Wednesday, November 15, 2023


 Photos and route by Joseph Insalaco

Before starting this trip, I knew that we were going to see picturesque lakes and waterfalls.  I also anticipated some challenging hills between the lakes.  As promised, the scenery was fantastic but the first 2 hills were more than challenging.  After cresting the second one, I seriously questioned my desire to continue cycling and wondered if my heart and breath would ever return to normal rhythms.

Once again, we were drawn to water for our summer cycling adventure. With all our trips along rivers and lakes, we sometimes wonder why we don’t trade our bikes in for kayaks or canoes. On this trip we cycled from Syracuse, New York, up and down the Finger Lakes, before arriving in Rochester, New York.  From there we cycled along Lake Ontario as we headed back to Syracuse.

The Finger Lakes is a group of eleven long, narrow, roughly north–south lakes located south of Lake Ontario. This part of New York state is a very popular tourist area for cyclists. Besides its lakes, the area has numerous waterfalls, parks, large cities, unique small towns, historic sites, museums, and many wineries. Cycling north or south along the lakes is relatively flat.  However, cycling east or west between the lakes involves serious climbs.

In Syracuse, we left Joe’s van at our friend Dick’s house. The 3 of us met during our 2002 cycling adventure across the United States. Even though Dick wasn’t able to join us on this ride, he did provide great hospitality and we enjoyed sharing stories about our past cycling adventures.  Dick’s parting words were “some of the hills are really tough.”

The start of our cycling led us through the city of Syracuse.  We first stopped at Syracuse’s historic Clinton Square.  This square was the town’s original center and now boasts a beautiful panorama of architecture from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Clinton Square also houses a stunning fountain park where the Erie Canal once ran. This area also participated in  the Underground Railroad.  In Clinton Square we stopped at the Jerry Rescue Monument celebrating the October 1, 1851, rescue of William "Jerry" Henry, an escaped slave from Missouri. According to Wikipedia. Henry had been arrested in Syracuse and identified as an escaped slave. Federal officials eager to compel obedience to the then-new Fugitive Slave Act determined to return him to Missouri. The arrest occurred on the very day that a major abolitionist meeting was taking place in the city. Following one failed rescue attempt, a large mob stormed the police station and rescued Jerry Henry, defying the Fugitive Slave Act.

Heading out of the city we cycled through an area that at one time housed the city's affluent citizens. Sadly, many of the once stately mansions were in need of major restoration.

Soon, we encountered our first significant hill. We had been warned many times that we would have lots of climbing, but it took our first climb for that reality to sink in. This climb was about 3 miles long with some steep grades. It was tough, but we stayed on our bikes and felt good about beating this hill.  At the top, we asked ourselves, “how bad could the rest of the hills be?”

Our second climb let us know that the first hill was relatively easy.   This second killer climb occurred at the southern tip of Otisco Lake, just as we started heading north along Skaneateles Lake. Not only was it steep but we had to do it during the heat of the day when temperatures were in the mid-90s and the humidity at the same level.  While this climb was only one-half miles long, it required us to get off our loaded touring bikes and push them up an 18 percent grade .  It was very difficult. We were afraid to stop to rest, unsure that we could start walking again. Worse than the first climb, my heart and lungs beat so hard, my chest felt like it was going to explode.

After we recovered, we next stopped in the town of Skaneateles. There we enjoyed cool drinks and sat under a shade tree with a great view of the lake as we tried to forget the killer hill we had to walk up. Skaneateles is an Iroquois term meaning "long lake"  and the town dates back to the 1830s.   After reaching the northern end of Skaneateles Lake, we headed west on an easy 6 mile ride to the town of Auburn and our hotel for the night. After getting cleaned up, we forced our legs to carry us to a nearby restaurant.

We started our morning with a walk to Anne's Family Restaurant .  Anne served us the daily special of 2 eggs, coffee, toast, and home fries (which we both declined).  Before leaving Auburn, we visited the home of William Seward, who was instrumental in the purchase of Alaska from Russia.  We next stopped at the more modest home of Harriet Tubman, who led many enslaved people to freedom.

Leaving Auburn, we had a 20-mile leisurely ride south along Owasco Lake. What came next was another monster climb that Joe conquered but I walked up the last quarter mile. There were other climbs during the day and a few great downhill rides.

