Day 3: Massillon to Akron - #N2CLE Birthday Tour - CycleBlaze

May 7, 2021

Day 3: Massillon to Akron

Cycling through my former stomping grounds and memories

The floating towpath along the shore of Summit Lake as I approached Akron
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There was no stranger in my bed this morning. The all too familiar rain greeted me outside of my window. The hotel had resumed a somewhat normal Hampton Inn breakfast. Microwavable Jimmy Dean and Bob Evans breakfast items, fruit, and packaged cereal could be eaten in the dining room. The forecast called for clearing skies around 10 am. We opted to wait it out since it was a relatively short day of cycling.

The parade of bikes rolled out and down the hotel’s parking deck around 10 am in the misty rain and chilly morning. A few blocks later, we were on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail heading north. We encountered a detour around a river levee reconstruction project. It was a short road detour, only a mile or so, back to the trail and Ernie’s Bike shop.

Ernie's Bike Shop at the Lake Avenue Trailhead in Massillon
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No ride through Massillon is complete without a visit to Ernie’s at the Lake Avenue Trailhead. The Lehman family runs a super nice bike shop with a good selection of everything bike and friendly knowledgeable mechanics. The Blue Heron Cafe and a canoe livery share space at the trailhead. A few of our cyclists pumped up their tires before we headed back to the trail.

Lock 4 on the Ohio and Erie Canal at the southern edge of Canal Fulton
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The cold misty rain cleared as we approached Canal Fulton replaced with blue skies and a warming sun. The Ohio and Erie Canal is watered starting at Lock 4 into Canal Fulton. It is a scenic photo-op. Draft horses pull the St. Helena canal boat carrying visitors down this stretch of the canal in warmer months. The boat was not in the dock or canal this morning.

The towpath passes through a series of locks just north of Clinton
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The Stark County Park District has done a super job of upgrading the towpath north of Canal Fulton. It is mostly paved to the Summit County line. This area floods in times of heavy rain. We did pedal through a short section of very shallow flooding before we reached Clinton four miles north of Canal Fulton.

Barberton is an often-overlooked city on the Ohio to Erie Trail. It sits across the Tuscarawas River and towpath. The city’s gateway is at the Robinson Avenue bridge on the Miracle Mile, a bike-friendly passage into downtown Barberton. If you cycle the trail in late September, make sure you take the diversion into town to see the MumFest flower display at Lake Anna Park. Don and Ruth of R&D Bike Shop are among the friendliest shop owners I have encountered.

Our Magic City destination was Whitehouse Chicken for a lunch of Barberton’s famous fried chicken. Numerous local chicken houses specialize in this Serbian-inspired chicken. Traditionalists order the dinner with fresh-cut fries, coleslaw, and hot rice. Hot rice is a combination of rice, tomatoes, and hot peppers. I opted for the luncheon snack special. It brought back memories of my days in Akron.

The southern portaging Indian statue at Manchester Road
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We entered Akron returning to the trail fueled by our greasy lunch. The canal is watered as it flows into Summit Lake. It is bordered by a mixture of homes, industry, and nature. There is a hidden gem on this section off the trail. A dirt path on the northern side of the Manchester Road underpass leads to a large bronze Indian statue. This marks the start of the portage Indians followed through Akron to reach the Cuyahoga River and Lake Eire. A more visible portaging Indian marks the northern terminus of the portage. It sits beside the trail at the Portage Path and Merriman Road intersection.

The landscaped towpath trail heading into downtown Akron
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The tall Goodrich Tire smokestacks greeted us on our ride into downtown Akron. Cyclists have two choices passing through Akron. Ours was made for us since there were fireworks at the Akron Rubber Ducks stadium tonight. The towpath access was closed. We followed the Main street connector at the Spaghetti Warehouse into downtown Akron. Main Street Akron was recently reimagined with a friendly protected bike lane and nice bike infrastructure. The other route is to follow the towpath to Lock 3.

Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron has also undergone a nice upgrade. Large murals adorn the Akron civic Theater, one of the movie palaces from the early 20th century. It is worth some time to explore the landscaped park and series of locks. The towpath route into downtown puts you in the same place.

Lock 3 Park in downtown Akron
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Amazing mural on the Bowery Street side of the Akron Civic Theater
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We followed Main Street to Bowery and back onto the towpath trail. The mural on the northern side of the Akron Civic Theater is amazing. The trail gave us a treat of a 5% downhill to Mustill Store after crossing the Innerbelt bridge. This was my favorite Akron trailhead in my Akron days. A canal era store, storekeeper's house, and parklike landscaping have been expertly restored.

The next few miles of trail recently reopened after a multi-year sewer project. Our group left the Ohio to Erie Trail and towpath at the Big Bend trailhead. It was a 3-mile sustained climb out of the Cuyahoga River valley on Sand Run Parkway to my touring pal Greg’s home in Bath for the overnight.

Mustill house and store on the towpath
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Greg’s wife Eileen outdone herself with dinner and hospitality. An evening of good friends, good times, beer, and conversation ended the day. Tomorrow we head back down into the valley and back onto the towpath. We will cycle the full length of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park before reaching Cleveland.

Today’s memories

  • Joy: Dinner and good times Greg and Eileen’s home
  • Challenge: Climb out of Big Bend and up Sand Run Parkway
  • Surprise: Akron Main Street transformation
  • Best photo-op: Amazing Lock 3 artwork and murals

 Life is good! Tom.

Today's route
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Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 138 miles (222 km)

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