Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bikes OnBoard


Only two stops between home and Union Station put us at the Amtrak station well ahead of the scheduled departure of the Southwest Chief. We were traveling with our vintage bicycles, a 1973 Schwinn Paramount and a 1983 Mercian Strada Speciale, headed to Paso Robles for the annual Eroica California festival and ride.

Dilemma #1 - The bikes on the roof of the Subaru would not clear the garage.

Dilemma solved - Jacquie would wait on the curb while Jim would park the car.

Dilemma #2 - Jacquie standing on the curb in Chicago wearing a t-shirt, windbreaker and sandals with two bikes, a suitcase, a backpack, a shopping bag, and a large purse in 20 mph winds at 40 degrees.

This dilemma was not remedied until Jim made it back to me so we could proceed into the station. Shivering uncontrollably at this point, a security guard directing taxis observed our conundrum of bags and bikes and generously offered to roll the bikes to the baggage counter with us. We checked our large suitcases because Amtrak requires you hold onto a bike until it is handed off to the porter at the baggage coach.

Dilemma #3 - maneuvering the bikes around Union Station in search of lunch.

After several trips up and down elevators at different ends of the station, a Metra associate kindly walked us to the correct elevator to get to the food court. That's two friendlies so far. In true Chicago fashion we had dogs and fries.

Next we went to the gate that our train was supposed to leave from. This is where you have to forget everything you learned about traveling on a plane. A woman from Amtrak was herding all of us railroad neophytes into a single file line to move to the Great Hall. She was distracted so just told everyone to follow Jim and I because we thought we knew where we were supposed to go. 

Made it to the Great Hall. Now what. We were instructed to have a seat and wait until we were all called at once to move to the train.

While waiting we met another passenger, Tom, traveling with his bike. He had mistakenly chained his bike to a lamp post so he could leave it for a few minutes. In those few minutes his cable was cut and the drug sniffing dog was brought out. Whew.Glad that wasn't us. We almost tried it.

Thirty minutes prior to departure an attendant, who was as round and she was tall, came to the Great Hall and announced that all for the Southwest Chief should follow her. She put Jim and I in the front of the line because we had to hand the bikes off. 

Here's where Jim speaks when he shouldn't. There was a young man at the front whom Jim cordially asked "how are you today?" The young passenger proceeded to display peculiar behavior. After a long, drawn out deduction of phosphoric acid, lower intestines, leaching of nutrients, and vomit inducing levels of sugar it was concluded that Jim's Diet Coke was equivalent to bottled heroin.

I was unequivocally jubilant we were seated nowhere near this young passenger on the train. We were, however, assigned seats next to the other cyclist we had met in the station. Sweet!

Shortly after leaving Chicago an attendant came through the coaches to take dinner reservations. We picked the last time slot of 7:30. Lo and behold we were seated to dinner with another bike nerd. (After this trip Jim will never want to travel any other way.) Galen owned Paramounts and a Voyageur. He was on his way to Albuquerque to purchase a truck to bring home two more Paramounts, 
The conversation went something like this:
Campy this and Shimano that; 27 or 700?; Orange, yellow, or blue?; P13; no, P15; who made the wheels?; is Mercian British? For two hours the conversation revolved around steel. Who would have guessed, of all the passengers, we would have been seated with another bike nut?

We retired to our seats and fell asleep to the gentle rocking of the train.

Upon arriving in Los Angeles we again faced a dilemma of getting the bikes up the stairs to the rental car garage. No problem. We were old pros at this by now. Jacquie waited on the curb while Jim retrieved the car. The 70 degrees in LA was a little bit easier to tolerate.

People, bikes and luggage in the car, we were headed to Eroica California 2017.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Ohio to Erie – Day 5 of Riding, Columbus to Cedarville

I could have stayed in our deluxe suite a few more hours had we not needed to leave the Hampton Inn early to beat all the teenage concert goers to breakfast.

Through pouring rain, we picked up the Olentangy River Trail across the street from the hotel.

