2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OTET) – 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 though 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.

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2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OTET) – 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 + #OTET) – 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 + #OTET) – 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 + #OTET) – 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 + #OTET) – 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!

Wrap up: 2016 Ohio to Erie / Ohio Bike Route 1

It’s been a few days since I returned home from our tour across Ohio.  It’s a bit hard to believe it’s over already.  The five days in the saddle went by very quickly, and now it’s in the memory books.

One nice part about this trip was that neither Joe or I had any familiarity with most of the route, it gave us some new things to see.

The past few bike tours I’ve done have been on dedicated bike trails.  I like bike trails because they tend to be safer since they’re away from traffic.  They also offer shade from the sun, and often meander through neat little towns.  The Ohio to Erie route does have lots of miles on dedicated trail, but it has a variety of riding conditions.  If you’re looking for a typical rail-trail ride, the Ohio to Erie won’t exactly fit that model.

Many people I talked to wondered why we chose Ohio.  The prevailing opinion was “it doesn’t have much to see.”  I have to disagree.  We found it to be a very pretty state for a long ride.  Sure, there was a lot of farm land.  But seeing the Amish farming their land, the various crops, and the blue skies was very peaceful.  We went through downtown Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati.  We got a taste of a little of everything you could want.  We didn’t linger long in any one place because we were bound to a schedule, but if you could afford the time to meander a bit, there were lots of options on spending your time.

The Ohio to Erie route is also marked as Ohio Bike Route 1.  It isn’t a single trail or road, it is a collection of trails, city streets, and country roads that can carry you across the state.  You have to be pretty careful about following maps and watching for turns.  Most were pretty easy to spot, but we did miss a couple of them along the way.  In most places, they’re pretty far apart, so if you miss a turn, it could be a while before you notice.  Fortunately, we didn’t get too far off track.

IMG_8292

From a difficulty perspective, I would rate this route as intermediate for both navigating, and for the physical challenge.  The route requires city smarts for navigating on city roads in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati.  None of the city riding was super challenging, but if you’re not comfortable riding amongst pedestrians and cars, I would recommend trying to time your city routes during less busy traffic times.

There was about 50 miles of country road riding on the route.  Most of it was very tame and beautiful.  Some rolling hills and the traffic seemed very light.  However, the 14 miles between Killbuck and Gann were a little more than “rolling” hills.  After looking at the data on maps when I got home, the grade didn’t quite look as bad as I had expected.  The average grade of the worst part was about 8.5% for .5 miles.  On a bike loaded with an extra 20-25 lbs. of gear, plus a gallon of water, on a hot and sunny day, those miles provided some challenge.  Perhaps on a cooler day with fewer miles on my legs, it wouldn’t have seemed so bad.

The road conditions varied from city streets with potholes and grates, to crushed limestone of the Ohio & Erie canal, paved bike trails, and quiet country roads.  I would recommend a bike with 36mm or larger tires, mostly because of the crushed stone sections, especially if you have any rain.  Unlike most other rail-trails, there are really long sections of paved path.  For example, our last two days of riding were entirely on paved path or road.  That makes it easier to cover longer distances.

We were pleasantly surprised at how many of the small towns we went through had sufficient services for food and water.  When we laid out our travel plan, we didn’t know enough about these little towns.  On one hand, that made for some fun discovery periods.  On the other hand, it would have been nice to plan a little more time to spend in a few places.

We chose to do this tour in 5 riding days.  In part because of the time we had to spend, and partially because we didn’t see too many ways to split into 6 days with lodging.  The result was that we had 4 days over 70 miles, and one day around 60 miles.  Our legs seemed to survive the miles pretty well due to the good weather and good riding surfaces.  But we only had a little time for smelling the roses along the way, too.  It’s a tough tradeoff to make.  What I can say is that the 5 day plan worked pretty well for lodging.

Overall, this was a very fun tour.  If you’re up for a little more challenge than the average rail-trail, this might be a good route to try.  Great scenery, nice towns, wonderful people, and enough stops along the way to be self-supported.

You can find more information about the Ohio to Erie route at: http://www.ohiotoerietrail.org/

#OH2Erie

I’m not sure what the next bike tour might be for me.  I might look at some familiar territory, or look for another new route to try.  We’ll have to see.  If anyone has any suggestions for a 350-450 mile self-supported bike route, let me know!  I’m hopeful that a great adventure will arise for some time in 2017.

Until then…

Peace.

