We are most of the way across Ohio, and despite the terrain being significantly less undulant than that of central and northern Kentucky, we have still had our share of uphills, metaphorically and literally. Signs of the season finally changing are evident everywhere we look now. The tree leaves are still largely green, but black walnut fruits are falling all over the place, overnight temperatures are dropping, daylight is shorter, rain is more frequent, and morning fog has become a common occurrence. And yet, tomorrow’s weather forecast anticipates almost 80 degrees (in the middle of October)!
After we left Cincinnati, we headed to Columbus via Ohio’s vast network of rail trails. Ohio’s bike trails are expansive, well-utilized and maintained, making it one of the bike-friendliest states we have ridden in so far. While in Columbus we visited COSI, named America’s #1 science center for families by Parent Magazine in 2008, and it did not disappoint. There were so many hands-on experiments, activities, and things to explore. The lever that enabled the kids to lift a Honda Accord was a hit.
The bus scale that enlightened us on just how heavy our load is (including riders, Frank weighs in at around 600 lbs and Eleanor at 500 lbs) was a valuable tool.
Sadly, we were short on time in effort to avoid the onset of Hurricane Nate’s rain (in which we were still caught and it made for a very thorough soaking) so we could not investigate everything the museum had to offer. If we are ever in the area again, we will be sure to visit it again.
Another day we visited The Works in Newark, which proved to be a hidden gem. The facility is not that big, but it packs a lot into its space. The boys were smitten with the K’Nex race car building and race track, in addition to driving simulators.
Lil’ Mo reacquainted herself with her beloved Magnatiles and Sissy made a point of getting a taste of everything the place had to offer.
From there we headed to a Warm Showers host tucked away in the wooded hills that reminded us of our time in Kentucky. Our hosts welcomed us into their home (and spared us another night of rain), fed us well, and offered great insight on the local roads and rail trails. Their saltwater fish tank was the highlight for the kids.
Up to this point, Ohio had been a rather idyllic chapter for us, which ended with a literal bang. Eleanor’s rear tire popped, greatly startling all of us aboard her. We pulled over to discover the sidewall of the tire had blown, despite having ample tread-life left, and had pinched the innertube to the point of popping during its deterioration. Old Man improvised a repair and we were back on the road. The repair timeline delayed our day’s schedule, but we picked up the pieces and found a picnic spot a little bit further on. The local pharmacist, an avid cyclist, came over to check out our rigs and chat with us, and what good fortune that proved to be for us. In addition to being friendly, he was well-versed on the local roads, informed us of a bike supply spot that did not come up on Google, and treated us to ice cream at the end. He gave us his card when we departed in case my tire situation went further awry and we needed assistance, which gave us great peace of mind in the face of that uncertainty. We got a little way out of town and my tire went flat. Old Man improvised repair plan #2. That repair saw us another sixteen or so miles before going irreparably flat. The boys and I walked 1.5 miles toward the hardware store (that had a selection of bike supplies) while Team Frank went ahead to secure the necessary supplies. They returned with a new tire in hand, only to find out that despite its labeled specifications, it was too big for the rim. Old Man pulled out his bag of tricks again and yet another repair improvisation. That repair held for our grocery store run, to the campground, and then another 14 miles the following day. Mind you, it rained overnight, and the day’s 15% chance of rain forecast proved to be a prolonged mist followed by a soaking rain during the 14-mile progression. There were no opportune rest spots for that stretch, and even if there had been, I was too nervous to not utilize the tire while it remained operational. We stopped for lunch, dried off and warmed up a bit, and then headed out of town again. Again, the tire failed. This time, Old Man was out of MacGyver fixes (and supplies). If only we needed to explode something; Richard Dean Anderson always succeeded with those extemporizations! His last-ditch effort was to put in one of Frank’s [too big] innertubes in hopes of it getting us closer to our destination. The excess tube created a detectable lump in the tire, but it lasted until we got just outside of our destination town, where it went flat. He slimed the tube and bought us the last few miles to the bike shop where we immediately replaced the blown tire and too-large inner-tube. We refilled our patch, repair, and innertube supplies as well. What a relief! Those two days were draining. Much like a car donut spare tire, the compromised bike tire had limitations. If we went 14 mph or faster it noticeably wobbled, which limited our downhill benefits and their associated offsets for uphills. The boys were much more consistent in their output, which was an enormous help in the slow-progressing circumstance. I vigilantly watched the road like a hawk to avoid debris and pavement imperfections to minimize extra strain on an already handicapped tire, and saw virtually no scenery for those two days. The biggest challenge it created was greatly extending the duration of our days’ riding. The repairs and preceding troubleshooting sucked up a lot of time. We were rolling into town to get food with little daylight remaining, and still had to get to and set up camp. And yet, as always, God placed people in our path and life to help us. On both occasions when we were roadside in the late afternoon crafting a new repair, someone pulled over to offer us assistance. We had the comfort of knowing we had that pharmacist’s number if we really found ourselves in a bind. And when realizing there was not enough time or daylight remaining for preparing dinner on each of those nights we tapped into the restaurant gift cards given to us by our benevolent friends back in Seattle. One of those Seattle friends, with heaven-sent timing, emailed me bible verses assuring me to not be troubled because even though we are not promised an easy life, we have the comfort of knowing that the Lord is always with us. Amen. We sat down to dinner each night with a long list of praises for the blessings that saw us through each day’s challenges.
Today, we rested. We checked out the Warther Museum and were blown away by this man’s genius. It is impossible to leave without being inspired and awestruck at what this man created given his limited formal education, but huge capacity for vision and hard work. He carved over 7,000 pieces out of ebony and ivory to create this steam engine:
Tomorrow, we return to the hills. We re-enter them with a bit of apprehension knowing how challenging the hills can be. We also re-enter them knowing that God’s grace surrounds us and has reliably placed people along our path to assist us at every turn. We have never been forsaken.