Leg 19 – An Easy Century of Iowa’s Rolling Hills and Thunder

I made 105 downwind miles today, to Urbana, Iowa, plus a few extra miles for detours. About 40 miles were on paved bike trails.
Robin was worried that I was not eating enough. Since the cheap hotel I had last night did not have a breakfast buffet, I went out last night to make my own. Breakfast was three bananas, a yogurt, an orange, four chocolate frosted donuts, and the free hotel coffee. I think I am eating enough.
I checked the weather and the forecast first thing. Light rain was falling, but the winds were forecast to be out of the southeast. Today was the first leg of a new stage of the trip – from Cleveland to the Mississippi I was following the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route, but that route now cuts too far north for me so I am on my own. The next landmark is Norfolk, Nebraska, the start of the Cowboy Trail rain trail. I am on my own for route finding now, so I asked Google Maps for a route. It gave three choices, and the more northerly route via Cedar Rapids was allegedly the quickest. Since the wind was out of the southeast, it looked like a good day to roll some miles downwind. Though thunderstorms were in the forecast, there was no severe thunderstorm forecast, just possible heavy rain.

So I followed the google route out of Davenport, and was soon rolling pleasantly downwind on Route 130. I found the Iowa scenery quit charming after the austerity of southern Illinois. There were actual rolling hills, and trees that looked like they grew naturally. Farms fit more into the pastoral ideal, with cows grazing in pastures instead of in barns, and older farmhouses and silos dotting the landscape. Cedar county Iowa actual smelled like cedar, though o didn’t see any cedar trees.

In Bennett, Google tried to gravel road me, but a turned back to Route 130, since I knew it went to Tilton, which was on the way. But miles before Tolton the skies darkened, and the radar indicated the squall line already in Tilton. I began to assess roadside structures for possible shelter. Barns were all to close to houses, the grain tanks wouldn’t give any shelter. Lightning bolted straight down on my left and I counted the seconds to five – less than a mile away. I saw a metal building with a big bay door just as the heavy rain hit, and there was a light on in the office. I went in an shouted but no one answered, so I went in the bay door where a truck was parked and shouted again. Two men eventually appeared and graciously let me shelter in their warehouse, while they went back to a project on the truck that involved torque wrenches and swearing.

In twenty minutes or so the lightning had moved on and the rain was light enough to ride again, so I rode to Tilton. Route 130 ended there, and I couldn’t get a signal for a new route, so I set out on a westbound county road, figuring that west was the general direction I wanted to go.Eventually, Google confirmed I was on the right track, but it still tried to take me down gravel roads, so I started ignoring google and sticking to road W27. Eventually, I realized I was headed southwest instead of northwest, and had nearly reached Iowa City by mistake. But Iowa Route 1 took me to Solon, where there was a pharmacy for more foot cushioning and a Subway for a caloric and electric charge up.
Urbana Iowa looked like it was in reach – at about 105 miles for the day. On downwind days I want to do centuries to make up for tough progress on upwind days. Camping options were uncertain since it is the holiday weekend, so I reserved a room at the Urbana Inn and Suites. Google seemed to promise a route on bike trails rather than gravel roads.

But soon after Solon, Google told me to turn right onto a road that started as gravel. Not wanting to get lost again, I followed it. The road soon turned to deep soft mud that was impossible to drive through, much less bike through. After caking my shoes and my bike in mud, I climbed up the grassy embankment and walked and rode the bike through the tire tracks in the grass, but I had to cross the mud again to get to a paved road.
Google soon led me astray again, telling me to turn right onto the “Hoover Nature Trail”, which had “No Trespassing” signs on both sides of it. Ignoring the signs (they must mean no trespassing off the nature trail, of course), I found the trail soon ended at another impassable mud slough, but with a paved trail visible just beyond the 100 yard quagmire. So I muddled through.

