Monday, August 30, 2021

Nestled in Comfortable Friendships

Dear Friends and Family,

Are you feeling blessed?

Yesterday, as I was driving around exploring the Cleveland, Ohio area, it hit me once again how incredibly blessed I am.

I drove there to stick my feet in yet another Great Lake on this trip.  Lake Erie is the lake that was on fire in the early 70's that spurred Congress to pass some legislation to protect our waterways.  The freedom to dump our waste into our joint waterways or on the ground is overruled by the higher cause of the common good. 

I took a picture of people on the rocks next to the sign that told them not to do that.  We are so...

Wow, I am so fortunate to be middle class and white and born in America during this particular era of history.  The advance in technology in just my lifetime (1950s-2020s).  And my freedom to travel comes from a societal and financial security not even imagined in some parts of the world or among the stuck or the poor in our own country.

On my way driving from Michigan to here I entered a small town and on a motel sign it advertised, "Air Conditioning, Dial Phones".  It made me chuckle.  The sign was in good repair too, so either they are maintaining it for nostalgia's sake, or it isn't that old. 

In Cleveland I drove by tenement style housing, probably originally government housing, a series of old brick buildings, where the red brick is tinged black, and the grass is pretty much gone from the yards.  And just then my phone told me to make a turn.  And I was struck by how very fortunate I am.

I hardly had to spend any time planning my route because technology did it for me.  On the way into Cleveland I had taken Freeways.  It was a Sunday morning and I figured there would be little traffic and I wasn't hauling Lilac, so I could go the speed and merge into a smaller space if needed.  The freeway route would save 15 minutes!

I was reminded why I prefer not to travel that way.  I was so stressed!  My hands gripped the wheel.  There were signs everywhere, lanes to change because of exit only signs, and freeways crisscrossing. Even with my google lady giving me directions and low traffic it was nerve wracking.  If I made a wrong turn, (which I did by being in the wrong lane once) I would be on another freeway and it would be miles before I would be back on track.  

My eyes and brain had to stay focused on the task.  Just a very brief glance at the skyline.  A very brief notice of the humongous coal factory with black mountains and huge steel structures for moving it around, and I would miss an important sign telling me my lane would end, or my exit was coming up.

On the return trip I clicked the option to not go on the freeways or tollways and the ride was so much more pleasant. I got to see so much more of the city because I was able to look around.  It was easier to make a spontaneous decision to stop at a park, turn around and look at something closer.   Even though it took me longer, it was well worth it.

I stopped and turned around when I saw a sign for Chagrin Reserve.  I didn't know what a Reserve was, but had seen a few in the area on Googlemaps.

 It is a large park or preserve with picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and this one had a few waterfalls and a rock.   


When a woman giving me directions on my hike said that there was caution tape across the trail, but if I went a little further I could see the rock. I thought, how would I know if I encountered the rock?  There were big boulders everywhere.  The caution tape had already been knocked down.  So like the people at the beach standing on the rocks next to the sign that told them not to do that, I stepped across the tape and maneuvered my way around fallen trees and mini-landslides.

When I saw the rock, though, I knew this was the rock.

Later I saw a kiosk that explained it was carved by one man in about 1895. 

There were more waterfalls to hike to in Chagrin Reserve, but it was hot and humid and I was anxious to get back to camp.  My Florida friends Cindy and Regis had arrived!


In 1989 I had a melanoma on my right arm.  It was removed, found malignant, so they went back in took a bigger chunk and all the lymph nodes under the arm.  No more cancer was found, no treatment was needed. I tell you this because I just noticed my right sleeve of my shirt is tight.
When I get a scratch or nick in that arm there are no lymph nodes to grab the infection or whatever it is they do, and my arm swells.  Then I have to either sit around with my arm elevated or I have to take a round of antibiotics.  When I am sitting I am driving or writing or reading.  All those require my hands.

Today I will try lymph massage or I think it was called smoothing out the Chi in Qi Gong.

To fill you in on the time before I visited Cleveland and Regis and Cindy arrived, I need to go back to Friday when I arrived here in Stow, OH.

I set up camp in the city campground in Stow, Ohio.  A woman drove buy in one of those conversion vans.   I waved because I was hoping it was another woman solo traveler that was camping here.  Maybe we could have happy hour together!  On her second time around the campground she stopped and asked if she could talk with me.  
"Sure! I will pull out another chair."
Her name is Sandra Sage and she keeps a blog and a Facebook group, Sage and Spirit in VAN-derland.  Spirit is her cat.  She is from Sarasota, FL and also is escaping the summer heat... or trying too.  It has been 90 and humid here too.

After she talked for quite a while I asked if she wanted to walk or bike because after being in the car all day, I needed to move.  She was happy with the idea and I helped her get her heavy bicycle off the back of her van.  I noticed her tires were soft and I pumped them up for her.  I also noticed her chain and gears were covered in rust.  I was going to suggest we clean and oil them, but I decided not to get involved in that project with her.

We only biked six miles in total, stopping very often to take pictures or talk to passers by.  She seemed to delight in connecting with as many people as possible.  No person is a stranger to her.
She'd ask, "Is this venue for rent?  How much?"  "Is that lake man-made or natural?"  "Can you swim in it?"
She used to be a travel guide and got discounted travel opportunities.  She told me she had been to 18 countries.

We stopped at an intersection and directly across from us an older woman came out her front door.  She looked exactly like the fairy tail old woman that lived in a shoe or Red Riding Hood's grandmother.  She had on a light blue cotton dress that came to just above her ankles, she had on a bonnet and a dark shawl over her stooped shoulders.  She gripped the shawl with one hand and carried a basket or tote with the other.  She shuffled over to an apple tree in her front yard and picked up a few pieces of fruit off the ground.

