w 2009 Erie Trip Recap w

Erie Recap

“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.” 

This years week long trip turned out to be an adventure of many different things. First of all there were rumbles that the name for the week should have been the PONY ride, (for the states of PA, OH, and NY), sort of cute, wish I had thought of it earlier. Then at later points names such as The GO UP Tour, (refers to what seemed like all the roads going UP) or then you could choose from either the Daily Rain Ride or It’s Raining, it must be ________, (insert day of the week) both of which are pretty self explanatory.

But along with the rain came a lot of sunshine, mostly generated by the people themselves on the tour, who just wouldn’t let the conditions or the hills hinder their fun. I think another name that could have been used to describe this trip would have been, Where’s the Ice Cream Shop, as it seemed we were always in one.

The Early Bird route had the teams of Masters, Cohen, and Hoeck out under a cloudy sky at 8 AM in front of the Comfort Inn. The plan, to ride a circle route which would hit a couple of covered bridges and Geneva on the Lake for an early lunch and still get us back in time for Rich and Nan Hoeck to leave for the Cleveland airport to pick up their daughter Sharon, who would be the lone single riding with us during the week. We hit the nice bike trail going south, then a couple of roads that kept getting smaller, found a covered bridge and then hit Cherry Hill Road.

As we turned on to it, the road sort of became more gravel then pavement and then we started a huge downhill, brakes full on due to the gravel and ahead a sharp curve left and we could see a creek or river over the side of the hill. We all stopped to revisit the route sheet and discuss what if any our alternatives were, stopped a local passing in a car who assured us that once down and across the river the road improved and kept going north toward Lake Erie. So we carefully remounted and crawled down the hill to a beautiful bridge across the river, stopped for pictures and then proceeded UP the other side. As it turned out, this UP was rather short and not all that steep and as promised the road became very good again and for the most part downhill. What an enjoyable few miles we had, sight seeing the area as we rode at a plus 20 miles an hour pace.

In a couple of turns we were in Geneva on the Lake, rumored to be the first Ohio resort town, basically a one street town with shops of all types, food outlets to fit just about anyone’s taste along with arcades of all varieties. As it was only about 10 AM, most everything was closed except for the doughnut shop about halfway though town, the aroma itself put on five pounds, but by then the clouds were also getting darker and darker and the choice was to keep riding and hope to beat the rain back into our motel in Austinburg.

Once we turned away from Lake Erie, the terrain started to gently rise with an occasional hill or two. Shortly thereafter we also started to feel a few drops of rain which would quit and then commence again, more cooling then anything. We beat a long train at a crossing which was nice as we would have had to stand in the sprinkles while it roared by and soon were back, pretty much dry after a quick ride and in plenty of time for the airport run.

Since it was still early and not raining Sherry and I decided to make the run into Ashtabula to see if we could resolve the problem of how to get around the bike trail blockage. On Friday night Cohens and us had decided to go into Ashtabula for supper and on a whim, I suggested that we see where the bike trail joined with the street on our route for Sunday. WELL, what a surprise we had, we found the trail, and the street AND a big sign for a detour and a hugh mound of dirt over the road. We tried to follow the detour signs to no avail, got terribly lost, had Barry doing U-turns about every three blocks or so and when we finally gave up we found that we were coming into downtown Ashtabula from the northeast, totally on the wrong side of the river!!!

We had a nice super at a little hole in the wall type place in downtown, looked at the streets going UP on both side of the main street which were brick, looked like the cobblestones of the Tour de France. We visited the park close by, drove out to the breakwaters to try to see the lighthouse and then finally decided on our way back to see if we could follow the detour signs going in the opposite direction. Yep, we got lost again, more U turns until it was to dark to see the maps or the street names.