I soon found myself delighted to be on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail – a 50 mile mostly paved bike route to Cedar Rapids and beyond, to Waterloo. So the rest of the day was spent on a pleasant downwind pedal through woods and fields, with many other cyclists. I had to stop at a drinking fountain the clean the mud off my bike and shoes, though.
I detoured on Cedar Rapids to the Dicks Sporting Goods store to get a functional taillight, spare inner tubes, and a new sleeping pad. The last five miles of the bike trail into Urbana got quite soft, and I was very happy to arrive at the hotel for a hot shower.


Leg 18 – 50 Miles on the Hennepin Canal to Cross the Wide Mississippi

Today I made a major milestone – across the Mississippi at Davenport, Iowa, after an 83 mile ride. Making the Mississippi by May 23 was one of my landmark goals.
I set my alarm for 530 this morning, afraid that I would miss the dawn in the dark barn. But the birds singing at 515 roused me before the alarm went off, and I boiled water for oatmeal, packed up, and rolled north to my new route on the Hennepin Canal at about 6 am.

Google wanted to send me to the Hennepin’s confluence with the Ohio, but I already knew from the Illinois DNR website that the trail was closed there due to a levee breach and flooding, so I turned Google Maps off and headed for Tiskilwa, a pretty and very real town where I thought I could pick up the trail. Tiskilwa also had coffee at the service station convenience mart, where the manager was very solicitous. A large coffee and a donut were just $2.30.

A found the road out of Tiskilwa that crosses the canal, but there was no sign for the towpath, and the access drive led to a knee high, damp grass trail. I was about to give up, but crossed back over the bridge to find the bike trail on the other side of the canal, unsigned, and unpaved, but quite rideable.

What a pleasure it was to ride the towpath after days in the agricultural desert! Trees lined the bank, providing shade and shelter from the headwinds. Great blue herons flushed from the banks and swooped before me, and flashes of indigo buntings thrilled the path before me. I ran into an old man fishing from the bank, he had already caught one catfish at 8 am. I asked him what he did with them; he said he put them in his freezer, and when he had a whole bunch of them he had a catfish party for his friends. There were walkers and dogs and even a few cyclists. Some of the aqueducts were actually ducting Aqua, so that boaters could cross a bridge over a creek below. Riding surface varied from dirt to crushed stone to paved to paved once with grass poking through, but pedaling at nine mph on the towpath was a pleasant day of bicycling, while pedaling at nine mph on a bleak road in a crosswind was an ordeal.

Fifty miles passed by in a pleasant blur. I tried to do some physical therapy on my left hand while riding, forcing my fingers to shift the gears, and fretting a C-chord on the handlebar from time to time. As the miles and locks rolled by I began to worry I would pass the last exit before the flooded north end of the path. But I got some local advice, and was able to exit near Green River after negotiating just one washout.
I had to make a 3 pm Waterkeeper Alliance executive committee call. I had picture making it to the Mississippi River in time to find a riverview restaurant for a late lunch and celebratory beer. That seemed likely when I started at 6 am with just 65 miles to the river. But slow going on the soft trail meant that b6 230, there was still no river in sight. Google sent me up the employee parking road at the John Deere plant in East Moline, but it lead to the bike path on the levee. But there were no restaurants in sight, just an industrial floodplain. 
At 255, I saw a huge windowed building with the sign Milltown Coffee on the side, and I gave it a try – they had sandwiches and beer and a river view, and I placed my order at 257.

After the call, I headed across the Mississippi on the Rock Island Arsenal bridge. I had hoped to find a bike shop for a new taillight in Davenport and I asked google for directions to the very intriguing Ruby’s Beer, Brats, and Bikes establishment. But I couldn’t find it. When I asked a passerby, she told me that the bike and beer shop was closed because of the flooding.
So I headed up the hill from the river to my hotel. I naturally reserved the cheapest motel listed on google – the Relax Inn for just $35. A motel is a motel, and is likely to be at least as comfortable as a mattress on a cement floor. When I called the Relax Inn this morning to make a reservation, they asked if I had a CDL, and when I said no, they quote a $50 rate. I asked about the difference, and the clerk told me I should just go ahead and reserve online through Priceline to get a cheaper rate. Which I did. The actual motel had a sign saying “Knights Inn”, but the faded paint over the entrance suggested it was a Travelodge once. I expected a parking lot full of tractor trailers, but instead the place is practically empty and perfectly adequate. The room is smallish, but I have paid much more for smaller rooms.

