The 30th Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure – GOBA

June 2018

The 2018 Father’s Day Weekend brought the running of the 30th Anniversary of the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, and our brother-in-law’s 30th participation in it.  A.J. is one of only a couple of dozen people who have ridden every running of this event, and this year we were lucky enough to be able to join him in this celebration.  The 2018 GOBA began and ended at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, north of Columbus, Ohio, and circles Columbus counterclockwise for a week of bicycling and camping.

A.J. & Pam’s Farm House in Dayton, Ohio

On Sunday, June 17th, we rose early at Pam and A.J. house in Dayton, and arrived at the Fairgrounds at 6:45AM, where we registered, loaded our luggage into the Luggage Travel Vans, and parked our cars.  By 7:20AM, we were cycling on the road through pastoral settings past large farms and fields of corn and soybeans.  Today’s terrain was reasonably flat with only 250ft of elevation change.  The Breakfast stop was at the 13-mile mark, where locals sold PB&J sandwiches, fruit and breakfast burritos.  Lunch was provided by Subway at the 31-mile mark, but 1-mile before then, A.J. suffered a catastrophic tire blow-out requiring a temporary tire patch and new tube.  With appreciated, friendly help from recreational cyclists from the Trek Bike Shop in Dublin, Ohio, we limped into the lunch stop where A.J. had new tires and tubes installed.  After repairs, we resumed our ride to the afternoon water stop at the 40-mile mark.  However, this stop was not set-up, and by now, the temperature had reached a humid 92 degrees F, and many participants were stopping to rest and struggling with the heat.  Luckily, 2 young ladies from Phat Daddy’s Pizza were at the 45-mile mark giving away much-appreciated bottled water.  After 57 miles, we arrived at the London, Ohio Fairgrounds where we located our luggage, set up our tents and were off to the well-needed shower trucks.  After showers, we all walked the one mile into downtown looking for a cold beer.  However, today being Sunday, we could only find one local bar, “Jim’s”, where the beer was cold, and we were the only customers that were not local.  After getting refreshed, we walked to Phat’s Pizza to “thank” them and to enjoy a gyro pizza snack.  We returned to the Fairgrounds for a spirited came of cards and a quiet afternoon.  That evening, we enjoyed pulled pork sandwiches from the “Buckeye BBQ Truck” before settling in for an early night’s sleep.

Famous Mill Creek Covered Bridge outside of Columbus, Ohio

On Monday morning, we awoke ~6:15AM and set off on our bikes to the nearby town of South Charleston, 13 miles away along the paved National Bike Rail Path.  In town, we located a small Coffee Shop called “All in Flavor Café & Sweets Shop” where we enjoyed breakfast burritos, bagels and coffee.  From there, we rode leisurely back to the Fairgrounds for showers, and then shuttled back into London to visit the public Library – one of the nearly 2500 Carnegie Libraries originally built in 1905 by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  Although added-on-to in 1989, the original plasterwork, molding and tall ceilings remain.  Here we caught up on world news, charged our cell phones and relaxed in air-conditioning.  Afterwards, we returned to the camp at the Fairgrounds for a round of cards, before shuttling to a Mexican Restaurant for chili rellenos, fajitas and quesadillas.   After dinner, we returned to camp to relax and settle-in for the night.

Breakfast at All in Flavor in South Charleston, Ohio
Rocky putting up the tent at the Campsite
GOBA-town at the London, Ohio Fairgrounds

