Friday, June 23, 2017

Ohio Tour Day 6 - Bellbrook to Montgomery

Max and I are at my sister Amy's, after a nice 46 mile ride. About 30 miles of this was on the very scenic and wonderful Little Miami Trail, which is a rail trail. Here we are taking a break in South Lebanon, OH.


It was pretty hilly getting to and from the trail. From Bellbrook, you have a choice of going along Sugar Creek to the Little Miami, which is relatively flat, or going directly over big steep hills, which is 5 miles shorter. Max chose 5 miles shorter, and then complained about the hills (11% on Waynesville Road...).
There is a big ugly climb getting out of the valley to get to Amy's too. That is the nature of Cincinnati.

We went to the grocery the day before, and ate from the snack bag all day. Services are pretty sparse in the morning until you get close to Cincinnati.

Here is Amy's new dining room table.


My dad made the table, from wood we sawed at my house a couple years ago. It's solid oak.

Here is the Strava track.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ohio Tour - Having Fun in Bellbrook

Today Max and I took the day off to have fun in Bellbrook. When you say this in front of my sister Mandy and my niece Katie, they laugh out loud.

Well we did have fun. We rode our bikes to the Bellbrook Canoe Rental and went canoeing on the Little Miami National Scenic River!



This was a big nostalgia fest for me. I haven't done this since about 1980.

It turned out to be a really beautiful and serene canoe trip. There was nobody else on the river. That may be because a kid drowned in the river last night by the rope swing and they hadn't found the body yet. It was a slow day at the canoe livery.

http://fox45now.com/news/local/greene-county-crews-on-the-scene-of-a-reported-water-rescue-near-bellbrook

The picture with the cop cars and rescue vehicles in the article above is in the canoe rental's driveway. Definitely a slow day at the canoe livery.

We kept an eye out, but we didn't see any dead bodies. Turns out he was downstream. Life pro tip: don't say stuff like "How can you possibly manage to drown in the Little Miami?" in front of your niece who goes to high school with the drowned kid's sister.

After canoeing, we went into Downtown Bellbrook for a tasty lunch. I showed Max the famous Bellbrook Magnetic Springs.


This is the Magnetic Springs. When I was a kid, the water from this fountain tasted absolutely awful, like poison or pesticides. I was very excited to share the experience of drinking it with Max. Turns out now it is plain old water. So disappointing.


Then we had the mandatory visit to the Dairy Shed.


The cherry dip is incredibly cherry.

Max is having the "Bellbrook Spirit" sprinkles on his cone, in the school colors of purple and gold.


In the afternoon, I took a walk around the yard and back field to see how things are. Some of the asparagus my mom planted approximately 45 years ago is still hanging in there.


In Ohio, when we have stuff we don't need anymore, we burn it in the field out back.


These are a couple of the big ash trees growing alongside the fence. We used to have a treehouse here. The trees are dying from an Emerald Ash Borer infestation, like every other ash tree.


There used to be our old 1977 Ford LTD Station Wagon under those bushes. I looked in there and couldn't see it. Mandy says she had it hauled away, and it was not easy to get rid of it because it had been sinking into the earth for the last 20 years.

The ash trees farther down the fence are pretty much dead.


Here is a picture of the back field. It goes back to the tree line back there. When I was about 7 or 8, my brother Fred and I would go on expeditions to the back of the field. My dad only mowed it a couple times a year with a bush hog back then, and it was usually pretty overgrown. We would bring our red wagon with us and push our way to the tall grass. At the fence in back, there were black-eyed susans and elderberry bushes. Sometimes we would see green snakes in the grass.


The field is a lot smaller now.

Mandy met us for dinner at delicious Marion's Piazza tonight, and Katie came with us.



We drove Mandy's decrepit old minivan which my sister Amy gave her for free, and which mostly takes up space in the driveway, since my brother Fred sold her one of his four Pontiac Fieros. So I'm driving along as happily as can be expected in a Sienna minivan with 200000 miles and an air conditioner that sounds like a turboprop plane taking off.

Katie: Do you know where you are going?
Me: Sure! I grew up here!
Katie: This is a dead end.
Me:


So I drove straight off the end of McBee like always, onto what used to be S. Alpha Bellbrook Road, and is now a dead end. This is because they straightened out S. Alpha Bellbrook 30 years ago. The map above shows what it used to be like before they dumbed it down. Stutsman used to end at a STOP sign where it says STOP on the diagram, and then you would go straight on S. Alpha Bell, which would then turn north at the end of McBee, which ended where it says STOP at a STOP sign.

The problem with this is there was a corn field there by the end of McBee (where it says CORN). So people would drive south on S. Alpha Bellbrook, and go straight onto McBee, not realizing that they were not actually going straight, but making a left hand turn right in front of the oncoming car they can't see because of the corn. There would be a big accident there every summer when the corn would get tall enough to block the view and people would forget they can't just go straight onto McBee.

This is why my generation is strong. We didn't have dumbed-down roads. We had to think about what we were doing when we drove around. Those of us who survived are strong, anyway.

