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Ashtabula County Hospitality — adventure continues

It was dark but the cars were beginning to be more sparse. One will remember that peddling along the road in America at night is very dangerous because drivers will hit you and kill you without even thinking. However, out in the land, out there, past the great cities, there is much space, and I had that huge vast emptiness of the lonesome night, and out there, there is safety.

I remember walking up a hill in the dark, knowing that the Ohio border was coming up soon. I plugged my phone into an outlet under a business sign along the road. The first town in Ohio was called Conneaut. I was all alone out there walking my bike up the hills, trying to take it easy. I had so far to go. My ultimate goal was to cross the entire continent. I had the goal of getting to either Yellowstone or Glacier National. Those two places represented pure American adventure in my mind. My short term goal was Cleveland. “I must make it to Cleveland!”

When Americans went into “Lockdown” I freaked out. The government was saying,” everybody stay at home!”

Stay at home? WTF!

Obviously, I would never want to put anybody at risk of catching the virus, but at the same time, I wondered about constitutional freedom. In America, we are free to do what we want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.

I was dying to know what other people thought about the situation, other Americans, not the media spin.

I wanted to find out what people were thinking. What was the mood of the people?

There was a paradox because most of the people I wanted to talk to, as I made my way across the country-side, were locked away in their homes. Everything except for Walmarts was closed down. While I was out on the highways and backcountry roads, following google maps, I ran into very few people. I had heard a rumor that in Ohio camping was legal. There is a national park just south of Cleveland and I hoped that that would be a great place to camp and rest my bones. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, unfortunately, didn’t allow camping within the park. That was a bummer because I had been looking forward to a real national park instead of just a national forest.

Anyway, it was around midnight that I came upon that sign. I figured if I could just get to Conneaut first, then I would find a great place to camp. Ohio hit me right away. It was further west. The further west I arrived the more America was opening up, not just from the lockdown but in terms of space.

I pulled into Conneaut. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it was my first town in Ohio. This was a big deal for me because now it was official, I had peddled a long way from home. There was an all-night gas station. I got coffee. I got a weird vibe standing out front, I felt like a drug deal was about to go down or I was about to get jacked. Basically, I was out of my element. I have a lot of street smarts and warning signals were popping off. I decided to move on. There is a laundromat in the center of town,I hung out there for about 15 minutes and then moved on. This town just wasn’t for me. It is really hard to judge a place in the night. I basically had nowhere to camp and I was beginning to get tired.  I was only using one hand. I had lowered my seat and that had the effect of putting more weight on my ass, thus my rash was getting worse. My phone was never staying charged for as long as I needed it. I needed directions in the dark. One of my big fears was of peddling in the wrong direction, for any length of time.

I noticed on the map that there was a Walmart in Ashtabula. I might be able to charge my phone up out front of there in the middle of the night, as a last resort. I just had to keep moving.

I peddled and peddled and peddled before I finally made it to the Walmart in Ashtabula. There I charged up the phone and noticed that there was a camping place called “Hide-Away- Lakes – Campground”, not too terribly far away. Maybe I could arrive there in the middle of the night or early in the morning?

There was a special bike path that I had to hook up with that would take me right there. Making my way through the city of Ashtabula in the middle of the night was wild. It was an unknown world to me and my guard was way up. I was always on the lookout for people wanting to jack me. But in the middle of the night, no one was around. I found the bike path. My lights were working good. There were strange messages spray-painted on the path, which was a little disconcerting, but I was really cooking along at this point. I was almost at a campsite and there was no way that I wasn’t going to be sleeping there soon in safety.

I found the campground. Indeed it was open! though it was obviously closed for the night I was able to get in there and very quietly set up my tent right next to the office. The rains were coming and I had actually made it to somewhere. I was about fifty miles from Cleveland. I couldn’t really get a good look at the place in the dark, but it was safe and I was allowed to be there as a camper, I didn’t have permission, but camping, in general, was allowed.