 

Day 5 – Ohio to Erie ride: Journey Complete! Xenia to Cincinnati OH / Newport KY, and the Covington Cathedral (71 miles)

Last night was a very enjoyable evening.  Our AirBnB hosts, Barak and Victoria were wonderful hosts.  We shared pizza, delicious ice cream with peaches, and best of all, good conversation.  I love how we gathered around their family table and became family for an evening.  Before this trip, I sort of wondered what would inspire someone to become an AirBnB host, but after doing two of them, I now know why: to get to know other people.  Wouldn’t the world be such a much better place if we were able to invite strangers to dinner more often!

After finishing up our laundry and some great conversation, I finally turned into bed around 9 or 9:30PM.  At that time, the various weather forecasts for the morning ranged from storms to no-rain.  We decided that if it was raining, we’d try to leave later, but if it was not, we wanted to get going early.

 

I haven’t had a really good, deep night’s sleep the entire trip.  But last night, I fell asleep almost instantly and enjoyed a great rest.  I woke up a few minutes before my alarm and felt great.  After my morning prayer hours, I pulled up the forecast.  The question was: “Am I going to get a little more sleep, or were we going to get going on our way?”

The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, and My-Cast finally got their act together and gave a similar forecast.  No rain forecasted.  Moderately high temperatures for later in the day.  It was time to get going so we could avoid most of the hottest part of the day.

Victoria had prepared a nice breakfast, and I cooked up a double-batch of oatmeal to add some calories to get the day going.  Breakfast conversation was as delightful as the discussions we’d had the previous evening.  Once again, fellowship comes up as one of the best parts of bike touring.  But with a very long day ahead, we had to get going.  We bid Barak and Victoria good bye and were on the road by 7:00AM.

Today’s trip took us across a lot of familiar territory along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.  I have ridden the entire length of the Little Miami many times, in fact, Joe and I rode a 100+ mile century ride here just a couple of weeks ago.  It is one of my favorite places in all of the country to ride.  The trail is nicely canopied by trees for most of the length, providing a respite from the sun.  There are enough small towns and trail heads to get water and food.  The path is completely off road, safe from traffic.  And the surface is paved and well maintained.  If you like rail-trail riding, this is one of the best.

As we started today, we didn’t need any jackets or arm warmers.  It was already warm and very humid at 7AM.  Within a mile or two, we were both feeling pretty sticky.  Whenever we would stop to take a picture, our glasses would instantly fog up.  On the huge plus side, the clouds formed a nice cover for us all day long.

Sunrise was pretty early, but we didn’t really see much of the sun for a while.  The trail goes through a lot of rural farm land, and provides some great views.  A few times, we pulled over just to take in the views.  Sure it is just farm land, but when mixed with sunshine, fog, and the quietness of a morning, it is a beautiful combination.

The first 60 miles went by incredibly quickly.  Our legs felt pretty good, we had several fun discussions, and the familiarity of the trail made time pass fast.  Before we knew it, we had passed Spring Valley, Morrow, South Lebanon, and decided to stop in Loveland for a quick bite to eat.  We arrived far ahead of schedule – most of the restaurants weren’t open for lunch yet.  We stopped at the deli and looked for something quick to take and eat.  Joe settled in on some pasta salad, and I had a good sized scoop of tuna salad.  We just needed a few more calories to power our way home.

We had originally figured it would take us until 2-3PM to complete our ride, but knew that we were running far ahead of schedule.  So I called Stephanie to give her a heads’ up to meet us earlier than we had originally planned.  In some ways, you don’t want to rush, but on the last day of the tour, we were both really looking forward to getting to the end.

Our next stop was to get near the south end of the Little Miami trail.  Unfortunately, the Little Miami doesn’t get into downtown quite yet.  They added a few more miles this year, but there isn’t a good way to get from the south end trail-head over to downtown.  So instead, we had to exit near Newtown and begin surface streets to get to the river front.

Both Joe and I really prefer to stay away from busy streets, so we were pretty tuned-in to watching for cars in every direction.  We exited the trail at Wooster Pike, following the road into Mariemont, through Fairfax, and other roads down towards Lunken Airport.  Some of the roads were a little narrow for my taste, so we used sidewalks for some parts.  (Note, that’s probably illegal, but I prefer my safety)

Next stop was Lunken Airport – the old airport for the Cincinnati area before the Northern Kentucky airport was built.  Lunken was opened in 1925 and was the largest airport in the world at the time.  Today, it is primarily used for private aircraft.  The airport grounds now includes some bike trails on the east and west edges.  We jumped on one of the Lunken trails for a short stint before picking up the Ohio River Trail near the river front.