BUT I had studied the maps after we returned and had a pretty good idea of what we needed to do. So back onto the street of U turns, found where the bike trail crossed under it (to dark when we were in the car the night before to see it) and followed it to the next street where there was a trail head and exit. Took us about 5 minutes to fix the route. Cohens and us went back to Geneva on the Lake later in the day to walk the street and eat. Supper was at Sandy’s Shanty, mostly a sea food restaurant, which besides it’s good food offered “Jell-O shots” and had as a back drop for the bar a shooting galley wall brought in from Coney Island NY which still worked but was only run for about a minute at a time because of the noise it created. We then walked the street some more after dinner, had ice cream and then hurried back to the motel to greet the rest of the gang and hold a meeting to lay out the basic rules and pass out the route sheets.

Most everyone was up early, getting gear packed, bikes readied, relocating the cars in the parking lot, and packing the van. Sherry and I were riding the first half of the day with Doc and Nette Quinlin driving to a lunch stop where we would switch off. The plan here was for us to then drive on in, dump the luggage and van and ride out and do Presque Isle. People were saying we have to get a group picture but we couldn’t get more then three teams together at a time so finally we just took off figuring we would get one later in the week.

We hit the bike trail, rode it mostly downhill into Ashtabula, found our route and hit the down town area and the approach to the lift bridge just as sirens and bells went off and caught us right at the barrier of the bridge. How perfect for the gang to get first hand looks as the bridge went up and the sail boats went under, great for picture taking . While waiting the rest of the gang all showed up and got the chance to see it as well. Since we were all now together it was decided to look for someplace for the group picture which we found in a park complete with a grounds person to take the pictures.

From there we rode close to the lake, getting glimpses of it through the homes, parks, and fields, rolling in and out of small towns along the way. Eventually Quinlins passed us in the van and shortly thereafter called with a route correction so as to miss a gravel downhill and then with the info that we would find them at the Turkey Drive In on Route #20. What a great place for lunch, an old fashion drive in, complete with mugs of root beer. In addition there was a large area in back with picnic tables, flowers, and of course, restrooms. What more could bikers ask!!!!

Quinlins had their bike out of the van and were just finishing lunch as we arrived and shortly they took off on the rest of the way into Erie. We easily loaded our bike into the van, ate a leisurely lunch while watching the storm clouds roll in and sure enough about 5 miles after taking the road, down came the drops, then the torrents of water. We saw most of the group, putting on rain gear, or huddled under cover as we drove. It was a strange storm, seemingly following the shore line because as we drove we could look to the south almost the whole time and see nothing but sunshine.

We decided we had best hurry on in to Erie, found the Knights Inn and it was good that we were the first one in because they had screwed up all the reservations. Once that was straightened out, we dumped all the luggage in our room, scrapped the Presque Isle ride because we thought maybe we would be needed for sagging, and drove over to Wendy’s for a light snack. In the middle of that we got a call from the Hoecks, who after fixing a flat had been caught again in a downpour and were ready to sag it in. We hurried to the van and headed out, again in the rain, saw our first teams along with Sharon Hoeck about ten blocks from the motel, made contact with the Quinlins who were under cover in a chocolate shop in town and happy as can be munching away, talked to Sam Waterstreet who assured us that they, Olsens, and Gentrys were also very happy, eating wings and having refreshments in a bar.

Before we found the Hoecks, we ran across Jim and Karen Click who had just stopped along side of the road, telling us that they had a flat but were ok. We continued on and reached the Hoecks, and while loading their bike heard again from the Clicks, whose flat had turned into a blown out side wall and they had no replacement, so could we pick them up. So we stopped again, loaded their bike as well into the van and them crammed the six of us in as well. By the time we reached the motel the only ones still out were Olsen, Gentrys and Waterstreets, who again we phoned to find that they were now out on Presque Isle enjoying the weekend event. Jim Click was able to get a tire from Bruce Kuehl, got it mounted and he and Karen decided to ride to Presque Isle and hopefully find the other three teams.

The rest of us opted for hot showers, some down time, and then walked to supper at an Irish Pub that Mary Jane Cross had found. Food was good and then afterward Sherry and I walked down to the harbor area while the rest hopped into the van and under directions from the Quinlins headed off for the chocolate shop where great deserts were had by all.

