Day 21: Opening up to the unexpected along Lake Erie

I’m transforming
I’m vibrating

I’m glowing, I’m flying

Look at me now

Nick Cave, “Jubilee Street”

*** *** ***

Nick sang those lyrics in one of his finest, most tragic songs about a john who kills a prostitute that is blackmailing him. It hardly seems that they’d be fitting for the greatest day of this ride I’ve been on so far, but like any great song, there’s room for interpretation by the audience. And after this incredible gift of a day, I’m taking them on happily.

Today has been a breakthrough on this tour. It’s the kind of day that has made me pull back and realize how unbelievable my progress has been, how lucky I am to be living this dream, how to adapt, and perhaps most importantly, how crucial it is to be open to EVERYTHING and say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself on an endeavor like mine.

I headed to Kelly’s Cafe for some crepes this morning before heading towards Bellevue on my way to Toledo. I sat down to coffee, and started talking to a woman named Ryanne. She was fascinated by my ride and enthusiastically asked a bunch of questions that went beyond the usual ones. Half my life story later I started to listen to her tell her story, and sure enough, two people just became friends.

She asked me where I was headed, and I told her. She said “what you really need to do is head to Avon Lake and ride along Lake Erie on Route 6”. I told her it’d take half the day to get to the lakeside town 30 miles north, and she said “oh, I know. But I’ll drive you there. It’ll be good for your soul”.

I did a quick check, and even though the morning was wearing thin, I would have easy riding west along the lake and if anything gain time, not lose it, with a few more miles to add to my expected mileage to Toledo. I didn’t hesitate to unload the panniers and pack up the rig in her Honda Element and head north.

Ry went out of her way to drive me 45 minutes to Avon Lake. With the windows down, the music loud, and the conversation on point, I reveled in how I was finally abandoning my rigid plans for something more spontaneous, and I was loving it.

The highlight of the drive was the colorful Amish built chairs for sale, which I was lucky enough to get some sort of visual record of:

Ry and I said our goodbyes with a warm hug, and I felt so grateful to have met her even before the riding started.

And then I was off… I’d be on Route 6 along Lake Erie the entire day, headed to a campground in Bay View 50 miles west.

I wish I stopped at the beach in Avon Lake before pedaling out, and I wish I got a picture with Ryanne. But these are two among many, many pictures I haven’t gotten. Sometimes I’m not able to stop. Sometimes time is an issue. Sometimes I think to take a picture too late (like when I saw my first northern Ohio black squirrel scurry in front of me on the MetroParks trail into North Royalton).

But when I finally did get some sort of eyeshot of the lake, it was behind an interesting juxtaposition of old home/new home:

I may not have seen much of the lake at first but I absolutely felt it. It was easily 15 degrees cooler than further south, and there was a gentle yet constant breeze at my back. Riding was instantly a piece of cake, and I knew I’d be a kid again on the bike the rest of the day.

Soon enough the residential stretch opened up to remind me I was still in the Rust Belt:

I passed it, and made it to the first pier on the day.

The afternoon proceeded with a relaxed excitement. My pedaling was effortless for the first time since cruising through Brooklyn, which feels like a lifetime ago at this point. With the long, flat shoulder and little traffic, I was able to ride in the shoulder reflecting on how glad I was I decided to take Ry up on her offer.

It was a signal that I’m loosening up and getting better at being a bike traveller. I’ve been pushing forward with too fervent a dedication to sticking to my plans even if there isn’t much of a reason for it. But an opportunity was presented to me, I took it, and it paid off tenfold. It may seem like a small thing, but after three weeks of lush, humid, mosquito-ridden forest, the presence of the massive Lake Erie was mind blowing… And mind blowingly peaceful. I made a resolution to say yes to every opportunity offered to me the rest of the tour. After Ry and Route 6, there’s no other way to go.

I made it to another beach, where this adorable guy was chasing after sticks in the heavy waves: 

 I couldn’t help but come up to play a little. He wanted me to throw an empty Gatorade bottle someone littered.