I celebrated my Mississippi crossing by eating a banana and a pint of chocolate ice cream, and downing a 20oz can of Bud, the least and beer they were selling singles of.


Leg 17 – Cross Winds to the Illinois River



posted late)
Ended up making 90 mostly crosswind miles, from Kempton Illinois to the Illinois River in Henry.

The Greenhouse B&B hostess made breakfast for me at 630, as I requested for an early start. Gia and her husband run an organic farm, apiary, and conference center. The omelette included fresh asparagus from her garden.

I was on the road a little after seven. It was a long day of pedaling crosswind across endless, treeless farm fields, as imposing as the open sea. This land was desolate – the fields were mostly stubble from last year, a few fields plowed and bare, even fewer planted and sprouting neat rows of corn seedlings. There were no people and few dwellings, few birds, and little animal life. Towns named on the map were little more than a few houses and trees, and an extra large collection of fertilizer tanks, and a church, but no food or retail business of any kind, no parks, not even a shaded bench where a traveler might rest his weary legs.

I flew when the route jogged north, and I struggled when it jogged south, but mostly I pedaled crosswind toward the distant horizon that ever moved further away. It was sunny all day for the first time this whole trip, so there was enough solar power to my phone to listen to tunes as a pedaled down the road. Towards the end of the ride, I knew the route would jog north (downwind) and drop into the Illinois River valley, so I began hoping that each rise in the road was the height of land before the valley, but each time the road just stretched on straight across the agricultural desert.
I would have liked to get half way to the Mississippi River today. It was 192 miles to Muscatine, Iowa. But there were no lodging options around the half way point at Bradford, so I settled on Henry, at the Illinois River, where you could reputedly camp at the city riverfront park. I stopped briefly for a picnic lunch where the road crossed the Vermillion River, but it was not an attractive spot, and I had no cell signal to call ahead to confirm I could camp in Henry. So I plugged away for another ten miles to Wenona, where there was a surprising pondfront park next to the interstate – and a bathroom. The Henry police department told me that the riverfront park was flooded, but I could camp in the Stoner Veterans Park if I wanted it to. The desk clerk said that the park would look real nice with all the flags up for Memorial Day.
I reached Henry at about 4, and shopped for dinner at the first real grocery store I had seen since Ohio – with fresh vegetables. I went to the park, phoned the police to let them know I was there and asked if I could get the key to the men’s room. Apparently not.
So I sat around resting for a little amid the families enjoying the first warm sunny day in weeks. I started researching tomorrow’s route to Muscatine, since I was worried that I was planning too many miles tomorrow against the forecast wind- 120 miles to a hotel in Muscatine. I saw that Google would send me on a completely different route than Adventure Cycling – via the Hennepin Canal Towpath. This seemed intriguing. Then I realized that I could shave twenty miles off my trip by crossing the Mississippi at Davenport, rather than Muscatine, and that there was a campground eight miles north – and downwind – along the way to the Hennepin Canal. There was no particular reason to cross at Muscatine, it was just the end of one stretch of the Adventure Cycling Route.

So I hopped on my bike and made an easy extra eight miles for the day. Condits Ranch campground made me feel welcome – Amanda the owner insisted that I camp in the barn because severe thunderstorms were in the forecast, and Sue the caretaker brought me over an extra mattress for the concrete floor. Not only that, but Amanda conjured up a cold beer from one of the RV tenants (no singles were sold at the Henry market). All for $10.
Sue liked to talk, wanted to hear about my trip, and told me she had been to New York State once to visit her son’s girlfriend, but not New York City,. I have not gone out of m6 way to start climate conversations (I am not very confrontational), but when I told Sue my wife was traveling to the Far East in her role as president of the American Geophysical Union, Sue immediately brought up climate. She said climate was changing, but there have been ice ages in the past, and that it was not Trump’s fault. I said that the scary thing is that the climate is changing faster than it ever has before, and that scientists have known that carbon dioxide retains heat since the middle of the 19th century. And that it may not be Trump’s fault, but that Trump is stopping us from doing anything about it. I told her I was really happy to see the wind turbines, Sue said that she and her friends would drive to the wind farm to listen to the whooshing sound.