Sandra stood right out in the open snapping picture after picture of the woman.  I thought the woman would get mad and I rode away, but Sandra said the woman didn't seem to notice her at all.  I hope Sandra posts one of the pictures on her Facebook page so I can copy it and show you.


Anyway, Sandra took pictures of the inside of Lilac to share with a friend of hers who is contemplating a life of camping and travel.

Sandra stays at Walmarts, so I used my phone and my Allstays app to help her find one close by that allows overnight parking.

The next day was Saturday. I planned on doing a long bike ride. I mapped out a loop I could bicycle that would take me into Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  

I took a trail right from the campground and then got on a road that went down down down toward the valley.  As I was coasting I was thinking I had to save energy for the climb back up or find a more gradual climb out of the valley.

I ran into a road closure, fully blocked with even a sign that said no bicycles.  So just 15 miles into my ride I had to re-route and change my plan.  The thing is, I was close to a bike trail, just on the other side of the river was the Towpath.
Fortunately the reroute wasn't back up out of the valley, and with just a couple low-traffic roads and I joined the Towpath at the Hunt Farm Visitor Center.  

I started my ride and then realized it appeared that was a big vegetable market near the museum. 


I had forgotten to pack my face mask.  But I went into the busy open-air store anyway.  I thought of my friends Cindy and Diane who would be delighted as I was at this find.  Though much of the produce was not local.  The orange I bought was from Australia.  It had traveled a long way and burned my lips and tongue it was so acidic.

 Instead of mapping my circular route, I just started riding north toward Lake Erie on the Towpath Trail.  It was shady and interesting with all its locks and history.  Plus there was some kind of run going on so there were all these adolescent boys in great shape with their shirts off, skin shining with sweat, and young athletic women, some not sweating at all!

I tried to figure out if the excitement of seeing them was some remaining hormones waking up, but realized what I was feeling was more like the thrill of encountering a beautiful strong horse.  It wasn't sexual at all, it was awe and joy at witnessing their athleticism and robust health.  So I guess I am not a dirty old woman after all.

My aim was to reach Peninsula because Sandra had mentioned she wanted to go there.  At Penisula the trail crosses an old lock and then winds down so you can stand inside it.

A kiosk explained that the masons that cut the rock chipped an identification in their rock because the managers liked to keep count of the production rate of each mason.  They probably had a quota.  I found a V and a II mark on some stones.  I am guessing the marks that only required two strikes of the hammer were highly prized.  V, T, II, X?

The visitor's center required masks.  Fortunately they had paper masks available for those who forgot theirs.  

I was really hoping for a coffee shop, but there wasn't one in Peninsula.  I got a coffee to go at the local cafe.

In Peninsula I tried to route my way back to camp, but it routed me down the same blocked road I had tried to come in on.

I went a few miles further on the Towpath Trail thinking I would cut over later, when it occurred to me I should really REALLY map a shorter route back to camp.

I was determined not to go back up that same road with the long hill that I coasted down into the valley on.

I mapped my route to go up to Akron vial the Towpath and then cut over to the Freedom Trail and then zig zag roads to my campsite.

I read a kiosk that talked about the problems that they would have when two boats arrived at the lock at the same time.  I wonder if instead of road rage they called it canal rage.

In Akron there are several locks because the water descends quite a bit there.  Which means I still had to climb out of the valley.

And the day was getting very hot and humid.  And I had already ridden 43 miles.

Let's just say my body was very tired when I got back to my campsite.  My phone was almost out of power even with the battery pack to recharge.  


Why?  Why do I do such long rides, when the pleasure of it is pretty much over at 40 miles?   Sigh.

As I rode I thought about food.  So when I got home I sat and chopped veggies and made my dinners for the coming week and ate hearty.

Cauliflower, parsley, broccoli, carrots, onion, and chickpea pasta.

I then drove to Anytime and took a shower.  Then I used Googlemaps to find Little Free Libraries near me.  Yes!  Those Little Free Libraries can be found using Googlemaps!  I love it!

The closest one was so cute.  In a neighborhood of conventional boring lawns, this one was full of wild flowers and whimsical statuary.

 I had a couple books to donate, and a I took one

That night I couldn't sleep and had such a horrible cramp in my thigh and hip-flexer that once I got it to relax it felt like the slightest move would trigger it to cramp again.  

My son used to have an illness that caused his muscles to cramp up like that for long periods.  I can not even imagine how horrible that was.  


Diane sent me a few of the pictures she took while we were together in Marquette, MI.  They turned out really great.


I love the symbolism in this next one.  Me alone looking out at the vastness in front of me.  


Diane says it is a reminder that we are small in the universe.

More good news!  Ann and Fred who have been traveling at the same time and visiting some of the same places are finally going to hook up with me for a day of riding!  They are going to meet me and Jean Hawks for a ride on the Alegheny River Trail in Pennsylvania later this week.  Yay!

But now I need to end this quick because I am riding with Regis and Cindy today and I just realized it is time to leave!!!



  1. A really nice blog! I enjoyed seeing your photos from the northern part of this region. We have ridden the towpath trail but mostly, from a little north of Akron to points farther to the south.

  2. You seek joy in every encounter. Others sense that and are comfortable in your presence.

  3. You missed a good long ride Sun. morning (8/29). Bike Cleveland held their Fundo ride to raise money for their bicycle advocacy. I did the 30 mile course. Great ride through parts of the city and lots of miles on their great trail system. I wanted to do the 60 mile ride but the heat and humidity were just too much. I enjoy your writing.


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