Northern Tier 2010

August 28, 2010

Empire State

Filed under: New York, Pennsylvania, Section 09, Section 10 — Henry Scott @ 5:00 pm

Well-rested after visiting family in North East, I had a great ride into New York (North East is just a few miles from the border), where I am again taking advantage of Warm Showers and staying with a host in Buffalo.

My nephew Christoffer joined me for the first fifteen miles to Jack’s restaurant — biking there for breakfast has become a tradition during family get togethers — and my parents drove to meet us, along with my niece Sofia and her friend Zoe. It was a wonderful way to start the day.

The rest of the ride was easy and very pretty — I stayed close to Lake Erie, with brief stops at Sturgeon Point and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff estate, and didn’t pull away until fairly near Buffalo. The terrain consited of gently rolling hills, and the weather was perfect. I even had a bit of a tailwind for much of the ride.

The sequence of resting for several days in South Bend, riding hard to North East, and then resting (along with fishing with my dad, playing croquet and watching sunsets over the lake) for a couple more days seems to have worked well for me. I think I beat the cold I feared I was developing as I left Cleveland, and my legs have had enough to time recover. I feel fresh and excited about the rest of the tour. Tomorrow I’ll head back into Canada, briefly, to see Niagara Falls from the Ontario side, and a lot of the day will be along bike trails.

I was glad to reach Buffalo in the early evening because it gave me time to explore the downtown area, and after checking in with my Warm Shower’s host I walked to Elmwood Ave for its Festival of the Arts. Unfortunately, most exhibitors had closed for the day, but there was live music and hordes of people, mostly hipsters of all ages, tooling around. I had dinner at a coffee house and sat by a large open window facing the street. My sandwich was good, but I loved watching the people.


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.

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