• Wm. Bracknell

Fall Biking 2013 Pennsylvania, Ohio & Michigan


We left home on Tuesday morning September 3rd and arrived at a trail head of the Panhandle Trail in Burgettstown, Pa. On route 18 with enough time for me to ride 11 and half miles before going on to the Raccoon Creek State park campground. The trail was just outside Pittsburgh and went all the way to Weirton, WVa. I got on the trail and headed west. The trail was a hard packed natural material with very few defects (dips, bumps or erosion problems). In a few sections the trail was a double track. There was evidence of four wheeler trails, but not much damage to the trail. Overall, the trail was in a rather remote area with little signs of farming, residences or industry, except at each end. The last mile on the western was busy with after work and late afternoon users biking, jogging and pushing strollers.

At the campground, we self registered where there were only three other campers in the section we were in. Darkness was setting in quickly as we got water from a centrally located faucet. The site had electricity, so we had lights to finish cooking, eating and clean up our few dishes. The bath house was just down the hill from us for convenience.

I finished the 26 miles the next day around lunch just a little west of Pittsburgh near the town of Carnegie and we were off to Franklin, Pa. after having lunch in the parking lot. Before arriving in Franklin, we spotted a Premium Outlet in Grove City,just off I-79 and south of I-80. We decided to see what they had at a bargain. Rhonda is often looking for some unusual Crocs at good price, but they are hard to find and so is any real discounted merchandise. I looked at leather sports coats, but they did not have the size I needed even though the prices were very reasonable.

We had quick a look around Franklin and then proceed to the Two Mile Run county park campground up the road about 8 miles north of town. There were a few campers in the three sections of the campground. We had time to ride down to the lake and go by the office to register before supper. We had stopped and bought some fresh chicken and I cooked them on small, portable grill I usually bring along. There were no showers so we had to sponge bathe after dark at the campsite.

On Thursday, Rhonda and I rode 22 miles on the Oil Creek State Park Trail all the way to Titusville and back. The trail had interpretive signs all about the discovery of oil in the area, how it was extracted and transported out. One of the properties was producing $9000 a day in 1870. We had lunch at the park and I rode another trail for 6 miles, after which we walked up the main street (Liberty) in Franklin.

Friday morning, it was 42 degrees when we got up. I started out with a few more garments that I usually wear, but with in a hour I was shedding the outer layer. I rode the Allegheny River trail for 28 miles. The Allegheny River trail was an extremely nice paved scenic trail along the river. There one disappointing section near the Kenderdell tunnel. It was a detour on a small, rough dirt road for about a mile. It was a part of the old rail right-of-way that the selfish land owners wouldn't relinquish. Rhonda was waiting in a parking area in Elmenton and after eating a sandwich, we went looking for a couple who had moved from Pittsburgh to fix up and open a bed and breakfast. The guy had went all the way through grade school and some of high school with one of my best friends, Chuck North. We visited a few minutes, took a picture for Chuck and headed out to find the campground that we found on the GPS.

After lunch,I had planned to ride 12 miles on the Sandy Creek Trail, but Rhonda, after dropping me off, took a road marked for the trail, but turned out to be one that brought her to the bridge and not the end of the Sandy Creek Trail, thus I only rode about nine miles. She rode the two and a half down to a short tunnel and back while I rested at the big bridge over the Allegheny River. We drove back over to the campground outside of Elmenton, where we had left the camping pod earlier and started supper. The weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny mild days and cool nights. .

On Saturday. Sept. 7th, we left Elmenton, Pa. near the junction of I-80 and I-79 and headed toward Port Clinton, Ohio on Lake Erie. We saw that there was a state park on a peninsula that juts out into the lake. On the way there was a small bike trail called the North Inland Trail - Sandusky. It ran from Clyde to Fremont and was only 8 miles long. It was part of a planned 65 mile trail running east and west south of the lake and east of Toledo. I usually don't ride trails shorter that 12 or 15 miles unless there is something significant about them, but we time before we should be at the park .

