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An English Century, Northwestern Ohio Style
By George Hellinger
Scarce traffic, flat roads, good food, great ride...
The Portage River Tour is held in conjunction with the Portage River Festival in Elmore, Ohio. Loops of ten, thirty-one, sixty-two and one hundred miles are available.
I arrived at registration at 7 a.m. after a two-hour drive from my Delaware, Ohio home. The weather forecast called for rain and a quick check of the weather channel radar confirmed the forecast. Rain appeared to cover the western half of the state, including the area between Bowling Green and Oak Harbor. Because of the weather and a conflicting MS150 ride, I was not surprised at the light rider turnout. I passed a half-dozen or so outbound riders on my way to the registration point. Once registered, I surveyed the assembled riders to identify any potential riding buddies and then started down the road. Within minutes of starting the ride, the clouds produced a five-minute deluge. With a temperature in the high seventies and high humidity, the rain actually felt refreshing.
The first rest stop was at mile 13. I rode on by and hooked up with a trio leaving the stop. Up to this point, I had not encountered a single automobile. The roads were in great shape and beckoned me to up the pace. The four of us formed a paceline and cruised the next 24 miles at a refreshing 20 mph average. The second rest stop was at a Wood County park. The rest stop was staffed with friendly and helpful volunteers and offered PB&J sandwiches, windmill cookies, fig newtons, oatmeal cookies, water and sports drink. Once refreshed, the four of us rode 18 more miles through the farmlands of Northwest Ohio.
About five miles out from the next rest stop, we dropped the hammer and picked up the speed to between 23 and 26. Here we were treated to fresh cherries and watermelon, in addition to more windmill cookies and drinks. Nearby was a community chicken-fry; it took all our willpower to keep ourselves from surrendering to the smell of barbecue chicken. At this point we were informed there was only a handful of riders ahead of us, including one century rider, a policeman from Toledo. On leaving the rest stop, I had to turn around to retrieve the helmet I had left behind. I lost the group and was forced to ride the remaining six miles of the metric loop by myself. I caught up with my friends just as they turned off to the start/finish. At this point, I joined up with a rider from Dearborn, Michigan. We rode the next 39 miles together, stopping at mile 82 to take advantage of another rest stop. The last 15 miles of the ride were into a strong headwind. What a way to end a century!
On completing the ride, we socialized with some of the ride volunteers while the clouds broke open once more.
On this tour, all the roads were in good shape, although a few country roads were barely as wide as a tractor path. The scarcity of traffic was refreshing. In addition to a good map, the roads were marked sufficiently to keep riders from losing their way. Road conditions combined with a flat route make this tour ideal for quick century times. I will be putting this ride on my calendar for next year. I recommend you do the same.
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