Day 71: (67 miles) We’d been hawking the weather the last few days as storms were supposed to be coming. We had a decision to make: detour from the route and head straight to Cincinnati, which would put us there today- guaranteeing we would be there for our friend Mike’s BBQ on Saturday, or continue along the ‘underground railroad’ route that winds around outside of Cincinnati for an additional 100+ miles and hopefully make it by Friday, weather permitting. We decided rather than chancing it and getting stuck somewhere other than Mike’s, we would head straight to Cincinnati. Since we were veering from the bike route, our bike directions put us back on route 42 which was not our favorite. It took us through the heart of the industrial area, it had no shoulder, was covered in pot holes, and big dump trucks, tractor trailers, and flat beds rushed by us at 55+ mph. It was a stressful morning but we made it through and soon we were crossing the Purple People Bridge from Kentucky to Ohio. The ride was mostly flat for the day but once we made it to Cincinnati there a doozy of a hill for us to conquer. It was so steep and long we felt like we were back in the Ozarks again (luckily it was just one). That, coupled with the heat and humidity, created a sweaty breathless climb so we stopped at Kroger’s for a Gatorade and some AC. We were almost to Mikes when we met a fellow cyclist who has commuted to work for the last 4 years and 9 months, switching to his fat tire bike during the winter. What an inspiration! We passed on our card to him as we said goodbye. We spotted Mike, Rachel, and Marvin (their dog) in their front yard as we cruised up to their quaint home. Perfect timing! Rachel had a writing club meeting so we said a quick hello and goodbye after they toured us around their great, newly renovated home. We got to catch up with Mike and he made us an amazing dinner of salmon, potatoes, and a salad. We were elated to call this home for the next few days.
Days 72-75: (0 miles) We spent the next four days off the road, which is the longest we’ve taken yet. We hadn’t planned on taking such a long break, but getting in early and hearing Mike had bought baseball tickets for Sunday meant we weren’t leaving sooner than that. Thursday we took Rachel to work at The Sleepy Bee and had a delicious breakfast with her. The rest of the day was spent running errands. Chris’ bike was more than overdue for a tune up so we made sure it got to the bike shop. We picked up things to cook dinner for our generous hosts, and around midday found out Shayna’s Mom who was traveling from upstate NY to Nashville, TN via greyhound bus actually had a stop in Cincinnati at midnight! What were the odds, especially since we weren’t even supposed to be in town yet? After making dinner for our hardworking hosts, we kept ourselves awake to see Mom. Her bus ended up running late, and we only had about five minutes together, but getting a mom hug was more than worth it.
Mike had the next day off of work for party prep so we helped him as best as we could. Lawn mowing, keg pick ups, and last minute supplies. We even spent a little time texting our buddy Jake to convince him to drive down from Pittsburgh for the BBQ.
Saturday was here and so was BBQ day. We had made plans to have breakfast with Chris’ cousin Susie at First Watch. We met her, her son, and her husband there and enjoyed a great breakfast and many cycling/traveling stories. Afterwards, we went downtown to check out the Freedom Museum. It was pretty impressive and we wished we had more time to spend there because in the two hours we allotted ourselves there, we barely scratched the surface. We headed back to Mikes to continue BBQ set-up and preparation. Rachel and her mom had been busy planting flowers and the backyard looked amazing. Food and drinks were prepped, we just waited for the people, and they sure did come. Thunderstorms had been threatening on and off all day, but they held out until the very end of the night which was perfect. Mike and his friends had smoked a bunch of meat and the sides were endless. Jake and his girlfriend Katelyn made it so we got to have a mini reunion. It was a great time and we were so happy to see all the love and support from family and friends that Mike and Rachel have in Cincinnati.
Sunday was our last full day in the city. We all had a bit of a slow start due to all the fun had at the BBQ the night prior. We managed to find a place for brunch prior to heading to the Reds Game. Although they lost, we got our “official first game” certificates and enjoyed every minute. Jake and Katelyn had to head home, so Rachel, Mike, Marv and the two of us enjoyed some left overs and ice cream, and watched a movie until it was time for bed.
Day 76: (64 miles) After waking up in our comfy bed for the last time, we packed up and got back on the bikes. Luckily it was a Monday which meant Mike and Rachel were busy adulating so it was a little easier to leave, but it sure was a struggle to say bye to Marvin. After about 12 miles of city suburbs, we reconnected with our route and the Little Miami Bike Trail. This is where we would spend the remainder of our day. It was a beautifully paved trail that followed the Little Miami River. It was well utilized and perfectly routed through towns which created great stopping points. We made it to Xenia around 4:30 pm. Xenia is the ‘bike hub’ of the area. Meaning a large number of trails converge here. Our intent was to camp at the fairgrounds per our ACA map instructions. But hungry, we first stopped for dinner at the local “Roosters” joint before making our way to the fairgrounds. Once we arrived, we didn’t really know where to go to set up the tent. We found a nice gentleman on a tractor. He didn’t know either, but said he’d be happy to call the lady in charge. So Lester called Ester (yes, that really was their names) and found out tent camping was not permitted. We debated sneaking up behind a building and discretely doing it anyway, but decided not to. So, we reluctantly made our way back to town to find a place to stay. Out of the 3 motels in town, the Ramada had the best deal, and that’s where we settled for the night.