“It’s been on my radar for a while,” said Nathan Mullins, 40, of New Boston, who on April 27 became the first person this year to officially complete the Ohio to Erie Trail, a designated bike route that runs roughly 330 miles from Lake Erie in Cleveland to the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
A dedicated backpacker, Mullins says he was eyeing the Cleveland-to-Cincinnati bike run for some time. “It turned out, I had a week off from work, and everything just came together,” he continued.
To begin the solo trip, Mullins drove himself and his bike to Cleveland, parking his car in Northeast Ohio and ultimately leaving it behind, at least for a while. As it turned out, the nearest trail starting point to where Mullins parked his car was behind Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. From there, Mullins made his way through downtown Cleveland to a shopping center known as Steelyard Commons, named so because it sits on the site of one of the city’s former steel mills. At that point, his immediate goal was to reach Akron, south of Cleveland, in one day. On April 23, Mullins set out with everything he would need, including a bedroll, tent, small cooking stove and mostly dehydrated food strapped to his 85-pound, customized bike.
Beginning in Akron, the Ohio to Erie Trail organization has set up designated spots for bikers to camp out and spend the night. Mullins noted the first day of his trip was not exactly a blast due to the fact the weather was cool and rainy and the terrain somewhat hilly and challenging, especially considering his bike was laden with equipment. Nevertheless, Mullins did make Akron that first day as planned, spending the night in that city. From Akron, the trail follows the Cuyahoga Valley Towpath Trail, eventually reaching Amish country well south of Cleveland.
Mullins said traveling through Amish country was one of the more memorable parts of his trip. “It was interesting sharing the road with horses and buggies,” he added, saying he received advice on how to pick up WiFi from, of all people, a young Amish girl.
On the second night out, Mullins said he slept in London, Ohio, which he praised for having a wonderful, designated spot for bikers using the trail to camp out. “They have a parks committee there which has created a campground specifically for cyclists,” he explained.
Another spot which made an impression was what Mullins said is known as the “Bridge of Dreams,” a 300-foot-long covered bridge on the Mohican River.
At least part of Mullins’ trip was, by necessity, through Columbus. You might expect Mullins to not have enjoyed his ride through that major city. However, he claims Columbus has a wonderful bike trail system which made that portion of the trip quite enjoyable, in his opinion. He also admitted the fact the weather had improved probably didn’t hurt his spirits. At that point as well, Mullins said he was beginning to get psyched about reaching the finishing line of his trip and accomplishing his goal.
“You’re definitely starting to feel it,” Mullins said.
Like Columbus, Cincinnati has a great system of bike trails, according to Mullins. While he admitted that in the vicinity of the major cities, he ran into homeless persons and panhandlers, Mullins said he never felt threatened or uncomfortable. Upon reaching the end of his trek, Mullins said he happily dipped one of his tires into the Ohio River, which is apparently a kind of tradition for those who have completed the Cleveland-to-Cincinnati trip.
Back at home in south central Ohio, Mullins is a member and big supporter of Portsmouth Connex, a grassroots group which, among other civic activities, promotes cycling as a part of a healthy lifestyle. The group operates several local bike rides per week. For his part, Mullins is very much in favor of adding as many bike trails as possible in and around Portsmouth. He said local abandoned railroad lines make perfect spots for flat, accessible trails. Mullins further argued trails in Columbus and Cincinnati are big assets for those cities, and could be even bigger assets for Portsmouth and the smaller towns in this area.
“Our rides are getting more and more popular every week it seems like,” Mullins concluded, regarding Connex. He figures he personally rides about 60 miles a week. But he added Connex offers organized rides for beginners as well as accomplished cyclists. He talked about novice riders getting very excited the first time they cover, say, 20 miles, a feat which at one time might have seemed next to impossible to them. Mullins argued even shorter rides can bring about a great sense of accomplishment for beginners, and rightly so.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931