We also used to play on the rope swing in the Little Miami.

Max and I did not quite 10 miles riding into town on our bikes. Max said our day in Bellbrook was fun.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ohio Tour Day 5 - Columbus to Bellbrook

Max and I are here at the house where I grew up in Bellbrook, Ohio. My sister Mandy lives here.


We rode 69 miles to get here, on flat rail trails mostly, and into a headwind. We got off to a rough start, Max had sore legs, and was in a pit of despair, but it was nothing that a long break and some electrolytes (Skratch and a Clif shot) couldn't fix. We took it easy and made it just fine.

Here are the bikes on the patio behind the house. It's like a jungle.


This is one of our many breaks. I forget where this is, but it's a nice grain elevator, and I think we had some tasty ice cream just up the road.


Maybe it's South Charleston, Ohio. 


The grain elevator looks much bigger when you have a boy for scale.

The last stop before Mandy's was Xenia. Xenia once was the intersection of three different railroads. Now it is the intersection of three different bike trails. It's a big bike hub.


We are going to see if we can possibly find entertainment in Bellbrook tomorrow, and then continue our ride to Cincinnati the next day.

Here is the Strava track.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ohio Tour Day 4 - Mt. Vernon to Columbus

Here we are in the lobby of the Red Roof Inn Plus+ in downtown Columbus. We just rode 53 miles of beautiful paved bike trail and back roads on a perfect day.


What you can't tell in the picture is Max is totally running on fumes at this point because all he ate was continental breakfast at last night's motel and two donuts, which is not enough for 53 miles. Total meltdown imminent. They need more places to eat on this trail. We averaged over 11 mph though, which is really amazing.


Here we are at the halfway point in the town square in Sunbury Ohio. Max is looking on the phone to see where there is a place to get a snack.

Since this is Ohio....


The tasty delicious donuts were right across the square. So yummy. So much sugar. Which is burned off completely in the next 25 miles leaving nothing in the tank.

Max refused to have anything to do with this photo, which is a shame. "You can catch up when you are done, Dad."


We got some free air at a really nice bike shop in Westerville. They are a Bianchi dealer. They sell celeste colored tires. Seriously. Now I think the Cycle Mill is lame because they don't sell celeste colored tires. (just kidding)


Lunch was two blocks over at a Max and Irma's. When Max is in full bonk, don't tell him that there will be a big old woman there named Irma who will start kissing and hugging him because he is named Max. Dinner a couple more blocks past that where we ate all the pasta we could stuff into ourselves. It's a big day tomorrow.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ohio Tour 2017 Day 3 - Millersburg to Mt Vernon

The boy is very nonchalant after knocking out 40 surprisingly tough miles.


This is in Mt Vernon, where the trail literally runs alongside our Comfort Inn, with pool and hot tub and air conditioning. It has been threatening thunderstorms all day, but they have all missed us. The next chance for a thunderstorm is 10:00.

In theory, today was supposed to be all rail trail, however, there is this 13 mile stretch where the rail trail isn't actually finished so you get to go on the very rural county roads. This section on the roads starts out with an absolutely brutal 13% climb up on to a ridge, and then 10 miles of ups and downs until you come down off the ridge. There is 900 feet of climb in 9 miles, which makes for one very irritable boy, who rode it with no problems nonetheless.

 The upside of the ride on the back roads is this company that makes cement statuary for your home, including this magnificent life-size Sasquatch.


When you finally get back on the rail trail, you get to go over the "Bridge of Dreams", which is this very cool replica covered bridge built on the original steel railroad bridge.


Covered bridges are really cool.


Max took this picture from the middle of the bridge. 


A few miles later, maybe in Danville, there is this old mill next to the trail and a road that passes over the stone arch.


It was a really nice ride. We were in at noon, then we ate pizza and soaked in the hot tub. Nothing is open on Sunday night in Mt. Vernon, so we had really bad Mexican food, which was the only choice.

Here is the Strava track.


Ohio Tour 2017 - More on Millersburg

Millersburg Ohio, population 3000, still has an actual functioning downtown (even though there is a commercial strip with a Wal-Mart two miles down the road) which includes a real hotel! 

The Hotel Millersburg has been in continuous operation since 1847. I love old hotels, and so this is where we are. It has all the things a hotel should have, such as a restaurant and meeting rooms and a bar with cocktails.

It also has lots of art on the walls which makes me miss Haussners.


They have a patio in the back with live entertainment, so after our tasty steak dinner in the hotel tavern, Max and I went back there to check it out. This trio is "Tequila Mary".


We could see them setting up through the window while we were eating dinner. Max was very curious about this and we were trying to guess what they would be like. I said with a name like Tequila Mary, they probably were Mexicans, and they were going to play Mariachi music. I sent Max out to see if they had any giant hats. He went to look and reported that there were no sombreros to be seen and it probably was not going to be a Mariachi band. He was relieved.

It turns out they played all my favorite country songs.

