51.0 mi / 5:29:20 time / 9.3 mph avg. / 199 ft. climbing
A bike tour can essentially be seen as an extended balancing act. Of course balancing a two-wheeled mechanical contraption is of foremost importance, but it goes much deeper than that. Covering distance must be weighed against the ability to enjoy that distance. Eating too little vs. eating too much. Covering your skin to protect you from the sun vs. uncovering your skin to protect you from the heat. All these and more were weighed by Rett and I this day.
At first-breakfast at Starbucks, we balanced our need for energy with our need to save room for second-breakfast. Rolling down US-20, we found a speed that kept us moving against the headwind without ripping us to pieces. Hopefully the steady headwinds from the last few days will eventually be balanced by tailwinds. Or maybe the sunny skies and lower temperatures are already the balancing part of the equation.
Second-breakfast had some really good cinnamon French Toast at Rayz Cafe. Then onwards through Oak Harbor, and soon after, our first view of Lake Erie! The scent, and the roadside environment actually made it feel much like an ocean holiday resort, quite unlike anything on at least the western shore of Lake Michigan. Seeing the water and sailboats and wave-runners was the most exciting moment of the trip for me so far; my mind was suddenly snapped into the realization that we had made it to a different place, somewhere quite distant from our start.
Crossing over onto the Marblehead Peninsula, we got some ice-cream fuel, and then it was time to balance Rett’s desire to make it on the 3:30pm ferry with my desire to not overwhelm her body in the race against the clock. And psychologically, to balance a belief that we could actually succeed in covering the 10 miles in that time, with preparation for disappointment in case the effort ended up being a waste. All day the headwinds and the 6 days of riding had Rett’s legs in a worn-out state, but she fought like hell against them with her mind, and thanks to her hard work (and desire to start our island break as soon as possible!) we made it aboard the boat to Kelley’s Island with a whole ten minutes to spare. Success!
Kelley’s Island is 20 wind-cooled minutes into Lake Erie, with views of the giant Cedar Point roller coasters in the distant haze. We slowly rolled the two miles to the state park on the opposite side of the island and snagged the last available lakeside campsite. Here we would balance the unbroken effort of the last six days with a day of rest and relaxation.
The island is small, low-key (even on the weekend, here somewhat before peak season), and charmingly unpretentious. Bicycles and golf carts are the major forms of transportation on the few island roads. We instead left our bikes in camp and took a two-mile walk to the Kelley’s Island Wine Co. for dinner, with plans to then head further to the 4-bar “downtown” area. It was a pretty long walk for Rett’s aching knees though, so I was really hoping we’d be able to find some other way back when the cold and dark came on.
The wines actually balanced nicely against my low expectations, and the food was great. Sitting out on the covered front porch, we commented to each other on The Rabble-Rousers: a foul-mouthed drunken idiot getting behind the wheel of a golf cart with three similarly drunk adults and three (hopefully sober) kids. We overheard the other couple on the porch make a similar comment, and, finding a common bond in our distaste for idiots, we quickly struck up a conversation. One thing led to another, and soon we were riding in their car with them over to the Glacial Grooves, a unique geological feature in the the state park. We took in the sunset, inhaled the atmosphere, and shared stimulating conversation. Sometimes, the more you talk with people, the more you realize that you have less in common than you initially thought. It was the opposite with Charlie and Laurie, and I became more and more happy that we’d run into them.
We then went back into town with them, and Charlie led us to a bar for drinks and more conversation. The awkward dancing on the outdoor patio, the bachelorette party remnants, and the mom using her 34-year-old daughter as her wingman carried forth the vibe that I was really digging about the island.
After one more bar hop, Charlie and Laurie had to catch the ferry back to the mainland, but first they were kind enough to take us all the way back across the island and drop us directly at our campsite. Even more, they informed us that Bike (er, motorcycle) Week was happening in Sandusky (where we planned to stay the next night), and if we had trouble finding a place, Charlie promised that he would drive out, pick us up, let us crash at their place, and drive us back to our route the next day. Amazing. What generous and genuine people. They helped turn a good day into a great night.
As I stood outside our tent, with my girlfriend at my side, the stars wheeling above us, and the waves softly crashing at our feet isolating us from the world at large, everything just felt right. Balanced. That’s one great day of bike touring.