November 15, 2018
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Bikes & Hikes

For the full feature see page 36 in the May/June issue of Evansville Living.

A pair of boots and a pair of wheels — that’s all we need to connect with nature and ourselves. The natural landscape in Southwestern Indiana is a postmarked invitation to hit the trail. Thousands of years ago, when the Ice Age glaciers flattened the northern and central parts of the state, the southern region was left with hilly panoramas covered in beautiful forests of trees and wilderness. The melted glacier water created the narrow ridges, steep slopes, deep gullies, and natural landscapes that quicken the pulse of passionate hikers and bicyclists.

In addition to these natural wonders, the region has many public land opportunities and unique natural resource areas, which were formerly strip-mined. Today, these reforestation and revegetation projects offer open land with little traffic for outdoor enthusiasts to play. Using this handbook as a guide and resource for your next adventure, it’s time to start a revolution.

What are you waiting for?

Spinning Wheels

Hit the roads and see Southern Indiana via bicycle
By Roger McBain • Photos Provided by Roger McBain

After a half-century pedaling an assortment of bicycles in a half-dozen states, I still love spinning my wheels.

Fortunately, the Southern Indiana area offers lots of ways to do that.

You can pedal the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage, the Newburgh Rivertown Trail or the University of Southern Indiana-Burdette Park Trail.

You can saddle up a mountain bike to pump the dirt trails at Angel Mounds State Historic Site, Harmonie State Park, or Scales Lake.

Or you can take it inside, working up a sweat in one of the stationary bicycling classes at the YMCA and area fitness clubs.

I’ve enjoyed most of those options. If you really want to make bicycling a moving, freewheeling affair, however, I recommend hitting the roads — the county roads.

I love that this part of Indiana has so many that can be ridden so many ways. 

It’s impossible to adequately describe the exhilaration, the liberation, and the intense sense of feeling alive you can get breezing through flats, pumping up hills, crouching into flying descents, and meandering past rolling fields, shady woods, and occasional creeks and rivers.   

If you like the company of experienced riders, consider joining the weekly rides organized by the Evansville Bicycle Club or the Tour d’Eville. Both groups post information about rides on Facebook or on their websites.

If you like a lot more company, try one of the big, annual bike events that bring hundreds of riders to our area. They include the Harmonie Hundred, recently staged in New Harmony, Indiana, and the Evansville Bicycle Club’s Great Pumpkin Metric, coming up in the fall.

Group options bring the safety of numbers, the counsel and camaraderie of other riders, and, in some cases, food stops and support drivers. 

And they offer the comfort of preplanned routes that you can follow with the rest of the riders.

Recreational biking doesn’t require a parade, however. You can strike out on your own, borrowing directions from a club ride or grabbing a map, doing a bit of recon in the car, perhaps, and sketching out your own trips.

That’s what I’ve done over the last couple decades. I’ve pedaled weekend breakfast rides alone or with a friend or two. We’ve met at one another’s homes and cycled to breakfast at diners in Evansville, Poseyville, Mount Vernon, New Harmony, and Fort Branch, Indiana.

Roger McBain rides all over the Tri-State. This map shows the routes McBain has ridden for the past 29 years, his 150-mile rides he used to do with a friend, and the green lines marking the new New Harmony, Mount Vernon, and University Parkway bypasses that were created after the map came out.

Our round-trip rides have ranged from 35 to 55 miles, and, including time for breakfast and conversation, have taken from three to four hours. I’ve taken it further with another friend, pedaling weekend bike tours over the past 20 years. 

We started with organized rides, including the Hilly Hundred, an annual two-day ride that used to start in Bloomington, Indiana, and the TRIRI, a week-long Touring Ride in Rural Indiana, covering some 550 miles over a week, staying in Indiana state parks each night.

About 10 years ago or so, however, we planned our own 150-mile tour from my house in Posey County to his weekend cabin at the top of a steep hill near Borden, Indiana. 

Using a regional bicycling map, I sketched out a prospective route. My wife drove it with me in the car, checking out paving conditions, traffic levels, and locations of stores, diners, and overnight accommodations. 

Our final route took us through Dale and St. Meinrad, Indiana, past the Ohio River overlook at Leavenworth. We came off the saddle to climb Wyandotte Cave Road, easing onto back roads that took us into Milltown, Indiana, on the Blue River, where we spent our second night in a bed-and-breakfast. The final day wound us through paved back roads to my friend’s cabin.

We repeated the trip several years, getting used to hauling our gear in saddlebags and handlebar bags, traveling about 50 miles a day.

Later this year, as a belated celebration of a significant birthday and my recent retirement from daily journalism, I hope to up the ante. 

I have begun planning a solo bicycle tour down the West Coast, from the top of Washington down to the bottom of California.

If all goes well, I figure it should take five to six weeks, with a few days allowed for visiting friends along the way. 

It would be the most ambitious touring I’ve ever attempted, hauling clothing, gear, a sleeping bag, and a light tent I’d set up in campgrounds along the way. 

After all the cycling I’ve done in Indiana, however — the weekday spinning classes at the YMCA, the weekend breakfast rides, and the three-day tours — I think I’ll be ready for it.

Safety First

Bicycling and hiking safety tips
By Trista Lutgring

Seeking adventure can be fun, but it also has its dangers. When you’re out and about hiking and biking through the Tri-State, be sure to remember these safety tips.

1. Wear appropriate gear — reflective clothing for bikers and proper hiking boots for hikers are a few recommendations.

2. Wear a safety helmet. Make sure that it fits properly and is fastened before you start your ride.

3. Use hand signals to indicate turns and stops during a ride. See page 40 for proper hand signals you should know.

4. Take a cell phone and identification in case of an emergency.

5. Make sure to pack sunscreen and a small, basic first aid kit.

6. Take water and snacks. Make sure you are well hydrated before, during, and after your hike or ride.

7. Pack a light for evening/night visibility.

8. Plan your route ahead of time. Use current maps and weather reports when organizing your trek.

9. Use the buddy system and travel in pairs.

10. Tell a friend or family member where you are going and when you plan to return.

11. Stay on the trail. If you are in a wooded area, this reduces the chance of damaging natural resources and your exposure to poison oak, snakes, ticks, and more.

12. Be aware of your surroundings. Whether traveling through a park in the city or in the woods, remember to make sure you know what is happening around you.

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