A Call to Action

So the week that we moved into our new house, they closed the north end of our road, which provided the easiest and quickest access to the highway as well as Peninsula. Now we have to go south and around to get anywhere north and it’s frustrating. The state of the closure is indefinite; the road has been deemed unsafe for motor vehicles because part of the road is being eroded by the creek that runs along side it. It will apparently cost a lot of money to fix the road and then that fix may only be temporary. (Damn, water and its eroding properties!)

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that that part of the road is owned by a small municipality known as Boston Township. There is one house in that segment of the road owned by the national park, I believe, and therefore does not generate any tax revenue for the township. Boston Township cannot afford to pay for the needed repairs (and, likely, does not want to because one of their council members has a vendetta against cyclists in the valley).

Our section of the road is in Cuyahoga Falls. It includes about six houses, some of which are also owned by the national park but have renters (again: no tax revenue for the municipality). Cuyahoga Falls could probably afford to fix that segment of the road, but it is unclear as to whether or not they want to. I’m not sure of the politics, but being that that segment of the road is not owned by Cuyahoga Falls, I don’t know if they can fix it. The county could possibly afford to fix it. The national park, I suspect, probably cannot afford to fix it, but they are against the closure of the road. It’s the typical conundrum: Cuyahoga Falls, the national park, and the county clearly do not want to close the road… but no one wants to pay for it.

The issue of permanent closure is still being debated at the county council level. If they do decide to close it, Cuyahoga Falls will have to build a turn around at the end of our street (before the Boston Township segment) so that their city vehicles (waste management, mail, electricity, etc.) can turn around. This would make our street smaller and most definitely cut off access to the Boston Township part of the road, which will result in total deterioration of the north end of the road, making it impassible even for bicycles. A great low traffic alternative to the busy Riverview Road will be ruined!

Every day, I see cyclists of all types ride past my house along that street, just as I used to do before I had the extreme privilege of buying a house there. I know this road is very important to visitors of the CVNP, not only because it bypasses a segment of Riverview Road, but it makes a great loop for people who do not necessarily want to climb some horrendous hills out of the valley. It’s a very scenic road among trees. Right now, with the beauty of fall leaves unfolding, the road offers a tree-lined reprieve from the hustle and bustle and honking horns of Riverview Road. On our road, you have the chance of encountering all sorts of wild life–deer, coyotes, chipmunks. A multi-species choir of birds sing to you.

Hale Farm is on the south end of the street; the Everett Road Covered Bridge to the north. Lots of things to see and explore on a bike trip or hike. Our road is also, amazingly, one segment of the Buckeye Trail–the hiking trail that loops the entire state of Ohio. Just this summer, we were awed by the tenacity of runners on the Burning River 100 mile Endurance Run because our street happened to be along mile 86 (and a rest stop was at the Everett Road Covered Bridge). I’ve lived in this house since June and I’m still amazed at the bountiful resources and activities going on all around me.

We cannot lose this valuable resource in the valley. Yeah, I live on this road so I’m a bit biased. But I know that I’m not the only one who loves this road because we’ve talked to a lot of people who lament its closure. The problem is, no one wants to step up and call our representatives to let them know how they feel!! Every time we give someone the name of the representative to call, they respond with something along the lines of, “Well, we don’t have to worry. They will never close this road.”

I’m highly annoyed by the general lack of action people take. This is why things don’t change in our country–people are too afraid to act. They seem to figure that someone else will speak up and take care of the problem. But no one else is doing it. At a recent meeting of the Summit County Council discussing this closure issue, the representative stated that he did not know what the feeling of the community was about the closure because no one had called or spoken to him. This is outrageous! I’ve heard a number of people–particularly those in my bike club–complaining about the road closure. And yet no one has taken the step to call our representative. Why is that?

Another road is also in jeopardy of being permanently closed. Wetmore Road–a quiet, low traffic, tree-lined road that climbs out of the valley into a beautiful Cuyahoga Falls neighborhood that also borders the park–is another one of my favorite roads. There are plenty of roads that climb out of the valley, but a very few have little to no traffic. These roads are desirable to cyclists who would prefer not to deal with the impatience of motorists. If another low traffic road gets closed down, cyclists have less options and, therefore, are forced to take those roads with more motorists. Personally, I am not intimidated by motorists–and I will ride where I want to ride–but I always prefer to use a road with little traffic over the ones with more traffic. And, truthfully, this probably makes the motorists happier too. And it’s not like Wetmore isn’t used by cars; it too provides easy access to the valley for residents of the community at the top of the hill. If closed, these residents will be forced, like me, to have to go around some inconveniently backtrack to get to the valley. Cutting off ways to get into the national park seems so uninviting!

So with all this in consideration, if you are a frequent visitor to the Cuyahoga Valley–hiker or biker alike–I ask you to do me the very great favor and sign this petition started by the members of the Akron Bicycle Club. This is your chance–without having to make any phone calls–to voice your disagreement with the closure of Oak Hill and Wetmore roads. But if you DO want to make phone calls, I urge you to also call Joe Paradise at the Summit County Engineer’s Office –(330) 643-8105. Please don’t just sit there and wait for someone else to do the busy work for you… because often times, no one will. Don’t be an armchair advocate!

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I rag on Ohio. A lot. I’m always frustrated by the weather, the lack of mountains, the less than healthy attitude towards food and exercise. I miss the rugged mindset of Colorado–the “can do attitude” where my bicycle commute to work of 20 miles was seen as a normal thing, not an anomaly as my 15 mile commute is seen here in Ohio. I miss businesses with showers, allowing people to commute to work by walking or bicycling or to exercise at lunch. I miss the endless sunshine. I miss drivers who expect to see cyclists on the road instead of ones who shout at you to get on the sidewalk.

