Monday, June 9, 2014

Oberlin College

A day of rest, clear skies, and the prospect of the longest day of the tour — 63 miles — must have charged everyone up as most of us ate an early breakfast and were ready to ride by 8AM or a little later. This was to be a mainly north-south oriented loop ride through the small towns and countryside south of Vermilion.

Long loop with finish into the wind (again)

The weather, as on most of the succeeding days, was arm-warmer cool as I rode into downtown Vermilion, crossed the bridge, and started south on a road that followed the Vermilion River. Even though I felt strong at this point, I noticed that I wasn’t quite at my usual pace and wondered what was going on until I realized that this was one of those “false flat” situations and that the road was actually going up at a steady 1-2% grade: not enough to see it but enough to slow you down just a bit. When I reached one particular point, I had a view of a bridge down in the river gorge and could see how far the road had risen.

Overlook of the Vermilion River Gorge
An interesting menagerie

This road was one of those that I could ride forever. It was shady and slightly curvy, no traffic, gently rolling, and with an occasional big down-and-up when a creek had to be crossed. There were also a number of interesting sights along the way including an alpaca farm, a bull with a ring in his nose, and even a small herd of longhorn cattle. These were the kind of roads that I’d hoped to discover when I signed up!

At about the 16-mile mark we entered Oberlin, the quintessential small Ohio college town. The college buildings are integrated into the town, with many of them lining the streets around the central town park. Oberlin was an early supporter of liberal causes and was the first college to admit African-American students — in 1835! They also styled themselves “The town that started the Civil War” because of the early abolitionist movement that had its roots here. And it still looked like a very pleasant place to obtain a Liberal Arts type of education.

Oberlin town square
Oberlin College
Jim and Pat enjoy a short break
North Coast Inland Trail

It was still before 10AM when I was there and not much was open yet, but a stop for coffee and a pastry seemed in order. Then, just outside Oberlin, the route again picked up the North Coast Inland Trail — this time a paved section — and continued on for a few miles. At the end of this segment was the morning’s rest stop at the 22-mile mark of the day’s journey, and I have to say that this 22 miles was the most enjoyable riding for me of the entire tour. We even managed to get in a group shot of all those who happened to be there at the time.

Back row: Billy, Les, Barb, Rod, Paul, Doug, Ron
Front row: Ellen, Chris, Arlene (the “Babes”)

The next stretch was back onto various county and secondary roads as we jogged around to get to our next destination. Most of the roads throughout the trip were of chipseal surfacing with an occasional stretch of smooth asphalt. Chipseal is cheap and effective, but as you probably know, there is some increased rolling resistance that you mainly notice when you come off of it onto a smoother surface. The overall condition of the roads was very good, especially when compared to my home state of Michigan. It did vary depending on whether the road was maintained by the state, the county, or city, but there were very few rough sections and no real potholes or crumbling shoulders that I can recall.

Barb and Ron, ready to ride after lunch

At about the halfway point of the day’s ride we were in the town of Wellington. This was not only a good time to eat lunch, but also the last real opportunity to do so. Afterwards, the route turned northward and followed a number of backroads that more or less paralleled main route 60 toward our hotel. And wouldn’t you know it: the easterly wind that we had ridden into on the final stretch of the last tow rides had backed into the north so that now we were riding into it again! For thirty miles!

There were a couple of wineries along the way, but again I didn’t stop at any of them. The one stop that I did make was at Miller’s Homemade Ice Cream for another refreshing cone. This left only about 10 miles to the finish, so I slowed down a bit and stopped by to take a short look at Schoepfle Gardens. From there it seemed like a short hop back to the Holiday Inn Express where I could clean up and relax for a while before thinking about dinner plans. At the end I had clocked 63 miles and my Garmin indicated 1250 cumulative feet of climbing. I felt really good for having done a couple of long days this early in my riding season, and have to credit my gear a bit for this. Mainly, the new Castelli Endurance X2 bib shorts that I was wearing for the first time were working out very well and I had no saddle discomfort at all at this point.

We were on our own for dinner and there seemed to be at least three places on the restaurant list that interested most of us. Since we had our cars there, transportation was not an issue, and we went out in groups to the places of our choice. Ironically, two of the popular choices turned out to be closed on Mondays and we all seem to have ended up at the same place after all: a Quaker Steak and Lube which turned out to be a pretty nice place as we sat out on the veranda with a view of the inland canals and marinas.

View of Vermilion’s canals from the Quaker Steak porch
The Bellevilli, IL contingent (table in the background)
Barb and Ron: quiet moment with loud shoes

On tap for the next day: the islands!

Categories: Tours

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