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

 

Christmas Week Past

The Cautious One, the Double-Digit, and I returned yesterday midafternoon from a weeklong holiday trip to visit with her family in one of the flat, windy plains states (at least I think that’s what they’re called, if I’m remembering my elementary school U.S. History or Geography with any accuracy). We arrived home a day late.

Sunday

As noted in a previous post, we motored further north and west on the Sunday after our arrival into a frozen lake land of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and a wind-chill factor of 17 degrees below that. So cold that it was hard to breathe running with Seventy-Six in his car seat (of course, he pulled the blanket and hat off his head to see what was going on) from the house to Thursday. Car, in that cold, started with a whir and clatter that made me glad I use a multi-viscosity crankcase oil.

Our Snapfish Christmas-card order failed to arrive by the day we left. We emailed customer service. They resent the order at no charge (we found the overnighted Fed-Ex mailer at our door when we arrived yesterday).

Monday

Monday, I hung out around the house, still not at my best with a cold, and kind of spent after driving all day Saturday and a long day Sunday.

Monday was, if I remember this aright, the day I heard from my younger brother via Facebook message (neither of us talks to the other by cellular telephone regularly enough to have saved these numbers) informing me that he had taken our mother to the ER at Stepford complaining of chest pain.  They’d kept her overnight, and planned to run a stress test that morning.  We talked on the phone.

I was concerned, because that hospital has a higher than average death rate (based upon my insurer’s stats through ’06 or ’07) patients having heart procedures.   My brother told me Mom wanted to check herself out of the unit, but he’d managed to convince her to stick around for the stress test.  The test indicated blockage of some sort behind the heart.  Yeah, real technical language, but I do not as yet know the technical details.

Anyway, she was transported by ambulance to a real hospital in Nashville staffed by qualified medical practitioners, had an arteriogram, had a stent (it is ‘stent?’) inserted into one of the arteries behind her heart, and was sent home by Christmas Eve.

Mom insisted we did not need to cut short our Yankeeland trip, and, like a storybook bad son, I took her at her word.  She is home and we spoke on the telephone today.  We plan to visit with her New Year’s Day, after I’m sufficiently over this damned flu that I am no longer contagious.  We were supposed to have had a family Christmas over there with my family yesterday, but we spent the day driving home, instead.

Tuesday

23-atlas

On Tuesday, I helped my father-in-law load the grain truck, then take the grain to the elevator in a distant town. I’d brought thermal underwear – polypro I purchased years ago when living at St. Johns – a working-class neighborhood in North Portland. The secret to keeping your polypropylene socks and undergarments intact for many years is to never machine-dry them. Anyway, I needed them Tuesday. So cold that for several hours, I could hardly feel my feet. My Outdoor Research thin gloves (a discontinued product similar to those linked above) proved inadequate, and after lunch, I switched to a dirty blue pair of ski-gloves my father-in-law had in the garage. Much better.

Some years ago, I spent a week at the farm helping with soybean harvest, hoping I would not become allergic, and that we could eventually move north and help operate the farm in conjunction with other vocational endeavors. Vain hope, that. By week’s end I felt as if I had poison-ivy inside my eyelids, sinuses, throat, and lungs. Combining blows huge volumes of bean-dust into the air, a yellow coating of the dust covers every surface, including those inside one’s noggin and lungs.

My father-in-law has devised and welded together a jig that secures by chain to the bucket of the blue Ford tractor, and that is used maybe eight times a year to install and move that sweep-auger.

I’d imagined that once the device was installed in the bin, we could monitor the bin and truck augers from the ground, outside. However, the rule with farm equipment is that unless the human eye regards its work and progress, it will break down, resulting in a delay that will last from one hour to several days. It is by sweat and labor that we get our bread, according to the biblical descriptor setting forth the consequences of our first parents’ failure as gardeners in Eden.

Invisible bean dust fills the space under this domed roof

Invisible bean dust fills the space under this domed roof

One of the pictures I shot in the grain bin, looking up at the domed ceiling and the steel loop to which one hooks one’s harness when working inside a fuller bin, revealed countless (not really, finite, actually, just more than I can count) particles of dust and crud in the air that were invisible to us as we worked.

