Cool February Ride

We didn’t have much time today as it was really cold and rainy till well after mid-day. We stopped at the Bike Garage to adjust Jojo’s handlebars, and then headed up Lincoln towards Cascades. As soon as we hit the hill, I noticed my backrest acting funny, and so I stopped and found both sides loose. The screws must have worked their way loose during our rough winter rides, then finally dropped out. We rode back to the Bike Garage, got some help with new screws (thanks, Bill!), and got back on the road.

We rode our normal route north through Cascades and then up the hill (it is a good hill, just enough to warm you up without wearing you out). and rode Kinser Pike out across SR 37 to Bottom Rd. We rode out Bottom for a while, but time was short and we came back with just 20 miles, but that included 3 good climbs.

Cascades Creek was flowing freely, we rode along the wall away from the road for a while. Bean Blossom Creek was deeper than we have seen since last January, and had an interesting mud green color. We notice a copse of trees in the middle of a large field, and we wondered why the farmer had left them. I walked over and peaked in, there was a stream in the middle, but it only ran the length of the trees. Next time out when it is not so muddy, I will explore further to find the spring or seep that must be there.

CascadesFull green Bean Blossom CreekSpring?

Nature Journal: It was cool (mid-30’s) and damp, but nothing was flooded, though most of the week’s ice had melted. We saw lots of crows, a hawk on a wire, and not much else, unlike us, most creatures were hiding out somewhere waiting for better weather.

Covered Bike Racks in Bloomington

Covered Bike Rack at BloomingfoodsOne of the topics that we often bring up at the BBPSC (Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission) is covered bike parking. Many of us have bikes that are our pride and joy, and we don’t like the idea of them being in the rain all day or even 5 minutes. Chains and gears rust quickly if you do not oil after getting wet, not to mention the problems of a wet seat. This is a real problem for me as my recumbent seat is 4 inches of foam, one big sponge. I always carry some plastic to cover it.

So I am aware of the various places around town that will protect my bike in inclement weather. So I’ve started a photo album of Covered Bike Racks in Bloomington. If you have any to add, just let me know, I still have to get to the Showers parking lot to shoot the racks the city installed last year.

Turkey tribe lake ride

We took our short route to the lake today, both Jojo and I had early dates this day and so we had to get back early. It takes 20-30 minutes to get out of town on our low stress route, following the bike route to Jackson Creek Park and School. The path was covered with mud near the bridge after you cross the creek. I rode through and my tires became covered with mud clods that then jumped off and hit me in the helmet. We then rode up Rohrer Rd. (wouldn’t it be great to have a climbing lane for bikes here?), and to Harrell Rd and south over the hills to Stipp and Handy Rds. We rode very slowly down Stipp Rd. as it was covered with sand and quite hazardous.

Muddy Path at Jackson CreekMuddy TiresMoore’s Creek Bay filled with water

When stopping at the lake, and at the bridge over Moore’s Creek, we noted the water was now way up, higher than anytime since last January, when the road was flooded. Moore’s Creek was at least 5-6 feet deep at the bridge, and clear and clean. If it had been a bit warmer, we could have had fun diving from the bridge.

Moore’s Creek Channel is now part of the lakeFive feet of water in the creekLooking back up frozen Moore’s Creek

On the way back we climbed Schwartz Ridge Road, and near the top, I spotted something moving in the wood down in the ravine (I call it that as the hillsides are so steep. We stopped to look and then saw it was a large flock of wild turkeys, about 2 dozen of them, winding their way up from the valley floor along the wooded ridges. We could hear their feet shuffling through the leaves and an occasional gobble as they quickly disappeared into the woods, their feathered camouflage blending subtlety into the forest’s brown to black color palette.

Frozen evening in Cascades Park

Cascades Rd covered in thin iceThere was freezing rain on and off all day today, and the streets were either wet or covered with a thin layer of rough ice, plenty of traction except going a steep uphill, and as long as I didn’t lock my front brake on a turn, I was fine. I traveled up to the water filtering dams between College and Walnut, only a single duck was swimming in the water. I watched the snow coming down, and the commuters heading slowly home. When I started to get cold, I headed down to Cascades Road, and road down the ice covered road. I crossed the bridge to ride on the path west of the creek, and then stopped off at the waterfall.

I then finished the ride down Cascades, crossed Walnut, and turned up Dunn St. past the dam. The hill is steep, but not too long, and no traffic this night. I crossed the bypass and headed home. This is about a 5 mile ride, not long, but in the cold icy weather, it was fun.

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McGowan Rd. back country ride

Tim at the Bike Garage mentioned he was riding out on McGowen Rd a few weeks ago, he came back covered with mud, but happy. So I decided we had to try riding McGowan, which runs a serpentine path along the east side of Lake Monroe. After several runs along Birdie Galyon and Friendship Roads, I’ve realize my recumbent works fine offroad, I can’t exactly bunny hop over logs, but the Rans rides fine on gravel or dirt logging roads. So I am hoping to explore all the roads in Monroe County this year, dead ends, gravel, dirt or even paved,

I plotted out an “easy” circle of McGowen to Gilmore Ridge, to TC Steele, then back along the valley on Kent Rd, about 11 miles for the loop. As Jojo had to work, we got a bit a of a late start, we took his truck to McGowen Rd. rather than ride the 8 or 9 miles. We found a parking lot at the bird watching station, and unloaded our bikes. We headed out on the gravel road, heading south along the Salt Creek valley, the wetlands here are a protected bird sanctuary, mostly geese and some ducks on this day. We had to “portage” around 100 foot section of flooded road, and carried our bikes up the hillside around the water. We saw some kayakers in the channel, and talked to them while they pulled out and headed home.

