I’d really don’t want to have to lump all of the great experiences we had in Ohio into one post like I did with Pennsylvania but we’re practically out of Indiana already and it seems I’m out of time. So, let’s see how this works. (Update: Looks like it’s a long one. Hope you’re not too bored)
From Pymatuning State Park in PA, it only took us a day to reach my parent’s house in Bainbridge, OH riding along Route 87 the whole way. It was fun feeling the anticipation build as we passed each new road sign. First there was the first store sign for a Lake Erie business, then this many miles to Cleveland, then entering Ohio, entering Geauga County, Chagrin Valley such and such, and onward. We passed through Amish country, bought some amazing peaches, pickles, and continued on our way. There were definitely a lot more hills than Marissa cared for but we knew there would be a few good rest days ahead of us so we powered through. I was also able to point out all my old friend’s houses and favorite hang out spots that we passed along the way. Good fun.
My dad met us at the end of our street along with a few neighbors he passed along the way and told them of pending arrival Brooklyn. It was nice to see familiar faces again and have a bit of a welcoming party. My parents were caring for my grandmother that weekend as well so they decided to bring her up from Mansfield, OH to join in the homecoming celebration. For the next three days, we were positively ruined with BBQ chicken, cheeseburgers, steaks, hot dogs, pasta salad, fruit salad, some good home cooking, and lots of cold beer. Marissa was smothered with greetings from countless family and friends that stopped in to say hello and catch up on all our travels. She was also overwhelmed by, not one, but two “Happy Birthday” serenades from my family followed by ice-cream cake, cherry pie, chocolate pie, her own homemade banana cream pudding, and more of Cleveland’s own Great Lakes Brewery beer.
Since we had a fair amount of time off, we also got some important things done. I took both of our bikes in to a local bike shop them looked at and tuned up. No major work was needed but Marissa did end up with a new set of tires to replace her rotting gum-wall tires that probably came with the bike in ’93. We also drove in to downtown Cleveland to hit up Dodd’s, the local pro camera shop. Marissa was able to get all 20 of her rolls developed and contacted at half the cost of New York prices. Everything looked really great though she was a bit bummed the contacts were traditional dark-room prints but digital scans instead. We haven’t been able to find her any new Kodak Portra 400NC in a 220 roll anywhere but they had some similar Fuji film the we went with. I also picked up a new hot-shoe bubble-level to replace the one I lost while we were frolicking in the grass at our 500 mile mark.
One we had also been talking about a bit was picking up a video camera to help document our trip. We stopped by a Best Buy on the way home from Cleveland and I ended up getting a Kodak Play Sport for about $150. Not bad for a little camera that can shoot 1080p, is rugged, and completely waterproof. Hopefully, we can up-load a bit of video now to the blog to help share our trip a bit better.
After resting up and packing on a few extra pounds, it was finally time to set off again on our adventure. Thankfully, our atrophied muscles didn’t have too much work to do since we were going to stay with my friends Clayton and Nicole in Rocky River, on the west side of Cleveland. Once we were packed, and said hello and good-bye to yet another good friend who stopped by (great seeing you, Monica!), we cruised down into Chagrin Falls. We stopped by the falls to do our stretching before riding along the Chagrin River and then on up into Shaker Heights to see all the mansions along S. Park Rd. It was definitely reminiscent of childhood as we called out to each other which homes we would gladly live in and which ones we would probably puke in. In University Circle, I took Marissa around to see all the world class institutions Cleveland has to offer like the Cleveland Art Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Severance Hall where the Cleveland Orchestra plays, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Clinic. We coasted in to downtown along Euclid Ave. We did a couple slow loops around downtown for more sight-seeing before we made our way westward along the lake.
