2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 6 – Journey Complete

Our day started with a well prepared breakfast at the Bright Morning B&B. This is one of the nicest B&B’s I’ve stayed in. The owners do a superb job of keeping the place clean and comfortable. The breakfast was really good, too. I had advised them of my dairy allergy and they took special care to make me a hearty breakfast of oatmeal, watermelon, and toast … but I admit that I was a bit jealous of the home fries and eggs on JB and Billy’s plate. It was definitely the best breakfast of the trip.

We finished breakfast quickly and made our way back to the trail. I planned a short day today so that we could have some time do to a little sight seeing in Pittsburgh before packing up and driving home.

We had another gorgeous weather day. We made quick time to McKeesport and stopped for a quick snack.

Heading west, once you reach McKeesport, the trail becomes much more urban. There are several bridges that cross the river or train tracks to help navigate all the way into the city. This particular bridge was built in 1891 for trains to cross the Monongahela river (frequently called “the Mon”) and has been converted for the bike trail. No matter how many times I cross these kinds of structures, I enjoy thinking about the history of it and wonder whether the people who built it had any idea that it would become used for recreation. I guess none of us really knows the legacy we leave behind. What starts off as hard work might very well be the source of joy for others who we never meet on this side of heaven.

The trail continues for a few miles on the south side of the Mon and passes the few remaining steel mills on the river. We paralleled these active train tracks the whole way into Pittsburgh. I didn’t know before this trip that JB really loves trains. We stopped a few times along the way to watch the trains go by. Billy joked that our train gawking was like city folk who’ve never seen a deer before when they come to the country.

Once again we came back to the Hot Metal bridge and crossed to the north side of the river to head back into downtown. We stopped for the familiar view of downtown.

Downtown Pittsburgh viewed from the Hot Metal Bridge

JB and Billy wanted to go back again to PPG Place, so we made a quick side trip there. When we arrived this time, we saw these three neat dinosaur sculptures in the entrance way to the main tower. I especially liked the Heinz ketchup bottle dinosaur. Pittsburgh is the home of Heinz.

Finally we made our way back to The Point, which is the end of the Great Allegheny Passage! 300 miles from Pittsburgh to Confluence and back.

The Iconic Fountain at the Confluence of the Three Rivers

We stayed at the point for a few minutes. Billy and I soaked our feet in the fountain and JB took a rest laying on the side of it. It wasn’t picnic table, but he decided it was comfortable enough.

Since we still had plenty of the day left, we rode across the Allegheny river to visit the Mr. Rogers memorial and the WWII memorial. The Fred Rogers memorial is neat – it has a great sculpture of him. Standing in the archway, you can hear a recording of him. We need a bit more Mr. Rogers and quite a bit less of cable TV news, I think.

Finally we crossed back over to the hotel where we left our cars. We got cleaned up in the restroom, and packed up our bikes and gear for the trip home.

Diamond Elite Bike, for sure

I had told JB and Billy about this place called “Bicycle Heaven” just a couple of miles away. It is a museum of bikes and other neat stuff. We decided to go spend a little time there and walk around. I’ve been here once before a few years ago. Last time I was here, I stumbled across the exact make and model of the bike my first 10-speed that my mom & dad bought me when I was in 6th or 7th grade. It’s the orange bike in the picture below. It had a simulated suede seat with matching handlebar tape and a rear disc break – something way ahead of its time! I put many miles on that bike. I easily found the bike again because it was still in exactly the same place it was when I visited a few years ago.

After a nice long visit to the bike museum, we decided we needed to get on the road and head back to Lexington. It’s always a little bittersweet to finish a bike trip. The riding is fun, but eventually you have to get back to the real world.

JB was very insistent that we get a good meal on our way home. Good food has been somewhat elusive this trip due to COVID-19 and the Labor Day holiday. So we stopped at a steak place on the way out of Pittsburgh. It did not disappoint! 12 ounces of ribeye with steamed veggies and a salad hit the spot. I probably could have eaten two of them.

We arrived home around bed time. I was very happy to see my family. My dog was happy to see me, too. She’s getting a bit old and doesn’t like to be away from me too much anymore. She’s been following me around all morning today.

This was a very relaxing bike trip. I especially enjoyed being the tour guide for Billy and JB. Since I’ve been on the GAP several times, it was like riding through a familiar neighborhood for me, but for JB and Billy it was all new. We also found that our touring styles are very compatible. We each do things a bit differently, but we worked well together.

Hopefully next year we won’t have the gloom of COVID hanging over us. I’d like to find a new place to explore by bike. We’ll see what the future holds!

Some simple stats from our ride (including side trips and sight seeing):

Riding Time: 23 Hours, 33 Minutes

DayStartEndMilesMinutesPedal RevsPedal Strokes
1Pittsburgh, PAConnellsvile, PA62.36283          21,828           43,656 
2Connellsville, PARockwood, PA48.48242          18,175           36,350 
3Rockwood, PACumberland, MD45.44193          15,064           30,129 
4Cumberland, MDConfluence, PA64.03284          22,681           45,363 
5Conflucence, PAWest Newton, PA55.13227          18,137           36,275 
6West Newton, PAPittsburgh, PA39.09183          14,296           28,592 
TOTAL  314.531412        110,182         220,365 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Great Allegheny Passage, check out their web site or feel free to drop me a note. I’d enjoy hearing what you’ve got planned.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 5

Yesterday’s ride was long and tiring. Not in a bad way, but in that way where you feel accomplished and deserve a great night’s sleep. Which I did.

We decided to get up and get moving by 8:15 this morning because we wanted to have time to stop and see the sites around plus we wanted to have a real breakfast in Ohiopyle. We couldn’t find much of anything that we expected to be open in Confluence for breakfast. Ohiopyle is the next real town heading westbound on the GAP.

As we left the BnB, it was very foggy and cool. It made for some interesting backdrop of the ride. Within about 30 minutes, the sun had risen enough to dry everything out and the fog disappeared.

Much of the trail looked like this today. Tall canopies of trees with some rock walls occasionally. When the sun is just past rising, it is bright green and beautiful.

We took many breaks today. Mostly just to absorb the beauty of the day, plus get a snack or water. Mid way towards Ohiopyle, we saw an opportunity to park our bikes and walk safely down to the Youghiogheny river. We sat on the rocks of the river for probably 15-20 minutes and just listened to the water. Very relaxing.

We pulled into Ohiopyle mid morning and set about looking for breakfast. We were all very hungry. Ohiopyle was much quieter today than when we were here on Sunday. We pretty much owned the town. We rode around the main streets and asked some locals where to get breakfast. Every place they suggested was closed. Ugh. We struck out again!

We finally settled for breakfast sandwiches. They were good, but it wasn’t quite the big breakfast we had all been hoping for.

The fact that we’ve struck out so many times on finding food has become a running joke. Every place I’ve recommended is closed. So tomorrow, the other guys get to choose the place.

The Yougiogheny river passes through Ohiopyle in a horseshoe shape, several miles across. One side of the horseshoe is right across from the main part of town. We walked over and sat for a good long time. JB went upstream a bit. I went straight over, and Billy went his own direction. JB and I took our shoes off and soaked our feet in the cool clear water. I did that for about 30-45 minutes. I called my family and did a FaceTime video call so that they could get a small taste of the wonderful views and river sounds.

It was nice not to be rushed today. We spent much more time enjoying the river and views than we did on the previous few days. This has been the most relaxing day of the trip so far.

Eventually I called out to the other guys and we decided we’d better get moving before we decided to sell everything and move to Ohiopyle.

We pressed on at a good clip for most of the rest of the day. As we passed through Connellsville, we stopped to get some water and cool down a bit. The sun started to get a bit toasty. JB has a penchant for laying down on picnic tables and resting. This one wasn’t concrete, but he seemed to like it well enough.

Pressing on, we came to the memorial for the Darr Mine disaster. It is the worst mining accident in Pennsylvania history. In 1907 a massive explosion occurred, likely triggered by hitting a large natural gas pocket along with the miners’ open flame headlamps. The blast killed 229 men – perhaps many more that were never recovered.

A few more miles and we reached our destination for the evening: West Newton, PA. We’re staying at the Bright Morning B&B. This place is right on the trail. It is beautifully restored and spotless. I’m really impressed so far. Let’s see how their breakfast goes in the morning!

After a very soapy shower, we regrouped and went down to The Trailside (again) for dinner. We ate well and then went back to the BnB to sit outside and talk for a while before turning in.

It is only 8PM but I’m really tired. I guess the riding is catching up to me. As soon as I finish my blog and Evening Prayer, I’ll be calling it a night.

Tomorrow we finish up our journey. I planned a very short 34 mile day so that we can be to Pittsburgh before lunch, do a little sightseeing, and then get home before bed tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to seeing my family.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

Peace.

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 4 – “Return of the Buds!”

Yesterday completed the first half of our journey. We traveled the entire length of the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh PA to Cumberland MD over three days. Today began part 2: to go back the way we came and return to Pittsburgh. We will be staying in different towns on the way back so that we see other places and people.

