Fall overnight camping tour 120 miles: Cleveland to Navarre using the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad with Map S24O ish, part 1

For those of you who read the previous entry about our fall tour you know that selecting the route for this trip had many parameters that influenced our decision including: the ever present constraint of available time to get away; shortened daylight hours; weather; the absence of our truck (that transports our bicycles to trail heads afar); the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad schedule and a desire to go south through Akron.
We were suddenly able to get away with enough time for three days of riding (Sat-Mon) but that is an odd number and makes getting to a destination and back tricky. That is what put us onto the idea of using the train to fill in some gaps. We looked at several options including the idea to pedal to Portage Lakes State Park. We put that on the idea list for next time. It is about 15 miles south of Akron.
We settled for two days of riding and would use the train to get us far enough away from the urban areas to have access to camping. The weather forecast for Sat was pretty foreboding: 60% chance of rain and a headwind and only 45 degrees; but Sunday was predicted to be picture perfect in the mid 50’s. The weather was expected to be perfect on Monday too BUT the train only runs Wed-Sun.
We identified a campground east of Navarre with a good reputation. I called to find out: the route from the trail was fine for bicyclist, (more on this later) they make coffee at the camp store in the morning (no need to bring a stove), the famous Canton area Pizza Oven would deliver to the campground (no need to bring any cooking gear) and they have cabins (no need to bring a tent). Perfect! Nice light load.
So I figure we can leave the house and ride to the Rockside Road train station to catch the morning train to Akron. (replacing approximately 30 miles of biking with a fantastic scenic train ride for only $2 each) From there I guess its  about 36 miles to Navarre heading south on the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. Then 7 miles of road riding to the campground. Great! 43 miles! We’re in love with the idea.
“Oops, sorry Guy I forgot to add the miles from the house to the train station!” OK so its 10 more miles. That makes it 53 with a nice break mixed in. “OK we can do it, let’s go!” Around this time the radio plays the weather forecast and they are talking about sustained winds and gusts, of course, from the south! “Who cares about wind, we can do, let’s go!”
“One more thing, to catch the morning train it will barely be light when we leave the house Saturday morning and when we detrain on Sunday night it will 7 p.m. and it will be getting dark soon.” “Perfect! We finally get to use our new headlights. I can mount a second one to each bike!”
Let’s go!
We know that provisions along the Towpath can be slim and we need to be careful not goof around too much and run out of daylight or miss the return train. I spend the next day getting good food together so we don’t “need” to stop anywhere. We are both stoked up as we load up the panniers and get ready to ride. The winters are long here. Its been weeks since our last overnight tour to Ashtabula.
We decided to use both front and back panniers to balance our loads. We were not carrying much but it was fluffy. We needed to bring cold weather clothes and raincoats, a tarp to cover the bikes, sleeping bags, towels & shower shoes and off the bike shoes. We also carried extra bicycle clothes and bicycle gloves in case we got soaked, a small soft sided cooler packed with protein, some fruit and nuts, a few tools, extra tubes, patches, a pump, and first aid kit including bourbon. I opted to be luxurious and warm and carry the sheets we bought in Brookville on the “big” tour earlier this year.
Guy is “Mr. Plan For It” and he does not consider himself “on-time” unless he is early. He convinced me that we should leave even earlier, fully dark, to make sure we catch that 9 a.m. train. Good thing because when we were just about ready to leave we got flat in our own living room! Guy was adding air and the stem ripped, back tire of course. While I finished off the last minute tasks and did a cat count Guy installed a new tube. The old tube was thin and wimpy compared to the new. Guy said it looked as old as the bike.
So finally, we pedal off at 7:30 a.m., fifteen minutes behind Guy’s “plan for it” departure time and it is light, overcast, chilly but not bad, no traffic and great. When we made the turn into Brookside Park off RT 42 a giant buck crossed the path in front of us. Luckily our experience kicked in an we looked not at him but where he came from and there was another buck only 15 feet from us. Yikes, we were in between them in rutting season! Guy hollars “pedal”! (sorry no pics!)
We continue to navigate through the neighborhoods and all the stores are still closed and no one is around. Feels like Christmas! We arrive at the Harvard Road trail head, the northern terminus of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail and there are no cars in the parking lot. We continue south keeping an eye on the clock. All I have is a clock–my bicycle computer broke so I cannot see the mileage.
We arrive at the train platform 15 minutes early and the train men call out to us a hearty greeting. They remember us! They do have to lift our bikes onto the train and they are heavier than most. Plus we always give them a good story. The staff and service on the CVSR is top notch.

