2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 9 COMPLETED: Independence OH to Cleveland OH (16 Miles)

It was wonderful to have Stephanie and Maura meet me last night.  We had a room at the Embassy Suites in Independence OH.  Rockside Road goes right from the bike path trailhead to the side road where the hotel is located.  There is a sidewalk on the south side of Rockside Rd. that you can take the whole way up.

We had a nice dinner and turned in for the evening.  I got up early in the morning so I could complete my ride and give us plenty of time to drive home.

Today’s trip was very short – only sixteen miles.  I could have easily put these miles in yesterday and finished up yesterday, but I wanted to arrive in Cleveland during the quieter traffic hours of the weekend instead of during rush hour on Friday.

I packed up my things and loaded the bike back up.  I felt the strong need to carry all of my things with me instead of just dumping them in the car, so I carried everything that I brought on the trip with me as I completed the journey.  I guess it felt to me like I needed to finish the whole trip self-supported.  So my panniers went with me.

Leaving the hotel parking lot, I could make out downtown looking north.  The construction porta-potty is just a nice backdrop, not the subject of my picture…  You can see the skyline off in the distance.

The air felt absolutely amazing this morning.  It was cool and crisp.  I needed a light jacket for the first few miles.  A very slight breeze was blowing.  It felt and smelled like fall is coming.  What a stark contrast to a week ago where the sun was beating down upon me with high in the mid 90s.  I love this kind of weather.

After riding about a mile east on Rockside Road using the sidewalk, I rejoined the canal path heading north towards the city.  The path winds through some very nice parks and the outskirts of downtown Cleveland.  As you get closer to downtown the heavy industrial areas emerge.

The towpath ends unceremoniously at Harvard road.  The last time I was here, there was a very small trailhead.  It was under reconstruction when I arrived yesterday and the signage was gone.  I assume they’ll bring it back when the trailhead is finished.  Here’s about where the sign used to be:

I had been warned that the path through Cleveland was disrupted with construction, but I did not have any trouble at all.  I’ll have a brief description and map of my route at the end of the blog today.

Steelyard Commons is a shopping center built on the site of a former steel mill. This is a rail car that was used to haul molten steel to different parts of the manufacturing process.  The tank of the car is lined with bricks to provide insulation for the molten steel.

Leaving the Steelyard Commons I followed the towpath up the hill west for a block to the 14th street roundabout.  From there I took 14th street northbound with only a small side trip.

The house from “A Christmas Story” is very close to the route. It wasn’t open yet so I just took grabbed a picture and resumed my route. The house is only a block or two out of the way off of 14th street, so why not?

Returning to 14th street, I continued north all the way towards downtown.

14th street ends at Abbey Avenue.  One of the Cleveland script signs is in a small park at this intersection, so that’s a good landmark and seemed like a great place to take a picture overlooking downtown.  There are several of these script signs around the city and they all provide a good photo opportunity.  I found two of them on my route.

About 100 yards east of here, there is a new bike trail that takes you along the edge of downtown and westward.  When you get to the end of the trail, it is an easy ride west on Franklin Road and then Franklin Avenue to get to 65th street.

Taking 65th street north to the end puts you at the lakefront.  A nice bike path winds through Edgewater park.  The path goes along the lakefront to the beach area.  I decided that this is where I would dip my tires into Lake Erie!  To my very pleasant surprise, Stephanie and Maura were waiting for me at the beach and caught a picture of me.

Here I am at Lake Erie!  It’s official – I’ve crossed the state, dipping my tires in both the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Lake Erie in Cleveland.

I wanted to finish at the Cleveland sign in Edgewater Park.  We didn’t see it anywhere so I asked and some people who pointed me up a path west of the beach.  I jumped on the bike and rode up to the top of the path.  Here it is… the end of the journey!

I was very pleased to have both Mr. Hamster, the international traveler, and Ms. Bug, the new member of my riding team, along for the last 16 miles.

Today was a fantastic end to a wonderful journey.  The short trip today felt a bit like a victory lap since it was such an easy ride.  It was definitely fun and Cleveland has some nice bike paths!

After getting the last pictures at Lake Erie, we loaded up my bike and I changed into regular clothes.  We drove home at a very nice leisurely pace, stopping by Canal Fulton for lunch and Massillon to show the church and shrine to Stephanie and Maura.  After a few more stops, we made it home late in the evening.

This morning felt very strange.  I felt like I was supposed to be out riding.  It feels odd not to be heading somewhere on the bike.  I think it will take a couple of days to get back into the normal rhythm of life.

 

My grand total milage for the trip is exactly 450.00 miles.  I found it amazing that it was exactly 450 miles according to my GPS logs.  I will have one more blog post in a few days with some lessons learned, a few thoughts on the trip, and a gear review of my bike and other equipment.

Thank you to all who have sent me words of encouragement along the way.  It has been great to share my trip with you.  Thank you especially to those who gave me a place to sleep on my trip.  I appreciate you kindness.

Below is a description of my path through downtown Cleveland if you’re reading and preparing for your own OH2ERIE trip.

St. Dymphna, Pray for us!

Peace.

 

Navigating to Lake Erie / Edgewater Park from the Towpath:

This is my GPS track from my ride yesterday.

  1. When completing the towpath, exit onto Harvard Road.  Turn Left (W).
  2. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right on the path which parallels Jennings Road (N).  This path will veer to the right and go behind Steelyard Commons.
  3. Continue behind Steelyard Commons to where the path goes under Quigley Ave. It will curve to the right and back westbound as you parallel Quigley Ave.
  4. Quigley Ave ends at 14th street.  Turn right (N) onto 14th street.
  5. Travel north on 14th street until it ends.  Near the end it will veer to the left under interstate 90 / 71.  14th street will end at Abbey Avenue.
  6. At the Abbey Ave / 14th intersection is one of the “Cleveland Signs”.  On the north side of Abbey Ave, go right (east) about 100 yards to pick up a the bike path.  It will circle back to the left and take you along the river.
  7. At the end of the bike path, turn left (S) onto Columbus Road and take an immediate right onto Franklin Avenue.
  8. Take Franklin Avenue to the end, and turn left (S) onto 25th street for one block.
  9. Turn Right (west) onto Franklin Blvd.
  10. Turn Right (North) onto W65th Street.  This will take you to Edgewater Park
  11. Follow the bike path into the park.  The trail will eventually lead you to the beach.
  12. If you want to go to the Cleveland sign, continue past the beach up the hill to the west.  The sign will be at the west end of Upper Edgewater park.

Cleveland Road Route

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 8: Massillon OH to Independence OH (60 miles)

I decided that I would take a bit later start today so that I could attend 8:15 mass before leaving. Father asked me to assist at mass. He made me feel so at home that I could not say no.

This is Paula. She works at the parish and was so helpful to me and gave me a lot of the background about the shrine.

This is Father Ed. I so enjoyed my time with him. He is a wonderful and devoted pastor. I wish I lived closer – I would enjoy spending more time with him.

One last picture before leaving St. Mary’s. Let me introduce this year’s ride mascot: Ms. Bug. My daughter has a knack for crocheting wonderful little critters. Ms. Bug has been with me the whole trip and reminds me of home.

I finally got on the road, or more accurately the trail, about 9:15. I looked back and could still see St. Mary’s as I rode away to the north. I’m sure I’ll be back.

The weather today was nearly perfect. Temperatures were in the mid 60s and lower 70s through my whole day. Skies were blue and clouds were puffy. But unfortunately, I dealt with strong headwinds the entire day.

I saw several deer today. This one was so tame that she just watched me a bit and ate. She did not scare off until I put my phone back away.

From Massillon all the way to the south side of Cleveland I will be riding on the Ohio and Erie Canal path. This path is mostly crushed limestone, with a few paved sections. It iss quite a bit slower to ride on than the pavement of the last few days.

The canal path varies in scenery a bit, but most of my day looked like this:

I arrived in Canal Fulton and went in to town to look around.

This is Mike. As I was passing through one of the trailhead parking lots, he called over to ask me about where I was from and heading to. We talked for a few minutes before I went on.

Mike warned me that there was some construction on the path north of here. He was right. About 2 miles up, the trail was blocked. No detour posted. It looked like work was stopped for lunch, so I went under the caution tape and walked my bike. A worker emerged from his equipment and told me “Path Closed!” I asked if there was a detour. He said no. “Path Closed means Path Closed!” I asked nicely if he could recommend an alternate route and he just sternly said “no”. I decided to continue walking. The construction was less than 100 yards long and then I continued on my way. I usually try to follow the rules but I sized up the situation and did not see any good alternatives.

The canal path passes through some very beautiful wetlands as it makes its way north.

I really needed food and decided that I would look for a good meal when I reached Akron.

Akron was an absolute complete and total mess on Main Street. They have the entire length of Main Street torn up for construction. I was able to navigate the sidewalks for a while then had to find my own way.

