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The OTET . Final Thoughts

For the last several years I had pondered on what it would be like to get into bike touring. Talking to other’s and reading reviews I headed to the local bike shop here in town the first of this year. I entered the International Pro Bike Shop with many questions and came out with the purchase of a Bianchi C-Sport 3.

When she arrived, I was properly fitted for this bike. Eventually we changed the seat and handlebars. They installed the back rack, wrapped the handlebars and even though she is a basic bike, it was all I needed to get started.

Around the same time as I was getting adjusted to my new bike, I kept having terrible pains in my neck and shoulders, down my arms and numbing my fingers as I rode. A Dr visit with x-rays showed that I have degenerative bone disease in the T7 region of the neck and up with a few bone spurs on T5 & T6…So…any bike riding for me going forward was going to be short 10 to 20 mile rides. Well not quite! Having constant pain was not going to determine my bike riding!

I had met Linda a few years earlier and I knew that she was and avid bicyclist and motorcyclist. She has served in the US Army for several years, drives a semi truck for a living and loves to hike and be outdoors. I knew she would be the right person to teach me the ropes of riding!

I had purchased the OTET maps last year and done very little research on this route but I knew I wanted to attempt it in mid October. Contacting her and only giving us each two weeks to prepare…she said “Yes”…with a promise that she could ride 30 to 40 miles per day. I was only hoping to be able to keep up with her!

I had purchased a pair of waterproof, back-roller free Ortlieb panniers from REI and a front five liter Ortlieb handlebar bag. Using pipe insulation, I made and attached a water guard to the back rack, extending it to underneath my seat. Rearview mirror, water bottle holders, lights, tools, two tire tubes, patch kit, bike lock, single person tent, sleeping gear, clothing, food, toiletries and maps…I began preparing myself for the ride.

As you can see I wore a pair of KEEN Newport sandals for the entire ride. Linda had given me a pair of bike shoes but I shipped them home after carrying them for the first four days of our trip. Bike shorts didn’t work for me either so I wore my usual leggings.

I truly enjoyed the entire Ohio to Erie Trail and would do it again. Next time I would take more pictures and stop more often to visit some of the attractions along the route.

The month of October was ideal with the changing of the seasons. We experienced all sorts of weather from freezing temps, to rain, sunshine and cloudy days.

The ride through towns and on the roads was a first for me and is something I will need to get the hang of. From the onset I was not a steady driver on my bike with all the weight. I did not feel comfortable riding close to the right side of the trail and chose to ride more in the middle. Linda was great in teaching me the verbal commands necessary for a successful ride when you have others with you…Breaking, Slowing, Stopping, Heads Up…Got It, were words that we constantly communicated to one another.

My favorite parts of the OTET were the Ohio to Erie Canal Towpath, the Alum Creek Trail into Columbus and the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The entire trail is well maintained with numerous trailside parks, rest areas and sights to explore. There could be a little more signage in some areas but for the most part it is fairly easy to follow. A few more campsites along the way would be good for those of us who do not ride those long miles each day. It was a fun experience that I would do again!

Nothing can compare though to the surprise I had as I finished along the Ohio River at the Roebling Bridge. I have backpacked many a trail and have completed many a thru hike but had yet to experience a finish where my family was there to greet me. I was so excited and full of joy I had a hard time keeping back the tears. No trip has ever brought me such triumph and delight as being with my children and grandchildren at the finish. Their presence meant the world to me!

Thank you Linda for being such a trusted team player that I could count on…you had my back and I appreciated it all. You are an inspiration!

And to my girls…I can’t thank you enough for taking the time on such a rainy, cold day to come out and find me as I completed this journey.

With much love to my family…

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 8

Sunday, October 18th, 2020

Orgonia, Ohio to Cincinnati, Ohio . 48.3m

We quietly broke camp and were on our way before the sun rose. With headlamps and bike lights we walked the first two miles of the trail towards Fort Ancient. Once light peered through the leaves of the trees and we had a glimmer of sun we pursued the final day riding toward Roebling Bridge…it is a surreal day just knowing that you have just biked near three hundred miles.

