The morning with Gary and Marilyn was peppered with friendly conversation, black coffeee, eggs and English muffins (toasters: just one of those things you don't realize you'll miss). We set off at 9:30 and almost immediately entered the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, tree trunks thin, lithe and healthy, every bit of dirt right up to the asphalt a bright, deep green.
The tow path ran ten miles and dropped us straight into downtown Akron. Rachel had tried to remind me earlier, but I'd forgotten how proximal your mortality becomes riding through a city. Right there: with the semis banging to your left, the curb to your right, a four-inch pot hole straight in front.
Picked up groceries and chocolate granola. Dinner: black beans, tofu, coconut milk, peanut butter, cayenne pepper.
We finally escaped the city/subsequent suburbs after fifteen some-odd miles, took lunch on the raised stone bed of a church sign. The stones were not cemented together. I fell off.
I detoured for a quick gatorade, and then Google freaked out and took me on this wiggly route through the middle of Ohioan farmland, all short, steep hills, absent the Midwest flat. And then, just passed this big historic barn, the first two: a deep throaty bark and then I'm being chased by two dogs up an absurd grade. This is followed five more times by five more sets or single dogs, barkin' and growlin' me off public roads.
By the time I arrived at the base of the hill that would take me up to the campground, my adrenaline glands were drained of every bit of flight (turns out I'm not a fighter). And that hill, I don't know what it was except for straight up and for the first time on the whole trip, I had to dismount and walk my bike up. That was rough -- even after 2800 miles, I didn't have enough built, enough left, to pedal up to the top.
When I arrived at the campground though, there were two bikes at the picnic table where Rachel was setting up camp. Two bikes! Sandra had arrived just before her. She's traveling solo from Chicago to New York, but the kicker's that she's going via DC. We'll be on the same route for a while. A third!