Salt Creek wetlandsYacking in Salt CreekFlooded McGowan Rd.

We rode on, passed the ranger’s house, and then climbed a little onto the ridge. There was the same “Seasonal Access only” sign that I found on Earl Young Rd., and you can see they mean right at the start. We rode along the rough gravel, which is significantly more effort than riding on smooth asphalt, go figure. Three times we wove back into the woods and went down and up to cross a hollow, and then back along the ridge with beautiful view of the lake through the woods.

McGowan Rd., Seasonal Access onlyThe steep tall hillsides reminded me of North CarolinaLooking west towards Pine Grove

We came to the last hollow and knew that this was the big climb, about 250 feet of rise before it levels out at 860 ft. amsl, the bottom is at 605. Once you come around the first curve, the road drops about 2 feet in the left rut, all that was left is exposed stone, half road, half creekbed. Then it got steeper! I know the guys at Bike Garage have climbed this hill, but I know it will never happen for me, I was lucky to push my overloaded cruiser up the hill, I felt my achilles tendon stretching and stretching.
McGowan Rd. goes to piecesJojo leads the way up McGowenMcGowan tees into Gilmore Ridge Rd.

We got to Gilmore Ridge, and the cooling wind that came from the south west felt good after the long climb. Gilmore Ridge felt like a highway, easy riding with its packed down gravel, and we made good time to TC Steele Road, which was paved and in a moment were were at the park, chowing down some energy food at the picnic tables.

Gilmore Ridge felt like a highwayBack to civilization, TC Steele Road is paved.Circle cloud

The sun was getting low, and the wind was making us cold, so we got on the road and turned on Kent Road and made a quick run back to McGowen and the truck. We rode along Salt Creek and when we got back to the truck, I took a few shots of the sunset while the geese and ducks said goodnight to each other.

Salt Creek north of the wetlands >Sunset >Sunset

Nature Watch:
Weather was great, sunny and about 40 degrees. We saw the usual buzzards, but heard no other birds. Two turkeys crossed the road in front of us, but otherwise the wildlife was hiding from the cold.

Mushy Ice at Moore's Creek

Album of Ride Pictures

It was about 40 degrees as I rode down Harrel Road to Stipp, and then rode downhill really slowly because of all the grit on the road. At the lake the ice was still hard on top, and about 2 inches thick, so I headed east towards the main body of the lake.

I crossed over the first cove, and noticed several soft spots, so I went around them. I knew the lake was shallow here, but I did not want to get my feet wet, so I was cautious. There were spots where leaves had frozen in the ice, and they were always mushy.

In the shade of the ridge, the ice felt stronger, even though it was deeper along the creek channel. I crossed the second cove, and found my wheels would sometimes dig into the mushy ice, but I never felt I would break through.

Ice bikePurple Goose takes a rest on the iceGray ice

I stopped for a bite to eat, took some pictures of the bike, you can see how different the ice appears at different angles and light. Sometimes it was blue, or white or gray, or green, always different. After a bit I became aware of a background sound that had been getting louder as I moved up the valley. I pulled out my scope, and saw that a quarter of a mile up the bay was open water, and the sound was the strong south wind whipping the waves. I climbed a little way up the ridge and took pictures of the ice/water line.

Looking backWater’s edgeFrozen fish

On the way back, I ran into a couple of guys with their dogs, they had hiked over a ridge, but then were walking back along the lakeshore ice.
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Here I am starting up and riding on the last of the hard ice in the bay, after this shot, taken in the shade, I had to walk the bike.

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Coming back across the last cove was a little iffy, the bike was digging ever deeper into the ice, and I ended up walking the bike to the bluffs on shore near the boat ramp.

Ice TrailThe end is in sightBack home again

After climbing Schwartz Ridge Rd. I rode down 446 to Pine Grove, I thought perhaps the ice was still solid there. I was wrong. There was ice, but I quickly went through it and got my feet wet. This was not too scary, I was wearing two pair of wool socks, and I had a dry pair in my bag.

Semi-frozen Pine GroveMitch’s ice holePine Grove Ramp, open water

I decided to see if it was true that wool keeps you warm even when wet. Well I am here to testify that this is totally true. Even though they and my sandals were wet, my feet were warm by the time I got to the top of the hill, and they stayed warm the whole way back, I just didn’t feel the need to change them.

Nature Journal: It was a sunny 40 degrees, with a 15 mph south wind. I saw a great blue heron at Pine Grove, quite possibly the same one whose tracks we found last week. There was a gaggle of Canada geese at Moore’s Creek, and about a dozen big seagulls. I saw a portion of the larger murder of crows when I got back to town. The leafless trees allowed the silhouettes of the hills to be seen all along the valley, and I saw very few squirrel nests.