I miss all of this.

And. Yet. I don’t know. I think I’ve found a warm spot amidst all my disappointments with Ohio, this state in which I was raised: the Cuyahoga Valley and Akron.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of those places not a lot of people really know about to appreciate. It’s pretty small by national park standards. I don’t know that many people go out of their way to visit. But Northeast Ohio locals appreciate it, coming to hike along its many trails, bike along the scenic towpath, catch glimpses of bald eagles and Great Blue Heron nesting. Road cyclists enjoy the two roads that loop the valley as well as the multiple choices of challenging climbs. I’ve always said that if you can do multiple climbs up some of those hills, you’re more than ready to ride out west where the slope of the road tends to be longer but more gradual.

Riding yesterday through the valley, I started to think about how much I appreciate this park and its surrounding areas. I love feeling as though I’m on vacation even though I’ve never left home. On a sunny day, the valley is full of light and pretty. The Cuyahoga River winds beside the roads, sunlight sparkling on its water, and though cities surround all sides of the valley, for awhile, you slip into another place.

Akron, to the south, is a really cool town I’ve come to appreciate. It offers a lot of the same things as Cleveland–restaurants, culture, theatre, local events, summer concerts, baseball in the form of the Akron Aeros–but everything is at a much smaller scale. Which general translates to cheaper, if you’re talking about events, at least. Unlike Cleveland, it seems to be less of a sprawling metropolis, and there are places downtown where people actually live.

I like that you can take the towpath into downtown (and, in fact, you can go further south than Akron). I’ve done this before to catch an Aeros game; Crow has gone to a beer fest by bike. I am imaging a few bike escapes to my favorite restaurant this summer–The Lockview–and perhaps some other cultural events. Though the motorists are not too happy about it, you can easily commute Akron by bike. And, for some reason, Akron is less intimidating to me than Cleveland.

There are at least three health food stores in the area that I can think of. The neighboring Fairlawn has every store you can think of (except Kohl’s!!! *shake fist!!*) plus a movie theatre and restaurants. And yoga studios, which I’d like to check out.

Akron also has a great metropark system. A lot of the parks straddle the Cuyahoga Valley, making the valley seem even bigger, but some of the other parks are located right in the middle of busy suburbs. Regardless of where the park is located, you are seemingly transported into the middle of the natural world. I gladly pay my property taxes knowing a portion of it goes to these parks. If I could, I’d allocate all my tax money there. (Okay, yeah, I know… the schools… I get it.)

As I think about all these things, I realize I really like where I live. I know why I came right back to this area–despite the bittersweet melancholy of  memories with my husband–after I moved back from Colorado. This is home. This has always been, to me, home since I started dating my husband. Home is the one thing Colorado never became for me, despite my extreme desire to make it so. I guess home is not necessarily the place where you choose to lay your hat; home is the place in which your heart decides you belong.

I can’t stop thinking of the lyrics to the Depeche Mode song called “Home” and how they relate to my own experience:

I thank you, for bringing me here
For showing me home
For singing these tears
Finally I’ve found that I belong here...

It’s been a long journey finding this place… But I think–at least for now–I’ve arrived.

Simple Things

…bumping noses with my boyfriend…

…a night bike ride up Smith Road–a hill I’ve never before conquered–while it’s closed to traffic, riding beneath the arms of construction equipment. The excitement thudding my heart like when I did something I wasn’t supposed to as a kid.

…the little patch of road ahead of me, illuminated by the headlight of my bike. My breathe–cold, laboring–as I try to make the most of a cold fall evening before the snow comes.

…decorating my house for Halloween. Spending time with friends at the party I threw.

…the warmth of a campfire in the fire pit in my backyard. Watching the flames lick the logs and the coals undulate bright and less bright, bright and less bright. Friendly faces illuminated in the light cast by the fire.

…laughing full and hard at some silly, stupid joke shared between me and Crow.

…listening to new albums for the first time by some of my favorite artists (Florence + The Machine, Coldplay, U2).

…waking up slowly on a Saturday morning without having any specific goals for the day…

…the first cup of coffee in the morning, that first sip and the pleasure that it brings to my senses–smell, taste, the sensation of it sliding across my tongue and igniting my taste buds with its flavor…

…late blooming roses on the bush outside my house… I usually don’t get all sappy about flowers, but it filled my heart with joy on a cold, cloudy November afternoon to find two roses in vibrant pink (and that bush usually yields orange-brown flowers) as if protesting the coming winter.

…making plans for future trips…

…the smell of wet leaves…

…the smell of pine trees… (soon to be in my house when I pick up my Christmas tree)…

…the excitement of the coming holidays…. Christmas shopping, making cookies, seeing family…

…anticipation of winter fun–snow-shoeing, downhill skiing, and possibly trying cross-country skiing…

…looking over an old nonfiction piece, trying to find a place in which it would fit for publication…

Slow down. Breathe. Revel in the simple things. Life is full of endless possibilities. I’m just starting to see them all.

