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Category Archives: Touring
A couple of months ago, I came across some videos from a YouTube star in the backpacking/through-hiking world known as Darwin onthetrail. He occasionally does bicycle touring, and most of the advice he gives and gear he talks about apply equally to bike touring (or bikepacking) as well as hiking.
I had never heard of the concept of “cold soaking” food until I saw Darwin mention it in a couple of his videos. Typically, backpackers and bikepackers carry a stove, fuel, and cooking pot for boiling water to prepare dehydrated food. What you can do instead is put your food with some water in a container a few hours before you plan to eat it. The time allows the food to soak up the water and be reconstituted just as well as when it’s heated and/or boiled. This saves the weight of the stove and fuel in your kit, plus saves time when you get to your camp site and are ready to eat.
I decided to test this out for myself during today’s ride. My route was a nice loop that connects four bike trails: the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail (in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the Summit Metro Parks), the Freedom Trail connecting Akron to Tallmadge to Kent, the Portage Hike & Bike Trail, and the Summit Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail.
I re-used a container from Talenti Gelato, which is recommended by Darwin, and apparently is a popular option among many other cold soaking enthusiasts. I poured in the contents of a Knorr’s Rice Sides packet, and planned to add a packet of StarKist Tuna. I don’t think the Talenti container is big enough for this particular combination. The Knorr’s instructions on the packet said to use 1¾ cups of water for stove-top cooking, or 2 cups for microwave cooking. I could only fit about 1½ cups of water in the container with the rice mix before it started to get precariously full. I screwed the lid on tight, and gave it some shaking to try to distribute the water throughout the rice mix, but it seemed like the water was already starting to get so soaked up that there wasn’t much distribution going on. The vegetable pieces and powdered seasoning pretty much stayed near the top of the container.
I wasn’t sure how well the lid would hold up under the rigors of being in a bike frame bag (especially with the bumpy conditions on the Towpath Trail due to recent construction work), so I stuck it inside of a plastic resealable bag just in case.
This fit nicely inside of my new Oveja Negra Superwedgie Frame Bag (thanks, Mom!), along with my spoon, cable lock, and garage door opener, with room to spare.
During the ride, I came across a nice, secluded bench on the Portage Hike & Bike Trail, and decided that would make a good lunch spot. I took out my food container and dug in. The lid held up fine; there was no mess in the plastic bag.
After eating about a third of the rice mix, there was enough room for me to stir in the tuna.
So, the 64-dollar question, of course, is, “How was it?” Surprisingly good, I must say. The consistency of the rice mix and the taste were the same as what I’d expect if they were prepared the traditional way with boiling water. My fears about the ingredients not being able to mix up well enough were unfounded. As I ate, I did not notice any pockets of “no taste” or “too much taste.” The rice soaked up the water well. I would not have wanted to use any less water, as overall, it was just on the good side of “moist enough” to eat.
If I were eating this in the comfort of home, I would probably be thinking, “This is kinda gross.” That’s probably the case with most camp food, though. At this point, I had been on my bike for 3½ hours, and it had been 5½ hours since I had eaten anything at all, so this meal seemed like a gourmet smorgasbord. I’d probably be finding myself in much the same situation any time I used this food preparation method, so I expect I’d feel much the same way every time.
For quality and convenience, I give the concept of cold soaking two thumbs up, and it goes without saying that it fulfills the goal of weight savings. The only downside would be getting used to eating your dinners cold.
If I do cold soaking in the future, I’d likely look for a larger container. Peanut butter jars come highly recommended, or if money is no object, the Vargo Titanium Bot HD would be my first choice. A Hydro Flask 18-ounce Food Flask would probably make a good budget-friendly choice if you’re not into re-using containers from store-bought foods (although it’s a pretty heavy option).
Backpacking stoves and cookware are so small and light these days that for multi-day trips, I’d still stick with traditional cooking methods. The extra stuff to carry is worth it for me to have a hot meal at the end of the day, not to mention hot coffee for breakfast.
