Thursday, 24 September 2015

Hard to Start

Location: Gambier, OH, USA
Thirteen days off and in one place is a very long time. We needed it and it was wonderful, but it's a long time. Time enough to unpack a lot of stuff and deposit it around the house. Also time enough to lose some fitness and feel a bit out of shape. I had intended to keep riding, just for fun, during our little holiday, but I caught some kind of stomach bug that required me to stay within 100ft of a toilet at all times so I only managed to get out on one ride once my gut regained control. In all honesty though it wasn't the cycling we were lacklustre about prior to our departure from Columbus, it was the packing. Nevertheless Wednesday morning came around and we finally managed to leave at around 9:45am spurred on by the thought of seeing more friends and family. Luckily there is also an amazing network of bike trails in Ohio and we were on one, the Alum Creek Trail, within five minutes of the house and rode this to the north edge of the city which made for a great start to our ride.

There was then a little faffing as the trail signage petered out and we ended up on quiet country roads for a few miles before picking up another trail. From Columbus to the shores of Lake Erie we will be almost solely on the Ohio to Erie trail, a series of bike paths and back roads stretching hundreds of miles. We both agreed it was brilliant to be back on the bikes and I'm sure that getting to ride quiet, picturesque bike trails improved our experience no end.

We stopped for lunch outside Centerburg, 'the geographical center of Ohio', just off the side of the trail. It was a perfect spot, grass to sit on and plenty of shade from a large building. Two riders stopped to talk to us about our trip and asked where we were headed. They were out on a day ride from Gambier, wished us luck and set off down the trail. We caught them up again a few miles down the way, got chatting again and they offered us to stay with them. We'd been planning to camp that night a little further than Gambier, but once we realised we would only be stopping about 7 miles short we were happy to take Ree and Jim up on their kind offer.

Gambier is one of the first places we've stayed in the U.S. that refers to itself as a village. It's the home of Kenyon College a small liberal arts university, the oldest private college in Ohio, and has a wonderful friendly, villagey atmosphere. We wandered up the hill to the coffee shop, met Bob, a friend of Ree and Jim's who is also an avid cyclist. Bob tipped us off that when we get to the shores of Lake Erie we'll likely be there when they harvest all the Concord grapes that they make grape jelly and grape soda out of which would be really interesting. Then we strolled across the road to the local pub and joined Ree and Jim's Wednesday night 'club' which was just a group of their friends that get together every Wednesday evening for a meal at the pub. It was great fun, we both had delicious burgers and enjoyed a funny evening together. Afterwards we strolled through the college grounds, which were very reminiscent of Durham University or other similar establishments, under a beautiful sunset.

After a lovely breakfast we said goodbye to Ree and Jim, with maps for the road ahead, full tyres and Clif bars. We were back on the bike trail in no time heading north east. We'd been warned that on the next section of trail, the Mohican Valley Trail, we may not be able to take it as they were due to start work on paving it. Sure enough when we got to the trailhead in Danville (not the same down-on-its-luck Danville that we were in previously) there were signs up saying as much, but a fairly official looking dude told us that though that was technically true he wouldn't stop us riding it and we'd just have to walk our bikes past the actual machinery down the track. So we set off along the dirt trail, happy we didn't have to navigate our way by road. It wasn't until we were at the far end of the trail that we spotted the machinery and walked by. Soon after we came to a beautiful covered bridge complete with inscription 'The Bridge of Dreams'.

The trail then deteriorated to such an extent that we couldn't follow it and decided to ride the next few miles on the road until we could pick up the next section of trail in Killbuck. On our way to the main road we got chased by a thankfully small dog with a totally uninterested owner. Tom ended up spraying our insect repellent near the dog to deter it and this seemed to work, well we got away unscathed. I was excited about the next trail as it ran through Amish country and the guide had said we could as much expect to see Amish horse and buggies as other cyclists. 

And sure enough we passed a few. The scenery was lovely; woods, fields, wetlands. It was easy riding too and we made it to Fredricksburg in time for lunch. It was a cute little town with a number of buggies and horses parked up and the girls serving in the ice cream shop were in traditional outfits with the shop T-shirt pulled over the top of their dresses. That was the end of the trail for a bit, but the route was still signed, taking us along the back roads past Amish schools, the kids in the playground playing softball, and through fields being tended by horse drawn machinery. It made a refreshing change from the countless miles of corn and soy we'd passed since coming back into the U.S. 

We rejoined the trail and were soon in Canal Fulton our destination for the night where we had arranged a Warm Showers host who despite being tied up agreed to let us stay in their trailer and then made us breakfast in the morning. The towpath trail then took us up through Akron and on to and through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We had picked out a road at the north end of the park to take us east along roads to yet another Warm Showers hosts just south of Chardon but this road turned out to be extremely rough and steep so we had to push the bikes up. We weren't far from Cleveland at this point and the roads were pretty busy and not good quality which made for tiring, unpleasant riding. By the time we rolled into Ben's drive we were on the verge of collapse but cold drinks and snacks soon revived us and we spent a wonderful evening together with his neighbours who are also Warm Showers hosts.

1 comment:

  1. More wonderful photographs and prose. Mr P x