Perhaps we were getting too cocky. After conquering the hills of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, we were all looking forward to the flat farmland of the Midwest. Ohio will be a breeze, we thought, we’ll be able to coast right through.
After two weeks in the saddle, we had become overly confident. Too big for our chamois, if you will.
The Bike and Build gods frown on this kind of hubris. The gods wanted us to remember that we still had much to learn. That the journey is not all naps and snacks and descents. There are also early mornings and bonking and climbs.As we crossed over the Ohio state line, with egos inflated too large for our helmets, the Bike and Build gods decided to knock us down a gear or two. Thus, the seven plagues of Ohio:
- Potholes – Ohioans refuse to pave their roads properly, preferring them riddled with potholes that just invite flat tires and bent derailleurs.
- Angry drivers – Of all the states we bike through, I expected New York to have the most aggressive drivers. But no, that award goes to Ohio. I guess I would be angry too if I were forced to drive through Ohio day in and day out.
- Humidity – A 7 o’clock in the morning, 1 o’clock in the afternoo , 9 o’clock at night. It doesn’t matter the time, the still air hangs heavy and damp when the dew point is upwards of 85%.
- Rain – You would think that rain would offer respite from the heat and humidity, and it would if you were not sitting on a bike in the pouring rain for 8+ hours. In this case, it’s a little bit miserable and cold; i just had to accept my fate – wet.
- Mud – Relentless rain turns dirt bike paths into quagmires that are nearly impossible to bike on. Kids coats tires and brakes, thereby complicating the slowing and stopping process. Thick mud and puddles are traps just waiting to ensnare hapless riders and tip them over. Mud is also exhausting to pedal through.
- Mosquitoes – Rain also means stagnant, standing water, or the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Ohioan mosquitoes are particularly persistent, leaving their victims covered in red, itchy welts.
- Mennonite country roads – Mennonite country is beautiful and the Mennonites are kind and lovely people. But Mennonites drive horses and buggies. And horses poop a lot. This brings another level of complication to navigating shared roadways.
But the Bike and Build gods are not malevolent gods. Although the Ohioan plagues reaffirmed my stance that Ohio is the state that I would vote out of the Union, the gods did offer some redemption.
After days of rain and humidity and red-faced motorists and equine feces, we were no longer so bold as to think we could conquer Ohio so easily. We submitted to the Bike and Build gods and they granted us with a few gloriously sunny days, full of wheat fields, paved bike paths, and a rescued kitten. They also gave us ice cream – sweet, creamy, delicious ice cream from Jeni’s and Handel’e. And finally, they gave us a blessed day off, with nothing to do but sleep late, eat brinch, and drink cold beers.
Ohio may not be my favorite state (in fact, it may rank 50 out of 50), but during my sojourn here, the Bike and Build gods have taught me much: Stay humble. Ride through the puddles and avoid the mud. Bikes are faster than horse-drawn buggies. Eat ice cream every day, if possible. Ohio does have a few things going for it.