Where I’ll likely use cold soaking is impromptu one-night trips, where maybe I don’t have the time to plan my packing list very well, or don’t have the time to set up my bike to carry more than bare minimalist gear. Or, if I anticipate feeling lazy once I get to the camp site. Another situation where I see a big advantage to cold soaking would be an event such as a multi-day self-supported race, where time, in addition to weight, is a big factor.
In June of 2016, I checked an item off of my bike bucket list, and rode the C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA. I blogged about it for my employer; I’ve created this index to each day’s report so that people who follow this site can catch up on the trip if they don’t follow my employer’s blog.
I rode with seven friends (two old friends; just meeting the other five on the trip). We drove to Pittsburgh and met at the Amtrak station, took the train to DC, then rode the trails back to Pittsburgh. We toured “credit-card style,” i.e. staying in hotels and eating meals in restaurants.
All of these links will open in a new window or tab, since they go to another site:
- Packing List: Credit-card touring on the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trails
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 1 – Pgh to DC via Amtrak
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 2 – Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 3 – Harpers Ferry, WV to Hancock, MD
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 4 – Hancock to Cumberland, MD
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 5 – Cumberland, MD to Ohiopyle, PA
- DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 6 – Ohiopyle to Pittsburgh, PA
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.
After a home-cooked breakfast courtesy of my relatives in Lockbourne, I got back in the saddle once again on schedule right around 9:00am. My custom route off of the main Ohio to Erie Trail route once again took me onto State Route 665, a.k.a. London-Groveport Road. Thankfully, it was dry today, and this time of day also much more free from traffic. State Rotue 665 quickly becomes State Route 317, and from there I jumped onto a couple of more minor back roads to make my way over to Three Creeks Metro Park, to jump on the Alum Creek Trail.
Stopping here to get my bearings, my pre-printed directions said I should have had about 10-1/2 miles by now, but my computer only registered a little over 6. My suspicions from yesterday were correct; the rain had gotten into my bike computer and partially worn the battery down. Luckily, at the last minute before leaving a few days ago, I grabbed an extra 2032 battery and stashed it in my repair kit. I swapped out the battery in my wireless Cat Eye Strada computer sensor. My chain seemed a bit squeaky after all the rain, so I dripped some Tri-Flow on it. After a bathroom break, I headed north on the trail.
The Alum Creek Trail easily took me straight up through the east side of Columbus. It passes through a mixture of urban and wooded settings, with a couple of brief on-street detours around areas under construction. At one point, I reached a dead-end, but there appeared to be a new section of trail that continued, but it was blocked off with big “ROAD CLOSED” signs. It looked passable, but since you never know what you might come across later (an un-marked bridge out?), I took to the street, with a detour on Airport Road, then Sunbury Road through Ohio Dominican University, and then re-joined the trail a short bit later, where I saw the opposite end of the newly-constructed section with the same “ROAD CLOSED” signs. (I would later learn that this section of the trail was, indeed, complete–the grand opening ceremony was held the VERY NEXT DAY, and for all practical purposes, I could have ridden it.)
I went through a couple more park-like sections, including one with a long wooden boardwalk. I rode a short stretch of the boardwalk, even though it looked like it still might be a bit slippery from yesterday’s rain. When I stopped in the middle to take this photo, I ended up slipping on the soles of my shoes, so I oped to walk the bike the rest of the way.
Continuing north, I got to Schrock Road, where my route re-joined the actual Ohio to Erie Trail. Here, you have a choice of routes, either continue north on the Alum Creek Trail, or cut east on Schrock Road. I opted to head east on Schrock Road, following the sidewalk for the short stretch to the next intersection, where you cross Schrock Road to get on the Maxtown-Schrock Trail, a.k.a. the Westerville Bikeway.
At the corner of State Street and Cherrington Road, there’s a commemorative plaque for the Ohio to Erie Trail:
A bit after that, there is a bike station with restrooms, water fountains, and a do-it-yourself repair stand, with an air compressor pump (schrader valve compatible only).