The Ohio River Trail runs for about 2 miles from Lunken Airport towards downtown.  It winds through some parks and gave us our first views of Downtown.

At the end of the Ohio River Trail, we moved to the bike lane on Riverside Drive for the next 3 miles.  It has a nice bike lane and felt pretty comfortable, except for when large dump trucks whizzed by.  We made quick time heading towards the city.

Along the way, we both noticed how nicely Cincinnati has been redeveloping the east riverfront.  Lots of nicer row-style homes were being built, and it had a bit of a “hip” feeling to the area.

Once we reached the Berry International Friendship Park, we moved back to trails along the river front.  These trails delivered us nicely to the Yeatman’s Cove park.  We stumbled across this statue of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.  Hey, it’s a giant guy with an axe!  We didn’t take the time to read the plaque, but hey, when there’s a statue that looks like something out of the original “Clash of the Titans” or “Jason and the Argonauts”, you should definitely get your picture taken.

A short trip up around the corner took us across the pedestrian bridge and out of Ohio.  We had officially ridden across the entire state now!  Yeah!

We found the sign on the bridge somewhat humorous – it challenges people to take the “Get Moving Challenge”.  Yeah, that’s what we need – to get moving.

We had decided that the Newport Aquarium would be a great place to meet Stephanie.  So we wound our way across and to the front entrance of Newport on the Levee.  I called Stephanie who was still a few minutes away.  Joe and I took advantage of the water feature-fountain in front to put some cool water on our faces.  It felt pretty good.

We had decided ahead of time that if we weren’t completely exhausted, we would ride our bikes to the Cathedral of the Covington Diocese, about 2 miles away, and finish by entering the Holy Door there.  So since Stephanie was a little behind, we called and had her re-route and meet us there.

Getting there sounded pretty easy, but turned out to be a bit of a challenge to get to the right roads.  We had to seek out a path to cross back over the levee and get to the Riverboat Row road behind the Aquarium.  It took a while, but we finally got to the Cathedral and met Stephanie.

The Cathedral is magnificent.  I don’t have any pictures that do it justice.  What I can tell you is that if you are traveling anywhere nearby, you owe it to yourself to stop by and see the beauty of this church.  The tremendous art and scripture stories in the stained glass is stunning.

A few minutes later, we packed up the bikes and headed back to Lexington.  We made a quick dinner stop and then drove home, dropping off Joe along the way.

This trip was really a great adventure.  It was different than other tours I’ve done: we didn’t really know much about the route, and there were many more road-miles than we typically do.  And as always, even though it was a great trip, it is also really great to get home.

Thanks for all of the prayers, emails, text messages, and so on that carried us through the journey.

After I have a chance to stop and think a bit, I will have one more blog entry summarizing some of my overall thoughts about the Ohio to Erie Trail in a day or two.

But for now … a much needed rest in my own bed.  Yay.

Peace!

Day 4 – Ohio to Erie ride: Columbus to Xenia OH (58 miles)

Today was our shortest ride for the tour.  The weather forecast indicated that it would be a hot day without any clouds, and it definitely was both.

Father Ron made us a yummy breakfast, essentially an omelette-in-a-mug, to get us started.  He took very good care of us during our brief stay.

We said goodbye to Father Ron at St. Agnes around 7:00AM and carefully tracked our way to the Camp Chase trail head.  However, just as we were getting close, a smell hit both Joe and I.  It wasn’t just any smell… It was the kind of smell that draws you in, leading you by some subconscious impulsive desire that must be satisfied.  Yes, it was freshly made donuts.

Again, I am supposed to be avoiding wheat, and I haven’t had a donut in about a year.  But… There must be some sort of pheromone thing in the donuts at this place.  Joe and each had a donut and split a third.  Awesomeness.


It was comical trying to order these three donuts.  The nice young lady behind the counter wanted to put them into a styrofoam box.  I explained that I didn’t need the box.  She got out smaller styrofoam containers.  I told her they were going to be eaten very quickly.  She seemed perplexed as to what to do with this strange request.  So I grabbed some napkins and said “just put them here”.  She begrudgingly handed over the chocolate-cake glazed wonders.  And within two minutes, they were gone.

My wife says we talk too much about food on our bike trips… So I guess I’ll just move along here.

We jumped onto the Camp Chase trail.  This is a very smoothly paved trail that runs next to some rail lines.  It was already warm enough that we didn’t need any arm warmers or jackets, and you could feel the humidity in the air.  Several miles later, we arrived at the Batelle Darby Creek Metro Park.