I spotted this deli and decided it was worth a look. This picture was after lunch. Before lunch, the line was out the door. I decided that was a good sign! I really enjoy corned beef sandwiches, and theirs was definitely yummy.

Navigating my way out of Akron was tricky but not terrible. The main OTET route was messed up by the construction. I mostly navigated by feel and eventually found my way out of town.

On the north side of Akron, there is a lengthy detour that has been in place for years. It goes around some sort of major construction project. It has some climbing, surface streets, and then descent back down. The climbs are a little steep, but not too bad.

A few miles later the canal enters into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

This wetlands section is really neat. It is a huge area that was created when beavers dammed up a local waterway which then flooded this area. There is a long boardwalk that goes right down the middle of it to allow the canal path to continue through it.

As I moved on, I was treated to more beautiful scenery.

In the Cuyahoga park, the parks service has a few educational centers where you can learn about the canal, history, and ecology of the park.

I eventually arrived at my stopping point for the day about fifteen miles south of Cleveland. Tomorrow I will finish my bike trek by going to Edgewater Park at the Lake Erie beach in downtown. The canal path ends a few miles south of the lakefront, so I will be taking surface streets for the last few miles.

I decided to stop a few miles short of downtown Cleveland because I wanted to avoid the surface streets during Friday rush hour. So instead I will be leaving very early tomorrow to finish up early Saturday morning. Stephanie and Maura will then meet me at the park to pick me up and we’ll drive back to Lexington.

Overall, today was a great day. I am looking forward to being home and sleeping in my own bed tomorrow!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 7: Danville OH to Massillon OH (65 miles)

I was able to go to bed at 10 and slept until about 6:15 this morning. That’s the longest night of sleep I’ve had on the trip.

The owners at the B&B made me a breakfast sandwich and I supplemented with an energy bar to get me going. I was on the road at just after 7:00. I had a more firm schedule today because I wanted to arrive in Massillon early in the afternoon.

The B&B is on a very nice vineyard and I was greeted with a wonderful view as I left this morning. The temperatures were nicely cool. The air felt like rain might be coming, but the skies were still friendly.

I went back into Danville to pick up the beginning of the Mohican Valley Trail. This trail took me to the Bridge of Dreams – the longest covered bridge in Ohio. I stopped to get a picture and enjoy the view.

The last time I came through here, this is where the trails ended and country roads began. Since then, the route has changed. The Holmes County Trail now picks up right at the end of the Mohican Valley Trail and goes into Glenmont. That is a huge improvement – the prior route took me over some very aggressive hills. This new route is much nicer.

The Mohican Valley Trail was a very steady low-grade climb for a few miles. Not very challenging but you can feel it. Then it declines at about the same pace for a few miles. I really liked that trail, especially compared to the previous route I took the last time I rode the OTET.

When I arrived in Glenmont, the town was still very quiet, but I did see one person: the guy I rode out of Sunbury with! I yelled over to him and we chatted for a few minutes. It was fun to compare notes. After a very friendly handshake, we said goodbye and I continued on.

From Glenmont it was an easy ride on Route 520 right out to Killbuck. Route 520 does not have a shoulder in this area, but I only counted five cars that passed me in the eight mile stretch. It was a beautiful ride, but I really would have liked a little bit of a shoulder to ride on.

The weather continued to be beautiful, with low misty clouds filling the valley.

A few miles later I was finally in Killbuck. Killbuck is a tiny town and a has fun feel to it. There are not many services for a rider, but you could get water and food if you really needed to. I was still well stocked on water so I slowly cruised my way out of town.

At the north side of town, I picked up the Holmes County Trail for roughly fifteen miles. The trail parallels the Killbuck creek and some beautiful wetlands. For some reason, I did not stop to take any pictures of the wetlands.

When I arrived in Fredericksburg, I saw a couple sitting by the rest area and we chatted for about fifteen minutes. They have done bike touring in the past so we were comparing some fun places to ride and dream trip ideas.

When I checked the weather throughout yesterday evening and again this morning, I was expecting to be hit by rain. A few minutes outside of Fredericksburg, it caught me. The good news is that I had my rain gear ready. At the first sounds of rain, I put on my 9 year old weather-resistant jacket. I was warm and did not want the thickness and non-breathing of my good rubberized coat. That was a huge mistake.

The rain came on hard and furious with the kind of drops that sting the skin when they hit.

This is when I discovered that my 9 year old jacket is no longer water resistant at all. I’ve not had to use it in the rain for a while, and in the mean time it has no water repelling properties left. I was absolutely soaked nearly immediately. I was not cold, so I was not worried about hypothermia. So I just gritted my teeth and rode the five miles up to Fredericksburg with water running out of the sleeves of my coat like a fountain.

I knew there was a pizza place with an awning in Fredericksburg, so I decided to go straight there and get out of the rain while I addressed the situation.

I went in to order a cheese-less pizza and then went back outside while it cooked to get dry clothes on. I went into my stinky clothes from yesterday and swapped my jersey for a dry one. I also pulled out my really good raincoat. Lesson learned: always go with the better raincoat when the sky looks dark.

I shook as much water as I could out of my other clothes and bungeed them to my rack for the rest of today’s ride.

The rain eventually subsided about the time I left. I only had a few sprinkles on me the rest of the day. Leaving Fredericksburg, the OTET takes some rolling hills on country roads for a long stretch of about 16-17 miles. None of the rollers were terribly bad, but I was in my lowest gear at least a couple of times. I think this is probably the most challenging section of the OTET if you don’t like hills.

Once I reached Dalton, I picked up the Sippo Valley Trail. This trail is mostly paved, but has a section of crushed limestone that was definitely slower to ride on. That is a bit of a preview of tomorrow for me – tomorrow will be nearly all on crushed limestone, I think.

I exited the Sippo Valley trail in Massillon. I started to feel a bit of excitement as I came over the bridge into the town. I could see the tops of the bell towers for St. Mary’s church. That is the destination I’ve been working towards all week.

I navigated by sight to reach the church. As I approached from a few blocks away, I was struck by how close I was to my goal, but I was also impressed with the size of this building. I expected a small town church. This is a massive building.

After arriving, I had a few minutes of prayer before knocking on the door of the rectory. I was greeted and shown to my room, where I showered quickly and returned. I was given a very nice tour of the church and the shrine within the church for St. Dymphna.

The history is fascinating, but I’ll keep it brief. For many years the shrine was on the grounds of a hospital that also dealt with those having nervous or mental health issues. A few years ago that chapel needed to be closed, so the chaplain of that chapel brought the relics to this church and had a shrine built within the nave of St. Mary’s. He is the pastor here.

The shrine is very well done – you can not really tell that the shrine is not part of the original design for this magnificent church. It is located on the left side wall about half way down the nave.

St. Mary’s had a terrible fire a few years ago in the right-side bell tower. The fire was contained to the bell tower, but the smoke damage through the church was catastrophic. The church was closed for 18 months for cleaning and reconstructing. The 4,000 pipe organ was completely disassembled, cleaned, and put back together. The inside is quite beautiful now, for sure.

I sat and carefully recollected my trip and slowly offered prayers for each and every person by name on my list.

This statue was commissioned to show St. Dymphna holding out her hand to help you. St. Dymphna was much younger than portrayed in this statue when she died, but it still works! In her face I kept seeing a mixture of joy and sorrow. Very appropriate for her ministry.

After I spent a while in the church, the pastor returned and we became acquainted. His devotion to ministry, his parish, and the ministry of St. Dymphna is so inspiring. I really enjoyed our time together today. We talked for a while, then went to get a simple dinner at Wendy’s.

Laundry done. Blog done. Time to kick back a bit.

So part one of my trip is now complete. But I still have my secondary goal to go: to reach Lake Erie.

Tomorrow I will leave Massillon and head north along the old “Ohio & Erie Canal” towpath. I will most likely stop a little short of Cleveland tomorrow and finish on Saturday morning. I don’t want to go through Cleveland during rush hour on Friday.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace.

St. Dymphna, pray for us!

Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, pray for us!

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 6: Westerville OH to Danville OH (55 miles)

Last night the weather forecast showed rain for early this morning. Between that and a shorter planned ride, I decided to take a more leisurely pace to getting ready.

I had a simple breakfast with Dean and Robin at their home, said goodbye, and headed out. I had to briefly deviate from the OTET route to get to their house, but their home was less than a half mile off of the Alum Creek trail. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. The OTET diverged from the Alum Creek trail, but when I continued on the Alum Creek for a very short ways, it led me to an east-west path that took me right back to the OTET. The Columbus area certainly has a great set of bike routes.

Once I departed from the Maxtown Road area it became much quieter. I took the Genoa Trail which parallels route 3 and ends around the north side of the Hoover Reservoir. The reservoir was pretty to ride next to. A older guy on a nice road bike zipped up next to me and asked where rode from and where I was going. I told him, he gave me a very enthusiastic handshake and wished me well with some encouragement before he zipped away. That made me smile.

