Lakewood to North East

Thursday 11th to Friday 12th August – Stages 79 & 80.

Lakewood to Ashtabula – Thursday 11th August (Stage 79).

We set off under grey, overcast skies with the threat of rain at some point in the morning. We expected the ride to have 3 distinct parts to it – first up we would be riding through the heart of Cleveland. We would then ride through built up commuter towns in rapid succession, before getting back to more remote roads & locations.

Within 5 minutes of setting off we entered Edgewater Park, a large recreational space with views to Downtown Cleveland below. I stopped at the iconic Cleveland Script Sign & traded photos with a couple who were also looking to get a memento of their visit.

Heading down to the beachfront past the volleyball courts, we watched the tractors raking the sand, so everything was in its place at the start of the day. Cleveland has done a wonderful job of making its beaches & Edgewater Park in particular, attractive & welcoming.

We left the cycle path behind as we made our way into town, but we were still on a cyclist designated road, with a lane marked out for us. The drivers were very patient & gave us plenty of space & time, which was very much appreciated.

The Key Tower dominates the skyline & is the tallest building in the State of Ohio, at 947 feet tall. Completed in 1991, it rises 57 stories until the spire on the summit of the building & it changed hands in 2017 for £267.5 million.

Less than 1/2 mile away on the lakefront, the First Energy Stadium is where the NFL’s Cleveland Browns play their home fixtures. It also hosts other major sporting & musical events – this weekend Avril Lavigne & Travis Barker were supporting Machine Gun Kelly.

Across the road from First Energy Stadium is the Fire Fighters Memorial honouring the 77 men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.

On the same block is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & 2 minutes further on is the International Women’s Air & Space Museum which had a Blue Angel McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet on display – they’re the equivalent of the Red Arrows & will be headlining the Cleveland Air Show in September.

As we left Downtown Cleveland behind us, we found ourselves on a cycle path that took us right along the shore, so we were fully exposed to the wind that was whistling in off Lake Erie. Looking North towards Canada, we could see the rain heading towards us – we were definitely going to get damp in the next 30 minutes!

It was quite an experience to see Lake Erie with big waves breaking on the shore, but it helped me understand why it is known as the world’s worst tempered lake! On one sand spit alone, more than 100 ships & 1,000 people have perished. Lake Erie is the only one of the five Great Lakes to be entirely above sea level, when considering their depth. Herein lies the reason for Lake Erie being so dangerous – its relatively shallow waters can be quickly whipped up into 18 foot waves that batter the shoreline.

The waves weren’t 18 feet today, but they were larger than I was expecting!

Not long after I shot the video, the rains caught up with us – the worst of it had been dumped over the lake. Luckily it also coincided with us travelling about 15 miles through one residential district after another. The suburb of Bratenahl was the exception, as it appeared to be where all the moneyed people chose to live – right on the lakeshore in gated communities.

I found one more view of the lake leading up to our coffee stop, where I had a warming americano & a poppy seed pastry. The good news is the rain stopped just before we found our coffee stop!

It’s difficult to believe that by the time we started riding after coffee, the grey had been replaced by blue & there were just cotton wool clouds to break up the skies. We also left the residential districts behind for a while as we found regular spots to stop & admire the lake & its coastline. In one park we stood for a couple of minutes watching the ducks crossing the road in single file.

The town of Painesville has retained much of its original look & feel & the main thoroughfare is recognised as a National Historic District. There was a job fair taking place in the city park & like most of the towns we’ve passed through, there are far more jobs on offer than people to fill them.

This also reminded me that I will need to start looking for work when I get home. In the event anyone knows of anything that might suit me, please do get in touch, as I do genuinely need to work on my return.

It wasn’t long before we were back on quiet roads, with opportunities to stop & enjoy the views from the sandy beaches. While the lake wasn’t millpond smooth, the gently lapping waves were barely recognisable from this morning’s monsters.

This stretch of the ride gave me ample opportunity to see the lake & I took advantage of pretty much every one that presented itself – Sean remained patient as I needed to stop regularly to take most of these photos – The Geneva State Park shot below is the exception. The beach at the State Park was beautiful & had a Mediterranean look & feel to it.

Leaving Geneva State Park behind, we arrived at Geneva-on-the-Lake. It’s a typical coastal holiday town, although it’s on an inland lake! If you wanted souvenirs, ice creams, food or drink, there was a shop to cater to your every need. This was also one of the only places I saw one of the freighters that ply their trade on Lake Erie.