When you finally reach this trail’s namesake Maxtown Road (a.k.a. Polaris Parkway), there’s a spur that goes behind the Home Depot shopping plaza and becomes the Genoa Trail. Just off the trail in the same shopping plaza is the Trek Bicycle Store of Columbus, where you can find free air (compressor pump with schrader valve head and presta adapter).
Around this time is when I should have looked for a place to get some lunch, but I just felt like I wanted to keep moving and make good time instead. One of the downsides of nice urban trails like the Alum Creek Trail and the Westerville Bikeway is that with all of the intersections and stop signs, it’s hard to keep up a good steady pace. I found myself now having been on the road for over four hours and having barely covered over 30 miles. I would learn later, though, that I should have stopped to get lunch here, because the options for food are limited on the next major portion of the route.
The Genoa Trail continues north, with another do-it-yourself bike repair station at the Genoa Township Fire Department near the intersection of Big Walnut Road.
The Genoa Trail ends just short of the village of Galena. In Galena is a local restaurant called Mudflats Bar & Grill that looks like it would be a nice place to stop if you had time to relax for a while. I continued on, following the good signage for the Ohio to Erie Trail on the local roads. I had hoped to find good eats in Sunbury, but didn’t see anything on the main streets through town (later, I noticed that had I ventured a block off the route, Joe’s Firehouse Tavern would have made an excellent choice).
I continued on out of town where the route goes on Hartford Road to the tiny village of Hartford. This road is long, straight, and mostly flat, and some pretty serious headwinds were starting to kick up. In Hartford, there are really no food options available, and by this time I was beginning to realize how REALLY hungry I was, so I pulled off to the side of the road to eat a Clif bar.
Battling the headwinds on the rolling farm roads to Centerburg, I jumped at the first opportunity for food that I saw in town, the Subway. I enjoyed my tuna sandwich and chocolate chip cookies at a picnic table outside, next to a small local park with a water fountain.
Just a couple of short blocks from downtown Centerburg is the beginning of the Heart of Ohio Trail. I made my way over and stopped to call my hosts for the evening to let them know I was on my way.
I had originally planned to spend this evening in Mount Vernon. I logged into Warm Showers a couple of weeks ago and found a local man named Randy who was willing to be a host, but because of issues going on with his house, he only had space for me to camp in the yard. Since I was packing light without a tent, I looked for another option, and Randy told me about a couple that he knows in Howard that have built a biker cabin near the Kokosing Gap Trail there. They are not on Warm Showers, but he gave me their email address, so I got in touch with them, and they agreed to let me use the cabin.
The Heart of Ohio Trail follows a fairly typical path through secluded woodlands until it reaches its end in Mount Vernon. Just before reaching Mount Vernon, I passed by this tall tower that looked like an old smoke stack, but now was surrounded by a spiral staircase. I thought it looked like a can’t-miss attraction, so I wheeled over, locked my bike to the gate, and began to climb the stairs.
The tower is called Rastin Observation Tower, and is part of Ariel Foundation Park. It’s a former industrial site, and the tower was just opened to the public on July 4, 2015. I seem to get more afraid of heights as I get older, but I figured self-supported bike touring is all about overcoming your fears, so I should also take advantage of this opportunity to overcome more fear.
The Heart of Ohio Trail ends just short of downtown Mount Vernon, The on-street route through town is clearly marked with Ohio to Erie Trail signage, leading to the start of the Kokosing Gap Trail.
The scenery of the Kokosing Gap Trail is very similar to that of the Heart of Ohio Trail. Passing through Gambier, you can see a historic steam locomotive, coal car, and caboose:
A few more miles further, and I reached the trailhead at the village of Howard.
Mileage for the day was about 76-1/2 according to my computer:
But being shorted before I replaced my sensor battery this morning, the online route shows a more accurate 82-1/2 miles.
I called my hosts to let them know I’d arrived. Dick showed up in his pickup truck just a minute later; we put my bike in the back, and he drove me back up the road (probably less than a mile) to he and his wife Pat’s house. I took a shower right away, and they invited me to join them for dinner. We were joined by their friend Randy from Mount Vernon.
