May by the numbers

May was my first month in 2018 with over 1,000 miles. I rode 1,250 miles, 696 during the last 10 days on my bike tour. My longest ride was 79 miles from Hancock to Frostburg Maryland. I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t break 80 miles all month.

I rode in six states and DC.

For the year I’ve ridden 3,993.5 miles. Despite the tour, The Mule has less mileage (889) than either Little Nellie (973) or my Cross Check (1,850).

June’s gonna be a beast.

Any Road Tour: Day 10 -Failure to camp (again)

Xenia Ohio is famous for being obliterated by tornados about 45 years ago. I was in no rush to stock around for any repeat performances.

Dinner was the all you can eat salad and soup bar at the local restaurant next door. I feel bad for these people. I should announce something Hulk-like like: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.”

I watched the hockey game last night and managed to stay up for the entire contest. Yay Caps!

This morning I intended to repeat my hooverization of the morning free hotel breakfast but it was sadly subpar food. Stale Cheerios can really mess with your whole meal. However, I persisted. Oink.

I was soon back on the rail trail heading for my planned destination, Richmond Indiana. Today’s tail trail featured my first snapping turtle of the trip.

There was also this attractive building on the trail.

In Dayton I left the trail to check out the Wright Brothers Museum. I watched a film and thought about how great things come from obscure places like Dayton and Liverpool and a garage in Palo Alto. They were complete self-taught nerds who risked everything to solve a series of massive physics problem. Most of the buildings they occupied are long gone but you can get a sense of their little corner of the world at the turn of the 20th century from some of what remains.

Here’s a statue of Wilber on the sight of his last workshop. Note that even the greatest people in history end up with bird poop on their heads.

Next to the Museum was the site of the Wright Brothers bicycle shop. The bikes on display look remarkably similar to modern bikes.

I’ve been seeing goslings all along the way but today I saw my first babies. So cute, but camera shy.

I managed to tear the transparent plastic on my map case so I stopped at a post office to fix it with some packing tape. The window clerk also told me where the local eateries were. I stopped in Bob’s next to the trail for the buffet.

About 90 percent on the patrons were way older than me. Everything moved so slowly. I had soup and salad and dessert for $10 because that’s what every meal costs on this trip for some reason. Riding a bike this far makes me crave veggies.

I’ve been meaning to include some corn in this blog so today I’ll get that out of the way.

After Brookville my route took me in roads. There are very few cars to deal with so it’s nearly as peaceful but without any shade. I also had to contend with strong headwinds as the day wore on. I suppose it’s good practice for North Dakota, but ten miles of frustration was plenty. It wasn’t all bad. This covered bridge was pretty cool.

As I neared the Ohio-Indiana state line I thought my readers would like to know the score. It’s Columbus 88, Indianapolis 82.

Not long after taking this picture the sky started to darken. Ominous black clouds loomed. I saw that my maps were taking me on a meandering route to Richmond. I called an audible and turned around. The headwind became a tailwind as I made my way to a highway that went straight into Richmond. Zoom!

It started to rain. The sky was black. I kept slogging along, scanning the roadside for an emergency shelter. Porches, barns, extended waves.

I looked up and saw signs for hotels and restaurants and made a beeline for them. I had intended to camp but this storm was scary looking. I checked into a motel as the skies opened.

Any Road Tour mileage today: 62.5

Total tour mileage: 696.

The headwind made it a tough day but I’m still on schedule.

Any Road Tour: Day 9 – Rail riding on the pool table

The hostel upgraded me to a private room last night. This is either because I am a nice guy or I smelled too bad to be put in a group room.

I walked to dinner, choosing a Mexican place about a mile away. I had an avocado burrito. It made my tummy happy.

Before sleeping I did a bunch of exercises to loosen up my back. My leg muscles were really tight so they got some stretching love too.

I fell asleep on top of the bed never actually getting under the covers, yet another sign that I am pushing my body a little too hard.

I was proud of myself for remembering that today is Wednesday. So I wore my WABA socks with pride.

After breakfast in the hostel, I headed out town the Olentangy Trail. This took me past Ohio State University and it’s enormous football stadium.

I made several wrong turns because the wayfaring signs need some work. I passed another bicycle tourist who was trying to find his way to Cincinnati. I said I had no idea. I later learned that my route was probably what he was looking for.

The Olentangy Trail led me to the Camp Chase Trail which led me to the Roberts Pass Trail which led me to the Prairie Grass Trail. Basically 90 percent of my riding was car free – except for the pick up truck that nearly t-boned me at a crossing. (My bad. I was trancing.)

The breeze was pushing me a bit but as the day went on it became a cross wind. Fortunately most of the nearly 30 miles of the Prairie Grass Trail was lined with vegetation that provided me with some protection.

After noon, the heat, humidity, wind, and clouds began to increase. I decided that pushing beyond Xenia OH might be tempting fate so I checked into a hotel.

It did in fact rain about 30 minutes later so I probably made the right call.

Indiana tomorrow.

Today’s mileage: 63

Tour mileage: 633

Any Road Tour: Day 8 – Hello Columbus, you sure are hot

After a sumptuous dinner at the Steak and Shake next door to the hotel, I turned on the hockey game. I made it through two periods. When I awoke the TV was on and the hockey game was long over. I guess I was a little tired.

I hoovered the hotel breakfast bar then hit the road. The first six miles had a few hills but nothing like the last few days. I also had a light tailwind and for a few hours tolerable heat and humidity.

What was especially nice was to crank it up to 15 miles per hour for a few stretches.

Fourteen somewhat rural miles later I turned in the Panhandle Trail. It was my second Panhandle Trail if the trip. Is this s Midwest thing?

I stopped to chat with two day riders, retirees out for their morning constitutional. Then I ride down the shady trail trying not to hit every tree root bump.

A few miles later I came upon the world’s largest (and maybe only) basket building.

Proof of aliens among us. (It was the headquarters of the Longenburger Basket Company before they bit the financial dust.

The trail took me to Newark, a county seat with one of Ohio’s impressive county courthouses.

I stopped for mocha java and a sandwich just like the randos!

Right after Newark I picked up the TJ Evans Trail. This trail had quite a few locals on it. It was shaded but I could tell it was heating up because the Holstein cows were clustering in the shade.

They reminded me of WABA’s Laura Miller.

Because she has a cycling jersey with this pattern in it.

Much of my day was spent on U.S. Bicycle Route 50. This is a signed route just like U.S. 50 but only greener.

As a native Albanian I had low expectations for the town of New Albany. Dang if it wasn’t nice. Tastefully posh with lush lawns and not-gigantic houses.

The route took me in a round about way to Hoover Dam. It was okay as dams go but rather smaller than its big sibling out west.

Westerville was comfortably upscale and Worthington less so.

I was starving so I stopped at a Dairy Queen conveniently located on my route. There I made a reservation for a hostel in Columbus, about 8 miles away.

To get there I rode the Olentangy Trail, quite a nice bit of urban infrastructure, except for the noisy highway next to it.

Back on city streets I closed in on the hostel but was sucked in by the air conditioning powered tractor beam of a McDonalds. All you can drink for $1 totally works for me. (Yeah, I had a burger with fries too.)

As I dismounted The Mule at the hostel it felt like the ground was swaying. The heat and humidity had really cooked my brain. Good thing I quit when I did.

I had to disassemble TheMule’s load to get into the hostel. I am awaiting the arrival of the owner. I can’t wait to get cleaned up so I can pass out from exhaustion.

Today’s miles: 76.5

Total tour miles: 570.5

Any Road Tour: Day 7 – I bought my bike anchor at REI

After pigging our at the hotel’s breakfast, I hit the road late, around 8:15. I still had a bit more of a hill to climb. This was good because it warmed me up for the 4,000 hills to come. Eastern Ohio is a topographical roller coaster. The hills are shorter than yesterday which allows for a bit of hill hopping, riding hell for leather down one hill to zoom up the next one. This works a whole lot better when your bike isn’t a tank though.

My bike is a tank naked but add four panniers and camping gear and you’ve got one weighty beast. This being day 7 you might be wondering why is he carrying the tent, a heavy 2-person tent I might add, and all that camping stuff.

Because I’m an idiot, that’s why.

The truth is I want the option of camping when indoor accommodations are not easy to come by. I think the tent will become more useful in the weeks ahead. When the terrain is level. Life’s not fair then you die.

I was thinking a lot about death today as the temperature rose into the low 90s (Celsius). There were so many hills that I had to find a way to keep from completely blowing up on them. I started to pre-breath like a free diver to get as much oxygen into my system and to expand my lungs. Also, once I dropped into my granny gear, I’d just put my head down and focus on the road just s few feet beyond my front wheel. This kept me from being mentally defeated by seeing the top of the climb way…up…there.

So I didn’t take too many pictures.

There were many descents at over 30 miles per hour. The Mule can rumble!

After Barnesville I missed a turn and had a nice hilly, mile-long tour of the countryside.

This made me paranoid about missing more turns so I stopped often to get my bearings. And ice cream. And water. My hematologist warmed me not to get dehydrated. So I made sure to carry extra water. At a gas station I had lunch: PB&J, chips, a big cookie, and a Diet Pepsi that was so big I had difficulty holding the cup. I am not making this up. Ohioans must have amazing bladders.

The Mule had so much water I thought of renaming him The Camel, The Mule was not amused.

At 1 or 1:30 I came to my planned stopping point at a campground near Senecaville.

It was too early to quit and I’d only ridden 50 miles so I decided to continue on for another 30 miles to Zanesville.

Did I mention it was hilly? Did I mention it was hot? Did I forget to mention that there was absolutely no shade on the god damned road?

Fug me.

The elevation profile on my maps seemed inaccurate. I should have notice that the scale had been compressed from yesterday. I stared at the elevation profile. Just 5 more hills to go!

I was on a road that had tar on the surface. The tar was liquefying in the heat. Every so often my back wheel would slide in the stuff. And the road also featured curious patches of gravel. Gravel on a descent can ruin your whole day.

Then the terrain stopped matching the profile. I came to a highway. Oops. I had missed another turn someplace.

Fortunately the highway was US 40, the National Toad that goes right through Zanesville. Highway 40 had very little traffic, a wide shoulder, and smooth pavement. There were hills but they were gradual.

After seeing a recently painted Mail Pouch tobacco sign, I rode down the hill into downtown Zanesville. Let’s just say Petula Clark would never sing about this downtown.

I searched the local hotels until I found a decent one near food, a burger and milk shake establishment.

Heaven. I’m in heaven.,.

The detours pushed my mileage to 84 for the day, easing the tour total to 494. Not bad for a week’s work.

Any Road Tour: Day 6 – Of Lungs and Loving Kindness

Last night I spent the evening reminiscing with my old friends Earl and Anne. We worked together while going to college so we’ve known each other over 40 years. Somehow Anne looks 35. They must have wayback machine in their basement.

After acquiring chamois cream and a belt for me, we ate dinner at a Mexican place called Mad Mex in Shadyside. I had my first beers in over 5 months. And the waitress looked like Brandi Carlile (even before the beers).

Earl took us on a magical mystery tour of his hometown. Pittsburgh was once thick with ultra rich industrialists and financiers. The remnants of their wealth are all over the place. After a few decades of rebooting to a health care and tech economy the joint is jumping once again.

After they dropped me off I stayed up for a while talking with people at the hostel. I slept well and woke up to more coffee chatter with Paul, one of the owners. The Southside Traveler’s Rest turned out to be a terrific find. Paul and his wife Mary Beth are anxious to build their bike tourist clientele. I think once word gets out they’ll be wondering where to put all the grungy bike people.

I lingered linger than usual and hit the road about 8. I started following the Adventure Cycling New York to Chicago route. A brief ride near the river turned into a serious climb away from the city. As I ascended I was passed by club riders out for their weekend spin. I figured if they’re riding it, it can’t be that bad. It wasn’t. I never was wanting for a breath. After some rolling miles on the roads I picked up the Panhandle Trail. The first 7 miles were unpaved and bumpy, but in Washington County PA it became paved which helped with the gradual uphill.