The East Harbor State Park was a very nice park with a great campground. Since it was after Labor Day the facility was only about a third occupied even thought it was Saturday night. There were three section with a total of 250 campsites. They had a swimming beach and boat ramp. About supper time it looked like there might be a shower so I put up the tarp. We did get a few sprinkles. After supper, we tuned in a TV station on my computer to get a weather report and watch some of the NASCAR race at Richmond using a USB turner and my antenna.

Sunday, we rode our bikes over to the beach. It was overcast and windy. There were three or four foot waves out on the lake. After leaving the park, we headed for a state recreation area called Fort Custer west of Battle Creek, Michigan so we would be near the next day's ride on the 14 mile Van Buren Trail going from Hartford to South Haven on Lake Michigan. It was mostly a snowmobile trail even though it was listed as bikeable.

We awoke around 5 am to a very heavy thunderstorm. At day break the rain had let up considerably, so we headed to for breakfast at a McDonald's in the closest town of Dalesburg and had breakfast. A guy at the table next to us said his rain gauge showed nearly two and a half inches. Afterward, Rhonda deposited me at the trail head and later met me at the end and we had lunch at a picnic table behind McDonald's . We mainly stopped there to check email, get a big unsweetened tea and a side salad to go with our tuna fish sandwiches.

Our next destination was Big Rapids, Mi. to ride the White Pines Trail that runs 92 miles from Grand Rapids to Cadillac. I had ridden 52 miles of the trail in 2011 and now wanted to finish it. Rhonda dropped me in Big Rapids and met me in Reed City; stopping at one of the big Fred Meijers Grocery stores to pick up something to add to our supper menu. It was a 12.5 mile ride. In Reed City, we found that there was a city park campground just a few blocks from the trail. We were the only campers there, along with the campground host.

Tuesday was suppose to be a hot day with temps in the mid-80s, so we decided to head to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore. Before heading north, I wanted to ride a section of the Pere Marquette Trail that ended in Baldwin since I had ridden the eastern end two years previously. It turned out to be undeveloped and was mainly a snowmobile trail. To say the least, it was grueling and I was tired just from the eighteen miles of gravel, grass and soft dirt on the trail. We then had a 75 mile drive to the sand dune area.

Our first stop upon arrival was at the large dune climb area. There was an entrance fee but we had our handy dandy Senior Passport. We didn't really want to climb the 110 ft sand pile, we just wanted to ask directions to the campground. During the Ice Age, continental glaciers spread southward from Canada repeatedly burying the area under ice. Those massive glaciers enlarged river valleys and carved out the wide, deep basins of the Great Lakes. They also created "Perched Dunes" which are dunes formed by glacial sands deposited on plateaus high above the shore. The Sleeping Bear Dunes are an easily accessible, beautiful example of this type of dune. Across the road, there was a picnic area beside Glen Lake on the way to the campground, so we stopped for lunch. There was a couple there preparing to wind surf on the large lake.

At the campground, we paid the Golden Age Passport half price rate, which was $6.

Like many of the federal parks, there were no showers. The camping area was very nice and shaded. We biked around to some of the maritime exhibits and rested at the campsite, A little after 4 pm we decided to go to the beach (Lake Michigan) for a swim. I couldn't get over how pristine the water was. It was crystal clear and further out it had that blue look of the Caribbean waters, but let me tell you it did not have the temperature of those waters. We eased in gradually. I finally got submerged and swam around a bit. It sure was invigorating. It eventually began to chill my body and I started to shiver a little. We later found out from a fisherman that the water was 66 degrees.

Rhonda prepared pan cooked pork, three bean salad and sweet potatoes for supper. Just before dark, there was some thunder and we got a brief shower. Around midnight a significant thunderstorm came in and raged for about two and a half hours. But we were nice and cozy in our little teardrop like pod.