In Moravia, we stopped at Millard Fillmore's birthplace, a tiny log cabin.  He was the 13th US President.  From there we headed west to Cayuga Lake, one of the deepest lakes in the United States, measuring 435 feet deep. Once we reached the lake we headed south to Ithaca, which is at the southern tip of the lake.  Our route to the hotel in Ithaca was blocked by a street fair where we were tempted by the offerings of many food vendors.  We slowly walked our bikes through the fair for several blocks before deciding on a detour. However, that detour soon took us to a road that was torn up and closed.  Rather than “detouring a detour,” we proceeded through the construction to get to our hotel.

The next morning, we left our Ithaca hotel room a little after 6am, because the internet indicated that a nearby breakfast spot opened at 5am.  However, the hours posted on the internet were wrong.  The sign on the door said it did not open until 7 a.m. The only other nearby breakfast choice was a gas station that advertised breakfast sandwiches made fresh daily.  We bought 2 sandwiches but should have just left town hungry. A trail quickly took us out of Ithaca and into Cass Park and marina.  There we saw many runners, birders, and lots of big boats.  Following the park’s signs to an osprey nest we were rewarded with 2 big birds perched on the edge of their home. 

Heading north along Cayuga Lake, we encountered more hills, but thankfully they were modest.  That is except for the climb to Taughannock Falls State Park.  We wanted to see the park’s magnificent 215 foot waterfalls, which was high up the mountain off our route.  After taking pictures and enjoying the view, we had a great downhill ride, followed by relatively flat cycling.

Continuing north, we faced challenging head winds that reduced our 12 to 15 mph pace down to a painful 6 to 8 mph.  Twenty miles into our day, we dropped down from the Cayuga Scenic Byway to the Cayuga Lake Shore Drive.  Despite the fierce winds, it was nice to be able to cycle this close to the lake.  Large white caps were breaking on shore like they do at the ocean. Eventually, our lake shore cycling took us to the Thirsty Owl Winery and Bistro, where we stopped for lunch.


In Seneca Falls we toured its historic downtown and saw where the nation’s first convention for Women’s Rights was held in July 1848. Next, we passed the Seneca Museum of Waterways and Industry, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, located in the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, and finally, the “It's a Wonderful Life Museum” a local “Bedford Falls" nostalgia attraction with displays & memorabilia from the namesake film.

If we correctly remember our theology lessons, the prior 3 days we were in purgatory and on the fourth day we ascended into heaven.  Our first heavenly stop was at the marker claiming the town of Waterloo as the birthplace of the annual Memorial Day celebration in May of each year.  In the summer of 1865, a prominent local druggist, Henry C. Welles mentioned at a social gathering that it would be good to remember the Civil War’s dead soldiers by placing flowers on their graves. Nothing resulted from this suggestion until a year later. In May, the village honored the fallen with flags at half-mast. (While President Johnson proclaimed the town as its birthplace, new information indicates that an earlier celebration was held in Columbus, Georgia.)

Within a few miles we stopped to take pictures of a Cayuga Canal lock and noticed a sign on the other side of the water announcing a civil war memorial.  We debated going to see it but since it was early and a short day, we decided, why not.  Thankfully, we made the right choice and it became our second heavenly stop of the day. This unassuming and out of the ordinary cemetery contained dozens of simple granite monuments, each 5-foot high.  Beneath, there were tags identifying the man’s name, rank, age, and where he was from. Both of us were moved by this memorial, more so than when we cycled through the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania battlefield on a previous bike trip. Simple, but powerful. Unlike our normal behavior of stop, look, photograph, and move on, we spent an hour there as we were captivated by its solemnity.

After leaving the cemetery we started cycling west on the Cayuga Trail.  The trail was mostly a single-track trail that paralleled the Cayuga canal.  The trail was only 5 miles long.  Near its end we came upon a very unique 100 yards section of trail art (for the lack of a better description) that we counted as our third heavenly stop.  There were stuffed animals, toys, non-native plants, stick sculptures, drawings, signs, and more unique stuff that you can see in our photos.  As we marveled at this interesting section of the trail, Jim, a runner, stopped to talk to us.  Jim is a county legislator and a regular on this trail.  He said that he got to talk to the man responsible for these decorations.  Actually, according to Jim, talk was too strong of a word.  The best that Jim could determine was that the man, a recluse, is a seasonal neighbor of the trail and has made it his role to make the trail special.