As it turns out, Dick, Pat, Randy, and a couple other friends were the ones who originally conceived of the Kokosing Gap Trail over 25 years ago. They recognized the potential of the former railroad right-of-way, formed the non-profit group to support the construction of the trail, and continue to help with the trail’s on-going maintenance. To this day, the Kokosing Gap Trail remains the largest, paved rail-to-trail park in the United States maintained solely by donations and volunteers. This is hard and often thankless work, so if you’re reading this and you’re a fan of bike trails (even if you’re not in this area), I encourage you to support their efforts with a donation. Go to www.kokosinggaptrail.com for details.
The biker cabin is located on Dick and Pat’s property, but is easily accessed from the trail. It was completed earlier this year. Dick and Pat hired Amish builders to construct it; the day they arrived, they had it done in three hours. It’s a rustic cabin with no electricity or plumbing; there is a port-o-potty outside. There are two lofts with foam mattresses, and a folding cot on the main level. The floor has space for more guests if they have their own sleeping pads.
To inquire about the availability of the biker cabin on the Kokosing Gap Trail in Howard, Ohio, send email to:
I woke up in time to put on my clothes and walk up the street soon after the 7:00am opening of the Village Family Restaurant. I order the breakfast Combo #1, which included everything (eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast), and decided to add an a la carte pancake. This ended up being way too much food, and I couldn’t finish it all, but it was all good.
After heading back to the hotel, getting dressed to ride, re-packing everything else, and checking out, I ended up with the same start time of 9:00am as I had yesterday. There was a light, misty rain when I got started. I initially took this as a good thing, thinking “Oh, that will keep the heat and the beating sun away.”
I rode back through downtown Waynesville and the short stretch of road to the village of Corwin to get back onto the Little Miami Scenic Trail. A few miles in, I passed a male-and-female couple that appeared to be bike-touring, heading in the opposite direction. We didn’t stop; we were probably both thinking it best to keep moving and not stand around in the rain, but I later regretted not stopping to chat and get their story. Were they also on the Ohio to Erie Trail, or were they headed even further on the Underground Railroad Bicycle Route?
I confirmed that the re-calibration of my bike computer that I did last night was successful. The trail is marked in half-mile increments, and the distances indicated by these markings seemed to be spot-on with my computer.
I came to the end of the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Xenia, the hub of Southwest Ohio’s bicycle trail network, where five different trails converge at Xenia Station.
There is a water fountain to the right of the Xenia Station building, so I topped off my bottles. To the left is a do-it-yourself bike repair station, with a pump (presta and schrader compatible) and an assortment of tools. I took advantage of it to top off my tire in which I had replaced the tube late in my ride yesterday, plus made an adjustment to my rear derailer, which had been shifting a little wonky since the start of my ride yesterday.
The Ohio to Erie Trail continues from this point on the Prairie Grass Trail. From Xenia Station, you turn left onto Detroit Street, then make an immediate right onto Hill Street, then an immediate left onto the trail. However, there is a telephone pole on Detroit Street just before the corner of Hill Street, and there is a sign for the Ohio to Erie Trail on this pole. The sign has a two-part arrow on it; the first part goes straight ahead, then the second part of the arrow leans slightly to the left. (I wish I had taken a picture to better illustrate it.) Now, this sign might make sense if you were standing on the opposite side of Detroit Street and looking down Hill Street, but there is no street or trail coming from that direction. The sign makes no sense at all coming from the direction that people would be naturally coming from Xenia Station. This was one of only a couple of times where I found the Ohio to Erie Trail signage to be confusing and misleading. Now that I’ve done it, the correct way is obvious, and I could do it a hundred more times and it would obvious every time. But any sign is obvious if you already know the way; signs are supposed to be most helpful for those who DON’T already know the way.