Today’s leg of our return was from Cumberland up to Confluence PA – about 63 miles plus a small detour into Frostburg.

When we last saw our hero’s trusty bike, it was left at the bike shop with a broken rear spoke on the drive side. They estimated that my bike would be ready around 9:30AM. That’s a bit later than we’d hoped, but I was just relieved that my bike could be repaired quickly and get us back underway.

We had a very long day ahead of us – about 65 miles, including a 23+ mile climb from Cumberland up to the Continental Divide. Given the distance and climb, we were going to get started as soon as my bike was ready. I called at 9:30 and they said it would be another hour. Again, I was just thankful it was going to be fixed. So about 10:30 we decided to just go over to the shop and wait there. When I walked in, the bike was ready to go. So I paid my $30 for the repair (a bargain, in my opinion) and got on the road.

The climb up out of Cumberland is really not as bad as it sounds or looks on the map. The first time I did this climb back in 2012 I was very intimidated by the length of the climb and the overall change in elevation. What I learned is that by just going down a gear or two and patiently chugging on, you can do it. Yes, it is ~1800 ft. of constant climb, but if you don’t think too hard, you can just press on. There’s no coincidence that after I reached the top, my average speed jumped dramatically.

Another great part of the climb is that you are treated to some wonderful views. We have been blessed with gorgeous weather all week!

A few miles from the top is Frostburg. There is a nice trailhead here with water. We stopped for a short break to get some calories for the rest of the climb and met some people here. Shortly after, we took the switchbacks up to the train station that serves the tourism train. Unfortunately, the train does not appear to be running. The tracks have a nice haze of rust on them. I’m assuming this is another temporary (?) impact of COVID-19.

A little ways further we crossed back from the South (Maryland) to the North (Pennsylvania). No more sweet tea, I guess.

As we stopped for a rest and a few pictures, a couple we met at the Frostburg trailhead came riding along. We talked a bit more and I took her picture with my ride mascot “Ms. Bug”.

Ms. Bug is a neat little crochet lady bug that my daughter made for me a few years ago. I used to travel with a different ride mascot, Mr. Hamster, but he’s away at Rose-Hulman getting his head stuffed with knowledge and keeping my Daughter company.

I decided to stop once again at my favorite lookout. This is the spot just south-east of the entrance to the Big Savage tunnel. I’ve been here several times, but it is still amazing each time. You can see the valley below, roughly the same elevation as Cumberland, I think.

And then we made it! Just a short distance after going through the Big Savage mountain via the long tunnel, we arrived at the first goal for the day: We reached the Eastern Continental Divide again.

Our second goal for the day was Meyersdale and lunch! We made very quick time towards Meyersdale. Without the climbing grade, we were plugging along between 18-20 miles per hour until we got there. We dropped into town at about 2:15PM, only to find out that the GI Dayroom was closing shop for the day. Ugh! It is a great place to eat, but missed it on both directions. I guess that means we just have to come back and ride the GAP again!

We had a quick lunch of chili dogs at ”Take 6” in downtown Meyersdale, and then climbed back up the street to the trail. Not a bad climb, but I felt it a little in the quads today.

Next up are the great bridges. Just NW of Meyersdale we crossed over the Salisbury Viaduct again. Pictures really don’t do it justice.

We pressed on at a good clip but decided to take a short stop at the trailhead in Rockwood. We sat in the shade and drank some much needed water. Too bad the bike shop wasn’t open.

Our last stop for the day is our AirBnB in Confluence. We arrived and got cleaned up. We called a couple of restaurants within walking distance, but nothing was open. The good news is that we’re all three pretty easy to feed. We walked over to the local supermarket and purchased some food we could easily heat up at the rental house. I would not say it was gourmet, but it did the trick. I had a beef pot-pie and some simulated fried rice. I’ve certainly had worse meals.

Tomorrow we head about 55-ish miles to West Newton. We’re going to do a simple breakfast here and then go in search of a really GOOD breakfast in Ohiopyle, about 15 miles down the road. Hopefully we’ll have more success this time.

Overall a great day of riding! Doesn’t get much better than good company, good riding, great weather, and making memories.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

Peace.

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 3

The hostel we stayed in is about 30 feet from a major train line and about 25 feet from a railroad crossing. So every time a train would come through, the noise of the trains and the horn would be loud. However I was tired enough, plus earplugs, and I didn’t hear a single one of the trains last night. I usually sleep until 5-6AM. Today I woke up at 6:45. Needless to say, I felt great.

We had a simple breakfast of energy bars and some canned peaches. We decided that we would make our way to Meyersdale – about 14 miles away. Once again, the weather was picture perfect. Cool, crisp, dry, and blue skies.

This section of the GAP between Rockwood and Cumberland is probably my favorite part. There are patches of woods, interspersed with railroad bridges, tunnels, and tremendous views of the mountains.

My favorite bridge on any rail-trail I’ve done is the Salisbury Viaduct. This bridge is a converted train viaduct, stretching about 1800 feet long over the valley below. It crosses a major highway, the Casselman river, and some farm country. The views are great. You also get your first glimpses of the windmills that are high in the mountain ahead.

Once we arrived in Meyersdale, we rode down the hill into town and found a place to eat. We really wanted to eat at the GI Dayroom, but it was closed due to Labor Day. We wandered around and found a neat little place called Donges. The food was good and we enjoyed our time before climbing our way back up from downtown Meyersdale to the trail.

As we were sitting down during breakfast, we ran into Russ. There is something that happens so often during bike touring, I feel compelled to describe it. Some people call it “trail magic”. I see it more as “Godincidences”. These are the opportunities to run into people that you know, day after day. Yes, you’re riding the same direction, but each at your own pace, each choosing different places to eat, sleep and so on. Yet with all of these combinations and permutations, somehow you keep crossing paths. I have had this happen on every bike tour I’ve done in the past ten years.

With Russ, we “met” on facebook. He posted in a group of trail enthusiasts that he’d be riding the GAP. Without any planning whatsoever, I bumped into him outside of Pittsburgh and we introduced ourselves. Then we’ve crossed paths several times over the past 3 days. Pretty neat.

Back underway we made our trek towards the Eastern Continental Divide. A few more really neat bridges and tunnels. This bridge is a Bollman truss bridge. It was not originally part of the railroad here, but was moved here to span the road below for the bike trail. I think the cast iron ornamentals are interesting. You don’t see these kinds of details on modern bridges.

This is another of my favorite bridges. It was originally designed for two train widths. Only one side is used and was converted for the trail. This bridge is several hundred feet long and provides spectacular views of the valley to its left and right.

A few miles later, we finally made it to the Continental Divide. This is the high point that divides the eastern watershed from the central watershed. On the east side, water flows into the Atlantic Ocean. On the west side, water flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

On this map, we rode from Pittsburgh on the right side to the “you are here” marker. We continued today down the mountain into Cumberland later today. Tomorrow, we turn around and make the climb back up to the top!

The way down from the divide is always a fun ride. It is a gentle grade, but enough that it makes for a very easy ride. There are a couple of tunnels along the way, including the Big Savage tunnel. This tunnel is over 3200’ feet long. You take off the sunglasses, turn on the headlight, and enjoy the pleasant cool temperatures in the tunnel. Just wonderful!

After emerging from the tunnel you are immediately treated to one of the best views I’ve ever seen from my bike. From up here, you can see several layers of mountains in the distance.

Just before we went into the tunnel, JB noticed that my rear wheel had a slight wobble. I looked down, and sure enough, it had a wobble! That is not good. When we stopped, I checked and I had a broken spoke. It is not a common occurrence, but it needs to be taken seriously. I called ahead to the bike shop in Cumberland and made arrangements to have someone work on my bike.

Moving along, the next stop was the Mason & Dixon line separating Maryland from Pennsylvania. We took the requisite picture of us being in two states at the same time.

We decided not to stop anywhere else on the way down so that I could get to the bike shop and hopefully catch the mechanic today. We made really good time and found our way to the bike shop.

On the plus side, they did happen to have the right spoke size. That’s a blessing – there are many sizes and they happened to have the right one. On the down side, the mechanic was already gone so it won’t get fixed until tomorrow morning. That will delay our start tomorrow morning until I get my bike back. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a problem. I’m thankful for the help!

We took our picture at the “Mile 0” marker for the Great Allegheny Passage and then went to the Fairfield Inn to get checked in and cleaned up.

We had some trouble finding a place open for dinner, but we eventually got pizza here. The food was decent but the service was … well … anyway the food was good.

So now I’m sitting at the Fairfield, finishing up our laundry and writing my blog. It has been a very good day.

Tomorrow we begin our return trip back to Pittsburgh. I designed our itinerary to stop in different towns on the way back. Tomorrow will be a long day. We have 63 miles from here to Confluence. That includes a 23 mile climb from Cumberland back up to the Continental Divide. Hopefully my bike is ready early so we can get underway.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

Peace!

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 2

Our stay last night at the Comfort Inn was uneventful and pleasant. We found a way to fit three bikes and an air mattress in. It was a little like Tetris, but really not too bad.

