Sunday, November 1, 2015

Trip Report: My bike tour on the Ohio to Erie Trail

At the end of September and beginning of October, I (Kevin) found myself with some free time to do an item on my bicycling bucket list, riding from Cincinnati to Cleveland on the Ohio to Erie Trail.

The Ohio to Erie Trail (www.ohiotoerietrail.org) is not a trail, per se, but a collection of trails and on-road routes that provide a bicycle touring route that connects the three "big C's" of Ohio (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland). About 80% of the 350-mile route is on dedicated bike paths, with the rest on public roads.

I wouldn't be camping during my trip, so I was able to pack pretty light; just a couple days' worth of clothing and the usual tools and spare parts. You can read the details about what I packed in this post on my personal bike blog:

Gear List: Credit-card Bikepacking the Ohio to Erie Trail

My trip began the morning of Sunday, September 27 when my brother arrived in his mini-van to haul my bike and myself down to Cincinnati. I made a few adjustments to my bike and what I packed that morning, based on the weaterh forecast as well as some bike issues.

My brother and I stopped for lunch outside Columbus, then he dropped me off at BioWheels bike shop in Cincinnati. BioWheels is where Austin (who used to work with us in Peninsula) now spends his working weekends, and he agreed to let me crash at his place for the night.
With my lightly loaded Salsa Fargo bike at BioWheels in Cincinnati
You can read more about the trip down to Cincinnati here:

Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Prologue


Day 1: Monday, September 28, 2015

Austin actually lives in the small village of North Bend, almost 20 miles down-river from downtown Cincinnati. The main road connecting North Bend with Cincinnati is busy 4-lane US Route 50. I had about a 2-mile stretch on this road before I detoured on some quiet back roads, then another 2-mile stretch just before I reached the city.

I stopped in town for some breakfast, then found Yeatman's Cove Park, the official start of the Ohio to Erie Trail on the shores of the Ohio River.
Following the route out of downtown Cincinnati was actually much easier than I expected, and one of the most pleasant surprises of the whole trip. Making a right turn out of Yeatman's Cove Park, you see signs for the Ohio to Erie Trail route right away, and they're not hard at all to find and follow. There was also much more bike path than I expected. The route winds through some neighborhoods and parks on the shore of the river, then past the Lukens municipal airport. Eventually, I would up back on US Route 50 through a couple of busy neighborhoods and strip mall zones, but I found all of the drivers to be courteous and respectful.

Finally, I got to the Little Miami Scenic Trail, a paved rail-trail that makes up a large part of the Ohio to Erie Trail's southern end. I hopped on the trail a few miles south of the town of Milford. At Milford, I looked around town a bit (including the local bike shop and a new outdoor store), then continued on my way.
My lunch stop for the day was the town of Loveland, and nice trail town with several restaurants and a bike shop right on the trail. Later on, I came to a closed section of the trail, but using Google Maps on my smartphone made it easy to navigate up out of the river valley to detour around. Just after I got back on the trail, I got a flat tire, but I had everything I needed to get the inner tube replaced and get rolling.

My day ended in the town of Waynesville, and was my only paid night's stay for the week, at the Creekwood Motel on the edge of town. There are a few local restaurants to pick from in Waynesville, plus a plethora of antique shops. Mileage for the day was almost 81; more details of the day at:

Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 1 – North Bend to Cincinnati to Waynesville


Day 2 - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I got some breakfast at the local diner in Waynesville, and continued on the trail. There was a light rain falling as I got started. The Little Miami Scenic Trail goes all the way to Xenia, the hub of southwest Ohio's bicycle network, where five trails all meet at the Xenia Station.
I took a break and refilled my water bottles. It was a little confusing at first finding where the route continued, but soon I was on the Prairie Grass Trail, which goes through Cedarville, South Charleston, and ends in London, all of which provide a range of food and lodging options for bike travelers.

In South Charleston, I came across another group on a bike tour.

They were doing a supported loop around southwest Ohio to raise money to build an orphanage in Ukraine. You can read about their organization here: endscycling.com

The rain continued and got a little worse as the day went on. I got some lunch in London, and as you make your way through this town, the route continues on the Roberts Pass Trail, which later becomes the Camp Chase Trail.
On the Camp Chase Trail - a reminder of the journey still ahead of me
At the end of the Camp Chase Trail at Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park outside Columbus, I detoured from the Ohio to Erie Trail route to make my way down to the Grove City area, where I'd be staying with relatives for the night. The rain got even harder, and there were some very narrow, busy state roads on my custom route, but I made it in one piece, cold and soaking wet.

Mileage for the day was 68; more details at:
Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 2 – Waynesville to Lockbourne


Day 3 - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I made my way back to the Ohio to Erie Trail starting with an easy 10 miles on some local roads that weren't nearly as busy as the final miles the day before. Then, I got on the Alum Creek Trail, which winds it way up the east side of Columbus. In Westerville, I re-joined the Ohio to Erie Trail Route, which continues on the Westerville Bikeway.
This trail leads you through and around the shopping plazas on Polaris Parkway, then becomes the Genoa Trail heading straight north to just outside the village of Galena. From Galena, the route follows roads through Sunbury (a few food options), the village of Hartford (very few services), then Centerburg. The terrain is flat to sometime rolling farmland, which wouldn't have been too bad were it not for the almost-constant headwinds.

