH tires handled these conditions very well – much better than the Gatorskins did last year while riding the Miyata 610.  Summit Lake State Park has camping areas, regularly scheduled activities, much less boat traffic than Prairie Creek Reservoir, and much more user-friendly beach area, as well as several well-maintained playgrounds.  Nicer, all around, than Prairie Creek Reservoir.

Henry-County-Sign-&-RoadTypical-Henry-County-RoadPuny-Henry-County-Corn

Found-Summit-Lake

Summit-LakeFlooded-State-Park-Road

Lakeside-Trail-1Lakeside-Trail-2Henry-County-Animal

Prairie Creek Reservoir

This year, I only rode out to Prairie Creek Reservoir one time.  I was disappointed not to find Cave Baby Smokers set up for the coming weekend’s triathlon, but my ride was pretty early in the week.  Muncie Sailing Club’s water was on, so I was able to refill one of my water bottles from their pavilion’s spigot.  This year, I noticed that mountain-bike and ATV trails have been opened up around the lake’s western shoreline; maybe I’ll ride them next year.  While at Greenway500 Bike Shop, I meant to buy a set of cleats for Shimano SPD pedals I haven’t tried out, yet.  Also, wanted to buy some cycling togs to replace my aging collection of same – and I like Greenway500 and Dirtway500 kits Mike’s got for sale.  Justifying the expense of new cycling clothes to Caution-Lady, however, was something I didn’t feel like tackling last week.

International-Harvester-BarnMuncie-Sailing-Club-SignSailing-Club-Lighthouse

Lake-Route-House

Richmond & Rain

Welcome-to-Richmond

This year I returned to Richmond for lunch at 5th Street Coffee & Bagels – a long ride and much of it on the Cardinal Greenway trail.  About three miles in to my ride, I realized I hadn’t brought my water bottles with me.  When I got to Losantville, I stopped at the gas station and bought a couple of 28 oz bottles of Gatorade Citrus Cooler and an egg, cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, and tomato breakfast wrap.  That breakfast wrap was HUGE and highly recommended for a long ride.  The Gatorade bottles just fit, when I forced them, into the Supernova’s bottle cages.  They were too difficult to pull out and stow back to drink from while riding, not to mention the screw-to-tighten lids, so I drank pretty sparingly.  Had a fried egg, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion bagel sandwich at 5th Street Coffee & Bagels. 

Richmond-Coffee-&-Bagels

For this ride, I’d mapped a route at www.ridewithgps.com and exported it as a GPX Track (or some such type of file), then followed the Ride With GPS instructions for installing the file on the Magellan Cyclo 505.  Pretty easy and it worked fine until the last couple of blocks before getting to the coffee shop.  Then it routed me up and down a block here and a block there.  I followed the directions to see what it would do, then got bored with the activity and asked a neighborhood person for directions.  Her directions were accurate and I rode to the coffee shop and ordered lunch.  On the ride back, I got rained on a lot.  Once I accepted the annoyance as unavoidable I found it was not at all uncomfortable and rode without mishap or problem.  My Magellan Cyclo 505 unit, however, had a lot of trouble.  In the rain, it’s touch screen became ENTIRELY unresponsive, and that was an annoyance I was unable to accept.  I was only able to get it to work again after drying the screen with a piece of toilet paper from a trailhead outhouse.  After that, I left the stats screen alone.

Soybeans, corn, and wheat looked better in Wayne County than in the counties further north.

Some of the pictures I liked best from the Indiana trip were from the rainy segment of this ride – I couldn’t get the camera’s lens totally cleared of water drops, but was not able to see in the LCD screen how the water distorted the image.

Almost-to-RichmondGreenway-Bridge-View

Richmond-Greenway-Sculpture

Richmond-Trailhead-View-1Richmond-Trailhead-View-2

Wayne-County-CourthouseRichmond-Old-House-A

Richmond-Old-House-BRichmond-Old-House-C

Rain-Blurred-1Rein-Blurred-2

Rain-Blurred-3Rain-Blurred-4

SoybeansWayne-County-CornWheat-For-Harvest

Tree-TunnelTree-Tunnel-Other-Side

Winchester Ride

This year, instead of riding to Selma, Farmland, Muncie, and getting bad lost in Henry County, I rode out to Winchester, Indiana.  I’ve previously posted snapshots of the county seat’s interesting American Civil War memorial.  That time, I drove through Winchester after buying a canoe in Ohio.  Last week, however, I spent time riding around what turns out to be an attractive small city (about 5000 residents, I think).  I enjoyed riding through the older neighborhoods networked with rough paved alleys.  My approach to Winchester routed me along some of the worst formerly-paved and badly potholed-but-paved roads I’ve seen.  The Supernova with X’Plor USH tires more than compensated for the horrible condition of the roads, though. 

Civil-War-MemorialLet-it-RingCourthouse-Eaves

Tank-LeanMeridian-Street-HouseWestwood-House

Courthouse-SquareGreen-Building-SideStreet

Lost-FarmhouseLost Farmhouse Arial View

Patriot-BarnFarm-GateRibbon-of-Road

LonghornStrataWind-Farm

WindmillWindmill-18094Windmill's-Blades

 

Road, Rain, Gravel, Dirt, Grass, & Countryside

Green-Iron-Frame

On Monday last, I took a long ride out to a state park where there is a Native American ceremonial site at the convergence of two small rivers and an iron bridge across the larger of the two rivers.  On the main highway that runs past the park’s entrance there’d been a much larger iron bridge, but several years ago it was replaced by a modern concrete bridge and the old structure was torn down.  I liked driving over the old bridge on the highway; the smaller bridge inside the park connects the camping area to the rest of the property.  I rode over to the main site, then back down to the turn off to the camping area, rode across the green-painted iron bridge on planks, then through the campground where there is located a clean bathroom.  After using the bathroom, I discovered the great utility of full-zip jerseys, as opposed to the quarter-zip or half-zip variety, paired with a set of bib-shorts.  When I put the jersey back on, my cellular telephone fell from a jersey pocket and broke open on the floor.  Now I get it.  As I was riding back out of the camping area in order to leave the park, I got caught in a rainstorm.  I waited at the camper check-in booth during the worst of the downpour.  The pedaling across the bridge’s slick, wet roadbed posed a hazard even with my bicycle’s oversized Continental Tour Ride tires.  I was pleased that I did not crash.

Favorite-BridgeRanger-Booth-Lean

Later in the week I took a ride through an overgrown area adjacent a small airport.  The last time I rode through there was early last November, when the Spring foliage had been dried out by Summer heat, and the property owner had bush-hogged some of the dirt and grass lanes.  Thursday, though, I found everything overgrown and rode in places through grass handle-bar high.  Grass got tangled in my bikes rear derailleur and sprockets, making shifts difficult at first when I got back out to a surface where riding necessitated shifting into a higher gear.  I must say that the Jamis Supernova, in its inaugural 2007 version, is a superb cross-country adventure bike, and my bike’s high-end but older Shimano components functioned superbly.  And those Continental Tour Ride tires?  Hard to imagine a tire better suited to conditions I encountered offroad.  As I pedaled hard enough in some places to produce grunt-like vocalizations to maximize effort, I at one point shouted, “I love this bike!”

Gravel-Road-1Hidden-Grafitti-Lean

Wild-Magnolia-Lean

Green-Tunnel-Path

The-TrailDeer-Stand-Lean

The-Way-Out

Yesterday afternoon, I took a ride with a group from the local bike club.  I took the Jamis because riding it, I average about 14 miles per hour, and expected a casual group ride at about that speed.  Most of the folks who showed up, though, had higher end, racing type bikes.  I broke off and rode with a fellow who’d been expecting the same sort of group as I had and brought his Bike Friday, which is older and looks a lot cooler than the company’s current crop of bikes.  We took a less hilly route and rode about 25.6 miles averaging 11.8 miles per hour.  I enjoyed one fairly steep, winding, descent in need of resurfacing.  The route took us through country previously unknown to me and connected with a highway I know well.  Here’s the vista that greeted us near the intersection:

Hilly-Cultivated-Vista

Miscellany & Spring Rides Photos

As mentioned in my previous post, last week my mental focus was blurred as I was little worried about a medical procedure I was scheduled to undergo last Thursday at the local outpatient surgery center.  Better than the local hospital, I’d say, but then it’s likely Pizza Hut is better than the hospital at Stepford.

On 5/15/15, though, the day after anesthesia and semi-surgical probing, I did manage a 15 mile ride (although 35 miles would have accounted for all the dates digits, as abbreviated, and better served my fitness needs).  One of the reasons I rode no further Friday is that I had mowing to do before rain set in.  The other reason is that, for the first time, I rode wearing a pair of Keen closed-toed sandals.  They have stiffer soles than my current pair of New Balance trail runners, which I’ve been wearing when riding platform pedals sans toeclips.  I wear the sandals around town and when paddling canoe or kayak in warm weather without problem or discomfort.  While riding the Jamis, however, the same lower extremity that was injured in September 2013 and again in December 2014 went numb.  Adjusting the sandal’s tightness didn’t alleviate the problem, so I don’t think I’ll be wearing them again to cycle.