The next town north on the route is Galena. I was told of a good restaurant there, but when I got close I decided that I was not hungry enough to eat my second breakfast yet. I knew that Sunbury was only about three miles further. I had eaten at a great diner there last time I came through.

Sunbury is a neat little town. It has a traditional town square, with a brick road. Shops dot the edge of the square.

In the middle of the square is some sort of government building or museum – but I did not take a good look. I did find a statue of Johnny Appleseed there, though. The plaque says he was a frequent visitor to Sunbury.

After making a slow loop around town, I decided that second breakfast was in order. I went to the Sunbury Grill and sat in exactly the same place I did last time. I ordered up a BLT and home fries. It was deeeelicious.

As I was waiting for my food, the music was playing a song by the Eagles. I was reading news on my phone and didn’t realize I was singing along to myself. The waitress payed me a compliment and said I should sing louder. It was funny since I had not realized anyone could even hear me.

Leaving Sunbury I had about ten miles of surface roads before connecting to the next trail. When I turned onto the first main road out of town, there was another cyclist going up the hill about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. At my normal pace, I caught up within the first mile and we struck up a conversation.

He is a plumber from Cincinnati and “got a wild hair to ride to Cleveland.” Without much notice or preparation, he just packed up a tent and a few belongings last week and started riding the OTET north. He’s never ridden farther than about 65 miles from his home. He’s on a single-speed bike which gives him some trouble on the hills. We rode together for the full distance to get to Centerburg – roughly thirteen miles. It was a very comfortable and relaxed pace.

The next town is Centerburg. It claims to be the geographic center of Ohio – hence the name. My riding buddy went off in search of water and food. I decided to try to find the rock in the town that claims to mark the center.

After googling a bit, I still was not exactly sure where to find it, so I rode into town, and rode around and around looking. I found someone and asked. They had no idea. So, I just found a park and there it was!

The park was east of town a bit and turns out to be right on the side of the trail. If I’d gone back to the trail, I’d have found it easily.

The plaque on the rock says it is the center of Ohio. There ya go – it must be official.

The weather today was nothing short of perfect. It was overcast all day, just a few very minor sprinkles, comfortable temperatures, and I even had a bit of a tailwind for most of the day. That never happens.

I had seen this tower last time we came through but we did not stop to investigate. I had since read that it is part of the “Ariel-Foundation Park” built on the former site of a PPG factory. You can climb the 224 steps to the observation deck that is 140 feet above the ground. I decided I had to do it.

I’m not a huge fan of heights, but they usually don’t bother me. I will admit that about half way up, looked down at my feet through the grated steps and started to lose my nerve. But then I thought about how some kids I know with anxiety feel and I decided I would conquer the heights.

For people who deal with anxiety, everyday things that seem safe or easy can cause panic, fear, and real physiological effects. I knew there was no way I would fall through the steps, but it made me a little fearful and my heart raced. That’s the closest I can come to trying to understand what anxiety must be like: a perfectly safe situation felt very unsafe.

So I climbed and climbed to the top. The view of the surrounding area was breathtaking (for real). So after looking around and taking a couple of pictures, I decided to very slowly and deliberately climb back down, holding the handrail.

Overlooking the surrounding area of Mt. Vernon:

I can’t see it very well, but my bike is locked up directly below my feet one hundred and forty feet below.

Safely back on the ground, looking up:

The Heart of Ohio trail continues past the park and just south of Mount Vernon. I was planning on going into Mount Vernon, but the street traffic was feeling very aggressive and I was starting to run behind schedule. So I decided to just move on. Next time, though!

One of the very few signs that shows Cleveland – 148 miles to go!

Leaving Mt. Vernon, I picked up the Kokosing Gap Trail, named after the Kokosing River and the railway that used to run in this area.

The trail runs through the edge of Gambier, the home of Kenyon college. There was a very well restored steam train on the track there:

Right after taking this picture, I must have accidentally dialed my mom. I thought she had dialed me. We had a nice conversation for a few minutes. I think she has been a bit nervous about my solo travel, so it’s good to connect. Love you, mom! Yes, I’m being careful. (And yes, I’m talking to lots of strangers)

My next stop for the night before going to my B&B was to get dinner in Danville. The Kokosing Gap trail ends here. I stopped at “The Hangout” and got myself a steak, peaches, a salad and some fries. It was deliciously bad for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Going back to watching my diet is going to be very disappointing when I get home.

The last stop was the trip up to my AirBnB: Taigon Hills vineyard. I had to do a bit of climbing to get to it. My legs have been doing so much flat riding the last few days that it hurt to get back to the climb.

The owners decided to buy this property sight unseen in a bank foreclosure. They felt called to put in vineyards even though they did not know anything about grapes. This is their fourth season and things are starting to take shape.

They are also breeding Taigon dogs – a very rare breed and decided to name their vineyard after the dogs.

After a very heavy scrubbing, I’m settled in and I am going to bed early tonight!

Tomorrow I have a longer day, with a lot of hills. Weather looks to be rainy all day, too. Every pilgrimage has its challenges – just the way it is supposed to be!

I will arrive in Massillon tomorrow afternoon and complete the first major part of my pilgrimage, arriving at St. Mary’s church where the relic of St. Dymphna resides.

More tomorrow!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 5: Cedarville OH to Westerville OH (67 miles)

Backtracking to yesterday evening… Around 7:30PM, I was feeling hungry again. That’s a good sign since my stomach has been yucky for a few days. I went to the local Subway to get a sandwich for second dinner. I planned on eating just half of the sandwich and carrying the rest tomorrow. That was until I ate the whole thing. It’s good to have my appetite back. The Prilosec worked its magic.

I had planned on leaving the hotel at an early hour today to grab breakfast up the street at the diner. But on the way through the lobby, I ran into a bunch of people who were all riding together.

I sat down and enjoyed some hard boiled eggs, a bagel, and fruit with my new friends. About forty minutes later, I have some new buddies. I’ve been invited to join their GAP ride next year – and I might just take them up on it.

So I was a little later getting started, but was treated to some nice views. Once again, I had the path to myself. I rode east on the Prairie Grass Trail, through South Charleston, all the way to London.

South Charleston has some cool cabooses and is a good place for a photo op with the bike. It is a nice little town – the kind of place that would be fun to retire into.

A few miles later I passed through London. This is a larger town and has lots of places for food and water.

Outside of London, the route continues through the farmland for 13 miles on the Roberts Pass and Camp Chase trails. These two trails take you to the Battelle Darby Creek park.

By this time, I was facing some headwinds and the sun was getting warm.

The Battelle Darby Creek Park is a nice diversion from the trail. A crushed stone path takes you through the wooded park and alongside the creeks. I stopped, took a few snapshots, and enjoyed the cool shade. The respite from the sun was most welcome.

Upon exiting the park, you rejoin the Camp Chase Trail to take you to the outskirts of Columbus on the southwest side. The quiet farms are replaced with suburbs and then with commercial and industrial buildings.

I really needed something cold to drink, so I stopped by Amy’s Donuts. I stumbled across this place last time I rode through here and decided it was worth another stop. I picked up a Minute Made Orangeaid and a sweet tea. Huge calories in those two, plus I needed the liquids. It certainly did not hurt that it was air conditioned while sat to enjoy my drinks.

Getting from the end of the Camp Chase trail into and through Columbus is a bit tricky. I had a GPX file on my bike computer, so I didn’t have any issues at all – I just let the computer tell me where to turn. But as I was going, I kept looking for the Ohio Route 1 signs wherever I was supposed to turn. There were not very many. I think they could do a better job of marking the turns.

A few miles later I was about to go through downtown Columbus. Here’s one of the better views I had before going into the heart of the city.

The OTET takes you right through downtown on some main streets. There were bike lanes and all of the traffic was very friendly. I did not have any issues at all and felt very comfortable.

If you are considering riding through Columbus and you do not like city riding, you might want to time your trip for a Sunday morning to avoid traffic. Not everyone has the same comfort or skills for traffic, so do what works best for you! Just be safe (duh!)

After getting through Columbus, you eventually take the I670 bike route connector up the east side. That will then connect to the Alum Creek Trail. This is a very wonderful trail that stretches many miles from Columbus up to Westerville. It is not a high-speed bike path because it winds in and about the woods. The Alum Creek trail has many neat bridges and hugs the Alum Creek. I stopped a couple of times to go check out the creek itself.

By the time I reached the east side of Columbus I was nearly out of water again. One thing they could use more of on this trail: water fountains. I did finally happen across one and happily drank up. I sat in the shade for a while and enjoyed watching some kids playing in the park.

I had arranged for a place to stay with a brother deacon in Westerville, but he needed to be at work until after 4:00PM. I was far ahead of that schedule, so I took a very slow and leisurely pace up the Alum Creek Trail. I took plenty of pictures and stopped to do my evening prayer on a bench along the way.

