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This Isn’t Going to Go How You Expect it to Go

That phrase should have been firmly in my mind as I set out in the first day of this trip. If you’re not familiar, I decided to celebrate my 40th birthday with a five-day, cross-Ohio bikepacking trip. Start in Cleveland, end in Cincinnati.

I’ve been biking a lot over the last few years. I’ve gotten good enough at it that I figured I could give this a shot. I was both right and wrong. See, there’s a big difference between going from your home, then back, in the same day. There’s an anchor. Something you know waiting on either end. Here, it’s just me.

I started out on the shore of Lake Erie, my bike loaded up, and me filled with a mix of confidence and uncertainty. The uncertainty would come and go all day long. After all, I can ride just fine. That was never the issue. But my bike, combined with Google Maps not wanting me to stay on a bike path meant that I had more side adventures than I wanted.

The firdt half of the day was fine, though I rode on Cleveland city streets more than I wanted (thanks, Google). The real problem came when I was what would have been about 90 minutes out from my campsite. A flat in my front tire. Moreover, it wasn’t just the tube. I was prepared to replace a tube, but wasn’t set for a puncture in the tire itself. A three mile walk, the purchase of some superglue at a Dollar General, and the flat was fixed, though. But as I went to get back on the trail, I noticed that my bike rack was wobbling. Badly.

At some point, one of the screws holding the rack steady had broken or fallen out. There was a bike shop 100 yards from me… but closed on Mondays. So, more wonky Google directions (that service doesn’t know as much about closed roads as I’d like), an extra 90 minutes, and I found a bike shop. Also, a Subway. Bike fixed, downed a footlong BMT in record time, put a second in my backpack at my partner’s suggestion, and back on my way.

Now, some mile off my original course, I had to ride regular-ass intra-city roads to get to my campsite on time. I really don’t like roads like that. 35 or 45 mph, winding, no lane for me, cars far too close. And still, I made it, ready to set up camp, start a fire, and have a hot meal.

Sign posted at camp says “no fires.” Thank goodness for that second sub, right?

So, I get all set up, and that began the easiest part of my day. The tent worked like a charm. My sleeping pad kept me off the ground, and I stayed warm and dry all night. And that’s where I am, now. Inside that tent, getting ready to break down and start another day of this trip.

I have never been so challenged in my life. Or, I have, but never by my own choosing. I’ve risen to the occasion when outside circumstances have demanded it of me. I’ve never had to do so when I’m the one that chose them. I always have changed the game, mitigated the hardship, moved on. Not here. I’m two days out from a sleep in my own bed, with another two days of riding to follow that.

Part of me wants to stop, to wave the flag and call for a pickup. I won’t. I worked too hard to get this trip off the ground. It will be difficult, but I will make it.

I can see it getting lighter outside. Time to pack up and keep heading down the trail. See you on the other side.