Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ohio-to-Erie – Day 3 of Riding, Millersburg to Mt. Vernon- Cartographer's Revenge

Day three of riding was another short day. Sometimes, when planning these long bicycle trips, you are constrained by where the towns fall on the map and just have to accept the spaces therein. Just like you are subject to the geography of the route. Which brings me to my next point of conversation, even more significant hills than day 2. The cartographer of this map should feel lucky to be anonymous.

I woke up with a stiff neck from sleeping on a pillow that felt like it was made of hard rubber. Two Advil and a swig of Orange Crush did the trick.

What goes up must come down and so we started the day rolling back downhill to the Holmes County Trail. The Hotel at Millersburg does not have breakfast so we left our lodging, four hungry ramblers in search of grub. About a quarter mile down the hill we could smell the sweet aroma of fast-food breakfast. There it was, Burger King. But wait! It didn’t appear to be open. The parking lot was void of cars and the tinted windows made the interior seem dim. Upon closer examination there were angels from heaven in Burger King uniforms busy with the grilling sausages and making coffee.
Velojunkie and I reached the front doors first. We dismounted our bikes and properly rested them against the side of the restaurant. After ordering our food we selected a table and waited for Pedal Pal and Roomie. And we waited. And we waited. We assumed a flat tire and started satisfying our need for caffeine and calories. A few minutes later our comrades pulled up. Roomie had suffered a slight mishap when he tried to clip in only to find his cleat was missing. The force of his foot slipping off the pedal threw him off balance and down he went…on his elbow…in the gravel.

Again, angels were with us as Pedal had a spare cleat and Velo had a cleat tool. Who does that?

Of course Burger King was void of any fruit for breakfast and Roomie desperately wanted a banana or two to replenish his potassium so we stopped at WalMart. This was convenient because the Holmes County Trail started back up at the edge of the parking lot. This is by design because it is a carriage trail for the Amish as much as it is a bike path. There were even some buggies parked in the Buggy Barn, constructed specifically for those that arrive by horse and buggy. Then there’s that. Can someone please explain why a culture can’t travel by car but can shop at WalMart?

 We enjoyed the smooth and flat trail for about seven miles. Of which Pedal and Roomie rode on ahead at a faster pace.

We left the trail for OH 520, the part of Bike Rte. 1 that passes through Killbuck. But the real drama started when we turned onto Hwy. 6.

Hills started at about mile 8 and continued up for the next five miles with grades up to 10 and 12%. It wasn’t long before we were all four struggling up the hills together. The exaggerated elevation variations went on for the next two miles; each climb more disheartening than the last. Even Velo had to dismount and walk at one point when a steep climb had a false crest, only to make a sharp turn and continue up.

Hwy. 6 turned into OH 25 and, just when you thought it was safe… BAM… more monster hills.

Finally, a long, curvy, downhill coast on US 62. The caveat, this is a US route instead of a state route. That can only mean one thing – big trucks share this road. And they were big, and very fast. And very scary.

The trail continues for this stretch, however is impassible at this time and usage is not permitted. For the time being cyclists are forced to use the road along with normal traffic. Note that they are working on the trail and it should be
open in 2017.

We were finally able to exit US 62 for the Mohican Valley Trail. We took a break by the “Bridge of Dreams”; no doubt we were dreaming of a smooth, uninhibited downhill coast. It wasn’t downhill, but it was a nice, flat, relaxing ride on the Mohican Valley trail.

We arrived into Danville hot and hungry. Of the two restaurants in the town we chose “The Bender” for the daily special – BLT and fries for $5.

On the outskirts of Danville we picked up the Kokosing Gap Trail. With four miles or so to go to the Holiday Inn, we left the trail. I gasped at the hills through Gambier, but I struggled through. Gambier is the home of the prestigious and beautiful Kenyon College. The scenery throughout the campus was enjoyable enough to forgive the 8 to 10% climb.

I cried at the last hill, another 10% grade. My legs were spent. Cars were coming up behind me and there was little to no berm on Upper Gilchrist Rd. I made the decision to walk to the top and then ride the last block to the Holiday Inn.