When I was finishing up, this guy came riding up on his well-worn machine. He sat down next to me in the shade and we talked for probably over forty five minutes. He lives very frugally out of necessity. This bike has thousands of miles on it and he just gets replacement parts off of abandoned bikes he finds around Columbus.

He rides and camps all over the area and was very knowledgeable about the various trails that I have been on.

It was quite the juxtaposition of having his well-used department store bike next to my new rig. Kinda humbling to see what he makes due with and enjoys. Goes to prove that it isn’t the equipment that makes the experience!

I timed things perfectly to arrive at my destination right about 4:00PM. Just as we pulled my bike into the garage, it started to rain a little bit.

Truthfully, I probably would have enjoyed the rain on me throughout the day. It would have helped break the heat. On the other hand, I have to be careful what I ask for. Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for rain throughout the day. Hopefully it isn’t too bad.

Now it is time for bed. I’m exhausted.

Tomorrow I head to Danville OH on a mix of roads and trails. I am hoping to arrive early in the afternoon and take a leisurely evening to relax and perhaps get caught up on some reading.

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 4: Milford OH to Cedarville OH (63 miles)

I had a spectacular night of sleep last night and woke up ready to go. After morning prayer, I packed up, did my pre-ride ritual of slathering on sunblock and chamois cream. Father took me back to Milford where I was reunited with my bike.

I did not have breakfast before leaving the rectory. I looked on my way through Milford, but no options presented themselves. So I decided to head about 10 miles north to Loveland in search of calories.

The Loveland trailhead is probably the nicest of the trailheads along the Little Miami. There are several restaurants, a park, and shops nearby. Mr. Redlegs is a new addition – I don’t remember seeing him here before.

I made a lap around the block(s) near the trailhead and none of the restaurants in the area seemed to have breakfast options. So I went a little ways off the trail and found a Dunkin’ Donuts. A bagel and egg sandwich hit the spot and gave me a good start for the day.

My legs were still pretty sleepy today. I think the miles have caught up with me a little. I decided for a high cadence spin at lower speed, which seemed to help get things going.

The Little Miami trail is completely off road, traveling through a tree lined canopy for most of its length. I decided this morning that I would do something that I very rarely do: listen to music while I ride. I never do that when I’m out on the road so that I can hear traffic. But today seemed like a good opportunity to break the silence. I was originally going to listen to an audio book, but decided that I would put on some upbeat music to start. I started by listening to “Fake Nudes: Naked”. I downloaded this acoustic album a few weeks ago. I did a little sing-along as I went, not paying any attention to those who I passed by – hopefully they enjoyed my singing.

Heading north from Loveland, you eventually come across the Peterson Cartridge Factory. This is an old munitions plant. The tall tower on the right is an old “shot tower”. Molten lead would be poured down in drips, which would make lead shot as it cooled on the way down. The factory has had a few different purposes over time, but has long-since been abandoned. A major abatement effort over the last few years has cleaned up the industrial contamination. I saw a sign that a new craft brewery is going in someplace on the campus, so they must be trying to give it the next chapter of life.

Most of the rest of my day looked like this:

When I arrived in Morrow, I pulled over to take a short break and use the bathroom. I met these two guys under the picnic shelter there. We talked for a few minutes and their smiles lit up my morning. They were mid ride and shooting for about 30 miles today.

On the way out of town, I grabbed a few pictures of the caboose and the bridge.

Still listening to music. I think about this time I had Siri randomly playing rock from my library and “Free Ride” by Edgar Winters was on. Again, it was a sing along. Loudly. It helps the miles pass, really.

Around 50 miles into today’s ride I arrived at Xenia Station. The Little Miami trail ends here. This is the intersection of several major rail-trails. Xenia is a medium sized town with chain restaurants and stores. My stomach was feeling rocky again, so I looked and found that there was a Walgreens just a mile or so away. I went and found some medicine and then returned to the trail.

My home for tonight is in Cedarville – about 8 more miles away from Xenia. I picked up the Prairie Grass Trail heading north east. About this time, the sun was getting hot and this part of the trail has very little shade.

I picked up the pace a little bit. About this time Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody came on the play list.

This old caboose welcomes you into Cedarville.

I arrived at the Hearthstone Inn right on the trail. I’ve stayed here twice before. It is an independent hotel. The owners are really nice and keep the place very clean.

After a long shower, I went in search of food. Earlier in the day, I was thinking that the one thing that sounded good was spaghetti with sauce. I walked into a small diner down the road and there on the menu was exactly what I wanted! A grilled chicken breast on top for protein, a good salad, and I was a very happy guy.

After dinner, I wandered around town before returning to the hotel.

Overall, a decent day of riding. I’m starting to get some saddle sores, but otherwise feeling pretty good.

Tomorrow I will head through Columbus and stop just north east of the city for the night. The weather looks to be a bit cooler, with a 30% chance of storms mid morning. I’ll keep the raincoat handy!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 3: Falmouth KY through Cincinnati to Milford OH (64 miles)

I anticipated some high temperatures today, so I left Falmouth right as the sun was rising. That meant that there were no open restaurants to get breakfast. I went to a mini-mart the night before to get a few snacks and bought a calorie-dense option to add to my breakfast: Pop Tarts. Not particularly a favorite, but lots of calories packed into two of them. I knew I would have a lot of miles before a real meal. There is *nothing* between Falmouth and Newport, basically.

So this was my breakfast. It turned out to not be enough, but I did survive:

Falmouth is located right on the Licking river. Cincinnati is on the Ohio river. Between the two are some major hills that you have to get over in order to get to Cincy.

So, I knew that I’d be doing some serious climbing in the first 5-7 miles of the ride. Looking at the google map elevation was a bit intimidating. If you look at the elevation chart that my GPS logged, you’ll see that there are a handful of steep climbs. It turns out that the most aggressive percent-grade was within the first mile of today’s ride. It was the first hill I’ve done this season that just wiped me out. I got to the top and had to stop for air for a minute. I was treated to an awesome sunrise at the top for my efforts. The sun shown down on the valleys around me and reflected off of the morning mist. (The grey line on the right axis is the temperature. It hit mid 90s late in my ride)

I had originally intended to go up over a different route, but I realized that I could go right past Our Lady’s Farm on my way if I just stayed on Rt.159. Our Lady’s Farm was built on the sight of a Marian apparition. It is a fantastic area and the views are spectacular. I stopped there for about 30 minutes and walked around. Unfortunately the chapel was locked, but I certainly soaked up the breathtaking views around.

Behind the chapel is a very old thorn tree. I was told that if you look in the upper branches, you can see some branches that have self-woven into a crown of thorns. I was not able to see it – I’ll have to come back when someone can point it out to me.

One of the nice parts of reaching Our Lady’s Farm is that it was a nice waypoint – it was the top of all of my climbing over the hill. It stands at the top of the hills around it, so generally-speaking, I didn’t have any major climbing left. If you look at the stats, the elevation change is not very impressive for a typical 60+ mile ride, but when you take into account that all 2000+ feet was within the first 7 miles, it was a challenging start to the day. At least only the first hill really kicked my tail, the others weren’t quite so bad.

After leaving the farm, I went along the ridge line for several miles before descending down to the Ohio river valley and joining up on Route 8. This view was from up top. Great view … except for the nuke plant cooling tower.

After giving back all of my hard earned elevation on a fast and fun descent, I rode about 25-30 miles NW on Route 8. It is a pretty road, but after 25 miles, I was a ready for a change.

Route 8 has been replaced by AA highway, which parallels it and is much faster speeds. At one point about 20 miles from where I joined it, Route 8 is closed with concrete barriers. Cars can’t get through. I had driven Route 8 early this summer and could still get through at that time. It used to say “local traffic only”, but now it is really closed. I cautiously went around the concrete barriers because the only alternate route was definitely not bike friendly on a high speed highway.

Route 8 is in bad shape for cars in this section. The road is sliding off of the hillside with lots of potholes and ripped open pavement. Shortly after I went around the barriers, I saw another rider coming up behind me and I asked him if we could get through. He said yeah, but there was a mudslide we might have to walk around.

His name was Rex. Rex is a local rider and was out for his Sunday ride. He seemed happy to pace back to my touring speed and kept me good company all the way to Newport – about 8+ miles. We eventually found the mudslide and the trees that had come down with it. We walked our bikes around them without much difficulty and resumed our journey.

It was about this time that my lack of food was catching up to me. Badly. I had been drinking a lot of water, but probably needed even more. I tried to eat an energy bar, but it just did not want to be swallowed. I forced down about half of it and hoped for the best. I nursed myself along and knew I needed real food before I bonked.

Rex peeled off when we arrived in Newport. The temps were getting very hot. The wonderful cool temperatures of my morning climb had been replaced with heat and powerful sunbeams that seemed to be cooking me.

Once in Newport, I found some shade, soaked my head covering in cold water from a fountain, and pulled out my phone. There were not too many choices near by that were open yet, but I did find a fancy-schmancy sandwich and salad place two blocks away. Although I needed to eat, my stomach was very sour feeling, a bit nauseous, and nothing sounded good. I settled on a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado spread and a side of fruit. I slowly ate it, enjoying the air conditioning.