Our breakfast was again a bit underwhelming due to COVID. The hotel provided a bag breakfast of a microwave sausage and egg sandwich, a granola bar, and and apple. It was enough to get us on the road. We decided we would eat a real breakfast in the next major town, Ohiopyle.

Leaving Connellsville you pass these neat grain (?) silos. The first time I saw them back in 2012, the paint was very vibrant. The art is still fun, but the murals are looking a bit worn down.

As we pedaled along, we were continuously treated to some fantastic scenery and views of the river. Here’s one example. As we stopped to get a snack, we met up with a couple of young ladies who were cycling their way to DC. We talked here for a few minutes and wished them well on their journey.

This part of the trail has several places where you can see the shale and coal in layers. I really enjoy the beautiful views as well as just being out in the middle of nowhere. The trail conditions have been fabulous.

As you get closer to the laurel highlands, the river starts to wind back and forth. So when the railroads went through, they would build bridges across the river instead of having to go far out of their way. These railroad bridges are now converted for cycling and pedestrian traffic. The views are wonderful. Today we were treated to great weather, blue skies, and cool temperatures.

We eventually made it to our first stop: Ohiopyle. This is a great little town. The first time I came through here back in 2012, it was a quaint town. In the mean time, the traffic has really increased. Ohiopyle is in a state park and people come from all over for the recreation. There is great whitewater rafting, biking, hiking, and so on. If you are into outdoorsy stuff, you should make a stop here.

We decided to have an early lunch in Ohiopyle. Not only is the traffic up, but so are the prices! I paid $13 for a grilled chicken salad. It was good … but not $13 good.

From Ohiopyle, we pushed on to our next stop: Confluence. Confluence is so named because it is the confluence of two major rivers and a creek. From the sky the intersection of these make the shape of a “turkey foot”. We will be staying overnight in Confluence on our way back, but we decided to check out the town a little bit today. We went in search of ice cream for JB and Billy.

After making a loop around the town square, the owner of Confluence Cycles told us about a good place called “Outflow”. We went over there and JB and Billy each got a wonderful looking cone. I can’t have dairy (booo!) so I got a cherry slush puppy. It was good, but the ice cream really looked much better.

Leaving Confluence we made our path to Rockwood – our destination for the day. Most of the path between the two looks much like this:

This tunnel is the Pinkerton tunnel. It was in total disrepair for many years after being abandoned by the railroad. You used to have to take a 1.5 mile bypass around the Pinkerton Horn to get around it. The GAP raised enough money to have the tunnel repaired and lined with corrugated steel to shore it up and make it safe.

Right after the tunnel (on the south-east side), you cross the Casselman river. The views are great!

We finally made it to Rockwood. My legs are unusually tired for a 50 mile ride. Hopefully a good evening of rest will help a bit. We have an easier ride tomorrow, too.

We are staying at the Hostel on Main in Rockwood. It’s clean and comfortable. Upon checking in, I saw this guy. I recognized his face – I have a great memory for faces. I asked him his name and sure enough, he is a friend of a friend of mine who lives in Pittsburgh! This is John. I met John last year when my friend Rich and I (and John) rode with a large group from Cincinnati to Xenia Ohio. It is a really small world.

Our timing for staying in Rockwood was a little less than ideal for dinner. Everything except the local gas station/bar/mini-mart was closed because it is Sunday. However, as we wandered around town, we found a small grocery store a block away from the hostel. We picked up some pasta and jarred sauce. When we got back to the hostel, I found a casserole cooking thingy. I filled it with water and boiled the pasta then poured the sauce on it. For a grand total of $5.49, the three of us ate till we were full and had leftovers. The sauce wasn’t the best, but it was a decent dinner!

Tomorrow we finish the eastbound trek. We will go from here up to the continental divide. Then we have a 22-ish mile descent down into Cumberland. Looking forward to some beautiful views along the way.

This next section of the GAP is my favorite. We’ll see several tunnels, bridges, and some fabulous vistas. Stay tuned!

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you!

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 1

Last night we stayed at the Hampton Inn in downtown Pittsburgh, right near the convention center. The room was really nice. As an added bonus, it was a large enough room to comfortably have 3 guys on separate beds and 3 bikes in the room. Breakfast was meager: due to COVID, there wasn’t any breakfast – just some instant oatmeal. I guess that’s good because I really wanted oatmeal anyway!

Time to go!

As we started, the weather was crisp and cool. Couldn’t have really wanted better weather. Blue skies, cool temps, and not much wind.

Leaving the hotel, we picked up a trail on the south-east side of the Allegheny and rode straight to The Point state park. The is the confluence of the three rivers in Pittsburgh.

After leaving the point, you have to go a few blocks down the Boulevard of the Allies before getting on the GAP trail. About half way, JB looked left and called over. We went back and found PPG Park. PPG is also known as Pittsburgh Plate Glass. When you see the skyline of Pittsburgh, there is a really neat skyscraper that looks like it has a castle rampart at the top. That’s the PPG building we saw. The complex of buildings surrounds a courtyard with a fountain. Each of the buildings is covered entirely with plate glass. Very appropriate for PPG. I’ve never seen it up close before. It was worth the diversion!

We made our way at a comfortable, yet quick, pace eastbound to the Hot Metal bridge. The Hot Metal bridge is named by its former function. It used to carry molten metal from one side of the river to the other during steel production. Now it carries cars, runners, and bikes. It has a separate bridge deck just for bike and pedestrian traffic. We stopped mid way and took pictures. It has a great view of downtown. You can see the PPG skyscraper off in the distance.

We pressed on and made our next stop in Homestead. This is the site of the violent clash between the Pinkerton strike-breakers and unionized steel workers. Several people were killed in these clashes. Ultimately the workers stayed fast and won the day. I found it to be an appropriate place to ponder as we enter this Labor Day weekend.

As you leave Pittsburg, there are several really nice bridges that help the GAP go across the various train tracks and switch yards. They are fun to go up and over and back down, plus they give some neat views.

The last two bridges for a while took us into, and then out of, McKeesport. We stopped for a snack and pressed on.

Working our way westward, we passed through several small towns before stopping for lunch in West Newton. We stopped at “The Trailside”. I’ve been here before and it did not disappoint. I also put away about a quart of beverage. I had been drinking all along, but didn’t realize how thirsty I was!

After lunch we pressed on to our stop for the evening: Connellsville. We pulled into the Comfort Inn and got washed up. I was able to get quickly cleaned up and made it to mass at St. Rita’s.

After mass, I met JB and Billy at a local pub for a dozen wings and a Blue Moon. Mmmmmm…. a bit of a guilty pleasure. I don’t often have a beer or chicken wings – but today was a good day to have both.

Tomorrow we head to Rockwood. We’ve got some good sightseeing to do along the way.

Overall, today was a fabulous day of riding. Good weather, good trails, good friends, and not a single zoom or MS Teams call!

Today’s Stats: 62.35 miles, about a gallon of water, one hamburger, 12 tasty chicken wings, one beer, and a great time.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you.

2020 Bike Tour: 3 Buds On Bikes – Day 0

Tomorrow I will start riding an out-and-back along the Great Allegheny Passage.  I’ve ridden the GAP several times before.  It is a wonderful bike trail.  It stretches from downtown Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD.  Along the way it winds through some beautiful countryside.

I was hoping to explore some new routes this year but chose to do the GAP instead.  With all of the COVID impact, I was a little concerned that I could have trouble finding accommodations on an unknown route.  Then I was talking with a couple of friends from work after a long ride we did and they started talking about riding the GAP “someday”.  I told them that I’ve done it a few times and described how nice it was.  They were hooked.  We very quickly planned out an itinerary and cleared it with our wives.  In very short order, we went from no plans to having a full tour planned.

I’m packed up and ready to go!  We drive to Pittsburgh today, overnight, and begin our riding tomorrow.  We’ll be taking 3 days to go to Cumberland, and then 3 more days to return to Pittsburgh.  Weather looks really good so far.

I am so excited to be getting away for a few days.  I’ve been working from home for 6 months now.  It will be nice to be out on the bike, riding through the woods, and enjoying the company of friends.  I’ll introduce you to JB and Billy in tomorrow’s installment.

More tomorrow!

Peace.

#GreatAlleghenyPassage

#BikeTouring

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2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 9 COMPLETED: Independence OH to Cleveland OH (16 Miles)

It was wonderful to have Stephanie and Maura meet me last night.  We had a room at the Embassy Suites in Independence OH.  Rockside Road goes right from the bike path trailhead to the side road where the hotel is located.  There is a sidewalk on the south side of Rockside Rd. that you can take the whole way up.

We had a nice dinner and turned in for the evening.  I got up early in the morning so I could complete my ride and give us plenty of time to drive home.

Today’s trip was very short – only sixteen miles.  I could have easily put these miles in yesterday and finished up yesterday, but I wanted to arrive in Cleveland during the quieter traffic hours of the weekend instead of during rush hour on Friday.