This was a pretty great episode of bike touring serendipity. Hank, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Rose Maddox, it was cool. I definitely feel like I'm coming home to Ohio.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ohio Tour 2017 Day 2 - Massillion to Millersburg

It's a short day today. We are done at noon, and in our nice historic hotel in downtown Millersburg, Ohio. 


We are in Amish country, it's very rural, and if we don't stay here in Millersburg, it would be an 80+ mile day to the next potential lodging spot in Mt. Vernon.

It was a beautiful clear day, it got up to about 90, but we were done before the heat. The route was about 2/3 bike trail and 1/3 hilly back roads. The bike trails are rail trails. Here is the tranquil scene from early this morning on the Sippo Valley Trail.


We took a short rest break in Dalton, Ohio at the local ball field.


Ten miles from the end in Fredericksburg, we stopped for ice cream. Check out the scene here in the town parking lot. Most of the people you see here are Amish, especially at the ice cream stand.


We had lunch here in town at Bags Sports Pub, and we've been chilling in our nice air conditioned room all afternoon.

Here is the Strava track.

Ohio Tour 2017 Day 1 - Lake Erie to Massillon Ohio

The thing about traveling on Amtrak is  the train is often late. By a lot. When your train is scheduled to get in at 3:00 AM, that is really not a problem, though. :-) As I explained to the porter and the conductor every time they apologized for the delay. "Not a problem, really!" 

I kept waking up in the middle of the night and realizing the train wasn't moving, which made me happy. More sleep for me! We got in at 6:30, which meant we could get breakfast on the train. When you eat on the train, you share a booth with other passengers. For breakfast we got to chat with a nice older African-American woman to told us about ChemTrails.

Here is Max with Lake Erie in the background in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame parking lot. Which is across the street from the train station.


Our ride for the day is on the beautiful and historic Ohio and Erie Canal towpath, all day, except at the beginning in Cleveland where they haven't actually finished building the bike trail yet. See it under construction behind Max there, with the Cuyahoga river behind it, not on fire. The Cleveland portion of the route is industrial wasteland, which sets Max, nature boy, to ranting. I explained to him how much nicer it is now that the river doesn't catch on fire any more.


The canal towpath is really nice, it's all flat obviously, except for a brutal climb in Akron, which is at the divide between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. The canal used to go all the way to Portsmouth. The surface is typically crushed stone, it's in great shape the whole way. It's comparable to the Pennsylvania part of the North Central Rail Trail, including the railroad tracks next to it, where the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs excursion trains. They let you bring your bike on the excursion train, you can take the train out and ride your bike back. Most of this route is in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It's very scenic, lots of wildlife and birds.

It was very hot at the end of the day, near 90, which we dealt with by having smoothies. This is the Cherry Valley Creamery in Canal Fulton. Yum.


Canal Fulton is a historic canal town all preserved. Only 10 miles to go!


Here we are at the end of a long 70 mile day, that ended hot. We got in to the Hampton Inn in Massillon, Ohio around 3:30. The Hampton Inn is the only lodging anywhere near here. The lobby is on the third level of the parking garage, the bottom level is the local bus depot and packed full of bums. I don't know what the Hampton Inn folks are thinking here.


Dinner was awesome, across the street at "Kozmo's". That mac and cheese has chunks of lobster in it. Good electrolyte replenishment too.


Lunch was at Luckity's Inn, on the south side of Akron, which is a regular family diner.



Ohio Tour 2017 Day 0 - Getting there - Home to DC Union Station

It's the first day of summer vacation, and Max's time in elementary school has come to an end. So we are going to ride our bikes across Ohio, from Lake Erie to Cincinnati, on the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET). 

is not sure about this. Don't worry, it will be great.

The bikes are all packed and ready, and we were on the road around 8:00 AM. I'm riding my blingy Velo Orange Campeur, Max is riding the 2002 vintage Trek 2000 WSD that formerly belonged to his mom. I have all our clothes and camping gear loaded on there.


It's 40 miles to DC Union Station and 1500 feet of climb, almost all of which is in the first half of the ride. We are going on regular roads, on a regular morning, not a weekend with no traffic. This was no problem for Max, he is a very confident rider. Here he is taking a break at the 7-11 on Guilford Road by the intersection with Dorsey Run road. Note to CAN - Max was not bothered in the least by Coca-Cola Drive, Race Road, 175, the Swirly of Death on NBP, Guilford Road, the Dorsey Run bridge over 32, or Brock Bridge Road. Not that I would let him ride this alone or anything.


We made it to Union Station around 1:30, via the Pain Branch/Northeast/Branch/Anacostia trail and the C Street bike lane. This was very easy, there are lots of signs directing you to the train station like they totally mean for us to do this.


After a delicious lunch at Bojangles downstairs, it's nap time until the train comes.


The train is #29, the Capitol Limited. It goes to Chicago via Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The two of us got a sleeper compartment for $400, which is a great deal compared to flying, since in addition to travel, you get a room for the night, and dinner, and the bikes go in the baggage car on bike hangers and you don't have to take them apart or box them.