Newport is on the south edge of the Ohio river directly across from downtown Cincinnati. There is a pedestrian bridge called the “Purple People Bridge“. It is a very old bridge that used to carry public trolleys, cars, and pedestrians. In 2001 it was repurposed for just pedestrians and the public voted on the name.

I rode across the Purple People Bridge and stopped for a snapshot as I arrived into Ohio! That’s the Queen City behind me.

Once on the other side, I cruised along the river front until I found a place where I could dip my wheels into the Ohio River. I’m going to do the same when I get to Lake Erie.

There was a neat festival going on in Yeatman’s Cove park along the riverfront, but because it was so hot and I wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided to keep moving and get to my destination.

The first few miles of the #OTET are on River Drive in a bike lane. Sadly, the bike lane was a total disaster today. The city is doing some sort of sewer work and about every 100 yards, the bike lane is coned off so I would have to go out into the traffic lane and back. Generally that went without incident, but there was one doofus in a pickup who insisted that although I signaled and gave him plenty of room, he did not feel like returning the favor. I was able to very easily avoid danger, but … geez man, taking another five seconds to let me over is not really going to make you late. Don’t be a doofus!

My next picture opportunity was in front of Lunken Field. It opened in 1925 and was at one time the largest municipal airport. It is primarily used for private planes now. I love the Art Deco stying of this building. There is a cafe inside that I have really wanted to check out, but the heat was starting to get to me and I still had another fifteen miles to go. I’m going to make it a point to stop by next time if it is open.

Just north of Lunken Field, I deviated from the official Ohio To Erie / Route 1 route to save a couple of miles of hills up into Mariemont and back down to the other side of the Little Miami river. It took me onto a busy street for a mile with a wide shoulder. In hindsight, probably not the best choice. Much too busy and fast for my liking. Next time, I’ll just do the climb.

I finally joined up with the Little Miami bike trail at the very south end. This is a spectacular bike trail. I’ve ridden it end-to-end numerous times. It is about 65 miles long and stretches from near Lunken Field all the way to Xenia Station. Paved, mostly shaded, with neat little towns and rest stops along the way.

I made arrangements earlier to stay with a priest in Milford. My stomach was still a bit rocky and the sun was baking me, so I was glad the end was coming up soon. 10 miles on the Little Miami was just about enough. When I stopped at the Milford trailhead, the bike shop there had free frozen fruit bars. Divine intervention! Calories and coldness all in one. It tasted amazing for a simple Kroger brand treat.

I left my bike at the parish in Milford and Father Cordier picked me up to take me to his other parish – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton about 6 miles away. It is their summer festival. He’s been a delightful host and the festival was fun. Very family oriented rides and games.

After a very thorough shower and a load of laundry, I wandered over to their school cafeteria where their traditional festival dinner was served: home made fried chicken, with fresh off-the-vine tomatoes (YUM!). My stomach was craving real food and it hit the spot. I finished it off with some cherry pie. This parish knows how to feed its people! For $12, it was a great fundraiser and probably the best fried chicken I have had in many years. On the up side, a good meal seems to have greatly improved how my stomach feels.

Here are the stats for today. The Temp says 70 degrees. That was the start. It was in the mid 90s when I finished.

So I have officially finished the Kentucky part of the KY + #OTET route. From here forward, I’m going to be following the Ohio To Erie Trail with a couple of minor detours to do some sight seeing and lodging.

Tomorrow I will be on the Little Miami to Xenia, then NE from Xenia to Cedarville. It is supposed to be a very hot day again tomorrow, and I’m very familiar with this part of the route. So I won’t likely do much sight seeing. Instead, I’ll probably try to get my miles in early to avoid the heat. I might even arrive by lunch time and have time for a much needed resting afternoon.

The last three days of riding have been very hilly, especially the last two. My legs are a bit sore for the first time this entire riding season. The next two days are incredibly flat. That’s sounding nice for a little while. I enjoy a mix of flat and hills, but I’ll take little less climbing for a few miles.

I have received a few more names to pray for and carry to the shrine for St. Dymphna. As a reminder, if you have anyone you’d like me to be actively praying for along the route, please send them along and I’ll keep them anonymous, of course.

More to come tomorrow. I’m going to do some reading and hit the sack early today.

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 2: Paris KY to Falmouth KY (40 miles)

Today was a really great day of riding. Beautiful scenery, my legs did well on the hills, temperatures were comfortable during my ride, and met some really great people along the way.

As usual, I always try to get out at sunrise for two reasons: to beat the heat, and to avoid as much traffic as possible. I was a few minutes late, but that’s about what I did.

I had a really good night’s sleep last night at the rectory and woke up early. Got in my morning prayer, ate a bit, and said goodbye to Father Danny. He gave me a very nice pilgrim’s blessing as I departed.

As I left Paris, this curious little dog was walking proudly down Main Street. He was carrying something in his mouth – I think it was just an empty plastic bottle, but to him it must have been a treasure. It made me laugh.

Nearly all of today’s ride was in rural parts of central / northern Kentucky. If you were to look at a topography map of my route, you’d see that this is a very hilly area. My route would descend down to the various creeks, then ascend up to the top of the ridge line, and then back again. Although it was only about 2,200 feet of climbing, a few of the climbs would take the starch out of the legs. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The views from the upper areas are fantastic. You can overlook beautiful rolling hills and valleys below.

The last time I rode this route from Paris to Falmouth, I was chased by several dogs along the way. This time, I was playfully chased by one yellow lab, stared at by an old dog, and barked at by a couple of small breeds. Lots of fun. No menacing dogs this time, which I really appreciate.

Between Paris and Cynthiana, there are not any major towns, just a few little ones. Ruddles Mill is one of the few. It is named after the mill that was built along the creek in this tiny little town.

A few miles later, I made it to Cynthiana. I didn’t go into town, but rather stayed on the east side to pick up Rt. 62 heading North East towards my next road. I arrived just in time for the setup of the Farmers Market. I struck up a little bit of a conversation with the farmers, topped off my water, got a snack, and then went back on my way. I could not find any way to stay on country roads to get out of Cynthiana, so I rode on Rt 62 for about 5-6 miles before getting onto my first rural road. I had hoped to beat traffic, but Cynthiana clearly wakes up before 9AM on Saturday! Lots of traffic, but every one was well behaved, gave plenty of room, and most of them waved back when I waved.

I have noticed that when I am wearing one of my favorite jerseys, the one with the constitution and American Flag on it, I get more respect from drivers. So I always wear it if I expect to be doing any road riding. I receive a lot of compliments on it, when I’m stopped, too.

It is roughly 25 miles between Cynthiana and Falmouth on the route I laid out. This part of my ride was so beautiful. Most of it was on tiny one-lane roads in the valleys and hilltops. As I said before, lots of climbing, and lots of downhill too. In cycling what goes down, must come up (climbing follows a descent), but the opposite is true too: what goes up, must come down (whee!).

There was a moment that struck me particularly funny today. As I was riding along, I passed a yard that had this sign in it: “electriC feNCe DO NOT TOUCH WILL LIGHT YOUR ASS UP”. The reason it made me laugh is that it surrounds a fenced in pen full of … chihuahuas.

The last 3 miles of my trip are hopefully the only ones that go into the “yellow” on my danger meter for the remainder of my journey. After studying maps quite a bit, I just could not come up with a good way to get to Falmouth without being on Rt 27 for the last 3 miles. I screwed up my courage, checked my garmin’s radar (yeah, it is super cool, I’ll tell you more in my gear review after my journey), and pointed down the road.

I’m happy to report that although the traffic was fast, there wasn’t much of it and I arrived safely in Falmouth.

Roughly 2 miles south of Falmouth on Rt 27 is a place called Punkyville. It was created in 2003 by Charles “Punky” Beckett as a great way to display his many antiques, especially old signs and stuff. He and his wife are the only two residents of Punkyville, and he is the self appointed Mayor.

I stopped in Punkyville for a about 30 minutes and looked around. Each of the buildings has been built sort of like a movie set. You can go into these buildings and see the various antiques on display. Punky’s son (I think) was working on a truck trailer in the parking lot and we talked for a few minutes. These are the hidden gems of small town America! It was a fun way to spend a few minutes.

Sometimes when I am riding, a song will pop into my head and stick there until I find a way to get it out. Some people call that an “ear worm”. After being in Punkyville, my brain recalled the chorus to “Funkytown” and I had to work hard to pry it loose. I bet you have it in your head now too. You’re welcome 🙂

The last two miles took me to downtown Falmouth. I don’t know much about Falmouth, but I was told ahead of time to eat at the Smoking Pig… so far be it from me to turn down BBQ on a recommendation.

Inside, I met a couple who has lived here for many years and we talked throughout lunch. I really love how friendly people are in small towns.