One and a half hours after we left our hotel, we had gone only 5 miles.  This was so unlike us.  Our day definitely started out as something very wonderful.  When the Cayuga trail ended, we cycled south along Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is the deepest Finger Lake at 618 feet and the longest at 38.1 miles.   At the end of the road, we entered a deserted trail that took us through Sampson State Park.  Leaving the park, we came to a fenced area containing a large collection of brick buildings that were boarded up.  We stopped a walker and asked “what are we seeing?”  We were told that it was a former state prison.  She said that the local community was trying to get it turned over to them for development but not having much luck.

Cycling along Cayuga lake presented a much different picture than yesterday when the waters lapped the shore.  Today, everything was calm (heavenly).  Another interesting feature of today’s cycling was that we had many wonderful (again, heavenly) downhill sections but didn’t remember getting to the tops of any hills.  Our climbs were very gentle and barely noticeable.  That is, except the last one to get to our hotel in Watkins Glen.

After checking into our hotel, we took a short walk to the Watkins Glen Gorge.  The gorge contains 19 waterfalls in a narrow passageway cut through the rocks.  In many places it is 400 feet deep and to hike the 1.5-mile trail required us to climb hundreds of steps cut into the rocks.  The water sprayed from some of the falls was cooling and the walk was not too strenuous.  It felt good to be off our bikes and immersed into nature.

Leaving Watkins Glen, we headed southwest to Corning. Immediately we started with a long climb that was only a 3 to 4 percent grade but seemed endless.  However, in comparison to our early climbs, it was easy.  Unlike the beginning of our trip, the day was overcast and cold enough for us to keep our jackets on all day.  There were no lakes between Watkins Glen and Corning, but we cycled in what should have been a picturesque valley, if only it were sunny.

We had a late breakfast in Corning and then headed north towards Hammondsport, fighting a head wind the whole way.  The highlight of the day was when we reached Hammondsport and checked into a new Best Western Plus with exceptionally friendly staff and a plate of fresh baked cookies waiting for us.  The highlight of the day should have been the Glenn H Curtiss Museum that displays 20th-century aircraft & motorcycles, but we were too tired to see it or go into the town for dinner. But we did find comfort in the brew pub next to the hotel.

Our ride from Hammondsport to Pen Yan was along Kuaka Lake but we didn’t see much of it.  We were on the third day of a weather advisory caused by the Canadian forest fires that were polluting the east coast.  While the advisory stated that all outdoor activities be curtailed, we cycled.  Because of the haze we could not see the lake or much else and it also made breathing challenging, especially on the climbs.  The day’s highlight was meeting up with our old friend Ray, who we also met on our 2002 ride across the United States.  At that time and at age 66, Ray cycled from his home in Pen Yan to the start of our cross-country ride in Williamsburg, Virginia.  After we cycled 4,500 miles to Astoria, Oregon, Ray continued cycling south to San Francisco then headed east to Salt Lake City before he decided he had enough.  Twenty-two years later, Ray is still cycling.

Because of the smoke filled air and the afternoon headwinds, we cut our ride from Pen Yan to Canandaigua short by eliminating the ride along the northern part of the lake and skipping the town of Geneva.  While we eliminated about 15 miles, we were still beat up by the headwinds. We did get to see the northern tip of Canandaigua Lake as we entered the town.

Another cold start as we left Canandaigua, but we warmed up with a quick infusion of joy from a trail angel.  Leaving the hotel, we had a short ride to an “open 24 hours” restaurant that wasn’t open.  When we got there, only the front seating area was lit and one person was setting up for breakfast.  We walked in only to be told that the restaurant did not open for another hour.  Mary, the manager, must have seen the sad look on our faces and said, “I will make you breakfast as long as your request is simple.”  We both ordered 2 eggs over easy with wheat toast.  Mary said that 2 eggs came with potatoes, which we declined.   So instead of potatoes, she cooked us some bacon and 3 eggs each.  The food was fine, but her kindness was wonderful.

We cycled through the town of Canandaigua then headed out into the country.  That is when things got confusing for us.  A little background:  Joe prepares our routes and down loads them into our GPSs (which are different Garmin models).  After cycling about 10 miles of country roads, my GPS directed that we turn right onto Mt. Payne Road.  However, Joe’s GPS indicated that we should continue straight.  After our painful climbs early on, we chose not to turn onto Mt. Payne Road, which was in fact, a climb.

In the town of Palmyra, we got on the Erie Canal Trail.  While most of the trail was in rural areas, we did go through several interesting towns. We stopped in Pittsford for coffee and pastries.  If our Swiss cycling friend HP was with us, we would have lingered for an hour watching the pleasure barges on the water.  We miss his “stop and smell the coffee” approach to bike touring.  To reach Rochester, we cycled almost 30 miles of the Erie Canal.  (Joe and his wife Nancy have cycled the entire canal from Buffalo to Albany.)

