Arriving in Cleveland, on my bicycle from Connecticut was an eye-opener. It was another brilliant day out there, alongside the lake with not much wind to speak of.
In the countryside, everybody I met was warm and friendly. There was a nice bike path waiting to guide me through parks and past the decommissioned Navy ships.
And finally just before I hit the city itself, I drove alongside the airport. I must note, that at this time because of the pandemic there were no planes coming or going and that the airport showed no signs of activity.
I was thoroughly excited as the city-scape came into view. The campsites normally available to bikers were closed because of Covid – 19, so I wanted to get through the downtown area and then back out into the countryside as fast as possible, knowing how hard it can be to find a campsite at night.
So, I was cruising along, Cleveland unfolding all around me, then boom, I heard a series of loud explosions. Smoke was billowing over the city center.
I looked at my directions on Google Maps. It said to follow the bike path into the city center and then make a left on West 3rd Street. I looked up from my phone. I hopped off at the stadium. The explosions didn’t sound like anything I had ever heard before. They sounded like bombs going off.
As far as I could reckon, my path was headed right for where the smoke was coming from.
I charged up at the football stadium, looking over my prospects.
There was no other way to go but through downtown.
I hopped back on and started peddling. I made a tentative left down West 3rd Street.
I peddled right up behind a row of Cleveland SWAT, about 30 officers were standing together in the middle of the street wearing full battle regalia.
They were startled, as I approached from behind their position. They weren’t sure who I was.
One officer ran up to me and asked, “what the hell are doing?”
“I’m riding across the country and GoogleMaps brought me here.”
“Jesus man, go there go there,” he pointed to the right.
“I can’t guarantee your safety,” was the last thing I heard him say.
One of the many hats that I wear is that of a news reporter, I completed 800 assignments for Hearst media prior to this journey. However, this bike ride and a trip across America had nothing to do with the news. My main priority was on peddling the bike across the country. Any documentation, videos, picture, news events would have to take the back seat to the bike ride. The bike ride was more than enough.
I had to make a conscious decision not to cover the riots that were unfolding right before my eyes.
I was being swarmed by hipster/rioters/protestors.
I saw the cars that had exploded.
I kept moving. At every intersection for ten miles out the city, I had a little talk with the local cops and the state police who were positioned along the way.
One cop asked me where I was heading and I said, “Oberlin.”
He said, “God bless you!”