Things did not look very promising on this, the final day of the Amish Country Adventure. The weather forecast was not good; significant rain was coming and would almost certainly meet us somewhere between New Philadelphia and Coshocton.
There was much conversation in the breakfast room as to whether to ride or not. The prevailing sentiment was that we should not end this wonderful and most fulfilling week on a bad (i.e. wet) note. So it was decided that we'd SAG a carload of vehicle drivers 35 minutes or so back to Coshocton to pick up their vehicles, bring them back to New Philly, load up and leave from there. It was disappointing to have to end the tour this way, but as mentioned, there was unanimous agreement on this plan.
The previous night at dinner, non-riding Rita had made an offer to the group: Anyone who did ride on this final Saturday would be entitled to a pastry that Rita would pick up on a return visit to Miller Bakery "on the way" as she drove her car back to Coshocton. Well, with the certainty of rain Saturday morning and the aforementioned group decision, nobody stood to collect on Rita's offer. However, Rita would still be making the trip to Miller's and savvy tour leaders Rod and Joe still managed to put in a pastry order. By the way we heard that at least one other car from the group also hit Miller's "on the way" home!!
Anyway, SINCE Rod and Joe would be returning their rental van later that day south of downtown Columbus, and SINCE Rita and Mary were staying that night in downtown Columbus and SINCE Rod and Joe would be passing right through downtown (well, sort of) on their way to their homes up north, those yummy pastries would be available for pick-up at the downtown hotel. The plan worked to perfection, the pastries were greatly enjoyed, and Rod and Joe have resolved to feature the great little hilltop bakery a little more prominently in the tour literature for 2015.
So how does one summarize the 2014 Amish Country Adventure? Well, at 12 riders it was our smallest tour group to date. Perhaps the smallish size had something to do with the really close-knit camaderie and the friendships that developed over the course of the week. It was also most interesting that, of the 12 riders, 6 were from Ohio!! This was a stunning departure from the 2 prior tours where only one customer came from the Buckeye State. We were very happy to see that these 6 people felt strongly enough about Ohio as a great vacation and cycling destination to spend a week's vacation right here in their home state!! Based on the very nice comments received from these folks, it does appear that they were most pleased with their decision and with the way things turned out on this tour.
There was another aspect of this group that really stood out for us -- EVERYBODY was on their bicycles EVERY DAY!! This was despite the fact that the tour is very very challenging. It seems a great tribute to the quality of the routes and the parts of Ohio we visited -- nobody wanted to miss a bit of it!! Like the 2013 tour, there were people who were not accustomed to such amounts of climbing, yet they were absolutely up to the challenges posed, and they DID IT!!
Maybe weather was also a factor. For the second straight year, despite the reality of global warming or whatever, and despite the two days of rain we had to endure, the Amish Country Adventure was blessed with 5 days of the most lovely cycling weather imaginable.
In closing, Buckeye Country Roads thanks each and every one of the great people who put themselves in our hands for this week. We value them as customers and as friends and sincerely hope many will become repeat customers. Moreover we hope they will also become ambassadors for all that is good about cycling in the state of Ohio, and that they will entice others to come here and experience the same goodness on future cycling tours with us.
Day 6 on this tour represents a change in the look and feel of things. By the time we reach New Philadelphia we are essentially out of Amish territory, and on the bike routes, the rolling pastoral farms scenery of Holmes County tends to give way to the ambiance that one associates with the movie "Deliverance". Indeed, on this day we would venture into the deepest of deep backwoods places mostly in Tuscarawas County. Still very beautiful, but in a different way.
We (i.e., Rod), had to do some fancy scrambling because the chip seal fairy left us with lots of gravelly presents along our Deliverance Day routes. A lot of turn markers had to be repainted, one downhill section was deemed downright dangerous and thus an alternate route was found. Wayne did actually ride the dangerous section, safely thank goodness, to meet a friend in a town somewhat off that area of the route.