I did not realize that Falmouth experienced a major flood which wiped out much of the business district downtown back in 1997. The licking river, which runs right into town, flooded when the Ohio River flooded through Cincinnati. It was so devastating that the town has not really recovered. The biggest boon to the local economy now is tourism and B&Bs that provide lodging for people who go to the local Ark experience – a recreated version of Noah’s ark a few miles NW of here.

I have arranged for a room here in Falmouth. After a thorough shower, I’m relaxing in my room, recharging my body as well as my electronics. My stomach is a little rocky this afternoon, so I’m going to take it easy and look for something lite for dinner.

Next stop is mass at 4PM at St. Xavier church, which happens to be about 30 feet away from where I’m staying tonight.

Some stats from today:

Miles: 39.90

Climbing: 2,200 feet

Mean dog chases: zero

Friendly dog chases: two

Tomorrow will start with what appears to be a major climb to go up from the Licking River and over the hill that separates it from the Ohio River. I’ll then follow the Ohio River into Newport KY, and cross into Cincinnati, OH. I’m hoping my legs are up for it!

St. Dymphna, pray for all those I carry with me.

Peace!

– Deacon Matt

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 1: Lexington to Paris KY (20 miles)

As I woke up today, I had some butterflies in my stomach. A bit of anticipation about beginning this ride had set in. I think facing the unknown is both exhilarating and stressful for me.

This year’s ride will be not only my first completely solo long distance ride, but also the longest. I hadn’t thought about that until yesterday… I expect to finish around 450 miles when I make it to Cleveland.

My original itinerary for day 1 was going to be 60 miles from my house to Falmouth KY. I did a test ride two weeks ago and it was very doable. However, I decided to break it up into two shorter days since the trip through Northern Kentucky will be very hilly with a couple of steep climbs. Without extra weight, that probably wouldn’t bother me a at all. But carrying an additional 25+ pounds makes a huge difference when climbing hills.

So today I scoped out 20 miles to go from my house up to Paris KY. That will leave about 40 for tomorrow, which feels very comfortable. I can take a nice leisurely pace, stop for some pictures, and still make it to Falmouth by lunch time.

My day began by going to work. I did a half-day, then packed up, set my out of office voicemail, and headed home. Before I left, I was able to say goodbye to one of my daughters who is also working at Lexmark this summer. I said goodbye to my other daughter before I left for work today.

After getting home, I changed into my riding clothes, slathered on the sunblock, and put my panniers on the bike. Stephanie came home to see me off. I wish she were coming with me – but alas, this is a journey I supposed I’m meant to do by myself. We kissed goodbye and prayed for safety for me and for my family while I’m gone.

I didn’t take very many pictures today because I’m in very familiar territory. I routinely ride the roads between my house and Paris. Here are a couple just to give you an idea of the ride today. I am very blessed to live in an area where the cycling is fantastic. Beautiful farms and many low traffic roads.

I rode early enough today to avoid most of the rush hour traffic, and it worked out great. I arrived in Paris and got settled in with Father Danny. I had plenty of time to get cleaned up and attend evening mass.

After mass, we went to Pho for dinner. My Pad Thai was yummy and we enjoyed a good conversation about theology. Apparently, this building is the tallest 3 story building. Who’d have thought – right here in the Bluegrass!

After dinner, we came back to the rectory and I’m getting ready for an early bed time. I want to be up and out at sun-up to avoid any real traffic on the road as I head the last few miles into Falmouth. It will be a very hilly ride tomorrow, so I am expecting to ride slowly. Even so, I should make it to Falmouth by lunchtime.

As I had written about previously, I am making a pilgrimage to a shrine for St. Dymphna in Massillon Ohio, then continuing to Cleveland to finish my route. St. Dymphna is the patron saint of those who suffer from emotional or mental issues. I am carrying about 30 names of people and praying them along the way.

One resource that I recommend reading if you or a loved one is struggling is “the mighty”: themighty.com.

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

– Dcn. Matt

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Prologue

For those of you who know me or just follow my blog, you know that I like to tour by bicycle.

This is my first blog post for this year’s major tour. I’m testing out my blogging software and making sure it’s all working properly. My tour won’t start for a few more days yet.

Since 2010 I have been taking one multi-day bike trip each year. I enjoy the peace of bike touring, seeing new places, and spending time on two wheels. I enjoy the research before the trip, the company of good people that I tour with, and those I meet while I’m riding. I’ve always toured with someone in the past. I’ve been with large groups twice, my daughter once, and my good friend Joe several times. This year is going to be very different.

Unlike years previously, I’m starting very close to home.  In fact, I’m starting from my own driveway.  This year’s bike tour will start at my home in Lexington, KY, riding through the rural roads of Kentucky north to Cincinnati, then across Ohio and ending in Cleveland at the lake front, with a stop in Massillon OH. I expect to log around 450 miles over 7 or 8 days of riding.

The first difference is that I will not be touring with anyone. I am touring by myself, supported by what I carry on my bike. My usual ride buddy, Joe, is not able to come with me. I’ll admit that I have a touch of both nervousness and excitement about solo touring. I’ve always enjoyed having company and also the security of knowing that if something goes wrong, there’s someone who’s got my back. On the other hand, I’m going to have the opportunity to just go wherever my mind and heart wander at my own pace.  I expect to make a few side trips just to check out towns, parks, and perhaps a craft brewery or two.

The second difference is that I have a higher purpose for this tour. This year is not just about getting away with my bike, spending time outdoors, and seeing things. When I was deciding where to ride this year I considered lots of options and consulted my bucket list. In the end I decided to dedicate this particular riding time to a pilgrimage. My first destination is the shrine for St. Dymphna in Massillon, Ohio which is located a bit south of Akron – about 360 miles from my house.  Why?  Over the past year, I’ve been spending time with many people who are suffering from mental illness. St. Dymphna is the patron saint for those with mental challenges. So I will be carrying several names with me and praying for them each day along the way. If you have anyone you’d like me to be praying for or a special intention to carry with me to the shrine, please send it to me.  I will hold all of them in confidence.

After I reach Massillon, I will continue another day’s journey to the lakefront in Cleveland for my final destination.

A few years ago, my friend Joe and I rode south across Ohio along basically the same route from Cleveland to Cincy.   This is great bike route called Ohio Bike Route 1, or better known as “The Ohio To Erie Trail” or #OTET for short. More on that later in future postings.  I’ll be calling this year’s route the “KY + #OTET” tour since I’m using the combination of my own route across Kentucky to Cincinnati, plus the Ohio To Erie Trail from Cincy to Cleveland.

The third difference is that I have a new touring bike this year!  Since 2011, I’ve been touring on a converted Motobecane Cyclocross bike that I bought used.  I had added the appropriate gear to make it viable for touring – racks, fenders, and so on. It has always been a very reliable bike, but not quite right for the purpose. I have lots of wonderful memories and nearly 20,000 miles on that bike!  I performed a complete tear down and rebuild on it two years ago, so it is still in great shape.  However I decided to splurge with all of my “mad money” that I’ve saved over the last several years to buy a new bike that is more appropriate for touring. I purchased a 2018 Specialized Sequoia Expert and have spent the last few weeks outfitting it for touring and doing some test rides.  Although I have about 800 miles on it so far, I’ll save my initial thoughts and post an equipment review after my tour once I see how it holds up to the daily routine of touring.

So, although I’m going to be in some familiar territory, this tour will be different. I am very much looking forward to getting out there.  The closer the date gets, the more excited I am.

My itinerary is roughly the following, but I may make daily decisions to modify the distances and destination:

  • Day 1 (August 16): Home (Lexington) to Paris KY – a very short day just to get started
  • Day 2: to Falmouth or Butler KY (TBD)
  • Day 3: to Milford OH – joining up with the OTET route when I arrive in Cincinnati
  • Day 4: Cedarville OH
  • Day 5: Columbus or Westerville OH
  • Day 6: Danville OH
  • Day 7: Massillon OH
  • Day 8: South side of Cleveland or maybe even all the way to the lake
  • Day 9: Very short day to arrive at the lakefront, meet up with my wife, and then drive home.

I will be starting this adventure on the evening of August 16.

So between now and then, if you have any concerns or prayer requests you’d like me to carry with me on this ride (in confidential care, of course), please send them to me at: matt@coriale.org

Peace!

2018 C&O / Gap Tour : Epilogue

A little over a week ago, we finished up our tour from DC to Washington on the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage.  I’m just adding a few parting thoughts about our adventure.

Some stats:

  • 372.61 Miles, mostly off-road
  • Total Time on the bike (moving time):  32 hours, 15 Minutes, 44 Seconds
  • 155,083 complete pedal rotations, give or take a few. (310,166 left/right pedal steps)
  • Meals with french fries: 2.  Meals with bacon: 3.

 

This is the fifth trip that Joe and I have made together.  Usually we’ve found a new route to try, but this time we decided to go back and do the C&O/GAP again.  We rode it together 3 years ago going from west to east (Pittsburgh to DC).  That time, we did it in 6 days, which didn’t leave much time for sight seeing or side trips.  It also made for three very long days on the C&O.