Anyway, as I continued on the Prairie Grass Trail, the rain started to come down a little harder. I passed through the town of Cedarville, which looked like it would be a nice place for an overnight stop should you find yourself in that location at the right time. There’s a local restaurant right on the trail, a couple of coffee shops nearby, the local public library is right on the trail, and the Hearthstone Inn & Suites located right next to the trail, where they had a sign saying “Welcome Cyclists” next to a free water fountain (where I topped off my bottle once again).
The open plains of this part of the state make for some of the longest, straightest, and flatted sections of bike trail that I’ve ever seen.
The Prairie Grass Trail continues through the village of South Charleston with a brief on-road detour. I stopped at the trailhead for a bathroom break and to refill my water bottles once again.
As I made my way through town, I passed a group of cyclists near a van with a trailer attached. It looked like a supported touring group, so I stopped to ask them what they were up to. Turns out, they were a church-affiliated group doing a fund-raising ride to build an orphanage in Ukraine. I told them I was headed home to the Cleveland area on the Ohio to Erie Trail. They were doing a loop of their own creation between the Dayton and Cincinnati areas. Their organization is called Ends of the Earth Cycling, and you can find out more about them at: endscycling.com
There were four riders in the group that I stopped to talk to, plus their two support drivers. They told me to keep an eye out for the eight other members of their group on the trail, heading the opposite direction from me. When I got back on the Prairie Grass Trail, I did see them soon after.
Before seeing this group of cyclists, the day was starting to wear on me. I usually don’t mind traveling alone, but the solitude was getting me down a little, plus the continuing rain probably didn’t help, either. Chatting with them gave me a second wind and much-needed mid-ride pick-me-up.
The Prairie Grass Trail ends in the town of London, which I chose as my lunch stop for the day.
At the trailhead, there was a convenient map listing the restaurants and other amenities in town. I chose Ronetti’s Pizza, as it seemed like a nice local option, located on Main Street near the center of town and on the bike route. I locked my bike up to a railing near the curb, and planted my soggy self at a table near the front window. I chose a fish sandwich, washed down with a Sweetwater 420 Extra Pale Ale. The service was cheerful and efficient.
Back out in the saddle, the rain wasn’t showing many signs up letting up. I followed the Ohio to Erie Trail signs for the on-street connections, which led a few blocks to the Roberts Pass Trail. About halfway between London and Georgesville, this trail becomes the Camp Chase Trail. I came across this reminder of the journey still ahead of me somewhere along the way:
My journey on the Camp Chase Trail ended at the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park. The Camp Chase Trail continues northeast from there, and nearby, the Darby Creek Trail goes north. I would be taking neither of these options, though, and going off-route from the Ohio to Erie Trail, as my destination for the evening was relatives’ house in the small village of Lockbourne, just outside of Grove City.
I had mapped out the route at home a week earlier, and had a hard-copy with me. I retrieved the printout from my trunk bag, folded it up, and put it in my jacket pocket. I hoped it would stay dry enough long enough to be useful for navigation.
The 14-mile route was a combination of lesser-traveled back roads and a couple stretches of very busy roads, mainly State Route 665, a.k.a. London-Groveport Road. This road is very narrow with very little shoulder, with lots of fast car and truck traffic. Add in the limited visibility with the rain, and needless to say, it was white-knuckle cycling.
The feelings about bicycling in the rain are kind of like the Five Stages of Grief. When I left Waynesville this morning, it was like Denial, or “Oh, this will be a nice change of pace.” By now, I had reached the Acceptance stage. When you are totally soaking wet, there’s no point in worrying about it any further, because you can’t get any more wet.
I reached my relatives’ house much to their relief as well as amusement at seeing my soaked self. My mileage for the day showed 68 miles. I suspected that was a little light; maybe the rain had gotten the sensor on my bike computer a little water-logged and worn the battery down a bit.
The online route map shows about 72-1/2 miles. Either way, a hot shower, a home-cooked meal, and laundry were a welcome relief. Later, I peeled apart my other map printouts and route notes and laid them out on the garage floor to dry.