Once inside the park, there are a couple of ways you can go.  One path takes you through the woods, while the other is nearly all on a paved surface.  There is a short section that goes off-road into the woods next to the Big Darby Creek.  We stopped to grab a couple of pictures and continued on.


After leaving the park, we followed the Roberts Pass trail for about 7 miles into the town of London.  This was another case where the maps didn’t indicate how large the town was.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice little town.  Knowing that we had many miles to go in very hot weather, we went in search of water to refill our bottles, and stopped at a convenience store.  A large bottle of Gatorade, and three refills of icy cold water later, we were back on our way.

Just outside of town, we found the northern trailhead for the Prarie Grass Trail.  I stopped to adjust my rear brake mount, and as I was working on my bike, two young ladies zipped by and said hello as they passed.  More about them in a moment…

The Prarie Grass Trail is a well maintained and paved trail that is ~25 miles long and runs all the way into Xenia Station.  It is not very shady – it doesn’t have the canopied tree lining that some of the older trails do.  The sun was pretty hot and the headwinds picked up.  Watching the grasses and trees alongside the trail, we could see that the wind was pretty directly in our face, and pretty strong.

We reached South Charleston and needed to refill water again.  This is a really wonderful little town.  We took a leisurely tour of their downtown and made our way toward the trailhead.  As we were turning onto the street near the trailhead, we saw a group of cyclists who were wearing the same jersies as the two young women we’d seen earlier.  They all convened in the park next to the trail, eating lunch.

It turns out that this is a group of 29 young college students and recent grads who are cycling across the US to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing.  One of the kids lives in Lexington KY as well, and had just graduated from the University of Kentucky.  They started in Providence RI and were heading to the Northwest coast.  We chatted for a few minutes and wished them well.


With the sun high over head, we pressed on to Xenia.  The winds kept pushing against us, but we were anxious to arrive.  We passed through Cedarville, topping off water and getting a quick snack, then continued to Xenia Station.  From this point on, most of the rest of the trip is in very familiar territory along the Little Miami Scenic Trail.


We arrived too early to check into our AirBnB, so we rode north of town a short way to find our lunch / early dinner.  We decided on Frisch’s, and had a nice meal.  The best part was that the air conditioning was cranked up high.  It felt good to get chilled down.  We took our time eating and relaxing a bit in the cool comfort of the restaurant.  By the time we left, we both were a bit uncomfortably cold.  That was great.

Our final stop for the day was the AirBnB.  We took a relaxed pace for about another 3 miles to get there.  A very thorough showering was in order to get off the mix of dirt, tiny bugs, and sunscreen.  It always feels soooo good to scrub down after a long day on the bike.

It is only 4:30 now, and I am already feeling like it must be close to bed time. Yawn. It will be work to stay awake.  Must…do…laundry.

Tomorrow is the last day of our tour.  We ride into Cincinnati, and cross over the Ohio River into Kentucky.  We will meet my wife there and head home.  It looks like about another 70 mile day.

Weather tomorrow looks to be pretty warm, and potentially a little stormy.  We are hoping to get an early start and beat the heat.

We’d appreciate prayers for good weather and safety.  Thanks in advance.

Peace!

Day 3 – Ohio to Erie ride: Howard to Columbus OH (73 miles)

It has been a pretty good day.  On the up side, the ride was beautiful and we finished ahead of schedule.  On the down side, my previously trusty Garmin Edge 605 stopped being trusty today.  (Insert Kenny Rodgers Randy VanWarmer tune “you left me, just when I needed you most” softly playing in the background, or Bones saying “She’s dead, Jim”)

Editorial update: I have not idea who Randy VanWarmer is, but I had incorrectly attributed this tune to Kenny Rodgers.  Perhaps Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” would have been a better choice, anyway.

We got up before dawn and quickly packed up our belongings, hoping to get out around 6:30 today.  We were treated to a super delicious breakfast at Dave’s place.  Dave and his wife raise chickens on their farm, and we had delicious fresh eggs.  They tasted awesome.  But the best part of breakfast wasn’t what filled our stomachs, it was what filled our souls.

As we were saying grace over our breakfast, Dave paused at the doorway.  When we finished, he sat down to join us and said “I had a feeling you were some good Catholic boys.”  We had an awesome conversation over breakfast about his faith journey.  I won’t even attempt to describe it here – partially because it was a personal conversation, and partially because I couldn’t do it justice in a short blog posting.  Our discussion put us about 30 minutes later on our start, and I am so glad we took the time to listen.  It was well worth it!


