Monday, June 14, 2010

OH, a Sliver of PA, and then to Cortland NY

I was blessed this morning by very good luck...good luck indeed when it comes to running!

I've been chosen by Brooks Running to be a tester for one of their shoes. I currently wear Brooks Axiom 3, but that shoe has been discontinued, replaced by the Ravenna model. What I'm testing for them is an update to the Ravenna. The wildly color-schemed shoes are coming with me, tucking into my topcase on the BMW with hopes that I'll get lots of miles on them on this trip. Today I hoped to get the first of several "on-the-road" runs in.

This morning I awoke to sunshine and nice cool temperatures as I headed out the door of the hotel for a 6 mile run. I had "scouted" a route using MS S&T and Google satellite view and decided the best route would be south down the highway to the town of Bellville, a distance of about 3 miles, give or take, making a nice 6 mile out-and-back route. When I zoomed in on Google Satellite view, I noticed some B&O railroad lines that have been converted to trails. At the time it was just idle curiosity on my part, since the ones that I'd noticed were in town and heading out of town going southeast.

So as I started my run, the first thing I notice is that there was nearly no shoulder to the road and each time a car approached, I had to leave the pavement and hobble along on very rough and uneven grassy shoulder. This would be miserable for 6 miles. But then...

I rounded a curve in the road about 1/2 mile down, and there was the B&O trail! It crossed the highway at this point, coming from somewhere west of the road, and then curved around to follow the road in the direction of town. Unbelievable good fortune!

What an absolute treat! The old rail bed was smooth, nicely paved and tucked far enough away from the road that it was heavily wooded on both sides, creating a wonderful canopy over the trail. A river ran somewhere to my left...I could hear the rushing water. This was heaven on earth! As it neared the town, it crossed a branch of the river over the old rail trestle bridge and then I began to see lovely old homes to my right. I knew I was within a couple of blocks of the main street of town and there, on my right, was the old train station. It was a cute little dark green structure with white trim and on the other side of the trail was an old-fashioned railway station clock, the kind mounted on a 10 or 12 foot pillar. And still functioning!

In town, I left the trail to run on the bridge that crossed over the main river, taking a moment to look down at the water rushing over small falls and continuing south. At the junction of the main street and another highway, I turned around and headed back up the main street into the cute little downtown of Bellville. Very cute!

Time to turn around and head back up the B&O trail towards the hotel. The time just flew by! Nothing like a new venue and beautiful scenery to rev up a run!


Packed and checked out of the hotel, I headed north on I-71 toward the first of three stops today. First would be Cuyahoga, near Cleveland for the first national park stamp. A very large greenbelt passes through the Independence OH area, preserving the old towbarge canals and tow paths. The visitor center I'm heading toward is near the northern end of this very large park.

I exited the interstate and rode through some beautiful neighborhoods to reach Hillside Road, which would take me to the visitor center. This road passed through some residential areas before narrowing and becoming twisty and steep, as it descended down toward the river canal. At the bottom of the hill, just before crossing railroad tracks, a very large turkey stood its ground in the middle of the road. I honked my horn, with no effect. He or she just stood its ground. I had to come nearly to a full stop before it strolled on over to the side of the road. I rode across a nice old trestle bridge to the visitor center, on the right.

The visitor center is housed in an old but restored wooden frame house which sits right on the canal. A sign post in front gives the history of the structure, and a colorful history she has had!! It became known as "Hell's Half Acre" by the canal travelers, due to its colorful reputation, and was built in the 1820's. Over the years it has served as a tavern, a general store, and a residence known as the "lock-keeper's house."

There is a lock on the canal in front of this house and today it is still water tight and holding. The difference it water levels is about 10 feet or so, and can be seen in this photo. It's amazing that this wooden lock is still functioning today!

This stamp in the books, I then crossed the canal over a tiny bridge and proceeded north on the other side of the canal for a few miles before picking up the interstate to I-480. It began to rain and I pulled over at a rest stop on this road to put on my jacket liner. I would wear the liner for the rest of the day, as I rode through brief showers and cool temperatures all the way to Cortland NY.