I slept pretty well and woke up a little after 8:00am this morning. I re-packed my clothes, topped off my bike tires, and gave everything else a final check-over. I took off from Austin’s house right at 9:00am.
The village of North Bend is the home of William Henry Harrison, 9th president of the US, and his tomb are right near the center of town, so I stopped for a photo op.
The main road between North Bend and downtown Cincinnati is a busy four-lane highway known as the Three Rivers Parkway, or US Route 50. Austin told me that many cyclists use this road, but I opted to play it safe a find a route that avoided it as much as possible. I rode on US 50 for about 2 miles out of North Bend, where much of it had a nice, wide shoulder. Near the neighborhood called Sayler Park, I detoured through a couple of local streets to make my way over to Hillside Avenue, which parallels US 50 for most of the way downtown. It’s a gently rolling road with very little motor vehicle traffic; I was passed by one, maybe two cars the whole time. There were some rough spots and patches of gravel, but nothing a Salsa Fargo couldn’t handle with ease.
Hillside Avenue ended back at US 50 about 2 miles short of downtown. There was little to no shoulder, and there still seemed to be some remnants of rush hour traffic, so I followed the sidewalk on the right side for much of the way, until the sidewalk was reduced to about 10 inches wide, so I jumped over the to left side and followed this until it took me to State Avenue, my first turnoff into downtown. From there it was a right onto 8th Street, and then proceeding on 7th Street. It was about 18 easy miles from my start into downtown.
My plan was to have breakfast here in town, and I had earlier located a First Watch restaurant. Locating this place ended up being the most difficult part of my whole day. The address was 700 Walnut Street, and that street was a cross street of 7th Street. I came to Walnut Street, and walked up and down a couple of blocks each way, not seeing the restaurant. I pulled out my phone on the corner of 7th and Walnut and tried using Google Maps walking directions. As soon as I tapped the “Start Navigation” button, it said “You have arrived.” I gave up and proceeded to continue east on 7th Street, and lo and behold, there it was about half a block up. I locked my bike bike to a pole outside and asked for a table near the front window so I could keep an eye on it.
The waiter took my order for coffee before I even sat down, but it was at least 10 minutes later, after I had ordered my meal, before I ever saw the coffee. Things went smoothly after that, though, and the pumpkin pancake special was delicious.
I continued on the bike over a few short streets to Yeatman’s Cove Park on the Ohio River, the official starting point of the Ohio to Erie Trail.
The next part of the ride was the one I had been most worried about — getting out of downtown Cincinnati. This ended up being easy-peasy. From Yeatman’s Cove Park, you turn right onto Pete Rose Way, and follow the signs for Bicycle Route 1. It’s a combination of roads and paved bike path, actually more bike path than I expected. It’s back on US Route 50 for a couple of stretches, including a busy 2-lane stretch through the upscale community of Mariemont, and a 4-lane stretch after that, but I found all of the drivers to be careful and courteous. In short order, I made my way onto the Little Miami Scenic Trail at the intersection of US Route 50 and Newtown Road, a few miles south of Milford.
I pedaled the few miles to Milford, and decided to detour through town to browse some of the shops, including Bishop’s Bicycles and Roads River and Trails outdoor store, where I bought the only major item I forgot to pack, a tube of lip balm.
I got back on the trail and headed north to my lunch destination of Loveland, passing under this view of Interstate 275 along the way.
Also passed by this nice Miami Riverview Park on the way.
Loveland is one of those sleepy old towns that has seen revitalization as a direct result of the bike trail. There are several restaurants right on the trail, as well as a bike shop (Montgomery Cyclery). I chose to stop at Julian’s Deli & Spirits for my lunch, with trailside bike parking, and a good selection of sandwiches and bottled craft beers. After an Avocado Ranch Panini and a Fat Tire Ale, I was back on my way up the trail.
