Just a Dude in search of an old dirt road!

Discussion in 'Introductions' started by Green, Nov 23, 2010.

  1. Green

    Green Completely Human

    Hi, my name is Lee. I am an avid cyclist who is still in love with one of the most important machines Man ever devised, the bicycle.

    Recently I have moved to south Florida from Illinois but I have thousands of miles in both states and the ones in between.
    I love long distance tours and commuting. I am also a big fan of practicality and sound design (the industrial engineer in me).
    I enjoy building, maintaining and repairing bikes and I hope to ride until the day they write my name in stone.

    I am including a short story I wrote for a local bike club about a discovery I made during a workout ride in my hometown of Peoria Illinois.

    I hope it can convey to you much of what I enjoy about bicycling and life!


    Just an Old Dirt Road
    I am a bicyclist I love to ride. I have been riding some form of bicycle since age 3 which gives me more than 40 years of riding experience. I found my passion in the form of touring. I love long self supported tours and quality long distance roadwork. Unfortunately not many of us can afford to tour perpetually so I, like most of us, do the majority of my “touring” during my commuting and weekend rides and workouts.
    I guess you could call me an oddball. I do not prescribe to conventional wisdom when it comes to gear or pedaling philosophy when riding. My first point of divergence from conventional wisdom is the fact that I am decidedly not a “weight weenie”. I currently have two rigs, one commuter and one touring rig. Both bikes are heavyweights at over 35 pounds. In fact, when my touring rig, a Surly Long Haul Trucker, is loaded it is beyond what most people would even consider pedaling or pushing for that matter. I am used to it. The LHT is a great bike designed to carry heavy loads safely and easily for what most would consider “extremely long” distances. I like the LHT so much that I use it even on my commutes most trips. This bike allows me to take the paths that normal street bicyclists and pace liners would not dare take.

    Having the ability to get off of the asphalt and explore is a key to the thrill of bicycling. I explore my local area diligently, taking hidden roads and unseen paths and dirt access roads at every chance I can. Most times these routes are unremarkable and valued as only a divergence from the routine or as a shortcut when time is tight, but let me point out that shortcuts are antithetical for bicycling philosophers. Shortening a trip simply for the sake of spending less time on the road is truly insane.
    Often a new road reveals a pleasant ride with new scenery. Sometimes a new route presents a new climb and the sweet sweat of accomplishment. Every once and a while a new path will show you a welcome new friend or a new sight or a new place to do business or just a quiet place to rest.
    On extremely rare occasions a new road will divulge a world that is so far from ordinary as to make one think they are in a different place on earth, a foreign and exotic place not often visited by man. Sometimes those places are right in your own back yard defying your attempts to reveal it and stubbornly hiding its wonders and charm.
    This spring I was trudging through my 30-mile workout circuit just passing time and rolled passed a dirt farm road that curiously caught my eye. I had rolled by it for what seemed a million times never giving it a second thought. This time I noticed that the county had put a stop sign at the end of this road. “Funny” I thought, this is a farm field access road, or at least that is what I always thought it was. As the presence of the new stop sign registered in my mind I knew I had to venture down this path this trip. Little did I know what I was about to experience.

    Figure 1, A new road, hiding new sights!

    I have equipped my touring rig with Schwalbe Extreme 700c 45’s and all the comforts of a modern well-equipped touring bike. So a rough dirt road was no challenge but a little technical off-road knowledge is always helpful, and I found it very helpful on this day. There was another sign down the road a quarter to a half mile that read,

    Dec 15 – Apr 1

    Figure 2, A curious sign and one that made my heart pound!

    This sight made my heart race. It meant that the road was un-maintained and seldom traveled. I could see an escarpment in the distance, shining whitish yellow in the sun. The road was worn by spring rain and the winter melt had eroded many crosscuts and ruts and the shoulders were very soft and muddy in places, “sweet” I thought to myself as I pushed off and descended the well worn hill path.

    Figure 3, Soft edges, ruts, gravel, your standard country road.

    Figure 4, The road has not been maintained since last summer

    Figure 5, Crosscuts, and not the deepest I navigated.

    My style of riding is slow and steady. I seldom average more than 14 miles an hour and usually tool along at 9 or 10 but I can peddle all day long and squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of what I find along the way.

    This road, a mere two miles long or less, took me over hour to traverse. The trip took this long not because I didn’t want to keep a good pace, not because I had to navigating the numerous ruts and deep crosscuts and pay attention to my well worn path, the problem was all the stopping, I just couldn’t resist stopping every few hundred feet and soaking up the views. Every scene was full of new views and new experiences.
    I peddled slowly toward an escarpment in the distance. On the way there were meadows and pastures that beaconed me to just stop and observe. Of course everything is posted “No Trespassing” but the views are free for the taking and I greedily took in as much as my mind could carry.
    I can enjoy what I see, I do not need to consume another man’s property or soil his possessions. Sadly, not every one can. One can hardly blame landowners for closing their land from a spoiling hand and a thoughtless and uncaring mind. So many times people simply destroy these areas, wantonly and selfishly burning the landscape and carving the meadows with recreational vehicle tracks and dumping trash and garbage mindlessly. This road is a gem and is to be found right here in Peoria county. For recreational bicyclists it is nothing but the most sublime rarity and is to be cherished and protected as long as is possible.

    Figure 6, The Obligatory postings, pristine pasture.

    Figure 7, Meadows and lakes, rolling hills and wildlife, cool breezes and sun.

    Figure 8, A meandering stream.