We stepped outside and Joe played one last game of fetch with Diamond.  What a great dog.

As we packed up our things onto our bikes, Dave came out to see us off and prayed with us before we departed.  He gave us a hug and asked us to come back again for a longer visit.  Once again, we have been blessed by the people we come into contact with on these bike trips.


About 7:10am we finally hit the road.  The temps were nicely chilly and the air felt great as it blew over our faces.  The first few miles were a bit more challenging than they were supposed to be.  Our legs seemed to be saying “not today.”  We had a hard time getting to a steady speed for a while.  I think it was a combination of physical fatigue and that this part of the Kokosing trail apparently has a slight grade up.

About 7 miles later we reached Mount Vernon. My (no longer) trusty Garmin 605 said “low battery”.  What?  I just charged you last night! I bypassed the message and hoped for the best.  It sporadically worked for a while.

In Mount Vernon, we eventually found our way to the Heart of Ohio trail.  This runs for about 13 miles to Centerburg OH.  It was a pretty uneventful section… Until near the end.  We were stopped waiting to cross some traffic and I was using one hand to eat an energy bar and one hand on the bike.  The bike nearly tipped over and the pedal caught the back of my calf.  Nothing serious, just a nuisance scrape, but enough to remind me to be more careful.

After topping off our water, and putting some neosporin on my freshly minted flesh-wound, we set our sites on the town of Sunbury about 15 miles away along country roads.

The road route to Sunbury was beautiful. Gorgeous blue skies, the moon was still up most of the morning, and farm land as far as the eye can see, bedecked with green leaves of corn, golden yellows of wheat (I think), and many other colors. The roads were gently rolling without any of the nasty climbs of yesterday.

When we reached Sunbury, we didn’t know what to expect.  We thought it might be just a little blip on the map.  What we found was a very neat little town square with a lively atmosphere.  If you plan on heading this way, make sure to spend a little time there to soak up the town.

Sunbury was also the sight of second breakfast or early lunch, depending on how you view the world. I decided to hedge my bets and get a sandwich and home fries to cover both bases.  The Sunbury Grill was a great choice – it is the kind of place my Dad taught me to love many years ago when we would go for breakfast together.


While there, once again some bike touring fellowship spontaneously appeared.  We sat at the food counter and the guy next to me struck up a nice conversation with us.  His name is Earl.


After Sunbury, we had just a few miles on Old Route 3 C until the town of Galena.  From there, we met up with the Hoover Scenic Trail and then the Genoa Trail for about 6 miles.

The Genoa trail ends at Maxtown Road, also known as Polaris Parkway, north of Columbus.  We had scoped out our own route into downtown Columbus, using the Alum Creek Trail, which starts here at Maxtown road.

At this point is where my GPS finally just gave up the ghost.  I couldn’t coax it to do anything.  I had become pretty comfortable knowing that I could glance down and see that we were still on (or off!) the planned routes that I had downloaded into it. It had served us quite well over the past few days and caught a couple of missed turns.  Sigh.  Oh well, at least we had some maps to use.

The Alum Creek Trail goes roughly north/south and we took it for ~12 miles to the I670 connector trail, which is a pretty rough paved trail adjoining I670 until you get dumped out into downtown Columbus.

We were making very good time today, so we decided to stop at the Columbus Cathedral and enter through that Holy Door too.  We arrived at a time when a wedding party was getting their pictures taken, so I quickly went in, passed though, and left, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.  Hence, no pictures of the inside of the Cathedral.


We continued west, using sidewalks to navigate until we reached the Scioto Greenway trail on the south side of Columbus.  Without the GPS, we had to be a little more discerning about where to turn to find our next set of roads.


We eventually found the Hilltop Connector and wound along some city streets to our evening destination: St. Agnes church.  We arrived around 3:00PM and found a cool respite from the heat in the church.


Father Ron arrived a little later and greeted us.  He introduced us to his great little dog, Chase as well.


We got a very much needed shower and shave, then joined him at mass.

After mass, we made BLTs, heavy on the “B”, strawberries, and an Italian lemon ice for dessert.  Some great conversation over dinner made it a wonderful meal.  Once again, bike touring fellowship is so spectacular.


So now, it is time to head to bed. We want to get out early again tomorrow to beat the mid day heat.  We only have about 55-60 miles tomorrow, so we want to get done quickly and rest up.

Until tomorrow, Peace!

