Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure Report
By Dan Sheridan
Originally Published in Marion Star July 5, 2009
The 2009 Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA, June 20 through 27) had special meaning for me.
Nine years ago, GOBA visited Bluffton University in Bluffton, Ohio. I enjoyed the visit, and later suggested that my daughter Angie consider it as a college choice. She decided to attend Bluffton, and there she met her husband, Cole Carpenter. They were married in June, 2009.
Twelve days after the wedding, the optional 100 mile GOBA “century ride” visited the covered bridge where Cole proposed to Angie, the village in which they were married, and the town in which they celebrated their wedding reception. In a sense, this year’s GOBA completed the circle that started nine years ago.
My son Alex (age 22) accompanied me on my 12 previous GOBA rides, but his OSU class work interfered this year. Alex’s sibling Ryan (age 6) has ridden in a buggy behind my bike on three GOBAs, and this year progressed to a trailer-bike that attached to the back of my bicycle. Ryan cycled with me until mid-week. He did well, but was homesick after a few days, so my wife picked him up in Bowling Green.
The adventure started with a short Saturday evening bicycle parade to downtown Norwalk, Ohio for a street party. On Sunday, cyclists pedaled to Elmore, Ohio, where the nearly 2,700 participants tripled the village population. After two nights in Elmore, the tour moved on to Bowling Green, and then to Defiance.
The riders spent two nights on the beautiful campus of Defiance College, before journeying to Fostoria and then back to Norwalk. Daily distances ranged from 49 to 60 miles. On two “optional days”, cyclists could either enjoy the towns or go for a ride.
The participants came from 41 states, Canada, Japan, and China, and ranged from children in buggies to an 88 year old from Granville, Ohio. One family rode a five person bike, while two other families had four person bicycles.
Marion native Chase Curren scheduled his Air Force leave from Okinawa, Japan so that he could fly home for GOBA. Kelly Waddell of Cardington was given the trip as a 40th birthday present in April by his wife and children. At least eight other GOBA entrants were from the Marion area.
A Boy Scout Troop from the Dayton area made the trip with 16 scouts. Troop leaders required each scout to cycle at least 350 miles in the months leading up to GOBA, and reported that most of the boys exceeded 600 miles.
“Grandma’s GOBA Gang”, a family group led by “Grandma” Marlene Welsh of Lancaster, Ohio, brought 14 riders. The girls slept in one tent and the boys in another, as siblings and cousins enjoyed each other’s company for a week.
In addition to the college campus in Defiance, riders also camped at fairgrounds and high schools. Most participants set up tents, but some slept on gym floors or in hotels.
Each morning, cyclists loaded their luggage onto one of four large semi-trailers. Most riders started early to avoid the afternoon heat, with some leaving at first light. The campground was nearly empty by 8 a.m. The first riders to arrive in camp unloaded the trucks, filling the parking lot with thousands of colorful bags.
Each campground was stocked with several dozen portable toilets, and the three daily rest stops each had 16 portable toilets. Two large shower trucks were located in the campgrounds, each providing continuous hot water for 16 people. The trucks were divided into sections for men and women.
At each rest stop and campground, local non-profit organizations sold food to the riders. Rest stops often featured playgrounds for children, as well as musical entertainment.
Several days were quite hot, but the winds were generally cooperative, and no rain fell on the riders. Approaching the finish, one cyclist seemed to sum up the feelings of many, saying “It’s a good feeling to be almost done, but I hate to see this journey end.”
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