It was more than one hundred miles to London, OH, where I would meet my boyfriend's sister, Amber, and her husband, Shannon, and their son, Nevan, for the first time. I filled to the brim with excitement. Less exciting was that the whole day was forecasted for rain. As I was leaving the hotel, the clerk at the desk held the door open for me as he saw the kind of load that I had (it was feeling particularly heavy that morning, even though I had recovered from the blue cheese fiasco). He was surprised that I was headed out into the rain, and I told him that it wasn't necessarily going to be fun, but I had no choice. When I got outside I took a moment to take in the temperature and my surroundings, and I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face. It didn't reflect my enthusiasm (or lack there of) but the fact that I thought this was a big cruel joke.
Fort Mitchell, where I sought refuge the night before, was only a few miles away from Cincinnati. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see a "Welcome to Ohio" sign, but it may have been because I was trying to understand where the lady on Google Navigation was trying to take me and I totally missed it. There were a few times there that she didn't make a whole lot of sense, and we had some disagreements (yes, I do think of her as company sometimes). Cincinnati, as a city, was really nice as far as bigger cities go, and the suburbs that I went through to get out of the city were beautiful and well kept, ad I poised beautiful condos that over looked the river. The rain even started to subside a bit as I left Cincinnati and got on a bike path that took me the majority of the remaining miles to London.
The bike path itself was quite the treat. It is called the "Ohio to Erie Pathway" and I was able to follow it all the way to London (the only draw back is that there are no Subway's right on the path, so I had to leave the path to find one). I was away from the rushing traffic and canopy of gray clouds, and instead I was sheltered by the trees. Everything was green and lush, with hints of the changing colors to transition into fall. The fallen autumn leaves of red and gold blanketed parts of the path, along with pieces of broken branches and nuts. I saw plenty of deer, and cats, and many different birds, including Blue Jays. Besides the rushing wind, the melodies from the songbirds were the only thing I could hear if my headphone fell out, or if I stopped to soak in my soltitude in it's absolute and refuel.
The most common critter I saw were the squirrels and chipmunks, and the squirrels looked exceptionally plump. They would wait until the last second to race in front of me, and if I got to close, you could see them freeze and agonise over which way to go to get away from me. Many of them made the right choice, while others decided that the best way to ensure their safety was to run right in front of me. It is hard for me to admit this, but I did run one over, but I am pretty sure only partially, because I looked behind me after I heard and felt a big "clunk," and didn't see a dead squirrel. Nonetheless, I was horrified and felt extremely bad, and while I slowed down and tried to collect myself, I began to grow more concerned about my spokes (I'm sorry, that sounds cruel, but I really need my spokes to be in good condition so I can get to Boston), than I was for the well-being of that innocent squirrel. There, I said it.
I stopped at Subway 40 miles away from London, and I met some of the nicest people I had seen since Kansas. I was covered in dirt in this point and they were amazed that I was riding in the cold, rainy weather. When I answered their questions as to what I was doing, they were truly grateful for my stopping in and sharing the story with them, and for making this trek in general. It was really touching.
My mom, Linda (she truly is a gem), had sent me a package full of treats to the London, OH post office, and knowing that I would only be passing through London once and it was nearly 2:00 pm, I called to make sure that they would still be open. They closed at 4:30, but the supervisor said that should would be around until 5:00 pm. I also contacted Amber, Nate's sister, and let her know where I was, as well as how incredibly dirty and disgusting I was (picture attached, and please keep in mind that I had 3 more hours after this picture was taken to accumulate a significant more amount of dirt). Dirt had been caught in the water that was spraying up from the ground the whole day, and onto my legs and my bike. I think it is safe to say that I have never been this dirty on this trip, and naturally, I was meeting Amber for the first time. I truly had debris from the bike path everywhere: on my panniers, in my chain, on my brakes. I was most definitely a sight for sore eyes. I met a headwind that slowed me down significantly, and I realized that I would arrive shortly after 5, which I felt bad about for keeping both Amber, her family, and the lady at the post office waiting. I called the post office, and I was told that it was not a problem, she would be glad to wait, and I am so thankful for her kindness.
When I finally made it to the post office, the hugs waiting for me were absolutely priceless (although I was trying not to cover them in dirt). It was wonderful to meet them, and be around such wonderful and friendly people. Soon after my arrival, the ladies from the post office came out and gave me my package. It was so, so sweet of them to wait. One of the lady's father was an avid cyclist, and once she found out what I was doing, she ran to her car and came back with a donation, that she said was from the "London, OH Post Office." She also took a picture of her handing me the package. It was just so sweet.
Amber had come prepared with towels that I could clean off with and sit on so I didn't soil their truck. Shannon, Amber's husband, situated my bike in the back of his truck, (by himself, which means he is very strong) and we were off to their home. I got to sit next to their incredibly adorable son, who didn't quite know what to make at me for the majority of the car ride, and was probably quite content that I was engrossed in wonderful conversation. Shannon and I hosed off my bike when we got to their house, (he handed me the hose, which resulted in me spraying him with water and dirt by mistake).
I honestly can't find the words to express how much meant to be welcomed into their home, especially after Shannon had just lost his mother a few days before. And, for the first time in almost two months, I ate a delicious home cooked dinner around a table, in a real home. I showered in a shower full of kids toys and big bottles of shampoos and soaps. I did laundry. I sat on one of the world's most comfortable sofas and ate Ben and Jerry's (Amber got four different kinds) in a porcelain bowl with a metal spoon. And in doing all of this, I was surrounded by wonderful company, which really made everything else even better, and so special. It is really the people who make the home. It was so nice spending time with and getting to know Amber and her husband, they are both just kind, lovely, and incredibly generous people. I also enjoyed being able to spend time with their son, who was racing around and showing me how he could ride his trike around their house (the kid has got some skills, I can't lie). It is amazing how kids can really bring so much joy and laughter with their innocence and spontaneity.
At one point, Shannon and I were looking at possible routes for the next day, and he pointed out that I was in central Ohio, and I was kind of surprised about that. I honestly couldn't believe that I was already there. Seeing that I was trying to absorb this, Shannon chuckled as he zoomed out of the map, and, pointing to San Francisco, said "Look, this is where you started, all the way over here." It was a first time since Lindsay had left that I had taken a moment to look and actually take note of the progress; of how far I had actually come. And honestly, I just couldn't really believe it. More over, I couldn't believe that I was so close to Rochester, to Boston, to the end. It was a sobering reality check, to say that least, I'm glad that they were there so I knew that I wasn't really loosing it.
That night, as I was falling asleep, their cat, Valentino joined me, just when I thought things really couldn't get any better, (I am a cat lover). Alright, I was officially in heaven.