5-10 Guide TennieBikeTiresDirect Team Jersey

I’ve ordered some 5-10 shoes to replace the New Balance shoes I’ve had for the past maybe three years.  I also ordered a Bike Tires Direct cycling jersey on clearance to replace the torn Ireland Harp jersey.  The BTD jersey is a pretty loud advertisement for the company, but because Stepford has no nearby bike shop, Bike Tires Direct serves that function.  So, I feel only a little odd about wearing the jersey.  It’s a “race-fit” cut, but in Extra Large it fits okay.  I’ve worn it a couple of times this week and, except for its full-length zipper in front that fastens on the wrong side, I like it.

George S. Patton Jr.

This week, I finished reading Killing Patton, a volume I think was largely ghostwritten in the “voice” of Fox News anchorman Bill O’Reilly and researched by one Martin Dugard who may also have done the ghostwriting.  Written at about a sixth grade reading level, Killing Patton: the Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General presents the reader with the usual biographic mosaic consisting of disparate event narratives related to the work’s central theme.  I would have preferred something better written, like the work of William Manchester or even Barbara Tuchman, but overall, once I got past the dumbed-down writing style, I enjoyed the factual material.  I don’t recommend spending money to read this book, but if your library or a friend has a copy, borrow it and give it back.

Here are a few photos from rides taken during the past couple of weeks:

House-Done-Gone

Image above from a ride I’ve taken a number of times, but this time a farmhouse had been removed from its foundation.  I thought the method of constructing the porch, at right, was interesting.

Miyata-610-Abandoned-Picnic-Area

Abandoned-Picnic-Area-1Abandoned-Picnic-Area-2Abandoned-Picnic-Area-3

Abandoned-Beach-1Abandoned-Beach-2Abandoned-Beach-3

The images above are from an abandoned and off-limits recreational beach on a nearby lake.

Super-Nova-Dry-Lake

Dry-Lake-Toward-DamSuper-Nova-Gary-2-Bars-RearDry-Lake-Sign-Down

This small lake is usually choked this time of year with lily pads, and they can be seen in the images laying atop the exposed mud.  My guess is the lake was drained to do some work on the dam – workman appeared to be taking a break on the dam as I stopped to snap a couple of pictures.

Super-Nova-Dam-NormandySuper-Nova-Dam-Boatramp

Our-Hospitality-Lean

The images above are from my ride Sunday afternoon.  The house and fence in the sepia-toned image reminded me of Buster Keaton’s film Our Hospitality, probably because Keaton’s character rides a push-bike in the movie’s opening sequences and the house pictured reminds me of the Old South.

Country-RoadMagellan-Cyclo-505-MappingCyclo-505-Mapping-Screen-Detail

I turned to the Cyclo 505 dashboard mapping screen because I was a little uncertain about my next turn, although I’d ridden this way once before.  Worked fine.  I used the mapping feature later in the day while riding along an overgrown path in the woods I’d previously ridden almost two years ago (I think it was).

Super-Nova-Explorer-Lean

Overgrown-Path-1Overgrown-Path-2Overgrown-Path-3

Crossing-UpstreamCreek-Crossing-1Crossing-Downstream

Out-of-the-Woods-HereUp-&-OutBack-to-Pavement

I decided to ride through the woods for a few miles to break up the monotony of travel.  The path I chose is one my friend, Adrian, and I tried on our Bridgestone’s – MB-6 and MB-4, respectively – maybe two and a half years ago.  We rode on a rainy day in very early Spring, and it was pretty cold out.  When we got to the running creek’s ford, pictured above, the rushing water was about knee deep.  I got about halfway across carrying my bike when Adrian persuaded me to turn back.  We eventually found an alternate route. 

This time, although it had rained the day before, water was only a little more than ankle deep and I easily carried the Jamis Super Nova across (although I’d earlier ridden through a smaller, less rocky-bottomed stream).  I was glad to have the Cyclo 505’s mapping feature during this part of the ride.  I was glad I’d used a cloud of bug spray before I left the house, too.  The path I chose came out on a gravel road by a power plant, but I rode out of the area on the overgrown track above center.  I’m happy to say the Jamis Super Nova cyclocross bike, its Dura Ace components, and its Continental Tour Ride tires seem equal to most of the conditions I’m willing to ride.

C10-Kompact'O-&-BTD-Jersey

That’s me wearing my third Catlike Kompact’O helmet and my new Bike Tires Direct jersey.  I’m hoping the new Kompact’O holds up better than the previous two helmets, and that the new jersey (har) holds up better than that Ireland Harp jersey.