PS: yes, I am doing this whole blog from my trusty iPhone… So please forgive my typos.

Day 2 – Ohio to Erie ride: Massillon to Howard OH (72 miles)

This morning started a little later than we had intended.  We took a leisurely pace getting going and had breakfast at the Hampton Inn before departing.

We crossed over the bridge and found the beginning of the Sippo Valley Trail pretty easily. The trail was a mix of paved and crushed limestone.  It was a fairly easy ride to Dalton.  Once in Dalton, we left the trails behind and began an 18 mile trek on country roads towards Fredricksburg.  The roads had plenty of gently rolling hills and very beautiful farmland. We saw many Amish farms and the people working them by hand. 

We stopped in Fredricksburg for lunch and to get some Gatorade.  There was this awesome little store there. The people really friendly and made us feel at home.


Across the street was a pizza place. It looked like our best option for getting a decent meal.  I’m not supposed to be eating wheat or dairy, but I ordered a pizza anyway. It was fairly tasty.  We struck up a conversation with two gentlemen who were at the table next to us.  They happened to both be named Ruben.


After finishing the pizza, we got out and found our way to the Holmes County Trail nearby. It was a nicely maintained trail. In this area, we saw far more Amish buggies on the trail than cyclists.  By this time, the weather was becoming pretty warm. It wasn’t too bad in the shade, but the sun was hot.  Around 4 miles later we arrived in the small town of Killbuck.  We stopped for some ice cream, a cool place to sit, and to fill our water bottles back up.  That turned out to be a good thing… We weren’t really mentally prepared for what was next.


Just outside of Killbuck, we had to again use some country roads to the next town. The maps we had said “there is a climb from SR520 to CR6” and that the next section had “significant hills”.  Both were understatements.  What followed was about 14 miles of the most difficult riding I have ever done.  The first climb on CR6 didn’t look too bad at first. But it kept going and going.  Every time you thought you saw the top, you’d turn a corner and see even more and steeper road ahead.

The CR6/CR25 stretch continued to challenge us over and over with one long steep descent/climb after another.  It was mentally exhausting to climb up to the top and then see another even taller hill just up the road.  We drank so much water trying to stay hydrated.  I was very thankful we had topped off all the bottles before leaving Killbuck.

Little by little we chipped away at the miles and reached route 62 near Brinkhaven.  Then it was nearly all downhill on a heavily trafficked road for a couple of miles.  I was going much faster than I am comfortable with, especially on unfamiliar roads.  Thanks for my guardian angel’s company on that stretch!

After the descent we continued another 2-3 miles and joined the Mohican Valley Trail.  If you are going North to South like we are, watch carefully for the Ohio Bike Route 1 turn signs.  We missed the sign, but my Garmin alerted me to being off route a few hundred yards later.

The Mohican Valley trail is mostly paved, although it did have some rough patches.  The highlight of this trail is the “Bridge of Dreams”.  This is the longest covered bridge in Ohio.  We caught a few pictures before continuing on.


Once on the Mohican Valley trail, we only had about 4-5 miles to our dinner stop in Danville. We stopped at The Hangout.  We each got a small(ish) steak and baked potato.  It was really yummy.  We had to kill some time before we could check into our AirBnB in Howard.  The Hangout was a good choice for that.

Leaving Danville, we picked up the Kokosing Gap Trail.  This is a really nicely paved trail that took us about a mile from our AirBnB stop.

Our accommodations here are really nice. Our host, Dave, has made us feel very at home in their restored farm house.  So, our laundry is now drying, we have showered, and it is getting very close to being bed time.

Tomorrow looks to be pretty toasty and we need to get to the SW side of Colubus before mass at 4:30.  So, it will be an early-to-bed and early rise tomorrow!

Peace.

Day 1: Ohio to Erie ride – Cleveland to Massillon OH (71 miles)

We started our adventure with a nice breakfast at Alex and Lauren’s place.  We started a little later to allow the rush hour traffic to wind down.  Stephanie dropped us off at the Rock and Roll hall of fame and we grabbed a few pictures.  We saw a sign that said “bike tours start here”… Seemed like a great opportunity.


I gave Steph a hug and kiss goodbye as we departed southbound.  We went a few blocks south on the sidewalks of 9th street and stopped at the Cathedral to pass through the Holy Door.


As we left the Cathedral, the rain started.  It was a misty and cold rain that would be our constant companion for the next several hours.  We zig-zagged across city streets towards our next stop. We missed one turn and probably went about 1/2 mile out of our way and had to backtrack.

