Sep 10: Turning Point

Sep 10: Turning Point

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on September 10, 2004]

Well, it's official: I've been on the road for a month now. More than that: for the past month I've been going east, and for the next month I'll go back west before turning south. Lancaster, OH, which I'll reach tomorrow, is the farthest east I plan to go until next winter. It feels really good to look at the map and see how far I've gone in just a month!

I'm writing from a cousin's house in Westerville, OH, a suburb of Columbus. I got here yesterday evening only because I rode two days' distance on Wednesday. Tuesday morning, you may recall, I was at a former quarry south of Bowlng Green. It rained that morning and my tent got thoroughly soaked, and I had to put it away wet.

I followed the Slippery Elm trail (named for the trees that were used to make the first rails of the track during an oil boom in the early 1800s -- I guess iron must have been scarce!) to North Baltimore, then continued south to Findlay before turning southeast and finding a campground near the little town of Vanlue. Wednesday morning I woke to find that, against all odds, my tent was totally dry. I hurried to put it away, and as I rolled up the groundcloth rain started falling.

It fell all day long, nonstop. I also rode all day long, bypassing the place I'd planned to stop for the night and continuing all the way to Delaware State Park north of Columbus. Riding in the rain presents some challenges... putting your gear in waterproof containers is the easy part; the hard part is keeping it there even though you need it. Since I had noplace dry to stop, I just didn't stop... at least not as often as I usually try to.

One place I did stop was a bar in the little town of Marseilles (I neglected to ask how the locals pronounce it). I must have looked like a drowned rat when I lurched in the door and into the restroom. Then I asked for a cup of coffee, and the proprietor had to start it brewing. I was the only customer, and she was happy to have someone to talk to. She's had a laryngectomy and uses a buzz box to talk -- must make customers reluctant to smoke in the place. She'd been watching the Weather Channel and was sure I'd run into severe weather hundreds of miles away. She wound up not only giving me the coffee for free but handing me a half dozen bags of snacks. I discretely left her a tip.

The private campgrounds I've visited in Ohio have been so inexpensive ($5-$8) that I expected the state park to be similarly priced. I was surprised when they asked for $22, but I'd ridden about 80 miles and the sun had already set, so I wasn't in a position to argue! Anyhow, I got to Cousin Jeff's place on Thursday afternoon, let myself in, and helped myself to his laundry room: my clean laundry had been wet since Monday, and I hadn't washed any since.

Today (Friday) I planned to make a day trip into Columbus and back to Jeff's by evening. What a rush to get on my bike without the trailer attached -- I felt like I had a jet engine mounted behind the seat! But I spent so much time at the Westerville library that I didn't get very far into town before it was time to turn back, so after coming all this way I still haven't set foot in downtown Columbus. But I learned enough at the library and during the ride to know that I don't want to move here; that was an option I had been considering.

Columbus has a lot of bike paths -- the one I was riding was numbered 47, and I saw a sign for number 51 -- but there doesn't seem to be a comprehensive map of where they are or where they go. Same goes for the bus system: there are individual route maps, but master maps for the city are not available. Room for improvement, I suppose.

Q: I'm impressed at how much distance you're covering! It sounds like this could be a really viable form of transportation ... "after the fall" of cheap petroleum, etc.
A: I'd thought about that, particularly after seeing Kevin Costner's portrayal of The Postman. But my rapid progress has everything to do with good roads, and good roads are (currently) maintained by big machines. So if the big machines stop running, we may have to do like the Postman and ride horses. :-)

Happy trails! --Ben

Ben Fri, 09/10/2004 - 10:30

to Vanlue, OH

to Vanlue, OH

I took my time getting up this morning because I could hear rain falling on the tent.  When I did leave the tent, swarms of mosquitos chased me back inside twice!  So it was probably after 10:00 when I finally left Portage Quarry.

I headed south on the Slippery Elm Trail, which connects Bowling Green with North Baltimore.  This part of the state is so totally flat that you scarcely need a railroad grade, but one was built to service an oil boom almost 200 years ago.  Presumably because iron was scarce, they made the rails by nailing steel to slippery elm trunks, or so the informational signs said.