The lady at the Holiday Inn desk was full of knowledge about the famous alumnus of Kenyon, like Paul Newman and Jonathan Winters. You could hear the community pride in her poised assertions. She was also very interested in hearing about our ride. We shared stories for a short time but the two of us were exhausted. After checking in a short swim to cool off sounded glorious. The hotel pool did not disappoint

Pedal and Roomie decided to stay in the center of Mt Vernon and avoided the hill to the Holiday Inn, so it was just Velo and I for dinner. We chose Bob Evans, an Ohio favorite for a hearty meal, because it was in walking distance. 

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Ohio-to-Erie Trail - Day 2 of Riding, Massillon to Millersburg (Holy Moly Roly Poly)

Rising early to get a head start on the mercury, we embarked on the Hampton Inn free breakfast as soon as it was available. This time Pedal Pal was legit, as was our newest comrade, Roomie. Starting early had little impact on the time we checked out, though. I think we lingered at breakfast absorbing as much protein as we could for the impending “significant hills”. The Ohio-to-Erie map folks were kind enough to warn of upcoming elevation, albeit with little detail as to what “significant” truly meant.

Upon leaving the Hampton Inn in Massillon we had no idea one of those hills would hit us smack in the face within a quarter of a mile. Now, I don’t know about you, but my cardio-pulmonary combo likes to have an easy several miles to get into a rhythm with each other. The lungs need about 30 minutes to calibrate the O2 gauge so the heart doesn’t over exert due to insufficient flow of oxygen. Pedal and Roomie bolted ahead of Velo and me. I guess I am more like the tortoise than the hare. Slow and steady, seldom sprinting.

I assume all of you who ride with any frequency are pretty in-tune with your metabolism and fuel requirements. I am as well and know that in addition to proteins and fats I need some good ole’ carbs for breakfast. Shortly after getting on the trail after conquering the hill I realized I was sorely lacking easily convertible energy. The only thing I had with me that constituted pure sugar was an envelope of instant hot cocoa powder. I laughed when Velo had taken it from our hotel room but I guess he had more foresight than I. So there I was, on the side of the Sippo Valley Trail, pouring cocoa powder in my mouth and waiting for the shot of energy. Just and FYI…it worked really well.
The Sippo Valley Trail is a flat path that meanders through a quiet, residential neighborhoods and several park-like wooded areas for about 12 miles. Velo and I enjoyed our coast on the trail until we had to leave the comfort of the known terrain for the uncertainty of Bike Route 1

The majority of the significant hills for day 2 were in the stretch between Dalton (pronounced Dow-ton) and Fredericksburg. At one point we even came across Pedal and Roomie sitting on the side of the road recovering.

The extreme elevation changes only lasted for about fifteen miles, but those were fifteen demoralizing miles that showed us what we were made of. The struggle ended wtih a mile and a half downhill coast into Fredericksburg where we found Lem’s, a small, independent business in the land of the Amish, serving up hearty subs and cold soft-serve. Out of about 15 different favors of ice cream I chose cheesecake. Velo selected butter pecan. We sat at the outside picnic tables for a good, long time enjoying the quietness of the small town and resting our bones. Our gluteus and calf muscles were like rubber bands, our clothes wet and our skin salty from the exertion.

The hills were behind us and only ten miles lay between Lem’s and our destination for the night. The Holmes County Trail took us all the way to Millersburg, home of the Hotel at Millersburg.

We stopped at the depot to get directions to the hotel only to find out it was at the top of a hill. As a matter of fact, the whole town was set at the top of that hill.

Nope. I refused. I made it to town by the power of the pedal, I refused to pedal anymore, or at least not up a hill. I walked my bike up that hill with as much indignation as those struggling to pedal.

The Hotel at Millersburg was very nice. They had a courtyard to park the bikes in until the party room was empty. Then we could lock the bikes up inside for the night. We had spotted the Millersburg Brewery across the street and were excited for a local craft beer. You can imagine our disappointment when we found out they weren’t open on Tuesday. WHAT?! “Bags” was the sports bar next door and luckily had one of the local brews on draught. The spinach salad, chicken wings, and peanut butter cheesecake filled the bill and we were ready for a good nights’ sleep. The 1000+ ft. of climbing in less than 15 miles made a short, 38-mile day quite exhausting.

In summary – Massillon to Millersburg is a short, 38 mile ride with bike trails on either end. The mid-section has some steep climbs and exhilarating downhills. The elevation gain in the middle certainly makes up for the brevity of the route.

Stay tuned for more adventures of riding the Ohio-to-Erie trail with me, The Reluctant Cyclist, Velojunkie, Pedal Pal, and Roomie.

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