Exhausting

Whenever I find myself exhausted from a week of socializing, I’m reminded of my life in Colorado and how it was completely opposite to the one I live here in all aspects, especially social. Maybe I didn’t know how to do it right–talk to people and throw myself into every common interest circle I could find. I thought I was doing it right back then by joining the Colorado Mountain Club and taking some outdoor adventure classes with them. I had some friends from the Highpointers Club that I immediately hooked myself up with, but they were a good ten years older than me, more established–they couldn’t hold my hand as I tried to make friends. I couldn’t expect anyone to hold my hand. I guess I had just figured I’d make friends as easy as I had in college, forgetting, of course, that in college we were all in the same boat of not knowing anyone and having to establish ourselves. In the adult world, it takes a lot of work to cultivate relationships. And I just didn’t try enough, which eventually led to me moving back to Ohio.

Maybe, too, I just wasn’t quite far enough in my grief journey to really let new people in. I saw Colorado as the fulfillment of a dream that Mike and I had for our lives. I viewed my move there as a way of continuing on the path on which I was originally headed. I didn’t yet realize that the path no longer led to where I wanted it to go, that a gate shut to close it off the moment the doctor in the emergency room told me that my husband was dead. I hadn’t yet realized that I sought spiritual comfort. I hadn’t yet realized how much I needed my friends and family in Ohio and instead I’d pushed them away in attempt to spare them the depths of my pain. I didn’t trust anyone enough with my heart. The only one I trusted in that way was gone forever.

When I think back to how spiritually and emotionally bereft I was back then, I feel especially blessed for the people I’ve met and associations I’ve affiliated myself with since my return. Somehow I managed to do it right, finally. I’ve figured out how to build a life of my own that can be as full and busy as I want it. Unfortunately, I don’t always know when to quit or say no. Which leads to the kind of week I had last week when I wore myself out with social activities. I had a lot of fun, but I must admit that I was totally exhausted by Friday which caused me to totally reject an invitation to dinner at Ray’s in Kent with my dad (which is something I usually look forward to). I also spent all day Saturday vegging out to the entire fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Well, not the entire season. I was on the second disc (of six) on Saturday morning. I tried to be good and only watch two episodes. But later in the day, when it became abundantly clear that I wasn’t in the mindset to do any writing, I submitted to the utter, gluttonous pleasure of finishing off the entire season. It was raining all day, anyway–weather fit for neither cycling nor skiing. Moving through the episodes of an entire season is like reading the chapters of a really good book; you keep saying that you’re going to stop after the next episode, but when you get to the end of the episode, the suspense is overwhelming and you feel compelled to continue.

I am tempering my guilt for being glued to the “boob tube” by reminding myself and everyone I talk to that this series is not just senseless garbage. It’s legitimately well-written and artistically crafted visual media. The plots and themes and characters are completely worthy of a scholarly dissection, which I find myself doing throughout the day as I ponder Joss Whedon’s view of the world. I like to consider where Joss has taken this fantastical world, especially realizing that he’s a self-proclaimed atheist who frequently writes on religious themes and explores them in his work (often mocking them). I’m thoroughly impressed by the tightness of the writing–Whedon’s characters generally stay within character, the mythos is pretty consistent within itself, and even in the darkest moments of the series, there are bits of sardonic humor that make the fantastic stories so utterly believable because you could see yourself reacting in much the same way as the characters. If Whedon and his team were writing this show without a vision, flying by the seat of their pants, I would never know it because every detail seems to tie back together at some point, even if it’s episodes or seasons later. (I suspect Amy the witch-turned-rat will eventually come back…?). So many television serials lack a strong, cohesive vision these days and it seems often that some writer came up with a great idea but then never thought it past the first story arc (i.e., Heroes). I think Whedon’s vision is always much stronger (with the exception of the disappointing Dollhouse).

Anyway, I didn’t mean to blab on about Buffy. It’s just that when I’m exposed to good writing–especially in a time when I’m feeling particularly uninspired–I’m filled with excitement. I guess that’s why I was an English major–I love a good story. I love to examine every piece and part of a good story. It’s really hard to please me. I’m often very picky and I hate when writers don’t fail to follow through on an originally good idea. I most hate a really bad ending. Battlestar Galactica‘s season finale ruined the whole series for me. Heroes failed to deliver after season 1 and I pretty much became bored with it. I loved Alice Sebold’s book The Lovely Bones until the over-the-top ending. I was completely rapt–late reading on work nights and everything– by Scarlett Thomas’ The End of Mr. Y, but again, the end was shoddy and didn’t make sense with the rest of the story. I have a five-star rating system for books and movies and while I award a lot of 4’s, I award a 5-star rating to only those works that have kept me going from start to finish and have left me thirsty for more when the words or picture stopped. A good writer doesn’t give away all his/her secrets; he/she should leave his/her readers a little hungry to keep them dreaming up theories and conclusions about the work for the rest of their lives. That’s the kind of writing I love most. That’s the kind of writer I aspire to be.

Needless to say, I’ve pretty much got Buffy on my mind when I’m not running all over Northeast Ohio trying to see and do everything. Despite the onset of mental and physical exhaustion at the end of this past week, I must admit I had fun participating in the following activities.

Monday. After a meeting at work that ran over to 6:30pm, I made it just in time to see Alice in Wonderland, in 3D, with some friends from my church. Thanks to Randy (mentioned later in this post) who waited outside the theater for me to arrive. Monday night at the movies is becoming a habit for me these days. It’s $5 movie night in Kent and it’s nice to finally have a group of people to go see movies with. I think one of the reasons I haven’t seen many movies in the last couple years is because I feel like a reject going by myself… And finding a movie that the group all wants to see is no problem with me as I’ll watch almost anything in my eternal search for a really good (epic) story. I try not to judge movies by their trailers.