From a safety perspective, the day proceeded without incident Well, actually it proceeded without incident out ON THE ROAD. At the hotel, before anyone actually got out onto the road, Mike our Day 1 dog attack victim was again on the ground, but this crash reportedly took place while getting himself and his bike out of the hotel elevator!!
Yet one more time, everybody was out there riding (what a group!!) No days off for any of these folks!! But one of the ride leaders had a rough time -- Joe had to call Rod in the support van for an early exit because his bottom bracket (serviced the day before at a local shop) started making sounds like one of those twirly noisemakers one might use at a New Years' Eve party. It's not that the bike was necessarily unrideable, but rather that Joe was on the fine edge of his sanity from all that racket - not exactly the smooth humming sound that we all enjoy from our finely tuned road bikes. The bike did go back to the shop later that afternoon for an on-the-spot disassembly, cleaning and reassembly of the crankset and bottom bracket, and at the time of this writing, maybe 80 miles later, the bike is still running very smooth and quiet.
Before going any further I should explain what a bottom bracket is, for those not well versed in bicycle mechanics. In the language of today's teenagers a bottom bracket is defined as follows: It's like the round thing that like connects to where the pedal arms like go through the bottom of the bike frame and it makes like these amazing noises when it's not like working right and you think, like Oh......My........Gawd what is THAAATTT???
I hope the above explanation makes things more clear.
Anyway, when we SAGged our way into the town of Dennison around lunchtime we found most of the group on a deck off the rear of a tiny little pizza and sandwich joint called Berni's. This is another place we had not scouted previously, but it proved to be a great lunch stop. Good food, very reasonable prices and very friendly folks working there. Should have gotten a staff picture but they looked constantly swamped in the tiny kitchen so I didn't feel like disturbing them.
After the riders returned to home base, several of them were already excited about trying to visit some of the quaint and offbeat museums in New Philadelphia and its sister town Dover just a bit to the north. Success was had at the very renowned Warther Woodcarving Museum, but disappointment was found at the by-appointment-only Famous Endings Funeral Museum (where an in-progress funeral prevented any tourist visits), American Gas Pump Heaven
and the Auman Radio and TV Museum. The last two simply couldn't be reached by phone that day. Guess next year's group can give these another try, or maybe BCR can arrange some form appointments well in advance of our visit.
Dinner was held right next door to the hotel at Bistro 131, a great place in a town that's otherwise just a little thin in really great places to dine out. The previous night at Uncle Primo's, plus our farewell dinner this evening at the Bistro probably encompassed two of the very best places in town.
Around Day 5 we came to realize that each day of this great tour deserved a unique nickname. We weren't too sure what to pin on Days 1-2, however we had Day 3 as Bakery and Cheese Day, Day 4 as Hump Day, and Day 5 would pretty clearly turn into Wine and Chocolate Day.
This lovely mild and sunny day began with a bicycle caravan to the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center on the outskirts of Berlin, where the celebrated "Behalt" mural depicting Amish life and history was on grand display. The group received a one hour narrated tour that worked its way around the circular mural. All agreed that this tour was extremely interesting and worth the time spent and the very short detour off the main part of the route. Don and Helene, who had taken this tour in the past, elected to skip it this time in order to pursue a big breakfast at Der Dutchman at the top of the big hill into the town of Walnut Creek.
Once everyone else got back on the road and finished the climb into Walnut Creek, many seized the opportunity to visit Coblentz Chocolates just a skip and a jump past Der Dutchman. After enjoying the nice long descent out of town, there awaited the Walnut Creek Cheese mega-plex and then the town of Sugarcreek with its charming Swiss village motif.
The animated Swiss cuckoo clock at the corner of Main and Broadway (see photo) was enjoyed by all, and Rod found he just couldn't leave town without downing a pint of the most excellent India Pale Ale from Millersburg Brewing Company, a true local gem in the craft beers world. Joe had ingested his own pint of IPA back in Millersburg 2 days earlier!!
On to the rest stop at the west edge of town where somehow the very healthy bananas, oranges, granola bars and dried fruit became overshadowed by Coblentz fudge and frosted buttermilk cookies discovered in the IGA store across the street.
