100 miles. In a plane it takes mere minutes, in a car and hour or two depending on how fast you drive, but by bike it takes hours. It allows you to see parts of the world that many people overlook or just don’t have the opportunity to see. Centuries are a feat that most serious cyclists want to tick off of their bucket list. It tests not only one’s physical strength but also the mental strengths as welI. It takes weeks of training and preparation. From building up your physical ability to ride the long distance to prepping all of the supplies. There are many things that go into this type of journey.
As Ohio cyclists my father and I made it our goals to ride the entire Ohio Erie Canal towpath. 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 sites along the way. Though we had weeks of preparation nothing could have prepared up for this amazing father daughter adventure. Over the 100 miles we came across a wide array of terrains. From beautifully kept trails along the northern part of the trek, to city roads that completely forgot the history of the canals of this 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 would find a plaque containing bits of the history along the way. You are able to see where the canal boats traversed to and from ports. Seeing the remnants of the old mills and bars you could feel the spirits of the people who lived the canal life. Though we couldn’t stop off at every historical site (as much as we wanted to) seeing this trail through the eyes of a bicycle allowed for a very unique experience. Miles 1-25 seemed like a breeze. The morning was bright and beautiful. The crisp fresh breeze against our skin from the bike was exhilarating. The towpath was wide, clean, and full of nature and people. It was impressive to see the numbers of people who were out being active. Whether it was on a simple walk or a short bike ride activity was everywhere. Though my father and I made an attempt to stay focused on the ride we decided to make a few short stops at various museums and some amazing nature lookouts. 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 these 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 again on our cycles people wished us well as we rode away.
The middle sections of the towpath weren’t as pleasant as the beginning. These were the sections that seemed to be semi forgotten. The trails were slightly more narrow. You had to avoid roots go around and go over some hills. Though it wasn’t as glamorous as the previous miles we were still along the canal and were able to see bits and pieces of the history along the way. Past the baseball stadium in Akron, a little industrial section, some ice cream at a local 75 year old shop, the ride was pleasant as we got into the rhythm of a long ride. Soon, however, when we entered the town of Massillon we discovered that 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 how this section was so forgotten. The canal has been completely covered by highways and railroads. As upsetting as this section was it only lasted a couple of miles. Soon we had passed it and began our journey to the end.
The Stark county portion of the trail was the last section. When we made it we realized we were almost done with our ride. It had taken longer than we had expected but that is bound to happen when you get distracted at all the cool historical sights. As we were nearing the finish 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 wrecking on a slippery bridge this section remained to be one of the most entertaining. As we finished this 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 the majority of this section was on a busy road all up hill. We then 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. Now I know most cyclist could do their 100 miles in normally 7 or 8 hours but my dad and I enjoyed our time goofing off and seeing every bit we could. Burning the memory of the day and time together as much as the accomplishment of the miles into our minds. Centuries are not an easy feat. My dad and I accomplished what we set out to do. Though I’m sure each of us will individually do centuries without one another and most likely do them at a quicker pace the next time I will forever cherish the fantastic conversations we had along the way.