I stopped in Centerburg, very hungry, wishing I had stopped for lunch back in Westerville. I grabbed a quick lunch at the local Subway, then got on the Heart of Ohio Trail just a couple blocks from downtown.
The Heart of Ohio Trail connects to Mount Vernon. Just before Mount Vernon, don't miss the climb up the Rastin Observation Tower!

On the other side of Mount Vernon, the route continues on the Kokosing Gap Trail, which goes through the city of Gambier.

This picturesque bridge marks the village of Howard, my destination for the day.
Mileage was about 76-1/2. I slept in a small "biker cabin" recently built by two local residents and supporters of the trail. There was no heat or electricity, but it was cozy and comfortable.
More day 3 details:
Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 3 – Lockbourne to Howard


Day 4 - Thursday, October 1, 2015

It was back on the Kokosing Gap Trail from Howard to Danville. Cutting through a few local streets in Danville, the Ohio to Erie Trail route continues on the Mohican Valley Trail.
This trail goes through the Bridge of Dreams, the longest covered bridge in Ohio.
Just ahead, I had my second-most confusing navigation issue. I came to this sign next to the trail:
If you're doing the route, don't worry; just do what the sign says--turn left off the trail, cut through the grass, and follow that back road for a short stretch. Then, you turn left on State Route 62.

Route 62 is busy, narrow, and has a lot of truck traffic and some rolling hills. Fortunately, it only lasts about 3 mile before the route detours onto some smaller back roads. This area is beautiful Amish farm country, but it also means steeper hills. This day, it also meant more headwinds. I pushed on through until the town of Killbuck, where the route gets back to bike trail, the Holmes County Trail.
The Holmes County Trail takes you through Millersburg, then to Fredericksburg. I stopped for a sandwich at a local market, then hit the roads again for more farm country, rolling hills, and wind. Finally reaching the town of Dalton, I got on the Sippo Valley Trail.
This trail goes for about 10 miles east right into Massillon, where the route meets up with our very own Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
It felt good to be back on "home turf," and I only had a few miles to go to get to my destination for the day, Canal Fulton, where I'd be staying in a camper offered by my hosts I met through Warm Showers.

Mileage for the day was almost 79. I got some dinner in town, and of course, no visit to Canal Fulton is complete without a stop at the Cherry Street Creamery for dessert.

Day 4 details:
Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 4 – Howard to Canal Fulton


Day 5 - Friday, October 2, 2015

After pancakes in Canal Fulton, it was back on the Towpath, and I was joined by Ray, one of my hosts.
We rode the Towpath Trail together until downtown Akron. I noticed another new do-it-yourself bike repair station in Akron, right on the Towpath near the Richard Howe House.
After getting a photo of me with the Akron skyline, Ray and I said our thanks and goodbyes. He headed back home to Canal Fulton, and I continued north.
It was good to see more familiar sights along the Towpath Trail.
The Beaver Marsh in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
I reached Peninsula and stopped in the store to say Hi to the gang. I was happy to officially earn my spot in the Century Cycles Bicycle Touring Photo Gallery as an actual bike-touring visitor!
I fueled up on donuts and cinnamon rolls in the shop, and hit the trail again. I got another flat tire about a half-mile past Boston Mills, but got it fixed up with no problem.

The wind was worse than ever today, and got worse and worse the closer I got to Lake Erie. Reaching the end of the Towpath, I made my way through Tremont and Ohio City, stopping on Abbey Avenue for my best view of downtown Cleveland.
The Ohio to Erie Trail has two official finish points in Cleveland. For those who want to end downtown, you can go to Voinovich Park, which is at the end of E. 9th Street behind the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I chose to go instead to Edgewater Park, which is included as a finish for those who like to dip their tires in the waters at their start and end points (although I didn't do that).

I rode west on Lorain Avenue to W. 45th Street, then west on Detroit Road to W. 65th Street, taking the tunnel connection to Edgewater Park. I asked a kind stranger to get a photo of my official finish.
Mileage for the day was 61, and total mileage for the entire trip was 365.

The wind was howling, going straight from east to west. There were surfers on the lake, something that's only possible a handful of days out of the year. Go to my final complete report to see a video of the windy shoreline:
Ohio to Erie Trail Tour: Day 5 – Canal Fulton to Cleveland

If you're a novice to bicycle touring, I'd recommend the Ohio to Erie Trail as a good beginner-friendly trip to see how you like it. You don't have to camp, and you don't have to ride the whole route; you can pick two or three days. The route is mostly easy to follow, and there are plenty of easy-to-find options for food and lodging along the way.

I had a very enjoyable trip. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way!

Go to www.ohiotoeerietrail.org for more details, including links to order your own maps!

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