Next were the wineries, 3 of them to be exact: Swiss Heritage, Silver Moon, and Breitenbach. At Silver Moon, all riders took the time to say hello to "Dobson", the talking wine valet. Apparently Dobson's batteries had gone dead on this day, so he had nothing to say. Nonetheless, the winery visits were enjoyed and Joe was able to haul 2+ cases of Breitenbach wine back to the ranch that afternoon.
Everybody made their way with heads fairly clear, past the wineries, up and down Schilling Hill and Pleasant Hill roads, and into New Philadelphia where we settled into the very welcoming Holiday Inn Express for our final two days and nights of the tour.
For this "dinner on your own" night a proposal was made to the riders to have a group outing to a place we had never tried before but heard many good things about: Uncle Primo's. Most of the group liked the idea and we enjoyed a fantastic Italian dinner on the lovely leafy canopied patio in perfect temperatures at the end of another spectacular cycling (and of course eating) day.
In case we didn't mention it in the Day 3 blog, most of the big hills on that day came within the first 10 miles. We told people the same about Day 4, but the truth of the matter was that on this day the hills sort of kept on coming ALL DAY LONG. Yes, this would be our toughest day. What really impressed us tour leaders was the fact that, although this was "hump day" (VERY literally as well as figuratively) EVERYBODY in the group got right out there on their bikes. Nobody took the day off as I felt might happen. Just another reason why we felt this group of folks was a really super group to have on the tour - they are up for ANYTHING!!
Well, everybody saw some Amish buggies on Day 3 but Day 4 absolutely put that to shame. We could have used a helicopter traffic reporter on Day 4 to help us navigate through the very steady flow of buggies along the roads leading to our rest stop in the town of Kidron.
Part of the reason for the plethora of buggies was the fact that our first town of the day, Mount Hope, was hosting a rather large auction. Amish folks were flowing in from every direction and buggy parking on the grounds was at a premium.
The auction aside, Mount Hope to several of us meant a stop to Mrs. Yoder's Kitchen (just across the street from the auction grounds) for a nice early morning slice of pie as a chaser to our fabulous Berlin Grande buffet breakfast. Peach cream pie was the feature of the day, but Rod and I opted for our traditional favorites of cherry ala mode and coconut cream, respectively. What a treat!!
Not long after we laid waste to our pie, enter Mary, Kim and Krista to have a little pie of their own, which I'm pretty sure they completely enjoyed. While they were midway through their tasty treats, a very friendly Amish guy walked in and soon struck up a conversation with us concerning our bike ride. I almost sprayed the table with a mouthful of water when at one point the guy stared right at young fair-haired Mary and exclaimed "We're not spring chickens any more, are we?"
Anyway, after Mount Hope it was on to Kidron, with buggies still on the roads everywhere. Most of the riders managed to spend a bit of time enjoying the renowned Lehman's Hardware store, and in the process we took good advantage of Lehman's fudge tasting bar. I picked up a hunk of cappuccino fudge which was incredibly tasty, and shared that around our snack stop table behind the rear of the store. I'm not sure but I think that fudge may have placed me into a couple of the riders' wills. I do believe a few other fudge flavors were purchased before we vacated Kidron.
Our long route riders were doing their thing once again, but managed to miss a key turn and as a result had to improvise something that rather loosely resembled the route we'd designed. They did manage to find the Smuckers property however, made it back to Kidron to see Lehman's and sample fudge, and proceed onward to further adventures.
Having left Kidron, the ups and downs certainly continued all the way to the end, and the food pursuits turned to lunch and trail bologna. It's interesting to know that the origin of the term "trail" bologna refers in fact to the town of Trail, Ohio, which we all did cycle through during the last several miles of our day. More specifically, it's Troyer's Trail Bologna Inc. that has been producing the stuff in the very tiny burg of Trail for over 100 years.
Before reaching Trail, riders enjoyed lunch in the towns of Wilmot (The Amish Door) and/or Winesburg (the small deli/pizza shop pictured on this page). We also know that rider Ben from New Jersey was in search of the Winesburg Dairyette, a local ice cream mecca.