I packed up my things and loaded the bike back up.  I felt the strong need to carry all of my things with me instead of just dumping them in the car, so I carried everything that I brought on the trip with me as I completed the journey.  I guess it felt to me like I needed to finish the whole trip self-supported.  So my panniers went with me.

Leaving the hotel parking lot, I could make out downtown looking north.  The construction porta-potty is just a nice backdrop, not the subject of my picture…  You can see the skyline off in the distance.

The air felt absolutely amazing this morning.  It was cool and crisp.  I needed a light jacket for the first few miles.  A very slight breeze was blowing.  It felt and smelled like fall is coming.  What a stark contrast to a week ago where the sun was beating down upon me with high in the mid 90s.  I love this kind of weather.

After riding about a mile east on Rockside Road using the sidewalk, I rejoined the canal path heading north towards the city.  The path winds through some very nice parks and the outskirts of downtown Cleveland.  As you get closer to downtown the heavy industrial areas emerge.

The towpath ends unceremoniously at Harvard road.  The last time I was here, there was a very small trailhead.  It was under reconstruction when I arrived yesterday and the signage was gone.  I assume they’ll bring it back when the trailhead is finished.  Here’s about where the sign used to be:

I had been warned that the path through Cleveland was disrupted with construction, but I did not have any trouble at all.  I’ll have a brief description and map of my route at the end of the blog today.

Steelyard Commons is a shopping center built on the site of a former steel mill. This is a rail car that was used to haul molten steel to different parts of the manufacturing process.  The tank of the car is lined with bricks to provide insulation for the molten steel.

Leaving the Steelyard Commons I followed the towpath up the hill west for a block to the 14th street roundabout.  From there I took 14th street northbound with only a small side trip.

The house from “A Christmas Story” is very close to the route. It wasn’t open yet so I just took grabbed a picture and resumed my route. The house is only a block or two out of the way off of 14th street, so why not?

Returning to 14th street, I continued north all the way towards downtown.

14th street ends at Abbey Avenue.  One of the Cleveland script signs is in a small park at this intersection, so that’s a good landmark and seemed like a great place to take a picture overlooking downtown.  There are several of these script signs around the city and they all provide a good photo opportunity.  I found two of them on my route.

About 100 yards east of here, there is a new bike trail that takes you along the edge of downtown and westward.  When you get to the end of the trail, it is an easy ride west on Franklin Road and then Franklin Avenue to get to 65th street.

Taking 65th street north to the end puts you at the lakefront.  A nice bike path winds through Edgewater park.  The path goes along the lakefront to the beach area.  I decided that this is where I would dip my tires into Lake Erie!  To my very pleasant surprise, Stephanie and Maura were waiting for me at the beach and caught a picture of me.

Here I am at Lake Erie!  It’s official – I’ve crossed the state, dipping my tires in both the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Lake Erie in Cleveland.

I wanted to finish at the Cleveland sign in Edgewater Park.  We didn’t see it anywhere so I asked and some people who pointed me up a path west of the beach.  I jumped on the bike and rode up to the top of the path.  Here it is… the end of the journey!

I was very pleased to have both Mr. Hamster, the international traveler, and Ms. Bug, the new member of my riding team, along for the last 16 miles.

Today was a fantastic end to a wonderful journey.  The short trip today felt a bit like a victory lap since it was such an easy ride.  It was definitely fun and Cleveland has some nice bike paths!

After getting the last pictures at Lake Erie, we loaded up my bike and I changed into regular clothes.  We drove home at a very nice leisurely pace, stopping by Canal Fulton for lunch and Massillon to show the church and shrine to Stephanie and Maura.  After a few more stops, we made it home late in the evening.

This morning felt very strange.  I felt like I was supposed to be out riding.  It feels odd not to be heading somewhere on the bike.  I think it will take a couple of days to get back into the normal rhythm of life.

 

My grand total milage for the trip is exactly 450.00 miles.  I found it amazing that it was exactly 450 miles according to my GPS logs.  I will have one more blog post in a few days with some lessons learned, a few thoughts on the trip, and a gear review of my bike and other equipment.

Thank you to all who have sent me words of encouragement along the way.  It has been great to share my trip with you.  Thank you especially to those who gave me a place to sleep on my trip.  I appreciate you kindness.

Below is a description of my path through downtown Cleveland if you’re reading and preparing for your own OH2ERIE trip.

St. Dymphna, Pray for us!

Peace.

 

Navigating to Lake Erie / Edgewater Park from the Towpath:

This is my GPS track from my ride yesterday.

  1. When completing the towpath, exit onto Harvard Road.  Turn Left (W).
  2. Cross the railroad tracks and turn right on the path which parallels Jennings Road (N).  This path will veer to the right and go behind Steelyard Commons.
  3. Continue behind Steelyard Commons to where the path goes under Quigley Ave. It will curve to the right and back westbound as you parallel Quigley Ave.
  4. Quigley Ave ends at 14th street.  Turn right (N) onto 14th street.
  5. Travel north on 14th street until it ends.  Near the end it will veer to the left under interstate 90 / 71.  14th street will end at Abbey Avenue.
  6. At the Abbey Ave / 14th intersection is one of the “Cleveland Signs”.  On the north side of Abbey Ave, go right (east) about 100 yards to pick up a the bike path.  It will circle back to the left and take you along the river.
  7. At the end of the bike path, turn left (S) onto Columbus Road and take an immediate right onto Franklin Avenue.
  8. Take Franklin Avenue to the end, and turn left (S) onto 25th street for one block.
  9. Turn Right (west) onto Franklin Blvd.
  10. Turn Right (North) onto W65th Street.  This will take you to Edgewater Park
  11. Follow the bike path into the park.  The trail will eventually lead you to the beach.
  12. If you want to go to the Cleveland sign, continue past the beach up the hill to the west.  The sign will be at the west end of Upper Edgewater park.

Cleveland Road Route

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 8: Massillon OH to Independence OH (60 miles)

I decided that I would take a bit later start today so that I could attend 8:15 mass before leaving. Father asked me to assist at mass. He made me feel so at home that I could not say no.

This is Paula. She works at the parish and was so helpful to me and gave me a lot of the background about the shrine.

This is Father Ed. I so enjoyed my time with him. He is a wonderful and devoted pastor. I wish I lived closer – I would enjoy spending more time with him.

One last picture before leaving St. Mary’s. Let me introduce this year’s ride mascot: Ms. Bug. My daughter has a knack for crocheting wonderful little critters. Ms. Bug has been with me the whole trip and reminds me of home.

I finally got on the road, or more accurately the trail, about 9:15. I looked back and could still see St. Mary’s as I rode away to the north. I’m sure I’ll be back.

The weather today was nearly perfect. Temperatures were in the mid 60s and lower 70s through my whole day. Skies were blue and clouds were puffy. But unfortunately, I dealt with strong headwinds the entire day.

I saw several deer today. This one was so tame that she just watched me a bit and ate. She did not scare off until I put my phone back away.

From Massillon all the way to the south side of Cleveland I will be riding on the Ohio and Erie Canal path. This path is mostly crushed limestone, with a few paved sections. It iss quite a bit slower to ride on than the pavement of the last few days.

The canal path varies in scenery a bit, but most of my day looked like this:

I arrived in Canal Fulton and went in to town to look around.

This is Mike. As I was passing through one of the trailhead parking lots, he called over to ask me about where I was from and heading to. We talked for a few minutes before I went on.

Mike warned me that there was some construction on the path north of here. He was right. About 2 miles up, the trail was blocked. No detour posted. It looked like work was stopped for lunch, so I went under the caution tape and walked my bike. A worker emerged from his equipment and told me “Path Closed!” I asked if there was a detour. He said no. “Path Closed means Path Closed!” I asked nicely if he could recommend an alternate route and he just sternly said “no”. I decided to continue walking. The construction was less than 100 yards long and then I continued on my way. I usually try to follow the rules but I sized up the situation and did not see any good alternatives.

The canal path passes through some very beautiful wetlands as it makes its way north.

I really needed food and decided that I would look for a good meal when I reached Akron.

Akron was an absolute complete and total mess on Main Street. They have the entire length of Main Street torn up for construction. I was able to navigate the sidewalks for a while then had to find my own way.

I spotted this deli and decided it was worth a look. This picture was after lunch. Before lunch, the line was out the door. I decided that was a good sign! I really enjoy corned beef sandwiches, and theirs was definitely yummy.

Navigating my way out of Akron was tricky but not terrible. The main OTET route was messed up by the construction. I mostly navigated by feel and eventually found my way out of town.

On the north side of Akron, there is a lengthy detour that has been in place for years. It goes around some sort of major construction project. It has some climbing, surface streets, and then descent back down. The climbs are a little steep, but not too bad.

A few miles later the canal enters into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

This wetlands section is really neat. It is a huge area that was created when beavers dammed up a local waterway which then flooded this area. There is a long boardwalk that goes right down the middle of it to allow the canal path to continue through it.

As I moved on, I was treated to more beautiful scenery.

In the Cuyahoga park, the parks service has a few educational centers where you can learn about the canal, history, and ecology of the park.

