Monday, July 30, 2012

Black Hand Gorge & Flint Ridge

On Sunday my wife planned to visit her cousin in Zanesville, Ohio and she suggested I bring my bicycle and go riding while they spent the day poolside.  (She comes up with good ideas!) After dropping off my family in South Zanesville I backtracked a few miles to the Black Hand Gorge State Nature Preserve to start my ride.  Black Hand Gorge has the distinction of being the only State Nature Preserve in Ohio that has a bike trail running through it.  While it is rather short at 4.25 miles in length the scenery along the way makes up for it.

Located in Eastern Licking County the east-west gorge was cut by the Licking River through Black Hand sandstone.  The sandstone formation is named after a hand shaped Indian petroglyph engraved on the face of a sandstone cliff along the north side of the river.  This petroglyph unfortunately was destroyed in 1828 when the cliff face was dynamited during construction of the Ohio & Erie Canal which passed through the gorge on it's way to the Ohio River.

Pictured above is the cliff and along the bottom several courses of sandstone blocks are visible. I'm guessing this was part of a canal lock.  Adjacent to the bike trail to the south is an abandoned quarry where these blocks likely originated.

It's too bad the Indian petroglyph no longer exists or hundreds if not thousands of years of human influence would be evident in this otherwise wild place.  The river valley probably offered safe haven and productive hunting grounds for countless primitive peoples.  In later times Ohio's first public works came through in the form of the canal system.  Soon to follow was the era of steam power as coal fired locomotives chugged and hissed up and down the gorge on a bed made flat by blasting away more sandstone as seen in the opening photo.  At least now we know to preserve these rare links to mankind's early ancestors.

After reaching the end of the bike trail I took to the county roads heading south to a place called Flint Ridge.  I decided to ride the Motobecane because as you can see in the photos there is no shortage of hills in South-East Ohio and nothing climbs like a titanium road bike.

My map does not differentiate between paved and gravel and of course since I was on the road bike with skinny tires I had to endure a few miles of this.  At least the road bed had been recently graded so I didn't have to put up with ruts and potholes.

The Flint Ridge State Memorial is located about six miles south from the Black Hand Gorge.  This place played a huge role in the lives of early Native Americans and is a interesting place to visit.
The following description I copied off signage placed by The Ohio Historical Society. It explains this unique geological feature and it's importance to the prehistoric people who inhabited the Ohio Valley:

Flint Ridge

Flint Ridge is a chain of long, narrow hills extending from a few miles east of Newark almost to Zanesville.  A distance of more than twenty miles.  The surface of these hills is underlaid with an irregular layer of flint, which may be only a few inches or several feet in thickness and varies greatly in color and texture.  In many places along this ridge the soil has been eroded revealing the underlying flint.  You are standing at one of these outcroppings. 

Flint is formed by a geologic process whereby the softer limestones and shales are replaced with much harder silica.  Due to its high quartz content, flint polishes beautifully and exceptional pieces of jewelry can be made from it.  The 106th General Assembly designated flint as Ohio's official gem stone in 1965 because of its occurrence in several parts of Ohio, particularly Flint Ridge, and because of its importance as a semi-precious gem stone.

Flint is both hard and brittle and thus can be broken into pieces that have razor sharp edges.  For this reason Indians as long as 9000 years ago traveled to this ridge to secure the rock for making projectile points, knives, and scrapers.  The area is now covered with hundreds of shallow pits from which flint has been quarried through the ages; several are visible along the trails.  The prehistoric Indians broke off chunks of flint with stone mauls or pried them out of the pits with wooden poles.  They broke the chunks into usable pieces with hammerstones, as shown here, and then proceeded to chip the flint for various purposes.


On the park grounds is a small museum which has the usual "Indian statues engaged in daily life" displays but also a very nice collection of Native American stone artifacts. This alone makes it worth checking out!  In the center of the building a large section of the floor is removed revealing an actual pit that has been cleaned out to show exactly the condition of the quarry with mining underway.