Ohio’s coastline stretches for 300 miles along Lake Erie & its nine ports handle 40 million tons of inbound & outbound cargo each year. As recently as 2018, 33,000 people worked in the shipping industry on Lake Erie & it generated taxes of $838 million. It’s big business!

We were near the end of today’s adventure, we just had a few rolling hills to manage, then we turned inland towards our motel in Ashtabula. I have a good memory when it comes to recollected what we did & when, however, I had to check my journal to be reminded. All became clear when I read up on my evening – it involved hand washing today’s cycling kit in the shower so I could ride in it again tomorrow (same jersey both days!), as we arrived later than planned & we bought dinner from Subway. This probably won’t make my highlights reel!!!

Stage Stats – 77 miles, 1,142 feet of climbing. Sightseeing on the way across Cleveland, then riding quiet roads all afternoon as we had regular trips to the beach.

Ashtabula to North East – Friday 12th August (Stage 80).

Today is our 4th day of riding on the bounce, so we’re heading into a rest day tomorrow. This is always a nice feeling, as it gives us a chance to stop, relax & process our most recent adventures.

We picked up State Route 5 as we reached Lakeshore Park & got an early morning view of Lake Erie. Our rolling route resulted in quite a bit of climbing, but never for more than a few minutes, then immediately giving the feet back, before repeating again! The good news for me is that I could get quite a few nice shots from headlands, looking out across or along the lake.

The first 15 miles followed the coastline, but then we turned inland & headed towards Conneaut, which boasted covered bridges, a marina, beaches, wineries & museums.

Life’s Just Better Here was their strapline & to be fair, it did look a mighty fine place to live.

Conneaut was the last town we would see in Ohio, as we crossed the State Line into Pennsylvania. Founded in 1681 by William Penn, Pennsylvania is the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence & the Constitution of the United States. Pennsylvania purchased the Erie Triangle in 1792 for $151,640.25 & this extended the boundary further North, to where we took our picture.

This purchase was of huge value & significance for Pennsylvania, as it gave the State access to Lake Erie – the Erie Triangle comprised 202,187 acres of land & was paid for in interest-bearing continental certificates, money so severely devalued that the acquisition of the land was virtually free. If you think Junk Bonds are a new financial instrument, think again!

We had entered fertile wine growing territory & vineyards replaces corn & soya bean fields. Of more importance, after 38 miles we found a much needed pie & coffee stop. The morning had been hot & humid & we had been drinking the last of our warm (almost hot) water supplies when we stumbled upon Teresa’s Deli – it was a real oasis in the desert.

Setting off again, although we were still on the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, in Pennsylvania it also went by the State name of BicyclePA Z, one that just trips off the tongue! As we rode through Erie, there were a number of frogs that had been painted – Leap Frog! A Ribbitting Tale was launched on 1st January 2004 & a Hardcover book explaining more is available on Amazon for £30.89. It reminded us both of Bristol’s Wallace & Grommit & now I know why.

Erie marina was one of the largest we’ve seen so far along the lake & there must have been several hundred boats moored to the pontoons. There were also yachts & speed boats on the lake in the distance. The Erie Bicentennial Tower also caught my eye. It was completed in October 1996 to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the founding of Erie. There are 210 steps to the top observation deck, which is 138 feet tall.

As we left Erie behind us, we headed back onto quiet 2 lane roads & at one point we passed 3 or 4 monasteries & nunneries in quick succession.

I was surprised to spot what looked like a reindeer in one field. When I think I’ve seen everything, along comes something else to prove me wrong – if only a moose would show itself! After one last look at Lake Erie for today, we headed inland slightly & immediately returned to vineyards again. We were now almost at our motel for the next two days just outside North East.

We checked in & the manager kindly agreed to wash our cycling kit for us (it was a 4 mile ride into town & he must have felt sorry for us!). It’s Friday night, so we headed to The Vine Bar & Grill, where we enrolled in Friday Beer Club with a couple of Darkfish IPA’s for me & a Sammy Adams’ for Sean – Cheers everyone!

Stage Stats – 66 miles, 1,542 feet of climbing. Crossing the State Line into Pennsylvania & toasting a well deserved rest day tomorrow!

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