Sue told me that there was a tornado watch for the night, and if the tornado warning went off, I should either go to the concrete block bathroom building, the ravine behind the barn, or knock on her door to stay in the cellar.
My legs and feet feel fine at the end of another long day of pedaling but my left hand is really weak from leaning on it all day – I can barely type, and I can’t play guitar. It is like trying to learn chords all over again, I have to look at my hand and will my fingers to the right place, but the fingers still won’t curl right, and I can’t fret the chords naturally. Back on the C&O Canal, when my fingers went numb on a rainy 40 degree day, I stopped being able to work the “fingertip” brake lever gear shift with my left hand. I attributed it to the cold, then, but today the temperature was in the 80s and I still couldn’t work the shift.


16th Leg – A Century and a Half Time Warp Into the Second Millenium

My goal today was simple ride as many miles west as I could while the east wind, daylight, and my legs held up and there was some prospect of lodging on the road ahead. That ended up being 157 miles, at least according to the Runtastic cycling app. I had the benefit of a 25 hour day to work with. That’s a personal record I am unlikely to break – I haven’t even ridden a century in over 40 years. But it’s not a family record – my younger brother David ride 500 miles in two days a couple of decades ago. Today’s ride also makes me 1000 miles from home, no matter how you measure it.
Woke up at 630 (late dawn at this western edge of Eastern Time). It wasn’t raining yet, so I struck camp quickly as the drops began to fall. My phone battery was near dead, so I downloaded the days route and put the phone on airplane mode to save power. I put some screenshots of the general route on my iPad, which still had plenty of battery. But I didn’t check the map closely enough, so I rode 1 1/2 miles in the wrong direction before realizing my mistake. This extra three miles put me in a bad mood to start the day, but it ended up being a rounding error on the days run.

I rolled 25 blissful downwind mikes before finding a combination coffee shop and tanning salon where I could plug in, in Denver, IN. The waitresses were very helpful and a breakfast burrito plus unlimited coffee only cost $3.50. But they had no WiFi and I had no signal, so I was still limited in my ability to research lodging options for the night. Rensellaer, at around 90 miles was too close. Ashkum claimed to allow bike camping in the city park, but you had to call the mayor first, and when I tried to call with my one bar of signal, the call dropped before I could leave a full message. It looked like there were some options ten miles beyond Ashkum, also.

So I set out to take advantage of the howling easterly, wind singing in the telephone wires, miles rolling by like a perpetual downhill, except in places where the route jogged north or south and the crosswind nearly blew me off the road. Indiana spun by in a blur, and I did not want to stop to leave any of this fair wind unused. I fed myself trail mix from my handlebar cup-holder, stopping only when I really needed to pee. Since I used the bathroom at a shop in Buffalo, IN, I bought a Snickers bar and added it to my caloric intake. At one point, I missed a turn and ended up on a gravel road, much to my regret but the regular grid of roads soon brought me back to the smooth designated route. Gravel roads are the very definition of a royal PITA.
Without stopping to refer to the maps, my sense of geography and distance got a bit confused. I had convinced myself that I should reach Ashkum at around mile 125, and that there was a town with several motel chains (with unlimited breakfast buffets) just ten miles beyond, a reasonable goal for a day of fast runnings. As I approach mile 125, I saw a huge radio tower that I assumed was the state police barracks by the village park in Ashkum. But after three miles of strenuous crosswind pedaling, the radio tower was next to nothing more interesting than yet another farmhouse. I turned west and downwind, certain to find Ashkum around the bend. But past the rare railroad trestle, Adventure Cycling tried to take me across the adjacent railroad crossing to a gravel road. No way! I stopped to check the map and my options. The Adventure Travel app calculated that Ashkum was still 22 miles away, and there was no lodging for 30 miles beyond Ashkum, except for a lone BNB 33 miles from where I was.  I had already pedaled 125 miles today, and the prospect of another 22 miles for a cold, wet, and phone charge-less night in a tent was discouraging.
I tried calling the BNB, but my call kept dropping before I got an answer, and the howling wind made it impossible to hear even whether the phone was ringing. My battery was getting low, and there was no sun to charge it. So I ate a sandwich made from the leftovers from yesterday’s Dollar General shopping spree, and found a paved route around the gravel road.

