Day 23: Erie, PA to Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH, 53 miles
It rained last night, and this morning when I wake up, my tent is soaked. Trying to pack up a wet tent on a wet beach isn’t easy, as I quickly learn. I probably pack about half a pound of sand into my bags along with my tent, but I get it done. My knees feel a little better after a day of rest and ice, so I decide to shoot for my original destination of Geneva-on-the-Lake which is about 50 miles away. On my way out of town, I stop for breakfast at Sheetz. For those who don’t know, Sheetz is an east coast gas station chain somewhat similar to QT. This is my first experience there, and it’s magical. (Sorry QT, you know I love you, but you’ve been outmatched.) After a couple of donuts and some coffee, I hit the road.
The scenery in Ohio is much like what you might find in Nebraska or Missouri or any other Midwestern state. Lots of wheat fields and newly planted cornfields punctuated by old dilapidated barns and pristine farmhouses. At the Ohio border, as I am setting up my tripod to take the requisite photo, I bump into three other bike tourists — Cody, Tom, and Mike — who are on their way towards Los Angeles, having started in Brooklyn. As we’re chatting, another bike tourist who is heading east pulls over to say hello. I didn’t catch his name but he was headed from Cincinnati to the east coast then across Canada and down the west coast to Mexico. And I thought I was riding a long way.
The Brooklyn guys and I decide to have lunch in Conneaut, which is just a short ride from the border. We stop at White Turkey Drive-In for hotdogs and homemade root beer. It’s a nice little spot, and I wish I would’ve taken a photo of it, but I forgot. We chat a bit about touring and our respective trips and then get back on the road. After a few miles, the guys turn off towards Painesville, while I continue on to Geneva-on-the-Lake. My knees are holding up ok, and I make it to my campsite by late afternoon. I chose the spot, Indian Creek RV Resort, on the recommendation of my Adventure Cycling maps, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone stay there. It was full of RVs (obviously) but once again, I was the only one in the tent camping section. Half of the tent camping section was dry cracked land covered in gravel. The toilets were pit toilets without sinks. The showers were a good ten minute walk from my site. And it cost me $30. Pretty disappointing as far as campsites go, but I’m living and learning.
Day 24: Geneva-on-the-Lake, OH to Euclid, OH, 50 miles
I wake up and set off towards Euclid, OH, which is just outside of Cleveland. I don’t have a solid plan for where I’m going to stay — there aren’t any campgrounds in the Cleveland area — but I want to keep moving so I just start riding. I stop at a cafe for lunch and order a gyro, thankful to have an option besides a burger and fries, and then get back on the road.
I popped another spoke yesterday but the closest bike shop was closed due to a death in the family, so when I spot a bicycle shop in Eastlake, I decide to stop. This turns out to be a good idea. Red, the proprietor, immediately takes my bike into the back to check it out. I tell him that this is the fourth spoke I’ve popped in the last week, and he spots the source of the problem: a loose back rack. He tightens up the rack, replaces the spoke, and trues the wheel. It cuts about an hour out of my day, but I’m in no hurry, so I don’t mind. If you’re ever in Eastlake, Ohio, be sure to stop at Red’s.
I roll into Euclid around 4pm and try to figure out whether or not I want to try to ride through Cleveland in Friday night rush hour traffic or just find a spot in Euclid. I call a hotel on the opposite side of Cleveland, but they are booked up so that settles it. The only hotel nearby is actually back the way I came a few miles, so I head that way. I check in, shower, and decide to walk to CVS to pick up some epsom salts to soak my knees. I pass a few restaurants on the way, but for some reason, I am really craving Chips Ahoy cookies. I’m an adult, and if I want cookies for dinner, I will have cookies for dinner. So that’s what I ate. (Along with half a bag of peanut butter granola and milk. The bike tour hunger has finally arrived.)
Back at the hotel, I soak my knees and catch up on the latest episodes of The Americans. Pure luxury.