Tuesday. I went to Lakewood Library for the Lake Erie Wheelers’ meeting with guest speaker Kevin Madzia from Century Cycles who talked about his trip from Ohio to Guatemala. I may consider doing some self-contained bike touring–though maybe not at quite this length–so I was interested in hearing the gory details of his adventure. The details of his trip–the good and the bad–kind of inspired me to learn more about self-contained trips on which I might take Beau. Maybe some weekend trip or something is in order for the future. Ideally, I’d like to someday ride from my house to… somewhere… in some other state… But I have not yet come up with a goal for this.

Wednesday. Some friends from (again) church invited me to a werewolf movie night. What is a werewolf movie night? It evidently involves homemade reubins, corned beef and cabbage, and various other snacks washed down with homemade beer and (store-bought) wine while we watched American Werewolf in London and the old Lon Chaney Wolfman.  This event was hosted by Randy who, along with his wife Mary, is  the perpetual host of themed-dinner nights. I love going to Randy and Mary’s place because they both enjoy cooking as well as hosting and they are very good at both. They also like good wine and beer. My friend Colleen also deserves mention here for the excellent corn beef and cabbage she cooked up, not to mention the homemade horseradish sauce! I had fun, but I stayed too late even though I told myself I wasn’t going to. *dramatic sigh*

Thursday. I attended a Hiram alumni event called Five-Live which refers to the five cities who were hosting like gatherings. Being the Cleveland contingent, closest to Hiram’s campus, we got to watch live the speech college president Thomas Chema gave about the state of the college while the other sites watched via web cam. My feelings were somewhere between jealousy and envy as I listened to all the changes underway at the college. Why does your school always get better things after you’re gone? The enrollment has increased to 1,100 students–still small, but quite a difference compared to the 800 students who attended while I was there. When asked what we, as alumni, could do to help the college, one of Chema’s answers was help with recruitment. Damn, I keep trying! No one else I know has college-aged kids who are willing to go to a small liberal arts college in the middle of an Ohio cornfield… But believe me, if I could convert a few people to the Light of Hiram (whose emblem proudly bears the words Fiat Lux: Let there be light!), I certainly would. Best years of my life at that school, I’ll tell you. (Next to those years I spent with my husband, that is.)

Of course, I stayed there a bit too long, gabbing with a former student I had as a teaching assistant for First Year Seminar (I think) who is really well on her way to becoming a candidate for Cleveland’s City Counsel soon… If not something higher and mightier.  John, the newly appointed Director of Alumni Relations, a friend, bestowed me and Diane each with an extra drink ticket. (What? Do I have “drunk” written across my head? “Wino” perhaps?). Again, I stayed too late. Got lost on the way home as I missed one of the confusing turn-offs on Canal Road in the valley. I always have the darndest time trying to get back home from Independence–I assure you it had nothing to do with the amount of wine I drank. I always miss the road I’m supposed to take to get back home whenever I go down there and then I end up in Oakwood or Northfield. (I once was senselessly lost for two hours with my best friend when trying to take the “back way” from her house in Cleveland to mine in Stow.) I have horrible directional sense unless I drive the same route every day for at least a year. I think I’m totally a candidate for a GPS in my car…

So that was my week. Surely you can see why I became anti-social for a day and a half. This coming week should be much calmer. I’ll try not to let it get too out of control. Next weekend, however, is my birthday weekend. I took my actual birthday (the 22nd) off from work and I’ll either, depending on the weather, do a day trip to Peek N Peak or ride my bike somewhere. I have plans for my birthday all weekend, but they’re much more subdued than they’ve been in the past. I didn’t want to put everyone out with my big birthday dinner. It will be nice to be a little more relaxed, anyway.

It’s good to have friends. It’s good to have places to go where I’m not so lonely. And I know that I’ve really found my place at home here in Ohio. Despite its disagreeable winters and the mass exodus of people my age, I think I’ll probably stay here until I die. I’m really a Clevelander at heart and it’s the only place where I feel comfortable. I’m still holding out hope that I will someday be able to afford a second home in Colorado to which I can escape for a month or so in the winter… But until then, all my dream’s are just a plane’s ride away. My friends are here, my family is here; this is where I belong.

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Revisiting the Rating of the Valley’s Hills

Back in April, I wrote a blog entry about rating the hills in the Cuyahoga Valley. I want to revisit this topic because I’ve actually started hitting some of those long-feared hills and mostly in the last few days as I successfully climbed Hines Hill, Boston Mills West, and Wheatley. I am having a good season; I’m probably at my peak of climbing ability since I started riding. So I think I’ve got a better grasp than I did in April of some the difficulty of these hills as compared to each other.

The rating system I used was based on the one used by ski resorts with my own explanation for each. I’ve added a new category of “blue black” which is used on some slopes out west.

  • Green – Good hills to learn climbing on. Not necessarily the easiest hills known to man, but the easiest hills to climb in the Cuyahoga Valley.
  • Blue – A little more challenging than the green hills. Intermediate.
  • Black – Difficult either in steepness or length of the hill or both.
  • Blue-Black – Intermediate difficult hill. I assigned this rating to those hills that have one hard part that qualifies as a black at some point but which taper off into a regular blue for most of the climb.
  • Double-Black – Extremely difficult, even if just in one short section of the hill. On these type of hills, I’ve personally had to stand on my pedals after I ran out of gears in order to get up them (which I don’t do very often). This does not mean everyone who attempts these hills will have to stand on their pedals (Michael didn’t on ones I had to). But in all cases, I had to stand or I was screwed.
  • Not Rated – Simply means I haven’t tried it. Yet.