The next morning (Monday) the general consensus was that the Knights Inn had made the top ten list of worst motels on my trips, little did we know that we were also to find one later that made the top five worst and depending on who you asked, might have been number three on that list.

Mondays ride was from Erie to Dunkirk NY, again mostly along the shore of Lake Erie but with one major difference. Instead of corn and soy beans along the side of the road, it was now nothing but grape vines after grape vines. Those vines were mostly concord grapes but there were also many other varieties. We stopped at the Penn Shore winery, the first of four along the route, used the facilities and tasted for sure. They had some really good wines so we of course brought some and then contacted the van drivers, Sam and Virginia, to be sure that they stopped to pick it up.

We moved on from there, stopping at the NY line for pictures, then lunch, viewed a light house with a gas light in it, and made a last stop at the Sugar Shack along the way. There we had a chance to taste 27 variety of syrups on little tiny bits of ice cream, tour the gift shop which had many neat items and of course all of us took some syrup with us. These bottles were small enough to carry on the bikes, but we needn’t have worried, the last group including the van also stopped there and could have picked it up. The count at the end of the day was 18 bottles of wine purchased and ten bottles of syrup.

Our motel that night was the Clarion Hotel, right on the edge of the lake, it had a nice pool and whirlpool, great rooms, a good dining area and food PLUS from some standpoints, the greatest thing ever, $1.00 a bottle of beer night. We all ended out on the edge of the beer garden until well after nine that night. Note here, no mention of rain!!!!

Tuesday morning was again a pretty day and after the usual packing up and squeezing the Gentrys bike into the van since they were drivers for the day, we started out. During the day before when I had commented on the beauty of the scenery, Sherry had retorted with how pretty it was off to our right as well. Others had made the same comments at the beer garden as well to which I informed them that they would be riding there today.

We went west for about the first 3 miles, then made a left to head south and UP. The first few miles were gradual, each mile getting a little steeper, calling for lower gears as we went. At one stop sign after a short steep climb, a lady in her pick up told us we were going the wrong way, it was downhill if we went back!!! As we went, it continually rose and then came the hills. The first one was probably a mile and a half long, somewhere in the range of a 7 to 8% grade, and we finally stopped and walked for about thirty yards near the top where it flattened a bit and allowed us to restart and finish. Everybody took a rest at that point, took pictures back of what we had climbed and they turned out great. Showed the lake in the distance and you could actually see the steepness of the hill itself.

There was a slight respite before another climb, again we walked about 20 yards or so and then rolling terrain for awhile before taking a great downhill of about 3 miles in length into a valley where we rode between the bluffs for about 7 miles or so. Unfortunately we had to leave the valley eventually and thus another long, long climb. Our little group of the Quinlins and KCs along with us stopped finally due to hunger, the three Hoecks had dropped us long ago. We shared food that was carried, gorp, fruit, power bars, etc. while we rested and discussed the route. The KCs and us had discussed a side trip but were now to beat to think about it and the debate was rather to stick to the route or simply take NY Rte.#57 straight in. Sherry needed water and so was walking up to a little church where she
had seen someone to see if she could get a refill. I told her to ask the person which way would be best. Not only did she get her fresh water but a strong recommendation to take Rte.#57. What good advice, after a few gradual ups and downs around a curve it turned into a 5 mile downhill and put us back on our route sheet again.