My next stop was going to be the David Berger Memorial, housed at the Jewish Community Center near Shaker Heights. I exited I-271 at Chagrin Blvd and turned left, then turned right onto Richmond Road. As I neared my turn onto Woodland Road, just a couple of blocks from the Community Center, I could see orange cones blocking the turn, signs that said "road closed" and heavy equipment tearing up the roadway. Well, now what?!

The GPS began to recalculate and a quick look at the results showed it taking me onto a route that it and S&T both insisted existed, as that was how they both wanted me to leave the center after the visit. But a view in Google Satellite view didn't show that road existing. I was racking my memory, trying to conjure up a mental image of the alternate streets surrounding this community center and I was drawing a blank. All this while riding on very busy streets with no shoulder and no businesses - all residential - to pull into to consult a map.

So I blew this one off in the interest of time and getting up the road. I was already at least an hour behind schedule because of a late start this morning from the hotel. Well worth it, I might add, for the fabulous run I got in this morning!

My next destination is the home of James Garfield, in Mentor OH. It's a relatively easy-off/easy-on from I-90 and it shouldn't take me long to get there. It should be easy to find, even a child can find it, right?? So I got off the interstate, headed north for about one mile to Mentor Ave and then continued east on this road for about a mile. The GPS was telling me that I was getting near, but there was so much congestion and "visual clutter" on this road, that I managed to ride right by it. So, ducking down a side street, I did a U-turn and got back onto Mentor Ave heading the opposite direction and I STILL managed to miss the turn into the narrow little driveway that would take me to the parking lot. I could see the house, sitting right there on the avenue, but just couldn't seem to snag that dadburned driveway!

Now I was getting pissy! I turned into the Eleanor Garfield park, parked the bike and walked back the one block to the historical site. This would add considerable time to my stop but I was ready to get off the bike and find a bathroom.

The house is lovely, as are the grounds. It was easy to imagine what this road must have looked like before all the commercialism. Big beautiful 19th century homes on large wooded grounds.

This stamp in the book, I walked back to the bike and got back on the road, with no more stops other than for gas, until I get to Cortland NY.


Once onto I-86 through the lower tier of up-state NY, I was initially disoriented by the exit numbers. I would ride for several miles and then see exit 2. Then I would ride for several more miles and see exit 3. I thought I was hallucinating or time-warping until I realized that NY apparently has retained the old method of numbering exits...sequentially rather than by mile marker. Thankfully I wasn't reliving a nightmare. You know the kind. The one where you travel for what seems like hours only to discover that you've moved only a short distance.

Back on I-90 I stopped at a gas station that had a Subway shop but since I only had 60 miles on that tank of gas, and because the pumps were crowded, I opted not to top off my tank. So now 100 miles later I needed to stop for gas. I hate it when my gas/food/bathroom stops get out of synch, which sometimes happens. It makes me feel like I'm taking that proverbial two steps forward, one step back.

Gas tank topped off, I pressed east, pushing the speedlimit as much as I dared, as the NY state police were in full force, working this interstate. After what seemed like forever, and after watching my arrival time on the GPS creep later and later, I got to highway 13 which would take me diagonally northeast to Cortland. While it was a very enjoyable secondary road, it also passed through many small towns with reduced speed limit. And then it passed through Ithaca, a not-so-small town, before finally dumping me off in downtown Cortland.

As I pulled into the EconoLodge courtyard-style parking lot, I could see all of the motorcycles, but no people. I knew I was late and that everyone was at the nearby restaurant, so I parked, quickly checked in, grabbed my clothes and ran into the room to quickly change. One other rider arrived about the same time so he and I walked over to the restaurant to join the rest of the group.
Here in Cortland NY at last! Let the visiting begin!!

Tomorrow: I think I'll ride down to Scranton to go to Steamtown National Park (some personal history goes with this choice) and then through the Pocono's to the Delaware River and Zane Grey Museum.

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