When we picked our trip for this year, we considered a few different bike routes.  There are some on our bucket list that would take longer to ride, or are farther from home.  We narrowed the list down to trips we could get to/from in a day and complete in a week or less.  Looking back, we both really enjoyed the 2015 trip, but we wanted to see a little more of the history along the C&O.  Given that we were very familiar with the course, it also made the planning easy.  So… we chose to do this course again, but start from the DC end.

Every time we do one of these trips, people ask me some common questions.  Here are some answers:

  1. How much did you train?  I recommend at least 500+ miles of training, with at least 2 or 3 back-to-back 50 mile rides.  Build up slowly if you’re not already a cyclist.  I had about 700 miles under me this season, and I stayed in shape over the winter using a spin bike.  Last year, I had about 1,000 miles before our trip and it really helped.
  2. What do you do if it rains?  We put on raincoats and keep going.  We’ve never been caught in a torrential storm.  I suppose it could happen, and we carry enough clothing to keep us safe in the event that we need to seek temporary shelter.
  3. Why do you like this?  It doesn’t sound fun to me! Some people like to run, camp, hike, lay on a beach, or take a cruise.  I really enjoy seeing the outdoors and I enjoy cycling.  When we are riding, there is a lot of time just to let the mind and spirit unwind.  It is like a rolling retreat for me.
  4. What kind of bike is that you’re riding?  I use a converted cyclocross bike because it is a bit more heavy duty than a road bike.  I strongly suggest 34mm or wider tires and fenders.  When dealing with mud, you’ll want them.  The GAP is more forgiving, but the C&O definitely requires at least some decent tread on the tires.  This is certainly not a trail for a road bike.  You might get away with it on the GAP, but definitely not on the C&O.

 

My thoughts on the overall trip: I enjoyed this trip very much.  We had a great time together, and we saw some neat places.  I enjoy the people we meet the most.  We had a few people we crossed paths with several times throughout the trip.  It was fun to compare notes.

The C&O is not high on my list of good trails.  The surface is very muddy and bumpy.  There are some neat places along the trail: Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and so on.  But it is pretty sparse.  The Potomac is a beautiful complement to the trip since you’re next to it for almost the entire ride.  This year the conditions were very muddy, especially the area between Hancock MD and Cumberland MD.  That 60 miles was really rough.  That made for a very long day with not much to break up the hours in the saddle.

We also saw that the National Parks District had several shutdowns on the C&O just one day after we went through.  The rains caused a lot of damage on the path and washouts.  Back when the C&O was in operation, some flooding is what ultimately brought it to a halt by breaching the canal.  I can see how that would happen.

The GAP was in great shape, though.  We had more rain on that section, but the trail surface drains well.  We didn’t see much of any mud and our equipment stayed relatively clean.  The GAP trail town alliance does a very good job of building up the micro economies in the towns, providing food and shelter along the GAP.

I don’t know if I’ll ride the C&O again any time soon.  If you like trail riding, it should be on your bucket list.  After riding it 3 times now, I can say it doesn’t rate in my top 5 trails I’ve been on by itself.  Combined with the GAP, it does make for a very nice week-long bike trip.

If you’re interested in learning more about either the C&O or GAP, feel free to drop me a note and I’d be happy to talk you about it.  You can also find more information here:

Great Allegheny Passage trail: Web Site
C&O Canal from the National Parks: Web Site

We’re not sure where we’ll go in 2019.  If you have any good suggestions, let me know!

 

Peace,

Deacon Matt

2018 C&O / Gap Tour Day 7: West Newton PA to Pittsburgh – We Made It!

37.9 miles.

Plus a 6 hour drive home.

Today was a much shorter day. We planned it this way so we could drive home to Lexington after we finished up today.

We left the rectory at Holy Family and started our trip out of town from West Newton. It was a little sad to say goodbye because we felt so at home there.

This last part of the trail is one of my favorites. There are lots of neat things to see and there is enough change going on to hold your interest. In 30 miles you go from small towns, past lots of little water falls, some old coal mining history, industrial areas, the outskirts of of the city, a bunch of nice bridges over the rivers and train tracks, and finally down into the heart of Pittsburgh. That’s a lot to see in such a short distance.

Here’s a neat example of one of the water falls. This particular one is full of iron so it runs red.

This one, a little farther down runs white due to some sort of aluminum runoff. I made a very short video so you can see it. In a picture, it looks like a regular waterfall. But in the video you can see that it looks more like a milky color.

We also passed this really neat little cemetery that is where two small railroad towns used to be.

As we pedaled along, we came through McKeesport. About this point, you start to see more of the industrial beginnings of Pittsburgh. Lots of old steel bridges and structures.

The Great Allegheny Passage has some really nice bridges across the river. I’d love to know the history of some of them – I’m sure some were former railroad bridges, and some of them appear to be new structures built specifically for the GAP.

We stopped mid-bridge to take in the view of the Monongahela River with some barges being pushed along.

You can see how overcast it was early this morning. We had chilly temperatures and some light rain for about the first half of the ride.

We reached Homestead, the sight of the famous strike clashes between the union and the steel mill owners.

We were getting hungry – we had just a very light breakfast of pocket food before leaving. We cycled past the Eat ‘n Park. Joe had never seen one before, so we went in and had a good breakfast. When we went in, it was raining. When we came out, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. It was an amazing change in such a short time. The nice weather stuck with us for the rest of our trip today.

The Hot Metal bridge is just on the south-east side of the city. It gets is name from its original purpose: it used to carry molten metal across the Mon river to be processed. Now it is a bridge for cars and a separate deck for bikes & pedestrians. The bridge also gives some great views of downtown.

Here’s the first real view of downtown we were treated to. It was a beautiful day once the rain stopped!

A few more miles took us down on a few city streets and to The Point State Park. This is at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers. It also is the historical location of Fort Pitt.

Inside the park is an iconic fountain that you will often see in pictures of Pittsburgh. There is a large marker in the concrete to show the confluence, as well as the official end of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Although it had been pretty chilly earlier in the day, it was getting a bit warm, especially in the direct sun. The water of the fountain looked very tempting. I’m quite sure the parks people would frown on our behavior, but we decided to take off our shoes and soak our feet in the fountain for a few minutes. It was delightfully cold and felt great. It was nice just to soak up the end of our trip. We talked for a few minutes and just enjoyed the accomplishment.

We did it! 373 miles in 7 days. 4 states + Washington DC.

We still had to get back to our car and drive home. We took a bike path up the eastern side of the Allegheny that took us very close to St. Stanislaus parish and our car. We quickly changed our clothes and did a quick bird bath with some wet wipes before driving home.

It has been a great trip, but I was awfully glad to get home and be greeted by my wife and our two schnauzers. If you ever really want a great greeting committee, it is hard to beat a happy dog – or two.

I’ll follow up with a couple more notes for the trip in my next posting. I’m really looking forward to my own bed tonight!

Peace,

Dcn. Matt

2018 C&O / Gap Tour Day 6: Confluence PA to West Newton PA

54.3 Miles.

Our day started with a quick breakfast of “pocket food” (energy bars and a pop-tart) before leaving the hostel. It wasn’t enough for our day, but we just needed enough to get us to Ohiopyle – about 12 miles away. The Yough river was running pretty high as we crossed the bridges back to the GAP.

The weather today was cool and overcast, with a few gentle sprinkles throughout the day.

We arrived in Ohiopyle about an hour ahead of schedule, which allowed us to get a decent breakfast.

Today we were able to do something that has been on my bucket list since I was 16 years old: I visited Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright house here in Ohiopyle.

Originally we thought we would cycle the 4 miles from the trail out to Fallingwater. But when I called for tickets, the person at the desk said that it was a dangerous ride. Then Joe called a place in Ohiopyle that could give us a ride. They said the same thing. So … we paid for a shuttle out. After seeing it for ourselves during the shuttle, I am very glad we took their advice. The grade was very steep, very long, and had a narrow shoulder.

We arrived a few minutes before our scheduled tour.

Fallingwater was designed by Wright for the Kaufman family – the family who owned the Kaufman department stores in Pittsburgh. Eventually their son donated the property to a conservancy which now cares for the property and maintains it as a museum.

Fallingwater was designed to be Organic Architecture, meaning that it takes its form from its surroundings. This area is full of rocks and water falls. These were the inspirations used for the home. The rocks used for the structure were all quarried from just a few feet away from the structure.

The Kaufmans liked to vacation in the Laurel Highlands. They had Fallingwater designed to be their vacation home. There are many interesting features of the home, but perhaps the two most distinctive features are that it is built over a waterfall, and that it is cantilevered so that it is suspended over the surroundings. Even the furniture inside has been designed to be cantilevered to carry the motif throughout the structure.