It is a beautiful day with many runners, walkers and bikers on the trail trying to get a few miles in before the drenching rains were upon us.

Riding into the quaint town of Loveland, we were on the lookout for a cafe. Actually, I was on the prowl for something sweet to eat! Being gluten and dairy free, sometimes my choices are far and few between. As Linda found a cafe (nothing GF/DF here for me), I made my way further down through town eyeing for that one place! And I found it! Mile 42 Coffee is a coffee shop right over the railroad tracks in town. I didn’t hesitate to order for myself two GF/DF brownies…warmed! Rain had already started but I didn’t mind as I stood there getting wet eating my delicious sweets before turning around and heading back to look for Linda.

We always carried our rain gear on top in waterproof bags for quick and easy access. Standing underneath an outside restaurant umbrella, I put on my rain pants, rain jacket and extra gloves. I secured the rain pants at the calves with hair ties to keep them from getting caught on anything as I rode. I already had my waterproof socks on and my phone was in plastic. Off we rode…slow and steady in the pouring rains.

We have followed the Little Miami Scenic Trail since arriving in Xenia yesterday and at the Newtown Road Tunnel, the OTET splits off, crosses Route 50 and for the next five miles I don’t remember much because it was all sidewalk, road riding and traffic through Mariemont on Wooster Pike.

I think at this point we are both riding faster with the end near. Nothing can stop us now as we begin our ride on the Ohio River/OTET where we see our first views of the Ohio River…feeling the surge of success, we shout out our “WhooHoo’s”

Before I had begun this bike packing experience, I had invited my children and grandchildren to join me and Linda as we crossed the imaginary finish line at Roebling Bridge. I had hoped that they could be there and when I turned on my phone to look for any messages from them I saw that they were going to try to get there! I was so excited, I had tears in my eyes!

The finish was quick as I looked for my family and as Linda was viewing the landscape for her daughter and granddaughter. We eventually found our loved ones and with lots of hugs and kisses, we had finished the 326 mile Ohio to Erie Trail. We had ridden from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

With excitement and feeling accomplished,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 7

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

London, Ohio to Orgonia, Ohio . 50m

Well guess what…we survived the night and I only took one picture all day!

A friend of Linda’s had contacted her last night and made arrangements to ride out with us in the morning. Paul, arrived promptly at 7:30am ready for the morning. I checked the weather and it was 35deg when we started out.

The trail from London to Xenia is called the Prairie Grass Trail…passing farmland, countryside, silos and barns.

When we arrived to the village of South Charleston, we did not hesitate to find the first open cafe to go inside just to warm ourselves up. I was wearing two pair of leggings, two pair of gloves, a fleece hat and face covering, a wool sweater, down jacket and two other layers on top…I felt fine but there was a chill to my fingers. Paul was only riding to this point with us and turned around to ride back to London. It was a pleasure to have him along with us this morning.

Onward to Cedarville, Ohio…home of Cedarville University. My mother and father attended this college back in the early 50’s. Here is where they met and later married!

Cedarville also has a few nice cafe’s which we stop at, but this time we order some real food! Before going inside I strip down a layer of pants and a layer on top…it is starting to warm up a bit.

We knew that after leaving Columbus and entering the village of London, the trail was going to be flat without any road travel. We were cruising…right into Xenia and the Xenia Station Depot.

Today the railroads are gone and this junction is now a cycling center. The Xenia Station, a replica of the railroad station is the hub for five regional rail trails. The crossing of these three railroad rights-of-way created six spokes on a wheel with Xenia Station in the center. Of these six spokes, five have been coverted to rail trails. The one exception was the B&O line to west Dayton.

The original brick railroad station was built in the 1880’s. This replica, complete with a history museum, classroom and an observation tower called the Hub Lookout, was built in 1998 by the city of Xenia.

Leaving the Xenia Station we were both in very familiar territory. I frequent the Little Miami Scenic Trail weekly either for running, biking or walking. From Xenia to Spring Valley, through the edge of Corwin and on to Orgonia, we bike along the Little Miami National Wild & Scenic River.

