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Toledo and Back

Attempt #1
On June 6, 1990, Todd and Tom joined me in my first attempt to ride from Cincinnati to Toledo one day and back the next. For Todd 400 miles in two days was a "casual ride" so I was glad he was willing to ride slow enough to go with us. I taught a friend how to drive a stick shift so she could drive my car to Toledo and rescue us with a "sag car" if we had major problems.

Over all, the first day went well. We did not mind the hundred miles of rain because the temperature was hot and the rain kept us from overheating. We rode quickly enough that we had time to stop and wait for Tom to fix his flat tires three times. When his last flat occurred in a suburban area of Findlay, we pulled into someone's driveway. The owner of the home came out to meet us, talk about biking and show us his collection of bicycles in his garage. Tom's fourth problem on the trip to Tolelo involved his headlight. The previous day, he had mounted it under his front brake. We needed lights on the way into Toledo because I am not a fast enough rider to complete the trip in the daylight. The special recessed nut holding the light and brake together came loose and was hopelessly lost. We rode into Toledo with Tom's from brake uselessly hooked onto his handlebars and with him holding his headlight in one hand while riding with the other.

On June 7th, we were surprised by the weather report on the radio Sunday morning. The Toledo terrain was totally flat and was notorious for high winds. That weekend a tornado had hit Cincinnati. The radio announcer never said gave the wind speed in Toledo; he just issued the general warning, "Don't go outside!" regardless of whether you were on foot or in a car. He never specifically said not to ride a bicycle, so we ignored the warning and started biking into a headwind. At one stop sign I was blown over before I could get the bike moving. After twenty miles, we tried calling our sag driver in hope that she head not returned to Cincinnati yet. We were in luck; she rescued us.

Attempt #2
On September 16, 1990, without a "sag vehicle", Todd and I made our second attempt. After passing Dayton we encountered strong headwind out of the North. Todd was strong enough to ride into the wind, but I slowed to 12 miles per hour. At that rate we would not have enough time to sleep in Toledo before riding back. With great regret we turned 90 degrees so the wind would hit us from the side and my speed instantly jumped to 19 m.p.h. By making a loop we had done an easy 200 miles, but we were back in Cincinnati, and I had not reached my goal.

Attempt #3
In June of 1991, I talked a number a riders into accompanying me for my third try. I suggested that we use a sag vehicle so that most of the riders could bicycle half the total mileage by alternating between a hundred miles on the bike and a hundred miles in the car. On the first leg from Cincinnati to Bellefountain, I had trouble finding bikers who wanted to ride in the car. With century (100 miles) #3 from Toledo to Wapakonetta and century #4 from Wapakonetta to Cincinnati, my old Volkswagen became much more popular.

Todd was the first rider to abandon the group. He had stuck with me twice before, and this time I had plenty of other company. He asked if I would mind if he rode ahead. I knew he would stay with the group if I need him, but he would be happier if he could go at his own pace. He disappeared over the horizon, rode into Southern Toledo (Perrysburg), then turned around and rode back over night. That way he would still have Sunday for working in his yard, playing with the kids and taking his wife out somewhere.

The second strongest rider was Kathleen. Once in a while she would pull ahead of the group because she felt more comfortable at a slightly faster pace than the rest of us could sustain. Tom was also very strong, strong enough to have entered two Race Across AMerica  (RAAM) qualifying rides. Even though he did not qualify to do the 3000 mile cross country race, he had to be tough to try a 500 to 700 mile "sprint". He assumed that being a guy he would naturally be stronger than Kathleen, and that he could show her the folly of her pace by pushing her to go even faster until she was too tired to keep up her speed. When his ploy did not work, Tom spent some time recovering at the back of the group, and Kathleen, who remained unaware of his plot, wondered why he slowed down.

When Kathleen was not paying attention to her speed, she would pull ahead of us for a short time, but every time except one, we would quickly regroup. Once, when she was ahead she missed a left turn. As we approached the crossroad we all yelled, but she was too far away to hear. We each would look at each other and say "Why don't you go chase her down?" The reply was always, "I can't. Why don't you?" We decided that we were at a good spot to take a break while we waited for her to realize that she was alone and come back. And when she returned , she was still fresher than we were.

After a good night's sleep in Perrysberg (Toledo), we needed to start riding again at dawn. The standard for one continuous ride is to maintain an eight and a third mph average. That can be harder than it sounds.  After riding 200 miles on Saturday, if we did not leave at the same time Sunday morning, our average would be slower than eight and a third. From the guy's motel room, Neil was the only one ready to join me. From the lady's motel room, Kathleen was bright eyed and bushy tailed. None of others were completely  awake, if awake at all.

The three of us started cruising South on a little, deserted country road. One old farmer was standing naked on his front porch, stretching and watching the sun rise. No one lived within miles of him, and he would hear if a car was approaching. As Kathleen silently rolled by, she waved and said, "Good morning."

During the last twenty or thirty miles into the lunch stop in Wappakoneta, Neil and Kathleen wondered if I would be able to complete the ride. I had become too used to caffeine as  a stimulant, but it is also a diuretic, and I had become dehydrated. I was able to recover at the restaurant where we had lunch, and we started the last 100 miles cruising down the road at 19 mph. I know that to a racer, my speed would like taking a rest break, but it was a good pace for me to accomplish my goal.

We were making good progress until we encountered a violent storm near Lima, Ohio. The rain and wind were so bad that every car and truck pulled off the road and stopped. I commented on how much rain was coming down, but Neil corrected me and said the rain looked like it was going more horizontal than coming down. We waited out the storm in the foyer to a private lodge. At that point in the trip we did not need a break and we were losing precious time.

When we reached Mason, Ohio, we were almost home, but I was feeling very sleepy because the rain delay had thrown us behind schedule. I stopped and told the others that I needed a cat nap. I laid down on the sidewalk and took a ten minute snooze before finishing the journey in Loveland (greater Cincinnati) where we had started. The other riders told me that a car had stopped while I had been asleep and the driver asked if she needed to call 911. I wonder what she thought when my friends told her I was just taking a nap.

Isn't it strange what some people do for fun.