In Rocky River, Nicole had generously cooked up a tasty dinner of pulled pork sandwiches that we gobbled down before heading out to see Inception. Great movie and a nice way to end our little summer sightseeing ride. The next morning had us riding out along the lake on our way to Vermillion, OH where we stopped in to see my cousin Jill. She treated us to the most ridiculously tasty BLTs we’ve ever had. The bacon was as thick as a steak which she got from an local farmer’s market and the tomatoes and lettuce were fresh picked from her garden. Oh god, I salivate just thinking about those sandwiches. From Jill’s house it was only supposed to be an hour ride to her parent’s house in Huron. Of course, we were quickly way-layed by our favorite sign, “PEACHES!” What should have been a quick 5 minute stop to load up and gobble a few down quickly turned into an hour when John Knight, the owner and farmer, offered us a tour of his orchard. We sampled so many peaches he picked straight from the tree that we almost fell into a food coma right there. He told us all about each type of tree he had planted and how he maintained and ran his entire farm as a one-man operation. I think that was final straw that secured peaches firmly in the No. 1 spot on our favorite fruits of the tour list.
Dinner at Aunt Carrol and Uncle Gregg’s house was more steak and corn on the grill while we enjoyed the company of Jill’s adorable young kids. We let them set up our tent almost all by themselves which is a sure testament to MSR’s great design. Even a 3 year old can do it! As if the day wasn’t good enough, my aunt and uncle packed us in to the back of their Jeep and drove us over to their boat for a late-night cruise on Lake Erie. It went from a magical, relaxing cruise to a truly surreal experience when we stopped for a swim a few hundred yards from shore only to realize that the water was only waist deep and silky-sandy on the bottom. Marissa and I both laughed as we walked along on our knees, staring at the stars and the distant fireworks from Cedar Point in Sandusky.
After one of our signature late morning starts around 1pm, we shipped off for a smooth ride along the backroads of northwest Ohio. A fairly uneventful day turned a bit gross as the sun went down and we were met by thousands upon thousands of gnats that came out to play. Donning bandanas, caps, and sunglasses, we rode on, struggling to push on despite number bugs in our eyes and throats. As the sun slipped away, we realized we would have to camp for the night and so we began looking around for some friendly farmers. I began evaluating each barn and silo, porch swing and lawn ornament, trying to decide whether to inhabitants of each house were friendly or not, would they welcome two sweaty bike kids onto their property or chase us off with shotguns and barking dogs. We actually tried a few doors bells with out any response before we spotted Andy from way down the road. He was out replacing some belts on a tractor chopper and we knew he couldn’t avoid us by running inside like that last lady. So we stopped and asked if he might mind a tent on his property for the night. Instead of immediately turning us away, he quickly fetched some ice-cold Gatorade’s and took us down the road to his own farm, this being his parent’s house. There, he got us set-up on a nice patch of grass, introduced us to Tessa, his super-friendly pup, and abated our thirst with more cold beer. So slightly buzzed, we settled in to our dew-soaked tent with no rain-fly for once and fell asleep, happy and content under the stars.
This is our combat attire when we go off fighting bugs across northwest Ohio
The next day saw more flat riding, this time along Route 6 again which was a bit sketchy with small shoulders and heavy truck traffic. After passing through Bowling Green, we quickly steered off the major roads and back onto our preferred county farm roads. Lots of pedaling, a couple angry dogs, no hills, and more bugs again brought us the setting sun. Anxious to find a resting spot earlier than we did the previous day, we decided to stop in Evansport, about 20 miles shy of the Indiana state border. Being aboutg 7 o’clock, the only thing left in this small town was the local bar so in we went looking for some new friends. After being offered a buggy spot to pitch our tent behind the bar by the friendly proprietors, we got to chatting with Jodie and Freddie. Upon informing them of our recent options for sleeping, they quickly offered their spacious 5 acre, pine covered property about 3 miles away. So off we went, us pedaling alongside their 4 wheeler they showed us the way. Once again, fortune smiled on us as we found ourselves swimming in a pool under the stars, sharing more beer, and enjoying some delicious pork roast, potatoes, and corn cooked over a blazing fire. Marissa has promised a bit more on this little adventure soon but suffice to say, we were spoiled rotten on our last day in Ohio.
“There’s a lot of good people around here that will treat you better than any city folk ever will”