Sunday, July 19, 2009
Day 43 - Youngstown, OH to Erie, PA
"We're in Pennsylvania, we're in Pennsylvania! We're almost there! We're almost there!"
That refrain was a song I sang as a six year-old on my way with my dad to Camp Fitch on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Camp Fitch is a YMCA camp that we attended when I was in Indian Guides. We passed the sign for Camp Fitch this afternoon and I remembered this song. It kind of fits even today. We're in Pennsylvania, and we're almost there... to the Atlantic Ocean, that is!
Today's ride was a fun one. The day was unseasonably cool, but great for cycling. Our route out of Youngstown was north through Mineral Ridge and Niles. Then we found ourselves on more rural roads that reminded me a bit of Whatcom County back in northern Washington. The roads were far better than yesterday's roads and the terrain was fairly flat which made the riding easy and enjoyable.
We hit our first "Road Closed" mid-morning. Michelle, our ride leader, gave us instructions on how best to navigate this construction area. Basically, it was a ditch where a new stormwater or stream pipe was being laid. We carefully walked over the dirt and rocks and got over safely. This was just a warm-up for the next "Road Closed" section. Just a mile or two further, we found the second obstacle. This one was far worse. The road was torn up and concrete blocks and rebar lay scattered in a 10-foot deep crevasse. Four of us guys crawled down into the canyon and we began handing bikes from one side to the other. By the time we finished, nearly a dozen bikes had been carefully carried over the rocks. We laughed at Young Bob's bike (he's the 73 year old that shares my name). It was the heaviest one! We wondered if he used lead pipe for the bike frame! After all the bikes were over, each of the riders scrambled across the gully. My mountain-climbing experience paid off. I've climbed more technical scrambles. Just keep a constant three-point contact and you'll be fine.
Once that obstacle was complete, we had smooth sailing. We reached our first SAG stop at a restaurant. Some went in and enjoyed strawberry shortcake. I held off and just gobbled up the usual biker food plus a few chocolate chip cookies from the Perkins restaurant last night. (Thanks TJ and Krista for donating your kids' uneaten cookies!) The next 40 miles went by quickly. I enjoyed riding with Leigh, Chris, Jim, and Hans. As we neared Conneaut, I was looking forward to seeing my high school friend Lori (Lalak) Lee and her two boys who were planning to meet me on the route.
I had seen a couple of signs for a covered bridge, which Ashtabula County has a lot of. I passed our turn and found the bridge just a quarter mile down the road. I rode through it a few times, took a few pictures, and enjoyed the moment. Not many of these in Washington state. Then I got back on course.
Around the corner, across from a winery, I saw Lori and her boys up ahead. They were sitting in chairs at the side of the road. As I got closer, I could see chalk marks on the road. They had written, "WELCOME TO CONNEAUT. GO BOB GO! WELCOME AMERICA BY BICYCLE!" Wow, just like in the Tour de France when they paint rider's names and encouragement on the roads leading up the Alps or Pyrenees! I pulled up to them and gave hugs and handshakes. Lori's boys, Camden (5) and Rylan (3) had signs and noisemakers. Despite being a bit hungry from waiting all morning in the sun, they were excited to see me (at least that's what I'm imagining!). We took a couple of photos, then I pedaled on to meet them again at our second SAG stop, Richardson's Root Beer stand and drive-in in Conneaut.
As I rode the few miles into Conneaut, I crossed under I-90. It's amazing to think that this same interstate runs all the way to Seattle. In fact, I bike on it fairly regularly. Not only that, but it crosses just south of Avon Lake, OH where I grew up and where I'll be going tomorrow. I turned the corner and saw the drive-in ahead. This outdoor root beer and burgers drive-in reminds you of the 50s. The place was packed. I parked the bike, joined Lori and the boys in line, and then got my order and scarfed down a tasty cheeseburger, fries, and the best root beer float I've ever had. We visited for awhile and made plans for tomorrow in Avon Lake. She's agreed to chauffeur me around AL and take me to see some old friends and places. I can't wait.
After leaving Conneaut, we rode parallel to Lake Erie, though it wasn't yet in sight, and entered Pennsylvania. I really enjoyed seeing all the place names referring to Lake Erie. It sure brought back memories. We entered Lake City and I saw the Lake Erie Community Park and figured this would be a good opportunity to get some lakeshore views. I hollered to Leigh and Hans who were with me and we rode through the park and then saw the lake. For those of you who have never been to the Great Lakes, there's a reason it's known as the "North Coast." It almost looks like an ocean. You can't see the Canadian side. It's just water all the way to the horizon. Both Leigh and Hans were impressed. Hans asked in his Swiss accent, "We are at the wrong coast?!"
Now we continued on through Presque Isle and the Erie. The city had just hosted the "Roar on the Shore" Motorcycle Rally. All the bikes had left town, but the city was awash in litter and the remains of what had to have been a pretty sizable party! We navigated the city streets and found our hotel. For a Sunday afternoon, the city was empty. I'm not sure what Erie's finest qualities are, but so far, it has the looks of an urban city in decline. I think I'm glad I'm going to Avon Lake for my rest day. The other cyclists can find something fun to do in Erie, but I think the majority of them are headed to Niagara Falls.
After our rest day, we'll head northeast into New York state and ride 82 miles to Hamburg, NY. The end is in sight! We only have eight days left until we reach our final destination, Portsmouth, NH!
For more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100458
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 3,343
Elev Gain: 2,008 ft.
Max Elev: 1,083 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 9%