From the museum a foot path leads into the woods and within seconds smooth rounded bowl shaped depressions are visible all around.

I kept looking around and soon I found a flint deposit right at the edge of the hillside.

Black Hand Gorge - Flint Ridge Loop
Bike:  Motobecane
Ride Time:  1:56:46
Distance:  23 miles
Average Speed:  11.8 mph
Max Speed:  39.5 mph

Here is a link to more interesting reading on this unique subject:  Investigations at the Flint Ridge State Memorial, Ohio, 1987-1988 By Richard W. Yerkes, Ohio State University

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ride to the LBS

I needed to pick up a few things from my local bike shop.  Some 700c tubes, a patchkit, a couple air cartridges, some chain lube, a new pair of gloves and two Camelbak insulated water bottles.  Let me tell you if you spend any money on bike gear this year pick up a couple of these insulated bottles.  They keep your liquid cool and the nozzle is one of the best I've ever sipped from. 

Now a ride to the bike shop seems simple enough but my local shop which really isn't all that local is exactly 15.1 miles from my driveway so traveling there by bicycle makes for a good workout.  With a new set of slicks on the recumbent I was looking forward to the trip.  The shop is located in Lexington, Ohio so riding round trip there is basically completing the Clear Fork Loop, one of my favorite routes.

LBS Ride

Bike:  HP Velotechnik Steet Machine
Ride Time:  2:23:07
Distance:  32.42 miles
Average Speed:  13.5 mph
Max Speed:  46.7 mph


When I'm on a road ride in the area this is a cool place I like to stop for a break.  The west trail head of the Stoller Road Trail.

Friday, July 27, 2012

New Tire Shakedown

48 hours ago I placed on order a set of Schwalbe Kojak folders and today after work I found the little brown box waiting for me. Thanks Hostel Shoppe!  After years of bike riding I've found one of my favorite things is trying out new tires.  The choices of tires available today is amazing as is how different rubber can effect everything from handling and braking to overall speed.

Today I draw my Primo Comet experiment to a close. Earlier in the year I reinstalled the stock Primo Comets that came stock on my recumbent bike.  After 265.73 miles I've come to the conclusion that I really don't like the Comets.  Not that they are bad tires they just don't suit my style of riding.  If I rode mainly gravel roads or hard packed clay the Comets inflated to about 35 psi would be ideal.  I spent some time riding the fat 1.5 inch tires and did enjoy a little non-technical dirt.  I found that the HP Street Machine actually rides very well off road so I don't consider the fat tire experiment a failure at all.  My average speed of all rides combined on the Comets was 11.4 mph.  I could live with that if I was doing a long tour of 60 or 80 mile days on rough or non-existent pavement but I don't do crazy stuff like that.  I do like to poke along and take pictures but most of the time I'm pushing my own envelope so I need a faster tire.  Even pumped up to their maximum 100 psi the Comets still felt sluggish and slow to get up to speed.

I split the difference width-wise between the tires I have used on the bike so far and went with the 1.35" Schwalbe Kojak.  Once I had the new slicks mounted up and got out on the road I immediately noticed a big difference in acceleration and It seemed that I could top out my cruising speed just a little faster than with the previous tires.  I set the pressure at 80 pounds a bit short of the rated 95 psi.  The feel of the tires was responsive but not harsh at all.  Not quite the huge edge softening plushness of the 1.5 inchers but not as bad as I was expecting.  When I hit the rail trail I'll go ahead and increase the pressure to 95psi and I'll be in business.

I put the first 12 miles on the new tires this evening and my first impression is: Nice! I can't wait to roll some more miles onto these.    


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Traditional Archery!

Today Wyatt and I took advantage of a beautiful sunny summer day to practice our archery skills.  Archery is an amazing sport that combines elements of extreme mental discipline, physical dexterity and strength.  There is something magical about watching the gentle arch of an arrow in flight and hearing the satisfying thunk of a well placed shot hitting home.