In my geographical confusion, I did not realize that Ashkum was in Illinois (and in the central time zone). There were no “Welcome to the Land of Lincoln” signs. So I was surprised when the road signs started advertising “Illinois Rte 1” – why were roads in Indiana given Illinois road numbers? But I flew downwind, and soon reached the real Ashkum, Illinois – and the time change on my phone announced the new state. I was able to get through to the Green House BNB, which had rooms available, with breakfast. And the Ashkum mayor had returned my call, offering free camping. I opted for the BNB – it was only 7:20 Central Time, and I could charge my phone enough at the Subway in Ashkum (while munching on a sub) to be sure to locate the BNB.

I flew the last 12 miles, averaging about 20 miles an hour in the brisk wind, while hardly working at all. And the Greenhouse BNB is charming, a true little house on the prairie sitting on a wooded knoll in the middle of a vast expanse of farm Fields.

15th Leg – Upwind Into Indie

5/20 (Posted late)
Today I made 75 miles, to Salamonie State Forest, Indiana. This leaves me about 45 miles short of where I wanted to be by today, fourteen riding days into my trip.
When I woke up at the Bittersweet Inn I could hear that the wind was blowing. I already had diminished expectations for the day, given that I was running through my hotel and meals budget too fast, and campgrounds were either 75, 102, or 120 miles upwind. I fixed on the 75 mile run to Salamonie State Forest.
The wind was WNW at 10-20 mph. Riding into the wind is like pedaling up a constant gentle hill – it’s not that hard on the legs, but you just can’t maintain any speed. The only way I can ride all day is to take it very easy on my legs and knees, so I had to be satisfied with nine miles per hour.

Wind turbines were spinning in western Ohio. To me, they look like a graceful addition to the landscape, and no more of an industrial intrusion into the pastoral landscape than the dairy barns, grain silos, and agricultural tanks dotting the landscape. This part of the country is devoted to production – there is precious little wild land, just the occasional wetland or wildlife preserve. Food production is just another form of energy production, like wind turbines. Back in Erie County, OH, yesterday, yellow signs sprouted in the farmscape reading “No Wind Turbines in Erie County.” I understand the instinctual fear and opposition to whatever is big, imposing, and new. But wind power is not a matter of “progress” – it’s a matter of salvation.

Is this less industrial than a wind turbine?

I ran down state line road on the Indiana border. On my left side, signs welcomed the traveler to Ohio, but to my right, no signs hinted that you just entered Indiana. But I felt welcome in Munroeville, where a man came running down his driveway to greet me. Neil wanted to know if I was staying at the community center (Munroeville welcomes bike trekkers with free indoor camping). But Munroeville was too far for yesterday’s ride, and way too close for today’s. I did go food shopping in the Munroeville Dollar General, since it seemed that would be the last food store I would see in the 55 miles to Salamonie.

The terrain changed in Indiana, slowly but surely. Copses of blessed trees to break the wind became more frequent west of Hoagland, and the road began to rise and fall gently in undulations that would eventually be worth calling hills. The rest of the ride was a matter of grinding slowly into the wind, head down and on the dropped handlebars in the open areas, relaxing with my head up in the shelter of trees, and rejoicing when the route dropped south and the breeze turned briefly into a tailwind. There was some rain, and mostly overcast skies. With temperatures in the 50s, my fingers were cold again. Too cold to play this guitar I have been lugging around – I couldn’t fret anything but a G chord. But my knees, feet, and legs felt fine. My butt, not so much.

