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From an Anonymous TOSRV Rider
A Review of the Tour of the Scioto River Valley
Columbus, OH | May 10-11, 1997
This piece first appeared in the Cycling Circular, the newsletter of the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. The author is listed only as "A WPW Member."
Over 4,000 riders set out form Columbus, Ohio between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 10 for the 210-mile, two-day ride to Portsmouth, Ohio and back. Many people had stayed in hotels or the YMCA the night before.
At 7:30 a.m. the temperature was 36 degrees. During the day it climbed to 52. There were a few certifiable macho mountain bike men in shorts and t-shirts. The rest of us started in multi-layered winter clothes and peeled off one layer during the day. There was one brief sunny period during the ride when we went through the "Ohio Mountains." Some flatland riders were walking their bikes (WPW riders might have gone to a 42/18 or so to sail over or past them). There was a 10 mph tail wind to help us along.
The rest stops were stocked with fruit including some juicy grapes and oranges. There were also bagels, bread, cream cheese, peanut butter, candy bars, cookies, hot chocolate, coffee, fruit juices, sodas, M&M's, peanuts, raisins and--at lunch--cold cuts, baked potatoes, salad, pasta and vegetable soup. Most riders probably put on several pounds as during the two days many voraciously sampled all of the above. At the lunch stop there was a band playing and singing traditional jazz. I was in a group of three that pushed pretty hard for the first 75 miles, particularly during a central rolling section, but eased off the last bit as we did not want to cramp up. We averaged 16 mph for the day.
There was a support vehicle at least every 2 miles. We only saw the results of one accident which did not look too bad but I'm sure that there were some others judging by the speed and length of some of the pace lines that formed. Some groups had 20 or so riders traveling 25 mph+, which seemed to be on the hairy edge of safety for a group that size, particularly with the many winter potholes, bumps and other hazards. On one stretch some malevolent, terrorist, bike hater had put down some tacks on the road. We were lucky enough not to get flats but several riders did.
Entering Portsmouth in the sun we went through a boozy carnival gauntlet with everybody celebrating the completion of an enjoyable 105 miles. The welcome included barbecues, ice cream vendors, two pubs, bike mechanics and reportedly a massage therapist. We learned that the first riders hit town at an unbelievable 9:30 a.m., which slightly overshadowed our 4:00 p.m. arrival.
Our favorite restaurant, "The Federal House," had gone out of business and last year's very friendly waitress was nowhere to be seen. We had no problems finding our tents and a good camping spot at Spartan Stadium, which had a snack far and was equipped with portable showers. We had a great hot shower before descending into the town's night life, consisting of a plate of cold spaghetti and meat sauce, cakes and bread served by cheerful, helpful 12-year-old girls at a local Methodist Church hall. There was a bike race round part of the town for a few riders who had an obscene amount of energy left after riding a century. Also, there was much sampling of the local micro-brews before settling into a cold semi-sleep in our tents. Some people slept on school gym floors. A lucky few had hotel rooms. (The Portsmouth hotels are sold out for the next three years on the TOSRV Saturday night.)
We were entertained throughout the night by loud train whistles, revving engines from a local hot rod derby, zippers, snores and other unmentionable campground noises. I was freezing in a summer sleeping blanket and every bit of clothing I had. In the morning there was frost on my sleeping blanket and probably elsewhere. One seasoned camper advised me that I would have fared better with a ground sheet and winter sleeping bag. I will be forever grateful for this advice (if not the timing) and have been looking at catalogs since I returned.
Undaunted we packed and drank some coffee before riding into the town at 7:30 a.m. to find a suitable breakfast place for our vision of coffee, orange juice, pancakes, sausage, maple syrup, eggs, bacon, bagels, muffins, etc.--that we did not find. TOSRV was not to blame: once again I learned that if pays to read the instructions before completing a ride.
The wind direction had changed from the day before and we had a glorious 10 mph tail wind again. The temperature started to climb quickly and after the first rest stop, 28 miles out, we started shedding some layers until about the 35-mile point, where we stripped to summer attire--shorts and all--with a temperature close to 70. We undressed at the invitation of an attractive and friendly female rider while we provided appropriate background stripping music.
We saw several women in bikini-like outfits. This added enjoyment to the ride as the group I was in behaved like adolescents accelerating and slowing to draft and chat wit them. Women riding in these conditions, of course, have no fear of--but exhibit substantial pity and friendship towards--aging reprobates acting in this way. They know that after 150 miles or so the riders' physical capability represents little threat to them (and little chance of enjoyment for the riders).
There were many tandems, often together, a perfect fit for the flat to rolling terrain with not one "B" class hill.
I learned the value of confirming other riders' interpretations of a conversation, such as in the case when I cruised up to one of my companions and suggested we stop for a stretch break. He muttered, "OK," and promptly put pedal to the metal and picked up the speed to about 25 mph. I followed, started enjoying it, and after several miles took the lead and hammered hard. Riders we passed (nobody passed us) were saying things like, "Move over, there are a couple of animals behind," and other similar respectful, ego-boosting remarks. After 20 miles we pulled into a rest stop where I asked my companion if this was where we have the stretch-stop. He said, "Stretch stop--I thought you said...let's stretch it out for a bit." Such is the art of communication, I guess. Other members of our group came in not too far behind looking somewhat puzzled.
We all rode very strongly into Columbus, joining a pace line or two on the way. To welcome us, the city had a band, cheering spectators, certificates, and a hot shower at the YMCA.
We congratulated ourselves, remarked that it doesn't get much better than this, said good-byes and drove the four hours back to Pittsburgh with a break for an all you can eat dinner en-route.
A great weekend!
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