Day 1: Mount Vernon to Millersburg - #N2CLE Birthday Tour - CycleBlaze

May 5, 2021

Day 1: Mount Vernon to Millersburg

Off to a start in the rain ending in the sun

My touring group heading out from my home on a cold May morning
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I woke to the distinctive sound of rain on my metal roof. I love waking to that peaceful pitter-patter but not today, please! The house was alive my fellow travelers prepping for the day’s ride. I prepared an Amish breakfast casserole to get us off to a good start. The consensus was the same for all, wait out the rain. The forecast was for clearing skies by mid-morning.

Paneers packed and on the bikes, we set out on my quiet country road headed to Mount Vernon. The 9 miles to the Heart of Ohio Trail is pure rural Ohio farmland. We pedaled past cows, sheep, and barns alive with early morning chores. It would have been an enjoyable ride except for the constant headwind, low 40s temp, and an occasional rain shower.

We enjoyed a nice downhill as we approached the Heart of Ohio Trail at Johnstown Road. It was smooth peddling into Mount Vernon. Moods instantly improved and the rain Gods were cooperating with a dry trail shimmering from the recent rains.

A view of Ariel-Foundation Park from the Heart of Ohio Trail
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This is a tour. Our first destination was Ariel-Foundation Park, a former Pittsburgh Plate and Glass factory transformed into a beautiful park with artifacts of the industry repurposed as park venues, industrial art installations, and landscaped grounds. This park is one of those must-visits for cyclists on the Ohio to Erie Trail.

The highlight of the park is the Rastin Observation Tower, a factory smokestack repurposed with stairs to an observation platform. The group opted to pass on the climb. I have climbed many times and can attest to a spectacular view of the park, Mount Vernon, Knox County.

Just ½ mile ahead was the CA&C Depot, the gateway to the downtown. As any bicycle tourist can attest, a warm clean bathroom is a more than welcome sight. The group was greeted by Oliva from the Knox County Visitors and Convention Bureau. They operate a visitor information center in the depot in addition to the restrooms.

Woof! Woof! Play with the dogs in downtown Mount Vernon.
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Time for another tourist stop. I guided the group 3 blocks into Mount Vernon to the city’s Dog fountain. This is not a park with a fountain for dogs to romp. This relatively new park funded by Mount Vernon Nazarene College patrons features a large fountain with cast aluminum dogs of all breeds roaming in and around the water. A cat and pony join in the water play. The center of the fountain is topped by a gold dog bone and two bluebirds of happiness. I LOVE this fountain.

My Kona Sutra "Dude" on one of the iron bridges on the Kokosing Gap Trail.
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We pedaled to the Kokosing Gap Trail and a lush tunnel of green. Spring was alive with birds singing and an abundance of wildflowers. This is one of my weekly rides that I dearly treasure. Several iron bridges take cyclists across the Kokosing River.

The Gambier trailhead of the Kokosing Gap Trail
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The Gambier trailhead at Kenyon College is hands down the most photogenic trailhead on the Ohio to Erie Trail. The centerpiece is a steam locomotive, railcar, and caboose. It’s a selfie magnet. Take a stop here. Climb the locomotive and ring the bell.  Just 4+ miles past the locomotive is another scenic spot at Howard. The former mill painted barn red and railroad underpass is deserving of a photo in the tour photo album.

Howard underpass on the Kokosing Gap Trail
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We left the Kokosing Gap Trail at Danville and followed quiet village streets less than a mile to reach the Mohican Valley Trail. It was time to cycle with the Amish. The Mohican Valley Trail is all about cycling through nature. The path is shady and the terrain varies with a few elevation changes. We arrived at the Tiger Valley Road crossing after two miles. Time for my surprise of the day for my fellow travelers.

The corgi greeter at Weaver's Farm and Furniture
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It was lunchtime and time for a unique lunch experience. We pedaled onto Tiger Valley Road that became Mickley Road through typical Knox County countryside. Our destination was Weaver’s Farm and Furniture. That had inquiring minds wondering what lay ahead of our handlebars.

My $6 lunch at Weaver's. It was free pretzel day!
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The Weaver’s corgi greeted us at the door. Mr. Weaver, an ex-Amish, is very outgoing and welcoming to bike tourists. Today was no exception. Did I mention there is a deli in the furniture store!? Today’s surprise was that it was free pretzel Wednesday. A specialty of the Amish in this area is a large soft pretzel sinfully dipped generously in butter. We all ordered subs, half for me, and a soft pretzel. We were happy campers, ah cyclists. It was delicious and only a $6 lunch!

Ready to pass through the Bridge of Dreams
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We cycled the half-mile back to the trail and headed to the Bridge of Dreams. The bridge is a popular tourist destination for visitors to Knox County. The abandoned long and high railroad trestle over the Mohican River was repurposed into a covered bridge when the railroad became a trail. This is well worth a stop. The Amish use this trail as the safe route into Danville. You may be lucky to share your trip through the bridge with a buggy or wagon.

Passing through the Baddow Pass on the Holmes County Trail
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Soon after the bridge, it was time to leave Knox County and pedal on to Holmes County on the Holmes County Trail. The southern 7 miles of this trail are unique. It’s an uphill climb with manageable inclines of 1-3% for 3.5 miles and then a fast descent 3.5 miles into Glenmont passing through the Baddow Pass. Locomotives pushed trains up the pass in the railroad days since the grade was greater than the standard 2% railway grade.

It was time to turn on our bike lights and head onto country roads for the next 7+ miles. The Ohio to Erie Trail is still under construction in this segment. We cycled Route 520 through a picture-perfect valley with minimal inclines, just a few rollers. The sun had made its presence known, as did warmer temps. It’s interesting how moods transform under both of these favorable conditions. The final 2 miles into Killbuck had a few manageable climbs.

The town of Killbuck was quiet as we pedaled through to rejoin the Holmes County Trail on the northeastern side of town. I especially like this section of the trail. We cycled the final 6 miles into Millersburg on this smooth paved path through woodlands with marshes on the side. So peaceful.

Buggy barn at the Millersburg Walmart
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Our touring group made a brief stop at the Millersburg Walmart for last-minute supplies. This Walmart is unique in that it has a buggy shed at the trailhead. The Holmes County Trail is used as a safe passage from busy roads by the Amish. They are indeed Walmart shoppers. You are certain to see buggies, carts, and horses tied in the barn.

We pedaled the final mile into downtown Millersburg on the trail and found our way to Hotel Millersburg, our home for the night. I love historic and quaint hotels while touring. This hotel fits into that category. It sits adjacent to the beautiful Holmes County Courthouse in the middle of downtown Millersburg.

Time for a beer and tacos on this Cinco de Mayo
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The group headed out for dinner and drinks after well-earned showers. Millersburg has a nice selection of restaurants. Our choice was Millersburg Brewing. I am a fan of their blonde. It was Cinco de Mayo. The brewery had a taco special which most of the group devoured in short order. A day on the bike is all about the food.

Our ride tomorrow is a trip through the heart of Holmes and Wayne County Amish communities. It will be a mix of trail and country roads. The weather forecast is looking quite nice. Time for some rest. Life is good!

Today's Memories

  • Challenge: Cold rainy headwind start
  • Joy: Everything about the southern Holmes County Trail 
  • Surprise: Pretzel and lunch at Weaver's Farm and Furniture 
  • Best photo-op: Gambier locomotive & Bridge of Dreams (tie)

Tom

N2CLE Day 1 Route
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Today's ride: 59 miles (95 km)
Total: 59 miles (95 km)

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