Wow, I made it to another state! Tonight I am in Pennsylvania. This means there is only West Virginia and Maryland left. Once I pedal about 400 more miles I am done going from coast-to-coast.
Today, my son and I pedaled about 80 miles. It was a hard but relatively uneventful day. To give you a sense of where we are, today’s ride took us through the north east corner of Ohio. We went through Kent, Ohio, which is where Kent State is located.
The day was hard for three reasons. First, we spent a lot of time on gravel or very rutted roads. The roads were not in as poor a shape as Michigan’s, but they were in bad shape My left hand and wrist were bounced and jarred a lot. During one part of the afternoon I could not use my left hand to brake or shift because it hurt so much. Luckily, shifters and brakes are on both sides of the handlebars so I didn’t have to stop riding.
The second reason the day was hard was due to the day ending with a very long and steep climb. After biking all day the last thing I wanted to see was a giant hill. Google Maps counts down how long to your destination. The count down timer is not very good. It just assumes you are pedaling at 12 mph. I was stuck at 18 minutes to go before reaching the motel for what seemed like forever since I was not pedaling up the giant hill at anywhere near 12 mph.
Third, we got rained on. After we ate lunch a large black cloud filled just part of the sky. I was not very worried because I could see blue sky around all parts of the cloud. The cloud soaked us and then moved on. Unfortunately, the cloud was moving slowly and in the same direction we were pedaling. We quickly caught up to the cloud and got soaked a second time. We decided to outrun the cloud so that we didn’t get soaked a third time but getting really wet twice was not a lot of fun.
The problems of pedaling all disappeared from my mind after a warm shower and a great meal at “Sal’s” in Beaver Creek. I look forward to tomorrow and its new adventures.
A few days ago I checked into a hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The desk clerk smiled and asked how far I had traveled. I said over 2,00 miles from Seattle, Washington. His reply was similar to one I had heard from several other people. He said the trip sounded fascinating but if he tried doing it he would have stopped after about a dozen miles and given up.
To be honest the thought of giving up crossed my mind a couple of times this trip, especially around Missoula, Montana when my legs were like jello. What prevented me from giving up was you.
I learned from behavioral economics that one simple method of accomplishing a major task is to make a public commitment with verification. The major task doesn’t have to be cycling across the country. It can be as simple as losing ten or twenty pounds of weight.
How did you prevent me from giving up? I made a public commitment by creating this blog. Forcing myself each night to write about the trip ensures each day I remember that a lot of people were told I was going to complete the trip. Dropping out in the Rocky Mountain would mean publicly admitting defeat to a large audience. If I didn’t have the blog then quitting would have been relatively easy since no one would have known.
Verification is important, too. On the side of the blog is a widget or box that contains information from Strava. Strava is an app on my phone that every 30 seconds tracks where I am. Strava uses this to calculate my speed, distance and height climbed. By keeping Strava on all the time I cannot cheat and call Uber, Lyft or a taxi without a reader noticing.
What is the takeaway? If you want to do something relatively large then what you need to do is first make a public commitment. It doesn’t have to be a blog. Any kind of public commitment works. Getting up during a family dinner and telling everyone your plan is just as good as tweeting to the entire world.
Then you also need to follow through by ensuring there is some way for people to monitor or watch what you are doing. For example there is a television show that tracks obese people trying to lose weight. They periodically bring contestants in to be weighed. That is an example of monitoring.
Looking at the above paragraphs it all seems so simple. In reality, doing any large project or task is not simple even with the help of behavioral economics plus supportive friends and relatives.
Today, my son and I pedaled from Norwalk, Ohio to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The morning was relatively easy. We spent much of the time on the same bike trail as yesterday. We saw amusing things like a giant US flag made out of empty beer cans and a giant bird statue.
We ended the morning in Oberlin, Ohio and had some excellent burrito bowls for lunch at a restaurant that looked at the town’s park. Before leaving Oberlin we stopped at the location where the process for creating aluminum was invented. The inventor patented his process and went on to create Alcoa.
After lunch the beautiful roads and rail trails started to disappear. Hills started reappearing as we got closer to Cleveland. Traffic also became heavier as we went through the suburbs of Cleveland.
We ended the day by cycling through one of the newest national parks in the US; the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Getting into the park was quite easy. The road went straight downhill in a series of hair pin turns. I used my brakes more getting into the park than I did pedaling down the western mountains. In the center of the park is part of canal that connected the Ohio river with Lake Erie. We pedaled along a wonderful trail that traced the canal’s tow path.