The Little Miami River is a tributary of the Ohio River that flows 111 miles through five counties.

Arriving in Orgonia we had yet to find tent sites. The trail passes a small local church which has a sign out front that welcomes the riders to visit their shelter for some rest and relaxation. When we arrived, there was a family neighborhood birthday party going on under the shelter, so Linda and I politely waited out front until they began to clean up their cookout. In the meantime, we scouted some land across the street for possible tent sites. Mt first reaction was a “No”…why? First, we did not know who owned the land nor did we have permission to tent on it. Second, the trails were wide which indicated to me that they were used by mountain bikers, etc…not wanting to get run over…and third, there was a popular biker bar and grill just across the path. Too close for me on a Saturday night. I had already called the church and left a detailed message as to us tenting in the back for the night…so back we went.

We returned back to the church and while I was scouting the property for where to pitch my tent, Linda was out front already with her tent set up in full view! Naturally when the local sheriff drove past he stopped to talk to Linda. She explained our plans. For our safety, he said we would be safer on the church lot than across the street in the woods…so here we stayed!

Tomorrow is our last day!

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 6

Friday, October 16th, 2020

Westerville, Ohio to London, Ohio . 46.8m

Columbus…here we come! I had read that it would take approximately two hours to get through town and most have difficulty following the route. From the beginning of this OTET trip, Linda has up on her phone the Google Maps bike route for just in case we do get off route. Which we have! It has helped us a few times to get back on track!

As soon as there is a tiny bit of light, we left the Hotel making our way to the Alum Creek Greenway/OTET. With the rains yesterday afternoon and through the night, it makes for a very wet and potentially slippery trail.

With the many wooden bridges and boardwalks that we ride upon, I ride slowly and cautiously as we cross the Alum Creek several times.

For the next eleven miles, and with all of its beauty, the Alum Creek Trail will take us into downtown Columbus.

Oops…wrong turn! The Scioto River is suppose to be on our left! We were so taken by its beauty we didn’t notice.

But we don’t mind the pretty views of downtown Columbus…time to turn around and head back a short.

This is better…Now biking, for the next three miles, on the Lower Scioto Greenway/OTET. We are not out of Columbus yet! The OTET is making its way to the Hilltop Connector where it joins the Camp Chase Trail.

Looking back from the Scioto River Trail near the North Bank Park…

I thought for sure I did a panoramic view of this building…I guess not! The Camp Chase Trail is a 15.9 mile, asphalt trail. This trail will take us into the Georgesville, Ohio village and traverse the Battelle Darby Creek Park.

London, Ohio was our final destination for the day. We have plans to tent at the Trailside Campsites.

All week the weather has been ranging from the 40’s into the upper 60’s…tonight it is dropping down into the mid 30’s for a bitter cold night in the tents.

These popular tent sites are home for the night for many hundreds of riders as they pass through London. With wooden tent pads, several boxed in tent pads, a picnic shelter, electrical outlets, a very clean and heated locked (only riders receive the code to get in), restroom and an outdoor shower, no wonder it is so popular.

Bracing myself and wearing almost every piece of clothing to brave out the cold…Brrrrr,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 5

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

Centerburg, Ohio to Westerville, Ohio . 23.7m

Today’s post is going to be a short one because today was a half day. We had known for several days now that on Thursday we would experience rains throughout most of the day.

The Heart of Ohio Trail stops just beyond Centerburg where we begin a 10 mile road journey into the village of Sunbury. More road biking of 2.5 miles from Sunbury to Galena and to the start of the Galena Brick Trail before it joins the Hoover Scenic Trail.

The Hoover Dam, near Westerville, Ohio, dams the Big Walnut Creek to form the Hoover Memorial Reservoir. This reservoir is a major water source for the city of Columbus. You can see that we are riding through a cloudy day. We are both relieved to have finished the road riding portion of the day before the rains set in…

I had contacted an individual through “Warm Showers”, a bike community that extends a place to stay, or tent, shower, etc…the night before. He quickly accepted our request to stay but upon reaching Westerville, we decided to go forward for a little longer after looking at the weather report. plus it looked like we had already passed by his location.

We stop to look at the upcoming town route, and take off…

We are now on the Westerville Bike & Walk Route which goes behind businesses in this very populated northern Columbus town.

Once we reach the heart of Westerville, we ride to a nearby Red Roof Inn where we agree this is the best decision due to the rains approaching.

With everything secured in the room, we gather our rain jackets and walk 0.4m to the Chipotle Mexican Grill we had passed earlier. With dinner in hand, Linda walks back to the Hotel while I make a side trip to Kroger looking for more FOOD!

Great to be indoors while the cold rains pour outside,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 4

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Millersburg, Ohio to Centerburg, Ohio . 54.5m

Across the street from the Hotel is a Carriage Connector Trail that leads you straight to the Holmes County/OTET. The morning is early as we begin to watch another day unfold. Daylight quickly creeps upon us as we approach the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area and onward to the small town of Killbuck. Here we have an 8m stretch of road making our way to the village of Glenmont where the OTET once again connects you to the Holmes County Trail.

Taking a small break in Glenmont, Ohio…

Outside of Glenmont, this newer section of the Holmes County/OTET, begins with a slow gradual climb for approximately two miles before the short steep climb up to the Baddow Pass, through a tunnel under US 62 and onward to the Bridge of Dreams.

Riding through the Bridge of Dreams, this 370 foot covered bridge crosses the Mohican River. It was originally built in the 1920’s as a railroad bridge, and was covered in 1998. It is the second longest covered bridge in Ohio and the third longest covered bridge in the United States.

Soon we follow the Mohican Valley Trail for 4 miles into the village of Danville where a street route takes us to the Kokosing Gap/OTET. The Kokosing Gap Trail is a paved 14 mile recreational trail built on a former Pennsylvania Railroad.

Between the villages of Howard and Mt Vernon, we ride beside the Kokosing River. Kokosing translates roughly to “River of Little Owls”.. We didn’t see any owls today…

Stone bridges are the most durable and strong bridge type. The Stone Arch at Howard, Ohio is no exception. Built in 1874, this arch bridge is for U.S. Route 36 which travels over the old Cleveland, Mt. Vernon, and Delaware Railroad bed. We take a nice lunch break here.

We enter the city of Mt Vernon and after some street riding we join the Heart of Ohio/OTET. The Heart of Ohio Trail begins at the beautifully restored Cleveland, Akron & Columbus (CA&C) Railroad Depot, which dates back to 1907. 

One of the most unique vantage points in Mount Vernon, Ohio is the Rastin Observation Tower at Ariel-Foundation Park.

The observation tower is a steel, spiral staircase that coils around the tallest structure in Knox County, PPG’s industrial smoke stack built in 1951. The historical chimney served Pittsburg Plate Glass (PPG), from 1951 until its closing in 1979 and was constructed of reinforced concrete by the Slip Form Method.

The former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company’s Mount Vernon plant sits on seventy acres which opened in 1907 and was operated by PPG, or through one of its divisions, until 1976. Abandoned and scheduled to be demolished, this site was recovered and is now the home to the Ariel-Foundation Park. A park I would like to visit again someday and take more time exploring the grounds.

Riding through the Ariel-Foundation Park are many earthen terraces.

Today was a re-supply day for us when we reached the half-way point of the Ohio to Erie Trail in Centerburg, Ohio. A week earlier we had compiled four days worth of food for each of us and mailed it out to ourselves for pickup at the Centerburg Post Office. Before arriving, we knew already that we did not have any plans of where to tent for the night.

The PO clerk was very helpful in filling our water bottles, throwing away our trash and helping us to pack up our items we were shipping back home! We had gathered those gear items earlier and had them ready to be boxed and shipped. The PO is open till 4:30pm and it was already after 4:00. Like any re-supply box you pick up…you quickly get the new food items packed to go and the 4.56 pounds you are shipping home done, done and done!

Having backpacked extensively over the last several years, it is common for me to find a church and tent behind it..I went back inside the PO one last time to inquire about any local churches close to the OTET. The clerk again was helpful in suggesting a large church about a half mile away and close to the trail. Now I’m not one to just stealth camp anymore in some locations. I will always call or contact someone from said church to ask permission first. While I walked the grounds scouting out tenting possibilities, I mentioned to Linda to keep an eye out for anyone leaving or entering the building. Just then, a old pickup truck drove up to where Linda was standing and she asked if it would be ok…he then went in and asked the pastor and came back out and said, “Go for it”…

Awesome! This church has a large property with swaying pine trees, a playground and a picnic shelter. We opted for the shelter where the morning dew would not soak our tents and we could sit and eat at the tables.

We are thankful for God’s provision each and every day…and as I was scouting…I was praying. Thank you Father for answered prayers.

Full of gratitude,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 3

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

Massillon, Ohio to Millersburg, Ohio . 42.6m

The Rivers Edge Campsite is sandwiched between the Ohio To Erie Trail and the Tuscarawas River. With thunderstorms passing overhead throughout the evening, we knew that the trail would be wet and slick this morning as we completed the 70 plus mile portion of the Ohio to Erie Towpath and made our way to the Sippo Valley Trail.

Following a portion of the former Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad corridor, the Sippo Valley Trail spans 10 miles between Massillon and Dalton.

Riding through the town of Dalton, we quickly come to the part of this trail that we knew would be more challenging. The next 17 miles would take us down the rural roads in Holmes County and would be a day filled with the beautiful Amish countryside. Holmes County has one of the largest Amish communities in the world. With horse drawn buggies, children playing in schoolyards at recess, laundry hanging out to dry on the clotheslines, farmers bringing in the crops out in the fields where corn stalks and hay were lined up in the sun to dry. It was a sunny day, warm and pleasant and we were either flying down a steep hill or slugging our way up one. I am not embarrassed to say that there were a few times that I dismounted my bike and pushed my bike up…and up again!

We had planned on stopping in Fredericksburg to decide the outcome of the remainder of the day. Not fully knowing how strenuous the rural roads may be we thought it best to stop at a corner cafe to rest up, eat up and look over the map. We decided to continue on towards the Hipp Station in Millersburg for another 10 miles.

Picture above is an abandoned schoolhouse on our route.

Just outside Fredericksburg, we hop onto the Holmes County Trail. This is the only trail designed to accommodate Amish buggies, having a separate buggy lane.

When we reached the Henn Station it was closed. We knew the closest primitive tent sites in the area were at the Turkey Hollow campground which was 2.5 miles away off trail. To get there the owner, Matt, described it as “All up hill on a very steep road”. Matt was helpful in suggesting a hotel down the trail! All of our electronic devices needed complete recharging, I wanted to do some laundry and a good nights sleep were on its way. Thank you Matt!

A lovely day for a ride in the country!

Feeling energized and accomplished,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 2

Monday, October 12th, 2020

Brecksville Station to Massillon . 48.8m

Both of us gals are up before the sun rises and if it were daylight out we would be on our way…but we wait till there is adequate light to see before hitting the roads. Instead of attempting to walk our bikes back down the steep gravel hill that we had encountered the day before, we found a nearby bike path called the Old Carriage Trail that led us right back to the OTET. Being in the Cuyahoga Valley, there are many ravines and this trail was no exception. While experienced Linda rode slowly down the steep hill, I chose to walk my bike down!

The Ohio to Erie Canal, which we travel beside, began its construction during the 1820’s and early 1830’s. The canal initially provided a connection between Akron and Lake Erie at Cleveland then extending all the way to the Ohio River at Portsmouth within a few years. Later, connecting canal systems were built connecting it to the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal and other parts of Eastern Ohio.

Stopping for some photos at the Boston Mill Visitor Center just north of the 241m, toll highway…the Ohio Turnpike in Peninsula, Ohio.

Polluted from years of industrial waste, the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland was dangerously dirtied by a century of dumped factory waste and sewage from cities. In the summer of 1969 a floating pile of oil-soaked logs and other trash caught fire on the river in Cleveland. The Cuyahoga River became known as the river that burned.

Major cleanup was initiated and now this 84.9m free flowing river, is being restored, revitalized and protected. From Cleveland to Akron, we are able to view this beautiful river as we ride beside her, eventually crossing over and turning away from this river just north of Akron.

Szalay’s Sweet Corn Farm & Market is just a quick jump off of the Canal Towpath in Peninsula, Ohio. Linda was anticipating apple juice to quench her thirst but alas…they did not have any.

Riding into Akron, we met Mr Brown as he headed north to Cleveland. His trek began in Cincinnati and biking to Cleveland, he will then turn around and yo-yo back to Dayton, Ohio. Notice the cup/mug attached to a front bag. He had gear strapped everywhere!

The blue blazed Buckeye Trail which loops around the state of Ohio for 1,444m, can be seen and shared for short distances.

Still learning to properly use my bike gears, understanding the mechanics of it and riding with 30 pounds of gear, our destination for Day 2 was a near 50m ride to Massillon, Ohio. Here we tented at the Rivers Edge Campground on the towpath.

Enjoying every bump and bounce down the Ohio to Erie,

Yvonne

The OTET . Day 1

Sunday, October 11th, 2020

Cleveland to Brecksville Station . 21.7m

Arriving at Linda’s home at 6:45am, we quickly made changes, included add ons and finalized any adjustments to my bicycle. Clamping on a rear view mirror, a phone holder and a bottle cage, making sure I had rain protection for my bike seat and phone, then removing the front and back lights on my bike for the shuttle ride to Lake Erie, we were nearing completion. Linda had graciously given me two pair of bike shorts and a pair of bike shoes to wear, amongst numerous tools, etc. and by the time 8:00am rolled around, when our shuttle driver arrived, we were set and ready to go!

Meet Linda, my biking partner…long time rider of motorcycles, bicycles and trikes.

This ride was filled with many “First’s” for me. First time I have bike packed and carried adequate gear to sustain myself for the duration on our trip. First time to bike over 40 miles in a day, first time to ride through towns and on roads, fist time to ride through rain, first time to learn bike communication and skills. I was ready and up for the challenge!

I met Linda, my bike partner, on a White Mountains Women’s Retreat several years back. She is full of life, adventure and bicycle knowledge. Due to the Covid virus, any bike maintenance class that I had signed up for was canceled…having Linda ride with me was a reassurance of learning those needed skills.

Our shuttle driver from Ohio Trail Shuttle, arrived promptly at 8:00am. We loaded our panniers and gear into his vehicle, securely strapped our bikes to the back, and for several hours made our way to the northern terminus of the OTET on the shores of Lake Erie.

Arriving around noon, we quickly geared up, took some pictures, looked at the map and off we rode…our destination for the day was to a friends home who graciously offered her home for the night. Our first half day was complete with maneuvering through Cleveland, taking in the views and making our way to the Ohio to Erie Canal Towpath and the Cuyahoga Valley.

Our jump off point for the night was near the Station Road Bridge. A large gravel road that led straight uphill. It required that we both dismount our bikes to walk up, and up, and up…till we reached Route 82.

I’m a backpacker at heart and the two things that I quickly realized as a biker was…1) taking pictures of all the historical, scenic and beautiful sights was not going to be possible as I zoomed past it all, and 2) carrying a backpack on my back is a lot lighter than pushing my bike full of gear up a steep hill!

Learning to ride my bike on the OTET,

Yvonne

Adventure Awaits…

“I want to see what’s on the other side of the hill and then what’s beyond that.” Emma “Grandma” Gatewood


The desire to explore and experience life to it’s fullness is embedded within each of us…to live a life that is rich with memories of building relationships, seeking adventure, all while soaking in the beauty that surrounds us, reaching a goal and pursuing a dream is what A Time To Keep specializes in. We will help to plan, organize and execute your next hike or backpacking trip for you and your family, for your friends, co-workers, women’s group, home-school club or as a solo trip planned just for you with our guides…