Day 25: Euclid, OH to Ruggles Beach, OH, 60 miles
I wake up in the king bed in the hotel and do not want to get up. The bed is so big, I find myself sleeping sideways. Eventually, I manage to roll out of bed and go down to the lobby for the free continental breakfast. One waffle, one banana, and one terribly sad cup of coffee later, I decide it’s probably time to head out. Back in my room, I sort through all of my gear and set aside a few things to send home: some clothes I wasn’t wearing, some camera gear I hadn’t used, etc. I navigate my way to the post office and send the box home, making my bags four pounds and three ounces lighter.
The ride through Cleveland is relatively uneventful. I want to stop at the art museum, but I can’t think of a good way to secure my bike and bags for a few hours — and I don’t want to risk leaving them locked up in downtown Cleveland — so I just roll on through. Someday, I’ll come back to check out the museum.
It’s late afternoon now, and I am sitting at a market somewhere west of Cleveland taking a break and drinking a Gatorade. I decide to call the campsite where I plan to stay tonight and when I do, I find out that they no longer allow tent camping. I am just hanging up the phone when I spot another tourist pedaling past. I hop on my bike and get back on the road to see if I can chase him down. A couple of miles later, I catch up and we introduce ourselves. Tyler is on day one of a cross country trip from Cleveland to Los Angeles, and this is his first tour as well. I tell him that my camping plans just fell through, and he tells me that he’s headed to a Warmshowers just outside Vermillion, so I decide to tag along to see if they have room enough for two.
When we get to Sheryl’s house in Ruggles Beach, Ohio, we are greeted by a very friendly cat and a rain shower. Sheryl’s house is situated on a hill above Lake Erie, so Tyler and I set up camp beneath a tree down near the lake.
We cook dinner and when Sheryl gets home around 8pm, we are grateful to take hot showers and then sit inside for a little bit, out of the rain, swapping bike stories with Sheryl and eating microwave popcorn. She gives us umbrellas for the trip back to our tents, and I fall asleep to the sound of rain and the waves of Lake Erie.
Day 26: Ruggles Beach, OH to Bowling Green, OH, 72 miles
In the morning, Sheryl makes us a delicious fortifying breakfast of fruit, yogurt, eggs, toast, and coffee.
Tyler will be riding the same route as me for awhile, so we decide to ride together until he breaks off and heads south, and we set out around 8:45am towards Gibsonburg, Ohio. Almost immediately, we are faced with a terrifically strong headwind that must be twenty miles per hour. It is relentless, and it makes pedaling a chore. Even in the lowest gear, we are moving frustratingly slow. Maybe five miles per hour. The route takes us onto a paved bike path for a few miles and we are grateful for the trees that break the wind. At one point, back on the road, we get caught in a hard rain shower. We stop to put on rain gear but by the time we do, the rain has passed and we are soaked.
Around 3pm, we arrive in Gibsonburg, having ridden 50 miles. Road-weary, we stumble into a Subway and order a couple of sandwiches. We’re considering continuing on to Bowling Green, which is another 20 miles away, but after the wind and rain we aren’t sure we’re up for it. It’s still early in the day though, so we decide to head to the campground and rest for a bit before we make our decision. We set our bikes against a picnic table and lay down in the grass, happy to be still for a little while. The rain has cleared up and after about an hour of lying in the sun, we decide to press on to Bowling Green, where Tyler has arranged a Warmshowers.
The last few hours of the day are rough. The wind is still blowing hard, my left knee is very sore, and I’m tired from the first 50 miles. After what feels like forever, we finally pull into our Warmshowers host’s house around 7:45pm. After 72 miles — most of it straight into that headwind — we are exhausted and grateful to be off the bikes. Over a supper of spaghetti and salad, we chat about bike touring. Our host, Tom, went on his first tour in 1968, and in a couple weeks, he’s leaving to ride the Northern Tier. It’s always fun to hear stories from other tourists and Tom is no exception.
Day 27: Bowling Green, OH to Defiance, OH, 46 miles
After the interminable wind and long miles of yesterday, Tyler and I decide to take it easy today. Our destination is Defiance, Ohio, which is a mere 46 miles away. The wind is less intense today, and the skies are clear and sunny.
