Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
Monthly Archives: October 2015
In the fall of 2015, I did a 5-day bicycle tour on the Ohio to Erie Trail from Cincinnati to Cleveland. I have individual blog posts documenting each day of the tour, but I created this post to provide an easy-to-find list of links to each day’s post.
- Gear List: Credit-card Bikepacking the Ohio to Erie Trail (Sept. 25, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Prologue (Sept. 27, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 1 – North Bend to Cincinnati to Waynesville (Sept. 28, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 2 – Waynesville to Lockbourne (Sept. 29, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 3 – Lockbourne to Howard (Sept. 30, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 4 – Howard to Canal Fulton (Oct. 1, 2015)
- Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 5 – Canal Fulton to Cleveland (Oct. 2, 2015)
I woke up early in the camper belonging to my Warm Showers hosts Ray and Dawn, and killed some time catching on on email with my smartphone. I went into the house and found Ray in the kitchen, and enjoyed a cup of coffee with him before I walked into town to get some breakfast.
If you’re looking for a traditional breakfast in Canal Fulton, with eggs, bacon, pancakes, and the works in generous portions, look no further than Sisters Century House Restaurant.
I came back to find Ray preparing his hybrid bike to join me on the first part of the final day of my ride. I met his wife Dawn, and she got a photo of us preparing to depart.
Ray and I rode onto the Towpath and headed north. From Canal Fulton, you pass through Clinton, then Barberton, then Akron. Just south of downtown Akron is the highest point on the Towpath Trail.
At the Wilbeth Road Trailhead, there’s one of the new do-it-yourself bike repair stations installed earlier this year by the Summit Metro Parks.
Just south of downtown, the Towpath Trail goes around, and sometimes over, Summit Lake on the floating bridge, construction of which was completed in 2009.
Right in downtown Akron, a new bike repair station that I had not seen before can be found near the Richard Howe House.
Arriving in downtown Akron, Ray turned around to head back home to Canal Fulton, after taking a picture of me against some Akron buidings.
I continued north, first crossing the bridge over State Route 59/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The next segment contains the longest hill (about 1/2 mile) on the Towpath Trail (downhill when going north), through Cascade Locks Park.
At the Memorial Parkway Trailhead, you’ll find another of the bike repair stations installed earlier this year by Summit Metro Parks.
About eight miles north of Akron, the Towpath Trail enters the Cuyahoga Valley National Park at the Botzum Trailhead.
A couple of miles further north is the scenic Beaver Marsh, a restored wetland, where the Towpath Trail passes through on a wooden boardwalk.
When I arrived in the village of Peninsula, I had to stop to check in on my co-workers at Century Cycles. There are two major established bike routes that pass through Peninsula. In addition to the Ohio to Erie Trail, there’s the Adventure Cycling Association‘s Underground Railroad Bicycle Route. Thus, we see a lot of long-distance bicycle tourists stopping by, and we try to keep a record of as many as we can in our Bicycle Touring Photo Gallery. I was proud to finally become a member of the gallery myself.
My lunch consisted of a donut and a cinnamon roll, which they had brought in to celebrate my arrival.
About three miles north of Peninsula, I got my second and last flat tire of the trip. It ended up being in the same spot as the one I got on Day 1, and it appeared to be on the inside face of the inner tube, which I thought was strange. (I would discover a few days later that there was a sharp ridge on my rim that caused both flats, so it wasn’t glass after all.)
About seven miles north of Peninsula, the Towpath Trail passes under the Brecksville-Northfield High Level Bridge, which was the intended target of a 2012 bomb plot that was foiled by an undercover FBI agent.
About five miles further north is the Canal Exploration Center, which was recently re-vamped and renovated with all-new exhibits documenting the 19th-century canal era. Here, you can also find public restrooms that have sinks with running water, and water fountains (where I did the last top-off of my water bottles).