After a crest the trail began a gentle downhill slope. It felt pretty darn good. I stopped at a trailside cafe in Burgettstown. The owner said that if I wanted a proper breakfast I should go to Walden’s restaurant next store. It was hard to walk away from the awesome blueberry muffins on display but I needed calories big time.

At Walden’s I ordered a kind of hash that they included home fries, mushrooms, ham, bacon, sausage, and veggies with sausage gravy on top. Sooo perfect. All of it washed down with several cups of coffee. As I was eating a woman sat down and asked me where I was biking from and to. When I told her she said “Your meal is free.” Walden’s has a policy of feeding long distance bike tourists on the House. I had stumbled upon some amazing trail angels.

She handed me a guest book and asked me to write a note about the trip, which I did. I thanked her and the owners who were sitting across the room. In the rest room I saw this notice on the wall.

I’ll bet they get plenty of donations from bike tourists (and their blog readers).

The trail took me downhill for about 8 miles then, after getting briefly disoriented, I got the roads to climb over the mother of all hills. The climb was about 500 feet in a mile. It took everything I had to get over that beast, but I am happy to report that my lungs held up fine.

The downhill was great fun. So much fun that I missed a turn and had to back track a bit to finished the descent to the bank of the Ohio River.

After riding WV 2, a bit so busy highway, for a few miles I stopped for lunch at a scuzzy Dairy Queen. I switched over to the Yanked Trail (despite it being against my religion) and the Wheeling Heritage Trail, both of which were and improvement over the highway. Views of the Ohio kept my spirits up. This is s dam with a lift lock for boats.

Once in Wheeling I took the lay of the land. Wheeling is one beat down place. The only hotel downtown has a reputation as less than wonderful (one bike tourist disliked it so much he left and back tracked 8 miles over a mountain).

I was feeling fine after about 70 miles so I decided to go off route and climb US 40, the National Road, to a hotel in St Clairsville Ohio. I had done this climb on Big Nellie during my 2005 tour to Indiana. It was brutal then and it lived up to my memory of it.

Did I mention the temperature had risen to 86 degrees? Big fun.

I put my head down and did the deed. It wasn’t as hard as the climb to the river but you could have put a fork in me at the top because I was DONE.

The first hotel I came to was a Comfort Inn. Yeah babee.

I am a few miles off route and about 10 further west than I planned. The worst of the climbing is behind me.

Total miles for the day: 77.5

Total mikes got the tour: 410

Oh, and about a mile into the ride the odometer on The Mule hit 46,000 miles. Dang.

Any Road Tour: Day 5 – GAP-ing to the Burg

I slept poorly in the Adirondack shelter in Connelsville. (Still haven’t used my tent!) I neglected to fully inflate my sleeping pad, a mistake I won’t repeat. I awoke with the sun and resisted the urge to start riding. I lingered over a fine breakfast of two slices of left over pizza then I hit the trail.

The trail is still pretty dreamy north of Connelsville. I set a goal for the town of West Newton for proper second breakfast. I was running on fumes when I began a search for food. I found an eatery, the only one open for breakfast, across the river in town. I ate an appalling amount of food and drank at least six cups of coffee.

Stuffed and buzzed is how you do a bike tour, my friends.

Pedal, pedal.

There have been purple wildflowers along the trail. Anyone know what they are?

The trail passes through several small towns like this.

One of them had an ice cream place. Two scoops please!

Pedal, pedal.

I stopped to address a comfort issue with some chamois cream. It helped. It also afforded me the opportunity to take a picture of one of the scores of little waterfalls along the trail.

About 20 miles from Pittsburgh the trail loses its rural vibe altogether and acquires pavement. My speed increased noticeably. In McKeesport I missed a turn but a dead end at a bus depot set me right.

There are actual hills in this section of the trail. How dare they?

And there are bridges over the river and train tracks.

The trail was busy with weekenders some of whom failed to appreciate the fact that a loaded touring bike doesn’t maneuver or stop particularly well. Despite being pretty tired, I made it to the hostel without uttering a single f bomb.