Okay, this time I’m putting them in alphabetical order (rather than by side of the Valley)…

Bath East – NR

I haven’t done this in awhile (too trafficky) so I’m not really sure what I’d rate it. The last time I attempted it was two years ago and I was not as good of a cyclist as I am now. I walked part of it that time, but I’m thinking I wouldn’t need to do that this time.

Bath West – NR

I haven’t done this for a few years. Not sure. I think it turns into Yellow Creek.

Boston Mills East – Black

It’s really not too bad for me. The hardest part is once you cross the bridge over I-80; it’s steeper when you’re climbing (heading east) than when you’re coming down Boston Mills. You have to be careful about switching gears because you come off the bridge at 30+ mph and the hill increases in steepness fast so getting down to the little ring quickly is often a challenge. If you have a compact double, though, you’re probably okay.

Boston Mills West – Double Black

I had to stand at the hard part. Fortunately, it doesn’t last too long, but it’s a zinger.

Columbia – Black

The hardest part lasts for a very short time. It’s painful, but nothing to lose sleep fearing.

Everett – Blue-Black

I’m good at just hunkering down and slowing going up this hill without stressing myself out. I have never had to stand on it. It seems the hardest at the beginning of the year, but then by this time of the year, it really doesn’t kill me. The steepness of it is generally pretty even with one particularly hard part in the middle.

Highland/Vaughn – Black

I did this one on a commute home from work this summer. It has one hard part in the middle and it’s pretty difficult but it doesn’t last long enough for me to need to stand or anything. It’s actually a kind of fun climb.

Hines Hill – Double Black

Yeah. This one was a lot harder than everyone else I know would have me believe. I personally think it’s as hard as Boston Mills West. But maybe that’s because I did this one on the same night I did Boston Mills West so my legs were not as fresh. Still, in the hardest part you are also contending with a narrow road. If a car comes up behind you, they have to tail you for a little bit before they can get around, which I find really nerve-wracking. I still kind of liked the climb after I conquered it because the abundance of trees on both sides of the road made it rather “scenic.” And, really, there’s not a whole lot of traffic on this road.

Ira – Black

I’ve only gone down Ira this year, but last year, at the end of the season when I did it, it seemed pretty hard.

Major – Green

This hill has no particularly hard part. I can do it on Beau, a hybrid, or probably a fixed gear. Okay, maybe not a fixed gear. A good training hill for people who want to start climbing hills.

Martin – NR

I haven’t climbed this one yet… To be continued…

Northampton – Blue

This hill seriously looks worse from the bottom than it actually feels when you climb it. I don’t think I even bottomed out on that very first part. After you get past that, it’s rolling, which anyone can do because you gain a lot of momentum. In fact, I passed a guy on a hybrid while I was climbing it and he wasn’t having much trouble either. This would be a crappy hill to go down, however, as the windy fast down ends abruptly at a stop sign.

North Portage Path – NR

I’ve never climbed it, but it does have a bike lane going up to Stan Hywet Hall. I’d be game to try it.

Oak Hill – NR

Most would probably describe this hill as the Alpe D’Huez of the Cuyahoga Valley. But Michael climbed it yesterday and didn’t think it was too bad. In fact, he thought I could do it, comparing it in difficulty to Liberty Road in Butler (which I climbed a few weeks ago on Fall N Leaf). So now, for the first time ever, I’m actually kind of curious to try it. *gulp*

Portage Trail – NR

Too much traffic. It looks like it might be a blue-black or a black. I’d have to try this one early on a Sunday morning when there’s no traffic. I’m not sure it’s scenic enough to inspire me, though.

Quick – Blue

This is my favorite road, actually. Probably because it goes by my favorite trailhead in the Valley–Pine Hollow. The first part of the road used to intimidate me; now, since climbing Snowville all the time on my commute, I don’t even bottom out on my gears anymore.

Route 303 East – Green

Pretty much a long, steady climb without any particularly hard section. The only thing that sucks is the traffic. But now there’s a nice wide berm on both sides so I see people climbing it all the time. I personally prefer more scenic climbs. Breathing exhaust fumes as I climb is not my idea of the ideal ride.

Sand Run – Blue

We always seem to hit this one in the fall. I don’t think it’s too hard. You have to watch out for water at the ford, though. Remember my picture from XOBA where the ford yielded to a raging river? Avoid this road during the rainy season! (Maybe that’s why we do it in the fall?)

Smith Road – NR

Too much traffic on this road to try it during normal cycling hours. I think I need to get up early some Sunday morning and do it.

Snowville – Blue-Black (down-graded from previous rating)

Like all the hills on the west side of the Valley, the hardest part is at the very beginning. I do bottom out on it, but I can find a comfortable pace and I’ve never had to stand. Once you get past that section, it’s pretty easy and I can switch into my middle ring for most of the rest of the climb (with the exception of one short steep bump before Orchard Drive). It’s just a llllloooooonnnng four miles.

Steels Corners – Black

There are some hard parts of this climb which are not made any more enjoyable thanks to all the traffic. I don’t climb this road much since it’s another opportunity to suck exhaust fumes that I’d rather avoid when there are far more pleasant hills to climb.

Stine – Blue

Short, sweet. But it doesn’t really go anywhere; it takes you from Riverview to Route 303. Sometimes I use it to avoid the dip on Riverview before the Route 303 stop light when I think there’s going to be a traffic backup there.

