Indiana Tour de Corn 2013

Panoramic-View

For the second year running, I took a bicycle with me on our annual trip to visit my wife’s family in rural Indiana.  I also piled paddling gear in the car, too, but the weather forecast indicated cooler temperatures and a good deal of rain which contraindicated much likelihood my wife would herself or would allow our boy to accompany me on a river float in the 17’ aluminum canoe named Caution-Lady.  Although I’m not certain my paddling days are over, I have spent a great many more pedaling since buying my first adult bike a couple of years ago.

This year, as I mentioned in the previous post, I have a much better grasp of the rural geography of the environs around my wife’s family home.  Additionally, this year, I have an Apple Iphone – one of the cheap 8 gig devices my wireless provider was giving away last winter to spur data-plan sales, but still way cooler than the flip-phone I’d had for seven or so years.  Even though Apple Maps don’t always work, they’d suffice to keep me from getting totally lost like I did last year.  In addition to the Iphone’s Apple Maps, I’ve got a paid app, Cyclemeter, that usefully tracks distance, speed, elevation, ascent, descent, calories burned, and has a pretty good map feature, all using the phone’s GPS.  Sure, it’s a spy in my seatbag, but if it makes me mad, I can destroy it by emptying a clip into it.  Practically speaking, however, I am not at present too freaked out about it.

Indiana by Counties

The Razesa had a flat the morning we left Stepford, so I took the Miyata, a bike I generally only ride in fair weather; in fact, I’ve pretty well named the bike Fairweather.  As noted elsewhere, the Miyata is a 610 touring model – a mid-range bike manufactured in 1981.  It has a complete Suntour grupo with stem-shift “Power Shifters” that have a ratcheting feel to them as they are used to index-shift.  All though Rivendell claims their downtube shift levers (which replaced the Simplex shifters on my Razesa) are better than the Suntour Power Shifters, that is mere sales puffing as the Rivendell product is inferior in terms of feel and accuracy. 

Although mostly original, the Miyata’s factory saddle was long since lost by the time I purchased the bike from Mike Carroll of Old Bikes Belong.  The day I bought the bike, Mike installed a Selle Italia saddle racing saddle I’d brought along, but it proved unsatisfactory and I quickly replaced it with a hideous red and black mountain-bike saddle.  Although strangely ugly, the newer saddle quickly became less visually disturbing because I noticed the red trim matched the Dia Compe center-pull brake’s red trim.

Mongoose-SaddleB4-Stepford-Storm

Regarding the name, Fairweather, it was one of a fictional monk’s five friends, as I recall from a novel I read for a Church History class in seminary back in the 1990’s.  Fairweather and Tune were a pair of snakes that, if I recall this correctly, shared the monk’s hermitage until, in an act of penitence, the man banished so he could bear his guilt alone.  None of that has anything to do with the fact that I generally try to ride the Miyata in fair weather – I’m trying to keep it in as near-new condition as possible yet still ride it regularly.   A few weeks ago on a short ride in the area around my house, I did get caught riding the Miyata in a thunderstorm, so got over worry about getting the bike wet and dirty.

My father-in-law thinks Tennessee’s rural scenery has “the Wow Factor” in spades, but I am of the opinion that Indiana’s farmland is no less beautiful.  I think Jim’s so used to his surroundings that he does not “feel” the Wow to a conscious degree any longer.  I’ve taken rides for six of the nine days spent at the farm but have taken fewer pictures while riding than I did last year.  This is in part due to my reliance upon the Iphone as my primary camera (although I took the Pentax with me on Monday 1 July with indifferent to bad results). 

Greenway-500-Fuji-Cambridge

Most of my Indiana rides this year have been greater than 30 miles; all but two greater than 20.  I stopped in a couple of times at Greenway 500 Bike Shop – Mike identified the snick-snick sound my bike was making as a worn-out pedal I might make right by the application of grease to its inner workings.  He has a Fuji Cambridge with eight-speed internally geared rear hub and dynamo front hub that I coveted.  Mike wouldn’t swap it for the Miyata saying he already had enough old bikes, but I would have swapped.  I did take the Fuji for a spin and liked it very well.  For $1100, it could have been mine, but the wrath of my wife would also have been mine.

On my first long ride, I stopped in at a gas-station mini market and bought a sausage/cheese/fried-egg biscuit and two quarts of Powerade (not as good as Gatorade, but available at “Two for $2”); on two other occasions, I stopped by the lakeside tent set up by Rob Cline and family – Cave-Baby Smokers, and again purchased and ate sausage/egg and egg/cheese biscuits to fortify my constitution during my travels.  The first day I met Rob and his son, and the following day, Rob and his wife, Holly.  My photos of the Cline family and their smokehouse tent can be seen HERE.  What follows are some of the photos I took while riding rural Indiana – click on a picture for a larger image.

