NorthEast Two-Wheel Tour
Thursday, 29 April 2004
Time is getting near to hit the road again - time to set up the new blog! Considering how hectic and stressful life has been, it will likely take me a good week to unwind...
Friday, 30 April
... and so begins the last stage of the coast-to-coast, with a flight delayed by an hour, rush hour Chicago traffic, and an uncertain weather forecast. It was snowing vigorously as the plane left Denver, and I watched crews de-ice the wings as we queued on the runway. This fast-moving storm threatens to meet me in Chicago to make my first day of riding wet, before a high-pressure system moves in for a week of dry days.
Saturday, 1 May
Elmhurst IL - Merrillville IN
71.8 miles; 12 noon-6:50 p.m.; mid-40s w/intermittent sprinkles.
This morning, shortly after taking a wrong turn that sent me pedalling through a golf course on the cart path, I passed a school with an interesting name: 'The Institute of Basic LIfe Principals'. That got me thinking that I could probably teach there, lecturing on principals learned from the ride:
* Into every life, some rain must fall. (Oh, wait a sec - that's not a principal, that's a cliche.) Today featured occasional sprinkles, puddles, and temps that struggled to reach the mid-40s. No worry about overheating!
* People are happy to help. I caught up to a biker on a trail through a forest preserve, and asked for information on the trails coming up. Instead of telling me, Vic led me for miles through the preserve. We chatted, and he professed that he's dreamed of taking a long ride, but is currently committed to caring for his ailing mother. Thanks for the assist, Vic!
* Set ambitious goals for the best results. I hoped to clear the metro area today, figuring that 60 miles would do it. When I hit that mark, I bulled ahead another ten miles until I found my first farm road. Tomorrow -- open country! * People love to be noticed - so indulge them! As I pedaled along a quiet street, I saw a man on the sidewalk, working a large blue-and-red pedal-powered grinding wheel. I had to stop. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?" he shot back with a Polish accent as he sharpened another knife. "What are YOU doing?"
"I'm bicycling to Rhode Island!"
He gave me that look. "What, are you crazy?"
We talked for a few minutes before I again mounted my wheels. "Want to buy some knives?" he asked as I rode away.
Sunday, 2 May
Merrillville to Walkerton IN
62.1 miles; 10:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; sunny, 40s, chilly north wind.
The bright side of asking for directions: you may get clued in to a wonderful back road, with little traffic and lush surroundings, a welcome break from boring super-highways. The downside- those roads may not go where you think they will. When I rolled into Westville, I asked a bystander the best way to get to Walkerton. He replied, "I'd take highway 2 to Westville and get on US6."
"You mean I'm not in Westville?"
"No, you're in Valparaiso, nine miles southwest of Westville."
Otherwise, the day was fine. A friendly clerk at the C-store let me call ahead to my contact in Walkerton, who met me on the road and biked with me to my 'home' for the night. Pam and Ed Walz were consummate hosts, and the four of us (they invited a fellow teacher and former student of Pam's named Sandra to join us) enjoyed fine company and a delicious meal. THAT is what makes these trips special. Thanks!
Monday, 3 May
Walkerton to Kendallville IN
70.2 miles; 10:50-4:00; partly cloudy, breezy, low 50s.
The cold snap continues, with temps 15 degrees below normal. The mercury broke 50 for the first time, but the chill breeze forced me to stay bundled up, and when the sun hid behind the clouds... brrr! At least the breeze was mostly behind me, helping speed me to Kendallville at an average speed of 16.5 mph.
The kids at Walkerton ES were great, full of enthusiasm and questions. One girl had an endless stream of queries, still asking as the other kids filed out. One great question: "Have you ever made any lasting friendships?" YES - and I wouldn't be surprised if I made a couple more there in Walkerton. Other interesting questions: "Do you ever get homesick?" "Will you ride your bike around the gym for us?"
Tuesday, 4 May
Kendallville IN to Bryan OH
43.8 miles; 10:50 CDT - 3:40 EDT; up to 60, partly cloudy, tail breeze.
It's refreshing at times to 'wing it'. The talk at Kendallville was in the auditorium, a venue that sometimes inhibits my interacting with kids. Instead of taking the stage, though, I talked from the front row while they set up the video, then I wandered up and down the aisles, cajoling q's and a's from them. The best question: "Would you ever walk across the country again?"
more Tuesday
Next I wandered across the street to St John's Lutheran School to second warm welcome. The group was smaller but just as enthusiastic. Finally I got on the road, with directions to stop at the town's main tourist attraction - the Windmill Museum. Kendallville used to be home to a major windmill manufacturer, and the museum hosts one of the world's largest collection of mills.
After putting in a fast (17+ mph) cruise to Bryan, I got to do something new. My nephew was competing in a track meet, and they needed extra timers. I got pressed into duty -- I had to time the 7th place finisher in every heat.
Wednesday, 5 May
Bryan to Pemberville OH
64.7 mi; 8:00-8:40, 10:35-3:00; 70, sunny.
The Stryker Elementary kids were great - again, they asked me to ride the bike around the gym. From there, I enjoyed a breeze at my back, speeding me along (17.4 mph) as the temp climbed to 70 degrees - finally, I rode a stretch with no jacket!