 I made the campground by 530 pm, where I ran into the first long distance cyclist I have seen since Pittsburgh – a young woman from Michigan who is cycling to North Carolina to see her grandmother. Salamonie State Forest is a gem of woods and wildlife in this agricultural landscape.
Tomorrow should be interesting. The winds will blow from the east, so I was counting on making a big day, but it will be in the 40s and raining. My phone battery is almost dead, so I won’t be able to post this until tomorrow


Leg the 14th – Tacking Into a Stiff Breeze in the West Ohio Sea

I woke in the dawn twilight and listened for the wind. All I heard was a rooster crowing in still morning, and I knew I should get up and make some mileage before the wind started to blow and the afternoon storms raged. So I was on the road by 620 am, missing my coffee fix because it turned out that gas stations didn’t open before eight am on a Sunday morning in the small towns of west central Ohio, far from the interstate.
I followed a delightfully curvy road for a long time. So seduced by its curves I was that I missed the turnoff for Bowling Green, and didn’t discover it until I was two miles south of the Northern Tier Route.

By now, the wind was piping up from the south southwest, as forecast. Now, no good sailor will waste two miles of southing when beating into a southerly gale, so I confirmed that my westbound course would eventually intersect with the proper route again, and continued on Rte 105 west. I soon ran into an obstacle: yet another critical bridge closed for construction, with a detour that ran dead downwind. I stopped at the open service station for coffee and confirmed that to the south, the next westbound road should take me towards an eventual intersection with the Northern Tier Route.
This road crossed the interstate, but dead ended soon after another north-south crossroads. But just as I was about to make a u-turn I saw a fortuitous rail trail at the cul de sac – this one I had found by accident, not by Google. Just as I was celebrating my good luck, the branch rail trail hit the north-south trunkline, so I tacked south, frantically checking my charts for a westerly through route back to the rhumb line. But it turned out all the charted westerly reaches were blocked by an obstruction – the bridgeless Auglaize.

But I also realized that I was getting a lift on the starboard tack, since the tree lined paved trail let me make good progress even while pinching into the increasing southerly wind. So I stayed on starboard tack all the way south to Rudolph, where the Defiance Pike presented a 30 mile reach to the safe harbor of Defiance. Boy oh boy, did that south wind blow then on the open West Ohio Sea! If I had the right sails, I could have made a screaming reach of it all the way to Defiance. But my torso-sail couldn’t generate much lift no matter how I trimmed it to the wind, and I powered on, buffeted by rolling gusts on the beam, for three hours, finding brief refuge in the lee of occasional islets of trees.

And so I made the 65 miles into the safe harbor of Defiance before lunchtime and before the storms. I was hoping to find a lunch spot downtown, but all the downtown eateries seemed to be closed on Sunday, and as I left town there was a choice of KFC, DQ, Subway and Ed’s Ice Cream Factory. I nearly turned around for the KFC, reasoning that I was burning so many calories that I could indulge some of my favorite really unhealthy foods, but then reconsidered and decided I should give the non-franchised Ed’s a chance. The only non-beef on their menu of not-ice cream was popcorn shrimp, so I ordered some and asked to use the restroom, and I was informed there wasn’t one. Not even for emergencies.
Nor was there an electrical outlet, so I finished my popcorn shrimp hastily, and went the block back to the Subway, where the staff rally wanted to know where I was coming from and going to, where they had a restroom, and where they welcomed me to sit and watch the rain for a few hours while charging my phone, all for the cost of a six-inch sub. I made reservations for the night at the Bittersweet Inn in Paulding, another 20 miles on (per adventure cycling) or 26 miles on (per Google).

Adventure Cycling proved correct: it was an easy 20 mile ride into Paulding in the post squall line showers. Shortly before I reached town, the sun came out over the verdant flooded fields. And I got my fried chicken dinner at the very very local Red House Pizza shack.


