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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Enjoy The Ride

Categories: Outdoors

My excellent friend gave me a cool desk calendar and it has a positive saying or quote for each day of the year.  August 26 said "Happiness is found along the way, not at the end of the road."  So true.  We all need a plan with goals, but I try to keep in mind the journey of my day, ups and downs of work or the search of all things life (like perhaps the music I listen to on a bicycle ride) can be just as or more important than the final destination or goal.  I hope I'm living, maybe riding by those words.  I know I'm trying for sure.

One of my favorite area rides is a 40-mile circle around Lake Monroe.  I was living out at Eagle Pointe (www.eaglepointe.com) for a bit and that was my starting and ending point.  This ride is similar to the Bartlettsville Ride in the Bloomington Bicycle Club's "21 Maps of 34 Loop rides originating in Bloomington, IN."  This publication is available to purchase in our visitor center.  All their rides start and end in Bloomington at Bryan Park Pool.  www.bloomingtonbicycleclub.org

 "Watching a stretch of road, miles of light explode." Golden, My Morning Jacket www.mymorningjacket.com

The sunlight does seem to explode in the sky on the back roads of Bloomington.  I cycled regularly for the first few months I was in Bloomington but I haven't been riding as much this summer because of my ill-fated attempt to learn the game of golf (see previous blog entry).  However, much has changed in the last week that has me missing dirty water bottles, chain grease on my chinos and little squeaky bike noises that make me crazy.  Suddenly I'm feeling energized, stoked, psyched, jacked up to get on the bike and we all know why…two words…Lance Armstrong.  The ultimate, killer, climber, rider is back and no one will bet against him in the 2009 tour.  He has me and a million other wannabe bikers climbing back in the saddle again because we know we can do anything.  This very topic came up in an economic development meeting I attended today.  Lance is pure economic development.  Go Lance!  Whoo-hooo!

The 40-mile ride starts off going east from Eagle Pointe guard station on Pointe Road to Fairfax.  The Drive-By Truckers' "3 Dimes Down" finishes 3:22 later and you are at the top of that nasty hill.  (Sidebar – Way to go Bluebird (www.thebluebird.ws) for having the Drive-By Truckers (www.drivebytruckers.com) play on Nov. 13!)  Turn left on Fairfax.  There are only 2-3 other hills on this ride worse than that.  Pedal past the mushroom hunters, pool, beer and chicken wings at the Fairfax Inn on your left for about three miles until you come to Ramp Creek Road.  Turn right.  This stretch of road winds and rolls up and down along the northwest side of Lake Monroe from Ramp Creek to left on Handy Road to right on Stipp Road to right on Swartz Creek Road to Highway 446.  A few turns but this stretch is easy to navigate and there are several short, challenging hills that usually leave my legs feeling it after.

I didn't attempt to start riding a bike until 1998.  Key word = attempt.  I had recently moved from Chicago to take a job in Great Falls, MT, which rests on the western edge of the Great Plains before the Rocky Mountains.  My client was located in Helena and our meetings were rides in the foothills of those mountains exploring fire and mining roads just outside of that historic town.  Pretty sweet deal.  I bought a KHS mountain bike that was too small for me at an army surplus store for $200 and figured it out.  Near my house in Great Falls I rode the single track trail along the same Missouri River terrain where almost 200 years before Lewis & Clark pulled off the greatest camping trip of all time.  I learned to avoid bison dung when falling, all you can do is put your head down and pedal against Chinook winds, geese are very tough, that riding in dead calm cold can give you frost bite, and pulling Prickly Pear thorns out of tires sucks.

Turn south on 446 and follow the Hardin Ridge signs for more than 10 miles.  This road is a great bike road with several large hills and majestic views of Lake Monroe.  Wilco's Spiders helps me almost maintain a speed of 20 MPH on this section…give or take a hill.  Turn right off 446 still following the Hardin Ridge signs. Pedal through the Hoosier National Forest now and simply follow the signs past Hardin Ridge Recreation area, staying close to the lake, going through some country, all the way around to the dam for approximately 15 miles.  You will know you are there when you start climbing "The Alps" which is painted in the road.  Big hill.     

 "Always dreaming, it's the search not the find."  The Search, Son Volt, www.jayfarrar.net

That song is all about enjoying the ride.  I moved to Portland, OR from MT and bike commuted along the mighty Willamette River from Sellwood to downtown Portland to my job nearly every day for three years.  If you like to ride, you can't put a price tag on that despite riding in the dark, rain 3-4 days a week.  My KHS was brutally stolen and I bought a Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo.  Not only did I ride Hoo Koo to work, but I abused her all over Oregon riding trails at Mt. Hood, Cannon Beach, Forest Park, Hood River, Powell Butte, Mt. St. Helen, Hagg Lake, Mt. Bachelor, The Gorge and others.

"West is falling and the water wars have just begun.  West is falling to strip malls and planned estates."  Water Wars, Richmond Fontaine, www.richmondfontaine.com

Before the west ran out of water, I moved to Joplin, MO in 2004 and continued riding Hoo Koo in the hot, dense woods and little used lead mining roads throughout the Ozarks.  A year later I bought a Specialized Tricross to get out of the woods because ticks and poison ivy were consuming me.  I got into road riding and completed my first century in 100+ degree Ozark humidity before moving to Bloomington in September 2007.

The best thing about the top of The Alps is like most hills, if you climb them, you get to go down them.  After that down hill, you cross the dam, circle around towards Eagle Pointe or head back to Bloomington if that's where you started.  It's about 40 miles and I ride it in a bit less than three hours.

"Because when you come to an end, you've got to start again.  Pick up the pieces and stroll down your new road."  Across the Road, Dave Harding Band

Mike McAfee

Mike McAfee

The Executive Director of Visit Bloomington, Mike blogs primarily about outdoor recreation and live music.