I spent over an hour in North Baltimore, researching campgrounds at the library and then indulging in a pizza lunch.  This meant that I reached Findlay at rush hour -- never a flattering time to visit a new town.

The campground I found is southeast of the little town of Vanlue, which in turn is southeast of Findlay.  I reached it by traveling some very small roads, one scarcely wider than the bike trail I rode this morning, another with its bridge blocked off to traffic so that I had to disassemble my rig and carry it over.  The campground usually doesn't take tents, but they made an exception for me and charged me only $5.  Yay!

Total distance: 35.1 mi

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Ben Tue, 09/07/2004 - 00:00

to Delaware State Park, OH

to Delaware State Park, OH

This morning I woke to find that my tent had dried thoroughly during the night.  I hurried to pack it away because the clouds (and the forecast) were threatening a day of rain, and sure enough, as I was rolling up the groundcloth the sprinkling started.

It rained all day long.  I also rode all day long.  Aside from the inconvenience of being wet, the temperature was perfect for riding in my rain gear, and the roads were smooth and flat and mostly abandoned, so I just rode all day, past where I'd intended to stop tonight, to Delaware State Park where I'd intended to stop tomorrow night!  This means that I can arrive in the Columbus area a day early and greatly simplifies a number of logistics that had been troubling me.

A story from the day... I stopped at a bar in the town of Marseilles (I forgot to ask how the locals pronounce it) to use the restroom and stayed for a cup of coffee and a look through the yellow pages.  I was the only customer, and I must have looked like a drowned rat.  The proprietor, who had had a laryngectomy and spoke with a voice box, asked a number of questions and showed me the weather channel.  She not only gave me my coffee for free, she threw in a handful of snack bags as well.  I discreetly left her a tip.

Looking at Delaware State Park on the map, I had been concerned that it was so close to the highway.  I needn't have worried... the campground is at least two miles from the main entrance.  After riding 80 miles or so [actually more like 55], this was not a welcome discovery -- I think I could sleep through a tornado tonight.  Hopefully that won't be necessary.

Total distance: 53.02 mi

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Ben Wed, 09/08/2004 - 00:00

to Westerville, OH

to Westerville, OH

The ride into Westerville from Delaware State Park was uneventful, except that Jeff Kirn's place turned out not to be in Westerville.  When I got close to town I thought to call him for directions and found that he's on the east side of Hoover Reservoir, while Westerville is on the west side.

I got to his house at about 3:30, found the key where he told me to look for it, and let myself in.  This is the same house he lived in when Great-Uncle Dave took me to visit him in 1996, but of course I had no idea where it was at the time.  It's a large house -- only three bedrooms, but lots of rooms for entertaining guests.

Jeff brought me along to dinner with his girlfriend Mary and one of the friends they'll be joining on a Hawaiian cruise in 3 weeks; they wanted to coordinate which side trips they'll go on together.

Total distance: 34.23 miles


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Ben Thu, 09/09/2004 - 00:00

Columbus, OH

Columbus, OH

Today my plan was to ride into Columbus in order to see the city and decide whether it's someplace I'd like to live.  However, I was unable to find good information about recommended bike routes or even bus routes.  So I rode into Westerville and visited the library, where I got sucked into the Internet for over an hour.  The librarians were also unable to tell me about bike or bus routes.

The one bike route into town I could find starts due north of town, so I rode several miles west of Westerville and picked it up.  It's a good enough trail, well marked, and it runs nearly 15 miles into town.  But when I got to the University, the trail was under construction, and since it was already 3:30 PM I decided to turn back rather than continue on surface roads into downtown.  So I still haven't set foot in downtown Columbus, but I think the difficulties I encountered trying to get there have answered my questions about whether I'd like to live here!

Jeff and I are going to dinner with Mary again tonight; Mary will stay over and they'll leave on their camping trip in the morning.

Total distance: 38.67 miles (round trip)

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Ben Fri, 09/10/2004 - 00:00