I eventually arrived at my stopping point for the day about fifteen miles south of Cleveland. Tomorrow I will finish my bike trek by going to Edgewater Park at the Lake Erie beach in downtown. The canal path ends a few miles south of the lakefront, so I will be taking surface streets for the last few miles.

I decided to stop a few miles short of downtown Cleveland because I wanted to avoid the surface streets during Friday rush hour. So instead I will be leaving very early tomorrow to finish up early Saturday morning. Stephanie and Maura will then meet me at the park to pick me up and we’ll drive back to Lexington.

Overall, today was a great day. I am looking forward to being home and sleeping in my own bed tomorrow!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 7: Danville OH to Massillon OH (65 miles)

I was able to go to bed at 10 and slept until about 6:15 this morning. That’s the longest night of sleep I’ve had on the trip.

The owners at the B&B made me a breakfast sandwich and I supplemented with an energy bar to get me going. I was on the road at just after 7:00. I had a more firm schedule today because I wanted to arrive in Massillon early in the afternoon.

The B&B is on a very nice vineyard and I was greeted with a wonderful view as I left this morning. The temperatures were nicely cool. The air felt like rain might be coming, but the skies were still friendly.

I went back into Danville to pick up the beginning of the Mohican Valley Trail. This trail took me to the Bridge of Dreams – the longest covered bridge in Ohio. I stopped to get a picture and enjoy the view.

The last time I came through here, this is where the trails ended and country roads began. Since then, the route has changed. The Holmes County Trail now picks up right at the end of the Mohican Valley Trail and goes into Glenmont. That is a huge improvement – the prior route took me over some very aggressive hills. This new route is much nicer.

The Mohican Valley Trail was a very steady low-grade climb for a few miles. Not very challenging but you can feel it. Then it declines at about the same pace for a few miles. I really liked that trail, especially compared to the previous route I took the last time I rode the OTET.

When I arrived in Glenmont, the town was still very quiet, but I did see one person: the guy I rode out of Sunbury with! I yelled over to him and we chatted for a few minutes. It was fun to compare notes. After a very friendly handshake, we said goodbye and I continued on.

From Glenmont it was an easy ride on Route 520 right out to Killbuck. Route 520 does not have a shoulder in this area, but I only counted five cars that passed me in the eight mile stretch. It was a beautiful ride, but I really would have liked a little bit of a shoulder to ride on.

The weather continued to be beautiful, with low misty clouds filling the valley.

A few miles later I was finally in Killbuck. Killbuck is a tiny town and a has fun feel to it. There are not many services for a rider, but you could get water and food if you really needed to. I was still well stocked on water so I slowly cruised my way out of town.

At the north side of town, I picked up the Holmes County Trail for roughly fifteen miles. The trail parallels the Killbuck creek and some beautiful wetlands. For some reason, I did not stop to take any pictures of the wetlands.

When I arrived in Fredericksburg, I saw a couple sitting by the rest area and we chatted for about fifteen minutes. They have done bike touring in the past so we were comparing some fun places to ride and dream trip ideas.

When I checked the weather throughout yesterday evening and again this morning, I was expecting to be hit by rain. A few minutes outside of Fredericksburg, it caught me. The good news is that I had my rain gear ready. At the first sounds of rain, I put on my 9 year old weather-resistant jacket. I was warm and did not want the thickness and non-breathing of my good rubberized coat. That was a huge mistake.

The rain came on hard and furious with the kind of drops that sting the skin when they hit.

This is when I discovered that my 9 year old jacket is no longer water resistant at all. I’ve not had to use it in the rain for a while, and in the mean time it has no water repelling properties left. I was absolutely soaked nearly immediately. I was not cold, so I was not worried about hypothermia. So I just gritted my teeth and rode the five miles up to Fredericksburg with water running out of the sleeves of my coat like a fountain.

I knew there was a pizza place with an awning in Fredericksburg, so I decided to go straight there and get out of the rain while I addressed the situation.

I went in to order a cheese-less pizza and then went back outside while it cooked to get dry clothes on. I went into my stinky clothes from yesterday and swapped my jersey for a dry one. I also pulled out my really good raincoat. Lesson learned: always go with the better raincoat when the sky looks dark.

I shook as much water as I could out of my other clothes and bungeed them to my rack for the rest of today’s ride.

The rain eventually subsided about the time I left. I only had a few sprinkles on me the rest of the day. Leaving Fredericksburg, the OTET takes some rolling hills on country roads for a long stretch of about 16-17 miles. None of the rollers were terribly bad, but I was in my lowest gear at least a couple of times. I think this is probably the most challenging section of the OTET if you don’t like hills.

Once I reached Dalton, I picked up the Sippo Valley Trail. This trail is mostly paved, but has a section of crushed limestone that was definitely slower to ride on. That is a bit of a preview of tomorrow for me – tomorrow will be nearly all on crushed limestone, I think.

I exited the Sippo Valley trail in Massillon. I started to feel a bit of excitement as I came over the bridge into the town. I could see the tops of the bell towers for St. Mary’s church. That is the destination I’ve been working towards all week.

I navigated by sight to reach the church. As I approached from a few blocks away, I was struck by how close I was to my goal, but I was also impressed with the size of this building. I expected a small town church. This is a massive building.

After arriving, I had a few minutes of prayer before knocking on the door of the rectory. I was greeted and shown to my room, where I showered quickly and returned. I was given a very nice tour of the church and the shrine within the church for St. Dymphna.

The history is fascinating, but I’ll keep it brief. For many years the shrine was on the grounds of a hospital that also dealt with those having nervous or mental health issues. A few years ago that chapel needed to be closed, so the chaplain of that chapel brought the relics to this church and had a shrine built within the nave of St. Mary’s. He is the pastor here.

The shrine is very well done – you can not really tell that the shrine is not part of the original design for this magnificent church. It is located on the left side wall about half way down the nave.

St. Mary’s had a terrible fire a few years ago in the right-side bell tower. The fire was contained to the bell tower, but the smoke damage through the church was catastrophic. The church was closed for 18 months for cleaning and reconstructing. The 4,000 pipe organ was completely disassembled, cleaned, and put back together. The inside is quite beautiful now, for sure.

I sat and carefully recollected my trip and slowly offered prayers for each and every person by name on my list.

This statue was commissioned to show St. Dymphna holding out her hand to help you. St. Dymphna was much younger than portrayed in this statue when she died, but it still works! In her face I kept seeing a mixture of joy and sorrow. Very appropriate for her ministry.

After I spent a while in the church, the pastor returned and we became acquainted. His devotion to ministry, his parish, and the ministry of St. Dymphna is so inspiring. I really enjoyed our time together today. We talked for a while, then went to get a simple dinner at Wendy’s.

Laundry done. Blog done. Time to kick back a bit.

So part one of my trip is now complete. But I still have my secondary goal to go: to reach Lake Erie.

Tomorrow I will leave Massillon and head north along the old “Ohio & Erie Canal” towpath. I will most likely stop a little short of Cleveland tomorrow and finish on Saturday morning. I don’t want to go through Cleveland during rush hour on Friday.

Until tomorrow, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace.

St. Dymphna, pray for us!

Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, pray for us!

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 6: Westerville OH to Danville OH (55 miles)

Last night the weather forecast showed rain for early this morning. Between that and a shorter planned ride, I decided to take a more leisurely pace to getting ready.

I had a simple breakfast with Dean and Robin at their home, said goodbye, and headed out. I had to briefly deviate from the OTET route to get to their house, but their home was less than a half mile off of the Alum Creek trail. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. The OTET diverged from the Alum Creek trail, but when I continued on the Alum Creek for a very short ways, it led me to an east-west path that took me right back to the OTET. The Columbus area certainly has a great set of bike routes.

Once I departed from the Maxtown Road area it became much quieter. I took the Genoa Trail which parallels route 3 and ends around the north side of the Hoover Reservoir. The reservoir was pretty to ride next to. A older guy on a nice road bike zipped up next to me and asked where rode from and where I was going. I told him, he gave me a very enthusiastic handshake and wished me well with some encouragement before he zipped away. That made me smile.

The next town north on the route is Galena. I was told of a good restaurant there, but when I got close I decided that I was not hungry enough to eat my second breakfast yet. I knew that Sunbury was only about three miles further. I had eaten at a great diner there last time I came through.

Sunbury is a neat little town. It has a traditional town square, with a brick road. Shops dot the edge of the square.

In the middle of the square is some sort of government building or museum – but I did not take a good look. I did find a statue of Johnny Appleseed there, though. The plaque says he was a frequent visitor to Sunbury.

After making a slow loop around town, I decided that second breakfast was in order. I went to the Sunbury Grill and sat in exactly the same place I did last time. I ordered up a BLT and home fries. It was deeeelicious.

As I was waiting for my food, the music was playing a song by the Eagles. I was reading news on my phone and didn’t realize I was singing along to myself. The waitress payed me a compliment and said I should sing louder. It was funny since I had not realized anyone could even hear me.

