Northern Tier 2010

August 25, 2010

The Longest Day

Filed under: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Section 09 — Henry Scott @ 4:00 pm

I didn’t need good wind today — I had come to terms with splitting the 135 miles from Cleveland to North East into two days, but I needed perfect conditions to make it in one day, and that’s what I got.

I felt terrible for the first twenty miles this morning: my legs were incredibly tight, I worried that my congestion was the beginning of a cold rather than just allergies, and the rough pavement and urban riding of Greater Cleveland were getting the better of me.

In addition to a shower, a place to stay, and an insider’s guide to Cleveland dining for a hungry cyclist, Drew provided breakfast as well. He offered to make eggs, but I didn’t have much of an appetite and just had cereal and a bagel. I took the lack of interest in food as another sign that a cold was coming.

Despite still not being hungry, I stopped for a second breakfast in Willowick because I knew I needed the calories. I ordered what has become my usual: eggs and pancakes. Sitting near the front window I could see a flaccid flag on the street, but as I slowly chewed the first few bites it started to sway slightly. Before long the flapping had a decided preference toward the east, and it frequently revealed all thirteen stripes and fifty stars.

Suddenly my interest in breakfast became stronger, and the food tasted better with each bite. I was still a bit slow once back on the bike, but I figured the breeze would at least make it easy to get to my planned campsite in North Kingsville, where I camped in 2006. But, in addition to the tailwind, the road improved dramatically around Eastlake, and I could finally get into a smooth riding rhythm.

I don’t know what to make of the sudden change in how my body felt. The cold symptoms disappeared, and although still tight, my legs stopped complaining. Were the congestion, aches and lack of appetite just psychosomatic? I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow, but by early afternoon, I knew I was going to make North East, and I did.

I kept my stops short to ensure a pre-dark arrival, but I took time to revisit my favorite sights from 2006: views high above the Grand River east of Painesville; the incredibly active coal-transfer operation in Ashtabula, where U.S. coal is moved from rail cars to barges destined for Canada; and Sheldon Calvary Camp west of Conneaut — where I was a camper in my youth.

I felt stronger and stronger throughout the day (I suspect the wind continued to pick up), and I felt great for the final 50 miles from Conneaut, easily making it before dark. As I left Erie I caught up to three road cyclists out for a casual ride and took advantage of their draft. Before long we started talking, and two of them turned out to be recent Notre Dame grads now working as engineers at G.E.

My escorts turned back for Erie right at the top of a long hill leading down to Sixteen Mile Creek and my family’s home — gravity provided the final assistance to facilitate my longest day of this tour. As a side note, I’m confident that this will indeed remain the longest day — I was anxious to reach both South Bend and North East, but now I plan to go back to shorter riding days.

I received a very warm greeting from my parents and look forward to relaxing and visiting until Saturday, but I joked that since there was still some daylight I’d continue into New York. Of course I was kidding, but my legs were up for it.


August 24, 2010


Filed under: Ohio, Section 09 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

The wind wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared today. It slowed me down so it was another long day on the bike, but I enjoyed the ride and made Cleveland by six, thanks to a 5:45 a.m. start. It is hard to get up for such an early beginning, but watching the sun rise while biking east is a good payoff, especially on foggy mornings like today.

I arrived right as my Warm Showers host, Drew, got home from work. Drew is a casual cyclist and a competitive runner so we had lots to talk about. Notably, he has competed in Hong Kong’s 100 km ultra marathon, on trails and over mountains — yikes!

For dinner, Drew took me to Melts, one of his favorite high-calorie restaurants over in Lakewood. They specialize in, essentially, grilled-cheese sandwiches, but they are huge, with options stuffing them with just about anything one can imagine. Mine was loaded with pierogies, and it was awesome.

As I’ve mentioned, all of today’s ride was along a route I rode a few years ago. Much of it followed the Lake Erie shoreline. There were long stretches with no public access and countless mansions to block the view, but I didn’t mind today because I think they also helped to block the wind.

My legs are very tired and a bit sore, surely from averaging 105 miles per day since leaving South Bend, so I doubt I’ll make North East by tomorrow. That said, the last forecast I checked predicts a west wind, so we’ll see!

August 23, 2010

Terra Cognita

Filed under: Indiana, Ohio, Section 09 — Henry Scott @ 4:00 pm

I’m not superstitious. That said, I wish I didn’t brag about the good winds I’ve enjoyed recently in yesterday’s post. Perhaps even worse was describing the directional fluctuations as breathing because this morning’s north wind gradually picked up an easterly component and gained strength all day. Further, I foolishly checked the forecast, and the wind should continue to get worse for the next couple of days. Optimistically, I’m hoping Mother Nature is taking one last deep breath so I can sail through New England when she exhales again.

If I can tough out a long day tomorrow I’ll make it to Cleveland, where I’ve already made arrangements for a place to stay, right on the route, through Warm Showers. I haven’t used the service before, but it is a database of people who agree to be listed as hosts for touring cyclists. As far as I know, there aren’t any camping options in the Cleveland area, so I decided to give it a shot. The first host I contacted is available so hopefully I’ll make it.

If I do make Cleveland, it will put me within a very long day’s ride of North East, PA. North East has been a family gathering place since before I was born, so I’m looking forward to get there and visit with my parents, a niece and a nephew. I hope the frequent indoor accommodations I’ve been getting recently haven’t spoiled me for the rest of the trip.

I’ve been riding high daily miles since leaving South Bend both because I’m anxious to reach North East and because I rode the South Bend – North East section of the Northern Tier in 2006. It is fun to see which roads and towns are familiar and which I don’t remember well; I’ve been surprised to see how much is in the latter category.

For tonight I’m camped in a county park just outside of Gibsonburg, OH. Wish me luck for an early start tomorrow so I have time to enjoy Cleveland.

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