Shortly thereafter we saw a fruit and cheese stand where we stopped and made lunch out of bananas, cheese, crackers, and fruit. The people at the stand were great, allowed us to use the bathroom, washed our fruit for us, cut our cheese and were just nice people. We left there knowing that we had less then 5 miles to go. Shortly up the rode we saw the van at an Arbys where Gentrys were eating along with the Hoecks but we kept going on into Jamestown. What a dirty trick, just when we thought we had the hills beat for the day it turns out that Jamestown is built on a hill, so we had to climb all the way. At each corner in the downtown area we would hit a light, and right before each corner of course the street would peak so that the cross street section would be flat and OF COURSE we missed 5 of the 6 lights. Eventually we made it to the Best Western, a nice hotel, got checked in, cleaned up, and headed out for the ice cream shop. Found a bike shop in the process and so visited there as well, got help on the next days route, bought ear muffs at the $1.00 table, and then went and had our ice cream. Bruce and I went out to check the route alterations and found them to be much better then my proposed route. My proposed route took us down and under the railroad tracks and then up a mountain on a brick street, it would have been a 4 block walk for sure. Mary Jane had found us a nice Italian place for supper and after that pretty much everyone just went to bed.

As predicted we awoke to a very dark sky, so not a lot of time was taken to eat breakfast before we were ready to venture out. The revised route worked fine except for the fact that the street we were supposed to turn on was named something else at the corner, but we found it and thankfully it did make the climb out of town much easier. We hit a couple of climbs anyway before we hit our turn in Busti NY that would take us south and into PA. It drizzled a time or two before we reached Sugar Grove where we made a stop to refresh and then as we turned onto Rte #27 in PA it started to rain fairly lightly. Again we stopped, this time to don rain gear and then proceeded mostly down on a freshly repaved road, thinking as we rode that if this was all it did in the way of rain for the day, it wouldn’t be to bad.

In Youngsville PA we made another stop to check the route and visit the necessity room. It was decided that the route at this point was fine and we would continue on it but that when we reached Mickle Hill Road that another decision would need to be made. It seems that most of the roads that I had selected were off the main roads and so they tended to follow the terrain more closely (read as hilly) and if Rte.#27 wasn’t bad that maybe we would just stay on it.

As we hit the junction for Rte.#27, the rain started in earnest plus it seemed like every type of big truck ALSO used Rte.#27. The rain now was coming in sheets, making it hard to see through our glasses and the water was pooling on the pavement so that you couldn’t see if there were holes or not and then the trucks would blow past us, tooting their horns and throwing the water up in waves. We pedaled on until three tanker trucks came in a row, throwing water sprays that completely were over our heads, wiping out any vision we had left at that point. Once we could see again we also could see a little green building off to our left that housed a car shop and whose garage door was wide open. We immediately waded through the puddles to the door and asked if it was ok for us to wait out the storm and thus were granted a reprieve.

The Hoecks were by now with us and so the five of us pulled the bikes inside, far enough we thought away from the opening which had a pretty good sized puddle which only grew bigger while we were there, actually coming inside the doors about 4 feet or so while we waited for the rain to let up. Then we looked around a little at where we had found refuge. The auto shop was a sight!!!! Stacks of used tires haphazardly spaced just anywhere and that was just the start of things. The mode of operation just seemed to be that where ever you finished a job and had a used or useless part left, that you just dropped it there and that’s where it stayed for all time.

After about an hour I needed a bathroom and when asked got the reply that they didn’t have one, just go out the back door and pick a spot. When I did, I found tall grass, a couple of sheds both full to the top with more of what was inside the shop itself, any path to the sheds also weaved through stacks of tires and other car parts. One look and I decided that two steps to the right of the door worked just fine.

We saw the van swing by (driven by KCs) and because of our bright rain gear they saw us and stopped, said they would drive into Titusville and unload and be ready to transport people and bikes if necessary. We told them to look for the Cohens and Quinlins who had been ahead of us and that as far as we knew, everyone else was behind us somewhere. They drove off and we continued to watch it rain, soon seeing the Clicks fly by, we yelled but they had their eyes on the road and were fixated on getting on.

We made the decision to sag it in, used the shops phone to make the call because none of our cell phones would get a signal. The Caboose Motel had an 800 number so it wasn’t going to cost the shop owner. We left a message and then continued to wait. Soon along came the other 4 teams, fresh from sitting the main rain out in a tavern, where the owners saw them take shelter under the porch overhang, so even thought they weren’t open, invited them in anyway. Then saw that the teams were wet and so took what clothes they could and threw them into a dryer, so while it was still misting on them they were warm and dry as they continued to ride, with the intention of stopping at some pub up the road that they had been told had good food.

