Off to a … start
Well, I’m out the door, officially 91 miles away from where I started. I left from Avon lake heading west along the lake, a path that I’ve become well accustomed to riding with my dad. What a difference riding with a full set of bags makes! I immediately regret packing so much junk. I spent the first hour or so messing with my helmet mirror trying to get it adjusted just so that I could always see the lane immediately behind me. Apparently, that’s not really possible, you have to tilt your head the slightest bit in order to get the right angle. What I really should have been worrying about is looming rainclouds overhead; by 2 o’clock it was pouring pretty solidly. The rain didn’t last long, but left a layer of wetness on everything that just seemed to make the riding that much more miserable. As I headed south on route 58, I ran into a strange looking building that was the Lorain County Tourist Information Center. They directed me to the Findley State Park in Wellington and advised using a series of backroads to get there. There route was actually pretty solid, I don’t think I saw more than a dozen cars the rest of the way to the campground.
By the time I got to Findley, I was too exhausted to attempt to haggle the $22 camping fee, so I took up a full spot for my 1-person tent and set myself up. The place was set up more for car and RV camping, so amenities were nice! The station where you check in had all sorts of canned foods stocked for purchase, each campsite had it’s on pre-set fire pit. There were bathrooms with running water and showers with hot water. They even had a laundry room. I guess you get what you pay for. Frankly, all I was looking for was a spot on the ground to sleep. After setting up my tent, I checked the state of my bike to evaluate its condition. First off, the bike GPS/computer had been mounted upside down. Ok, I noticed that waaaaay before this, but it’s more convenient to mention it now. Secondly, I noticed the fender was off center. That was fine, but then I realized that was because the bolt holding the fender and rack to the bike above the rear dropouts was missing. I had ridden 45 miles with only 3/4 of the rack bolts in place. After a slight panic, I realized in the smörgåsbord or junk I had packed in my bags, was a set of replacement parts for my panniers. I was able to find a replacement bolt and put it back in place. Let’s hope it holds… Slightly more disconcerting is that when I went to lock up my bike I realized I had left my keys at home! I had been carrying a 5 pound piece of junk which did nothing to secure my bike. However, lucky for me, some time way back I had thought of this possibility and had secretly placed a replacement key in my seatbag. Thus, I was not entirely SOL. Everything else seemed to hold up alright. All my camping gear, mostly borrowed from my father, held up great, I was far more comfortable than I expected. This did nothing for the birds squawking overhead, but at least I was dry, warm, and relatively comfortable.
Rolling hills and sunshine were the name of the game for the second day. I had picked up a county backroad which I followed for a good 10 miles. The backroads are perfect in that there are literally 0 cars on the road for miles and miles. The only downsides are that the roads themselves are generally shit. But when you’ve got the entire road to yourself, you can generally find a narrow slit of concrete that is not a pothole to squeeze through.
I stopped for lunch at a little diner shortly after I switched from the county roads to state routes. I figured that the reason I was only able to ride for 4 hours the day previous before getting exhausted was because I didn’t stop to eat and rest and keep moving. So I made a point to chow down and take some time before getting back on the road. Well, eating a half pound of beef in burger form is probably not the best advisement. My stomach was cramping up for the next hour or so, resulting in many stops along the way. Rolling hills turned into rolling-goddamnit-this-is-fucking-steep-i-wish-i-had-more-gears hills as I started climbing 9% hills in my granny gear while getting passed by semi trucks. There was no rain, but I really wished there had been. It was about 86 degrees without any shade.
The problem with riding through the country is that there is literally nothing in the country. Somehow I thought that there would be random coffee shops with internet and hotels scattered across should I run into trouble finding a campground. I pretty much rode myself into the ground getting into Mohicanville, thinking that there would be something there, but in reality it was maybe half a dozen houses and a church. That was it. I had to flag down a resident named Rodney to find the closest place to stay or camp. He delivered the bad news that the closest place was about 10 miles up the road in Loudonville. Looking at the hill in front of me, I knew that simply wasn’t going to happen. Rodney offered to give me a ride out to a motel in Loudonville, from which I am currently writing from. In hindsight, he probably could have dropped me off just up the road at a campground, which would have been a hell of a lot cheaper, but it ended up storming outside that night, so at least I got my money’s worth from the lodging.
I’m going to have to re-think my route planning to include more campgrounds along the way. I originally thought I travel between 60-80 miles a day, but I’m quickly finding that I only have the endurance to ride for 3-4 hours, resulting in about half that distance. I’ve ridden centuries before, and although I’m hauling more weight, it feels about the same because I’m going much slower. I’m hoping that as time goes on, I’ll be able to go further, but right now I just don’t have it in me to put in 6-8 hours a day. I’m expecting two days until Columbus.