We left the house at 7:30 and it was just getting light. We arrived at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Rockside Road station 15 minutes before the 9 a.m. departure. This was pretty lucky since Guy got a flat tire that morning and it was 4 miles further than I remembered.

We left the house at 7:30 and it was just getting light. We arrived at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Rockside Road station 15 minutes before the 9 a.m. departure. This was pretty lucky since Guy got a flat tire that morning and it was 4 miles further than I remembered.

Guy points out that the odometer says 14 not 10. I say oops, looks like a 60 mile day. He smiles.
Turns out we are the only bicyclist aboard and we got the “biker car” to ourselves. All the way to Akron, no cyclist! The last time we did the bike Aboard there were dozens and dozens of cyclist.
We detrain, saddle-up and pedal off at 10:45 a.m. Its still overcast, not too chilly, pretty windy and there are encouraging peeks of sun as we pedal through the Towpath sections south of Akron.

We were hoping the blue sky would win out over the clouds as we road south through Akron around 11 a.m. This is the new section that goes under Waterloo Road.

We were hoping the blue sky would win out over the clouds as we road south through Akron around 11 a.m. This is the new section that goes under Waterloo Road.

The ride through Barberton was spectacular with the trees reflecting in the water. The sections through the PPG property are really nice. It is lined by a wire fence but it cannot obstruct the beautiful landscape. We commented on how it felt like wilderness, like backpacking.

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath through Barberton is neat because you see into the backyards of all the homes / clubhouses along the way.

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath through Barberton is neat because you see into the backyards of all the homes / clubhouses along the way.

The weather was pretty dismal, and windy. We were the only trail users that day which made us feel like we were in the wilderness. I finally figured out my jacket was not “breaking the wind” but filling up with it. I was much better off without it. I guess I need a new bicycling jacket. Hello, Santa?

The weather was pretty dismal, and windy. We were the only trail users that day which made us feel like we were in the wilderness. I finally figured out my jacket was not “breaking the wind” but filling up with it. I was much better off without it. I guess I need a new bicycling jacket. Hello, Santa?

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath through PPG property.

The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath through PPG property.

Its neat that there is a county line marker here and it always feel like a victory to reach Stark county by bike. Also feels like a victory to leave Stark County. (note the “pavement” change!)

Its neat that there is a county line marker here and it always feel like a victory to reach Stark county by bike. Also feels like a victory to leave Stark County. (note the “pavement” change!)

South of Canal Fulton there was an erroneous trail detour. Finally we arrived in Massillon. We stopped on the bridge, with the Hampton Inn in site, around 3 o’clock and called the campground. One cabin left and they agreed to hold it. (we did not make a reservation because rain or other calamity that prevents us from arriving would mean no refund.) We peddled on south, still on the Towpath.

Its has been five years since we have been on this section and it is pretty rough. The trail surface is inconsistant switching back and forth from crushed limestone to larger gravel and we had to dismount once to get through some deep sand. Sections were oversized black gravel that was not comfortable. When we arrived in Navarre we left the trail at the Water Park on Wooster Road and headed up to Main Street to buy some beer. Its rural down here and bordering on Amish country. Even though there are seven miles to go its the last chance for supplies.
We easily navigate through town and find Brinker Road going straight up.
Continued in next post…

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