Last night was a very enjoyable evening. Our AirBnB hosts, Barak and Victoria were wonderful hosts. We shared pizza, delicious ice cream with peaches, and best of all, good conversation. I love how we gathered around their family table and became family for an evening. Before this trip, I sort of wondered what would inspire someone to become an AirBnB host, but after doing two of them, I now know why: to get to know other people. Wouldn’t the world be such a much better place if we were able to invite strangers to dinner more often!
After finishing up our laundry and some great conversation, I finally turned into bed around 9 or 9:30PM. At that time, the various weather forecasts for the morning ranged from storms to no-rain. We decided that if it was raining, we’d try to leave later, but if it was not, we wanted to get going early.
I haven’t had a really good, deep night’s sleep the entire trip. But last night, I fell asleep almost instantly and enjoyed a great rest. I woke up a few minutes before my alarm and felt great. After my morning prayer hours, I pulled up the forecast. The question was: “Am I going to get a little more sleep, or were we going to get going on our way?”
The Weather Channel, Weather Underground, and My-Cast finally got their act together and gave a similar forecast. No rain forecasted. Moderately high temperatures for later in the day. It was time to get going so we could avoid most of the hottest part of the day.
Victoria had prepared a nice breakfast, and I cooked up a double-batch of oatmeal to add some calories to get the day going. Breakfast conversation was as delightful as the discussions we’d had the previous evening. Once again, fellowship comes up as one of the best parts of bike touring. But with a very long day ahead, we had to get going. We bid Barak and Victoria good bye and were on the road by 7:00AM.
Today’s trip took us across a lot of familiar territory along the Little Miami Scenic Trail. I have ridden the entire length of the Little Miami many times, in fact, Joe and I rode a 100+ mile century ride here just a couple of weeks ago. It is one of my favorite places in all of the country to ride. The trail is nicely canopied by trees for most of the length, providing a respite from the sun. There are enough small towns and trail heads to get water and food. The path is completely off road, safe from traffic. And the surface is paved and well maintained. If you like rail-trail riding, this is one of the best.
As we started today, we didn’t need any jackets or arm warmers. It was already warm and very humid at 7AM. Within a mile or two, we were both feeling pretty sticky. Whenever we would stop to take a picture, our glasses would instantly fog up. On the huge plus side, the clouds formed a nice cover for us all day long.
Sunrise was pretty early, but we didn’t really see much of the sun for a while. The trail goes through a lot of rural farm land, and provides some great views. A few times, we pulled over just to take in the views. Sure it is just farm land, but when mixed with sunshine, fog, and the quietness of a morning, it is a beautiful combination.
The first 60 miles went by incredibly quickly. Our legs felt pretty good, we had several fun discussions, and the familiarity of the trail made time pass fast. Before we knew it, we had passed Spring Valley, Morrow, South Lebanon, and decided to stop in Loveland for a quick bite to eat. We arrived far ahead of schedule – most of the restaurants weren’t open for lunch yet. We stopped at the deli and looked for something quick to take and eat. Joe settled in on some pasta salad, and I had a good sized scoop of tuna salad. We just needed a few more calories to power our way home.
We had originally figured it would take us until 2-3PM to complete our ride, but knew that we were running far ahead of schedule. So I called Stephanie to give her a heads’ up to meet us earlier than we had originally planned. In some ways, you don’t want to rush, but on the last day of the tour, we were both really looking forward to getting to the end.
Our next stop was to get near the south end of the Little Miami trail. Unfortunately, the Little Miami doesn’t get into downtown quite yet. They added a few more miles this year, but there isn’t a good way to get from the south end trail-head over to downtown. So instead, we had to exit near Newtown and begin surface streets to get to the river front.
Both Joe and I really prefer to stay away from busy streets, so we were pretty tuned-in to watching for cars in every direction. We exited the trail at Wooster Pike, following the road into Mariemont, through Fairfax, and other roads down towards Lunken Airport. Some of the roads were a little narrow for my taste, so we used sidewalks for some parts. (Note, that’s probably illegal, but I prefer my safety)
Next stop was Lunken Airport – the old airport for the Cincinnati area before the Northern Kentucky airport was built. Lunken was opened in 1925 and was the largest airport in the world at the time. Today, it is primarily used for private aircraft. The airport grounds now includes some bike trails on the east and west edges. We jumped on one of the Lunken trails for a short stint before picking up the Ohio River Trail near the river front.
The Ohio River Trail runs for about 2 miles from Lunken Airport towards downtown. It winds through some parks and gave us our first views of Downtown.
At the end of the Ohio River Trail, we moved to the bike lane on Riverside Drive for the next 3 miles. It has a nice bike lane and felt pretty comfortable, except for when large dump trucks whizzed by. We made quick time heading towards the city.
Along the way, we both noticed how nicely Cincinnati has been redeveloping the east riverfront. Lots of nicer row-style homes were being built, and it had a bit of a “hip” feeling to the area.
Once we reached the Berry International Friendship Park, we moved back to trails along the river front. These trails delivered us nicely to the Yeatman’s Cove park. We stumbled across this statue of Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Hey, it’s a giant guy with an axe! We didn’t take the time to read the plaque, but hey, when there’s a statue that looks like something out of the original “Clash of the Titans” or “Jason and the Argonauts”, you should definitely get your picture taken.
A short trip up around the corner took us across the pedestrian bridge and out of Ohio. We had officially ridden across the entire state now! Yeah!
We found the sign on the bridge somewhat humorous – it challenges people to take the “Get Moving Challenge”. Yeah, that’s what we need – to get moving.
We had decided that the Newport Aquarium would be a great place to meet Stephanie. So we wound our way across and to the front entrance of Newport on the Levee. I called Stephanie who was still a few minutes away. Joe and I took advantage of the water feature-fountain in front to put some cool water on our faces. It felt pretty good.
We had decided ahead of time that if we weren’t completely exhausted, we would ride our bikes to the Cathedral of the Covington Diocese, about 2 miles away, and finish by entering the Holy Door there. So since Stephanie was a little behind, we called and had her re-route and meet us there.
Getting there sounded pretty easy, but turned out to be a bit of a challenge to get to the right roads. We had to seek out a path to cross back over the levee and get to the Riverboat Row road behind the Aquarium. It took a while, but we finally got to the Cathedral and met Stephanie.
The Cathedral is magnificent. I don’t have any pictures that do it justice. What I can tell you is that if you are traveling anywhere nearby, you owe it to yourself to stop by and see the beauty of this church. The tremendous art and scripture stories in the stained glass is stunning.
A few minutes later, we packed up the bikes and headed back to Lexington. We made a quick dinner stop and then drove home, dropping off Joe along the way.
This trip was really a great adventure. It was different than other tours I’ve done: we didn’t really know much about the route, and there were many more road-miles than we typically do. And as always, even though it was a great trip, it is also really great to get home.
Thanks for all of the prayers, emails, text messages, and so on that carried us through the journey.
After I have a chance to stop and think a bit, I will have one more blog entry summarizing some of my overall thoughts about the Ohio to Erie Trail in a day or two.
But for now … a much needed rest in my own bed. Yay.