I was freezing in the middle of the night and Caitrin brought me an extra blanket from the tent. She and her boyfriend Nathan had asked me a dozen times if I wanted to share with them but I was determined to test out my new hammock tent in the wilderness. I should have brought a full sleeping bag instead of just a liner. The day time temperatures had dropped from the 90s to 70s and even colder at night. I didn’t sleep well.
After a soak in the hot tub and a swim in the pool, two trips to get coffee, breaking down camp and hiking to two waterfalls in Mohican State Park, I didn’t get on the road until 2:30 p.m. I was sore from yesterday’s ride and tired from a restless night of sleep and now I was starting late. Would I make it the rest of the way home as I planned? What would it mean if I didn’t? Should I give up now and put my bike in the car?
I opted to give Nathan and Caitrin my bags and travel light thus increasing my speed in hopes of making it the 68 miles before the sun set at 9:30 p.m. I’m typically plodding along at around 10 miles per hour, which is decidedly slower than whoever sets the pace on Google Maps. It was hotter and sunnier and hillier than the day before and right away I was worried about my abilities.
I’m very determined when I set a goal to see it through to completion. I knew I was physically able to bike the miles and the trade off was worth it: spending time with my friends in a beautiful part of the state. I focused on my exhales, focused on my shoes clipped into my pedals. I waved at the Amish farmers with teams of horses pulling plows and driving buggies.
Yesterday I was on bike paths, today was all county roads. The county roads are smoother than those in town, which tend to be full of pot holes and uneven pavement. I stop at a sparsely stocked general store and deli for dinner. I settle on a Cliff bar and Gatorade. I eat on the bench outside. The sun is already descending. I can’t get a hold of my parents. Even at 31 years old they’re my first thought if I need to be rescued in the dark. They’re at my mom’s aunt’s 90th birthday party and I doubt they’ve brought their phones.
I call my brother. It’s so windy. It’s been windy all day. A head wind, which doesn’t help my cause and he can barely hear me on my ear buds. He’s home, has an SUV and is willing to come get me in Medina or wherever I get to when the sun sets. I keep peddling.
I pedal through Grafton and think about the prison that I know is somewhere in town as I cross over railroad tracks and up a hill. I crashed on the only stretch of tracks in the entire country of Laos and now I slow down considerably and cross with caution. I try not to think about my bladder. I’m racing the sun and if I don’t think about it I don’t have to go too badly.
I have 14 miles left and an hour until it’s dark. I can’t find my front bike light, it’s probably in the bike bags in the back of Caitrin’s car. I’ll have to live with just the red read light. I’m in Lorain county, right next to Cuyahoga. I’m so close. I’m tired. It’s getting dark.
It’s a day of parties. I’ve seen so many delayed Independence Day gathering, graduation parties and church functions. There must be 50 United Methodist Churches between Cleveland and Columbus and twice that of various other denominations. I pass the Auto Rama Drive-In. Kids are playing tag waiting for the double feature: Deadpool 2 and the latest Jurassic Park. Summer blockbusters are always sequels these days.
Finally, I get to the border of North Olmsted. I stop to take a photo. I'm so elated I'm almost in tears. I call home to tell my mom I’m going to make it. Less than 5 miles through the city I called home for 15 years to the house my parents still live in. Past Fragapane’s Bakery and the park and Dunkin Donuts and the Police station and half a dozen car lots. Passed the mall and the first bike shop I went to in search of the wheels I’ve been on all afternoon. I wave to a couple on matching cruisers on the side walk. I’m almost home.
I did it. Columbus to Cleveland. Two days. 145 miles. 7 counties. One bicycle. I’m ready for the next adventure.