Two more miles up, near Rockside Road in the city of Independence, the Towpath Trail exits the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and comes under the jurisdiction of the Cleveland Metroparks. The trail is paved beginning in this area. There’s a small plaza here, with a Malley’s chocolate shop and two restaurants–Yours Truly for diner-type fare, and the more upscale Lockkeepers.
Completed in the mid 2000’s were two graceful suspension bridges that allow Towpath Trail traffic to pass over the busy intersections on Granger Road and Warner Road in the city of Valley View.
The Towpath Trail ends at Harvard Road about 5 miles short of downtown Cleveland. A left on Harvard, then a right on Jennings Road takes you to the Steelyard Commons shopping plaza, where the developers built an extension of the trail that runs through the middle of the plaza, as well as behind on the east side. From there, the trail loops through two tunnels and around a ramp leading up to W. 14th Street in the neighborhood of Tremont, where you’ll find A Christmas Story House.
I made my way through the streets of Tremont and stopped at the Abbey Avenue overlook for the best view of downtown Cleveland that I would have on the ride.
As I got closer to Lake Erie, the winds started picking up even more than they had been all afternoon. I proceeded into the west side neighborhood of Ohio City, and as I rode west on Lorain Avenue across W. 25th Street, a big northerly gust almost knocked me over. I continued to the Gordon Square neighborhood, which has a connector trail into Edgewater Park, the official end of the Ohio to Erie Trail. I asked a passerby to take my picture with Lake Erie in the background.
Mileage for the final day was 61.
The mileage for the entire trip was 365, give or take because of the computer issues I had earlier in the week.
The winds were coming harder than ever straight out of the east. I walked up onto the observation platform that extends out over the lake. As I leaned by bike against the railing, the wind caught it and it slammed against the railing with a CLUNK, and it was literally a struggle to pull it away. I had to time my exit from the platform to avoid the waves crashing over.
It was so windy that there were surfers on Lake Erie, something that’s not possible very often. I got this video to show the winds and the waves.
Here’s my route for the final day.
I’d recommend the Ohio to Erie Trail for anyone looking for a bike touring route that’s easy to plan, easy to navigate, and not too difficult terrain. For experienced bike tourers, it’s a nice short trip when you can’t make time for a major trip. For beginners, it’s easy enough, and there are many options for camping or hotels, whichever your preference.
After a delicious breakfast courtesy of my hosts Pat and Dick, I stuck to my usual schedule of getting back on the bike around 9:00am. I rode the short stretch from their house through the village of Howard back to the Kokosing Gap Trail and was on my way. Just a few miles up, the trail ends in Danville. I was confused at first and ended up heading out of town about a half-mile the wrong way. I stopped to re-check the map, and realized I was just reading it wrong, and headed back to get on the Mohican Valley Trail.
The Mohican Valley Trail is the first un-paved trail on the south-to-north route of the Ohio to Erie Trail. It’s very well packed dirt and crushed limestone, though. After several miles, you come to the Bridge of Dreams, the longest covered bridge in Ohio.
Just after the Bridge of Dreams, there is an Ohio to Erie Trail sign, indicating that you should continue on the Mohican Valley Trail. A short stretch further, I went through a short tunnel that appeared to go under a major road. Right after that, I came to this confusing sign:
I got out the map, and it just said to take “the Mohican Valley Trail to Route 62.” I assumed that the road I just went under was Route 62, but there was no direct access to it. The sign appeared to want me to cut through the grass to the left of the trail, but that didn’t look like a state road just beyond. There were tire tracks through the grass, though, so I followed the sign. The road was a local back road that led to State Route 62. I made a left onto 62, and looking back, saw the Ohio to Erie Trail sign directing southbound travelers on to that same back road, so I knew I was on the right track.
State Route 62 is a busy, narrow road with lots of truck traffic and a few rolling hills. Fortunately, the route only follows this road for about three miles before turning onto some smaller county roads. The length and steepness of the hills on these back roads get worse, though. The winds were picking up and coming out of the northeast, which wasn’t good, since that’s the direction I was mainly traveling.