During the next several miles, I saw signs along the trail that said something to the effect that the trail would be closed “on selected weekdays” between 7:00am and 5:00pm, September and October, between mile 30 and mile 30.5 near Grandin Road. The trail mileage is marked every half-mile, so I paid attention as I got near this point. I saw other people riding in the opposite direction of me coming from that point, so I assumed that meant it was open. That assumption was wrong, however, as I got here:
This was the first of many cases where Google Maps proved invaluable during my trip. I back-tracked just a bit on the trail, and found an access trail (paved but rather steep) that led to a new housing development. I followed the streets of the development, which eventually led me to Grandin Road. I wasn’t sure, however, if Grandin Road was within or beyond the closed section of the trail, so to play it safe, I went the other way and used Google Maps again to find another access point beyond that. Grandin Road led to State Route 48, which I took to another housing development and golf course community, which had another paved access trail back down the ridge to the main trail.
A few miles up, I started to get that squishy bike handling feeling, which is confusing at first, until you realize that it’s a sign of a flat tire. Sure enough, my rear tire was flat. I assumed that the numerous bits of glass that I had seen along the shoulders of the roads around Cincinnati had finally caught up to me, but I didn’t find any glass shards in the tire itself. A spare tube and 15 minutes later I was rolling again.
More miles of trail eventually found me in the village of Corwin, where it was a short half-mile road detour to the town of Waynesville and the Creekwood Motel, my destination for the evening. Check-in was without incident, and I showered and relaxed for a bit before heading out to find dinner in town.
My bike computer showed almost 81 miles for the day, which I thought was high based on when I planned my route earlier, even accounting for the detour around the trail closure.
I realized this was because I had forgotten to re-calibrate the computer after switching from the 29er tires to the 700×41 tires yesterday. I pulled up the Cat Eye tire size chart on my phone, which has entries for a 700×40 and 700×42, so I split the difference and entered a wheel circumference of 2212. I’ll see tomorrow how close this comes, but based on my route on MapMyRide.com, the actual distance for today was about 73 miles.
I went to the Stone House Tavern for dinner. Their menu had a lot of interesting sandwiches, but then the New York Strip Steak dinner caught my eye, and it was very reasonably priced, so I went for it, with calamari fries and snap peas for the two included side dishes. The steak was cooked perfectly medium. I paired the dinner with a Hippie Trail IPA, a collaboration between Warped Wing Brewery and Yellow Springs Brewery.
When the server came back to ask me about dessert, I thought I was already too stuffed, but then she mentioned that they had cinnamon roll bread pudding. I’m a sucker for bread pudding, so I had to go for it again, washed down with a local pumpkin ale.
Today was my travel day prior to starting my bicycle tour on the Ohio to Erie Trail. I started out by getting up early to make some last-minute changes to my bike setup.
During a short ride yesterday, I heard a rattling noise that I assumed at first was my fenders. At some point, I looked down, and noticed my dynamo headlight hanging by the connector cable. The mounting tab on the light had snapped off. This may have been my fault; during a ride home from work a couple of weeks ago, I had to adjust the angle of the light, and, not having the required torx wrench used on the mounting bolts, I just man-handled it into place.
Regardless, I would have to be without a dynamo light for the trip, and thus without the USB charging feature that it also provides. Since I would have no use for the generator hub, I figured I may as well swap to my lighter-weight wheels. I was going to swap the tires, to continue using the Serfas Drifter 29er tires, but I already had a pair of Surly Knard 700×41 tires mounted on the lighter wheels, so I decided to stick with those for the trip.
Since I was switching into semi-weight-weenie mode, I decided to ditch the fenders, as well.
I didn’t anticipate having to do any riding at night, but just in case, I brought a rechargeable headlight, the Cygolite Metro 300, plus a Planet Bike Superflash Turbo USB taillight. If either saw much use during the day, I’d have the opportunity to charge them at night (with the USB charging cable that I remembered to pack).
If you read my gear list, you’ll notice these changes in subsequent posts and photos. A final significant change to my packing list was the maps. Over a month ago, I ordered a copy of the official Ohio to Erie Trail Maps from IGotABike.com. When doing my final packing a few days ago, I could not for the life of me find them. Fortunately, my friend Chris from work had ordered the downloadable PDF version a couple of weeks ago, so he provided me a copy to use.
