Burton to Conneaut: Are we still in Ohio? - Underground Railroad Route (Northern Half) - CycleBlaze

June 17, 2011

Burton to Conneaut: Are we still in Ohio?

Rhona started the day in the fitness room, while I marshaled my strength sleeping late. We missed a good photo opportunity when leaving the Inn. The stop sign had the word "whoa" instead of "stop". The morning started with some nice easy miles passing many Amish farms. Many of the young males worked in the yards and gardens, the young females apparently working inside. Rhona saw several miniature horses in Amish corrals and learned their purpose when we saw two girls in a small wagon drawn by a miniature horse.

We rode the railtrail for about 15 miles. There were interpretive signs at intervals providing information about the Underground Railroad.
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We stopped at a little store in Austinburg and purchased the types of snack foods you find in a convenience store. Outside some folks were selling hotdogs, hamburgers and as a fundraiser for the local elementary school. The benefit was surely taking away business from the store, but apparently the owner of the store was sponsoring the event and may have had one of her employees outside helping. Isn't America great sometimes!
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Rhona had a conversation with an older gentleman who helps maintain the trail. He told her that the man that maintains the Greenbriar River trail in West Virginia helped their town (Austinburg) get their part of the trail up and running. After a long conversation he insisted Rhona accept some printed material about the trail. He insisted that the town's bank used to be an Underground Railroad station. There was a tunnel leading from the basement to the creek through which slaves could escape. This man and his friends used to crawl through the tunnel when they were kids, but it is blocked up now. My suspicion is that the tunnel was actually to drain water from the basement.

The interpretive panels had a lot of information. One of my favorite quotes of the entire tour was on this panel. "You might as well attempt to get a saint out of Heaven as a slave out of Austinburg".
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As we rode through Ashtabula we gained an entourage of young boys on bicycles who cheered when they saw our WVU (West Virginia University) pennant flying from the trailer.

After leaving a railtrail the traffic in Ashtabula was unpleasant but it ended well at the Hubbard House.
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We toured the three story house with two very enthusiastic volunteer guides. Standing on the floorboards where fugitive slaves stood in concealment was a powerful feeling. The floorboards are now visible because the walls were removed.
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This part of Ashtabula was not very scenic, very industrial. Barely a mile out of town the road was closed due to a bridge repair. The only signed detour rerouted us onto an interstate. Apparently the Ohio Department of Transportation never considered that a pedestrian or a cyclist might need to follow a detour even though we are no more able to fly over a river than a car can. Fortunately we chose the right man to ask for help. He was a cyclist who gave us perfect directions from a cyclist's perspective and we were able to return quickly to our route.

We finally got a nice view of Lake Erie. It actually felt a little cool with a mist from the cold lake water.
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In Conneat we found a cheap but clean room. The view out the back included a wind turbine along with the normal harbor scene. We had dinner at the newly opened Lighthouse Cafe. We were the only "real" customers at the time. The owner, or perhaps he was actually a manager was quite a character. He sat out on the sidewalk with us (as well as a business partner) and engaged all of us in conversation. It turns out he is also a bail-bondsman, pretty rough around the edges. One of his comments, intended kindly toward us was, "if they can put in special lanes for the Amish, they sure out to give you real Americans a bicycle lane". We've bicycled extensively in Amish areas in Pennsylvania and now in Ohio and have yet to see a lane reserved for Amish buggies. I wonder what he thought about my lycra tights.
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Today's ride: 61 miles (98 km)
Total: 711 miles (1,144 km)

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