Bellevue, Ohio provided me with that slice of America that my soul needed to recuperate. My body was in pain. I woke up in the first motel room of the adventure.
The next leg of the trip appeared to be on a road called Route 20, it was busy with trucks and traffic and whatnot. During this part of the journey, I felt as if I was traveling in slow motion. When I looked at the map all I could see were unknown unknowns. There was more traffic than I was used to up to this point, trucks going by at full speed. There was a good amount of debris on the road. My goal was a town called Maumee. It sounds like mommy but spelled in Maumee.
I left the motel at about 11. I had a slow start getting out of there. I didn’t want to leave, to be honest, I could have lived there forever. However, the check-out time was 11. They actually said I could sleep as long as I wanted. The concierge was impressed that I had peddled so far. I had been exhausted upon arrival and upon departure. But still, I was ready for whatever the world might throw at me.
The first thing I noticed when going outside was that it was very hot and the sunlight was blinding. But I took off. I started cruising down route 20 with its trucks and bumbled up roadside. I was aware of a bike trail running parallel to the major highway. It was always a trade-off. Sometimes the highway was a better bet and sometimes not. It was a toss-up. But when the road became littered with too many obstacles I darted off to the bike trail. I believe it was called the coastal inland trail. The coast was in reference to lake Erie. I was near Toledo. I was trying to stay away from the big cities and really enjoying the small towns.
Ohio was great. It was my favorite state so far because of its mix of rugged terrain, big sky, small farms, big cities, and just American originality in general. Ohio is amazing because you feel like you are out west but still pretty close to New York. Every mile west is a transformation and evolution on a growing theme that is freedom and the confrontation of nature. Every day the obstacles get bigger, the mountains get taller, the plains get flatter, the sky gets bigger, the hills become more rugged. All of this is Ohio. The towns are straight out of a story-book America. The people of Ohio are hillbilly street smart. Ohio is the part of the midwest that reach reaches back to New York. It is the frontier. On this day it was my frontier.
I was cruising along, on my bicycle from Westport, Connecticut. I was feeling good and loving Ohio. I started seeing signs for Tracy road. My family name is Tracy and my father had always told me about how the Tracy’s first made it to Ohio before venturing further west. This, however, wasn’t a trip down memory lane, I was making new memories. There were little towns along the way.
By late afternoon, I made it to a town called Maumee. Maumee has a beautiful town park with bike paths. I mean this park was so nice it felt like I had arrived in another world. It literally was like arriving in the land of Oz. I kept going. Basically, there is a really cool bike path that I hooked up with just outside of Maumee. It’s called the Wabash Cannonball inter-county bike trail. The first thing that one notices about the bike trail is that it is perfectly straight for miles, as far as the eye can see.
When one is bicycling across the country one sees each town in a totally different manner than, let’s say if one is driving across the country. For instance, in the midwest the bike paths bring you through the back yards, so you can really see how everyone is living. The view from the freeway tells you relatively nothing about the town one is visiting. You see the schools, the downtowns, and Main streets. You see the little corner deli’s and the people who are up and about at 6am. You meet the police. You get to meet the locals in 20 different towns a day. The big towns, the small cities, and the really small towns. One easy way to gauge a town is by how many gas stations they have. Is there an all-night gas station? Is the town itself latched on to a bigger town? The towns I was going through this evening were basically suburbs of Toledo.
So I was cruising along, out in the middle of nowhere, in the evening at about 730pm, going down the really straight bike path, and walla, I was in a small town called Whitehouse. I was in the very center of town. They had a bicycle fix-up store. They had an ice-cream shop. They had park benches and super-friendly people. Nobody seemed to be worried about the virus. It was as if I had arrived in a parallel universe. It was a bicycle-centered universe with public bathrooms for traveling cyclists. I think the words I used at the time were, “veritable paradise,” for bicyclists.
I charged up my phone, took the picture of the Wabash train coach parked there in the center of Whitehouse. I was on my way, soon enough. I saw so many rabbits until it got dark. I kept going into the night. I knew I was making great progress with the straightness of the road, and the smoothness of the surface. Suddenly, and without warning, I hit dirt. How could that be? This was a perfect bike trail. But sure enough, the trail went bad. I was now in farm country on a bogus trail. Dogs were barking. I could have set up the tent anywhere but I was wide awake. I kept sludging along hoping the trail might get better but it didn’t. The unholy grail and curse of the bike trail is the farmer’s tractor. Anywhere a tractor goes proves un-rideable to a road bike. Now I must confess, my bike is a cyclocross, which means that it can go in the dirt. But across the nation in the dirt, was just too much to ask for a simple bicycle. I slowed to about 3 miles per hour. I could walk faster and my bike was taking huge risks being tossed about over rocks and logs and tractor mud bogs. Tall grasses and gravel lumps made the way unbearable. After some hours of drudgery, I came upon the town of Liberty Central.
I was glad to feel the pavement beneath my wheels once again. Liberty Central sports an all-night gas station. I went in for coffee. I found an outlet behind the store to charge up the phone while I stood there in the light rain, thinking. After a few minutes, a cop pulled up. He walked up to me and looked at my bike. He asked what I was gonna do if it starts raining. I told him I would probably go back up to the Wabash Cannonball and camp out somewhere for the night, while the rain passed.
Right away he said to me that there was a cool place available in the park behind the fire station. He would make sure no one bothered me there. He said there were three shelters. He gave me directions and I rode off immediately to find them by his clear directions. Sure enough, in the soccer fields, there were three roofed pavilions like the pavilion at Compo Beach in my hometown of Westport, Connecticut. In fact, they were wired with electricity so that while I slept everything was charging. My tent can be a free stander meaning it doesn’t need stakes to stand up. I was super dry and comfy in there and slept real good. I had a real good feeling about the town of Liberty Central. I felt safe and welcome.