My first bike ride in Ohio during my recent trip was with my buddy Aaron. His new home is close to a long and growing multi-use path to the west of Cleveland, the North Coast Inland Trail. We spent the better part of a Sunday exploring the off-road portion of it.
The exploration began tentatively for me, as I felt nervous and unstable when riding. The trailhead at Elyria starts off on a sidewalk and then crosses on a road bridge shoulder till you reach the trail. The bridge is a climb, moderate but enough to cause me to walk the bike halfway up.
I began to feel more at home once I’d caught up to Aaron and was riding on the trail. The old quip “its like riding a bicycle, you never forget how” began to come true. It helped the paved path was flat and had a good surface. And the cool of morning was burning off with the occasional wisp of fog. The woods, fields, and farms of Ohio came into view as we rolled along.
Ohio is a developed state and we were outside a major city, so road crossings were inevitable and frequent. But many of them were low traffic and we could roll through them after checking each way. We traveled slow but steady, much like the freight and passenger trains that crossed on this path a century ago. Artifacts of the railroad days are scattered along the trail – mileage markers, telegraph poles, old bridge abutments, and the restored train station in Oberlin. My need to photograph everything both amuses and annoys Aaron, so I tried to keep my shutter finger in check on the outbound trip.
The North Coast Inland Trail heads straight as an arrow into Oberlin, the town famed for its conservatory and Oberlin College’s legacy of breaking barriers in higher education. The trail passes to the south of the college, and aside from crossing a street with a McDonald’s on it we couldn’t tell we were in a town. The train station across the road from the McDonald’s is a nice resting spot, with benches for weary walkers and riders. The brickwork is pretty but I’d not choose it for a bike path.
At the town limits for Oberlin there is a fifth of a mile on road segment before you connect again with the trail. This seems a common trait on Ohio bike paths – both the Western Reserve Greenway and the Holmes County Trail feature such little jogs near their midpoints. But the road segment isn’t heavily trafficked or hilly, and we were soon back onto the trail. We reached the town of Kipton, rode past it a mile, and came to the current trail end. It being a Sunday, Kipton was closed, but the afternoon sun lit up the colorful buildings on the main street.
My fatigue increased on the way back, but so did my confidence. We stopped at the McDonald’s in Oberlin for lunch, parking our bikes amid all the rides of the college students working there. Refueled – yes, one can make good choices when eating at McDonald’s – we headed back to Elyria. Aaron is the stronger and faster rider, and he pulled ahead. Also, I had to stop for photos. When I reached the trail end in Elyria I had no trouble climbing the hill on the road shoulder and getting back to the car. I always have a great time with Aaron, and this was a great trail to ride.