Let me start by saying the twisted web of trails in and around Columbus were more than a little confusing. The Olantangy Trail meanders through Ohio State University campus. It runs on both sides of the street and, through the driving rain and heavy traffic, we had a little problem finding the right place to cross the street to continue on the trail. The campus was relatively deserted on this wet July day so we couldn’t even find a wandering resource to ask directions. Thus started our day of u-turns, course corrections, and urban adventures. 

About 5 soggy miles later we jumped over to the Scioto Trail.

What should have been a short 4-mile ride to the Hilltop Connector ended up being about 7 miles after we made two wrong turns and doubled back each time. We finally cried uncle and went into a corner convenient store for guidance. By this time, we were soaked to the bone and the clerk was not happy with the two unfortunate puddles we left on the floor. Despite the copious amount of drippage, the clerk was helpful.

Two miles of short jaunts and numerous turns through a residential area dumped us out onto W. Broad St., aka US40, aka a heavily travelled highway running through the middle of Columbus, the Capitol of Ohio. What do you know?! We missed our turn again, doubled back once more and got off of the busy highway onto Norton Rd.

3.5 more miles of residential roads led us into Galloway where we picked up the Camp Chase Trail. The rain had finally let up and we even saw a glimmer of sunlight here and there. The sun helped bring optimism to our route finding and navigation.

Camp Chase was three straight miles of  corn fields, RR tankers and tractor crossing signs until we turned into Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park for a 2-mile ride through the park. The trail was a little confusing in the park because the signs were tucked away in the trees and the gravel trail started at the head of the parking lot. It took us few minutes to find the trail, and with each passing moment we were 
both getting hungrier and hungrier. We did see a grocery store sign over the hill. Our decision to go out of the way in search of nourishment was in vein. The gaping windows, vacant of any glass, ridiculed our suffering. The rural country side was a welcome change from the congestion of Broad Street. 

Back on the Camp Chase Trail for another 5.5 mils of corn and RR tankers.

By this time, we were ravenous and there was nowhere to eat in sight. We settled for Cliff Bars on the steps of the church in Lilly Chapel. That is about all there is in Lilly Chapel – a church and a four-way stop.

Camp Chase becomes the Roberts Pass Trail after it crosses Wilson Rd. in Lilly Chapel. Roberts Pass runs about seven miles into London, OH.

It was past lunchtime and we met Pedal Pal and Roomie in London for a bite to eat. We chose a little pizza joint called Ronettie’s because there was another loaded bicycle setting by the front door. It did not disappoint. The hoagies were delicious.

Dale “Peace” Walker was the owner of the lone bike. He was a loner himself and had been travelling around the country on two wheels for the better part of a year. He came over to chat with us for a few minutes, wished us peace, and then asked if we could buy his lunch.

Velo and I parted ways with Pedal and Roomie. This was their destination for the night. They were staying at a motel/trailer park called The Cordle Motel. If you go they accept cash or check only.

On the other side of London Velo and I picked up the Prairie Grass Trail for a 22-mile straight shot to Cedarville and the Hearthstone Inn for a total of 58 miles. The only excitement we had on the this stretch was the family of wild turkeys we came across. Velo was unaware that I as trying to slow down and film them and barreled right on through causing the little family to take off in all directions. See the short video at 50% speed

After checking into the hotel and rolling the bikes into the room we rested for a bit, then showered and got ready for a night on the town. Unfortunately, the town rolls up its sidewalks about 8:00 p.m. The info pamphlet in the room listed some quaint eateries. A small place called Beans and Cream peaked our interest because ice cream sounded delectable…and, we got there just as they closed the kitchen. We settled for the diner across from the hotel, The Main Street Station. The staff was friendly, the food was good, but the flies. I wasn’t sure if I was eating dinner, or if I was dinner! All flies aside, we were glad to get a good meal before our last day on the trail.

While enjoying the evening breeze on one of the many patio chairs surrounding the Hearthstone Inn we posted a picture of our digs on Facebook. Within 15 minutes Roomie commented that they had a nice two room suite at the Cordle Inn but their host hadn’t come by to collect the fees yet because he was at the dentist tending to a toothache. Unfortunately, the only TV in the place was a nine-inch screen located in one of the bedrooms. At least it was a color TV.