Leaving Sunbury I had about ten miles of surface roads before connecting to the next trail. When I turned onto the first main road out of town, there was another cyclist going up the hill about a quarter of a mile ahead of me. At my normal pace, I caught up within the first mile and we struck up a conversation.

He is a plumber from Cincinnati and “got a wild hair to ride to Cleveland.” Without much notice or preparation, he just packed up a tent and a few belongings last week and started riding the OTET north. He’s never ridden farther than about 65 miles from his home. He’s on a single-speed bike which gives him some trouble on the hills. We rode together for the full distance to get to Centerburg – roughly thirteen miles. It was a very comfortable and relaxed pace.

The next town is Centerburg. It claims to be the geographic center of Ohio – hence the name. My riding buddy went off in search of water and food. I decided to try to find the rock in the town that claims to mark the center.

After googling a bit, I still was not exactly sure where to find it, so I rode into town, and rode around and around looking. I found someone and asked. They had no idea. So, I just found a park and there it was!

The park was east of town a bit and turns out to be right on the side of the trail. If I’d gone back to the trail, I’d have found it easily.

The plaque on the rock says it is the center of Ohio. There ya go – it must be official.

The weather today was nothing short of perfect. It was overcast all day, just a few very minor sprinkles, comfortable temperatures, and I even had a bit of a tailwind for most of the day. That never happens.

I had seen this tower last time we came through but we did not stop to investigate. I had since read that it is part of the “Ariel-Foundation Park” built on the former site of a PPG factory. You can climb the 224 steps to the observation deck that is 140 feet above the ground. I decided I had to do it.

I’m not a huge fan of heights, but they usually don’t bother me. I will admit that about half way up, looked down at my feet through the grated steps and started to lose my nerve. But then I thought about how some kids I know with anxiety feel and I decided I would conquer the heights.

For people who deal with anxiety, everyday things that seem safe or easy can cause panic, fear, and real physiological effects. I knew there was no way I would fall through the steps, but it made me a little fearful and my heart raced. That’s the closest I can come to trying to understand what anxiety must be like: a perfectly safe situation felt very unsafe.

So I climbed and climbed to the top. The view of the surrounding area was breathtaking (for real). So after looking around and taking a couple of pictures, I decided to very slowly and deliberately climb back down, holding the handrail.

Overlooking the surrounding area of Mt. Vernon:

I can’t see it very well, but my bike is locked up directly below my feet one hundred and forty feet below.

Safely back on the ground, looking up:

The Heart of Ohio trail continues past the park and just south of Mount Vernon. I was planning on going into Mount Vernon, but the street traffic was feeling very aggressive and I was starting to run behind schedule. So I decided to just move on. Next time, though!

One of the very few signs that shows Cleveland – 148 miles to go!

Leaving Mt. Vernon, I picked up the Kokosing Gap Trail, named after the Kokosing River and the railway that used to run in this area.

The trail runs through the edge of Gambier, the home of Kenyon college. There was a very well restored steam train on the track there:

Right after taking this picture, I must have accidentally dialed my mom. I thought she had dialed me. We had a nice conversation for a few minutes. I think she has been a bit nervous about my solo travel, so it’s good to connect. Love you, mom! Yes, I’m being careful. (And yes, I’m talking to lots of strangers)

My next stop for the night before going to my B&B was to get dinner in Danville. The Kokosing Gap trail ends here. I stopped at “The Hangout” and got myself a steak, peaches, a salad and some fries. It was deliciously bad for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Going back to watching my diet is going to be very disappointing when I get home.

The last stop was the trip up to my AirBnB: Taigon Hills vineyard. I had to do a bit of climbing to get to it. My legs have been doing so much flat riding the last few days that it hurt to get back to the climb.

The owners decided to buy this property sight unseen in a bank foreclosure. They felt called to put in vineyards even though they did not know anything about grapes. This is their fourth season and things are starting to take shape.

They are also breeding Taigon dogs – a very rare breed and decided to name their vineyard after the dogs.

After a very heavy scrubbing, I’m settled in and I am going to bed early tonight!

Tomorrow I have a longer day, with a lot of hills. Weather looks to be rainy all day, too. Every pilgrimage has its challenges – just the way it is supposed to be!

I will arrive in Massillon tomorrow afternoon and complete the first major part of my pilgrimage, arriving at St. Mary’s church where the relic of St. Dymphna resides.

More tomorrow!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 5: Cedarville OH to Westerville OH (67 miles)

Backtracking to yesterday evening… Around 7:30PM, I was feeling hungry again. That’s a good sign since my stomach has been yucky for a few days. I went to the local Subway to get a sandwich for second dinner. I planned on eating just half of the sandwich and carrying the rest tomorrow. That was until I ate the whole thing. It’s good to have my appetite back. The Prilosec worked its magic.

I had planned on leaving the hotel at an early hour today to grab breakfast up the street at the diner. But on the way through the lobby, I ran into a bunch of people who were all riding together.

I sat down and enjoyed some hard boiled eggs, a bagel, and fruit with my new friends. About forty minutes later, I have some new buddies. I’ve been invited to join their GAP ride next year – and I might just take them up on it.

So I was a little later getting started, but was treated to some nice views. Once again, I had the path to myself. I rode east on the Prairie Grass Trail, through South Charleston, all the way to London.

South Charleston has some cool cabooses and is a good place for a photo op with the bike. It is a nice little town – the kind of place that would be fun to retire into.

A few miles later I passed through London. This is a larger town and has lots of places for food and water.

Outside of London, the route continues through the farmland for 13 miles on the Roberts Pass and Camp Chase trails. These two trails take you to the Battelle Darby Creek park.

By this time, I was facing some headwinds and the sun was getting warm.

The Battelle Darby Creek Park is a nice diversion from the trail. A crushed stone path takes you through the wooded park and alongside the creeks. I stopped, took a few snapshots, and enjoyed the cool shade. The respite from the sun was most welcome.

Upon exiting the park, you rejoin the Camp Chase Trail to take you to the outskirts of Columbus on the southwest side. The quiet farms are replaced with suburbs and then with commercial and industrial buildings.

I really needed something cold to drink, so I stopped by Amy’s Donuts. I stumbled across this place last time I rode through here and decided it was worth another stop. I picked up a Minute Made Orangeaid and a sweet tea. Huge calories in those two, plus I needed the liquids. It certainly did not hurt that it was air conditioned while sat to enjoy my drinks.

Getting from the end of the Camp Chase trail into and through Columbus is a bit tricky. I had a GPX file on my bike computer, so I didn’t have any issues at all – I just let the computer tell me where to turn. But as I was going, I kept looking for the Ohio Route 1 signs wherever I was supposed to turn. There were not very many. I think they could do a better job of marking the turns.

A few miles later I was about to go through downtown Columbus. Here’s one of the better views I had before going into the heart of the city.

The OTET takes you right through downtown on some main streets. There were bike lanes and all of the traffic was very friendly. I did not have any issues at all and felt very comfortable.

If you are considering riding through Columbus and you do not like city riding, you might want to time your trip for a Sunday morning to avoid traffic. Not everyone has the same comfort or skills for traffic, so do what works best for you! Just be safe (duh!)

After getting through Columbus, you eventually take the I670 bike route connector up the east side. That will then connect to the Alum Creek Trail. This is a very wonderful trail that stretches many miles from Columbus up to Westerville. It is not a high-speed bike path because it winds in and about the woods. The Alum Creek trail has many neat bridges and hugs the Alum Creek. I stopped a couple of times to go check out the creek itself.

By the time I reached the east side of Columbus I was nearly out of water again. One thing they could use more of on this trail: water fountains. I did finally happen across one and happily drank up. I sat in the shade for a while and enjoyed watching some kids playing in the park.

I had arranged for a place to stay with a brother deacon in Westerville, but he needed to be at work until after 4:00PM. I was far ahead of that schedule, so I took a very slow and leisurely pace up the Alum Creek Trail. I took plenty of pictures and stopped to do my evening prayer on a bench along the way.

When I was finishing up, this guy came riding up on his well-worn machine. He sat down next to me in the shade and we talked for probably over forty five minutes. He lives very frugally out of necessity. This bike has thousands of miles on it and he just gets replacement parts off of abandoned bikes he finds around Columbus.

He rides and camps all over the area and was very knowledgeable about the various trails that I have been on.

It was quite the juxtaposition of having his well-used department store bike next to my new rig. Kinda humbling to see what he makes due with and enjoys. Goes to prove that it isn’t the equipment that makes the experience!

I timed things perfectly to arrive at my destination right about 4:00PM. Just as we pulled my bike into the garage, it started to rain a little bit.

Truthfully, I probably would have enjoyed the rain on me throughout the day. It would have helped break the heat. On the other hand, I have to be careful what I ask for. Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for rain throughout the day. Hopefully it isn’t too bad.

Now it is time for bed. I’m exhausted.

Tomorrow I head to Danville OH on a mix of roads and trails. I am hoping to arrive early in the afternoon and take a leisurely evening to relax and perhaps get caught up on some reading.