There were beaches along the lake every few miles, and I stopped at pretty much every one of them. Time was on my side and it was just too pretty to pass up. Plus I always saw something worth seeing, like Amish sunbathers in Lorain, OH:

The road took me through Vermillion:

Which had a fun harbor…

…and a beach…

…with a “lighthouse” begging for another bike portrait.

I loved stopping at the beaches. Far better than clearings in farmland or gas stations:

You can barely see it, but let’s zoom in:

That was the best view I got of Cedar Point all day. I would have loved to take a day off to hit the park and those crazy roller coasters, but that would have cost money I don’t have, and would have made me miss the Dead in Boulder. Making those shows is more of a motivator by the day, and I’m right on schedule.
But amusement parks mean kitsch, and I love kitsch. Especially when it’s emanating from a pirate lawn ornament:

Route 6 took me a bit inland for a piece, and I saw the first of many signs like this outside a golf course:

Sadly, they’re not talking about my kind of biker. Apparently Route 6 is quite popular with the Harley crowd. That’s all good and well I suppose but the bikers haven’t been the kindest to me. I try to smile and say hi when I see them, like I do everyone else. I just get the cold shoulder though. As the day wore on it would get worse… But before that, more corny vacationer aesthetics!

It almost felt lake an Ohioan, Lake Erie version of PCH in California. It made me want to ride that road. All in good time I guess. 

Just past Cedar Point’s entrance I made it through Sandusky’s old downtown and saw its city hall:

I did a 180, and yay, cool clock:

They even arrange the planters for the day’s date. Before I could get over that, though, I saw the Merry-Go-Round Museum:

They were closed. I would have checked it out though. 

Up ahead I saw some sort of dairy operation and a windmill. I had to stop. It turns out there was an ice cream parlor there, but they only took cash. All they ended up being good for was a bike portrait:

I was getting closer to the campground when Hart advertising told me what a billboard is:

Thanks for that, guys. Wasn’t sure before you filled me in. 

I made it down Wahl Road to my stop for the night, but not before a local could air their grievances:

I have no idea what this means, but keep your fist in the air.

And then the campground. 

These campgrounds are a blessing and a curse. On one hand I never get what I pay for (26 bucks to pitch my tent and be gone in less than 12 hours? Hmm.), and on another I’ve had good experiences chatting with folks at places like this. It’s a crapshoot. 

I bought my plot and perused the fine assortment of bagged dirt for sale:

And then got more corny traveler fun:

Trading on an idealized past for profit? Sounds familiar.

In short order I set up camp for the night:

And then kicked back in the hammock to reflect on a beautiful bike touring day.

There was much to reflect on. It really was a perfect day touring. It ended far different than I imagined it would in the morning because I stayed open to new opportunities and trusted the goodwill of a new friend. The lake effect kept a smile on my face all day long, and I never thought I’d even get a chance to see Lake Erie after abandoning the possibility of making it to downtown Cleveland. I pushed 65 miles and felt like I did half that. Everything worked out perfectly, and I have to believe it’s because my outlook on my ride is shifting. I’ve had incredible, mind blowing days in the saddle, but they’ve been fun in the cumulative. Most days have felt like a mad scramble to just keep moving. But they say it takes 21 days for a life change to become “normal”. My 21st day on the road taught me that I’m far more attuned to road life than I thought, and I rested easy realizing that I’m doing great out here and wouldn’t change a minute of anything leading up to it; not the hard parts, and definitely not the good parts. I went to sleep anxious for more of what the road has in store for me.


One thought on “Day 21: Opening up to the unexpected along Lake Erie

  1. Embrace serendipity. Yes! Vermillion has a good breakfast place that Alice and I enjoyed after many meals out West that had no greens. Avon Lake has a small boat landing where the city allowed a man to put up a garden and small lighthouse in honor of his wife. We just happened upon it. Very cool. That was where the neighbor showed us his 10 foot tall tomato plant. I wish I had been on the ball enough to tel you about it. Aren’t people interesting? And what a beautiful bike you are riding, eh?


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