First-Lunch-StopSpokesRoad-I-Took

Road-Not-TakenSea-of-CornPinch

Muncie-Sailing-ClubNew-Burlington-UMCIndiana-Chip-&-SealIndiana-Farmland

Sky-High-by-4th-of-July

Cave-Baby Breakfasts

Just a quick post.  Last year, while riding the Indiana cornfields near Muncie in record-breaking, triple-digit heat, I survived getting badly lost after taking a wrong turn on the way out of Blountsville, in part because I had the good sense to impulse-buy and eat a fried-egg and cheese biscuit from Rob Cline of Cave-Baby Smokers.  This year, even though I’ve got a better grasp of the local geography, I again stopped by the tent Rob’s set up at Prairie Creek Reservoir both yesterday and today to visit and eat fried-egg biscuits; yesterday’s with cheese and today’s with a burger-sized sausage patty.  Good eating and jus the thing for those 30 to 40 mile rides through farmland on chip-and-seal roads.

Rob-Cline-&-Son Cave-Baby-SmokehouseHolly-&-Rob-Cline

So, if you’re out there any time over the next couple of weeks, stop in, say “Hello,” and get something to eat.  The Clines serve lunch, as well, and cater large events.

Tour de Corn – Riding Indiana, Part One

Thunderstorm
Thunderstorm

We arrived and unpacked about midday Saturday last, but I was tired and conked out for about three hours, awoke long enough to feed, and conked-out again until Sunday morning.  Sunday morning, we went to a First Church worship service that was, essentially, a wrap-up program for the previous week’s Children’s Church.  It featured singing, slide-shows, demonstrations, talks, and so on.  Surprisingly, I found it uplifting.  We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant with a family from the congregation and then returned to the farm.

By late afternoon, Sunday, I was ready to take a bike ride.  We carried the Razesa on a two-bicycle Yakima trailer-hitch rack.  In addition to the usual paddling gear (because I’ve got a canoe in the barn loft), I’d packed my cycling gear (helmet, gloves, sunglasses, rack-bag, shoes) and brought it along for the trip.  My normal cycling costume consists of whatever I happen to be wearing, plus helmet, gloves, sunglasses (to keep the bugs out of my eyes) and, sometimes, cycling shoes.  Ready to ride, I checked the weather radar on the National Weather Service website.  Thunderstorm warnings and matching red-and-yellow spots on the screen to the north and east of us, but I thought moving slowly enough that I could ride out and back before the storm got this far.

I rode down to the main highway running between here and four-way stop four miles away where there is a trailhead for the Cardinal Greenway bike path. While I’d prefer to see the nation have useful passenger rail, and sufficient industry to require regular freight trains to carry it, I think using an abandoned rail line for a long bike path is a cool idea. So, I rode the almost five miles between here and the four-way stop as the sky overhead grew increasingly cloudy and the wind became stronger.  The photo above I shot from astride the Razesa from the greenway.

On the greenway, I rode no more than a mile or so toward the storm and began hearing the booms of thunder that heralded the approaching storm, then observed lightning striking to the north 10 to 15 miles distant.    Thought maybe it’d be a good idea to turn around and ride back to the house, and did so. Riding maybe 12 miles per hour, the storm overtook me. Wind, the first drops of a much-needed rain struck me as I rode. More thunder. Lighting strikes about four miles off in the direction I needed to ride.  Thinking about Martin Luther, repentance, and the manner in which electrocution might effect various organs rendering them possibly unfit for donation, I looked for places along the highway to wait out the storm, but kept riding.  I only had to make about five miles to the house.  I rode on.

By the time I turned on to the road with less than a mile to pedal, the storm acting up right overhead.  Thunder, wind, rain, lightning strikes in a field by some woods about a mile and a half distant.  I thought about turning in to the barn lot and waiting it out in the barn, but with less than half a mile to go, I kept pedaling.   I cut a corner across the front lawn and rode straight to the open garage where I met my wife, keys in hand, who said she’d was just about to come looking for me.

Monday Greenway Ride

Monday morning, for the first time ever, I ventured out of doors wearing the cycling garb I purchased for the purpose of wearing while cycling, but which I’d never before had the nerve to wear.  But, in the wilds of corn-belt where I am completely unknown and where temperatures have been in the triple digits, I squeezed my middle-aged physique into the bib shorts and cycling jersey, put on my cycling shoes, and set off again for the greenway.  The highway has a shoulder about a foot or two wide; motorists seemed to give me an additional three or so feet when passing, so no problem.