A few miles later, we made a small detour to visit the house from “A Christmas Story”.  We didn’t tour the house, just took a couple of pictures and resumed our trip.


A few miles later we finally reached the trailhead of the Ohio & Erie Canal.  This is a canal that carried cargo and passengers between the Ohio River and Lake Erie.  It ceased operations in 1912, but the former towpath has been turned into a hiker/biker trail.  Most of the surface was crushed limestone, with a few patches of pavement.  Even with the rain, it was pretty decent. It seems to drain well and the puddling wasn’t too bad.

We had an uneventful, albeit wet, trip down to Akron. There was a detour north of Akron that had probably a 10%+ grade to bypass a construction zone.  It was a little challenging, but we survived.


Upon arrival in Akron, we found that the path we were supposed to take was closed because of a parade to celebrate the Cavelier’s championship. The traffic control guy pretty rudely just told us to go a different way.  We had no idea where we were supposed to go.  We went into the city and were about to start looking for maps when a guy came up and offered to lead us to the canal.  We took him up on the offer and he took us over to the baseball stadium and the canal.  The normal canal path also had some detours.  It took a little discerning to figure out the right way to go:


We had quite a long way to go still.  We continued down the canal path.  The scenery was beautiful and the wildlife was plentiful. 


It took longer than we expected to get to Massillon.  The trail was slow and we started getting tired.  Finally, we arrived at our hotel close to 7PM.  A much needed shower and some wings for dinner finished off the evening.

Tomorrow’s weather looks pretty good.  It will be another 70 mile day, so we are hoping to get started much earlier and finish earlier.  We don’t really have any city riding or navigation tomorrow, so that should help as well.

Time for a much needed sleep!

Peace!

A warm welcome to Cleveland

Today we traveled up to Cleveland to prepare for our ride.  Alex and Lauren are friends of ours who moved up to Cleveland.  They offered us a place to sleep tonight. We enjoyed visiting and talking. They bought an old home along the lakefront that they are fixing up.  Pretty neat.


We begin our trip tomorrow at the Rock and Roll hall of fame, heading south to Massillon.  Tomorrow’s weather is looking like it might be wet and stormy.  We looked up and found out that Saint Medard is the patron saint for avoiding bad weather. So, St. Medard will be our patron for the journey!

Here’s the general path we will cover over the next five days:


So it is time for some much needed sleep. St. Medard, pray for us.

Peace!

2016 Bike Tour starts next week!

T-minus 7 days to the start of the 2016 bike tour.  This year, my friend Joe and I will be riding across Ohio.  We will be self-supported, just traveling by ourselves with our bikes and gear in panniers.

We have researched a bike route that starts in Cleveland and winds southwest to Cincinnati.  It is a combination of bike paths, country roads, and a little city riding.  We will generally be following “Ohio Bike Route 1”, also known as The Ohio to Erie bike trail.

On Thursday, we will begin our trip at the Lake Erie lakefront, starting at the Rock & Roll hall of fame, and finishing 5 days later in Covington, KY – just south of the Ohio River in Cincinnati.

Along the way, we are going to try to see two or three cathedral churches to pass through their Holy Doors that have been opened as part of the Year of Mercy.

Pray for our safety in travel.  I intend to blog a little as we go to share pictures and thoughts from the adventure. 

Peace!

Final Thoughts – 2015 Great Allegheny Passage / C&O Canal Tour

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It’s been a few days since we completed our ride along the quiet paths of the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Path.

We finished our journey on Friday evening, but stayed in Washington DC on Saturday to take advantage of the museums and things to see.  Joe’s wife and kids managed to meet us there, which was a lot of fun!  I enjoyed seeing the Air and Space museum with them. IMG_7454

After the day, I said farewell to Joe as he went off with his family to their hotel and to drive home to Lexington.  I went back to St. Peter’s and went to mass in the evening.  It happened to be the final weekend for their pastor, Fr. Bill.  The mass was spectacular – great music, a great homily, and a wonderful cook-out afterwards – served in their hall since it was pouring outside.  I met some wonderful people at the party and it was clear that this parish has loved its pastor.  I was glad to be able to experience this.