I had studied this house for a project in high school and although I had forgotten many of the details, the tour was really fun for me. I’m not sure Joe had quite the same level of enthusiasm as I did, but he seemed to enjoy it as well.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the structure.

This picture from the outside is where the stairway from their great-room descends down to the water. Just beyond the stairs (left side of the picture) the water turns into a waterfall to the forest below.

After our tour, we made quick progress back on the trail. We had some good distance to cover to arrive at West Newton.

Along the way, our next stop was Connellsville. On the East edge of town, we are greeted by these interesting silos. I’ve seen them before. The murals seem to be fading a bit with time.

We needed a good lunch before leaving town. We took a random chance at a pizza & pasta place. We both got some pasta and it was definitely a good choice. Yum.

As we left town, we passed through a park. I’ve been through here before and this sign always motivates me… we’re most of the way to the ‘burg!

We had about 26 more miles to go. Lots of miles passed uneventfully. Both of us are starting to have some tired legs, so I’m glad tomorrow is a shorter ride.

We finally made it to our home for the evening: Holy Family Parish in West Newton. We were greeted by Paula – she has been a phenomenal host.

Tomorrow we will finish out with about 35 miles to get to The Point state park – the end of the Great Allegheny Passage, at the 3-rivers confluence in Pittsburgh.

It has been a good trip, but I’m looking forward to being done and getting home.

Peace!

– Dcn. Matt

2018 C&O / Gap Tour Day 5: Cumberland MD to Confluence PA

63.4 miles today.

We started the Great Allegheny Passage today, leaving the mud of the C&O canal behind.

It was a very rainy day, but the GAP drains very well. Not very many puddles and very little mud. Glad to have the worst of the mud behind us.

As we left the Fairfield inn, the rain started and just kept with us for about the first three hours of our ride today. It was a chilly rain, but with a nice raincoat and the ride going on, we stayed plenty warm.

The first 22 miles of the GAP are a constant climb. It is not a terribly steep grade, but you climb and climb and climb. We paced around 10 MPH so it took a little over 2 hours to reach the top. The ride up is beautiful and you pass a lot of great views. Today had its own beauty because of the very low clouds in the trees and valleys. But because of the weather, we couldn’t see some of the long distance views.

Along the way up we passed Frostburg. It is a neat little town to see, but with the rain pelting down on us and a few more miles to go, we decided to keep going up to the top.

The next stop along the way is the Mason & Dixon line separating Maryland from Pennsylvania.

We met this nice couple at the Mason & Dixon line. They’re on their way to Cumberland.

This is usually one of my favorite views anywhere I’ve been on bike. On a clear day, you can see 4 states from here. Today, you could see a few trees. It was actually more beautiful than it looks in the picture, but you don’t get any feel for how high you are above the valleys below.

The next few miles of the GAP are loaded with great bridges and tunnels. This is the Big Savage Tunnel – about 3,200 feet long. It is really neat.

Eventually we reached the top: The Eastern Continental Divide.

Inside this overpass is an elevation map – you get an idea of the elevation change. We came from Cumberland, just below my hand, and went up to the top, where my finger points. In 22 miles.

Some cyclists really enjoy climbs. Joe isn’t known to be one of those kind of cyclists… but he did well today.

We were getting pretty hungry so after crossing the divide, we went into Meyersdale to the G.I. Dayroom. Yum. We stopped here once before and it was worth coming back.

A BLT with some macaroni salad, home made french fries, and pie for dessert. Got some calories, for sure.

This is John. We met John in the Pittsburgh Amtrak station. He’s riding the same general direction as we are. We’ve crossed paths with him about 10 times since we left him in DC. He’s been camping on his way across. We invited him to join us for lunch.

John’s from Cincinnati, so I gave him my contact info and perhaps we’ll meet for some riding later in the season.

Leaving Meyersdale, we made our way west. The next highlight is one of my favorite rail-trail things anywhere: the Keystone Viaduct. A former railroad bridge that has been converted for bike traffic. It is really high and really long. The views from up here are awesome.

We stopped in Rockwood to get something to drink. I love this mural they have celebrating their town’s history as a railroad town.

A couple more bridges and tunnels, including the newly opened Pinkerton Tunnel.

Eventually we arrived in Confluence PA and we’re staying at a hostel. It is very clean and pretty comfortable, but meager. Fortunately, Joe and I are the only two staying here tonight so we spread out and took over. Hoping most of our clothes dry out overnight.

Here’s the route for today. It’s all downhill from here into Pittsburgh.

Tomorrow we’ll begin by heading to Ohiopyle and then onto West Newton for the evening.

It is supposed to be very rainy and cool tomorrow again. It would be nice if the rain could hold off until evening… but we’ll take whatever we can get. It sure beats 94° from last year on the KATY!

Peace,

Dcn. Matt

2018 C&O / Gap Tour Day 4: Hancock MD to Cumberland MD

61.1 Miles.

Our day started with a modest breakfast at the B&B before heading out. We finished out a few more miles on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. I didn’t realize this, but the WMRT is being extended many more miles. It’s too bad that the C&O can’t be paved like the WMRT.

Between Hancock and Cumberland is pretty sparse. It is about 60 miles with no food choices and only water from the C&O campsite pumps. The only real place to stop is a place called “Bill’s Place” in Little Orleans. Little Orleans is a very tiny little town and Bill’s is the only place there. One fun tradition is to go to Bill’s place and sign a dollar bill. They then put them up on the ceiling and you can try to find your dollar bill next time you come through.

Last time Joe and I did the C&O we gave them dollars. Unfortunately, Bill’s was closed until 11AM and we didn’t have the time to wait. So we couldn’t take the time to find them today.

One of the neatest things on the entire C&O canal is the Paw Paw tunnel. It is a mile-long tunnel that was carved through the mountain over 14 years. The National Parks had closed the access to the tunnel last year to clear the rock walls of falling rock and repair some of the decking on the approach. The alternate route involves hiking your bike about 2 miles I’ve an old logging route with 11-14% grade (yikes!).

I had called the project office and they said that it would not be open for a while longer. I talked to some riders who have come through in the last few days and they indicated that you could squeeze past the fences and go through. I like to follow the rules, so I was pretty excited to hear that they opened the tunnel TODAY! As we approached the tunnel, I thought the news was too good to be true, so we were going to check things out. For sure, we were allowed to ride up to the tunnel and walk through, saving us about 2 hours of hiking with our bikes. Yay!

The approach to the tunnel was really beautiful this time. I’ve never seen water falls here in my previous two trips here. There has been enough rainfall to feed some amazing water falls around the entrance to the tunnel.

Approaching the tunnel there was a nice lady taking pictures. She was a photographer and offered to take our picture. You can see the waterfalls on the right and left (next to the steps).

You have to walk your bike through and you really need to have a good headlight because it is pitch dark in there. (Please do not try to ride it, the surface inside is very very rough and choppy!). This is what it looks like about 100 feet from the exit.

The next 20 miles from Paw Paw to Cumberland were just a plain ‘ol slog. Lots of mud and puddles. It was very slow going and made for very tired legs. Joe explained it best: it was like when you are driving your car in a snowstorm or rain storm. You have to be always be alert and your muscles are tense waiting for any unexpected movement of the bike. The mud makes the rear tire lose traction very easily and the bike gets out of control easily.

A few miles away from Cumberland there was a large tree down across the path. It was far too big to move and we couldn’t get around.

There were several cyclists gathered around and there was a team of people helping to lift bikes through the large branches and across to the other side. Many hands made for light work.

A few more miles of slugging through brought us into Cumberland. Tradition is that you kiss the mule’s behind when you arrive. So we did.

Cumberland is the end of the C&O canal path. This is also the start of the Great Allegheny Passage, which we will start riding tomorrow. Over the next 3 days we will climb over the continental divide and then cycle our way to Pittsburgh.

It is good to leave the C&O behind. The Potomac is a beautiful backdrop for the trail, but the surface is bumpy and muddy. After 4 days, I’m ready to move on. The GAP is a much better trail surface.

The C&O is a national park, which means it takes an act of congress (literally) to make any changes or improvements. It is too bad, because if they would resurface with crushed limestone like the GAP or even, gasp, pave it like other high-use trails, it would be a fantastic path. But as it stands, the surface makes an otherwise great trail, less than ideal.

When we arrived at the Fairfield, first business was to rinse the C&O off of our bikes and gear. My bike was so caked with mud and muck that my lowest gear didn’t work anymore and shifting wasn’t reliable. I rinsed down my legs, shoes, socks, and panniers, too. Here is the before and after:

After washing up and showering, it was time for dinner. Some steamed clams and a rack of ribs, plus the obligatory blue moon rounded out the dinner. Yum.

Time for sleep soon. I’m exhausted.

We start tomorrow morning by climbing for about 2 hours up to the continental divide. We have about 60-65 miles ahead of us tomorrow on the GAP.

Weather forecast is looking like rain all day from sunrise to sunset. I’d appreciate some prayers for weather again – they’ve been working so far!

Peace,

Dcn. Matt