    Figure 9, Hidden lake

    When I finally found my way to the golden limestone escarpment I stopped and took it all in. At the base of this limestone cliff was a lake complete with Geese and Ducks.
    While I was standing there, leaning against my rig, I noticed a colony of birds, some type of songbird, nesting in the side of the cliff. These birds had burrowed or nested in the cliffs by burrowing in the dirt clinging to the edge of the escarpment. You could see the fresh earth removed at the top and the piles fallen below. The birds looped in and out of the Cliffside no doubt carrying insect goodies for hungry mouths waiting in burrows or nests clinging tenuously to the edge of the limestone. They danced in flight, performing a floating three dimensional ballet, choreographed on a thin air, limestone and earth stage.

    Figure 10, Limestone escarpment.

    Figure 11, A picturesque lake.

    Figure 12, The nesting site, notice the fresh earth above and below from bird activity.

    As I ventured further down the road, negotiating crosscuts and ruts that would devour and pulverize your average road bike, I beheld sight after sight and was compelled to stop and etch each of them into memory, breathe the sweet spring air, soak up the soothing natural sounds and recharge more than just my muscles.
    On one side a hidden lake, tranquil and serene. On another side just around the next bend and at the top of a hill a gently burbling brook meandered through a gentle glade in a quiet valley, last years teasel swaying majestically in the foreground, the sweet perfume of a profusion of green life permeated the air, swirled about my head and rose into my nostrils, heady and strong.

    Figure 13, Last years Teasel and a bubbling brook.

    Figure 14, Rolling hills, cliffs and green, lots of green!

    In all reality I can only just give you a wisp of an understanding of all the beautiful and stimulating sights and sounds I experienced that morning. It is truly just a ghost in my mind even now. This is why I am compelled to visit again and again. To experience these things first hand as many times as possible. These places won’t last. Soon and every year these things will cycle in and out of seasonal changes and they will be changed by the uncaring hand of man and urban sprawl, yes they are that close to Peoria!
    Even now ignorant, intellectually and physically lazy residents who do not respect themselves or their fellow humans use the area as a dumping ground. If you know where this road is you will no doubt see the multi layered irony of dumping in this particular location.

    Figure 15, Some people are simple shallow dolts with no respect for anyone, including themselves.

    There are plenty of clues and visual hints and a great many of you already know where this road is. What is more, there are at least three other beautiful rides within bicycling distance from this very location. The road I am writing about here is North Murphy road between West Cottonwood road and West Greengold road Northeast of Hanna City.

    If you find this road close to your planned ride I encourage you to travel it. It is worth the effort and will most certainly be a rewarding ride nearly anytime of year. It may be a simple dirt farm road, but it has many treasures hidden along its rough-hewn route, Oh, and one piece of advice, take a stout rig.
    Above all, please let us enjoy these roads together and attempt to keep it clean and clear of all that ills society and nature. This is a vanishing and scarce resource that is very near the Peoria metro area, truly a refreshing diversion from the urban grind.
    ©SLSJr. 2007 all rights reserved
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010
  2. TxCyclist

    TxCyclist Administrator Staff Member Admin Staff

    You slow down and enjoy things, because you did that, I can enjoy it too.

    Thanks, and Welcome!

  3. whyeyebike

    whyeyebike New Member

    Great post....thanks for sharing!!!!!
  4. worthlees

    worthlees Senior Member

    Thanks for sharing . Too often we get caught up in the fast track of modern living & forget to slow down & enjoy nature's wonders !! One must take the back roads to fully
    see nature's wonders.
  5. wild

    wild Yesterday tired old man, Today retired old man

  6. longjohn

    longjohn tall old member

    I live on a dirt road and many of the roads in my area are also dirt. I enjoy the beauty of my area but this summer I did an eight day ride and forgot to stop and smell the roses. I rode the first seven days like a man on a mission, I wanted to get to my day's destination as soon as possible and I was usually one of the first riders there. On the last day a Canadian fellow who was going to ride back to the start with me in my car rode with me. He encouraged me to stop and look at the sites we were riding by. I got some of the best pictures of the ride that last day riding with him. On the drive back he talked about all the things he took in over the eight days. I took in the ride mostly. I did take an extra ride up into Rochester to see Great Falls. He visited museums and shops all along the way and inspected locks. I think I need to sometimes slow down and take in where I am and not worry about where I'm going.
  7. Buffalo-jon

    Buffalo-jon Well-Known Member Tavern Member

    one last piece of equipment to pack..... A Camera! I'd love to see photos of some of the places you pass.:) Lot's of good pics here and there on two spoke
  8. longjohn

    longjohn tall old member

    I bought a new camera for the trip because my old one wouldn't hold a charge when carried on the bike. I also have a pretty good camera on my smart phone. All I needed to do was stop once in awhile and take pictures of what I saw. I did take some.
  9. newleaf150

    newleaf150 Deranged Touring Cyclist Tavern Member

    Good bump, longjohn! It's really easy to fall into the 'must get there quickly' mindset. While there's definitely a place for speed runs, it's good to be reminded of what you miss in failing to sometimes slow down to have a look around. There's so much to see and experience when you're out in it it, looking to do more than finish the route in the best possible time. :thumbsup:
  10. SixtyPlus

    SixtyPlus New Member

    It's not the destination, it's the journey.
  11. worthlees

    worthlees Senior Member

    Excellant story!! Sounds like you ride like I want to ride! Remind's me teens, Schwinn
    single speed & all the roads back then. Thanks!