N2CLE Tour Reflections - #N2CLE Birthday Tour - CycleBlaze

May 9, 2021

N2CLE Tour Reflections

My thoughts and a recap of my Ohio to Erie Trail northern section tour

Wayne county Amish country view
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Disclaimer: My #N2CLE tour mostly followed the Ohio to Erie Trail with a few diversions along the route. I am a member of the Ohio to Erie Trail Board of Directors and serve as the marketing team lead. I am the treasurer of the Heart of Ohio Trail Friends. I am passionate about rail trails and actively involved in trail organizations.

This tour followed the mapped Ohio to Erie Trail from my home south of Mount Vernon to Cleveland. I cycled a few off-route sections to get to the trail, my overnight in Akron, and a loop through downtown Cleveland. I found the route markings to be well placed. The distinctive OH-1 green ovals guided my way.

Downtown Akron shines with its Lock 3 and Main Street reimagining
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It is important to review your day route when you are passing through urban areas. This may be a trail route, but trails seldom follow a straight unbroken path through cities. Our group did not get lost, but the majority of bike tourists in my group cycle and reside in the Akron and Cleveland areas, the urban areas we passed through.

It was a nice close to a home tour. I am not spending 3-4 weeks cycling Europe this year as the pandemic wanes. I love my annual European tours and look forward to returning in 2022. The route was easy to plan and offered some diverse experiences and terrain with an assortment of small towns, rural crossroads, and urban areas.

Holmes County Trail at Holmesville
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The weather was schizophrenic Oho Spring. The mornings were cold and damp. The afternoons were sunny and warmer. Three years ago, I cycled from Cincinnati to my home on the same days under 75-degree dry days. I have learned in my 11 years of bike touring that you need to embrace the weather and pedal on. Some of my best memories come from the times when I overcame challenges in cold, rainy weather.

The tour was designed as a self-supported tour. All cyclists were prepared with panniers. One of our group did not feel well enough to make the tour. He opted to become our sag. He transported our gear on three of the days. The absence of this added weight was welcomed, particularly on the 17 country miles through Ohio Amish country. He rejoined the group on the last leg into Cleveland. My husband Brett and my touring partner Greg’s wife Eileen were our sags home from Cleveland.

CVNP Beaver Marsh
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One of the most enjoyable things about touring by bike is pedaling into the unknown. I knew the route and have cycled Ohio to Erie Trail end-to-end 2 times. I am familiar with the trails I cycled since I cycled the northern miles in my pre-retirement days. I regularly cycle the Central Ohio trails in my retirement.

One of my fellow bicycle tourists is a Floridian. It was pure discovery for him, a distinct change in many ways from his Florida cycling. All of the others in the group had not experienced some portion of the tour. It was nice seeing their excitement of encountering something not seen before and experiencing 180 miles on their bikes. I was amazed by the changes over the years in the trail and communities we pedaled through.

Mount Vernon's South Main Plaza and the dog fountain
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It has been three years since I cycled Ohio to Erie Trail end-to-end. I’m amazed how the Buckeye State is embracing trails and cycling infrastructure. Cleveland and Akron are shining with improvements and more amenities along the trail. The smaller towns and cities along the route, particularly Massillon, have transformed their downtowns into welcoming spaces with good food, beer, coffee, and accommodations.

I have toured many of the iconic American trails including the Katy Trail, Great Allegheny Passage, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, and the Erie Canal Trail. The Ohio to Erie Trail is in the same class as these multi-hundred-mile continuous trails. Ohio offers a similar yet unique experience to bicycle tourists. The trail cuts diagonally across the state through the 3-Cs (Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland) with varying views from the bike ranging from open farmlands, rivers, large city skylines, small-town America, and rolling countryside. The bicycle tourist gets a good taste of the state and people by the time their tour ends.  

The floating towpath on the shore of Akron's Summit Lake
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About 85% of the Ohio to Erie Trail is on rail trails and a canal towpath trail. The 15% of cycling mostly country roads is decreasing every year. Many gaps have been closed over the past year, particularly through Cleveland. Several of the missing links will disappear in the next two years. Any trail bicycle tourist would be comfortable cycling the trail.

Why cycle into downtown Cleveland? The Ohio to Erie Trail northern terminus is several miles west of downtown on a Lake Erie beach with a view of the city skyline. Many feel a tour needs to start with a dip of the tire in the Ohio River in Cincinnati and Lake Erie west of Cleveland to commemorate their achievement.

A perfect end of tour view
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I like to end my tour with a bang, a memorable unique experience. As a former life-long Northeast Ohio cyclist, I saw downtown Cleveland as that big bang. I loved my former bike clubs’ rides to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The view is spectacular. It is exciting to pedal past sports arenas and stadiums, through the heart of downtown skyscrapers, and to the shore of Lake Erie looking back to Cleveland and across the lake. There is no dip in the tire, but something much more memorable for me.

Heading out from Millersburg for a sunny day of cycling with the Amish
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Today’s highlights

  • Joy: Cyclotouring with friends from my home with friends  
  • Challenge: Cold mornings and an unpredictable Ohio spring
  • Surprise: Beautiful bike infrastructure improvements in Akron and Cleveland
  • Photo-op: Cleveland script signs and an Amish farm on laundry day

It was a good ride. Life is good! Tom.

The 4-day 179-mile route
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Wayne EstesThanks for putting so much effort into documenting your route and including excellent photos. I can tell it was a labor of love.
I have done bike tours in all 50 states but had never heard about the Ohio to Erie trail. Thanks for educating readers about a potential new route.
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3 months ago
Tom BilczeTo Wayne EstesThank you Wayne. One of my hobbies is to photojournal my tours. I've done this once several times but it never have journaled it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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3 months ago