About 45 minutes later the Hoecks decided to ride on in or at least as far as they could before the van came back for them and so off they went, leaving Sherry and me to wait for the van. KCs arrived shortly thereafter, they had not seen any body else besides the Hoecks and the Cohens. The plan was to load us, then pick up the Cohen and push on back to Titusville after which they would return to pick up the Hoecks wherever they were at the time. When we reached town, the Quinlins were there, showered and cleaned up. They had decided that Rte.#27 was just to dangerous with the trucks and had taken my original route on Mickle Road. They said there was NO traffic on that road, maybe 4 cars passing them BUT it had two hugh hills that even they had to walk a portion of and that there were many much smaller hills but they found it safe and beautiful. Everyone else that rode all came in on Rte.#27.

The Caboose Motel was charming, clean and unique. Each room was an actual caboose from some railroad, most of them with queen size beds and their own baths with showers only, and ours had a table with a coffee pot, and an easy chair as well. We found out that the windows in the ceiling while neat let the early morning sun right in and so there was no sleeping late the next morning.

We awoke to a beautiful day for our rest day. Walked to the two breakfast spots for late breakfast and then came back and filled the outside decks of the motel with bikes for cleaning and oiling. While this was going on others checked out the train schedule and decisions were made as to how we were going to spend the day. Eventually it ended up with half the group going down to Petroleum Center on the train while the other half rode the bike trail to meet it, then we reversed the system for the return ride. The path was really neat, totally through the wooded forest, not much of a grade either way and all was good except the train was late due to a tree that had fallen down over the tracks which they had to figure out how to remove by pushing it with the engine of the train itself. Once at the station in Petroleum Center we made short work of unloading and loading up the bikes (had to lift them over the side of the car), then onto the end of the line where the train dumped one car, picked up three others and then on the return trip we had to stop while they used a chain saw to cut up the tree from earlier.

Later we all ate at the Blue Goose for the second night in a row the food being great both nights but the wait staff on the second night was not very pleasant and I’m sure her tips reflected it. The late group also ate there later and had a different person and thus enjoyed it much more. The Clicks had done a little side trip so got in even later than the others plus had to ride some more in the rain, which we all had to walk back to the motel in as well. Our group met the others half way between he Blue Goose and the motel with me lagging behind the rest, trying to stay in the overhang of the building, and hoping that they would bring the van by to pick me up on our way for ice cream Alas, no, I had to make the whole walk in the drizzle because they wanted me to see the T P job that had been done to our caboose. I’ve decided that we have some really funny people on my trips, none of whom are adverse to doing little pranks.

Friday morning we awoke to rain again!! Forecasts was that it would be done by noon and starting to clear by 1 PM. This was again a approx. 50 miles day and it was still raining by the time we had all finished breakfast and assembled back at the motel around ten AM. After some discussion it was decided to rent a U haul truck for the bikes and gear and transport everyone to Conneaut Lake. As it turned out we got the only U Haul truck in town, the perfect size for what we needed and by the time we got back from getting it, the rain had stopped. The Olsens, Clicks and Waterstreets decided that they would ride, we had to drop the Gentrys off with their bike in Meadsville at the bike shop so that they could get new brake pads installed as apparently the grit and gravel of riding in the rain had worn the pads down to nubbins.

We loaded the rest of the bikes and all the luggage into the U Haul, flipped up the seats in the van for riders and loaded the Hoecks, KCs, Cohens and Gentrys into the van along with Doc Quinlin driving, leaving Nette Q, Sherry and me to await Doc and Rich to return with the truck. The three of us wandered off to Mickey Ds to use the washroom, then on into town to stroll the shops, had ice cream at the old drug/notion store, sitting at the old fashioned soda fountain, and reading the signs around town about its history. Eventually we made it back to the motel and shortly Doc picked us up and then we drove behind Rick to the drop off spot for the U Haul.

