Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bicycling friends Ted Kmet and Gary Courtright examine another rocky segment of the abandoned rail line between Brinkhaven and Killbuck. When this 16 mile stretch is completed for bicycle and horse use we will be able to ride from Fredericksburg in Wayne County to Mt. Vernon in Knox County, OH. Gary and Ted (lower left) negotiate a section heavily rutted by horse and buggy traffic.


I do not think I have ever ridden a bike trail and not encountered any other people—until three of us recently rode the Mohican Valley Trail between Danville and Brinkhaven in Knox County plus its incomplete extension for another 4 miles or so on toward Glenmont.

The latter section ultimately will be a 16 mile segment of the Holmes County Trail. For now, the four miles we rode from Brinkhaven toward Glenmont is a mostly crushed cinder, weedy buggy trail which ends when it encounters County Road 75 in Holmes County.

This also is the first time on a rail-trail I’ve ever wished my mountain bike had four-wheel drive.
The trail surface from Danville to Brinkhaven ranges from loose stones to packed gravel with lots of dusty, pulverized sand in between. Bike tire tracks compete with those of horse’s hooves and buggy wheels; usually with more of the latter.

While that segment makes the choice of a mountain bike very wise indeed, it ends at the largest covered bridge in Ohio; a 370 foot behemoth that spans high above the Mohican River on the approach to the Brinkhaven trailhead.

From there on you will sometimes question even the adequacy of your mountain bike.

There is a heavily rutted section as you approach the crossing of SR 62 that obviously is a quagmire in sloppy weather.

From SR 62 on to the intersection with Holmes County Road 75 the relatively smooth and always noticeably ascending grade lurches through heavy woods.

Sometimes route 62 traffic can be heard.

Mostly it is silent, dead silent; the marvelous quiet being the absence of human-produced noise. The three of us saw at least twice that many Whitetail Deer. We came to regard game trails crossing our route as major intersections.

Ant hills were everywhere along the weedy margins; usually in the form of perfectly shaped cones two to three feet tall. I noticed the birds mostly because of their absence; a robin here and there; one small patrol of vultures doing their macabre but natural duty.

We had to climb a steep incline to get up to the county road 75. I wondered how in the heck a train managed that ascent.

Up on the road we encountered a sign that announced, “Trail Closed—under construction”.

When we turned around to scramble back to Danville, now about 9 miles distant, we were confronted with another sign that said the same thing.


Friday, August 29, 2008


Wow. Senator John McCain hit a political home run just hours ago when he named Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Wow.

What she lacks in age (44) and national political experience (all of hers is confined to Alaska) she more than makes up in pure, unassailable strength of character. She is an accomplished, self-described soccer mom with a quality record of achievement in her short public service history.

Regardless of that brief history, she has more administrative experience—successful administrative experience—in government than the other three candidates for the top spots in this presidential election combined.

She is a successful mother, has been a successful mayor and, now, is a very successful governor. She is a conservative and believes the Washington, DC style of politics and government is in desperate need of a cleansing.

She said in her introductory speech in Dayton concerning a congressional boondoggle of the “Bridge to Nowhere” in her home state, ...go away congress, “...if Alaska needs a bridge we will build it ourselves.”

That’s my kind of gal. Wow.

Bring on November!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saturday's adventure will take us down an unopened buggy path that someday will be the connection between the existing Mohican Valley Trail from Danville to Brinkhaven, OH and the Holmes County Trail that today ends at Killbuck. Here yours truly and companion Gary Cartright are pondering how early railroaders chiseled their way through the layered rock formation in this 16 mile corridor. (Photo by fellow rider Ted Kmet)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On our recent Wednesday bicycling outing three of us trundled 42 miles around the southern part of Richland County—not without its amusing moments such as this marvelously untimely sign compliments of the Mansfield City Parks Department at North Lake Park.

In nearby South Park we paused to ponder the restoration project on the town’s block house which once served as the county courthouse and a safe haven from Indian attack for the area’s much smaller population in those days. Back then it was located in what we now know as Mansfield’s Central Park.

Riding companions Gary Courtright and Ted Kmet are pictured (right) examining the wooden shingles which are being hand-split on the site to add authenticity to this well deserved restoration.

Farther down the bike trail the nice folks at Alta Greenhouse presented us with the cheery greeting on the rear of their building, Come in for a Break while just 20 feet or so away on the same wall another sign left the very opposite impression of their hospitality (right).

Naturally, as is often the case with intellectually challenged aspirants to the human race, one of them will crawl from under its rock and deposit some detritus in what is an otherwise pristine scene. I hope the last user of this shopping cart is, somehow, forever prevented from contaminating the gene pool.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Flying Propnuts president Heath Hamilton (right) pilots his helicopter in an aerodynamically defying, inverted maneuver (above) during a recent outing at their Bellville aerodrome.

