Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ohio to Erie, America's Crossroads

This trip had been a long time in the making. It seemed whenever we tried to plan it we ran into some sort of obstacle. Finally, the day arrived and we were ready to head north.

Up at 6 a.m. to pick up Pedal Pal, who initially was supposed to meet us in Cleveland. In order to avoid a seemingly endless string of misfortunes, we opted to let him ride in the rented van with us. Having organized these end-to-end rides in the past we discovered a one-way rental was the best solution. Unless, of course, you don’t mind squeezing in the back seat of a small vehicle, with a load of paniers, driven by a nineteen-year-old hipster. A large decal on the side of the car read “The Hatch that gets the Snatch”. Did I mention we were lost for over an hour somewhere in Pennsylvania, in the Snatch Hatch, trying to get home after riding all day. But I digress…
We pulled up to Pedal’s house, startling his wife, Trekkie, when we blew the horn at her as she was walking their beagle. In her state of frenzy, she scooped up poor Mazzy, who in turn started bellowing in her native hound dog bark.

Bikes and bags loaded, we left Cincinnati by 8:00 a.m. and made our destination by 1:00 p.m. After watching Pedal haggle with the hotel host at the Springhill Suites, (his room wasn’t ready at the Red Roof Inn), soaking in the hot tub and indulging in a blissful nap we walked across the street to the “Winking Lizard”.

A keen view of downtown Cleveland and great selection of local ales and soon the joint prophetically became the “Linking Wizard”, or the “Leaking Gizzard”, or… well, I think you get the idea.
By the time we left the Lizard the once empty parking lot had filled completely with a picnicking group of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a good thing they don’t party late into the night because we wanted to hit the road early.

Day 1 of riding – We smuggled Pedal in through the backdoor of the Springhill Suites for the free breakfast at 7 while hiding his bike in our room. He moved like an amorphous creature through the breakfast line so as not to be recognized.

The ride to the trail head was easy breezy on a Sunday morning, even though the road was typically a busy thoroughfare. After posing for a group picture we rode south to the Boston Store, an historic post for textiles, flour, and feed. The skies to the west were darkening but we were optimistically hopeful the storms would miss us. Can I say “Hope is not a plan of action”.

The trail had been detoured in more than one If looks could kill! But each time my instincts were correct and we would have to turn around. Velo would concede, Pedal would laugh, and I would humbly gloat.
spot and each detour had an incline bigger than the previous. More than once my instincts told me we had made a wrong turn. Each time I would say “I don’t think this is right” Velojunkie would shoot me “the look”, you know, the one…

Just south of Peninsula is a nature preserve called Beaver Refuge. Although much of the life there is under the abundant lily pads and other water flora, there was still a turtle and a couple of birds enjoying the creature comforts of the protected area.

The route into Akron was demoralizing. A network of narrow ramps, each being of 5% grade, then a detour through a deserted downtown, followed by a winding course though several neighborhoods culminating with a temporary, floating boardwalk over a swamp. Something large and invisible was leaping out of the water as the platform moved under our feet.

Soon after leaving the boundaries of the city the skies opened up. I believe we were in the center of the thunderhead. Our only option was to carry on. Our tires sank in the wet, sandy, crushed-stone trail as tiny frogs hopped across in front of us. I was stopped at a crossroads in the blinding rain, the sound of the railroad gates melancholy against the bright lightening and loud thunder claps. I felt as if I were in some Alfred Hitchcock film waiting for the climatic end.

Pausing in Canal Fulton to get out of the rain, we stopped at the Cherry Street Creamery. A burger and milkshake was the perfect menu for a group of soggy cyclists.

The still canal was emerald green along the trail. Periodically a Great Blue Heron would be on a limb, watching us with one eye while searching the canal for a meal. Or a gaggle of Canada Geese could be seen socializing amidst the bounty of natural food.

We made it to Massillon in the late afternoon. Pedal, a college volleyball coach in the fall, turned and headed straight for the rec center where a tournament was being hosted. He was going to try his hand at recruiting despite the wet clothes and the mud caked to his shoes and legs.

Velo and I checked into the hotel to get cleaned up and ready for dinner. Oddly, the first four levels of the hotel were a parking garage so we decided to walk the bikes up the ramps. Massillon is where we met up with the fourth rider, Roomie. Roomie had been Pedal’s roommate in college and had also been trying to ride the Ohio-to-Erie trail for a while. He jumped at the chance to ride with his old pal. 

Dinner at Rockne’s Irish Pub provided sufficient fodder to relax and refuel before a rejuvenating sleep at the Hampton Inn.

Watch for Days 2 through 7 to be posted shortly.

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