Tuesday morning, we were up at 5:00AM to pack, take down our tent, and load up our luggage into the luggage vans.  We were on our bikes by 6:00AM for the day’s 54-mile ride south on the west side of Columbus.  The route included passing through Madison Lake State Park, and into Deer Creek State Park where a massive dam creates a beautiful lake surrounded by wildflowers, a marina, beach and lodge.  Today’s ride was hot again, and water stops were welcomed along our way to the town Circleville.  A.J. and Rocky made the complete ride in 3 ½ hours with all stops and average a surprising 18 mph!  At Circleville, we stayed on the school grounds where all three schools (Elementary, Middle, and High School), are located.  Here, we initially set up our tents, but on hearing of the strong likelihood of evening storms, we took advantage of the opportunity to stay in the gymnasium for the night.  Therefore, after repacking our tents, we set up our bedrolls indoors before we traveled into town for huge, late lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings followed by a visit to the Circleville Library, where a series of special programs for GOBA riders was made available.  They provided drinks, snacks, popcorn, games, puzzles, movies and charging stations in an amazing show of hospitality and graciousness.  After enjoying ourselves for a couple of hours, we headed back to the camp where we strolled about before settling in for the night.

Deer Creek State Park looking over the Route

The next morning, the gym lights went on at 5:00AM, and we were up, packed and ready to get the day started.  After dropping our bags at the luggage vans and grabbing a quick cup of coffee, we set off in the beginning light only to be met with a thick fog that soaked our clothes and covered our bikes and glasses. Today’s 53-mile route travels up and down in hilly countryside, challenging our climbing ability, and reaching downhill speeds approaching 40 mph!  Our breakfast stop was in 16 miles, at a local Methodist Church.  However, they had only just found out about hosting it, and were scrambling to meet the hungry and thirsty hoard of riders.  Lunch stop was another 12 miles away at a local family’s produce farm where the whole family was on-hand to help and to sell fruit, sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  After lunch, the fog cleared, and we made our way into the city of Lancaster where the route went through the center of town into the front gates of the Lancaster Fairgrounds.  Here, Rocky and A.J. set up the tents and everyone took a well-deserved shower before heading across the street to a local pub that had opened the day Prohibition ended.  Here we had some cold drinks and snacks before catching the shuttle back to downtown, which was in full celebration.  Lancaster had arranged a city celebration for the cyclists including a city-center stage and band, stilt-walkers, cotton candy, etc.  From here we went to the library to catch up on the news of the day, and to charge our electronics, until they closed at 5:00PM.  After they closed, we went to the town square to enjoy the festivities and play a few hands of cards, until A.J. had to attend his “Golden GOBA Dinner” – honoring those who had ridden so many years.  During A.J.’s dinner, the rest of us headed to O’Houl’s – an authentic English Pub where we had fish & chips, mushy peas and nachos.  During dinner, a huge rainstorm hit, but it had subsided by the time we met to walk back to camp.  That night, the rains came and went, but we were cozy in our tents and sleeping bags.

A J and Rocky ready to set off on their bikes

Thursday morning was overcast but dry and was the day of the Summer Solstice!  We “slept in” until 6:15AM, when we got up and decided to ride the 15-miles from Lancaster to Pleasantville for breakfast.  The ride was beautiful and cool – passing 3 old covered bridges and a few gentle hills.  Unfortunately, the restaurant that we were looking for wasn’t in Pleasantville but was another 5-miles down the road in the town of New Salem.  After some confusing directions from locals, we finally found “The Old Town Diner” – a quaint “one woman” establishment that was the favorite hangout of the locals.  The owner was a pleasant woman who greeted, served, cooked, bussed and washed dishes, all the while cheerful and attentive to a not-full coffee cup or water glass.  The food was excellent, and we conversed with the local customers before setting off for the return bike trip back to camp. 

At breakfast at the Old Town Diner in New Salem, Ohio
Old Covered Bridge in Lancaster, Ohio

At camp, we showered and then looked at the impending weather forecast.  That evening and the entire next day called for torrential thunderstorms, and so we made the decision to “bail”!  We called for an Uber to take the girls the 60 miles back to the cars in Delaware, and meanwhile Rocky and A.J. packed up the gear and the tents, and moved everything, including the bikes, under cover in the “Goat Building”.  Since it would take the girls 2 ½ hours to get to the cars and return to Lancaster with them, Rocky and A.J. revisited the local bar to replenish their fluids while waiting.  The girls arrived with the vehicles ~ 2:40pm, and after loading gear and bikes into the vehicles, we made the 1 ½ drive back to the farmhouse in Dayton. Another GOBA – albeit shortened – under our belts!