Thirteenth Leg – Rolling West With the Lakeview Limited

Today I made 91 miles, to the White Star campground in Gibsonburg, Ohio. Or 94 miles, if you believe the Runtastic cycling app, which always seems to give you two or three miles more credit than the mapping apps, which is really frustrating, when you think you should have arrived and you have three more miles to go. Any way you measure it, it’s the farthest day of the trip so far. But it was easy rolling, all flat terrain with gentle (and occasionally favorable) winds.
The routing maps made it look like I would be riding along the Lake Erie shoreline, and I had pictured one of those coastal roads with a beach on one side and the houses on the other. It was the draw of this inland coastline that pulled me north to Cleveland instead of drawing a straighter line west. But I was disappointed to see that nearly the entire coastline was private houses and clubs, with only occasional glimpses of the grey horizon of the lake in the cold morning rain between the mansions, or one of the few public parks. The Supreme Court may have declared 150 years ago that Illinois could not sell the entire Chicago waterfront to one company under public trust principles, but that didn’t stop the privatization of the Great Lakes shoreline piecemeal, apparently.

As I rolled farther west of Cleveland, the waterfront mansions grew smaller and less ostentatious. My rule for lunch is the later of 11 am or halfway to the days goal. Fortunately, I made my 46 miles in Huron, Ohio, my last chance for the Erie waterfront before turning inland. The local breaded perch and sidewinder fries at the Harbor House were excellent, but check your bill carefully, or they will try to charge you extra for the coleslaw. The place was a Mecca for bikers on this sunny Saturday afternoon, and I don’t mean the quiet kind with derailleurs on their chains. But they were courteous bikers.

I am following the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route now, for the next 500 miles to Muscatine, Iowa. This route took me south of the lake from Huron, then west for 15 miles on a road as flat and straight as a line of latitude. I joined the North Shore Inland Trail bike path near Clyde. The shaded trail was a nice break from the open farmland and bumpy roads. The trail took me to Fremont, where scores of fishermen were up to their waists in the Sandusky River hauling in perch. I bought groceries for dinner there and pedaled the last 12 miles west to the White Star campground, a county park.

 Camping is a friendly sort of lodging, I have made friends here at the campground here already, with a young couple recently relocated from Portland, and with an older couple wearing Great Allegheny Passage cycling shirts.

Tomorrow promises to be challenging, with 20-30 mph winds in my face and likely thunderstorms

Leg Twelve – Down the Cuyahoga Valley Into Cleveland

Made 70 miles today, to Lakewood, just west of Cleveland.

This morning I got to practice breaking solo camp efficiently. It did not rain after all, and I struck the dry tent while my breakfast water boiled. Breakfast was three envelopes of instant oatmeal and an orange. Camp coffee for one is too complicated, so I picked up a cup at the first gas station, eight miles on my way. With a reusable stainless straw in my cup holder, I could sip coffe while pedaling for the next half hour.
Google gave me a choice of routes – the second choice was 4 miles longer, but included the full length of the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, so it seemed worth the extra miles.
The first part of the ride was on successively smaller two lane roads until I found the Freedom Trail rail trail outside Akron. The Freedom Trail carved gentle slaloms around telephones, setting a nice biking rhythm while chipmunks and bunnies scampered out of my path in the morning mist. But Google told me to turn right down a steep hill at an intersection, even though the rail trail continued. At the bottom of the hill, google told me to rake a left turn over a bridge – that was very closed for construction. So I had to pedal back up the steep hill, ride one more section of the rail trail, and rejoin the google route, my cell phone telling me to make a u turn the whole way.

The route soon picked up the Canal towpath, but with one unfortunately strenuous construction detour near the start. The rest of the towpath was a delightful spin through fragrant woods and meadows and wetlands on a generally good surface. I didn’t stop to take many pictures, but this site has a good collection. I stopped in Peninsula Ohio for lunch at the Winking Lizard tavern, then rolled the rest of the way into Cleveland. Unfortunately,my phone battery died about 2 miles short of my destination, so I had to find the Travelodge the old fashioned way, by asking people on the street for directions until I found someone who actually knew where it was.