  I got serious about archery in the 1990's with the help of my brother-in-law who is an accomplished bow hunter and Native American expert.  I've shot bows and arrows all my life starting with the typical stick and string attempts while a boy.  As a older kid my dad got me a fiberglass recurve which I continued to use to advance my competency and simply have a lot of fun.  As an adult with an eye towards bow hunting I started off with a "wheel bow" or compound, the modern culmination of thousands of years of archery evolution.  

In time thanks in no small part to my love of history I soon discovered the incredible heritage that the bow and arrow has provided to mankind.  I jumped headlong into the world of traditional archery exploring the more organic experience of shooting a wood bow and arrow shafts and drifting away from the machine like and in my mind over commercialization of  the compound bow.  I learned to shoot recurves and longbows in the traditional manner through repetition. Aiming instinctively without the aid of a rack of sight pins much like a pitcher learns to throw a baseball into the box.

  I use a technique called "gap shooting".  When at full draw I orient the tip of the arrow to a position just below and to the right of my desired point of impact before I let it fly.  Over time and with lots of practice this automatic mental targeting system sharpens and even compensating the angle of the bow arm for elevation when shooting at unknown distances becomes second nature and not a conscious part of the mechanics of shooting. 

In the above photograph Wyatt captured the arrow in flight just an instant after release.  When an arrow is released the energy transferred from the limbs causes the shaft to flex and slightly bow around the handle as it leaves the string and begins it's trajectory.  This oscillation continues for a few cycles and the bend of the arrow is plainly visible in the shot. 

As much fun as I have with the hobby myself the real treat has been introducing this discipline to my son.  This summer he has grown strong enough to draw his mom's recurve bow which has greatly increased his range and precision.  The bow is a 25# recurve target bow and fits him perfect.

Range is about 20 yards.

Today was Wyatt's first time out with the recurve and he was enjoying himself immensely.  The performance was a huge step up from his basic "toy" kid's bow.  The arrows I handmade from Red Cedar shafts and natural feathers glued with the help of a fletching jig.

About ten years ago I reached the point where I had to try my hand at bow making.  After all I already had a woodworking shop and I always jump at the chance to use my skills from one hobby to augment another.  After much research I settled on a design and wood type to use.  The bow I'm shooting in this post is one I made in 2004 and is a Hickory backed Osage Orange flat bow.  The flat bow is a style of traditional long bow that was used by the woodland peoples who inhabited the Ohio valley for thousands of years.  Osage Orange, sometimes known as hedge-apple or boise d'arc from the Louisiana French literal translation "bow wood" is in my opinion the ultimate material for traditional bow making.  Besides possessing superior elasticity and the ability to remain flexible even in extreme cold temperatures this very dense and hard wood was first used for bows by Native Americans.  While my German ancestors from the distant past probably shot bows of European Yew I consider myself an American and I wanted to shoot the same wood as those who once roamed the forest and field of my homeland. 

This flatbow is 64 inches long and at my draw length of 26" the pull is about 47 pounds. I've chronographed the speed of a 525 grain arrow shot from the bow at an average of 180 feet per second.  Adequate energy to bring down any game in North America with a well placed shot.

This is the third bow I have ever made and the second from Osage.  I have been so happy with the performance of this one over the past eight years I've not felt the need to make another.  A curious trait of Osage Orange worth mentioning is the photo-sensitive nature of the species.  When first cut the color of the exposed wood is a bright lemon yellow.  As time passes the yellow mellows gradually to the  golden honey shades shown in the photos.  This slow color change adds a unique facet to the enjoyment of owning an Osage bow.

The hickory backing is glued to the front of the limbs to reinforce the wood fibers and prevent a catastrophic failure of the Osage limb.  Backing a bow was a technique also used by native Americans except instead of modern two-part epoxy and precision machined laminations the Indians used natural materials such as sinew and hide glue.

The arrow rest is covered with a small patch of Alaskan seal skin a durable yet slippery surface for the arrow shaft to touch before and during it's launch.  My arrows I also custom made from Sitka Spruce with a dark stain for camouflage, solid brass field points and banana cut barred feathers.