Theiss – Black

This road mirrors Steels Corners, only with much less traffic and more pleasant scenery. I did this road three times this year: once before XOBA, once on XOBA where it caused my injured knee to erupt in pain, and once a few weeks after XOBA. It seemed a lot harder after XOBA than it did the time I tried it before XOBA. I don’t know what happened there. Though its steepness stays pretty consistent, it’s kind of an uncomfortable steepness. But I do like this climb a lot.

Truxell – Green

Some people would debate this one with me, but I really think in comparison to all the other stuff in the Valley, this hill is relatively easy. Except at the beginning of the season when you haven’t climbed anything yet. Then it sucks. But so does everything else (and everything else sucks worse). This is always the first hill I do the first time I’m out in the Valley for the season. I know that I can always get up it. I use it as my lazy way to get back home when I’m in a lot of physical pain.

Valley Parkway – NR

I’ve only gone down it. I imagine it might be a bit of a heart-pumper.

Wheatley – Blue-Black

I did this one last night. There’s one hard part that goes around a bend. That’s it. The rest really isn’t that steep and I was able to find a comfort zone. Definitely easier than Everett.

Whetmore – Blue

I did this one on a commute home from work (my last one of the year, in fact). I got a flat on it, which sucked. There’s a few steep bumps, but they aren’t that painful. The scenery is very nice and the road lacks traffic. I almost like it better than Quick.

Yellow Creek – NR

I think I’ve done it once but that was a few years ago so I don’t have an accurate measure. I thought it was pretty hard. It’s probably black.

Scenes from a morning bicycle commute

Sometimes when we tread on familiar ground day to day, we forget to take notice of the familiar. On my bike, I tend to notice scenery I never notice in my car. I feel a part of the environment, whereas in my car I feel separated from that outside world. So today, on my morning commute, I took a few shots of some of the finer points of the familiar ground I tread both in my car and by bike. I don’t stop to smell the roses as much, even on my bike, when I’m trying to keep up with my ABC buddies on our weekly rides, either. It’s nice, sometimes, to be by yourself, going your own pace!

Below is a shot of the wonderful paved Hike & Bike Path owned by Summit County. It pretty much looks like this the whole way through with even nicer spots when you go along the rock-walled ledges. Sometimes this path is actually running parallel to a road, but you’d never know it because of all the buffering by trees. Trees and greenery are what makes Ohio beautiful (I actually missed all the green and shade in Colorado).


I stopped this morning to snag some shots of the mighty Cuyahoga River along Riverview Road in the valley. This is actually quite a beautiful little spot. Too bad when you pull over to take pictures, you get passed by speeding traffic. The glint of sun covers the picture in a heavenly haze, which gives you some indication to the kind of weather we had this morning. In contrast, yesterday was foggy for most of my commute, especially in the valley.

The train tracks are for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, which is a touristy passenger train that goes, I believe, from Canton to Independence near Cleveland. I’ve never ridden it, shamefully. I’ve wanted to, though. The wine tasting rides are booked all the way through the year. I suppose I could just go on a normal ride and take my bike to ride back from some point (which is something else they offer). I just want to avoid having the rides that involve being locked on a train with millions of screaming kids…

Here’s the same shot with more sun.

More sun to get blinded by! But I love the way the light makes rainbow lines on the picture. It’s like I managed to catch the rays of the sun. What a beautiful morning!!


Here’s my bike pounding the pavement. Please disregard the 12mph shown on the computer. You try taking a picture of your front tire on the road while going 15-20mph! (I was generally doing about 17-18mph on the flat areas–the bike path and Riverview Road up to Snowville).

I’m definitely in heaven with commuting by bicycle to work. The last time I felt this great was when I used to bike commute in Colorado. It’s just a great way to start off the morning and get the blood going for work. I don’t mind sitting in a chair for eight hours in front of the computer with my nice morning workout and the anticipation of a longer, ambling ride home. I might ultimately end up doing this more than twice a week if the weather holds up. It’s really not a big deal to ride 16 miles to work and I love crunching up Snowville knowing that I’m only improving my muscles for climbing.

I thought it would be a big deal not having showers here, but it’s been great so far. I take a shower before I leave home, and with my hair still wet, I put it in a ponytail for riding. When I get to work, I wash my face and scrub my arms and legs, put my still-wet hair into a twist and tie it off with a clip. Then I apply my face makeup–foundation–and curl my bangs with the hair dryer I leave at the office and then top off my hair with a little hair spray. I don’t think I look any different than I do when I come into work fresh without a ride. And I don’t think I smell… Hopefully my coworkers agree!

And, as a side benefit, I’m not wasting gas to drive 16 miles. I almost made it through yesterday without using my car. I’m going to try to skip the car all together today. I guess I’m helping the environment as well as my health! Yay, me!

