Two weeks ago I traveled home to Cleveland to ride in the Escape to the Lake Bike MS event, benefiting the Western PA Chapter of the National MS Society. If you’d like to know more about why I ride, you can read about it on my fundraising page.
Thanks to my kind donors that helped me raise $1,290 for the cause! I am always impressed by their generosity. If you were one of my donors and would like a bicycle print that I made to commemorate the occasion, please let me know and I’ll send one to you.
Now on to the exciting part, the story of my trip and accompanying pictures!
I arrived in Ohio late on Wednesday night. Somehow my flight was slow getting out of Austin and my connection time in DFW was super slim. I found myself running to my gate and was the last person on the plane. As soon as I sat down, the plane started taxiing. I knew this meant trouble for my checked luggage that contained important items like my bike clothes and shoes and bike pump (as well as normal suitcase things). The luggage did not make it but the American Airlines employee assured me that my bag would be on the first flight to Cleveland the next day, landing around noon. Sure enough, I saw online that my bag landed the next day at that time. I called the baggage counter and found out it would be picked up by the delivery company at 3 pm and should be delivered shortly thereafter, with the maximum delivery time being 6 hours. I thought I could handle that as we had to stay home at my Mom’s and wait for FedEx to drop off my bike anyhow. Well, around 8 pm my patience starting running thin and I called the baggage counter again. I found out that the delivery company wouldn’t answer their phones so we had no idea where my luggage was and when it might show up. However, this guy said my luggage could take 8 hours to show which was brand new news to me. I waited another hour and a half and called back this time really unhappy. They still couldn’t reach the company and told me if it didn’t show up, I could call back and get an authorization to purchase the items I needed for the weekend. Skeptical that I could even get my hands on all of the special bike gear in my suitcase, I was very stressed at this point. I went to sleep but really didn’t sleep well. In the middle of the night I found a voicemail on my phone from the delivery company had left the bag behind the house at 1 AM, 25 HOURS AFTER I LANDED! Later than even the latest delivery time promised to me. I was patient early in the day but this really made me angry. Luckily at least my bike showed up on Thursday and I assembled it without a problem.
Me assembling my bike wearing clothes from the day before:
On Friday, we headed out for Pittsburgh around noon, first going downtown to pick up my packet at the MS Society office.
A view from the office:
After that, we headed north to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to have a backyard party with my family in the area.
My grandfather, sister and I:
Early the next morning at 6 am or so we headed out for the starting line at Cooper’s Lake Campground.
Mom and I at the starting line:
Apparently the campground we started from is the site of a gigantic Medieval festival which explains the huge castle I saw rising out of the fog as we started our ride. It was very impressive and it wasn’t until I was closer that I noticed that it was built out of wood.
I was worried about rain on Saturday because all of the forecasts had a very high chance of rain. After the fog cleared up though the day was perfect. Very little wind, warm and sunny. I felt very strong and was riding fast. The landscape was just perfect, green and farmland on all sides. The number of riders in the Escape to the Lake is about a tenth of the riders in the BP MS150 that I’ve ridden before. It was very relaxing to be part of a smaller group and to not encounter lines at the rest stops!
Something I hadn’t anticipated was the gigantic hills. They were decidedly different from the hills that I ride in Texas. They were so steep that I like to call them “drop and grind” hills because I had to drop into my smallest my gear immediately and just grind and grind to the top of the steep and often long hill. There was almost no downhill before these hills and by the end of the day on about the 8th occurrence I was swearing under my breath each time I encountered yet another hill.
The view from near the top of one of the early hills:
The bridge just after one of the rest stops:
I was riding so fast that my SAG (support and gear) entourage had trouble catching up to me at the stops! We met up near the end of a 20 mile additional route that I chose to go on to get me to 100 miles the first day. It was very pretty landscape with many small lakes in that section.
My SAG entourage at the mile 60 rest stop where I got my “century route” pin:
A nice view:
A surprise picture attack by my entourage:
Soon thereafter we met back up with the rest of the riders on the shorter route. With about 15 miles to go I began to get worried about rain as the wind picked up and I could see that it was getting cloudier and darker.
I really pushed myself to make it to the end, where my family was waiting. As I rolled in to Edinboro and then the University I felt such excitement at having finished! I clipped out of my pedals and about 30 seconds later felt my first rain drop.
Day one mileage: 100.7 miles
That night we stayed in a quaint little cabin by a lake, not very far at all from the finish location. I was done early enough that we had plenty of time to enjoy ourselves, dining in the nearby restaurant and watching my cousin fish on the lake.
The start of day two was decidedly cooler and very foggy and damp since it rained overnight. I wasn’t even sure if they would start on time so I waited a few minutes before starting out. The route was only a mile down the road so I jumped on right from the cabin.
As I rode the dampness didn’t really clear up. The further north we rode, the cooler and windier it became. I heard other riders complain about the wind but after riding all spring in 20 + mph winds in Texas, I was well prepared. I was also glad that I over prepared with my clothing by wearing both arm and leg warmers. They may have laughed at me at the beginning but were jealous by the end!
I didn’t take many pictures because of the dreariness. I did see a number of Amish buggies and the passengers always waved at us. Near the Ohio border, I saw two separate yards with young Amish children watching and waving to us as we rode by.
Riding into Ohio:
The finish for day two was in Conneaut Ohio which is right on Lake Erie. It’s a small town that did a great job welcoming all of the riders. At 5 miles out I started seeing signs letting us know how much further in half mile increments:
As I got even closer to the finish, I started seeing large groups of people cheering on the side of the road. It was a great feeling. There were all sorts of signs welcoming us in to town.
The finish line was through a balloon arch in a park right on the lake, here I come!
Day 2 mileage: 57.8 miles
There was a nice party with lots of food and a finisher’s medal waiting for us:
Mom and I at the top of the hill in the park:
All in all it was a wonderful ride and I’m very glad that I made the trip. We headed back to my Mom’s house where I packed up my bike into it’s case and relaxed for the rest of the day.
Huge thanks to my Mom for being my personal chauffeur for the weekend and carting me and my bike around!