Then it was time to leave the park. The road out of the park was straight up. It wasn’t exceptionally long but it was one of the most painful climbs I have done this trip. There was no chance to pull over and walk since the road had no shoulder and there was very heavy traffic. At the top of the climb I was exceptionally winded and my legs burned for quite a while. On the positive side, I kept up with my son going up-hill so doing all those mountains earlier in the trip paid off.
Today we are just outside of Akron, Ohio. Tomorrow we should be in Pennsylvania. Once I cross the border there will only be three states left to go!
We got a late start leaving Toldeo this morning. Leaving major urban areas is typically not a lot of fun and Toledo was no exception. We pedaled over a huge bridge, which had guards preventing people from jumping or throwing things off the bridge. The guards stopped just before the middle of the bridge, leaving the highest point open. I guess the authorities are okay if people throw themselves off the bridge into the river but are not happy if anyone wants to throw themselves off the bridge and hit something on land.
We pedaled by a giant oil refinery, which my son said smelled like his bicycle tires. We also pedaled down a long urban highway lined with strip malls and chain restaurants.
Finally, about 15 miles from downtown we reached Genoa, a more rural town with less traffic. We stopped for an early lunch on the main street. The service was quite slow. This turned out to be fortuitous since it rained heavily while we were waiting and then eating. If we had gotten our food faster, we would have been caught in a major downpour.
About five miles outside of Genoa we got on the start of Ohio’s North Coast Inland Trail. It started off as gravel but quickly switched to pavement. We were on the trail for much of the day and I only have good things to say about this trail. It was well marked and well maintained.
In a few of the larger towns the trail stopped on the edge of town and started up again on the other side. This happened in Fremont, Ohio and we used it as an excuse to stop for some Gatorade and some snacks. I ate an entire container of Pringles potato chips plus I tried zero calorie Gatorade.
On the way out of town my son noticed a sign for the Rutherford B Hayes presidential library. It turned out Hayes, who was the 19th president of the United States, lived in Fremont. Hayes served just one four year turn as president a bit after the civil war ended. His “claim to fame” is that he signed the bill that ended reconstruction of the south and gave back political control to southern states. His library of papers and books was the first Presidential library in US history. We didn’t stay long but it was interesting seeing a presidential library of a man who, roughly 150 years after being the most powerful elected official, is basically forgotten.
After pedaling about 10 more miles I began to get cramps and needed to stop. We pulled over into a gazebo and I fell asleep on the concrete floor. I woke up and did not feel well, but we were still about 26 miles from our hotel. The next few miles of pedaling were agony. Luckily, we were on a bike trail and I didn’t have to worry about cars. I felt like throwing up. For the next two hours of pedaling I felt terrible. Slowly, though I began to feel better. By the time we hit the 15 miles to go mark I felt fine and the last hour plus of pedaling was easy. For the rest of the trip I will not eat Pringles or drink diet Gatorade.
Quite a lot happened today. First, TheConversation.com published a piece I wrote about the safety of various activities like bicycling. You can read the piece they published here or you can read a slightly different version in the post published between Day 31 and Day 32 (the post is here if you cannot find it).
Second, my oldest son, Josh flew out to Michigan to join me for a week of cycling. This gave me a chance to sleep in and recover a bit from yesterday’s total exhaustion. I am not fully recharged, but at least I can keep my eyes open.
Josh and his bike made it safely to Michigan, but his hydraulic brakes were locked shut when the bike came out of the box. Luckily, a great bike shop was open in downtown Ann Arbor and only two blocks away. Brad, the shop’s bike mechanic, was able to open the brakes and got the bike working like new in no time flat. That saved the day! Brad also recommended a great place for breakfast and we dined outside before setting off.
Our goal was Toledo, Ohio, which meant entering another state. Now there is just Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland to go.
Google Maps did its very best to show my son every type of road surface possible, from new roads to bike trails. We even did quite a few miles of gravel and hard packed dirt. At the end of the gravel section my son said “now I know why you are so exhausted.”
We arrived in Toledo around 5:30. Our hotel faced the local baseball stadium and we picked the perfect night. The local team, the Toledo Mud Hens (the farm team for Detroit Tigers), was playing at 7 pm. Josh picked up two of the cheapest tickets available ($13 each). They turned out to be right behind home base. We sat about 10 feet from a half-dozen major league baseball scouts who were watching the game with their own video cameras, radar guns and laptops.
It was a great experience watching minor league baseball up close. I was tired so we left before the game was over. That wasn’t a problem since our hotel room looked down on the stadium and we finished watching the game from high above. Yes, the Mud Hens beat the Louisville Bats, but the Mud Hens led the whole game so it was not unexpected.
Overall, it was another great day on the road and we even managed to pedal about 57 miles.