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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