I awoke at about 8am. after a few good hours of rest. the office to the place was closed but I decided to have a look around. I found the bathroom and the showers. I took an extremely long hot shower. This was my first shower since I had left Westport Connecticut, and man did it feel good, even though I didn’t have permission to be there, yet.

I was all cleaned up and shaved and everything. I went back to my tent and fell asleep again. Sometime after that, I heard people speaking near the tent.

“Why id the tent et up there?” I heard someone say.

Obviously, I wasn’t in a designated spot, I was in the front yard right next to the check-in office.

I woke up. I went up to the office and they were open.

There was a young girl and a young guy in there. I explained my situation to them. They charged me twenty dollars for the upcoming night, no charge for the first night as I had arrived at about 430 or 5 am.

The rains arrived and I was dry in my tent. I slept and slept, all day and night.

When I woke up I was feeling pretty good. It was about 6 am and I put everything together, even though the tent was wet. I was refreshed and ready to rock and roll.

I found a Dunkin Donuts. I was feeling pretty good, rested. The was a town called Geneva by the Lake but avoided it, just to the south. I was highly motivated to make up time, to go fast, and to get somewhere. Cleveland was that somewhere. However, I found myself in a town called Madison. Madison Ohio was picture perfect. I could easily live there. There was an old mansion right alongside the road.

There was a guy doing some gardening out front. He gave me the complete rundown of the entire county. I told him I was going to Cleveland that day, he said that unless I was going through downtown Cleveland I wouldn’t have to worry about the riots!

This dude was way cool and he told me all about the Old Tavern he and others were renovating. It is an impressive building and everyone is chipping in to bring it back to its old glory. They had a new roof but still needed a couple million to finish things up.

So then, I arrived along a river into a town called Painsville. I was in pain. And until I had arrived in Painsville everyone had been so nice, the drivers — everyone. I snapped a picture of downtown Painsville because it was so impressive. this was Saturday the 30th of May 2020, fifteen days from my departure at Westport Connecticut.

Downtown Painsville, Ohio / Photo: Todd Tracy — Odyssey X May 30, 2020

I was cruising through the city, then some yelled out their car window, some swear or something.

I was like what the hell.

Then, we were all in traffic and a car actually bumped me.

Dude! You want to play?

My body is much more flexible than car body parts!

On a bicycle, I am much more nimble and have better handling characteristics than any car. These drivers were downright rude.

But my friends I was enjoying a level of confidence that a car driver can never achieve. I can jump off the curb straight into traffic and then swerve at the last minute onto a grassy knoll. Screw Painsville, Ohio. They were the rudest drivers in the country — so far. I had a long way to go.

Then, thank God, I made to Mentor. I stopped at a grocery store and the girls at the meat section made me a sandwich even though they don’t make sandwiches. The bills said, two dollars for turkey, 50 cents for cheese, and 25 cents for a roll. Best sandwich I ever had. I pulled into a bike shop at Mentor on the Lake

This dude was way cool. He went over every detail of my bike to make sure everything was in working order, and it was. He told me the bike shop was his retirement project and he loved it. He was a man living his dream, such as I.

I continued on…

Then, I was on Lake Shore Drive. I was getting near Cleveland.

It was a beautiful sunny day, the Lake was spectacular — shimmering. I was having pains but the day’s rest had done me well.

There is one thing about bicycling, it is an absolutely filthy sport. You sweat up a storm. You pick up everything from the road because one covers so many miles. I was averaging about 80 miles per day when I was moving. So, even though I had actually showered, I was filthy the next day.

I finally arrived at the outskirts of Cleveland, wow, I had made it.  My friend Greg had mentioned that there were mansions on the lake. I was thinking, “I’m not so sure,” “mansions in Cleveland?”

But sure as heck, they were there. Huge properties sprawled along the shore, big gates and stone mansions. I took some video.

Random mansion on Lake Shore drive in Cleveland, Ohio/ Photo: Todd Tracy — Odyssey X May 30th, 2020