This evening I took the bus to downtown Cleveland. Unfortunately, the only Clevelander I know was out of town today, but she told me to say hi to the water taxi driver in the Flats, so I I went down to the Cuyahoga waterfront and introduced myself to Scott Sanders – a fellow bluewater sailor, and we swapped some sea stories, and I got a good restaurant recommendation. I took the train back out to Lakewood. I like to check out the transit options when I visit a City. Cleveland has a bunch of shiny new train stations, but the trains on some lines (blue and green) never seem to run, even though I checked the website for service cancelations.

My feet and knees feel good today – even in the morning, I had less knee pain than usual. I hope that’s a good sign.


Eleventh Leg – Out of Pittsburgh and Into the Ohio Countryside

Made about eighty miles today, from Pittsburgh, PA to Lake Berlin, Ohio.

Robin and Justin left at five to get Justin back to Harrisburg in time for work, so I am on my own now. I was at the hotel breakfast bar at six and rolling out of Pittsburgh at seven am. 
The route towards Cleveland followed Route 51 northwest along the Ohio River. Google tried to take me to a dead and street with a bike path that itself deadended in a pile of gravel within 50 yards, so I ended up in the traffic on Carson Boulevard, and nearly got clipped by a city bus. A few miles further along, Google tried to avoid the worst of the hills by detouring to Bruno Island, but the bridge it tried to send me on was definitively closed for construction, so I was left with the formidable hills of route 51. So I did not end up crossing any of the fabled bridges of Pittsburgh.
Route 51 varied from nice shoulders to no shoulders. It is also known as PA Bike Route A. Somewhere around Aliquippa, it became a four lane divided highway with no shoulders and a tight guardrail, but traffic was light enough by then that I could take the lane.


In Monaca, I crossed the Ohio and the Beaver rivers, and 51 began its long slow climb out of the Ohio River valley. It narrowed to a two lane road, and I passed a prefab home manufacturer. Unfortunately, that meant that sever wide-load semi trailers hauling actual houses passed me on the road, with the house hanging out over the shoulder. I would never have known what hit me if one passed too close. At least the drivers seemed very aware of the potential mishap, and slowed down until they had room to pass or I could pull over.
I crossed into Ohio at mile 45, and the road got bumpier. Pennsylvania,s industrial landscape had long since faded into countryside of dairy farms, woods, and meadows, I did my grocery shopping in Columbiana Ohio at the last supermarket I would see before the campsite, and ended up eating l7nch at Taco Bell because I managed to miss all the more local restaurants and wanted to make just one stop. My knees do better if I avoid multiple stops.

I am camping tonight at Philabaun’s Hidden Cove Resort and Campground in Deerfield, Ohio.


Tenth Leg – Out of the Mountains and Into the Industrial Midwest

We rode the 60 miles from Connelsville to Pittsburgh today. It was mostly an uneventful ride, as the woods gave way to towns and vacation homes, which gave way to the gritty industrial landscape from McKeesport to Pittsburgh. For the fist time, the sun shone most of the day. Justin set a fast pace, and my knees hurt more towards the end of today’s sixty mile ride than they did on the seventy-three mile ride yesterday. I think that’s because we hit some short, steep hills for the first time since starting the C&O Canal – and because of the quick pace.

Pittsburgh marks the end of the first phase of this trip. It’s the end of our family vacation with our son; Robin and Justin will be driving back east early in the morning. I have finished a week of daily long rides, and my legs and knees have not completely given out on me. I figured that if I was completely incapable of this trip, I’d probably know by the 0end of the first week. I am west of the Appalachians now – no more mountains to climb until I get to Wyoming – though I expect Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Nebraska will have some respectable hills to climb. I am going to have to pick up the pace when I get to the flatter part of the country. And there is good news – looks like the Cowboy Trail in Nebraska is mostly reopened after the big floods.