This stuff make lousy air for breathing

This stuff, revealed in the Pentax flash, makes lousy air for breathing

The sweep-auger working buries itself in the grain until it reaches floor level, then moves clockwise along the floor. Its use requires that someone occasionally lift the end nearest the bin’s wall making sure its progress is unobstructed, and that he listen to the motor’s sound to ensure nothing has gotten jammed in its works. At one point, the electric motor emitted (in the New Testament Greek, “and continued to emit”) a sound pitched to indicate mechanical distress, but the problem was easily resolved by shaking the auger and turning the motor off, then on again.

Sweep-auger at work

Sweep-auger at work

We got the grain truck loaded. Numerous times I climbed up into the cab driving backward this time, and forward that time, two or three feet, then applying the brakes with a slam of my slightly less numb right foot. Evening out the load.

This was at left

This was at left

And this at right, but I photographed them out the truck's passenger window from right to left

And this at right, but I photographed them out the truck's passenger window from right to left

On the way back from the grain elevator, I snapped a couple of pictures of hand-painted diatribes at roadside in front of what is, presumably, the publisher’s mobile home. I got a picture of a partially frozen river, and a picture of a roadside shrine or marker memorializing the place of somebody’s death. I never saw these markers in California, and remember seeing them only after moving to Kentucky, then Tennessee. Don’t recall having seen them while living in Oregon, either.

6-roadside-memorial

7-frozen-river1We got some more grain in the truck, then cleaned up the worksite and put the truck back in the large barn. By this time freezing rain had been falling for awhile, and the wind continued to blow as it had all day. Glassy ice covered every outdoor surface, and the wind blew me a little sliding on the frozen gravel when I walked around to the other side of the barn.

Wind at my back I slid on this frozen ground

Wind at my back I slid on this frozen ground

Pointy ridge against a still, gray sky

Pointy ridge against a still, gray sky

Something about the angle of the metallic gray barn’s peaked ridge entranced me. Something American and old. I took a couple of pictures, but they may not communicate what I thought I saw.

Blurry photo shot without flash in the large silver painted barn

Blurry photo shot without flash in the large silver painted barn

We drove to the local garage to check the progress they’d made on my brother-in-law’s van. I got out of the pickup truck, slipped and fell as soon as I set foot on the service-station’s asphalt. Cussed. Got up and went in, being careful not to fall again. The van would probably be ready the following morning. Rack and pinion steering needed replaced. Another in long list of problems with the Chrysler Town and Country purchased new in 2006. Bummer. Comfortable van that handles and drives well on those rare occasions when all its parts interact harmoniously.

I removed my boots in the carpeted stairwell between garage and kitchen before entering the house to get a shower. Soybeans, about a cup or two in measure, spilled out onto the steps. A hot shower helped return feeling to my lower extremities. Good to have spent the day working at something useful. By evening, however, my hyperactive immune system was a trainwreck resulting in EPA cleanup levels of snot and sneezing. Sheesh.

When I first wrote this morning, I’d forgotten the week’s big event – the family photo.  My wife thought it would be nice to have a photo taken for her parents with them, their children and families.  My sister-in-law thought it would be best to hire a professional photographer, and have him come out to the house.  Shooting in the big room at that house is like shooting in a cave and the images derived thereby typically have an eery, pink glow to them from some red curtains and wall-paper googins in the dining room.  Then we had to color coordinate our attire.  I had to buy a pair of brown trousers for the occasion.

The photographer managed not to crash his car on the black-iced roadways, brought enough lighting to counteract the drapes and wall-paper, and handled the kids well.  Said his day-job is dental technician.  He actually snapped off one picture with me smiling, and looking human, as opposed to an intellectually and developmentally disabled half-zombie spawn.  He’ll get a thank you note after we get the pictures.

By the end of the photo shoot, I was feeling really allergic and overheated, began sneezing.

Tuesday night (not Monday, as I previously misremembered), I woke myself up laughing from a scary dream wherein that disgusting little chef from the film Ratatouille, the one that looks like an excrescence, was trying to murder me in a supermarket, but whose best efforts to both kill me and create a culinary masterpiece that would have secured him world renown were thwarted by my dreamself’s precision and mephitic flatulence.

