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New Waterford, OH | March 23, 1997 | Event Photo
By Jim Joyce
In many ways, Columbiana County is the classic Ohio county. Think of Ohio and inevitably pictures form of tidy, checkerboard family farms and quaint, small towns with neat squares. What is forgotten, however, is a vast portion of the state that is quite rugged and very hilly.
Columbiana County is the proverbial "best of both worlds." This large county is a type of Mason-Dixon line between the orderly towns of Northeast Ohio's Western Reserve and the frontier of Appalachia. It is a land of extremes in economics, communities, roads and terrain.
Two Very Different Loops
These worlds were covered nicely and in short order in the second organized invitational version of the SICCO (pronounced Sick-O) tour, organized by the Outspokin' Wheelmen of nearby Youngstown. The tour started at the community center in tiny New Waterford, home of tour organizer and club member Ray Chamberlin. Loops of 30 and 20 miles, both starting at the center, made up the routes. About 150 "sick-o's" faced the cold in good biker cheer.
20 Mile Loop--Rugged
I tackled the 20 mile loop first. As promised, this new addition to the tour was more rugged and challenging with a long gradual hill right from the start. The loop included the town of East Palestine and the small settlement of Negley, right near the Pennsylvania border. Traffic was very light and not a moving vehicle was seen for 10 minutes at a time on many of the roads. The aggregate of the asphalt was large and lumpy on many of the back roads and at times I would have welcomed a mountain bike instead of my trusty Falcon.
East Palestine arrived early on the route and included a trip down its nice main street where a couple of small restaurants looked pretty warm and enticing. The cinders left over from snowfall was a constant consideration in towns throughout the entire tour. The flattest and longest part of the short loop was a long stretch of road that ran parallel to railroad tracks and frequently crossed Beaver Creek. (Beautiful Beaver Creek State Park is very close by, though the tour never entered its limits.) On the longest flat stretch, a nasty but short-lived headwind slowed me and I was already whining internally from lack of preparation for the ride. Short and long hills of moderate elevation were frequent and descends were often quick and winding.
The greatest thrill and most picturesque valley view of this loop was the very steep, mile-long winding descent into Negley, a tiny town that has the feel of a logging town in the heart of Oregon or Southern West Virginia. What I liked least of this route were what seemed like thousands of dogs--including many pit bulls--that were all tied up to posts and dog houses and threatening to break loose. The nastiest were two junk yard dogs that were doing their jobs well. However, every single one was tied and I was never chased, unlike in some "civilized" suburbs elsewhere, where leashes can sometimes be scarce. Pedaling past quite a bit of both run down or abandoned housing was tempered by views of great horse farms and rural homesteads.
30 Mile Loop
This route ran north of New Waterford and included the towns of Columbiana, Leetonia, and Rogers, home of one of the world's largest flea markets (closed day of tour). A few of these roads were flat but most were gently rolling. The ride included two passes through Columbiana, a town with a very pretty park and some excellent neighborhoods. Attractive, rolling farms and older homes in good shape highlighted the loop. As an nonresident who visits Ohio frequently, I felt this loop captured what is so good about touring in Ohio.
Weather and Amenities
The "Sick-O" label was fitting as temperatures stayed in the low 30s. The early morning brought sunny skies but by 1 p.m., flurries started to fall and before long a light blizzard was upon us. I'd call that sick! However, before the mini white-out there was very little wind and the riding was more comfortable than a muggy Midwest summer day.
The community center was a nice place to warm up and eat. Food was standard PB&J with fruit, cookies and Gatorade. The atmosphere was relaxed and organized. The The SAG passed me several times on the trip. Bright orange arrows marked the roads well, though I could have used earlier notice when I had picked up some speed before several turns.
Attention sicko's and non-sicko's alike: you'd like this tour.
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