Before rolling back into the Berlin Grande to enjoy the "dinner on your own" night in Berlin, the riders got to once again exercise their colorful vocabularies while taking on 2 disturbingly late hills, one of which had a bypass which we didn't tell them about (note to self for next year!!)
The rains have ended, the polar vortex was about to bring some really nice temps, and the group was oh so ready for some serious cycling. Day 3 on this tour is always a big wakeup call with several long hill climbs within the first 10 miles along Coshocton County Road 10. Adding to the "fun" is some very bad road surface, much of it on downhills, requiring great care to avoid being swallowed by one of the many buggy ruts in the area. Joe asked a local at one point if they knew of any plans to resurface Co. Road 10 and the curt answer received was "it'll never happen." OK, enough said.
Today was nicknamed "cheese and bakery day" because quite simply the route would be littered with places to pick up sinfully wonderful Amish made pastries and cheeses. The full lineup: Chalet in the Valley, an all-round sit-down eating place with fine meals and WONDERFUL pie; Guggisberg Cheese, a swiss cheese mecca across the street from the Chalet; Miller's Bakery, a place already on the radar of several tour members; Hershberger's, a good sized farm/bakery/country store complex just a bit further along the route from Miller's; and last but not least, Kauffman's near the end of the route, across the street from Heini's Cheese Chalet where unlimited cheese tasting rules and where one could probably find a new cheese every day for two or three months!
The fabulous rolling Amish farmlands scenery aside, the big hit of the day proved to be Miller's Bakery. We were very surprised to learn that a few of our out-of-town riders ALREADY knew about that place!!
The bakery sits atop a hill, so one does have to do an honest little climb to earn the goodies that lie ahead. And what goodies are there? Well, just about anything you can think of in the "sweet and sinful" food group. Some folks were partial to the fruit and cheese-filled tarts, others liked the massive cinnamon rolls and equally massive apple fritters (Rod's favorite). The maple long johns didn't seem to be that big, but by the time you work your way through all the very rich and delicious cream filling, you are a most contented carbo-charged cyclist ready to take on the final hills of the route leading toward our overnight town of Berlin.
Oh, did I mention that Rod was driving SAG that on this day, so he was "paying forward" by inhaling his sizable apple fritter. But alas he would surely burn up his fritter on Day 4 which would become the toughest day of the tour for both short and long route riders.
All this stuff took pace before the routes split, with the usual long route crew led by Wayne, Shawne and Joe venturing onto the long route taking them through Millersburg. Things get more hilly on that route, with the crown jewel being probably the LONG climb on state highway 241.
Before closing, just a few comments on Heini's Cheese Chalet. This place sits on a fairly busy street corner just before a right turn that would take us well on our way toward the Berlin Grande Hotel, our home away from home for the next two days.
Heini's is a combination meat and cheese retailer, manufacturer/packager, and all-round tourist trap (but I say that in the best possible way!!) When you enter the place, you very quickly find yourself walking through the aisles of the "cheese showcase" where there are dozens of wonderful Amish cheeses, each having a plastic bin full of cubed samples which you can taste to your heart's content (but please use the toothpicks provided and don't put the toothpick in your mouth!). It's easy pickings (no, actually it's very difficult pickings because of too many choices) to stock up for our evening wine and cheese parties.
Having left Heini's (with Kauffman's Bakery right across the street just in case anyone failed to overload sufficiently at Miller's), there would be one final hill to bring out the riders' colorful vocabulary, just a block before turning into the Berlin Grande, which does have an uphill driveway!!
END of Day 3. Whew!!
After a very successful and mostly pleasant Sunday warmup ride, the riders were bright eyed and bushy tailed Monday morning and ready to hit the road early, i.e., close to 8 AM, to enjoy a fuller day exploring the areas between Coshocton and Dresden, Ohio, the latter bring the home of the Longaberger Basket Company, famous for its highly desirable line of wicker baskets.