Being my fourth day in the saddle, the miles were starting to catch up to me. On every long bike trip I’ve taken, the fourth day always seems to be one of the worst. My theory is that no matter how much I train for a trip in advance, it’s nearly impossible to get four long training rides on four days in a row. So, on the fourth day of the actual trip, my body and mind are experiencing a unique challenge. By this time, this concept has probably worked its way into my brain and become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Regardless, I switched from “enjoying the ride” mode to “let’s just get this done” mode for much of the day.
About 13 miles later, I passed through the town of Killbuck to make my way onto the (thankfully flat) Holmes County Trail.
Holmes County is the unofficial “capital” of Ohio’s Amish country, and the trail was built to serve the Amish community as well as the general public. You may encounter horse-and-buggy drivers on the trail, as well as the inevitable by-product of the horses. On autumn days when the leaves are falling, watch out for horse manure “booby traps” hidden under the leaves.
The trail ends 15 miles north in the town of Fredericksburg. I decided to stop here for some lunch, and went into the Fredericksburg Market right on the main corner, based on the “Lunch Specials” sign they had on the sidewalk. When I inquired inside, they said the lunch specials were sold out. My other choice was Lem’s Pizza next door, but I decide to just grab one of the pre-made sandwiches in the Market, since I was already here. I washed that down with a chocolate milk.
The next 17 miles felt like déjà vu, with steeply rolling hills and headwinds through Amish farm country. It was very scenic, and the sun finally came out, but I got stuck back in “get it over with” mode and found it hard to enjoy until I finally reached the village of Dalton and got onto the Sippo Valley Trail.
The Sippo Valley Trail is a mixture of pavement and crushed stone, passing through wooded areas, farms, and residential areas.
10 miles later, the trail ends as it connects to the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail just west of downtown Massillon. I recommend taking the sidewalk on the left side of the Lincoln Way bridge over the Tuscarawas River; that way, on the other side, all you have to do is make a hard left to get onto the Towpath without having to cross traffic.
As I got to the other side of the bridge, I stopped to take in the view of downtown Massillon. Not that I have any particular affinity for the city, but on this day it represented the beginning of home turf–the final leg of my cross-state adventure, and getting on the Towpath Trail, the bicycle superhighway beloved by cyclists of all types in Northeast Ohio.
Leaving Massillon, the Towpath Trail traverses a raised earthen embankment, with State Route 21 to the right and the Tuscarawas River to the left.
A short stretch out of town you’ll find the Lake Avenue plaza, where you’ll find Ernie’s Bike Shop and the Blue Heron Cafe if you need a bite to eat. I stopped at the bike shop to fill up my water bottles and top off the air in my tires.
The sun felt warm and toasty as I rested a bit, so I took my jacket off, but as I took off back on the Towpath, I found that it was still deceptively cool, and stopped again soon after to pull my jacket back on.
An easy eight or nine miles later, I arrived in Canal Fulton. My hosts for the evening were another Warm Showers contact, Ray and Dawn, who lived just a couple blocks from downtown and the Towpath Trail. Both had prior plans, so I would be on my own for dinner, but I met Ray just before he left for the evening, and he showed me into the house for a shower, and into the camper in their driveway, where I would be sleeping.
My mileage for the day was almost 79.
For many years I had heard good things about V-Li’s Thai Cuisine in Canal Fulton, so tonight I would finally have the chance to check it out. I ordered the wide noodles with chicken and broccoli, and it didn’t disappoint, especially paired with a Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale.
No visit to Canal Fulton (by bike or otherwise) is complete without a visit to the Cherry Street Creamery, conveniently located at the intersection of Cherry Street and the Towpath Trail. A hot fudge sundae was my choice from among the many fine ice cream options.
Ray and Dawn’s camper was warm and comfortable as I settled in for the night.