Day 16 – Ashtabula to Kent OH

Wow what a difference a day of rest makes. I felt like new back on the bike this morning. To beat the heat I was on the road by 7:00 – a practice I’ll try to repeat. Those early morning hours are the best for riding. It was cool, still and the light that time of day is lovely.

I had two route options through Ohio – the one that Adventure Cycling gives and the one I got from Ralph. He has logged over 150,000 touring on a bike and he raved about his route so that’s the one I chose. Also, since he sent me the link on the “ride with gps” website, I could take his route, reverse it, and then I had turn-by-turn directions on my phone. Today’s the first time I’ve used that and it’s really nice to not have to stop and pull over, and read tiny print, etc.

The route started out on a bike path for the first 5 or 6 miles. So nice to not have to deal with cars. Then I spent the rest of the day on backcountry roads, most with little traffic and no breeze! It was still all day which makes the riding easier. Also there’s something that kind of wears on you when you’re in the wind all day. It starts to fray my nerves after awhile and it definitely dehydrates you faster.

So nice. Bunny count at seven when I had to turn off.

Speaking of bunnies – why the heck do they have white tails? It makes them so obvious when they run away. How is that adaptive?

Two covered bridges today!

Can you see all the little wildflowers mixed in with the grass?
C’est Moi
My new pick for US Mowing champ, midwestern region. There is a house at the end of that lawn.

My grandmother had one of these old hand pumps which always fascinated me as a kid. Born energy geek. This one still works and the water is just as “irony” as my grandmas.
there is a storm brewing and it’s here as I write this… Not a biggie though.
Such still water but I don’t think this one runs deep.

The route took me through the biggest Amish settlement I’ve ever seen (near Burton OH). I went through probably 10 miles of mostly Amish homes and farms. It was fascinating to me to observe but I didn’t take any pictures. Sorry but it just felt intrusive to me. So I just tried to observe it and left the camera on the handlebars.

I’m very curious about how they decide  which modern things are OK to adopt and which aren’t. If anyone knows, please let me know. I know that they are very strictly Christian but it’s beyond that. Some houses had signs selling various things – donuts, eggs, barrels, pallets, etc – all with very simple modest signs. One or two of those said “no Sunday sales” which I get. But some of the other choices are odd. For instance I saw Amish men and women driving an occasional minivan (modest styling) but most yards still had at least one buggy too. I saw a man threshing hay with a mechanical thresher drawn by two horses, and I even got to see the quinticential Amish barn raising. But in this case they were using a compressed air nail gun. Many, and I mean many, of the houses had a trampoline out back, just past the lines of laundry hanging to dry on the line (all blues, browns and whites – very muted). The oddest thing to me was the bikes. I saw several children on these “bikes” that were kind of like huge scooters – they had 16 or 20″ wheels, and metal frames, spoked wheels and handlebars – but no seat, no pedal or chains – you just kick yourself along. Now I just can’t imagine the rule set that determines that scooters and trampolines are in, and pedals are out. I got the sense that it’s all kind of designed to make things difficult, but not too difficult. I have to say though after being in the environment for awhile, it has a real honest simplicity to it that i admire.

All the Amish men wear long pants or overalls and men and boys about 10 or older wear straw hats. All the girls and women were wearing long skirts, with white aprons and bonnets. (Hmmm I haven’t heard of any bonnet bans anywhere – how is that different from a hijab?) Also, with the exception of a few children, everyone I saw was working. Actually some of the kids were working too – I saw a kid no bigger than nine hauling a single bale of hay down the road on a wagon he was pulling, and I saw more than one little kid mowing the yard with a push mower. The yards were immaculately groomed, the houses mostly, or maybe all white, men, women and children were, more often than not, working together, not alone. I saw two small lumber mills where groups of men were milling raw timbers into boards for construction, and one group of women working together on some project under a canopy (I couldn’t see what).

So here I am, in full cycling kit, with my phone gps and my bike that charges my phone, and suddenly I start to feel like I’m the odd one. It was a little bit like one of those dreams where you wake up and you accidentally went to school in you underwear. Except, today I’m pedaling down Amish Main Street in my underwear. Yup, that happened.

The rest of the day was an easy pedal to my campsite. It’s about 6 miles out from Kent Ohio, home of Kent State which I’ll swing by in the morning. Now I’ve got to figure out how to get a meal cooked out of the supplies available from a “Sheetz” the local version of a quickie mart. Otherwise it’s a 12 mile round trip for groceries and I don’t think I’m up for that.


9 thoughts on “Day 16 – Ashtabula to Kent OH”

  1. Love reading your posts, Jim. Enjoying your photos, detalia, and observations. Hope your maneuvered a Michelin meal from Quickie Mart fare, and for goodness sakes, put on some pants!

    1. Decided it was easier to ride 4 miles into the Italian joint in town than 2 miles to the quickie mart + cook. Mmmm, Lasagna.

  2. Wow, what a day you had! A great summary of your Amish visit, they seem like interesting folk. Nice pics as well. I don’t have the answer to white bunny tails, but they sure are cute. I hope your day ended with a satisfactory dinner and sleep. Your posts are entertaining and very interesting, a nice way to start my day.

  3. Interesting observations about the Amish people, Jim. I had a conversation a few years ago with an Amish guy on Amtrak (traveling from Chicago to Montana). He and his big extended family were going to Seattle. I asked about rules they follow in choosing form of transportation. He said essentially that there are not hard and fast rules – that they observed a principle of simplicity. One would choose the least advanced technology that would achieve the goal they had. In his and family’s 1,000-mile+ trip, they couldn’t reasonably walk or go in a buggy (they had a business to get back to), but they could afford the time to go by train instead of by air. (Incidentally, that Amtrak journey is stunning). I thought they were fascinating. I felt kind of envious. Following your Ohio route with interest. My dad grew up there – Bellefontain, near Columbus.

    1. Thanks, Monte – that context helps a lot and makes sense. Bella Fontaine looks a ways off my route but so far, I haven’t seen a ton of variety in Ohio. But it’s big and I’ve just seen a little path…

  4. I LOVE your shadow photo – you need to frame that one. The covered bridges and fields of wildflowers look so quiet and peaceful.

    I imagine the Amish thought you were quite the odd duck. I looked up what they think of bicycles, and check this out:

    “Bicycles are common among Amish in some communities, particularly in the Midwest, such as Holmes County, Ohio.” (That’s about 100 miles from where you were in Burton.)
    “Other communities do not permit bicycles, however. This may be due to tradition or a belief that bicycles are too worldly. Amish travel by a variety of other means, including rollerblades, pony carts, hired car, and of course, buggies.”

    Rollerblades??? Those are not to “worldly”? Interesting culture. I agree that it doesn’t always make sense. And your comment about wearing a bonnet vs. a hijab is very valid. I guess the Amish aren’t threatening and just the word Muslim freaks some people out. Thanks for taking us there today.

    1. Glad you’re enjoying it. Well I’m in Holmes county today and I did see bikes (see Day 17). Yeah, Rollerblades I don’t get but as Monte mentioned above, I guess they are “simple”

  5. Love your commentary and thoughts. Let us know about the memorials at Kent State; as we were shocked by the political shooting in 1970; but now it’s a daily occurrence. Also are you going by the Wright Bros. Bicycle Shop (for at tune-up and maybe some wings) in Dayton?

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