Clyde to Elmore, Ohio: (35kms)
A couple of weeks ago a friend of ours, Megan, contacted us and asked if we would be anywhere near her house during our trip. As it happened, her house was only about 100 miles off route, so we decided to cycle up to Michigan and see her. We used to work together in Vietnam and saw each other often. She had returned recently as her father was very ill.
So, from Clyde, we headed up the North Coast Inland rail trail via Fremont and the lovely little town of Lindsey where we stopped and had a coffee. We were going north-west up to the town of Elmore where we had arranged another Warmshowers house. It was fantastic to finally be on a cycle path with no traffic. The path was mostly covered with trees on both sides providing much-needed shade and made for a pleasant ride up to Elmore.
Elmore was small enough to find our Warmshowers house without any trouble. We met a couple of young guys across the road who confirmed we had the right house and said they’d meet us again tonight. Our host Gordon lived by himself and was a keen cyclist and thrived on hosting people from other countries. He had arranged with his immediate neighbours to have a Block Party tonight in our honour – we were gobsmacked! Wanting to show us off, he took us down to the local library where the kids were being entertained by a singer. We both recognised the “Baby Shark” song from Saigon! I think Gordon had hoped we could talk to the kids for a while and field some questions about cycle touring and about Australia. Fortunately for us, this unplanned entertainment wouldn’t fit into the schedule and they politely declined.
Not one to be declined, Gordon insisted we go and visit his mother, a spritely, god-fearing octogenarian who lived a few doors up across the street. Everything was going swimmingly until she asked us what religion we were. On hearing that we were Catholic, her face screwed up like a lemon! Oh dear, and we’d tried our best so far to keep religion out of our conversations.
Gordon seemed satisfied with our visit to his mum, so I cycled down to the bottle shop and bought beers for tonight. It wasn’t long before we were sitting on the front porch with a beer and meeting the locals. Dinner was moved down to a neighbours place a few doors down. The house was like a monument to hunting. Everything that had been shot was stuffed and mounted and hanging on their walls. There were fish and foxes, coyotes, deer and even a whole bear staring at you from a corner as you entered the front door. The house was amazing, but far from everyone’s taste. I could imagine what some of our friends would have made of it – they’d have been horrified.
Still, everyone was extremely friendly and the sense of community once again struck us. These people share a lifestyle so completely different from city people, and traditions die hard out here, that’s what I think bonds them so well together. We would keep it in mind to mention that we come from the country ourselves as we cross through the Corn Belt to the Mid West. Country folk look after their own!
Elmore, Ohio to Ottawa Lakes, Michigan: (58kms)
From Elmore, we rode busy Highway 51 up to just south of Toledo, taking a much quieter road to enter the city alongside the Maumee River which empties into Lake Erie.
Megan, who was delighted that we were coming, had to work till later on, but had asked her friends Cody and Amanda to ride down to downtown Toledo and meet us and bring us back using quiet suburban side streets. A route we’d never have been able to plot!
Cody and Amanda met us on the waterfront at the Imagination Station, a children’s science museum with a large deck overlooking the river and the opposite bank. They work a small plot of land on Megan’s parent’s property, growing vegetables in season. We bought them lunch from some food vans in the main street then we set off on a very convoluted route to Megan’s place. Our ride took us north-west alongside a main highway, but on quiet streets overhung with huge trees. There were whole blocks of elegant, old-style, timber houses that were so well kept, it was like we had passed back through time where fast cars, huge trucks and runaway technology had never existed. Then, just as fast, you’d turn a corner and cross through a less fortunate, run-down part of town as if there was some kind of balance to be maintained.
Megan’s parent’s house is set on a 5 or 6-acre property amongst a glade of tall evergreen trees. The driveway stretches some 500 metres passing by a small lake and emptying into a triple garage at the base of a huge house. Talk about the “Wow” factor! Megan was there to meet us in her work clothes, she’d been potting plants for her mother’s landscaping business. She was very happy to see us, as were we to see her. It’d been a year or so since we’d caught up last in Saigon.
We met Megan’s mum Nil, and her dad Mark, and after a few beers we were off to the local brewpub for a pint before dinner. The next day we had Megan’s sisters come over for a party and one of the husbands prepared a smoker with some pork and brisket. It was a gadget smoker which he could control from his phone and monitor the temperature, what next?! Cody and Amanda came over for dinner and invited us to come and look at their veggie garden the next day and feed the chickens.
Our 3 days at Megan’s place was almost up. It was great to catch up with her and her family and a nice break from the bikes. Once again the hospitality was awesome and we were treated like family. Taken out, shown around and introduced to new people, it doesn’t get better than that!