My other joy was to finish with US6. For 160 miles I had followed that main route, getting regularly blown about by the heavy 18-wheeler traffic. After lunch my route split from it, staying north into Bowling Green. 'Twas a beautiful town, with well-kept lawns, stately homes, and a profusion of flowers. After stopping at the newspaper, I hit hwy 105 - a quiet, undulating road that follows the Portage River through farm country with a scattering of homes. After days of straight arrow roads and truck traffic, it was eye candy for a biker.
In Pemberville, I rediscovered Ohio hospitality. The school had arranged for me to camp behind the fire station, but when I checked there, they knew nothing about it. Before I knew, they had opened a closed storefront across the street (which still had 'Bike Shop' on the marquee) where I could spend the night with running water, toilet, lights, and a stereo; invited me to shower in the fire station; and warmed up a huge plate of spaghetti for me. Thanks, Larry and Mike!
One of the attractions of small towns is the old-time General Store. Pemberville hosts a great one: Beeker's General Store ( On the edge of the (small) downtown district, it has the authentic feel - a narrow shop that extends well back from the street, with an old textured-tin ceiling. Shelves are jammed with candy, scented soaps, sewing supplies, and such finds at a commemorative Bicentennial 7-Up bottle, a Curious George lunchbox, and a large box of Rinso Detergent (can be used in wringer washing machines!). wandering the aisles brings thoughts of how the old days must have been.
I got talking with Todd Sheets, owner, who had worked there since age 12. Soon he was making phone calls, arranging entertainment for me. First it was the librarian to introduce me to the history of the town, then it was a historical society member to show me the restored Opera House. Thanks, Todd! Egad, I love this state!
Thursday, 6 May
Pemberville to Sandusky Bay 'No Bikes Allowed' Bridge
54.0 miles; 9:00-8:20 & 10:10-4:30; 84, sunny.
Thank heavens I'm in Ohio -- if I were in a less giving area, today would have been a complete disaster.
The day began well enough. I woke up with music (the bike shop had a stereo), then Larry met me for breakfast - and of course, he grabbed the check. Then I had a delightful time at Eastwood Middle School - since I had more time available, I started with the To Tell The Truth video. Picture this - a gymnasium full of 6th-8th graders, lights out, with the video projected on a screen. They cheered with the studio audience, and the boys hooted and hollered when they introduced panelist Brooke Burns from Bay Watch Hawaii. They were quick with answers to my questions, and I had time to answer all their queries. One boy asked, "Did you ever find any dead bodies?" He was surprised when I explained how we nearly did. Afterwards the staff took a picture with me, and presented me with an Eastwood polo shirt.
It wasn't until I left that things went downhill. Three miles from school I suffered my first flat. No problem, I figured I'd get some this trip. Big problem, my tire mounting/dismounting tool had disappeared. It was thumb a ride, or call... The principal drove out with a screwdriver so I could fix the tire and get motoring.
On to Port Clinton to catch the ferry. The delay meant I had to push hard, but with a tail breeze I again broke 17 mph. Somehow I missed the first ferry port - no problem, it wasn't running yet this season (despite the claims of their website). As I cruised to the next one eight miles further, a local in a convertible flagged me down. "You're the first one I've seen this year," he said as he rolled up his pant leg to show me a BikeCentennial tattoo. "I rode across in '76. I'm hoping to get laid off this summer so I can hit the road again." He drove ahead of me to the ferry port, and gave me last-minute hints.
As I left the ferry at Put-in-Bay, I asked where to catch the return ferry to Sandusky. "There is no ferry to Sandusky from here," the sailor reported. Big problem - if I had to return on this ferry, I would never reach Norwalk in time for my dinner invitation - especially since they allowed no bikes on the Sandusky Bay Bridge, and a detour would add 30 miles. So I went to the Perry Monument to refill both empty water bottles, and checked the town piers for confirmation - no ferry to Sandusky (again, their web site had misled me).
Out of luck, I returned to the ferry back to Catawba. On board, I reached for my water bottles - and realized I'd left them at the monument. Okay - one disaster I can handle, two maybe I can grind through, but three? Time to give in. I called ahead to Norwalk, and the principal sent her husband to rescue me at the foot of the bridge.
Thankfully the evening was incredible. The home-cooked dinner was delicious, the company entertaining - we wound up talking from 6:00 to 10:30. Now it's time to rest for another day.
Friday, 7 May
Norwalk to Cuyahoga Valley National Park
56.0 miles; 11:50-6:00; rain and 40s, then clearing and low 50s.
I guess I have to experience everything on this coast-to-coast, and that includes weather. 2002 threw windstorms and a blizzard at me, and last year I dodged tornadoes. It was time to endure a steady, soaking, sodden rain. I didn't get started until nearly noon - Sue Goodsite (Pleasant ES principal) and I kept chatting after my presentation. By 12:30 the rain had returned, lasting three hours. It's all about attitude, though, and I slogged through it knowing it would soon end. (If my disasters yesterday had happened with today's weather, it'd have been a different story.)
Best question from today's talk: "Did you ever meet a drunk person on your walk?" We think so.
As I entered the National Park, I noticed a resident eyeing me. I stopped to talk with Chick, checking my directions to the hostel. First he gave me a very detailed description of the route, then hopped in his car to lead me the short distance. Halfway there he stopped to introduce me to his nephew. More Ohio hospitality!
Click here for the entries from the middle (2nd) week of Glen's NorthEast Two-Wheel Tour.
Click here for the entries from the third and final week of Glen's NorthEast Two-Wheel Tour.
Click here to return to the main touring page.
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