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Perfect R&R For Cyclists: Midwest B&Bs
A Review of the Book, Bed, Breakfast & Bike Midwest
By Robert and Theresa Russell
Reviewed by Jim Joyce, Editor, Bikexchange.com
Just think of it...
"You enter Ivy House through a screened-in porch, where you can while away the time relaxing after a ride, reading, visiting with other guests, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet. Proceeding into the living area, you'll find comfortable green wicker furniture beneath a ceiling fan that diffuses the fresh breezes off Lake Erie." (from page 197, about Ivy House, Marblehead, Ohio)
Ah, how my wife would enjoy this...
"On the second floor, you'll be delighted by Grandma's Attic, which has a cheery holiday feel. The dark green and berry wallpaper exudes a sense of well-being and relaxation. The day bed and white metal queen-size bed might have come straight from your own grandmother's attic." (from page 180, about The Cornerstone Inn, Archbold, Ohio)
These are just two of the many carefully crafted descriptions that abound in this recently published book by a husband-wife writing team from Toledo, Ohio. The couple lodged, dined and biked at 27 bed-and-breakfasts (that's right, 27 of them!) in the states of Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. One can easily appreciate the time it must have taken them to research so many locales and cover so many B&Bs, one by one. What resulted from their adventures and their strict attention to detail is a very thorough and thoroughly interesting guidebook to the best of biking and lodging in America's heartland.
As a rule the Midwest has a tradition of friendliness to bicyclists. In Ohio, for instance, a dozen well-marked bike routes crisscross the state from border to border and are heavily used by commuters and tourists. My brothers and I once drove from Pennsylvania to bike about 200 miles on the "Cardinal Bike Trail" because of its excellent markings and familiarity with the locals. Two brothers named Wright hailed from Dayton, Ohio, where they ran a bikeshop and dabbled in a sideline of constructing the first manned flying machine. It is only fitting, then, that these Ohioans have seized the opportunity to create this latest addition to the Anacus Press Bed, Breakfast, and Bike Series. Co-author Theresa Russell, a frequent contributor to this online magazine, has written with distinction about cycle touring in New Hampshire, Ohio, St. Croix and Mexico, where she is now working on a guide to cycling the Yucatan Peninsula. Her skillful wording and writer's eye are apparent as this paperback rises above the literary quality of the common guidebook.
Contrary to popular belief, much of the Midwest is not flat and, accordingly, the Russells have included inns and bike routes from lands of giant hills (Southern Ohio), valleys, rolling terrain, lakefronts and, of course, plains. One route even includes a ferry and an island (Kelley's Island in Lake Erie).
The book makes it very easy to tap into this world of prime backroads cycling. While each inn and meal offering is described with "Antique Road Show" care, biking content is plentiful and handy. The book is divided by state, then subdivided into separate chapters for each inn. Each inn is introduced by a cleverly-appropriate literary quote, followed by a detailed verbal portrait of the exterior and interior, and then by a list of biking information that includes these sections: Terrain, Traffic, Road Conditions, Nearest Bike Shop, and Mountain Biking Opportunities. The price range of each is also listed in one of four categories, ranging from "budget" to "luxury". Another helpful section lists the convention and visitor bureaus serving the areas where the inns are located. All of this information is quite valuable for those planning weekend bike getaways but not planning on any surprises.
What does pleasantly surprise the reader, however, is the variety of accommodations (one is a sternwheeler riverboat, for petesake), the many descriptions of meals, and the listings of not one, but two, suggested bike routes from each inn. Each route is described in paragraph text, on a simple but complete map, and in a detailed cue-sheet.
But the most pleasant surprise for this would-be cycling gourmet (every real cyclist loves to eat) was the final chapter listing 18 recipes generously shared by inn hosts along the way. Culinary delights range from "Blueberry-Walnut Coffeecake" to "Irish Soda Bread" to "Hash Brown Quiche."
This guidebook is well-researched, entertaining and, put simply, outstanding. Suggestions for improvement of this book are few, but include:
- While most inns were featured in photos, not all were, and this would be very helpful to potential travelers.
- Provide at least one route in each state that connects two inns, for those cyclists looking for an inn-to-inn biking experience.
- As is the case with all of the Bed, Breakfast & Bike books by Anacus Press, each route map would benefit from positioning across the page crease from the respective map of its entire state, with major highways and cities listed, plus a small box on this state map indicating where the route is located.
But such matters are trifles. It is still morning as I complete this review. Please excuse me, as I have a pressing breakfast appointment with a big piece of coffeecake (blueberry-walnut, that is) and some heavenly hash brown quiche.
The book, Bed, Breakfast and Bike Midwest, by Robert and Theresa Russell, was released in November, 2000 by Anacus Press.
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