Today was an easy day of sorts: 60 miles. All told I’ve ridden 332 miles. Tomorrow I plan to ride to beautiful Wheeling West Virginia. Probably in the rain.


Any Road Tour: Day 4 – GAP Bliss

My host at the bunkhouse brought Ugg’s me food from town. Town is up a steep hill so this was very kind.

I left a little after 7, zooming down to the GAP trail for the slog up to the eastern continental divide. The shade of the trees kept me nice and cool as I ground my way up.

Every time I looked up I saw another WOW! This area is just indescribably beautiful.

Also my the ride a herd (?) of white tailed deer crossed in front of me. They just kept jumping out of the trail side bushes.

Later I rolled through a bunch of wild turkeys. They just bobbled about mindlessly. It cracked me up.

The downhill didn’t seem so forgiving on an empty stomach so I stooped for mega lunch in Rockwood.

The gut bomb worked. After a half hour my body woke up and I started enjoying things. The scenery changed every few miles with a river making relaxing music through the trees.

In Ohiopyle State Park the trail becomes so shaded it’s almost dark. A tunnel of green shade, small waterfalls, river sounds, and chipmunks. Ahhh.

In Ohiopyle town I finally acquired the elusive Fiber Fix spoke. And recharged my belly bank with a double dip ice cream cone. This powered me to my destination for the night in Connelsville. I am staying in an Adirondack hut but in a city park. Note to Kevin U. the huts now have anchors for hammocks.

A local hotel provides showers for campers for $10. So I rode over to clean up.

And just in case you thought I was kidding about what a nice day for riding this was. Here are a few more pictures.

If you ride a bike and live anywhere near the GAP Trail, ride it. But not in November (Michele!).

Total miles today: 76.5. So far: 282.5.

I am eating pizza and French fries for dinner. Don’t judge.

Any Road Tour: Day 3 – Critters and Mud

After a perfectly inadequate Motel 6 free breakfast (worth every penny) I rolled to a gas station to buy some snacks and backup water for today’s trek. The goal was Hancock to Cumberland, the western end of the C&O Canal.

The first 12 miles were on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. Clipping along at 12 miles per hour in the cool of the Mountain morning. Wheee!

I saw deer and bunnies in abundance. Then I was startled to see a possum run across the trail in front of me. She had a baby possum on her back. Cool!

I came to a construction zone. They are extending the rail trail. I can’t wait to ride it. I cut over yo the towpath. The towpath is bumpy going on a good day but intermittent patches of mud made the next 48 miles really difficult. For the most part the mud was not deep enough to grab my front wheel. I think having loaded front panniers down low helped stabilize the bike.

Deer and bunnies and squirrels and turtles and bull frogs and snakes (including a long light brown one) and exotic sounding invisible creatures made for entertaining companions. I came upon a family of geese with several pre-fledging goslings. One of the adults rushed strait at me with its mouth open, flapping its wings. Okay, okay. Just passing through, dude. Chill already.

I stopped at Fifteen Mike campground and talked to a camper as bugs swarmed around us. He was quite a chatterbox. 70 years old but he looked far fitter than me. He advised me that mud was in my future.

He told me how to find Bill’s Place, a canal landmark that I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately it was closed so I’ll just have to ride back to check it out someday.

I talked with a group of seniors who were being dropped off to ride the canal. 0ne was on an e-bike. I paid it forward by giving them info on the towpath section I had just ridden.

I took a bio break. You can tell you are near DC when you find a book about French history in a porta potty.

As I approached the Paw Paw tunnel the mud became a quagmire. I was lucky that the edge of the towpath was covered in a carpet of leaves, perfect for walking my bike through the muck.

The tunnel has a very rough trail surface. I walked it and was glad I did. It seemed to take hours with my claustrophobia increasing with each step.

I think the prettiest section of the canal is west of the tunnel.

They told me of a cafeteria in a closed school in a place called Oldtown. I stopped there for lunch before slogging on through more and more mud.

Miles and miles of the stuff was wearing my old ass out. Each time I hit a muddy spot I’d tense up and my back would ache as it tried to keep the rubber side down. I considered taking a nearby road just to get out of the stuff. I was stopping every ten minutes to clear mud from under my fenders.

I arrived in Cumberland and a passerby took my picture.

I really should pull my pants up higher for the full geezer in a bike look, don’t you think?

I went into a bike shop to buy a Fiber Fix spoke, a gizmo that will allow me to replace a broke spike without tools. They were out of stock. They advised me not to break a spoke. Yeah well…

I used there hose to spray all the mud off The Mule. Afterward I ran into a couple who were doing a big loop bike tour: Albany to Erie to Cumberland to DC to Albany. John and Sara (I think. My fusiform gurus is on the blink again) and I talked for a good twenty minutes as we snarfed down goodies at a sandwich shop,

They headed off down the canal to find a camping spot. Happy mudding, y’all!

I tried to get a bed or room in a Cumberland hostel. It they were booked. The YMCA in town puts people up for cheap but it was apparently under siege by derelicts. I checked the Ramada but they wanted $110 and that’s not in my budget. So I headed 16 miles up the gravel GAP trail to Frostburg where I got a bed in a bunkhouse.

I’m the only one here so it’s not bad at all. I have a bed, shower, TV, and laundry.

All the muck and the gravelly uphill really wore me out. I was on the trails for 12 hours.

Bottom line: 79 miles (Tour total 206). I’m 16 miles further along than I planned. Tomorrow I ride 5 or so miles to go over the Eastern Continental Divide then downhill for the rest of the day. Zoom!

Any Road Tour: Day 2 – Ridges and a Desert Rose

Last night my left arm and knee were screaming at me. I took some ibuprofen PM to knock me out. It killed the pain but even with drugs I was too pooped to sleep.

The hotel breakfast was later than lame. Bad coffee, OJ, toast, and Rice Krispies. It would have to do.

Everything was packaged in plastic. So depressing after reading this:

After a brief tour of charming Frederick, I turned west on US 40 and began to climb into a headwind. For about an hour I went up Catoctin Mountain, in my granny gear. I thought I’d descend to a valley but after a 1 minute screaming downhill I was climbing again. Up and down over and over again. Will this ever end? I mean how far could Rice Krispies and last night’s gas station food take me?

As it turned out I had one minute more climb to go. I saw the sign for the Appalachian Trail and I knew I was creating South Mountain.

The downhill was glorious. A few more inconsequential rollers later I was in Hagerstown.

The hills were about as bad as I expected but my granny served me well. Not once did I run out of breath. Knee cartilage is another story altogether.

The Google showed me the way and I found US 11, a highway that follows the Cumberland Valley to Williamsport on the C&O Canal.

I stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe for food and karma. Ryan, Kevin, and I ate here on the No Wrong Plan Tour from Pittsburgh to DC two years ago. Good food. Nice people.

As it turns out, Rose does some shuttling of people around washed out areas of the canal. Good to know.

Rose told me the towpath was in good shape but I decided I wanted to try my luck on the roads. I stupidly expected level ground but got more granny worthy hills. The scenery was pretty epic but I found this stone farm most interesting.

I forged ahead and stopped to admire this roadside tribute to one Lancelot Jacques, maybe the best name ever.

I finally bailed out at Fort Frederick. Lots of stone here as well.

I didn’t stay because a towpath inspection awaited. Thankfully it looks to be in great shape.

I diverted to the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail and cruised the last ten gloriously level miles into Hancock.

I had planned to stay in the bunkhouse at the bike shop in town but it looks almost as rustic as camping.

With all the rain, the thought of camping near the river isn’t floating big my boat so I decided to check into a Super 8 motel just uphill from town. ($60 plus breakfast and a Nats game on TV. Also they have bike cleaning rags that I put to good use on my chain.)

The AC seems not to be cooperating. I probably won’t need it overnight though.

So for today 58 1/2 mostly very hilly miles. Total mileage so far is 127.

I am beginning to wonder why I am carrying all this camping crap. I’m sure I’ll get around to using it.

I am pleased with my progress. And with the prospect of a dry towpath to Cumberland in the morning.