March 17, 2016
100 miles. In a plane it takes mere minutes. In a car, not too long, but by bike it takes hours.
Centuries are a feat most serious cyclists want to tick off their bucket list. It tests not only one’s physical strength, but also their mental strength as well. And it takes weeks of training and preparation. From building up your physical ability to ride the long distance, to prepping all of the supplies, many things go into this type of journey.
Plus, cycling allows you to see parts of the world that many people overlook.
As Ohio cyclists, my father and I made it our goal to ride the entire Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. Starting at Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland and ending in the rural town of New Philadelphia, a simple 102 miles away, this century, ridden along the beautiful canal towpath, allows for some amazing sights. Though we had weeks of preparation, nothing could have prepared us for this amazing father-daughter adventure. Over the 100 miles, we came across a variety of terrain. From beautifully kept trails along the northern part of the trek, to city roads unaware of the history of the towpath, this ride truly gave us a look at every possible scenario.
For any cycling history buffs, this is the towpath for you. Every few feet you’ll find a plaque containing bits of history. You'll see where the canal boats traversed to and from ports. And seeing the remnants of the old mills and bars, you could feel the spirit of the people who lived the canal life.
Though we couldn’t stop at every historical site, seeing this trail through the eyes of a cyclist allowed for a unique experience.
Miles 1 to 25 seemed like a breeze. The morning was bright and beautiful. The crisp, fresh breeze against our skin was exhilarating and the towpath was wide, clean, and full of nature and active people.
Our first stop was at a cool little museum. It showed what it was like to live near and work on the canal. It had sample clothes of women, men, and children that you could try on, models of the canal boats and what each compartment carried, and so much more.
During each of our little stops, we were able to talk to random people and connect with the pulse of the towpath. Most people were stunned to hear that we set out to ride the entire trail. As we set off on our bikes, people wished us well as we rode away.
The middle sections of the towpath weren’t as pleasant as the beginning. These semi-forgotten trails were slightly more narrow and you had to avoid roots and go over hills. Though it wasn’t as glamorous as the previous miles, we were still along the canal, enjoying the history.
And we got into the rhythm of a long ride. We passed the baseball stadium in Akron, a little industrial section, and ate ice cream at a local 75-year-old shop.
However, when we entered the town of Massillon, we discovered the trail completely disappeared. The only way we knew where to go was by following the helpful blue American Byway signs. It was upsetting to see this section forgotten and completely covered by highways and railroads.
Luckily, this only lasted a couple of miles and as we entered the last section in Stark County, the trail became more difficult. I don’t think you could even count it as a trail, but we continued to truck along. From having to lift our bikes over fallen trees, to even wrecking on a slippery bridge, this section proved to be one of the most entertaining.
As we finished the trail and were spit out onto the road, we only had three miles to go. These three miles seemed to last forever. It didn’t help that this conclusion was on a busy road, all up hill.
Finally, we landed upon our final destination. We had ridden 100 miles. Our Mapmyride said so! We had seen 100 miles of history and nature over the course of 12 hours. We enjoyed our time goofing off, seeing every bit we could, and burning the memory of the day and our accomplishment into our minds. I will forever cherish our time and the fantastic conversations we had along the way.
Photos by Natalia Dutt
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