The next morning, I got up early and made my way out to begin my multi-step journey home to Lexington.  My bike was still filthy, so I hosed it off and left it to drip dry in the garage.  I then walked my way to the DC Metro, arriving very early as it was just opening.  The kind lady who was opening the station was a very friendly way to start my Sunday morning!  After catching the blue-line to Reagan National Airport, I found my rental car, drove it back to St. Peter’s, and promptly loaded my bike and panniers into it.  I was on the road back to Lexington before 8:30AM.  The interstate tracked past a few of our places we cycled.  In fact, the interstate took me directly through Cumberland and I passed over the GAP and next to the hotel we stayed at.  It was a little fun to realize I’d just been there a few days ago by bike.

With a couple of good audio books, a small bag of Reese’s Pieces, and a tall glass of water, I made it quickly back home.  I was in my driveway before 5:30, which seemed like pretty good timing.  What was even better is that this allowed me to catch dinner with my family.  That was the real highlight of the day.

And, for me, coming home is always the best part of a journey.

Looking back, this was a really fun trip and it went by very quickly.  I have been on the full GAP/C&O once before in 2012, and cycled the GAP last fall with Joe.  This time was a bit faster on the pace – six days means you are packing a lot of miles into each day.  That didn’t leave much time for extra sight seeing.  On the plus side, we never got rained on.  That’s a first for any of my bike trips.  On the other hand, there were plenty of opportunities to become one with the earth, or mud, along the C&O Canal.

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The Great Allegheny Passage is a really great rail trail.  Probably one of the best anywhere.  It isn’t paved, but it is well maintained and the rain doesn’t turn it into mush.  The scenery is beautiful, the little towns are fun, and there are enough services along the way to make for an easy trip.  I can certainly see more trips along this great path some day.IMG_7134 IMG_7250 IMG_7258 IMG_7261 IMG_7267

The C&O Canal path has a very different character.  It feels more historical, more rustic, and definitely a rougher path to ride.  The 60+ mile days on this path felt like 80-100 mile days on pavement, by comparison.  There are not very many services, so you have to prepare carefully for food and water stops.  If you want to camp, there are many places to do that.  But if you want to find accommodations under roof, you’d better plan that out far in advance.  Although the C&O offers a really great ride through the woods, the downside is that it is really better for full-suspension bicycles (with fenders, for sure).  It was pretty rough riding.  I don’t know if I really have a draw to ride this one again any time soon.  Riding it with friends would always be a fun thing to do, but there are many other great paths out there to try that don’t rattle my bones quite so much.

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Here are a few quick stats from last week’s ride, after downloading my GPS data at home:

  • Great Allegheny Passage:
    • Day 1: 60.7 Miles – Pittsburgh PA to Connellsville PA
    • Day 2: 48.4 Miles – Connellsville PA to Rockwood PA
    • Day 3: 46.3 Miles – Rockwood PA to Cumberland MD
  • C&O Canal Path:
    • Day 4: 60.6 Miles – Cumberland MD to Hancock MD
    • Day 5: 66 Miles – Hancock MD to Harpers Ferry WV
    • Day 6: 65.7 Miles – Harpers Ferry WV to Washington DC
  • Total Distance 347.6 Miles
  • Total Calories Burned: 17,391
  • Total Calories Consumed: (uhh.. too many to count?  I did gain a little weight!)

If you’ve never tried bike touring, I definitely recommend it.  Even just an overnighter for a two day ride of 20-40 miles each day to try it out.  This trip was so much more fun than just driving somewhere.  By bicycle, the world passes by much slower.  You notice the wildlife, small waterfalls, and forest.  The river’s sounds fill your ears and the cell phone doesn’t really work all the time.  That’s really a great thing to experience.  It is a sort of retreat on two wheels.

And then there are friends to be made.  I have made several good friends and many acquaintances.  Joe and I discussed that when you meet new people on your bike, you seem less threatening.  Total strangers seem to take keen interest in your journey and conversation flows.  I can truly say that everyone we met turned out to be a friendly face.  I still keep in touch with friends from all over the states that I have met riding my bike.

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One question I’ve been asked: who is this mascot that shows up in my pictures?

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That’s Mr. Hamster.  He was crocheted by my daughter several years ago and whenever I leave town, he comes with me.  I then take pictures of him and send them home.  He’s been to 14 or 15 different countries, he’s an experienced bike traveler, having ridden with me on 4 long distance journeys, and he recently hiked the Camino de Santiago with me.  He’s my buddy when I’m away from home.  He helps remind me of my family.

So, where to next?  I don’t know.  I’ll probably meet up with some cycling buddies some time this fall for a long weekend ride or two.  Maybe a two or three day ride up on the trails in Ohio, or maybe the Greenbriar trail.  In the end, I’m sure another fun adventure will await.

Until then, Peace!

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