In closing I have to say this was a great father and son outing and something I have wanted to share in my blog pages for quite a while.  There is something special about archery that has been ingrained into the human psyche over the millennia.  The proof of this I think is watching the wonder and enthusiasm displayed by a youngster when given the opportunity to experience and develop one of mankind's oldest skills.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Swartz Bridge Loop

I like to think of my bike as a time machine. Not in the literal sense but because I like to ride my bike to visit historic sites around Ohio it often feels as if it is transporting me back in time.  Saturday morning I chose a loop again towards the west to visit a very old and interesting structure.

Once past a small set of rolling hills things flatten out to the west.  There is not a lot to see out here mainly just agriculture -corn, soybeans, wheat and repeat.  Pedaling across these vast glacial plains it seems like I'm hardly moving as nothing goes by very fast except the road under my wheels.

A great feature of the recumbent seat besides the fact that it's a comfortable chair for all day riding is that the seat back is a good place to hang gear.  I have two seat back bags, a large and a small.  These bags are perfect for day tours.  They do not require a rack for mounting and easily carrying all the gear I may need.  The bag in the photograph above is the small size and it sees the most use on my bike.  Inside I keep two spare tubes, a 26" and a 20", a mini pump, tools, an extra bottle of energy drink and a bag of snacks.  In cooler weather there is still room for jacket, hats and gloves.

At the top of the bag is a grab handle where I attach my Road ID and a couple other things I might need in a hurry.  The square object is my camera case and I can easily reach back and grab it, shoot a photo and replace the camera all one handed while under way.  At the far right is a can of pepper spray for bad dogs who don't stay in their yards.

It took me  a couple hours to cross my county and into the next before my goal came into view.  The Swartz Covered Bridge was built in 1878 by Moses Weymouth and is located in eastern Wyandot County, Ohio.  The design is a Covered Howe Through Truss and spans 94.2 feet across the Sandusky River.

Although the design is considered obsolete the fact that the bridge is still standing 133 years after it's construction is testament to the craftsmanship and common sense design of times past.  I went down below to take a picture of the underside of the structure which is amazingly all built of wood.

In this photo the original sandstone foundation blocks can be seen.  On the opposite bank which is on the outside bow of the river the bridge abutment is reinforced with concrete to combat erosion.

I rested and had a snack in the shade of the north end of the bridge and snapped this picture looking east upriver.  I find it very interesting to sit and contemplate all the different people who may have come and gone across this bridge hidden away in the quiet countryside.  For the first few decades of it's existence the only traffic to cross the span was horse drawn carriages and wagons, pedestrians and maybe an occasional bicycle.

The ride home was uneventful.  The forecast called for a 50/50 chance of thunderstorms and while it did cloud up and look threatening a couple times it never did rain and the cloud cover provided welcome relief from a hot afternoon sun.

Railroad tracks in this flat country always provide an interesting point of view.

I passed this wood carving of a buffalo and couldn't continue on without a picture.  Little things like this is why I love bicycling so much.  Exploring out of the way places and finding unique stuff is a great way to spend an afternoon and one of my favorite activities.

Swartz Bridge Loop

Bike:  HP Velotechnik Street Machine
Distance:  50.16 miles
Ride Time:  3:40:36
Average Speed:  13.6 mph
Max Speed:  23.3 mph


Thursday, July 12, 2012

30 Mile Time Trial

I got a new battery for my cycle-computer and replaced the rear tube that suffered the blow-out the other day on my Motobecane road bike.  When I hit that stone on the bike trail it actually cut holes in the side walls of the tire so I replaced them with an older set of 700 X 25mm Bontragers I had laying around.  They might not be quite as fast as the 23mm tires I was using but they sure ride better.

As my work day progressed I formulated a plan to take off heading west from town on a road that runs relatively straight with few stops for about 17 miles.  I did intend to push for time and once I got underway I felt good and noticed the wind was coming from the south.  The perfect setup for an out and back route keeping the wind always at my side and removing the huge mental burden that a steady headwind presents.