For breakfast, we had fried Spam and eggs with toast and jelly before heading over to the dune area along a scenic drive. This was also a fee area which we used our pass. There were stops along the drive where we could hike on the dunes and get some great views of this area of Lake Michigan. We left there heading to the Betsie Valley trail.

The trail ran 22 miles from Frankfort on Betsie Lake to Thompsonville. The trail head in Frankfort was a boat ramp parking lot and just as I was leaving a guy came up to the cleaning station with two King (Chinook) salmon, one about 12 pounds and one about 8. The trail was paved for 6 miles, hard packed limestone for 5 miles, and dirt and gravel for the remainder. It passed through the neat little tourist and vacationer's village of Beulah on Crystal Lake. I arrived in Thompsonville and had lunch out of the van around 1:20 after leaving Frankfort. .

Our evening's camp was at a private campground outside Cadillac, Michigan. It was a very nice facility. They gave us a discounted rate. The restroom / showers were very nice, they had laundry facilities and there was WiFi strong enough to use at the site. We had originally planned to stay at a state park on the southwest side of the lake, but it was one of those state parks that want to charge an entrance fee in addition to camping fee. I try to avoid them; mostly for the principle. The next morning we found the trail head down by a city park on the water front of Lake Cadillac. The trail was 29 miles back to Reed City. There was a crafters / farmer's market next to the area we parked, so Rhonda was going to take some time to look around as I was head out on the trail. She made some stops along the way, so it ended up getting to town ahead of her.

About a mile and a half outside of Reed City, as I was crossing a dirt road, I hit a slight bump where the dirt road transitioned back to the trail. The bolt holding the seat to the seat post broke and sent me flying to the ground. My hand, hip and knee were the points of impact with the thenar part of the hand (lower part of the thumb) ended up being bruised and sore. I salvaged the parts and had to ride the bike the rest of the way into town sitting on the rear luggage rack. This completed my ride of the 92 miles of the White Pine Trail.

I put some ice on my hand when Rhonda arrived. It was about time for lunch and I had the hankering for barbeque.. The GPS sent us to a location, but there was no restaurant to be found. We found a pizza buffet on the main street that had been in business for almost thirty years. It was very good and reasonably priced. We went to a hardware store near the restaurant, get an 8mm bolt, but the one I bought was too short. I fortunately had brought along an extra seat and post, because I thought that the seat changing may help with some of my back and rear discomfort. As it turned out it came in good for another reason. In all the riding I've done, I've never had a seat post bolt to break.

After a short nap in the van, I headed down to complete the last section of the Pere Marquette Trail from Reed City to the town of Evart thirteen miles away. The trail was paved so I made good time except for the wind gust in the open areas. With the two trails together, I logged 42 miles for the day. After I got there, we consulted our resources for a campground and discovered that there was a small city park with camping facilities. It was meager at campgrounds go, but adequate for our overnight stay. The afternoon had been very breezy and the air was cooling down. We ate supper on our little fold up table using the side of the pod to block the wind instead of the picnic table in the open.

There was a sprinkle of rain over night and the next morning was still breezy and overcast. We easily talked ourselves into breakfast at a great little local cafe recommended by the campground host. The servings was so plentiful that Rhonda and I could have shared my order, but was able to master the task. We killed some time at a book and hardware store to let it warm up a bit before heading out to the community of Lake Station another 13 miles. Along the way, I loaded up my bike bags with apples from a tree along side of the trail. With this section done, the 87 mile Pere Marquette trail is complete.

During the afternoon, we made our way back south with our destination being, Bowling Green, Ohio. Along the route, we saw signs for the town of Frankenmuth. It was a tourist town that featured a bavarian theme with buildings and business that went along that. One of the most significant things about the town was that it was the location of Bronner's Christmas Wonderland. It was a huge store the size of a small mall. They also have a large internet and catalog business. It had everything Christmas that ever was thought of. There were manger scenes of every conceivable design, lights and decorated trees, wreaths, and yes, ornaments, ornaments and more ornaments. They would even personalize some that were made for that purpose (while you wait). The outside of the building and the parking lots were adorned with lights and lighted characters and symbols. I'm sure it would have been something to see after dark.