Michael-O'Neil

This time, I rode much further – as far as the Medford or Prairie Creek trailhead adjacent to which is Michael O’Neil’s Greenway 500 bike shop where I bought a couple of water bottles.  I’d forgotten mine at home in Tennessee.  Michael’s an interesting guy – friendly and positive in an impersonal and distracted-seeming way.  He said he grew up in a rural Massachusetts community with population less than 4000; pedaled across the country five times; worked at a Memphis bike shop; has been working on bikes for 22 years.  I had the impression he is quick-witted, high-IQ-smart and is aware of his areas of deficient knowledge and may tend not to make assumptions about people.  Excellent qualities for a small business owner to have.  I liked him and his bike shop, returning there several times during my stay at the farm.

Blountsville-SignCaine's

Blue-FlowersCampsis-Radicans

I rode past Blountsville and on into Losantville where I posed my bike next to a colorful but out-of-business bar.  Along the greenway I saw a number of wild-flowers – unidentified blue flowers and campsis radicans – the wildflower that gave its name to the Pouch E68 I gave to my friend, Eric, in January of this year.  I returned to Blountsville several times during the week, a very small town that put me in mind of Starnesville, even though I don’t think the small town was ever home to any industrial concern, to speak of.  Nevertheless, it apparently once had a grain elevator that was served by rail – the line abandoned to make the greenway

Tuesday – Lost in the Corn Maze

Greenway-MapBridge-BikeBridge-View

Corn-RowsAbandoned

I planned a longer ride for Tuesday – I wanted to ride around a small lake near Muncie – a 13.5 mile ride, in addition to the distance of the ride out there and back.  My goal was to ride the main highway to the greenway, then to the Medford trailhead, then over to Prairie Creek Reservoir (that body of water visible to the right of the greenway’s diagonal on the map, above), around the lake, and then back to a point where I reckoned I could ride country lanes across to the farm.  I missed 500 S, the road from which the lake is best accessible from Hwy. 35, and rode between three and four miles out of my way until I realized my mistake and turned back around.  That was my first and least serious missed turn of the day.  If you click on the greenway trail map above at left, you should be able to discern 500 S and the route I pedaled around the lake.

Counting my circuit around the lake, I thought I’d make about 33 to 35 miles round-trip back to the farm, making Tuesday’s ride my longest to date.  I stopped whenever I wanted to take a picture.

Three-Window-BarnMethodist-Church-Bldg

Prairie-Creek-ReservoirWater-Tree-BikeRed-Barns

I almost laughed when I saw the manner in which the pavement from one to about four o’clock around the reservoir had been patched.  “It’s a miracle!” I thought, noting the crazy lines of black tar on the roads’ cracked surfaces resembled Arabic script.  Around by the public access beach and marina, I was pretty hungry, but didn’t want to eat any of the six generic fig-newton cookies I’d brought along to supplement my Gatorade.

As I rode by the Dry Dock Marina, I saw a guy cooking something under a tent on the grass between the road and the building.  He hollered at me, “We’ve got water!”  I hollered back, “What’ve you all got to eat?” and rode up to the tent to find out.  Probably the smartest thing I did Tuesday morning, considering what happened later, was to buy a fried egg-and-cheese biscuit from the vendor, Rob Cline, of Cave Baby Smokers.  I hung out and talked with Rob a bit about how he got started and listened to his ambitious plans for future expansion.  I wish him happy and debt-free providence in his improvisational vocational endeavors.  Almost ready to get back on the road, a couple on a blue tandem bicycle pedaled by and waved.

Finishing my ride around the lake back at 500 S, I stopped at the bike shop and refilled one of my water bottles – a tie for smartest thing I did that day.  Also in the shop was the couple who’d ridden by on the tandem – Michael was making some adjustment to the bike and the couple and he were talking interestingly about tandem bike rallies or events they’d ridden.

Wrong-Turn

I thought I’d have an easy ride back to the farm once on the greenway, and planned to ride cross-country, as opposed to the main highway intersecting 35, to get there.  I took the road pictured in the photograph above because, after having got turned around a little bit and having failed to really STUDY the map the previous evening, the road FELT like it was running in the right direction.  I conservatively estimate it took me 12 to 16 miles out of my way, and I know I pedaled through parts of three counties before I entered the right county and began to find my way.  Hungry again, I ate three of the fig newton cookies in the rack bag and drank about 12 ounces of water from the bottle I’d refilled.  At point where I took the photograph below, I don’t know how many miles later but reckoning I had only about four or five miles left until I arrived at the farm, I ate the rest of the cookies and drank most of the remaining Gatorade.

Almost-Back