We passed a few mileposts this past week. Quite a few of them were truly mile posts along the former roadbed of the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern RR, now reincarnated as the North Coast Inland Trail, shown also in the second photo. It will eventually span Ohio, but for the moment it is a series of segments that we rode about 50 miles of, mostly into and out of Oberlin. This milepost is showing us it's 220 miles to go to Buffalo, and the other side of the post showed a somewhat higher number of miles back to Chicago. These mileage claims might be accurate when you stay on the rails, but the route we've taken was anything but direct. In fact, on the morning of our 13th day of riding we finally left Ohio, having ridden 397 miles. We checked Google Maps for the distance on I-90 from Toledo to the state line, and it was less than half that -- 190! But we've enjoyed our zig-zagging route, as we'll go on to show you.
We had yet another type of milestone as well this past week, Louise's 65th birthday, which she celebrated by showing off her new Medicare card! YES -- let the Senior Discounts come on! No more of this "sorry, you're only 64" stuff.
Last blog entry we talked about pathfinding. By wandering far and wide on the web, we sometimes find gems of places to visit. We'll focus on five of them this entry.
The first was the discovery of good bike maps for the Cleveland area, which led to the further illumination that there is a series of parkways circling through the suburbs, almost all with bike paths along them. The paths were not as wide as most modern bike paths, but on a weekday the bike and foot traffic was light so they worked well to get us around Cleveland without ever feeling we were in a big metropolis. Indeed, this leafy scene shows just how removed from urbanity the route was. The trails brought us all the way to the eastern suburb of Chagrin Falls, with its attractive downtown and falls just steps away. We even stopped at an ice cream shop that Louise used to visit when she lived in nearby Shaker Heights 40 years ago. She says nothing's changed but the prices.
The second find was Punderson State Park and its English Tudor manor, now a state park resort. We had a relaxing day riding the gently undulating roads around the park without our panniers, which rested at the lodge, and got out on the lake for a short canoe trip. The lake is a kettle pond, a geological feature we're quite familiar with from our youths in New England. The melting chunk of glacier which formed it left it 80' deep, the deepest in Ohio in fact, but you wouldn't mistake it for a wild mountain wilderness.
Poking about the internet we found information about Geauga (jee-OW-gah) and Ashtabula (ash-tah-BYOO-lah) counties and the Amish communities there, particularly in the former. We didn't think too much more about it, but on a back road in Geauga County we went a dozen miles past farm after farm with tons of laundry on clotheslines, all in just two or three basic colors, then a young girl trotting down the road in a horse-drawn buggy, and finally these field workers cutting and stacking hay. It was like a scene from 150 years ago but for the smooth paved road and whirr of our 27-speed derailleur underneath us.
Our fourth find was the Western Reserve Bike Trail in Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties that carried us 40 miles on smooth pavement, mostly through a forested greenbelt and close to a series of covered bridges. Just getting there took us far enough from Lake Erie that we crossed into the drainage of the Ohio River and past Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park,
where Louise is about to pass through Fat Man's Misery, which was no problem for her.
The Riverdale Bridge is the first one, from 1874, followed by the Doyle St. Bridge of 1876 (seen inside as well as out), and finally the brand new (2008) Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge. At 618' this is now the longest covered bridge in the U.S. Ohio has a long tradition of covered bridges, and we in fact went past the oldest one in the state, from 1831, back in Trumbull County.
Our final special place was Presque Isle State Park outside Erie PA. This is a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie and creating a protected harbor for Erie. Admiral Perry built a small fleet here in 1813 that won a decisive naval victory against the British, the first ever defeat for the British navy. Presque Isle got a lighthouse in 1872, and the lighthouse keeper's kids had to walk a mile and a half down a narrow path to catch a boat into Erie to walk several blocks more to school. Makes Jeff's 1-hour subway ride through NYC to his high school seem easy.
A bike path circled the entire peninsula, a path we particularly enjoyed because our Comfort Inn was located just inland and they were happy to watch our two 17-pound panniers while we toodled around Presque Isle. The best part of the trail was a section that went across the thickest part of the peninsula, where there was a dense forest covering over sand dunes laid down centuries ago. As permanent as it seems on first glance, the peninsula is constantly shifting sand, and a series of breakwaters off the beach now helps keep the movement less drastic, though it does create an odd saw-toothed shoreline.
Today we reached New York State (and the friendly folks at the Patterson Public Library in Westfield NY where we're typing this) and now begin the hilly part of our trip. We started our ride with warm humid weather, got a 5-day break with temperatures in the low-to-mid 70s, then got hit with heat and humidity again. They say we have one more day of it, then back to nice weather again. Hope they're right! If there's one thing worse than biking on a hot, humid day, it's biking up big hills on a hot, humid day. Wish us luck!