The kindness of strangers. You depend on this a lot during a bicycle tour. Stuff goes wrong. You get lost. Trespassing happens – sometimes unintentional. Bikes break. You stumble into diners at the end of the day and mumble something like, “Feed me anything. And bring double.” It’s a vulnerable time. The day to day routine of everyday life, the insulation, is stripped away. Everywhere you go, everyone you talk to, all the places you sleep, they are all new and that can be scary.
|These bike path repair / pump stands are pretty awesome!|
Thank God most folks are nice. They think I’m a space alien, or European, for riding my bike all over the country, but they are friendly and curious. This morning at a coffee shop by LakeConneaut a local fellow named Mick bought my coffee and cookie. After blowing a rear, drive-side spoke in the middle of nowhere, I aimed for Warren, OH about 20 miles South on the Western Reserve bike path. Warren looked sizable, and a bike path ended there. It was also, sort of, on the way to Columbus. While on the path, a friendly question to a passing cyclist confirmed that Warren did in fact have a bike shop – including directions. Thumm’s Bike (and Clock) Shop in Warren has been in the same location for 109 years for good reason. They hooked me right up and I chatted with the lead mechanic while he tutored a younger mechanic in wheel building. I picked up some heavy, wet chain lube while there. And right now, I’m informally camped in West Branch State Park – and counting on the goodwill of the park rangers to not roust me from this choice spot.
When I rolled out of Mount Vernon, OH on the bike path I came across Bonnie from Columbus, OH. She offered to ride me back into the city and showed me the bike path route I would have otherwise missed. It was really nice to have a friendly riding companion for 50ish miles when I've had so many miles to myself. Bonnie had quite a long and storied history as a bicyclist, riding her first century on a tandem with her "bike nut" father at age five. She has ridden many double centuries and her father was a pioneer of bicycle rear-view mirrors.
Let’s hear it for the kindness of strangers. Be that stranger. One way to facilitate being a great stranger is to participate in WarmShowers.org. Warm Showers is a reciprocal hosting website for bike tourists. You can participate as a host, even if you never bike tour. I’m a host in Hartford, and the more the better. The network is international. I used it in Nicaragua a couple years ago. You meet amazing folks, and can offer anything from “camp in my yard” to “my little free B&B for touring cyclists.” The travelers and hosts get reviews, so you don’t get surprised by a creeper. As a major hub for the East Coast Greenway, Hartford metro area should have lots of Warm Shower host options - even those of you who live in the burbs.
BiCi Co. Aside - The community bike shop on Park Street in Hartford will deliver "kindness to strangers." Strangers that may simply be visiting Park Street for the first time from Downtown or the near suburbs. Hartford tourists and conventioneers looking for an inexpensive option to a rental car for getting around Hartford. BiCi Co. will be a resource for touring bicyclists passing through on the East Coast Greenway. BiCi Co. will be a welcoming community that sends visitors off with a shining review of both the neighborhood and the city of Hartford. Be a part of it. Stay tuned to the new BiCi Co. Facebook page for announcements and programs.
|Akron had some neat water rolling through a downtown plaza and concert space. Remnants of a canal.|
|Canal remnants and active train tracks in Akron.|
|Creative use of an underpass. Come on CT DOT, get creative!|
|Amish country is amazing. Baseball and livestock behind the neighborhood school. Turnstile keeps the horse in.|
|Left side horse and buggy, right side bikes. Yeah Amish multi-use path.|
|A barn and a stone bridge.|
|A really odd industrial art park in Mount Vernon, OH.|
|Industrial decay as art.|
|Felt a bit like Planet of the Apes.|
|Bonnie was my guide from Mount Vernon to Columbus.|