by Abbey Roy
It started out as a Father's Day
excursion. My brother Ben, The Amateur Jetsetter, was leaving on Father's Day
morning for Morocco, with a
layover in Paris for a few obligatory shots of
the Eiffel Tower. The least I could do as the only
remaining (nee) Stirgwolt sibling in the country was to offer some sort of
consolation prize for the man who has put up with our shenanigans for the last
quarter century, give or take.
For my dad, though--and me, too--our
Little Miami Scenic Trail bike trip would be more than mere consolation. It
promised to evolve into a belated coming-of-age tale; an exclusive chance to
experience our beloved Buckeye
State in a way we never
had--on two wheels.
The logistics as initially planned
were daunting for two amateur cycling enthusiasts without the hours to devote
to training: two days, 70 miles apiece. Our own miniature GOBA (that's Great
Ohio Bicycle Adventure) minus the $200 entry fee and 2,000 other cyclists.
Just me and Dad, a fanny pack, our
cameras and our bikes.
Dad spent weeks working out the
details. They changed a few times, eventually shrinking to a single-day,
75-mile trip the Friday after Father's Day (thanks to rain delays and conflicting
dentist appointments), beginning in Cincinnati and ending in Springfield, where
Mom, having freshly returned from a day of antique shopping, would pick us up
and haul us back to Newark, Ohio.
On Thursday, the day before we
left, Dad called me between work meetings to tell me how excited he was. He had
been telling me that for weeks. It was cute. He was like a little kid--a 59-year-old
kid--getting ready to go to Disney World for the first time.
Friday was gray and intermittently
drizzly and generally unpleasant, which didn't much matter after several days'
worth of delayed plans: It could have been hailing and we would still have left
the house by 8 a.m. to drive to Cincinnati
in hopes that the sun eventually would peek out.
Sitting in the back seat with Dad
at the wheel took me back to the summer vacations when the four of us piled
into our 1991 Plymouth Voyager, camping gear and a week's worth of supplies
jammed in the back, ready for untold adventure. On this particular day, my parents were old enough to get
senior discounts at most sit-down chain restaurants, my brother was spending
two months in North Africa and I was leaving behind a 23-month-old and husband.
Certainly a lot had changed over
the years, but there was no doubt about it: The same old excitement was there.
In the passenger seat, Mom worked
to double-, triple- and quadruple-check the directions from the Cincinnati trailhead to the Springfield antique mall. It was obvious she
had a few misgivings about the operation, but after 36 years of marriage, as I
understand it, you have to pick your battles. This was a battle Dad had won.
We arrived at the Little Miami
Golf Center around 11 a.m. and learned during our short passage from the
entryway to the parking area that there's actually such a thing as lawn
bowling, though the foreboding clouds evidently had discouraged enthusiasts
from demonstrating that morning. We prepped the bikes, changed into
our gear, said bye to Mom, suggested that she try lawn bowling and were off.
The journey started out chilly
with a tinge of nervousness about the drizzle, as we'd both packed only short
sleeves. But we warmed up as we pedaled and chatted about our plans for the
trip, wished Ben could have been there and marveled at the beauty of the trees
arcing over the path and the river--muddy as it was--along the route.
Within the first 10 miles we were
planning a similar trek upon Ben's return--maybe a two-dayer in the fall.
Dad was in the lead as we held
about 16 mph, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. I followed close behind with
a goofy grin on my face for no other reason than that this was shaping up to be
a pretty darn good day.
We made several stops along the
way, once to lunch at a Loveland
coffee shop that was absolutely fitting for a journey like this, packed from
wall to wall with quaint cottagey decor and fitted with a bathroom that doubled
as a storage closet. I took a picture of the aprons hanging on the door.
Over peanut butter granola bars,
we waited out a pesky rainstorm in Corwin under an empty picnic shelter; I took
advantage of the down time to snap a few close-ups of the specks of mud that
had sprayed from the bicycle tires onto my legs as we rolled over the wet path.
We moved on.
As the miles added up, we talked
less and looked more. I led for a short while at Dad's urging, but eventually
traffic on the path died down and we fell to riding side by side.
By the time we were a few miles
away from Xenia,
after more gradual climbs than I'd counted on or prepared for, the thought of
stopping early crept into my mind. But every time I'd glance to my left and see
Dad, his "high-vis" neon green bike shirt nearly glowing beside me, I put my
head down and forced my legs to move up, down, up, down, around and around,
rotation after rotation, mile after mile.
He had 30-plus years on me. Didn't
he ever get tired?
We kept going despite mounting
protests from our saddle-sore and pedal-weary bodies, stopping briefly in Xenia before coming to
the unpleasant realization that more dark clouds were approaching. As we ducked
under a maple tree to wait out the downpour, we actually discussed stopping.
"You don't want to bag it here, do
you?" Dad asked.
I had been thinking of it. We'd
come nearly 60 miles, a record for both of us. But we'd wanted to reach 75, to
make it to Springfield.
I paused a moment before replying.
"Part of me knows the next 20
miles are going to be grueling," I said. "But the other part of me hates
I knew I got that from him.
Finally we agreed to ride to
Yellow Springs before calling to Mom to pick us up, presumably with a stash of
great antique-store finds. It seemed like a nice compromise. By the time we arrived, it was
around 5 p.m. and we were shivery from the combination of rain and a light wind
that seemed to have come out of nowhere. The sun had just come out and we
dismounted--stiffly and triumphantly--stretched and relished the feeling of
being off the bike seat.
I took a picture of the Yellow
Springs sign and the cute fabric flowers that adorned it, and the mile marker from where we stood to Cincinnati: 68 miles, it said. We enjoyed a
nice dinner with Mom and, though slightly disappointed we didn't finish out at
an even 70 miles, agreed we were pleased with the day's accomplishments.
As Dad drove the van back to Newark and I devoured most
of the remaining Twizzlers in our snack stash, I took my place in the back seat
and thought about the many times during those 68 miles I'd thought I'd like to
And how, every time, I'd look over
at Dad--the little kid in a big kid's body--pushing forward almost
effortlessly, as if the Magic
Kingdom were just ahead.
It always made me smile despite my
fatigue, and it kept us going--together.
is a native of northeast Ohio and transplant to central Ohio, where she is a
newspaper reporter, wife and mom. When she was five, her dad insisted on
teaching her to ride her bike without using training wheels. She's been rolling
Photos courtesy of Abbey Roy.