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 4: Milford OH to Cedarville OH (63 miles)

I had a spectacular night of sleep last night and woke up ready to go. After morning prayer, I packed up, did my pre-ride ritual of slathering on sunblock and chamois cream. Father took me back to Milford where I was reunited with my bike.

I did not have breakfast before leaving the rectory. I looked on my way through Milford, but no options presented themselves. So I decided to head about 10 miles north to Loveland in search of calories.

The Loveland trailhead is probably the nicest of the trailheads along the Little Miami. There are several restaurants, a park, and shops nearby. Mr. Redlegs is a new addition – I don’t remember seeing him here before.

I made a lap around the block(s) near the trailhead and none of the restaurants in the area seemed to have breakfast options. So I went a little ways off the trail and found a Dunkin’ Donuts. A bagel and egg sandwich hit the spot and gave me a good start for the day.

My legs were still pretty sleepy today. I think the miles have caught up with me a little. I decided for a high cadence spin at lower speed, which seemed to help get things going.

The Little Miami trail is completely off road, traveling through a tree lined canopy for most of its length. I decided this morning that I would do something that I very rarely do: listen to music while I ride. I never do that when I’m out on the road so that I can hear traffic. But today seemed like a good opportunity to break the silence. I was originally going to listen to an audio book, but decided that I would put on some upbeat music to start. I started by listening to “Fake Nudes: Naked”. I downloaded this acoustic album a few weeks ago. I did a little sing-along as I went, not paying any attention to those who I passed by – hopefully they enjoyed my singing.

Heading north from Loveland, you eventually come across the Peterson Cartridge Factory. This is an old munitions plant. The tall tower on the right is an old “shot tower”. Molten lead would be poured down in drips, which would make lead shot as it cooled on the way down. The factory has had a few different purposes over time, but has long-since been abandoned. A major abatement effort over the last few years has cleaned up the industrial contamination. I saw a sign that a new craft brewery is going in someplace on the campus, so they must be trying to give it the next chapter of life.

Most of the rest of my day looked like this:

When I arrived in Morrow, I pulled over to take a short break and use the bathroom. I met these two guys under the picnic shelter there. We talked for a few minutes and their smiles lit up my morning. They were mid ride and shooting for about 30 miles today.

On the way out of town, I grabbed a few pictures of the caboose and the bridge.

Still listening to music. I think about this time I had Siri randomly playing rock from my library and “Free Ride” by Edgar Winters was on. Again, it was a sing along. Loudly. It helps the miles pass, really.

Around 50 miles into today’s ride I arrived at Xenia Station. The Little Miami trail ends here. This is the intersection of several major rail-trails. Xenia is a medium sized town with chain restaurants and stores. My stomach was feeling rocky again, so I looked and found that there was a Walgreens just a mile or so away. I went and found some medicine and then returned to the trail.

My home for tonight is in Cedarville – about 8 more miles away from Xenia. I picked up the Prairie Grass Trail heading north east. About this time, the sun was getting hot and this part of the trail has very little shade.

I picked up the pace a little bit. About this time Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody came on the play list.

This old caboose welcomes you into Cedarville.

I arrived at the Hearthstone Inn right on the trail. I’ve stayed here twice before. It is an independent hotel. The owners are really nice and keep the place very clean.

After a long shower, I went in search of food. Earlier in the day, I was thinking that the one thing that sounded good was spaghetti with sauce. I walked into a small diner down the road and there on the menu was exactly what I wanted! A grilled chicken breast on top for protein, a good salad, and I was a very happy guy.

After dinner, I wandered around town before returning to the hotel.

Overall, a decent day of riding. I’m starting to get some saddle sores, but otherwise feeling pretty good.

Tomorrow I will head through Columbus and stop just north east of the city for the night. The weather looks to be a bit cooler, with a 30% chance of storms mid morning. I’ll keep the raincoat handy!

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 3: Falmouth KY through Cincinnati to Milford OH (64 miles)

I anticipated some high temperatures today, so I left Falmouth right as the sun was rising. That meant that there were no open restaurants to get breakfast. I went to a mini-mart the night before to get a few snacks and bought a calorie-dense option to add to my breakfast: Pop Tarts. Not particularly a favorite, but lots of calories packed into two of them. I knew I would have a lot of miles before a real meal. There is *nothing* between Falmouth and Newport, basically.

So this was my breakfast. It turned out to not be enough, but I did survive:

Falmouth is located right on the Licking river. Cincinnati is on the Ohio river. Between the two are some major hills that you have to get over in order to get to Cincy.

So, I knew that I’d be doing some serious climbing in the first 5-7 miles of the ride. Looking at the google map elevation was a bit intimidating. If you look at the elevation chart that my GPS logged, you’ll see that there are a handful of steep climbs. It turns out that the most aggressive percent-grade was within the first mile of today’s ride. It was the first hill I’ve done this season that just wiped me out. I got to the top and had to stop for air for a minute. I was treated to an awesome sunrise at the top for my efforts. The sun shown down on the valleys around me and reflected off of the morning mist. (The grey line on the right axis is the temperature. It hit mid 90s late in my ride)

I had originally intended to go up over a different route, but I realized that I could go right past Our Lady’s Farm on my way if I just stayed on Rt.159. Our Lady’s Farm was built on the sight of a Marian apparition. It is a fantastic area and the views are spectacular. I stopped there for about 30 minutes and walked around. Unfortunately the chapel was locked, but I certainly soaked up the breathtaking views around.

Behind the chapel is a very old thorn tree. I was told that if you look in the upper branches, you can see some branches that have self-woven into a crown of thorns. I was not able to see it – I’ll have to come back when someone can point it out to me.

One of the nice parts of reaching Our Lady’s Farm is that it was a nice waypoint – it was the top of all of my climbing over the hill. It stands at the top of the hills around it, so generally-speaking, I didn’t have any major climbing left. If you look at the stats, the elevation change is not very impressive for a typical 60+ mile ride, but when you take into account that all 2000+ feet was within the first 7 miles, it was a challenging start to the day. At least only the first hill really kicked my tail, the others weren’t quite so bad.

After leaving the farm, I went along the ridge line for several miles before descending down to the Ohio river valley and joining up on Route 8. This view was from up top. Great view … except for the nuke plant cooling tower.

After giving back all of my hard earned elevation on a fast and fun descent, I rode about 25-30 miles NW on Route 8. It is a pretty road, but after 25 miles, I was a ready for a change.

Route 8 has been replaced by AA highway, which parallels it and is much faster speeds. At one point about 20 miles from where I joined it, Route 8 is closed with concrete barriers. Cars can’t get through. I had driven Route 8 early this summer and could still get through at that time. It used to say “local traffic only”, but now it is really closed. I cautiously went around the concrete barriers because the only alternate route was definitely not bike friendly on a high speed highway.

Route 8 is in bad shape for cars in this section. The road is sliding off of the hillside with lots of potholes and ripped open pavement. Shortly after I went around the barriers, I saw another rider coming up behind me and I asked him if we could get through. He said yeah, but there was a mudslide we might have to walk around.

His name was Rex. Rex is a local rider and was out for his Sunday ride. He seemed happy to pace back to my touring speed and kept me good company all the way to Newport – about 8+ miles. We eventually found the mudslide and the trees that had come down with it. We walked our bikes around them without much difficulty and resumed our journey.

It was about this time that my lack of food was catching up to me. Badly. I had been drinking a lot of water, but probably needed even more. I tried to eat an energy bar, but it just did not want to be swallowed. I forced down about half of it and hoped for the best. I nursed myself along and knew I needed real food before I bonked.

Rex peeled off when we arrived in Newport. The temps were getting very hot. The wonderful cool temperatures of my morning climb had been replaced with heat and powerful sunbeams that seemed to be cooking me.

Once in Newport, I found some shade, soaked my head covering in cold water from a fountain, and pulled out my phone. There were not too many choices near by that were open yet, but I did find a fancy-schmancy sandwich and salad place two blocks away. Although I needed to eat, my stomach was very sour feeling, a bit nauseous, and nothing sounded good. I settled on a grilled chicken sandwich with avocado spread and a side of fruit. I slowly ate it, enjoying the air conditioning.

Newport is on the south edge of the Ohio river directly across from downtown Cincinnati. There is a pedestrian bridge called the “Purple People Bridge“. It is a very old bridge that used to carry public trolleys, cars, and pedestrians. In 2001 it was repurposed for just pedestrians and the public voted on the name.

I rode across the Purple People Bridge and stopped for a snapshot as I arrived into Ohio! That’s the Queen City behind me.

Once on the other side, I cruised along the river front until I found a place where I could dip my wheels into the Ohio River. I’m going to do the same when I get to Lake Erie.

There was a neat festival going on in Yeatman’s Cove park along the riverfront, but because it was so hot and I wasn’t feeling 100%, I decided to keep moving and get to my destination.

The first few miles of the #OTET are on River Drive in a bike lane. Sadly, the bike lane was a total disaster today. The city is doing some sort of sewer work and about every 100 yards, the bike lane is coned off so I would have to go out into the traffic lane and back. Generally that went without incident, but there was one doofus in a pickup who insisted that although I signaled and gave him plenty of room, he did not feel like returning the favor. I was able to very easily avoid danger, but … geez man, taking another five seconds to let me over is not really going to make you late. Don’t be a doofus!

