I can't believe I'm saying this, but I love Ohio. Riding to Clyde was one of the best rides of my life. And it wasn't necessarily the scenery that made that ride nice. I was just riding through flat old Ohio. It was the sensation I got from this ride that made it one of a kind. I'll explain.
I departed from Cleveland later than I would have liked to. It was already the afternoon when I finally loaded my bike and heaed out of the hostel. I felt as though I had wasted half of my day. My pessimistic side told me that I wouldn't make it anywhere. I decided I would only ride 40 miles or so. Believe it or not, this great day got off to a tense start.
For some reason I felt light as a feather on this day and I didn't know why. Perhaps my muscles were fresh coming off of my rest day. Perhaps I was inspired by the blue sky. I didn't know what it was, but I was really moving.
About 15 miles into the ride I spotted a cyclist ahead of me. He was on my side of the road and appeared to be waiting for me. I was surprised to find that his bike was even more heavily loaded than mine. I figured he was a lonely cyclist looking for someone to relate to.
The guy flagged me down as I approached. He was a friendly gentleman from Missouri who was riding up to Maine. Boy was he thrilled to see me! He told me all about his travels. It sounded like cycling was his life. Just last year he rode 6,000 miles from the Florida Keys to Alaska.
In addition to being an avid cyclist, this guy might have been a spokesperson for MickeyDonnals (that was how he referred to the restaurant commonly known as McDonald's). He mentioned MickeyDonnals at least six times during our five minute conversation. Honestly, this guy was just raving about their McPickTwo menu and free WiFi. His passion for MickeyDonnals was unparalleled.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a huge fan of the food at MickeyDonnals. But I have come to appreciate something about the place ever since I hit the road. Besides the American flag, that restaurant has been the most consistent thing across the four states and one District that I've peddled through. It seems no matter where I go I can find a MickeyDonnals that will prepare the same mediocre cuisine for me. Say what you will about the place but there is something comforting about that type of consistency.
I can't believe the MickeyDonnals guy from Missouri caused me to have this realization.
He went on. My friend from Missouri showed me his map. He had basically come from where I was headed to and vice versa. We shared suggestions for things to check out and places to stay. He noted, "I been ridin' a little slower than I usually do cause I'm ridin' into the wind. That mean you got a nice little tailwind behind ya."
That was it! I couldn't believe it took me this long to see it. It was the wind! I never realized the impact that wind direction had on my rides until now. When I did round trips, which most of my rides before this journey were, the net effect of the wind direction was null. I rode with it going one way and against it the other. Now that I was doing a series of one way trips I was at the mercy of the wind. Every day I was either with, or against, the wind. On this particular day I was in perfect harmony with breeze.
Man. I don't know what it was about this lonely cyclist from Missouri, but the few flippant things he said really stuck with me. As a matter of fact I don't know who got more out of the conversation: the lonely cyclist from Missouri or the lonely cyclist from DC.
We parted ways. I had a newfound infatuation with the wind. Each time I looked over and saw an American flag waving to the Southwest I was overjoyed. There was a feeling of unity with the natural world. I wasn't fighting the currents, I was gliding along with them.
Keep in mind that I was in rural/suburban Ohio along Lake Erie. As I cruised towards the West there was generally farmland to my left and small waterfront homes to my right. I caught a glimpse of something on the lakeside. A mother stood with her little son on a sandbar. The two appeared to be throwing stones into the Lake. She helped him scour the little beach for the right one. The breeze glanced off of the waves and passed the two. I reflected, "that's what it must be like to grow up out here." The two of them in front of the Lake was a beautiful image that i don't think any camera could capture.
Thirty miles in I came to the conclusion that forty miles wasn't going to be enough. The riding conditions were too good. I let my hostess know that I was going to continue my journey. I hit forty miles, then fifty, then sixty, then seventy. It felt like I could pedal forever.
Nightfall let me know that it was time to let the ride go. I had cruised nearly 75 miles to the town of Clyde. Before packing it up for the night I needed some dinner. I found a little intersection in the middle of nowhere that happened to have three pizza places on it. I don't know why, but I was drawn to the one named the Pizza House. Based on the Mexican pizza I ate, I think I chose the right one. I demolished the pie.
Afterwards I rode down Clyde's lamp-lit main street on my way to the local park where I would camp out. I thought to myself, "Man, this place has a lot of charm!" Clyde was that cute little town you've always envisioned in your head. That night I passed out beneath the stars in this nice little town that made me feel right at home.