Ohio Counties

For those of you out-of-staters who may be continuously confused about the counties I mention in my posts, I’ve uploaded this useful Ohio county map so that you can keep up. I placed an astricks on my home county of Summit. Some other counties of interest I’ve listed below (in no particular order):

  • Medina – The county in which I grew up. Yeeehaw! Also home of the Medina County Bicycle Club who hosts the Ice Cream Oddyssey in July.
  • Cuyahoga – Not to be confused with the Cuyahoga Valley I’m always riding in (Cuyahoga Valley is in Summit County), Cuyahoga County is the county in which Cleveland is located.
  • Lake – Wine country, my favorite. Okay, there’s other wine areas of Ohio, but I personally think that the ones in Lake and the neighboring Ashtabula are the best of Ohio.
  • Holmes – The rolling county in which Akron Bicycle Club’s Roscoe Ramble is held.
  • Wayne – A favored alternative to riding in the Cuyahoga Valley. Home of another challenging river valley called Overton.
  • Scioto – The county in which Portsmouth–TOSRV’s ending location–is located. (TOSRV = Tour of the Scioto River Valley)
  • Lawrence – The backwards county in which I was assigned to put up the probate and juvenile court when I worked for a computer software company 1998-2000. I spent more time than I ever wanted to in this place that 1950 forgot.
  • Portage – Farm country with potholed roads and angry, impatient redneck drivers. Oops. If you live in Portage County, I apologize. But you know it’s true.
  • Franklin – Home of Columbus, our state capital, and the city recently recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a bike friendly city! I’d move down there, since it seems to be the hip spot for Hiram College alumni to reside, but I think it’s too flat for cycling. Capitol Square in downtown Columbus is the starting point for TOSRV.
  • Darke – Home to the town of Greenville where Annie Oakley was born. I did the Annie Oakley ride here last summer.

Yup. That’s my home state of Ohio. Not really a bad place for cycling. Just don’t visit in the winter.

Local winery in jeopardy

Myrddin Winery, which is owned by one of my church’s parishioners (and a worship associate, to boot), is having some trouble with keeping their doors open due to disputes by neighbors who do not want a “bar” in their neighborhood. The first and only time I visited this winery–after church one Sunday with some of my fellow winos–I was greeted with the rather offensive sign at the beginning of the road that read, “Winos Go Home.” As I traveled down this neighborhood towards the winery, various neighbors had signs reading, “Would you want a bar in your back yard?”

Yes, I thought indignantly, I would. Especially a winery. It sure as hell would make my whole life easier. I could have my wine and stumble home without driving. Of course, I’d probably become an alcoholic… At least when I have some driving distance to a winery, I can limit my use. Sort of.

“Winos” are not a particularly loud, drunken group. I would hardly qualify a winery as a bar. I’ve never seen drunken fights or ludicrious posturing taking place in a winery. It’s the safest place for a single gal to go without worrying about being hit on my cheesy guys with cheesy pick-up lines.

Still, I guess the neighbors have the right to complain. It sounds like the owners of Myrddin are trying to jump through a legal loophole and, by the strictest letter of the law, I suppose they don’t have much of a case. It’s sad because this winery is located on beautiful property next to Lake Milton and they do serve some great wine (they have a sparkling merlot that is totally great and unique–something fun for the holidays). I am wondering what is meant by “limiting” their business. I hope they’re still allowed to sell, but I bet they do better money when they have traffic sitting around and drinking on the premises.

Apology for abandonment

Hey, all… Sorry that I’ve not updated this blog in awhile. It’s not that I’ve not been drinking wine; I simply have not been drinking new ones to rave about yet. I know, I know–I should get in the habit of categorizing and describing all the wines that I drink. I do have a few bottles–a Merlot and a Zinfandel–that I acquired from a winery in Lodi, CA when I visited in May. As soon as I open these bottles, a review will be written. (I did drink them at the winery, but did not have tasting notes with which to describe their aroma and flavor, and since it’s been a few months, I simply remember liking them.)

I did revisit Emerine Estates to try their Deja Vu, which I did find very good. A write-up is due as soon as I open that bottle I brought home. It’s easier for me to take conscientious note of the wines when I am at home and by my computer.

Right now I have two bottles of wine open: a Chalet Debonne Merlot and a Emerine Estates Caramel Apple. The Caramel Apple is borders on being too sweet for me, but I did open it for a party I had last weekend because I knew my friends would enjoy it (probably more than me). The Debonne Merlot is okay–Ohio is not the best producer of good Merlots–and I knew it was going to be this way, but I got the bottle for free from a bicycle tour in the Ohio wine country that I rode last year. Though, I have to say that by Ohio standards, it’s a drinkable Merlot–not too desperately dry in that “dead” way that I often attribute to Merlot from the northeast states. It’s fine, but not something I’d go out of my way to buy. No, Debonne does a much, much better pinot noirsyrah blend that I love. They also have a great Chamborcin.

Anyway… not much detail there, I know. Maybe later when I’m near a wine bottle. Tonight it’s back to the Winery at Wolf Creek for an picnic dinner and drink (inspired by the description of my friend Diane’s recent birthday visit there with her husband).

Ten things I love about Ohio

1. Summer. The lush green landscape, the rolling hills of the Northeast and the Southeast. (You can have the flatness of the west, Toledo, Findlay, and the like.)

2. The wine. Despite what drinkers of California and European wines will tell you (wine snobs), Ohio has a pretty respectable wine industry by my selective standards. We don’t do good Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon, but we can make a descent Cabernet Franc or Pinot Noir. Our white wines–like Vidal Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling–stand up well to white wines on the national level (even wine snobs will tell you that). And, hey, no one can make an ice wine like Ohio (or northern wine-producing states)–we know how to use a good freeze to our advantage. I love wine from everywhere for various reasons. When you’re drinking Ohio wine, you have to take it for the context of where it is from. Sure, the reds can’t be directly compared to something coming out of California. But we certainly don’t make swill like Matthew Fox (which is the grossest wine I’ve ever drank, making it the standard by which I judge all bad wines).

I like frequenting the local wineries. I’m such a lush. A much nicer atmosphere than a bar. Especially in the heat of the Ohio summer.