My next picture opportunity was in front of Lunken Field. It opened in 1925 and was at one time the largest municipal airport. It is primarily used for private planes now. I love the Art Deco stying of this building. There is a cafe inside that I have really wanted to check out, but the heat was starting to get to me and I still had another fifteen miles to go. I’m going to make it a point to stop by next time if it is open.

Just north of Lunken Field, I deviated from the official Ohio To Erie / Route 1 route to save a couple of miles of hills up into Mariemont and back down to the other side of the Little Miami river. It took me onto a busy street for a mile with a wide shoulder. In hindsight, probably not the best choice. Much too busy and fast for my liking. Next time, I’ll just do the climb.

I finally joined up with the Little Miami bike trail at the very south end. This is a spectacular bike trail. I’ve ridden it end-to-end numerous times. It is about 65 miles long and stretches from near Lunken Field all the way to Xenia Station. Paved, mostly shaded, with neat little towns and rest stops along the way.

I made arrangements earlier to stay with a priest in Milford. My stomach was still a bit rocky and the sun was baking me, so I was glad the end was coming up soon. 10 miles on the Little Miami was just about enough. When I stopped at the Milford trailhead, the bike shop there had free frozen fruit bars. Divine intervention! Calories and coldness all in one. It tasted amazing for a simple Kroger brand treat.

I left my bike at the parish in Milford and Father Cordier picked me up to take me to his other parish – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton about 6 miles away. It is their summer festival. He’s been a delightful host and the festival was fun. Very family oriented rides and games.

After a very thorough shower and a load of laundry, I wandered over to their school cafeteria where their traditional festival dinner was served: home made fried chicken, with fresh off-the-vine tomatoes (YUM!). My stomach was craving real food and it hit the spot. I finished it off with some cherry pie. This parish knows how to feed its people! For $12, it was a great fundraiser and probably the best fried chicken I have had in many years. On the up side, a good meal seems to have greatly improved how my stomach feels.

Here are the stats for today. The Temp says 70 degrees. That was the start. It was in the mid 90s when I finished.

So I have officially finished the Kentucky part of the KY + #OTET route. From here forward, I’m going to be following the Ohio To Erie Trail with a couple of minor detours to do some sight seeing and lodging.

Tomorrow I will be on the Little Miami to Xenia, then NE from Xenia to Cedarville. It is supposed to be a very hot day again tomorrow, and I’m very familiar with this part of the route. So I won’t likely do much sight seeing. Instead, I’ll probably try to get my miles in early to avoid the heat. I might even arrive by lunch time and have time for a much needed resting afternoon.

The last three days of riding have been very hilly, especially the last two. My legs are a bit sore for the first time this entire riding season. The next two days are incredibly flat. That’s sounding nice for a little while. I enjoy a mix of flat and hills, but I’ll take little less climbing for a few miles.

I have received a few more names to pray for and carry to the shrine for St. Dymphna. As a reminder, if you have anyone you’d like me to be actively praying for along the route, please send them along and I’ll keep them anonymous, of course.

More to come tomorrow. I’m going to do some reading and hit the sack early today.

Peace!

St. Dymphna, pray for us.

2019 Bike Tour: Kentucky to Lake Erie (KY + #OH2ERIE) – Day 2: Paris KY to Falmouth KY (40 miles)

Today was a really great day of riding. Beautiful scenery, my legs did well on the hills, temperatures were comfortable during my ride, and met some really great people along the way.

As usual, I always try to get out at sunrise for two reasons: to beat the heat, and to avoid as much traffic as possible. I was a few minutes late, but that’s about what I did.

I had a really good night’s sleep last night at the rectory and woke up early. Got in my morning prayer, ate a bit, and said goodbye to Father Danny. He gave me a very nice pilgrim’s blessing as I departed.

As I left Paris, this curious little dog was walking proudly down Main Street. He was carrying something in his mouth – I think it was just an empty plastic bottle, but to him it must have been a treasure. It made me laugh.

Nearly all of today’s ride was in rural parts of central / northern Kentucky. If you were to look at a topography map of my route, you’d see that this is a very hilly area. My route would descend down to the various creeks, then ascend up to the top of the ridge line, and then back again. Although it was only about 2,200 feet of climbing, a few of the climbs would take the starch out of the legs. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The views from the upper areas are fantastic. You can overlook beautiful rolling hills and valleys below.

The last time I rode this route from Paris to Falmouth, I was chased by several dogs along the way. This time, I was playfully chased by one yellow lab, stared at by an old dog, and barked at by a couple of small breeds. Lots of fun. No menacing dogs this time, which I really appreciate.

Between Paris and Cynthiana, there are not any major towns, just a few little ones. Ruddles Mill is one of the few. It is named after the mill that was built along the creek in this tiny little town.

A few miles later, I made it to Cynthiana. I didn’t go into town, but rather stayed on the east side to pick up Rt. 62 heading North East towards my next road. I arrived just in time for the setup of the Farmers Market. I struck up a little bit of a conversation with the farmers, topped off my water, got a snack, and then went back on my way. I could not find any way to stay on country roads to get out of Cynthiana, so I rode on Rt 62 for about 5-6 miles before getting onto my first rural road. I had hoped to beat traffic, but Cynthiana clearly wakes up before 9AM on Saturday! Lots of traffic, but every one was well behaved, gave plenty of room, and most of them waved back when I waved.

I have noticed that when I am wearing one of my favorite jerseys, the one with the constitution and American Flag on it, I get more respect from drivers. So I always wear it if I expect to be doing any road riding. I receive a lot of compliments on it, when I’m stopped, too.

It is roughly 25 miles between Cynthiana and Falmouth on the route I laid out. This part of my ride was so beautiful. Most of it was on tiny one-lane roads in the valleys and hilltops. As I said before, lots of climbing, and lots of downhill too. In cycling what goes down, must come up (climbing follows a descent), but the opposite is true too: what goes up, must come down (whee!).

There was a moment that struck me particularly funny today. As I was riding along, I passed a yard that had this sign in it: “electriC feNCe DO NOT TOUCH WILL LIGHT YOUR ASS UP”. The reason it made me laugh is that it surrounds a fenced in pen full of … chihuahuas.

The last 3 miles of my trip are hopefully the only ones that go into the “yellow” on my danger meter for the remainder of my journey. After studying maps quite a bit, I just could not come up with a good way to get to Falmouth without being on Rt 27 for the last 3 miles. I screwed up my courage, checked my garmin’s radar (yeah, it is super cool, I’ll tell you more in my gear review after my journey), and pointed down the road.

I’m happy to report that although the traffic was fast, there wasn’t much of it and I arrived safely in Falmouth.

Roughly 2 miles south of Falmouth on Rt 27 is a place called Punkyville. It was created in 2003 by Charles “Punky” Beckett as a great way to display his many antiques, especially old signs and stuff. He and his wife are the only two residents of Punkyville, and he is the self appointed Mayor.

I stopped in Punkyville for a about 30 minutes and looked around. Each of the buildings has been built sort of like a movie set. You can go into these buildings and see the various antiques on display. Punky’s son (I think) was working on a truck trailer in the parking lot and we talked for a few minutes. These are the hidden gems of small town America! It was a fun way to spend a few minutes.

Sometimes when I am riding, a song will pop into my head and stick there until I find a way to get it out. Some people call that an “ear worm”. After being in Punkyville, my brain recalled the chorus to “Funkytown” and I had to work hard to pry it loose. I bet you have it in your head now too. You’re welcome 🙂

The last two miles took me to downtown Falmouth. I don’t know much about Falmouth, but I was told ahead of time to eat at the Smoking Pig… so far be it from me to turn down BBQ on a recommendation.

Inside, I met a couple who has lived here for many years and we talked throughout lunch. I really love how friendly people are in small towns.

I did not realize that Falmouth experienced a major flood which wiped out much of the business district downtown back in 1997. The licking river, which runs right into town, flooded when the Ohio River flooded through Cincinnati. It was so devastating that the town has not really recovered. The biggest boon to the local economy now is tourism and B&Bs that provide lodging for people who go to the local Ark experience – a recreated version of Noah’s ark a few miles NW of here.

I have arranged for a room here in Falmouth. After a thorough shower, I’m relaxing in my room, recharging my body as well as my electronics. My stomach is a little rocky this afternoon, so I’m going to take it easy and look for something lite for dinner.

Next stop is mass at 4PM at St. Xavier church, which happens to be about 30 feet away from where I’m staying tonight.

Some stats from today:

Miles: 39.90

Climbing: 2,200 feet

Mean dog chases: zero

Friendly dog chases: two

Tomorrow will start with what appears to be a major climb to go up from the Licking River and over the hill that separates it from the Ohio River. I’ll then follow the Ohio River into Newport KY, and cross into Cincinnati, OH. I’m hoping my legs are up for it!

St. Dymphna, pray for all those I carry with me.

Peace!

– Deacon Matt