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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Richmond & Rain
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.
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.
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.