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NEOC 21: The Fix Works
A Review of the Northeast
Ohio Century, September 15,
By Jim Joyce
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." So goes the wise old adage. Then why go changing one of the most revered centuries in the country? That's what hundreds of other cyclists and I were wondering on our way toward Warren, Ohio.
The Northeast Ohio Century, fondly known as "NEE-ock," is hosted by the Outspokin' Wheelmen, a Youngstown based club. This gem of a ride was voted a couple of years ago by readers of Bicycle USA magazine as one of the top three centuries in the country. They honored this event for many reasons: the up-close- and-personal views of the Amish farms and families; the combination of flat and mildly to moderately hilly terrain; the routes made up mainly of backroads with very little traffic; the passes through neat little Ohio towns with tidy squares and shops; the hint of fall colors on the trees; the cool ride patch; and the excellent markings and support throughout. These features are just dandy but what no doubt catapulted the event to the top were the homemade cookies and the excellent assemble-your-own-killer-sandwich lunch. Scarcely a single NEOC veteran has reminisced about a completed ride without raving about fresh snickerdoodles, oatmeal scotchies, and a sandwich stacked with turkey, ham, swiss and slices of real garden tomatoes (no comparison to store-bought).
Fixing Some Problems
This was next to heaven, to be sure, but there were a few problems in paradise. Number one, the club was jockeying with walkers, picnickers, and softball players for parking space and facility use at Packard Park in Warren. Further, traffic was a bit heavy in the city limits of Warren.
The remedy: move the headquarters a few miles from Warren into the county and set up at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds in Champion. This they did, and while they were at it, they rerouted most of the course on to other fine backroads. The pavillion in the city park in Middlefield remained the lunch station.
Excellent Roads and Cookies
If my metric century experience is a good gauge, then the change was worth the trouble. Miraculously, most of the backroads had been paved this past summer and were perfect for touring. Buggy ruts were fewer this year. The cruises through Burton, Hiram College, and the new entry into Middlefield were all fresh, pleasant additions. The 'State Road' portion of the return route had new asphalt, little traffic, and plenty of small hills for variety.
The Nelson Ledges State Park cookie break was better than ever and I could feel a stomach ache coming just afterwards while climbing the steepest hill of the course.
Cool Treat: Hot Eat
The morning was downright chilly--odd for mid September--and brief, cool drizzles sprinkled the ride. By a stroke of luck, steamy hot dogs had replaced the traditional cold cut lunch. Not as healthy but just right for a cool day (brewed hot coffee would have really hit the spot). The lunch stop was at 45 miles, a bit late in the metric century.
I found the event to be well organized with good markings and support. I can't fail to mention that by another stroke of luck, I hooked up during the ride with Al and Eugena Pierce, a friendly couple from the Outspokin' Wheelmen. It turned out that Al had been a designer of this route and of the previous one that had served so well for years. He had painstakingly placed every road marking during the past week. He did a fine job, as did the rest of the crew. I assured him that "The Fix" proved well worth the effort.
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