Whatever grace the wind gods showed me along Lake Erie was spent by the time I left the campground in Bay View, and I faced two last days in Ohio fighting heavy wind. But with it came some of the most unexpected, humbling generosity that made me proud to be an Ohioan.
After a night spent listening to the radio of a biker crew that wasn’t turned off I pedaled off groggily westward. The first curiosity was 2 Cans, which is a lakeside charity bar. I don’t really know what that means but I think I like it.
It was my last view of Lake Erie, which was a little sad. The lake treated me very well the day before.
Moving west I came across a boat on the side of the road, causing one lane traffic. I let the cars pass then moved along. The flagger said “you better hurry”. Traffic was already coming the other direction. I hope that guy got a flat tire on his way home from work.
Before long I came across a Bob Evans and stopped for a big breakfast (big breakfasts tend to make for a better day on the bike. I have never in my life been more aware of what food does to my body then on this tour). I sat down at a table and there was an elderly couple next to me with ear to ear smiles. I nodded and smiled back.
They started asking me questions and were blown away by what I’m doing. They said they saw me on the road the day before and were So happy they got a chance to talk to me. The man told me he was buying my breakfast, and I was touched. When he went to pay the bills his wife told me that he was suffering from terminal cancer and seeing me on the loses bike gave him a lot of inspiration and joy. I was beyond touched by this and got choked up. This is such a solitary pursuit, and while I know I’ve offered brief moments of inspiration to people along the way, this encounter was the sweetest. I peddled out with a full stomach and no money spent.
And then another rail trail! I love these more by the day, and continue to be surprised how many of them there are out there. It is such a joy cruising on flat, carless pavement.
A few miles in I saw the familiar sight of a bike bulging wth panniers. Sure enough it was another tourist! We both stopped with all smiles. His name was John, and he had been through the 48 states in 3 years. He was in his late 40s or early 50s and decided to hit the road after two people close to him died and his partner of 12 years broke up with him. He has had amazing experiences since then, making dear friends, falling in love with German soccer players in Florida, and housitting to make it through the winter off the bike in the north. What I really noticed about him was his sense of calm. There’s a kind of chill that people have been out on the road a while have. I noticed it with Derek and Si in New York as well. Everything slows down when you’re on a bike all day, and being alone traveling that way makes you think of things differently. I’ve noticed in myself as well. I’ll write more about it when I have the feeling figured out a bit more. We shook hands and pedaled out opposite ways. It was great to talk to him.
Rail trails always have a bike shop on them, and it’s great to stop in for some Gatorade and shoot the breeze with bike people. I stopped into this one, and they were not satisfied with my Gatorade purchase it seems, because they kept trying to sell me touring gear. They even tried to push a bike on me. It seemed a little ridiculous given that I told them I’ve been on the road since New York. Not really in the market for any new gear…
The thing about rail trails is they are in various states of completion. I have spent a lot more time on gravel roads then I anticipated, but I’m not complaining. It’s nice to change up the ground under me every once in a while.
Much of the day was spent on roads just like this. Pancake flat with vast expanses of farmland.
What you can’t see is the wind. I was heading directly west much of the day , which is exactly where the wind was coming from. I couldn’t help but think I had to get used to it, because I’ll be pushing against it all the way to Colorado.
Every once in a while the unending farmlands would be disrupted by the interstate.
My reaction to freeways since I left New York has changed a lot. I’ve spent so much time doing the slow work on back roads and trails that highways now frighten me a little bit, and I’m surprised how much. They’re so much louder than you realize in a car, and the speed of traffic is a little overbearing. I’ve come to view them with a weird sort of skepticism.
This one belongs to a “conservation group”. I spent the next mile wondering what guns conserve and came up short.
The farmlands dominated the day, which was simultaneously peaceful and haunting. But every once in a while there would be a burst of landscape excitement, like these power lines:
But the road goes on. And on and on. It becomes hypnotizing in the rural areas, and if you give yourself over to it, the lack of commercialization becomes extremely comforting.
But then urbanism climbs through the sky in the distance. If you look closely you can see downtown Toledo. That’s as close as I came to it.
As the afternoon was wearing thin I approached Perrysburg, where Sue would be hosting me.
Sue seemed like a Warmshowers “power user” which is why I contacted her. I’ve had a lot of unanswered requests since leaving New York. This can get difficult when you have no idea where you’re going to sleep on a given night, so when I feel like staying with someone I’ve developed the eye for hosts that genuinely like hosting travelers. This is Sue in spades, and people like staying with her. Just look at all the happy cyclists who have left their mark on her chalkboard bathroom door:
She was awesome before I even met her. She gave me her garage code and let me relax before she got home from work, and I got to play with her dog Echo. It was my first bit of dog time since leaving Cincinnati and I’m pretty sure Echo was having just as much fun as me.
Sue took me out to a wine tasting with her friends where we talked about my ride and everyone else’s travels. I was beat but it was nice to spend time with people just talking. I don’t get a lot of it anymore, so it was refreshingly foreign in a way. I don’t even like wine that much but it hit the spot after another long day in the saddle. After wine we went for burgers, and Sue covered the whole thing. She is a fantastic Warmshowers host and I was lucky to stay with her.
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My goal the next day was to cross in to Indiana and find a place to sleep in Angola. It felt like it would be a long day from the beginning, and it was. Why? The wind. Wind has such an enormous impact on my cycling that it’s hard to overstate. It can make me gains 20 miles or lose them depending on the direction. On Friday it was pushing against me the whole way.
The day began with a nice stretch on the Wabash Cannonball trail past Toledo. Another day, another rail trail… And that makes for a happy tourist.
The trail had me pushing against the wind as I moved west much of the day, working harder and moving slower. I tried to lock in to a mindful headspace and not get frustrated, and I was mostly successful. I had to take a lot of breaks and it started to seem like Angola would be too far a destination with my energy and sunlight such as they were. I at least wanted to cross into Indiana, though.
The trail went to gravel eventually, as most rail trails do. But that just gave me the opportunity to enjoy more green and bridges. I can’t get enough of it!
I made it into Wauseon a little past lunch time and decided to carb up at Sullivan’s Reataurant with wild rice, pesto linguini, and grilled chicken. My server, Jeri, took quite an interest in my ride as I shoved all this in my face. And then she came out with the bill:
I was beside myself. This was a nice restaurant, and it pushed the daily budget a bit but I don’t pass many restaurants in the rural areas. She said she wanted to give me her employee discount but after the manager heard about what I’m doing they gave me the delicious meal on the house. This generosity Means so much more to me than the people that help me out realize. Not only do I get a full stomach to ride on with, but I also feel warmed by the goodness of people and a humbling gratitude I never would have thought possible before I started this. I can’t thank the workers at Sullivan’s enough.
And then more wind. Lots and lots of it.
The farmland pictures may not look like much but it’s fascinating to see how a uniform landscape has little changes here and there as I move across it. The only way to experience it though is to do it. I’m not really sure how to articulate it just yet.
But the day was wearing thin. I was very tired and Indiana was getting closer, but not soon enough.
20 minutes later I made it to my campsite for the night: