[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