We stopped for gas short of Toledo because it appeared that gas was cheaper in Michigan. It was late enough in the evening that we decided to find a campground rather than drive through five o'clock traffic around Toledo. We found a private campground, the Covered Wagon in Lake Ottawa, not far from the highway we were traveling, At one time it had been a resort campground with lots of amenities, but it appeared to have not had regular maintenance over the years and was starting to get a little run down. Many of the units were full time residents. It was adequate and convenient, but not one I would give a high rating.

On Saturday, Rhonda dropped me off at the trail head of the Slippery Elm Trail in the town of Bowling Green and I rode 12.5 miles to North Baltimore. There were a number of other riders and joggers. On the way, I went through the town of Rudolph, where they had a sign along the trail which read “Rudolph, the deerest little town in Ohio. The sign also had a image of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. When I arrived in North Baltimore, Rhonda was not at the van. She had taken a stroll down to the business district to see what they had to offer. Before leaving town, we stopped at a fund raiser for their historical society and I bought some homemade fudge and Rhonda got a cake ball on a stick.

Our next planned stop was the Miami and Erie Tow Path Trail starting in Delphos. The trail was suppose to go down to Fort Loraime for about 45 miles. As it turned out, we found the canal, but there were only small segments of the tow path trail here and there in the communities on the way to Fort Loramie. From there we went to check out a segment of the Great Miami River Trail which was supposed to run from Sidney down through Dayton and almost to Cinncinati. Due to not doing enough research, I was not able to find the trail head north of Dayton, so we decided to go to the Creekside Trail which runs from Dayton to Xennia for fifteen miles. At one point there was road construction and I had trouble with the route and went up the wrong trail for a half mile before I asked someone and turned around to get back to the intended route. At about three miles from Xenia, there was drag strip in operation right next to the trail. I just had to stop and watch some of the cars make their runs down the strip. After rendezvousing at the trail junction in town, we headed to the Ceasar Creek state park about 15 miles away. We had stayed at this park back in 2010. Rhonda jumped in and put out a fantastic supper of salmon cakes, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, and cornbread muffins.

Sunday morning after breakfast, we gave yet another tour and story on the camping pod to a couple that was tent camping down at the far end of the section we were in. That's one thing we won't get with the new Coachman. I think we had at least a half dozen inquisitive folks throughout the trip asking about and looking at the camper. We drove to downtown Columbus to visit the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (http://www.fpconservatory.org ) The building was a multi unit glass house with various plantscapes from around the world. The grounds were beautifully landscaped also. After several hours touring the park and conservatory, we headed down to the town of Washington Courthouse to ride a thirty mile trail. I had a map but it took some time to determine if the trail in town was the one or was a connector to the trail head. Rhonda reminded me it was over thirty miles and it would be at least six o'clock by the time I reached Chiloclothe. I told her I would hurry. The connector trail lead to the trail head outside of town. I had to ride three and a half miles to get to the official start of the 30 mile trail. The trail was paved so I was able to move along at a good pace. I made it before six even though I lost the trail about seven miles from the end where it went out onto the road at three way. Thanks to another biker I got back on the trail without too much time loss. Rhonda found a state park in the Woodall's directory that was about 22 miles away and in the direction we were headed, so off we went out to the remote location. There were about a dozen RVs in the Tar Hollow campground. It was truly up a hollow. The nice thing about daylight saving time is that it leaves us time to set up camp, fix supper, and eat. There was a rain shower during the early hours of Monday morning. It was great that we had rain four or five times during the trip and all of them were after dark except for the brief shower at dusk in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

Our last day was driving back through southeast Ohio and through southern West Virginia. We went over to Oak Hill near the New River Gorge to checkout the rail trail that runs through town. We went by the visitor center to pick up a map, but the skies were looking threatening so we decided to save it for another day and head on home.


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