Then the five of us made a last pit stop, Doc and Rich grabbing a sandwich in the process and on the Conneaut Lake for the night. We saw the three teams that rode in Meadsville having lunch on our way through, and once at the Fairway 12 Motel, the day had turned into a beautiful sunny and clear day. It was decided to take a short ride around Conneaut Lake and shortly off we all went, down along the lake, through the town itself and back out into the country. No major hills, just a few grades and finally a long downhill run back to the area of the Fairway 12 Motel.

Shortly before we reached there, we hit an accident area with police, firemen, and ambulances and a car wrapped around a pole. Once through we sort of forgot it until we reached the motel to find out that the accident had taken out a electrical pole and the motel had no electricity!!! This was both good and bad news, bad in that the water for showers came from a well and that had an electric pump and good because without lights in the rooms we couldn’t see just how bad they were. As is usually the case, with nothing else to do, we headed off in the van to eat supper and then of course off for custards afterwards.

Upon our return there was still no electricity, so we pulled chairs around outside and proceeded to talk for awhile. Sherry, Rich H, Bruce and I got in the van looking for the power source that was supposed to be there for use so that they could transfer pictures from one computer to another. Eventually we got power turned on to great cheers and off to clean up and to bed we went. The next morning came out the stories of exactly WHAT type of motel it was and the talk of the rating on the list of Tom’s worst motels. For those who had been there on some of the other rides, the Fairway 12 made the list, maybe at number 3 but I feel that it really fell to number 4 behind Newcastle WY, Rose City MI, Franklin KY and now Conneaut Lake PA. So in the seven days, we had two in the top 10 of worst motels, 2 in the top 5 of the nicest or most novel, one in the second tier of worst motels and two in the middle or just normal nice places. (Luckily the two overnights for the rest day were in one of the top 5 best.)

Our last day dawned with a clear sky, bright sunshine, and light breezes which were a most welcome sight. Soon we were all off to Millers for breakfast, which turned out to be just great. Hugh portions, many different items on the menu and reasonable prices and it was obvious the place to eat based on the crowd it drew. From there we again biked through town and picked up Rte.#6 (we were off the route sheets here but would pick it up later) which led us mostly east and was gently rolling as we neared Ohio. We crossed on a long causeway or bridge over the bottom of Lake Pymatuning where in the middle of it we actually passed into Ohio.
We turned north and paralleled Lake Pymatuning for awhile, now back on the cue sheet but just before we reached our next turn, a call from Carole Cohen stopped us for directions because of gravel roads ahead. We followed my route for quite awhile, down one road that went from a wide two lane to a narrow two lane, and then to a single lane that even narrowed so that it seemed like a driveway. Eventually we left my route, following Cohens alterations until we found the bike trail that we had left on a week ago, turned on it and shortly we were back.

Our rooms at the Comfort Inn weren’t ready as of yet, Rich and Nan were staying over with us BUT first had to get Sharon back to Cleveland to catch a plane, Bruce K had to find someone to fix his car tire which had flatted last Sat. and Cohens had to rush off to get home before their kids and grand kids appeared at their door. We hung around, eventually got our rooms, lifted enough towels off the maids cart for everyone and eventually KCs, Gentrys, Clicks, Olsen and Waterstreet were able to shower before they headed for home. We spent a last evening with the Hoecks which was a nice way to end the trip.

Another year, the thirteenth that I have planned and led. Some of the riders this year were new to my trips, others were old timers, but all I think had a good time despite the elements and the terrain. I want to thank all of them for the good times we had, for their good nature and acceptance of just about everything. I’m sure in the coming months and years that the hills will grow taller, the rain more like a monsoon, and that the Fairway 12 may move up the list of worst motels, but I also feel that the sign our groups found and sort of adopted as the motto will stick with all of us. For those that weren’t with us, here it is.

“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.”

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