If real, this creature would probably float

If real, this creature would probably float

So, laughing in my sleep I laughed out loud awakening myself and my wife who asked if I was alright. “I had a scary dream,” I said. “Oh dear, what was it about?” she asked. When I told her, she said, “Are you sure you don’t have a fever?”

Wednesday

Wednesday, Christmas Eve, family Christmas celebration. In the house were my brother-in-law, his wife, their two preschool age boys and infant girl; my sister-in-law and her husband; my family; my wife’s parents; my wife’s grandfather arrived for lunch. This was our first Christmas without her grandmother. We opened gifts, and this year was the first everybody took turns opening gifts. The women scrapbook, and wanted to be able to photograph everybody getting gifts, and to do so orderly. My brother-in-law complained, but went along. I sympathized with him. My family has been taking turns opening things since I was a child. Galling.

Thing about the morning opening of presents is that everybody does so unshowered, in their pajamas. I was feeling like crap, anyway, and to be in sleeping togs around other people left me feeling soft and vulnerable. Just like childhood. My wife wonders why Christmas evokes no happy memories for me. Usually sick, a flabby child aware of same, too close to my birthday (which has always at some level left me aware of creation’s wrong, fallen, disordered state), too cold or rainy to play outside, in a crowded room with other people whose happiness finds no corresponding spark in the heart due to all of the above.

Big lunch with prime-rib, twice-baked potatoes, a gelatin dish called “Easter Salad,” deviled eggs, broccoli, gravy, cheese-sauce, and a cake-roll dessert.

Thursday

While at the grandparents' home, one of my brother-in-law's boys makes the figures on the Giant Lego container's label every morning

While at the grandparents' home, one of my brother-in-law's boys makes the figures on the Giant Lego container's label every morning

My brother-in-law and his family planned to leave Wednesday, but stayed until Thursday. He had to be at work Friday, and scheduled for on-call duty the weekend. Thursday I felt well enough to go to the YMCA to work out, but, as it was Christmas Day, the Y was closed. Another day in the house. I think I played a table game called Bananagrams – like Scrabble only not scored and the players work independently.

Friday

Friday morning or very late Thursday night I awoke with a sickness unlike anything I’ve had since maybe 1994. Buckets-o-Barf.

I lay in bed all Friday sleeping, sweating, shivering, barfing, joints aching. I drank some Gatorade. Around midday, I could smell lunch cooked in the kitchen, and when my wife stuck her head in the room to check that I was still alive, I asked her to close the door as the smell of food resulted in a nausea I feared would be productive. I ate five saltine crackers in the evening. I never once felt hungry.

I felt well enough by evening to sit bundled in a chair and watch three episodes of House, a show that’s clearly a ripoff of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the Dr. Bell upon whom (if that is the correct indicator) Doyle based his character, Holmes. But I remained sufficiently ill to enjoy the show.

Saturday

Saturday morning, I checked this site, and found a comment to one of my previous posts. An angry reader accused me of having “some pretty asshole thoughts.” The guy, one Greg Long, also called me an ass. Smart-ass, maybe. I could own smart-ass. I went ahead and “approved” his comment, then replied to it. Maybe he’ll make another. I’ll be interested to find out what he has to say.

Saturday we drove home. Because we took Thursday, and because Caution-Lady has never mastered the standard five-speed transmission, I drove the entire way. I didn’t expect to make it as far as E-Town, but with a couple of baby-stops, a stop for fuel and lunch, we made it home before dark. Not that I’m feeling that much better, but the dizziness and clumsiness associated with my weakened state does not seem to affect driving ability.

Worst thing about being sick is I haven’t been able to play with Seventy-Six much. I don’t want him to catch my virus.

Sunday

I’ll post some photos when I get a chance, perhaps later today. Eventually, I will catch up on Facebook, as well. We are skipping church today. I am probably still contagious, and we need a day at home to relax. Maybe I’ll make the evening service.

Rods, I was sorry to hear your Christmas was cancelled due to the bug stalking your part of England. Hope you are better now. I will check out those links you sent sometime today.

I hope none of you were as sick I’ve been this past week, and that you had a blessed and merry Christmas, that those of you who do not celebrate Christmas had a good week and perhaps the joys associated with home, family, love, and health.