North Perry, OH to Lake City, PA

50.7 mi / 11.5 mph / 738 ft. climbing
Home: YMCA Camp Sherwin

We ate breakfast, packed up camp and then rolled our bikes the quarter mile over to the park bathroom to do our morning routines, including teeth brushing, contact cleaning, etc. Loitering about with our wheeled vehicles heavily laden with overstuffed bags, we felt somewhat more like the standard definition of “homeless people”, because this was just a “park bathroom”, not a “campground bathroom”. I felt like most of the morning park users would not even be aware that there is a legal campsite inside their park and thus wonder how these vagabonds ended up in their community, though objectively, we had no evidence that anyone cared.

We were treated to another beautiful day. Temperatures topping out at 72 deg F, and a sky so clear that if you weren’t careful you could cut an eyeball on Lake Erie’s knife-edge horizon. The road remained mostly close to the shore and lightly-traveled, though at Geneva-on-the-Lake we finally passed through the first (only?) tourist-oriented lakeside-summer-vacation small town of the entire Ohio coast.

A rare sand beach at Geneva State Park where we stopped for second-breakfast of “pistachio” muffins.
Watch your eyes! I don’t think that sharp line on the horizon can cut them through your screen, but you can never be too careful!
The horizon isn’t the only horizontal.
Just a little less traffic here than on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

In 2014 we made a memorable stop at the ramshackle Buccia Vineyard, where the owners invited us to take a break in their front yard while they constructed a tiki hut. Arriving there again, the place looked much different than my memories, and there were no tiki huts in evidence. Upon talking with the girl at the counter, we learned that the place had been sold to new owners about five years ago. They clearly had made significant upgrades to the property and turned it into much more of a business. The pourer (who didn’t have to work hard to convince us to go with the wine slushies to drink with our packed lunch) had only worked under the new owners, but she said that the previous owners are still around, and when we described our last experience and what the place used to look like, she gave a knowing laugh and said “yes, that definitely sounds like them!” While a little bit of non-commercial charm may have been lost, overall I took it as a positive development and another indicator of the economic revival of the broader region.

Us, our bikes, and a friendly wet dog at Buccia Vineyard / Winery
Small old country-road cemeteries are something we see a lot more of here than we did on the West Coast.
An 1890s mansion (now bed-and-breakfast) in Conneaut, Ohio.

Three-quarters of our way through the day, we made it to US State #7: Pennsylvania! Finally with a proper sign to indicate our crossing. Another indicator was that we suddenly felt an uptick in unsafe, antagonistic driver behavior, all with Pennsylvania plates. Despite the extremely-limited and unblinded data, I quickly threw together a political theory to explain our observation.

Pennsylvania, US State #7!

We have a general belief that a small (but noticeable) percentage of politically-conservative drivers see our bicycles and use them to classify us as “the enemy”, the liberals they are fighting against. That’s why we feared a return to the U.S. from Mexico, because not only would we be returning to a country where all drivers are less-considerate, we would be traveling through our first “red states”. And that’s why it was so surprising how comfortable the roads have felt for us in the Republican-controlled states of Indiana and Ohio.

So why would Pennsylvania, with a “red” legislature, but a “blue” governor, suddenly feel worse? Shouldn’t it feel better? Well, the reality is that for us, most of our riding is done through “red” areas (given the current high correlation between political allegiance and population density), even if the overall state is painted solidly blue on a political map.

Blue(?) and Red silos in Pennsylvania.

Hence, my theory to explain the paradox: the people in the “red” areas of “red” states feel like they have won the war. They aren’t on the lookout for enemies to take our their frustration on, and the victorious armies are able to comfortably stand down. In contrast, a divided state like Pennsylvania is still at war. The “red” areas are in an active battle against “blue” overlords, so that red blood is kept at a near-boil by an inundation of political rhetoric coming over the airwaves, mailboxes, and social media. And they’re ready to let us socialist-commie-America-hating bike-riding pussies know that they’re fighting mad.

That also explains how the red-inside-blue areas of Washington, Oregon, and California could feel worse than anything in Indiana and Ohio. But as I said, this is a pretty half-cocked theory, so we’ll see how it holds up as we collect more evidence from additional states.

Because this also may just be a region of equal-opportunity assholes. The last couple days, in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, I noticed something I hadn’t seen elsewhere: mailbox protectors (or at least they haven’t consciously registered with me. These are various constructions of wood, steel, and/or brick that sit on one side of a street-facing mailbox post (always “in front” in the direction of traffic). The only explanation I can think of is that there is a rampant culture of drive-by smashing of mailboxes with baseball bats around here, which I’m only aware of through movies. There are some streets where every single mailbox will have such a wall. Or is there some other obvious purpose that I’m totally missing?

A mailbox shield?
This mailbox shield is made highly visible, as if it’s to stop people from simply driving, unaware, through the mailbox?

Tonight’s campground was an unusual one: it’s fun to stay at the YMCA! Well, actually it wasn’t super-fun at start. The tent sites were kind of hidden in random places, and had a lot of different pros/cons that varied per site, so it took us forever to settle on one, the whole time while we were tired and hungry. And while the RV sites and the rest of the grounds were in good shape, the tent sites had been mostly-neglected, so I had to clear quite a lot of fallen branches from our site to make it livable. The randomness did give us two picnic table though, and it was beautifully forested and private, so the Village People were right in the end.

Our shady site at YMCA Camp Sherwin.



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