Cruiser bikes–those retro-looking bikes, which usually only have one gear–are not uncommon on a paved bike trail. The woman I’m passing has a basket on hers, whose intrepid passenger is a small Yorkshire terrier. The gust components his hair and he has an “I’m on an adventure” steely-eyed gaze.
Soon after, I hear a pileated woodpecker, apparently adding its pointillist flare to some dead wood in the nature preserve to my right; I stop to see if I can find it. A household on motorcycles pass me going the other direction. The “girls ” pedaling furiously to keep up with them offers me a wide, tooth-bare smile and a spirited wave.
I’m on the 63 -mile Wabash-Cannonball Trail, my preferred ride from home in Northwest Ohio. It is a reclaimed abandoned railroad transformed into miles of paved and unpaved motorcycle road. This is travel within reach of many Americans, and once you experience roads like it, you’ll never look at your nation the same style again. My spouse and I have even decided to turn our cycling into an ongoing project to see Ohio through the rail-trail system.
We’ve discovered that to actually get to know your nation, that is, to get it to give up its secrets, you have to get out of the car–which can be a passive kind of travel–and get on the bike.
There are 2,082 rail-trails like the Wabash-Cannonball across the country( totaling 23,460 miles) that are constructed from former railways converted into paved and crushed stone paths. Thousands of more miles can be added simply by connecting other multi-use roads in an area. This is a project spearheaded by organizations like the Rails to Trails Conservancy( full disclosure: I’m a member ). These rail-trails are meant to reconnect towns–a relationship lost by the rise of the interstate–offer healthy recreational opportunities, and provide affordable and clean avenues of transportation. They are intended to be enjoyed by almost any of the nonmotorized entails one opts.
Anyone can ride these roads for as long or as little as they’d like. They can be taken alone or with family. From joggers, recumbent motorcycles, and adult tricycles, to a large dog pulling kids on skateboards, the means of nonmotorized traveling on a trail is limited merely by your imagination( and occasionally the local road regulations ).
When we started cycling, we kept our journeys close to home, but eventually discovered that for us to go the distance, owning the right equipment did wonders. We were fitted for the right-sized bikes by a local store, exerting the Goldilocks principle of one motorcycle being too large and another too small, but eventually receiving one that was just right. We learned that the right pair of gel cycling shorts will help turn three miles into 30, and that we should never leave for a long trip-up without water, snacks, and spare tubes.
We felt equipped for our escapades, and were rewarded with unforgettable experiences.
We’ve cycled alongside horse-drawn buggies in Holmes County and met an Amish household jubilantly rollerblading. We discovered art installings near trees and tucked under overpasses in cities, as well as exuberant messages of “you can do this” chalked cheerfully on the pavement. We’ve been therefore welcomed hardy “moos” from cattles lining hills and a( rare) embarrassing sign warning of hunting near a road. We’ve been greeted by boarded-up buildings lining main streets–artifacts that mark what once was–as well as signs of colorful revitalization.
If travel was a performance, the interstate would be seats in the audience, the local roads would be the stage, but the bike trails–those are backstage opportunities like these.
Some rail-trails we’ve cycled only once, but found that many are well-suited for return trips.
Our local Wabash-Cannonball Trail, for example, is among many in Ohio, which has 95 finished rail-trails totaling 973 miles, and another 43 projects are underway.( For view, Ohio is merely 225 miles broad .) The Wabash-Cannonball has North and South forks, which benefit from being connected to the flourishing Metroparks Toledo; it is connected to parks, forest conserves, a single track trail for mountain bikes, little town, and historical sites.
In other terms, it’s an adventure that it is possible to return to regularly.
A single rail-trail can be shorter( only a mile or two) or longer( 10 miles plus ), and by using apps like Trail Link, we’ve found they can be connected for extending a ride. The Ohio and Erie Trail, for example, is several connected trails. A 320 mile road project with 270 miles complete, it is designed for traversing the nation from Cincinnati to Cleveland, even passing through the centres of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Frequently, trailheads are located in townships, means that considering a nation by cycling rail-trails is more than logging the miles you put in during the day or connecting trails, it is also an opportunity to engage with towns and their hidden gems.
On a trip-up to Mount Vernon, Ohio to cycle the Kokosing Gap and Heart of Ohio trails, for example, we stayed at the family-owned Mount Vernon Inn, a memorable discovery with nice rooms tucked into a beautiful cottage garden, made to order breakfast, and complimentary wine at night. The Kokosing Gap and Heart of Ohio roads introduced us to the bubbling audios of the Kokosing River, and allowed us to stumble onto the Hellbender Preserve, the home of Ohio’s largest amphibian, the Eastern Hellbender. They introduced us to the Brown Family Environmental Center, a 500 -acre preserve packed with gardens and roads, the Schnormeier Garden, a private garden inspired by a Japanese aesthetic and merely open to the public four days a year, and the Ariel Foundation Park, a former glass mill repurposed into a 250 -acre park.
For us and other cyclists we’ve met along the way, rail-trails are passages to the mysteries of a state that are disguised from the window of a vehicle. From them emerge the passion of its people–a colorful scenery, both culture and natural. They are chapters in the state’s unfolding story–flashes of some lost hopes and signs of new dreams.
And more importantly, they are reminders that if you want your world to be bigger, you may want to start with your own nation.
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