Our adventure group cycling 2018 GOBA

Biking the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Towpath

May 2018

Given our previous bicycling adventures in New Zealand and Canada, we decided we should see some of the great bicycling adventures closer to home, and one of the most talked about routes is the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath from Pittsburg to Washington, D.C.  We decided to arrange this trip with a locally favorite company – Wilderness Adventure Travel, who is actually located along the trail in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.  Our trip started by meeting Julie’s sister and brother-in-law at our home in Alexandria, Virginia where we loaded-up our luggage and drove the 4 hours to Uniontown, PA from which we could visit the National Historic Landmark of Fallingwater – the home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Department Store mogul-family, The Kaufmanns.  This famous home is set over the falls and running river of Bear Run and has hosted over 5-million visitors since it opened for the public in 1964.  The next morning, Sunday, we met our adventure companions at Ohiopyle, and the 11 of us, along with our two Wilderness Adventure Travel guides, Montana & Chris, fitted our bikes and traveled to the Boston, PA. trailhead where our adventure began.

Our Route along the Greater Allegheny Passage Rail-Trail and the C&O Canal Tow-Path


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
Fallingwater’s iconic view

Our first day of biking was traveling 57 miles upstream along the Great Allegheny Passage – a converted rail-trail beside the Youghiogheny River.  This route was used by the railroad to transport coal and other raw materials over the Appalachian Divide to the East Coast.  Along the way we saw deer, turkeys, geese and an abundance of flowers.  The wildlife was complemented by spectacular views as we crossed deep gorges, visited trail centers and rode through old coal-mining towns, until we arrived back at Ohiopyle.  After a short visit to the pub for beer and ice, we headed to our first night’s stay and dinner at a mountain-top private lodge – The Trillium.  Showers, drinks and a dinner of BBQ brisket & pork with chocolate cake completed our first day.

Rocky and A.J. on Greater Allegnehy Passage

After a “cowboy breakfast” we re-engaged the trail and continued our climb along the Great Allegheny Passage, 48 miles to the Eastern Continental Divide – the point at which eastern USA waters divide between flowing to the Gulf of Mexico or to the Atlantic Ocean.  Along the way, we crossed some long viaducts and passed windmill farms until we finally started our additional 24-mile descent into Maryland through the Mason-Dixon line to the town of Cumberland. Those at the head-of-the-pack were met with downed-trees from the previous night’s storms which required carrying bikes over them, and those still riding later in the afternoon were met with a new round of thunderstorms.  We checked into our hotel rooms at the Fairfield Inn, and after showers and snacks, went to the Crabby Pig for dinner, before retiring for the night.

Our Wilderness Adventure Bicycling Group
Rocky at the Eastern Continental Divide

The next morning, we awoke to news that yesterday’s storms had brought some severe weather and flooding to Eastern Maryland and some of our 54-mile future route.  Today, we would switch from the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail to the C&O Canal Tow-path which starts at the historic Western Maryland Train Station.  The C&O Canal was built in the 19th century along the Potomac River and allowed barge traffic to move both ways from Cumberland to the Eastern Seaboard.  The C&O Canal took 35,000 laborers and 22-years to construct and consists of a series of locks, with water fed from the Potomac upstream, and a tow-path beside it that allowed men, donkeys and horses to navigate their way upstream. After a humid and muddy morning, we stopped for lunch, before continuing to the Paw Paw Tunnel.  The Paw Paw Tunnel is an underground 3118’ canal and tow-path tunnel that started construction in 1836 and took 14 years to complete.  It bypasses a 6-mile stretch of the Potomac that contains 5 horseshoe bends and takes its name from the pawpaw trees that grow nearby. The darkness inside requires walking our bikes with care and with a light, but the traverse was incredible, and not much different than that over 100-years ago.  After reaching the town of Old Orleans, we biked the nicest 16-miles of the day along the C&O and detours onto the Maryland rail-trail.  Last nights storms had washed out parts of the Tow-path, but we eventually arrived covered in mud in the town of Hancock, from which we shuttled to the nearby West Virginia town of Berkley Springs for hot showers and a rustic dinner in the Morgan Tavern located within the 1930’s historic Country Inn.

