Ohio to Erie or bust (Part Two)

By Marla Boone - Contributing columnist

When we left our intrepid riders two weeks ago, they had just clocked mile No. 115 of the 330 that comprises the Ohio to Erie trail. After two days, we had experienced one great hotel breakfast, one awful hotel breakfast, two local breweries and no ice cream. It was my understanding, before embarkation, that we would seek out ice cream at every stop. Our plan had been to dip our bicycle tires in the Ohio River at the outset of the ride and then dip our front tires in Lake Erie at the end. We were at day three, headed for a charming B&B that offered, of all things, air conditioning and a washing machine, maybe the top two inventions of all time. The house also had two coffee makers and a refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke, which are no doubt also in the running for some of the best ideas to come from the minds of humankind.

Cooled down, washed up, and raring to go, we headed off for Millersburg. This was to be our easy day, only 40 miles. Everything was going so well. After a quick twenty miles we got to our lunch stop which was, finally, located next to an ice cream shop. I had a small sandwich and a massive sundae … just about the perfect ratio of nutrition to junk food. The first surprise of the day was the decidedly un-flat geography. Hills are not my strong suit. But there they were, waiting to be climbed. The second surprise was the roads. They were not, you know, paved. Gravel is much trickier than pavement and after confronting those inclines, the last thing any of us wanted was tricky. After eating we headed out towards what we’ll now call declining skies. The black clouds were growing and it was just a matter of a very few minutes until their rain load unloaded on us. What do you do when you’re slightly to the west of the middle of nowhere and the skies open? You put your head down and keep pedaling. There was no shelter to speak of, just a trail sign that had a one-foot overhang. We all tried to remember from science class if lightning is more likely to strike a moving object than a stationary one. Instead of being way too hot, now we were way too wet and way too cold. Happily, we were back on the bike trail so at least for the moment there was no traffic to contend with. Well, automotive traffic. In that part of Ohio, the Amish are allowed to use their buggies on the bike paths. Buggies, you understand, that are pulled by horses. I love horses … great noble beasts. But horses are rarely house-trained and the bike path was pockmarked with lots of horse leavings (read: poop). Being a former horse owner myself, I don’t mind horse poop. I’ve certainly shoveled enough of it. The issue now was, in the rain and on the path, everything (read: poop) was spattering everywhere. Up our backs, on our bikes, in our faces, and, most un-appetizingly, on our water bottles. It’s amazing the hotel let us in when we finally rode up to the door. We smelled worse than usual which is saying something.

Never underestimate the restorative powers of a hot shower, a hot meal, and a cold margarita. The next day was our longest, a little over seventy miles, and we needed all the restoring we could get. The skies had cleared, bringing those ninety-plus temperatures back with it. The original plan had been to stop every ten miles for a quick rest and on this day those rests were particularly welcome. We stopped for lunch in Massillon and soon thereafter discovered the bike path was closed just ahead. Back on the surface streets we went. Most of us frequently ride on surface streets and roads. Motorists are generally courteous but mixing bicycle traffic with dense, heavy, motorized traffic takes some of the fun out of it. After a few miles we saw “Bike Path Detour” signs which, amazingly enough, led us back to the bike path. As Akron appeared ahead of us, another thunderstorm appeared on top of us. This day we were able to duck beneath a bridge and wait the worst of it out. By this time we were on a riverfront boardwalk and boardwalks are very slippery when wet so those last 12 miles were slower than usual. With much relief we pedaled into Akron where the GPS, true to form, went what is technically known as wack-a-doodle. The timing couldn’t have been worse because, out of absolutely flat terrain monster hills appeared. We not only had to find our B&B for the night, we had to get there via an indirect route to avoid seemingly undo-able hills.

On to Cleveland. The sun shone, the wind was at our backs, and we could figuratively if not yet literally smell Lake Erie ahead. Passing beautiful open fields with meandering streams and touring along side the old canal, we arrived in Cleveland where (I kid you not) the GPS once again gave up the ghost. It was as though the GPS was having so much fun being hauled around it didn’t want the trip to end. But finally, blissfully relieved, excited, and not to mention tiredly, we had our own Great Lake in sight. Negotiating yet another very slippery incline (those geese really need to change their diet), we dipped our front tires into the rolling waves of Erie.

Many thanks to my fellow riders, the planners, the drivers, and our wonderful SAG driver who made all our lives easier. Now I’ve been there, done that, and yes, bought the T-shirt.


By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.

Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for Miami Valley Today.