Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

After several days of non-stop rain, our Memorial Day Monday turned out to be a perfect day for a bike ride. Brilliant sunshine, low humidity, and temperatures in the upper 60s. The RetroKids and I took our bikes to the canal towpath, but instead of heading north through the national park as we often do, we decided to take the somewhat less-traveled part of the path that passes through downtown Akron and southward out of the city.

One of the cool things about this section of the towpath is that it gives a person a glimpse at the industrial roots of the city, as it passes between the old Ohio & Erie Canal and the former rubber factories of the city's heyday. It's a good place to go with a camera, too, as there are great contrasts with the rusting iron structures, stone and brick masonry, burgeoning greenery, and occasional bursts of urban art/graffiti.

After a long uphill climb, and crossing a bridge over the city's old (and now mostly defunct) interbelt, the path comes into the downtown landscape - which was dead quiet today for the holiday.

A view of what had once been one of the factories for the B.F. Goodrich Tire Co. - One of many factories that made Akron the center of the North American tire and rubber industry. B.F. Goodrich, Goodyear, Firestone and more all called Akron their home. Only Goodyear remains headquartered in the city, but most of the factories are closed.

Colorful urban art where the path passes under one of the city streets.

One of several giant-sized Adirondack chairs placed along the path, overlooking the canal.

An urban park on the edge of downtown, with the canal as its centerpiece - and another glimpse of the old B.F. Goodrich factory.

South of downtown, a floating boardwalk carries riders over Summit Lake -- once the site of an amusement park featuring a rollercoaster, ferris wheel, a dance hall, an enormous swimming pool, and other attractions. It was known as Akron's Coney Island. All of that's gone now.

Here was a cool spot under a railway trestle, beside the remains of one of the old canal locks.

And, some pictures of the bikes:

Not a whole lot more to say. It's just still my favorite way to spend time with my kids, and I can't overstate how much it means that they still enjoy getting out to explore things on their bikes.

Whether you get out on a bike or not, wherever you are, I hope you're having a good holiday with someone you love.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Beating the Heat

Here in Akron we're having an early heat wave. It's unusual for us to be hitting the upper 80s in mid May like this, but that's where we are. We're expecting some days in the 90s next week. Heat like that can make a bike ride a little less enjoyable, but there's one way to beat the heat - get out on the road early while it's still cool.

While the rest of my family was still in bed taking advantage of a chance to sleep in, I got out shortly after sunrise this morning - on what promises to be a very nice - but hot - Sunday. It was partly cloudy with a bit of hazy sunshine, patches of mist in some of the lower-lying areas in the valley, and temps in the mid 60s. 

I hit the road on the Sequoia and was once again reminded of what a well-sorted-out bike it is. Its handling is reassuring and predictable. It soaks up rough pavement handily. The '80s vintage SunTour drivetrain works so well, it convinces me even more certainly that much of the "innovation" of the past 30 years has been "new for the sake of new," but not real improvements

I stopped for a picture by the farm market in the heart of the national park. Activity at the farm hints that their season opening is just around the corner.

The little farm market has corn fields scattered all around the valley floor, and I could see workers plowing and sowing one of the fields. Others fields are already sprouting with this summer's crop. As this summer promises to take us more "back to normal" after the pandemic, I can imagine the market (which is always a popular stop for visitors to the park) will be busier than ever. Seeing the work going on around the farm fills me with anticipation for summer.

By the time I was climbing the long hill back home, I could already feel it getting hotter - but I'd beaten the worst of it. After a cool shower, I could relax outside on the porch with a cup of coffee while I'd wait for the rest of the family to rise.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Road(s) Closed

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I am fortunate to live near, and to be able to do a lot of my riding in and around the Cuyahoga Valley - with its national park and variety of county metroparks. Between the canal towpath, a rails-to-trails path, a couple of mountain bike trails, and a network of roads into, around, and through the valley, the local area is a Mecca for NE Ohio cyclists.

In the southern part of the valley (that is, the Akron end), there are two main roads that run along the valley floor, roughly parallel to one another, beside the east and west banks of the river, with several roads connecting them along the way. From Akron to the little town of Peninsula, which is right in the heart of the national park, those roads form the backbone of most out-and-back riding loops. 

The sign may say Road Closed --
but that doesn't stop someone on a bike.
Due to erosion problems on the eastern bank of the river, one of these two valley roads has been closed since winter - and I should add, closed indefinitely. Hopefully there is a plan to mitigate the erosion issues where the river comes close to the road, and then reopen it. But so far, I haven't heard any specifics regarding a plan, or any kind of timeline for completion. At least one sign I saw literally says "closed until ?" 

The good news for cyclists is that, despite signs clearly indicating no cyclists or even pedestrians allowed, it's a simple matter to get around the barricades and ride a couple of car-free miles. The closure probably hasn't stopped hikers or joggers, either. Is it legal? Hell if I know - but I was riding through the closed section on Saturday and saw a park ranger who didn't say a word as I went by. It's probably not worth the trouble to stop us - and there's no immediate danger, so why bother? 

This isn't the only closed road in the valley these days.

The northern end of this same road - the end that offered a long, steep climb out of the valley - has been closed for roughly 20 years now. That end of the road was closed permanently and allowed to "go back to nature." I and many other cyclists continued to ride that section of road for a lot of years and observe it as it was gradually reclaimed by plant life. Over the years, as the pavement disintegrated, it became increasingly difficult to ride, and the last time I tried exploring it, I ended up finishing on foot - the former road was virtually indistinguishable from the surrounding woods.

Another road in the valley was closed a couple of years ago - that road formed part of a loop around Hale Farm & Village (a local living-history village/museum) and an old covered bridge that has appeared in photos here on the blog a few times. It also included another long and challenging climb out of the valley if one were so inclined. That road was closed permanently, as the county officials decided they no longer wanted to maintain it. Local cycling clubs petitioned to keep it open - at least for use by cyclists and hikers - to no avail. Again, the barricades and signs don't keep us out, but the road is degrading noticeably. Grass is protruding from the many cracks in the pavement, which leads to more and bigger cracks, and more crumbling asphalt. I still ride it regularly. The red Mercian pictured above with its 25 mm tires works okay, but I'm finding that bikes with fatter tires are becoming more desirable. The Sequoia (32 mm tires) the Rivendell (33.3 mm) and the Motobecane (650B - 37 mm) all feel more reassuring where the pavement is crumbling.

Still another closed road sits right on the edge of the valley, in one of the metroparks, and which also happens to be one of the connectors between the two main valley roads. Locals have been used to this one being closed temporarily for a few weeks every year due to -- (wait for it) -- salamander migration. That's right. Apparently there is some rare salamander that lives in this part of the metropark, and for a few weeks every spring, they have some kind of mating migration from the marshy areas on one side of the park road to the marshy areas on other side of the road. There's probably a bad joke in there somewhere (Why did the salamander cross the road?) For the last couple of years the road has been closed - at least to the cars - more or less permanently. I don't know if the park service has any plans to reopen it someday, but the joggers and cyclists have no complaints about the closure. It's actually nice to have some car-free roads in a park like this one, and the inconvenience to drivers is minimal.

The closed roads do make for quiet, more secluded riding experiences, and offer some variety on rides through the valley. Nevertheless, I'm hoping the latest closure is only a temporary one.

Monday, May 10, 2021

A Foggy Morning - and an Odd Sign

As I'm sitting here typing this, the sun is once again shining in through the window after a solid week of rain in NE Ohio. No joke - it rained every day for the past week, and seemed especially biblical on Mothers Day as some of our local streets looked like canals, and flash flood warnings were the order of the day. I know of more than a few folks in my area whose homes are currently looking like lakefront properties. I don't think the showers stopped until sometime early this morning.

This morning promised to be the start to a good day for riding to work, but first I'd have to negotiate with heavy fog for the morning commute. The fog got particularly thick once I'd left the city limits and got into the more rural part of my ride as I neared my workplace. On the rural roads, the visibility was reduced to only about 20 yards -- possibly less in some spots.

I do get a little concerned about my own visibility on such mornings. I've got a flashing light on the back of my helmet, a couple of bright tail lights on the back of my bike, and two bright LED headlights - but in fog as thick as what we had this morning, I can only hope it's enough. I couldn't see car headlights until they got within about 30 yards away, so I doubt my lights are any better than that.

An odd sight emerged from the fog. Some kind of sign? A single lost shoe, looking to be reunited with its mate? And if so, why is it that whenever you see a shoe on the side of the road, it's always just ONE shoe? How does that even happen?

As the morning progressed, the fog burned off, revealing clear skies - finally. The ride home should be quite nice. In fact, if the forecast is to be believed, we should have a nice week ahead of us. That would be a welcome turn.

Well, that's all I've got for the moment. Just a short post for today.