In Rochester we cycled 14 extra miles looking at various points of interest and seeing the downtown. We especially enjoyed Highland Park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1888. Spring-blooming flowers & trees line the 150-acre park and we made stops at its castle, sunken garden, and amphitheater.  The other notable stop was the Susan B. Anthony House.  After our downtown tour we got back on the Erie Canal trail to get to our hotel in Rochester’s western suburbs. From Rochester we planned to head directly north to Lake Ontario. However, a bridge over a causeway that gave access to boats entering Lake Ontario from Irondequoit Bay had been closed for the season, making our planned route impassable.  So rather than heading north out of Rochester, we headed east then north.  Once we left Rochester, most of the rest of the day we cycled in rural areas.

We did enjoy cycling along the Lake Ontario shore. For lunch we stopped at Burnap’s Fruit Farm near Sodus.  The farm stand also had a café where we got a great sandwich (that was large enough for us to share) made with bread that was baked on site.  We also had strawberry filled pastries that just came out of the oven.  We ate on their deck overlooking the farm and, in the distance, we could almost see the lake. If we didn’t have more miles to go, we could have sat there for hours. Next, we cycled to the historic Sodus lighthouse, our day’s first and only planned point of interest until we got to Walcott. In Walcott we saw the Wolcott Falls and the Buggy Museum.  We spent the night at the Wolcott hotel.  The hotel is old and that is probably the best thing we can say about it.

The next morning, we headed southeast toward our destination, Syracuse. It rained for the first several hours making us uncomfortable.  By the time we got to the Erie Canal, it had stopped raining but the rain left the canal trail  sloppy, and we got muddy.  As the trail passed through the town of Jordan, we asked about the availability of coffee and breakfast.  We were directed to a unique little place called Peace Love and Coffee.  The shop is run by Sarah and Mike.  Mike made us breakfast sandwiches with fresh biscuits and Sarah served coffee.  Sarah and her friend make the pastries they serve.  We just had to try the cinnamon buns. They were fantastic and the coffee was wonderful.  Sarah and Mike were great hosts and we wish them well.

We cycled on the canal trail for over 20 miles until we got to Syracuse where we had about 15 miles of road cycling to get to Joe’s van.  Our route through Syracuse took us on a trail through a park where a large Pride festival was occurring. Many of the festival participants were dressed in interesting costumes, but I suspect that the participants looked at us with the same thought.  Because of the crowds and narrow paths, it was slow going.  On the other side of the park, we exited the path and got on a street lined with folks waiting for the Pride Parade to come through.  We cycled the parade route until we came head on to the parade’s beginning where a police officer made us exit the route.

The final miles through Syracuse were hilly but uneventful as we cycled to the van.  After washing the mud off our bikes and changing our clothes, we drove to Joe’s home in eastern New York. The next morning, I drove to my home in Virginia.

More pictures and detailed map of our travels can be seen at


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Cycling the Ohio to Erie Trial

 (Photos by Joseph Insalaco)

When I told friends that I was going to cycle across Ohio, I was met with skepticism, and asked questions like, “why”, or “couldn’t you find something more interesting than Ohio”.  I am glad that I wasn’t discouraged by their comments.  The Ohio to Erie Trail is a gem and well worth the long drive it took to get there from Virginia. 

The Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) extends 326 miles from the Ohio River at Cincinnati to Lake Erie’s shore in Cleveland. The OTET is made up of individual rail trails, canal paths, and some country roads and city streets.  In addition to the 2 terminus cities, the trail goes through Columbus (the state’s capital), Akron, and numerous quaint small towns and miles of pastoral countryside.  Even though the trail is named Ohio to Erie, we started at Lake Erie and cycled to the Ohio River.  From there we cycled back to Cleveland.  Our round-trip cycling journey totaled 650 miles.  Many more trip photos, routes, and daily miles can be seen on our trip blog.. ( 

Joe, my long-time cycling friend and blog photographer, and I drove to Cleveland, arriving in the early afternoon. Needing to stretch our legs after 6-hours in a van, we took a walking tour of the city’s lake shore. There we saw an old steam ship, a more interesting submarine, a statue honoring Jesse Owen, the Cleveland Brown’s football stadium, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The one site that seemed to elude us was the International Women's Aviation Museum. I wanted to see the museum because I read several non-fiction and historical-fiction books about women's role in early aviation. Ironically, Cleveland hosted early National Air Races but denied women access. Despite having phones with map programs and a separate GPS we could not find the museum that was supposed to be “next” to the regional airport on the lake shore. Even though males don’t ask for directions, we did, and were told to walk another half mile past the airport. But the only thing we saw was the lake and parklands. Eventually, we turned around and went inside the airport to ask for help, but instead we found the museum; it was not next to, but in the airport. Finding the museum was well worth our effort. Inside we learned about some very amazing women.


Cycling from Cleveland to Akron

Our ride began in a rain that lasted about an hour.  The rain was just a minor nuisance and not worth the time to put on our rain gear. We traveled on city streets in marked cycle lanes until we reached the trail that led to Akron.  For the first several miles along the trail, we saw Cleveland’s historical industrial area.  While that maybe a turnoff to some, we found the dilapidated steel mills interesting and appreciated how the trail incorporated many of the industrial “castoffs” as trail art and educational sites.    We stopped at the Steel Heritage Center, to look at a steel ingot (a slab) several inches thick and several feet long that was formed into a coil of flat steel.  We also saw a massive railroad car used to transport the slag waste away from an iron furnace.  Further along the trail, we stopped at a display depicting a railroad roundhouse and a bench made from the wheel assembly of an abandoned rail car.

For breakfast, we sought out the Rawley Inn that was just off the trail and a few miles from our hotel.  The Rawley Inn is a Triple D featured restaurant (  Although some of the menu items seemed exotic to our simple upbringings, our food was very good.  Across the street from the Rawley Inn is the house was used in the classic movie “Christmas Story” ( This movie is a “must see” for my grandsons at Christmas. 

Next, we transitioned onto the Ohio and Erie Canal path. According to Wikipedia: The Ohio and Erie Canal, completed in 1832, connected Cleveland on Lake Erie to Cincinnati on the Ohio River, creating the state’s most important superhighway.  In the 1970s it became part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and eventually the trail evolved into a recreation corridor for cyclists and hikers.

We passed through many small towns and natural areas where wildlife abounded.  The canal’s waters hosted blue herons and the path was often blocked by flocks of geese that blocked the trail. Despite our noisy efforts, the geese did not want to move.

We arrived in Akron in mid-afternoon. Not that we had lots of miles to cycle, but rather there was so much to see along the way and we made many photo stops. Akron was founded in 1825. Around the turn of the century, Akron’s tire manufacturing helped it become known as the “rubber capital of the world.” Other Akron trivia includes, the hamburger. It was supposedly invented there. Thomas Edison visited often (his wife was an Akronite). And, NBA superstar Labron James calls Akron home—and the Main Street was renamed “King James Way.”

Akron to Millersburg

We left Akron at first light without breakfast. At each of the trail’s road crossing we checked Google for nearby restaurants and asked other trail users if they knew of a place for breakfast. About 25 miles into our ride, we finally found a great breakfast at Sisters Café. After cycling on trails for 40 miles we had to transition unto country roads for about 20 miles of country roads. While almost no car traffic, there were many Amish buggies on the hilly roads. This section made us appreciate the relatively flat canal trail that we had been riding earlier that day. The last 10 miles of our day were back on a flat trail that had the distinction of being a cycling and buggy trail. We were told that these trails were meant to keep buggies and bicycles off the busy roads

Millersburg has a vibrant business district and we stayed in the Hotel Millersburg.  The hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and President Grover Cleveland reportedly stayed there on December 8, 1800. Besides hosting a president, the hotel also hosts quilter retreats and its halls were adorned with many intricate quilts. 

Near the end of our walking tour of Millersburg, we stopped at Troyer’s Sweet Shoppe were the Chocolatier, Verna provided us with some rich chocolates. She told us that she was the third generation Chocolatier in the shop founded by her grandmother.  As we wandered back to the hotel, we passed the Millersburg Creamery.  After eating more chocolates than a healthy diet would allow, we did restrain from getting ice cream at the very popular shop.  

Millersburg to Mt, Vernon

After 20 years of cycling trips, our ride from Millersburg to Mt. Vernon was one of the nicest cycling days either of us could remember.  Of course, we are old and our memories are disappearing. Really, we had great weather and fantastic cycling. (This is what my notes indicated, but as I write this story, I can’t remember any specifics.)

Our morning started with an early breakfast that we found only 3 blocks from our hotel.  We were surprised to find a restaurant that opened at 6 a.m.  Afterward, it was only a short, downhill ride from our hotel to the trail. This trail is a continuation of the bike/buggy trail we came into town on the previous day.  Our ride west was flat, straight, and fast.  The trail only lasted 7 miles before it ended and we had to cycle on country roads.  The roads could have been a continuation of the trail, because we did not see any cars.  This section was also about 7 miles long and had gentle rolling hills that allowed easy cycling.  Near the end of this segment, we heard the “clip clop” of horses gaining on us.  We were going 12 mph when 4 buggies easily passed.  They were filled with Amish families. 

When we got to the next trail, the buggies were stopped at a trailhead picnic area.  While they waved, we were not asked to join their picnic. So, we got on the trail and headed up the mountain.  The trail was another buggy/bike trail on a former railroad right-of-way.  We climbed for 3 miles on a gentle slope that allowed us to pedal at 10 mph with ease.  Along the way, many more buggies passed us but we did not see any other cyclists.

As we crested the mountain, we saw still more buggies.  Our descent on the other side of the mountain was equally as gentle as our climb. Thus, no screaming downhill ride.  This trail ended after 12 blissful miles.  We next transitioned through a small town and then got on our last trail for the day.  No buggies were allowed on this trail but we saw lots of walkers and cyclists.  Along the way, we cycled over the Bridge of Dreams, a 370-foot covered bridge located near Brinkhaven, Ohio. The 1920s bridge was built for the railroad and in 1998 was incorporated into the trail.  Reportedly, it is the second longest covered bridge in Ohio and third longest covered bridge in the United States. 

We stayed in the town of Mt. Vernon founded in 1805 and named after George Washington’s estate.  We saw a historical marker indicating that the town was the location of Johnny Appleseed’s first orchard.  The town was winner of Ohio Magazine’s 2018 Best Home Town award. The town was vibrant with restaurants and shops. We visited the Woodward Opera House, the oldest opera theater of its kind in the United States. The theater, after many years of renovation and restoration, had been transformed into a local cultural and performing-arts center.

Mt. Vernon to Columbus

We left Mt. Vernon early to beat the predicted rain and were successful.  Our ride was easy but temperature and humidity combined to create a steam bath.  The day’s “high points” were found between the 15- and 20-mile marks.  The first was a marker that indicated we were at the highest point on the Ohio to Erie Trail. 

We concluded that the rest of our journey would be easy because it would be downhill to the Ohio River.  The second marker indicated that we were at the halfway point to the Ohio River.

Near the second marker we met Dan, a trail volunteer assessing the trail’s condition after the previous night’s storm.  He mentioned that he knew 2 of the founders of Bikecentennial, Greg and June Siple who were from that part of Ohio.   Bikecentennial took thousands of cyclists across the United States in 1976 and led to the creation of the Adventure Cycling Association. The first part of Greg and June’s Hemistour from Alaska to Argentina was featured in National Geographic’s May 1973 magazine.

Columbus, Ohio’s capital city was entered by way of trails and marked cycling lanes on city streets. The first European settlers arrived in 1797. The city was named for Italian explorer Christopher Columbus and became the state capital in 1816. 

Columbus to Xenia

The start of our day was hot and it got hotter as the day progressed.  After about 7 miles of cycling, we found a place for breakfast.  Actually, we had a “choice” of either McDonalds or Tim Hortons.  Hum, American or Canadian fast-food breakfasts?  We chose Tim Hortons because we like their muffins.

While we saw lots of people on the trail and had extended conversations with two. First, we met William Galloway riding a Catrike (a 3-wheel recumbent) and pulling a trailer.

He was on his fourth trip across the United States in four years.   He was very pleasant and neat looking. William was in no hurry to move on, nor were we.  He surprised us by saying that he was homeless but never without a place to stay.  When he wasn’t in his tent or trail shelter, he was with friends or kind strangers. He said that he started his travels after recovering from a brain injury.  Over all, he has cycled 37,500 miles and gone through 3 trikes and 5 trailers.  The second person we met was Heidi.  She was setting up a lunch stop for 11 cyclists on a Wilderness Voyageurs tour on the OTET.  Her company is located in Ohiopyle, PA and provides fully supported bike adventures.  Each day we carried our own gear and looked for places to eat and sleep.  Heidi’s cyclists had their gear transported in a trailer to their next night’s lodging, breakfast and dinner in prearranged restaurants, and lunch provide during their ride.  Heidi filled our water bottles and shared some wonderful Amish pecan cinnamon rolls. 

The Ohio to Erie Trail is the overarching name and is comprised of many trails with their own names.  About half our day cycling to Xenia was on the Prairie Grass Trail.  It was freshly paved which was nice. However, the trail lacked much interest.  We saw mostly farm fields but we enjoyed the diversions through the small towns along the trail.  One of the towns, London, founded in the early 1800s, as a Methodist community. Next was Cedarville where we passed the Cedarville Opera House.  Finally, we arrived in Xenia which was founded in 1803, the same year Ohio was admitted to the Union. Xenia was once a safe haven for enslaved people traveling to freedom along the Underground Railroad. 

Xenia to Cincinnati

Again, we left our hotel without breakfast.  We had a long day ahead of us, so an early start was necessary.  What we failed to factor in was the impact of previous night’s severe thunderstorm.  Our first hour on the trail was in the dark, and we encountered 20 miles of downed branches and trees obstructing our passage.  It would have been a difficult obstacle course for us even if we had waited for the daylight. Along the way we cleared paths, cycled around debris, or lugged our bikes over fallen trees.  Our clean-up stops were met by hungry mosquitoes and Joe ended up with a poison ivy rash on his legs. 

The OTET has several internet sites that list trail construction and related detours.  Our first major detour took us off the trail and required us to climb a mountainous road to get around the closed area.  We survived the climb and stopped at the top at a Starbucks for some cold water.  Burt, the barista, filled our bottles with ice and cold water. In that heat, it was a wonderful treat.  While Burt was filling our bottles a little boy, in line with his mother, kept asking his mother about my cycling attire. He wanted to know what was on my arms (sun sleeves), on my hands (gloves), and on my head (helmet with sun shade). Mom kept trying to quiet the boy, but I gladly answered all his questions.  As you can guess, my cycling attire is not the typical stuff seen on road cyclists.

As the morning progressed, the trail was bordered by large trees providing a canopy cover of coolness to the day’s increasing heat.  As we entered Loveland Ohio, we quickly transitioned into the bright sunlight and a radically different trail.  We first saw a tropical drink stand just a step off the trail.  The barista was dishing ice into tall glasses that would soon be followed by bright colored syrups.  Next to it was a café with outdoor seating with umbrellas providing shade to its many customers. We then saw an outdoor picnic area with overhead misting pipes cooling off hot cyclists and hikers.  Looking further down the trail we could see restaurants, a bike shop, and hundreds of brightly colored canoes and kayaks ready for an adventure on the Little Miami River.  Loveland is a resort town, appropriately nicknamed “Little Switzerland of the Miami Valley”. It was no surprise that the town was full of people. We cycled through lots of towns on this and previous rides and wondered why more communities didn’t make their “trail-town” a unique destination.  

When we got into Cincinnati’s metropolitan area, we had about 10 miles of urban cycling.  While the traffic was ok, the roads were in poor condition making the day’s end even more challenging. At our hotel Joe looked at his phone and saw that it was 97 degrees with a “feels like” temperature of 111 degrees.  Despite the heat, we walked to another Triple D recommended restaurant, the Taste of Belgium (  It was about a mile from our hotel.  The food was excellent but the walk was not.

Cincinnati to Mason

Leaving Cincinnati was more pleasant because of the cooler temperature and getting started before the morning rush hour traffic.  Once we got back on the rail-trail we saw lots of people out for their morning exercise.  A group of roadie cyclists pulled alongside of us and inquired about our journey. One woman, a self-confessed competitor, decided that I was slow, so she moved up next to Joe. Joe is not one to decline a challenge and they were off to the races.  Eventually, we all ended up in Loveland, OH, where we joined the roadies for coffee. During our conversation, we learned that some of the group had already done the complete OTET and planned to cycle the Great Allegany Passage (GAP) trail in Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) trail in Maryland, and the New River trail in Virginia. Since I had cycled all of these trails, I shared my thoughts and wished them great rides in all their travels. 

After the previous day’s 70-mile ride in the heat, we were thankful that we had planned to cut our trip back to Xenia into two segments of about 35 miles each.  The town of Mason was the best we could find with lodging.  However, it required us to cycle 5 miles off the trail for a hotel.  We were surprised to see a large amusement park called Kings Island and a stadium along the way.  The hotel in Mason did not have a guest laundry so we took advantage of the hot weather and hung our wash on a clothes line strung between our bikes in the hotel parking lot.  The sight generated lots of smiles and comments from other guests.  

Mason to Xenia

We cycled back to Xenia on a clean trail.  The maintenance crew did a fantastic job of cleaning up the storm damage we encountered when we left Xenia several days earlier.  

Before I left home, Helen (my wife) said that we should embrace our return ride because it will give us a different perspective.  We did see a few things that we missed on the way south so they were added to our trip’s photo gallery.  When heading south we were focused on dodging all the trail debris and failed to appreciate that we were cycling along the Little Miami River.  While the water was muddy and high from the earlier storms it was a packed with canoers and kayakers.  We wished that we had planned a day on the river. It would have been easy to arrange because we saw lots of canoe and kayak rentals facilities along this section of the trail. 

Xenia to Columbus

There is not much to see when you leave the hotel at 5 a.m. and cycle on a tree covered trail.  But then we didn’t care.  Our focus was to get an early start on a 60-mile day before the temperature got hot.  We pushed for 30 miles to reach London, OH where we stopped for breakfast. There we met another cyclist who said his trail name was Speedy.  Speedy endorsed our choice for breakfast, ignoring the reality that the nearby M&M Diner was the only place to eat. Speedy was on a new carbon fiber bike taking his initial shake-down cruise. Speedy told us that he cycles about 14,000 miles a year. With that kind of mileage, he deserved a new light-weight bike.

Nancy, Joe’s wife urged Joe to get out of the hotel and see Columbus, the capital of Ohio.  So, after cycling nearly 60 miles we took a 5-mile walk. Our first destination was Columbus’ German Village.  We were hoping to find a German restaurant for our dinner but only found a German coffee shop.  Next, we headed to the Ohio Statehouse that was begun in 1839.  After that, we headed to the Flat Iron Grill for our dinner and beers, both of which were excellent; and fortunately, the Grill was near our hotel. 

Columbus to Mt Vernon

We cycled 12 miles on the trail to reach our breakfast stop.  We knew that we picked a good place because it was packed with customers.  After a hardy breakfast we took an alternate route that took us off the OTET and went around Hoover Reservoir that is more than 10 miles long.  The nice thing about this route was that it was no longer than staying on the OTET.  Mostly it was on urban trails and roads with little traffic. The only downside was that we were exposed to the gusty winds blowing across the reservoir.  After 24 miles, we were back on the OTET and continuing to climb to its highest point, 1,285 feet.  While that may seem high, we reached this point over 3 days of cycling on 1 and 2 percent grades. We were easily able to cycle 12 mph most of the time.  After we crested the high point, our speed increased to 14-15 mph.  Near Mt. Vernon we saw lots of storm damage on the trails. We were told that 2 tornados had gone through there a few days earlier.

We arrived in Mt. Vernon only to find that George Washington was not there.  But we are sure you knew that.  We celebrated our day’s ride with a stop at a frozen custard shop (the first of the trip) and indulged in a cool treat.  We took another walking tour of Mt. Vernon and found that on our earlier visit we missed a whimsical dog fountain.    

Mt. Vernon to Millersburg

We had a short ride ahead of us, so we lingered at our hotel breakfast in Mt Vernon. Then we lingered on the trail, and finally we lingered in Millersburg waiting for our room to be ready. We should have lingered longer before leaving Mt Vernon because it was a cold 47 degrees in the morning.  Needless to say, we were bundled up with extra clothes that we had to strip off as the day warmed up. There was not much to see on the trail except for a jogger, who in full stride, was juggling 3 balls as we passed him. We were impressed.

Millersburg was still cleaning up after the tornado went through the area.  The trail into town was full of debris, and some of the restaurants did not expect to open for a few more days.  Also, it was a Sunday and the ice cream shop, candy shop, and brewery were closed.  We are thankful that we had a place to stay.

Millersburg to Akron

We left Millersburg very early because of the planned 70-mile ride and projected rain.  However, Joe discovered a short cut that saved us 14 miles of trail cycling.  The trail made a big “U-shaped” curve that we decided to cut straight across on a county road.  Unfortunately, the short cut had one very long and extremely steep hill that we had to walk. So, our 70-mile day became 54 miles (we don’t know what happened to the remaining few miles). Not much rain but very cool temperatures. We got into Akron at noon, checked into our hotel, and had our lunch/dinner.

Akron - Cleveland – Home

Our final bike ride to Cleveland was uneventful.  Both of us wanted to get home.  After nearly 40 miles of cycling, we loaded Joe’s van and headed east.   We arrived at my home in Virginia mid-afternoon and then Joe continued to his home in New York state, arriving in the evening.