My brother arrived a little after 9:00am with his mini-van to haul me down to Cincinnati. We made a stop for lunch at a Waffle House just off I-71 north of Columbus. We made good time during the rest of the drive to Cincinnati, and arrived at the Biowheels bike shop a little after 2:00pm.
My friend Austin used to work with me at Century Cycles in Peninsula. He moved to the Cincy area last year, and now works at Biowheels. I hung around and chatted with him and his boss Mitch, and went to get us some coffee down the street at Coffee Please.
Austin took off early around 4:00pm, and we loaded my bike into the back of his Jeep and headed across town to his place in the small village of North Bend, about 18 miles down-river from downtown Cincinnati. After getting settled in, we decided to join his mom for a short hike around Fernbank Park just a few miles back up the road, followed by dinner at Cabana on the River. It was the final day of business before the restaurant closed for the season, so they were offering 30% off our entire bill, which was a nice deal. All three of us ended up getting fish & chips, where were good. It seemed like they might usually have a decent beer selection, but their stock was winding down, so I had to settle for a Guiness as the closest thing to a decent-tasting beer.
Later, back at their house, the clouds parted just in time as we watched the lunar eclipse from their front porch. The clouds returned soon after, though, so we weren’t able to see the “blood moon.”
I’m getting ready to do a bicycle trip on the Ohio to Erie Trail. I’ll be riding from Cincinnati to Cleveland over five days. I’ll be staying in a motel one night, staying with relatives or friends two nights, and using contacts from Warm Showers another two nights. I won’t need any camping gear, so I’m packing pretty light.
The weather is supposed to be pretty pleasant, so for clothing, I’m able to save a lot of space by choosing cycling clothing that can double as casual clothing, and vice-versa.
I could have gone rack-less in true bikepacking style, but since most of my stuff fits in a trunk bag, I decided to use that. I have a Topeak MTX Explorer Tubular 29er Rear Disc rack. The Topeak bags work well with the rack to easily slide on and off, so I figured that would make it easy to take most of my stuff with me off the bike, should I feel that’s necessary. I’m using a small frame bag for a couple of extra items.
Wearing or carrying on my body:
- Cycling gloves
- Bib shorts
- Baggy knickers
- Long-sleeve lightweight wool jersey
- Buff headband
- Road ID
- Waterproof wallet
- Lip balm
- Prescription sunglasses
- Chain lock
- Digital camera
- Smartphone with waterproof case and charger
- GU Brew electrolyte tablets
- Clif bars
Inside Topeak MTX EXP trunk bag with panniers:
- Bib shorts
- Socks (2)
- Wool t-shirt
- Lightweight fleece sweatshirt
- Toiletry kit (travel-sizes of toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, deodorant)
- 35mm film cannister as a pill bottle (pain relievers, anti-histamines, multi-vitamins)
- Body sponge and travel-size liquid body wash soap
- Pack towel
- Rain jacket
- Lightweight windbreaker jacket/vest
- Crocs shoes
- Spare eyeglasses
- Spare inner tube
- Bike tool kit (inside Forest City Portage tool pouch):
- Hex wrench set
- Flat/phillips screwdriver
- Chain tool with spoke wrenches
- Leatherman multi-tool
- Glueless patch kit
- Tire boots
- Spare derailer cable
- Spare rack bolts, cleat bolts, chain links, master link
- Tri-Flow lube sample size (2)
- Small roll of duct tape
- GoJo wipe for cleanup
I’ll be riding my Salsa Fargo bike. In addition to the Topeak rack, I have the Planet Bike Cascadia 29er fenders on it should the weather turn wet. I put two bottle cages on the fork mounts, plus a third bottle using the Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag.
I have a Schmidt SON28 front dynamo hub and a Busch & Muller Luxos U headlight, which has a USB port on the remote handlebar switch, so I’ll be able to use that to keep my phone charged throughout the riding days. I use a Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo USB taillight.