We stop for lunch at a busy restaurant in Napoleon called Spengler’s, which has been open since 1892, and then move on towards Defiance. We arrive at about 3pm and find a coffeeshop to hang out in while we wait to hear from the Warmshowers host we hope to stay with. When we walk in, a woman sitting by the door randomly offers us a coupon for a buy one get one free coffee. By the counter, I spot a book display featuring a book called Biking Across America. I like this place already.
We sit and rest for awhile, drinking iced coffees and hoping that our Warmshowers host will respond. He doesn’t, and we find ourselves eyeing the couches in the coffee shop. They sure do look comfortable. After an hour and a half, we decide to check out the bike shop down the block but arrive to find it closed. The owner spots us looking in the windows and offers to open up for us, but since we don’t actually need anything, we tell him no thanks and just chat for a bit. I ask him if he knows of any campgrounds nearby and he directs us to Pontiac Park, which we actually passed on the way into town.
We ride over to check it out and find picnic tables, electricity, and water spigots. Before we can set up, it starts to sprinkle. It’s still early, so we decide to head back to Cabin Fever Coffee to wait out the rain before setting up camp. This turns out to be a good decision, because shortly after we arrive, it starts to pour. We both write for a bit and then play a few games of Sequence, hoping the rain will let up before the shop closes at 8pm.
Thankfully, the sun comes out at about 7:45pm. We head back to the park where we make dinner (Lipton chicken noodle soup for me) and set up camp. As we’re getting ready to turn in, we hear someone calling to us from a car. It turns out to be an alumnus of the college that Tyler attended, who recognized the shirt Tyler is wearing. It’s a small school, so this is a surprise to both of them. We chat for a bit with him and his wife about our bike tours. Like most people, they’re very surprised and intrigued to hear about what we’re doing, so they ask us a lot of questions. I’ve become quite used to this, and I don’t mind.
Day 28: Defiance, OH to Fort Wayne, ID
I wake up around 7am and everything is stiff and sore. As I lie in on my sleeping pad in my tent, trying to work up the energy to get up, I hear a yell from a passing car, “Go Raiders!” It’s Adam, the guy we spoke with last night, on his way to work. With that, I decide it’s time to get up and get moving. I make oatmeal and coffee (pro tip: a scoop of peanut butter in maple and brown sugar oatmeal makes it twice as delicious). I use the last of the Starbucks VIA coffee packets I purchased in St. Louis before I left, so soon I will need to figure out how to brew my own coffee. After breakfast, Tyler and I shake the condensation off our tents and begin the process of packing up. No matter how fast I move, mornings are always slower than I’d like. If I’m cooking breakfast, I find it takes me about an hour and 45 minutes from getting up to being ready to go. We get water at the gas station up the road and then roll out.
On the way out of Defiance, we stop at a hardware store so Tyler can pick up some bungee cords. I am waiting outside when I get a text message from my brother’s girlfriend Sara whose coworker’s aunt has offered us a place to stay in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The ride today is uneventful. More quiet country roads and cornfields and wheat fields and barns and roadkill. The land is so flat, we can see for miles. The sky is full of clouds and the temperature is a cool 66 degrees, but thankfully it doesn’t rain and the wind is not as terrible as it was a couple of days ago. We stop for pizza in Payne, Ohio and then cross the border into Indiana and turn north towards Fort Wayne. When we arrive at Beth’s house, she offers her bed to me and her spare bed to Tyler. She does our laundry and cooks us a delicious pasta dinner, while we relax on the couch and watch Bizarre Foods. I am so thankful to everyone who has opened their home to me, in particular people like Beth who aren’t associated with Warmshowers or bike touring but are still willing to host two complete strangers for a night. Thank you, Beth!
Tomorrow, the route heads west into Indiana, and it looks like the towns through which it passes are farther apart and have less amenities than those we’ve been passing through the last few days. Should be an adventure.