The weather was very much in our minds on this morning - the general consensus was that rain was almost certainly on the way, but quite possibly would hold off until sometime in the afternoon. Nonetheless the group was ready to go!
As with Day 1, there was an almost even split between those riding the long and the short routes. Going the longer distance that would take them right past the Longaberger Homestead shopping complex were Helene, Don, Wayne, Shawne, Joe and their ringleader Rod. The short route riders were Krista, Kim, Mary, Ben, "Riding Rita", Mike, and management representative Joe.
At first there was fog. Pretty thick fog. As Rod would later post on Facebook, it would have been really good to have windshield wipers on our glasses. There was a lot of climbing very early on this day's ride, and under more normal circumstances the views from the roads we climbed would have been fabulous. But the fog took those views away from us. Furthermore, Don blew a valve stem while simply standing beside his bike taking a break, giving us the first flat tire of the trip. Well, in a nutshell the rain came, and it came way too early for our liking. Everybody got wet and most if not all of us sought shelter somewhere along the way, waiting for the rains to let up, and more importantly, for the threat of lightning to dissipate.
Some of the long route riders took cover at Longaberger Homestead, a great and very logical idea, EXCEPT for the fact that Longaberger had lost their electricity!! So all that our heroes could do while there was to use the Welcome Center's restrooms with the help of borrowed flashlights, then try and wait out the rain inside that dark building.
Meanwhile over on the short route, specifically County Road 4, what should have been a lovely ridge ride turned into a rainy mess for 3 of our riders, Mary, Krista and Kim, who decided it was in their best interest to seek shelter in the nearest barn. When the BCR SAG team got wind of the fact that several riders were no longer moving along the route, some phone calls were made and as a result our SAG-master du jour, Tom, embarked on a rescue mission to bring the 3 barn-ridden ladies plus Don and Helene, back to home base for a quick end to their day. All the others elected to continue as the rain did lighten up somewhat and the threat of lightning thankfully subsided.
Ben, Riding Rita and Mike plodded along, with only a brief visit to the planned snack stop under the Dresden historic suspension bridge to fuel them through the rest of the ride. Rod continued to lead Wayne, Joe and Shawne through the remainder of the long loop toward the promise of a sit-down lunch in Dresden, while tour leader Joe continued along the short route alone after taking cover in first a homeowner's porch swing-gazebo, then a horse barn (see photos).
When Joe reached the outskirts of Dresden, the lure of a McDonald's latte was too good to pass up. As he sipped that latte on their patio (quite comfy outdoors by now whereas the inside air conditioning was cold enough to freeze beef) Rod and crew came by, stopped to caucus, and Joe agreed to meet them shortly at the Depot restaurant for lunch.
Upon completing that wonderful latte, Joe took off in hot pursuit and finally got Rod and crew in his sights just a few blocks from the Depot. Surprisingly Joe noticed the group riding right PAST the Depot and then turning off the route in an odd diirection. It turned out that Rod, our day-in day-out master of route navigation, had had his navigation circuitry apparently blow out along with the Longaberger Homestead power subsystem.
After further hot pursuit by Joe, we regrouped and headed back over to the Depot, also guiding Kathy our #2 SAG driver, through Dresden to join us.
We finally did get to enjoy a nice lunch at the Depot. The soup and sandwich or salad special was a hit, as were the signature Depot sweet potato fries that we shared around the table. While we were in mid-meal we spotted Don and Helene walking toward the restaurant. They had gotten cleaned up and then come down to Dresden by car to explore the town as "civilians".
The remainder of the ride back to Coshocton was very nice. The skies cleared somewhat and no more rain fell. People were able to enjoy the "dinner out" night with some flexibility to go out and about as they pleased.
A number of us decided to order pizzas in and drink up some of the remaining beer and wine from the wine and cheese reception, while sitting otdoors in the hotel's gazebo. Others did go out, finding places to eat such as the Uncorked wine bar in Roscoe Village.
We had all heard talk of a polar vortex coming and were hoping that would mean very comfortable temperatures and no more rain for the days ahead.
A wonderful and enthusiastic group of cyclists, plus Rita, our one very congenial non-cyclist, gathered at the Coshocton Village Inn and Suites ready to ride on this cloudy Sunday. The weather outlook was very uncertain, just like virtually any other day in year 2014, but all were game to get on the road and hope for the best.
Check-in went very quickly, allowing a good amount of time for a pre-ride briefing, and then an early departure to boot. We had a roughly even split between short and long route riders, and perhaps a different roughly even split as to who got hit by the passing showers and who did not. A number of the riders did do the hilly few miles to the finish, including a few who contemplated the "crossover" road back across to flat US 36, but passed it up because it seemed to add more miles. Their price for this decision of course was riding those big hills which apparently came as a surprise!!
One rider, Mike, hit the pavement somewhat before the rest stop at the high school as the result of a dog running onto the road. However he bounced right up and finished the day with no significant harm to body or bike, and a very upbeat attitude over the whole thing.
And so we all wrapped up the ride, got ourselves checked in and cleaned up, and enjoyed a nice opening party at the Warehouse Steak 'n Stein in Roscoe Village. Our thanks to owner John and to Jeannie "Server Babe" who treated us well. With the skies threatening to open up once more, we settled on an outdoor wine and cheese reception then an indoor dinner. The ribs with maple glazed sweet potato fries seemed to be the hit of the evening as far as dinners went.
We've noticed that Home and Away
, the official publication of the Ohio AAA Auto Club, has made mention of lots of places that will be visited by Buckeye Country Roads customers.
Starting with the Erie Shores and Islands Tour
, we found a nice article "Island Eats"
extolling the culinary virtues of the Lake Erie Islands, two or which will be visited on the June tour. Apparently there's some pretty good lobster bisque, BBQ chicken and a whole lot more to be found in Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, not to mention the fine beer and wines to be sampled at the island's craft brewery and two wineries. Over on Kelleys Island, another Erie Shores and Islands day trip, there's still more great stuff to eat and drink.Turning our attention to the July Amish Country Adventure, one might check out "Savoring the Moment" for a nice survey of the wine and cheese scene that these lucky cyclists will become immersed in, followed by "As Easy as Pie" to learn about some of the very wonderful sweet treats to be found in this area.Finally, the fabulous start point of the September Bridges and Buggies tour is not without mention in "Great Lake Getaway" which calls attention to the 10th anniversary of the Lodge at Geneva-on-the Lake. Those wondering why Ohioans liken the wine country of the Grand River Valley to that of California's Napa and Sonoma regions should take a look at "AAA Quick Trips: Glass Half Full" which specifically mentions Chalet Debonne and South River Vineyard, just two of the many wineries to be visited on this tour.
It's January, it's gray, it's cold, and the happy holiday season is gone for another year. What to do?
I try to get out on my bike every month of the year. Temperatures of at least 40 plus clear roads will generally allow this to happen. This year, I don't know. I'm hearing so many ominous forecasts of a super cold nasty winter -- I do hope there is a chance to find at least one day when I can spin the pedals outside in January.
Meanwhile it's a good time to think about where to ride my bike in 2014 once the good weather months do arrive. So many great possibilities are out there -- rides I've done before and would love to repeat, plus many rides I've never done and would really love to try.
Certainly many other folks are in the same situation regarding their 2014 cycling plans. Buckeye Country Roads is gearing up for what we hope to be a great season featuring 3 (actually 4 with the separate Bridges/Buggies segments) outstanding tours that can satisfy a wide range of cycling ability levels and trip duration/timing constraints. Day by day, we are getting the word out any way we can about these great tours. We'll be most happy to chat with anyone who may be wondering "why ride in Ohio?" We KNOW why, and so do all of our 2013 customers, some of whom are coming back to ride with us again in 2014.
So get comfortable by the fire, pick up your laptop or your phone, and get in touch today with Buckeye Country Roads to find out all about "Ohio as you've never seen it!" If you are among the lucky who don't need to have a fire to get comfy in January, count your blessings but still please do check us out if you are looking for a new cycling adventure in 2014!
introduces the three tours for 2014: