Cuyahoga National Park snuck up on us. We altered our route slightly leaving Detroit, and in doing so sent us through Cuyahoga. I didn't even know this park existed but was pleased we were going through it. The park was lush: full of maple and oak trees and very beautiful in parts. Other parts were surprisingly developer and even had some sort of processing plant that fouled up the air. It would have made Teddy Roosevelt go into asthmatic shock. We rode on along the Erie Canal towpath, an old mule path used to pull boats from Cleveland to Akron. The trail was rained on gracefully by golden leaves reminding us once again of fall and that our time on the road would soon be over.
After 26 miles we saw a familiar darkness appear overhead and a change in the wind. We parked ourselves at a conveniently placed McDonalds and seconds later the rain came. Lightning flashed and thunder shook the building. We would be here awhile. Coffee and ice cream was in order. After an hour, we realized we would not be making it to Salem, Ohio that night as we had planned. We started to make some calls. By 7:30 a woman from the Episcopal church offered us a hotel room in town. We turned her down but she insisted. We rode another 10 miles to the hotel, dried off and marveled at the blind generosity of strangers and hoped that we never take it for granted.
On the forth, we headed for the boroughs near Pittsburgh. It was frustratingly hard to gain any miles. Within 25 miles I had 2 flat tires and a poor attitude. Running out of time in the day due to our trademark late starts, we hitched a 16 mile ride in the back of a Frito-lay truck. I've never wanted chips more than sitting in the back of a moving chip aisle but didn't want to push our luck by popping open a bag.
We rode 22 more miles into Pennsylvania and up multiple mile long hills to meet our host for dinner at Pennsylvania's version of Denny's. Our host was a soon to be retired Presbyterian pastor named John who was letting us sleep in his church. We didn't know it at the time but over the next 24 hours, we would be spending quite a bit of time with John. Our night ended by riding 8 more miles downhill in the pitch black to John's church. We need to do more night riding, I've never felt so terrified but also so alive!
In the morning we rode 12 miles to the borough of New Brighton to meet John and 8 other men for breakfast. We were there for two and a half hours. We heard stories gathered from generations of experiences and cruel jokes that only can come from men of the Rustbelt. These guys were Pittsburgh through and through and it will forever shape how I see the city. They wore suspenders over cartoon T-shirts. The entire room spent ten minutes telling us turn by turn directions of how to get to the city. We could help by smile. I didn't have the heart to tell them we would probably just google it. After hearing a couple more stories with one foot on our pedals, we kicked off for the 20 mile ride into the city where we were meeting John for lunch. I told you we'd be seeing a lot of him.
Photos: Erie Canal Towpath in Cuyahoga//riding in the back of the Frito Lay truck// Kyle and I with Pastor John in Pittsburgh