The route takes me past an old one-room school house that has been pictured in these blog pages before.  As I neared the familiar structure I noticed something wasn't quite right.  As I got closer I saw with dismay that the recent wind storm had blown out the east wall of the school.  Without structural support the roof is starting to sag. 

A portion of the west wall was already missing and since the high winds blew in from the west I imagine the pressure build up was incredible inside the room and the old masonry just couldn't take it anymore.  The picture below shows the three tall window frames laid out perfect and some of the bricks are still oriented just as they were in the wall.  Sadly I think the history of this 100+ year old schoolhouse will soon be coming to a close.

I stopped just long enough to take a few pictures and then hammered on down the road.  I took the shot below on the 15 mile leg out.  At one point I nudged my average up to 17.8 mph but on the return my speed dropped to the lower 17's as the dull ache crept into my muscles.  After about mile 23 I was really starting to suffer but it's the good kind of hurt.  I kept my speed up and the miles ticked by which motivated me to keep the pressure on and I ended up rolling into the driveway much sooner than I had anticipated. 

I've mentioned it before in the blog that I believe putting in all those miles on the heavy recumbent really makes a difference when I get on the road bike.  I checked back through my records and the only time I was faster for a 30 mile all out effort was back in 2004 when I logged a time of 1:41:05 covering 30.4 miles at an average speed of 18.05 mph on my old Lemond aluminum frame.  Needless to say I'm stoked!  Even though I didn't set a new record I'm happy to be coming close to one I set eight years ago.
30 Mile Time Trial
Bike:  Motobecane Le Champion Team
Distance:  30 Miles
Ride Time:  1:43:45
Average Speed:  17.2 mph
Max Speed:  28.2 mph

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Clear Fork Loop 3

Recumbent Seat's View

With a couple days recovery from the Flat Fourth Fiasco I found myself back in the saddle or should I say recumbent seat.  I woke up early with the hopes of beating the heat and getting a nice road ride in the log but it was already 90 degrees when I left the driveway.  Even though it was sweltering I felt like hills so I pointed my cranks to the east and started off on one of my favorite local circuits -The Clear Fork Loop.

Since I've made this ride sort of an annual feature on the blog I chose today for this years installment. That's the reason for the "3" in the title.  After leaving the outskirts of  town I must cross a few miles of flat lands before the hills come into view.  This leg of the journey was uneventful until these two characters came out to the road to greet me.  I saw right away I couldn't outrun them so I stopped and made friends.  The big guy was laid back and friendly but little blackie had an attitude.  The little ones always do.     

Here's a rare self portrait of me at the base of Orweiler Hill.  Soon I would be cranking up that hill in first gear moving at a whopping 3 mph.  To climb on a recumbent requires a triple crank with a granny gear.  Contrary to what you might have heard climbing on a recumbent is very possible.  Smart gearing choices and in my opinion a hard shell seat to push against are the recipe for success.  I love climbing and have never had a problem on the bent.

il Tricolore

As I travelled along the route I watched the temperature indicator on my cycle-computer climb from 90 to 00.  It only has two digits in the readout so it was not able to read the full 100.  I saw it fluctuate as high as 07 and it sure felt like it.  One of the bicycle's great attributes is it's ability to keep it's rider cool as a side effect of locomotion.  No matter what the air temperature is if I keep moving I generally feel pretty good.  Stopping or slow climbs are another story altogether.

I noticed a little colorful symbol painted on the road as I climbed up out of the valley to the south.  It looked like an Italian flag and probably was as I was just around the corner from the famous Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.
A few revolutions further up the road I spotted this rusty horse shoe.  I'm not a superstitious guy but with my recent run of bad luck you can be sure I picked up this talisman.

As soon as I got home I tacked up the horseshoe above my workbench.  The open end goes at the top -to catch the good luck.  The shoe still had a few square nails so I straightened them out and reused them.

Clear Fork Loop
Distance:  28.16 miles
Ride Time:  2:20:00
Average Speed:  12.0 mph
Max Speed:  32.7 mph

More great photos from previous rides on this loop: