Life changes- new opportunities!

photophotophotophotophotophoto The 59 year old kid is always up for new opportunities especially when life changes a little bit. Our one and only is headed off to Ohio Universiy in the fall and things will change around the McCloskey household a bit when he makes the move. However, instead of being melancholy as we will miss him, we will be excited about the new opportunity for him at a great school with a great course of study in the business program. But instead of looking like the typical sap in the “Ohio U Father” T-shirt with wing tip shoes, plaid shorts and a straw hat and camera, I want to be able to enjoy some of the ammenities that Athens, Ohio has in store for my wife Janet and me. If you reference my previous post about “Cycling in the Buckeye” from 9/26/2013, you will notice that there are a lot of excellent road and mountain bike adventures to be had in the state to our west.

One of the things I wanted to do during the orientation program at Ohio U was to see what kind of cycling opportunities there were in the Athens area. It is an intertesting location in Ohio in that it is more like West Virginia than the typical Ohio flatland. There are rolling hills as it is on the northern tip of the southern Appalachian chain. I called Athens Bicycle and spoke to Peter Kotses who guided me to several options in the area. For one, there is a 17 mile bike path that connects Athens to Nelsonville,Ohio that is quite an enjoyable ride along the Hocking River. It is also a gateway to Sells Park which is the local City of Athens park. The Athens Bicycle Club has done a masterful job of cutting and marking singletrack mountain bike trails in the park and thanks to an access from the Dale and Jackie Riddle State Nature Preserve, this park now connects to the trails in Strouds Run State Park whose trails were also created by the Athens Bicycle club over the past several years. There is a lot of riding out there and as I made my way through Sells Park on the Rockhouse Trail and onto the Finger Rock Trail, I had covered a lot of ground and had to get back for the orientation program. Looking at the map which you can download from the Athens Bicycle website, you will be able to see that there are miles of trails that eventually end up at the bottom end of the beautiful Dow Lake. I did a big favor that morning on my 5:30 AM ride when I personally cleared all the cobwebs on the single track with my face so that the riders who would follow me later in the day would have a clear riding path through some pretty dense forested trails. These trails will be a wonderful riding experience for me in the next four years of visiting my son in Athens.

My wife Janet is not one to sit around either and as we utilized the bike path, we noticed that Rt. 50 was an excellent road cycling venue which extends all the way into West Virginia and on through Maryland. In fact, the Race Across America(RAAM) was making its way through Athens and we saw all of the male and female leaders of the race at various times of the day and night riding through on their 3,000 mile journey across the country. I stopped to talk to a British group who were riding in the team competition. I asked them if they knew my friend Danny Chew who won the event twice and they were not familiar with him. Time marches on and the million mile man Danny was not known to the up and comers of RAAM. In any event, road cycling is also a viable opportunity in the Athens area.

Janet and I are hoping that our enthusiasm for new things will extend to our son Jack who seemingly likes the school and the wide open world that awaits him with the college experience. I have encouraged him to seek out opportunities at the school that he might not be familiar with and potentially enjoy activities that he never dreamed would interest him. Ohio U and Athens is a real outdoor activity center and I have encouraged Jack to take advantage of the great outdoors as well as getting involved in school organizations,clubs, and intramural sports. Life is his oyster now and we know that he will hopefully take full advantage of these great opportunities. One thing is for sure, Janet and I will be looking forward to our newfound recreational playground when we visit Jack and we will also take advantage of the many post ride watering holes and restaurants which line the main drag of Athens. Yes, we will miss Jack on a regular basis around our house but as long as he is happy and enjoying his new experience, we will get used to this new life as empty nesters. But we will not sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We have a lot of life to live and one of the great new opportunities will be visiting our son in a wonderful place that we have only begun to discover. OU? Oh yea!! Thanks for reading.

Cycling in the Buckeye

dome-tentsphotophotophotoIMG00179-20100424-0947 Throughout this spring and summer, I have posted about all the cool places to ride a bicycle out west,in West Virginia,in New York State, and accross the pond. These travelogues have been supported with the stories and adventures of the 58 year old kid. But I would be remiss if I did not include the good times that can be had in our neighbor directly to the west- The Great State of Ohio.

Lets start with the MetroPark System of cycling paths in the Cleveland area. As I told you in “Don’t be a Slam Clicker”, I usually take my road or mountain bike with me on work trips. I also took it with me during our visits to Cleveland during AAU Basketball season. We spent a lot of time in the Independence,Ohio area and the MetroPark Towpath is an excellent place to get some riding in on a most unique path. A Towpath is a cycling and running path that was originally a dirt road that horses used to tow boats along the canal system to get product from Lake Erie to the upstart towns and cities to the south. The canals were a cheap way to transport goods and after these paths became obsolete, they were revitalized as part of the Emerald Chain of “rails to trails” in the Cleveland area. Check out the picture above to see and envision how barges were first towed back in the 19th century. I have ridden a mountain bike and a road bike on the towpath system and really the more comfortable way is with a mountain bike. There are miles and miles of these trails in the area and along the way you can see riders, runners, walkers and lots of folks fishing in the canals and the Cuyahoga River.

Out in the western part of the state, close to Springfield, Ohio, is the Little Miami Trail System. This is a paved roadway where cars are not permitted and it heads north to south all the way past Cincinnati close to the Kentucky line. I always stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Springfield and the entry to the trail was accross the street. You can easily cover lots of miles because there is no traffic and you wind your way past horse farms and estates that define the beauty of the mid-west. Beautifully manicured fields and colorful barns are showcased for the riders gliding along the Little Miami. You can easily pull off into little towns along the way to experience coffee shops and shopping as well as restock your fuel for the rides. The best restaurant in Springfield, by the way, is in the Courtyard. Excellent cuisine highlighting local produce, and locally grown beef and chicken.

If you are looking for a 100 mile Century Tour, the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) is an excellent choice. This ride is also in the western part of the state and ends up also near the Kentucky border. There are several overnight options including the local high school gym at the end of the century. Also, camping and hotels are close by to refuel for the return trip the next day if you desire. I was amazed at the signs that warned the century riders about the ominous hill ahead. Now a hill in western Ohio is not what you would think and when we came to the infamous “hill” of the TOSRV ride, it was over before it began and by Western Pa standards it was not imposing at all. I asked,” was that the hill?” The resounding answer from fellow Buckeye riders was “yes- that was tough wasn’t it?” I kept my mouth shut.

Another Buckeye adventure is to take the ferry out of Port Clinton near Toledo out to Put N Bay,one of the Lake Erie Islands. You can take your road or mountain bike and once you arrive, avoid the touristy town area and head out to the airport on the island. It is a nice relaxing ride along farmland roads and then return to the Perry Memorial near the ferry port. I am a big fan of Oliver Hazard Perry and his much heralded victory over the British Navy in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Don’t miss the visitors center for the memorial and take in the film that is so well done by the Ohio Historical Society detailing the unlikely but successful victory of one of America’s most courageous Navy captains. After a quick bite at the outdoor cafe near the port at Put N Bay, head back via the ferry and relax and enjoy the view of Lake Erie and the other islands along the way. Turnpike to Port Clinton- piece of cake.

Lastly, you would never think that mountain biking existed in flat Ohio right? Well one of my favorite places to ride a mountain bike is in Loundonville,Ohio in the Mohican State Forest. This very well marked trail system basically climbs from the Mohican River up along the ridges above the gorge. The elevation is only about 1300 feet at it’s highest but the views of the gorge below and the deeply canopied forest trails are not to be missed. They have an annual 100 mile mountain bike endurance race here as well as a 100 mile trail run. It is very popular among the ultra enduro set but for most folks, the 24 mile loop is daunting enough. It is amazing that when you start at the trail head off of Route 3, you don’t have to go far to hear absolutely nothing in the woods except the falling leaves and the chipmunks and squirrels getting ready for winter at this time of year. You can stay at the famous Mohican Lodge and Conference Center where you can take in the views from the patio, of the scenic Pleasant Hill Lake created in the 30s by the Army Corps as a flood control project. In the evening, relax at the indoor fireplace and nestle into one of their padded rocking chairs and read Dirt Rag or a good book. The classical music played in the lodge adds to the charm. The lodge itself was built in 1974 and is constructed of stone and large picture windows for views of the forest and the lake. The restaurant uses local farm produce, dairy and meats, in its sustainable cuisine that mirrors the ambiance of a lodge that blends into the beauty of the Mohican State Forest. The best thing about the trails here is that there are no real brutal climbs. It is a fast and flowy trail system once you reach the top during the initial climb. The rest of the ride is along the ridges above the river and the occasional rock garden and rooty sections keep your interest in what is a dreamy ride through a hardwood and pine canopy.

All in all, I have had some really good times riding in the Buckeye. Recently I did some road cycling with my buddy Heff up near Lordstown,Ohio. The roads were so smooth that it felt like each pedal stroke yielded way more pavement than my roads in Pa. The farms and houses along the way were way scenic and I remarked to Heff how wonderful it must be to come home from work and hit any of these paved roadways for a comfortable and scenic workout. I will be back to do more of those rides. If you are in the local area, don’t miss riding out in Ohio. There are lots of options and I have only scratched the surface. Thanks for reading.