Canal House along the historic C&O Canal
At the entrance of the Paw Paw Tunnel

Wednesday morning started off dreary as we rode 12-miles to the historic Fort Frederick, built in 1756 in support of the French & Indian War.  Then we rode on to Williamsport, MD where we had lunch, before resuming our ride on the C&O tow-path in the pouring rain. From here, we were heading to the Antietam National Battlefield when we encountered an area of the tow-path that had been covered by the rising waters of the Potomac River.  While most of our riders searched for a detour, a few, including Rocky, waded the waters around a bend for ~150’ before the path re-emerged from the flood and the trip could be continued.  Unfortunately, this unexpected hazard scattered our group, and Julie’s brother-in-law, A.J., needed a friendly lift before getting back on route.  From here, part of the group headed to the Civil War Battlefield, and part headed via van directly to the hotel.  After the Battlefield visit, and fixing Rocky’s flat tire, the sightseeing group biked to Shepherdstown, WV., where everyone met up at the Bavarian Inn hotel, and where A.J. also successfully found his way to.  Dinner that evening was in the Rathskeller where we feasted on German beer, sausages and veal schnitzel! 

Fort Fredrick build in 1756 to support the English in The French & Indian War
Visitors Center at Antietam Civil War Battlefield

By Thursday morning, the continued heavy rains had closed much of the next part of the C&O tow-path, requiring us to detour onto the Western Maryland rail-trail – a beautifully paved trail that was welcomed with the continued bad weather.  Despite the rain, we saw an abundance of wildlife along the way, including deer, turkeys, rabbits and birds.  After biking to Harper’s Ferry, we explored the historic town, checked out the still-operating old train station and enjoyed lunch.  From here, we shuttled to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trail, passing beautiful wildflowers and scenic views, until we reached the Homewood Suites in Leesburg, Virginia.  Here we enjoyed Happy Hour while playing cards, before leaving for our final trip dinner, consisting of wood-fired pizza at Fireworks Pizza Restaurant.

Examples of the Washed-out Tow-path Trail
The Historic Town of Harpers Ferry
Memorium for Hapers Ferry
Final group dinner at Fireworks Pizza

Friday morning, we awoke to heavily overcast skies, and after a quick breakfast, we departed in hopes of avoiding the impending storm – unsuccessfully.  The rain fell in buckets as we rode the complex, increasingly urbanized W&OD trail.  Today’s journey would only be 37 miles, and after a brief lunch stop at the Herndon, VA golf course, we switched to the Custis Trail to navigate our way to Georgetown in Washington, D.C.  Today was National “Ride Your Bike to Work” Day, and all along the way were corporate sponsors and encouragement groups.  We arrived in D.C., and after crossing the Potomac River to Georgetown, sought out our final meeting place at the Thompson Boathouse.  The weather had gridlocked the Friday automobile traffic exiting town, and our bicycles were a welcomed way to navigate the city’s complicated network of routes.  Upon meeting at the Thompson Boathouse, we took showers, dressed and said our goodbyes to our trip-mates.  From here, Julie and her sister Metro-ed to our Alexandria home, while Rocky and A.J. shuttled with Wilderness Adventures Travel back to Ohiopyle to collect the car.

Julies sister covered with mud

Altogether, we had cycled the ~320 miles from the outskirts of Pittsburg to Washington, D.C. in 6 days under trying conditions of rain, floods, and detours!  Even so, everyone had had a great time, and vowed to start planning our next great bicycling adventure!