The best way to see hometown America may be on two wheels.
Every June for the last 11 years, cyclists from across the United States and Canada have visited the small towns of rural Ohio in the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA), riding through a different part of the state each year. This year more than 3,000 riders will pedal 50 miles a day across the plains of northwest Ohio, visiting local tourist attractions and camping in host towns along the 350-mile route.
This years tour begins June 17 at Ross High School in Fremont, then loops its way through Tiffin, Marion, Bellefontaine, Bluffton, and Bowling Green before returning to Fremont on June 24. Along the way, riders can visit the natural wonders of Seneca Caverns south of Bellevue, ride an antique carousel in Marion, and see the full-size UH-1 Huey helicopter in the Harrod town square.
Its a great opportunity to see what small town Ohio is really like and to discover the unknown treasures, says Julie Mills, event director. The history that you find in these small towns, and the pride that people have in showing it off, is really spectacular.
The event promotes family recreation and local business, and raises money for bicycle-related projects. One benefactor is a fund to establish a trail system from the Ohio River to the Erie Canal in the eastern part of the state, Mills says.
Cyclists pay a registration fee of $125 for adults and $70 for children, and often pitch their tents in town parks, county fairgrounds, or on school campuses. Luggage is trucked from site to site, and host communities provide meals.
Last year, in the host community of Galion, the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church fed bike riders an all-you-can-eat supper. Parishioners donated ham, beef, lasagna, potatoes, and desserts.
Our church tries to imitate Christs teaching that we should live to serve, not to be served, Pastor Rick Maddox says. So for us, we were doing the Lords work feeding the hungry cyclists.
Every morning, riders can enjoy a pancake breakfast. Last year, Steve Smith of Chris Cakes catering company flipped hot flapjacks through the air as hungry cyclists tried to catch them. Catch em or Wear em, read the warning on Smiths T-shirt.
Dozens of other bicycle tours are held across the country, but unlike some of the more rugged ones, this one is very family oriented. Twenty percent of last years participants were children riding with parents.
Among them were Dan Sheridan and his son, Alex, of Marion, Ohio. Sheridan fondly recalls young children dressed in traditional Amish clothing flanking the road, shyly waving as he and his son pedaled past the green fields farmed by Amish families in east-central Ohio.
Riders arent the only people who gain from the tour: local businesses also benefit. In 1999, the bike riders spent about $90,000 in each host community on food, entertainment, souvenirs, and hotel rooms.
Almost daily I have communities contacting me, saying, Bring GOBA here, Mills says.
In preparation for last years event, the White Oak Inn in Danville stocked up on 75 cases of Gatorade, 40 cases of bagels, 500 pounds of bananas, and 45 pounds of peanut butter. Local hospice volunteers baked 175 dozen cookies of all kinds, packaging three cookies per bag. A nearby feed store donated several cattle feeder troughs, filled with 2,000 pounds of ice to chill the drinks.