3. The Midwest attitude. Meat and potatoes, true; however Midwest people are much warmer and openly friendly. I know it often doesn’t seem like that. Spend some time in Denver and you realize that people are a little more private and they tend to keep to themselves more. I think this is the reason I had a lot of trouble trying to make connections and friends out there. My dad, who has only visited but not lived there, also made this observation about Coloradoans.

4. The impressive bodies of water. With a Great Lake to the north and a significant river to the south, Ohio offers water that inspire awe. I missed Lake Erie when I was in Colorado. I guess when you grow up near a Great Lake, your definition of a lake is skewed; a body of water where you can see all the banks is merely a pond. I don’t know what it is, but I’m really attracted to water, even though I don’t glory in swimming in it all that much.

We have some great little islands for vacationing on, as well. Last year, Michael and I spent time on Pelee–which is really in Canada, but I’m counting it since you could get there easily by ferry from Sandusky–and I loved it. My thought of the weekend was, “Why spend all the money to go to the Caribbean when in the summer you have all the benefits of the Caribbean in your backyard?”

I swam all weekend and lazily biked around the island. It was pleasant. And it also had a winery!!

5. Fall. Coloradoans gets excited about its aspens in the mountains, which only turn yellow. Nothing compares to the multitude of reds, oranges, and yellows that collage the rolling hillsides and forests and tree-lined streets of the Midwest. Ohio definitely has its fair share of fall foliage. I know I missed this in Colorado.

6. Friends and family. Let’s face it: my friends and family, who probably will never leave here, are what brought me back to Ohio. In my loneliest hours, I find comfort knowing that most of my friends are a phone call and a half hour drive away. I didn’t realize how much I needed this companionship in my life. I guess when I moved to Colorado, I thought it would be like going to college in that I would make friends quickly and easy. I forgot that in college, we’re all in the same boat–a strange, new place and on our own. In the adult world, people are mostly settled into their lives. They aren’t actively seeking friends as much because they don’t need to. They’ve already built their walls of comfort. It’s a lot harder to get people to connect with you. Especially in a culture whose people are just a tad bit standoffish, ask described in #3.

I love my friends and my family. Leaving taught me how important these people are to me. They were my biggest pull back here. I probably should have mentioned them earlier in the list.

7. Culture–theatre, food, the arts. Cleveland definitely takes the cake in all of these areas. Still very culturally diverse, we have a myriad of authentically ethnic restaurants to meet our every dining pleasure. I never realized how culturally diverse we are until I lived in the mostly-white state of Colorado.

Cleveland by far blows away what Denver can offer as far as theatre goes. Playhouse Square offers off-Broadway shows and has a longer running theatre playbill. Denver’s theatre complex was new and modern looking, which the nouveau decorator in me really liked, but the shows were less attractive. I think the biggest show we had while I was there was Tony and Tina’s Wedding. Having been a season-ticket holder to the Broadway series in Cleveland, I was very disappointed. I didn’t realize how much into theatre I was.

8. History. Settlement of Ohio occurred earlier in the nation’s history. The buildings are older, the towns longer established, and the institutions (such as Hiram College) have an earlier history. Many great people were born in Ohio–the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, James A. Garfield (who began his presidential resume as president of Hiram College!), John Glenn, and Annie Oakley. Ohio was part of the Underground Railroad, which is another significant chapter in American history. The Erie Canal. Lots of history that I’ve not taken the time to explore in my home state. (Hopefully, I will fix that!)

9. Cost of living. People can bitch about the cost of things all the want, but I’ve lived in Colorado and I know that it is worse elsewhere. I got more yard for my buck here than I did in Colorado. My car insurance is back to a level of sanity at $800/year whereas in Colorado it was $800 a half of a year. Milk, which I don’t drink, was more expensive, and so was meat. That always struck me as weird because there were an awful lot of dairy and beef farms in Colorado. Most notably, Greeley, Colorado is the home to a major meat-packing plant. Shouldn’t we have gotten cheaper beef??

Anyway, there’s something to be said for living in a state that is not seen as a desirable location to live by outsiders. Our traffic is significantly less troublesome, our housing prices reasonable, our utilities (except gas) are fairly charged. Water, for example, was significantly more expensive in Colorado due to the constant shortage of it.

10. The Tribe. What can I say? I’m a true-blue Cleveland Indians fan. While the Rockies suck just slightly less, the Indians are a team with a long running history. Some might say, “a long running history of disappointment and unending lesson in the unjustness of the universe.” I choose to look at it as a situation that inspires a solidarity among all Clevelanders. We cheer together, are brought to false hope together, and we plummet into the depths of depression and self-degradation together. The truth of it is, when the Indians are up or down, it’s the one common desire all share: to see the Tribe win a World Series.

I remember when the Indians were in the World Series in 1997. I was working in downtown Cleveland at the time and I used to commute by the Rapid. On my way home from work, the game was playing through the speakers of Tower City and, then, on the Rapid. Every time the Indians would make a good play, cheers erupted from everywhere. It was such a cool experience to me that a bunch of people commuting from work, who normally don’t even talk to each other, were suddenly cheering their team on as one. It was the first time I ever heard excited chatter among people who didn’t know each other as people commented on the game. We all had one common goal together, one common hope. That, too, was magical.

You may think it’s hokey that I’m moved by solidarity caused by a sports team’s success. But, like it or not, the success of a sports team really shapes how the people of a city regard themselves. This is my theory of why tend to bash themselves and their city quite frequently. We’re all stuck in a collective Eeyore complex.