Since crossing the Rainbow Bridge and entering Niagara Falls, NY on Sunday, I have cycled about 375 kilometers on my journey into the "heart" of America. Pedaling across the extreme northwest corner of Pennsylvania I am now in my third state, Ohio. It is time to try and make sense of what I have experienced so far.
If what I wanted was to experience a slice of "Americana" it would be hard to beat what I came across as I entered Conneaut, Ohio. I felt like I had entered a movie set when I found the White Turkey Drive-In.
From a cycling perspective, the further I have journeyed, the worse the roads have become. New York state impressed me with their wide well maintained paved shoulders. As soon as I hit the PA border, the road surface deteriorated, and the shoulders became narrower. I should have considered myself lucky, for once I entered Ohio, the shoulders disappeared entirely as I cycled on rough pavement that was edged by a decades old curb. Infrastructure was in bad shape, as evidenced by this railway overpass on US 20 just west of Conneaut. How long before it collapses?
Lots of abandoned warehouses, and For Sale signs seemed to be everywhere. In Conneaut, an large church building, with big house, was on offer for $69,900. A real estate office showed dozens of properties, many decent looking homes for less than $100,000. $250,000 would get you a massive home on several acres.
Interestingly, a village police force had the resources to purchase and maintain what I can only call an urban assault vehicle.
It wasn't all bad though, but the bad stuff does stand out. On the bright side, the Western Reserve Greenway Trail is a well maintained paved route extending from Ashtabula to the outskirts of Warren, Ohio, a distance of more than 40 miles. It is a beautiful easy ride taking you through quiet countryside.
In Austinburg I chanced upon a bbq set up outside Shannon's Mini Mart. It was hosted by Tami Pentek who is running for Clerk of County Courts. Why this is an elected position is one of the vagaries of American politics that I am yet to understand. Lots of relaxed conversation was happening. I chatted with an area cyclist and then spent a few minutes discussing my trip with Ms. Pentek.
As I cycled closer to Warren and started to inquire about motels, I was repeatedly warned away from that city. "They had trouble there. You wouldn't want to stay there.", were the admonitions. I took the advice offered, and found myself at the deservedly named "Budget Motel" at the intersection of I80 and Highway 5. I want to learn more about what is going on in Warren, Ohio. Perhaps another day, or another trip.
I have found people to be almost invariably friendly and welcoming. A lot of the overheard conversations, however, in diners, and other such places, is about the economy, and how bad it is. You don't really have to listen though. All you have to do is look around.