Before we the evening set in we decided to walk the mile to a convenient store across the street from Cedarville University. School was not in session so the campus was quiet in the July heat. We returned to retire for the night and watch the final night of the Democratic National Convention.

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Ohio to Erie Day 4 of Riding – Mt. Vernon to Columbus (Small Towns and Big Cities)

Up early again to get a good head start on the day. Today was a nearly 60-mile day. It was, however, almost all bike trail. To give you some perspective, we had a total of 665 ft. of elevation over the entire course.

This was my favorite breakfast of the week, though. I just love the warm cinnamon rolls at Holiday Inn Express. We departed Holiday Inn smarter than we were a day ago for a 2-mile coast down a 2 to 3 % grade into Mt. Vernon.

We met up with Pedal Pal and Roomie at the Comfort Inn. Roomie came out first.  We waited a while for Pedal. When Pedal arrived, Roomie decided he wanted to go back in to get his Muscle Milk. We were all finally together and crossrd the bridge for day of some downhill, for a change.

The Heart of Ohio Trail runs the distance from Mt. Vernon to Centerburg and starts just outside the Comfort Inn when Pedal and Roomie had spent the night.

The next 14 miles were a slight uphill grade finally peaking just before Centerburg.

About halfway through the day, about 31 miles into the ride, we all developed a hankering for some fresh, small-town doughnuts and a glass of cold chocolate milk. We found just the spot in Sunbury. The Hoover Scenic Trail circles the reservoir in Sunbury before crossing the pedestrian bridge to the Genoa Trail.

A mile past the doughnut shop was Big Walnut High School, a virtual incubator for female volley ball players, according to Pedal Pal. Pedal has a difficult time leaving his coaching job for vacation so every time we are anywhere near a high school it’s fair game for recruiting.

While Pedal was inside wheelin’ and dealin’ Roomie, Velo and I just hung around outside longing for some air conditioning. The day was turning into a scorcher.

Another 2.5 miles and we found the town of Galena and the Hoover Scenic Trail. Off the trail for about half a mile and we picked up the Genoa Trail.

Those 25 miles were slightly rolling but overall downhill to Westerville.

Pedal and Roomie left us at Westerville. Roomie needed a small repair to his bike so they stopped at the LBS. Rumor has it that Pedal’s bike was molested by someone at the store causing a bloody elbow and some chipped paint. We continued on the Westerville Trail, taking a short pause at the Westerville Depot.

After leaving the comfort of trail life we turned west onto Schrock Road. This was not a scenic road, nor was it a fun road. Heavily trafficked by fast moving vehicles, the bike lane was a reprieve, until…the street cleaner was operating in it. What city operated the street cleaner in the afternoon on a busy five-lane highway? Of course it was blocking us just as we came to an uphill grade forcing us to merge with traffic. We were stuck on this hindrance of a road for a bout 5 miles.

We passed the big Budweiser factory and turned south again on Proprietors Rd. The road was so short we missed a turn onto North Road. Nothing a quick u-turn couldn’t fix.

After crossing High St. we found the Olentangy trail, again made a wrong turn, righted ourselves and followed the Olentangy trail all the way to the hotel.

That sounds easy, but it was far from it. The roadways in and around the university are hectic to say the least.  Add a soccer tournament and a Nick Jonas/Demi Lovato concert to the mix and you have pure insanity.

Velo and I were on our own for 16 more miles to the Ohio State University in Columbus.
We were so thankful to get to our hotel. The thought of checking in, drying off, and relaxing a little before dinner was encouraging. No go. Sixty miles in 90 degrees terminating in heavy rain and the hotel was sold out. We would have to wait in the lobby until our room was ready. 

It was worth the wait. Velo surprised me with a deluxe suite for the middle of the week. After a peaceful shower and short rest we walked across the parking lot to El Vaquera for a Mexican dinner. Pre-teen girls in town for the concert had descended on the restaurant with a vengeance. We were tired anyway so two margaritas and a burrito and I was ready to call it a day. I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.  ZZzzzzzzzzzzz

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