This old fixed wing corporate pilot is convinced neither bumble bees nor helicopters are aerodynamically capable of flight.

Yet, above is a helicopter flying, inverted, just feet over a local bean field—without an on board pilot. Come to think of it, that may be the wisest way to fly one of these things!

The pilot in command of the machine pictured is Heath Hamilton, President of the local, remote controlled model airplane group called The Flying Propnuts.

Believe me, this is a group that make these scale model air machines do things that defy both the laws of gravity and the physical limits of stress.

If a human pilot rode along while these guys were massaging the electronic controls, it would not be a pretty sight when he attempted to extricate himself from the cockpit—no doubt, for the last time ever!

I watched Scott Foster from Toledo launch his helicopter into what appeared to be a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. His machine jerked around in the sky, just feet above ground, showing more acrobatic moves than a squadron of inebriated line dancers.

Then, it morphed itself into a scale model air show showing rhythm and grace in precision, acrobatic choreography. It was a sight to behold.

These little flying machines can cost anywhere from 200 bucks to more than ten thousand—with the club average value estimated at $1,500; most of which is in the electronics.

They are capable of astonishing maneuvers principally because of an extreme power to weight ratio and proportionally large control surfaces. They can be propelled—with similar speed and dexterity—by both tiny internal combustion engines and battery powered motors.

They are averaging somewhere around 50 to 75 mph while performing, and, yes they have jet propelled models that achieve 200 mph. Whooosh! You need nuclear powered eye glasses to keep up with them.

The range of the controlling radio can be, say, 2 miles, but, the little planes would be out of sight far before that and, consequently, soon out of control. Obviously a wise pilot turns them around before that happens.

Can you imagine how enthused I was when the fellows encouraged me to give this marvelous hobby a try.

Alas, there are simply too many adult toys and too little time.
Read more about the Propnuts here.

Heath Hamilton (right) completes a pre-flight inspection of one of his helicopters while his Pop Kurt Hamilton watches attentively. In the small photos above that is Jeff Meyers of Mansfield boring holes in the sky with his snappy little machine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Flying Propnuts put some zip in the sky near Bellville with their remote controlled model airplanes and helicopters. Please stop by Saturday for a visit with these friendly and highly skilled, hobbyist-pilots including Craig Goetz (right) in a typical flight-day posture.

They fly every Sunday in good weather after lunch at the Bender Memorial Field just west of Bellville on SR 97 then ½ mile south on Bellville-Johnsville Rd. Your visit will be both welcomed and free.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Yup, that’s one of those in the photo above; another orb weaver spider about ½ inch in general diameter excluding its quite longer legs, of course. This critter, probably a female, was pictured working across one of my wooded trails one recent dusk.

When I stopped abruptly to avoid its web, I examined its silky lair and had no idea what kind of critter I had discovered. So, I did some careful photo exploration with the macro lens then promptly submitted an email enquiry to my favorite bugologist, Jan Ferrell, a naturalist with our Gorman Nature Center.

The black and white protrusion is actually the abdomen of this upside down spider.

Jan not only provided the identification, she suggested a link for some very informative comments. If you are really curious, click here and enjoy today’s lesson about some extremely interesting things that commonly, and somewhat invisibly, surround us unless we stop for a very careful peek.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My biking companions from left, Gary Courtright, Ted Kmet and Lynn Rush, become fuzzy apparitions in this slow-shutter rendition of their cycling the Towpath Bike Trail between Akron and Cleveland. A boardwalk (right) is periodically used to traverse swampy bottom areas of the bike route.

That’s yours truly (lower right photo) in a whimsical, self-portrait as we enjoy cycling this marvelously historic venue along the Cuyahoga River. In the lower left photo, Lynn and Gary are dwarfed by the Ohio Turnpike bridge


The Towpath Bicycle Trail is a stunning dose of Ohio’s canal era nicely wrapped in the very abundant ambiance of flora and fauna, punctuated often by the sometimes roaring, sometimes placid, flow of the Cuyahoga River.

Beginning with glaciation over 12,000 years ago, Native Americans deemed the river valley neutral territory so all might travel the area safely from the cold Lake Erie waters down to the short portage across the divide to the Tuscarawas River that ultimately drains to the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The land west of today’s bike trail was Indian Territory until 1805. For much of that century, then, canals blossomed as the young nation’s primary transportation routes; launching the development of commerce in what is now known as the Midwest.

As late as just 120 years or so ago mules pulled canal boats along the paths we today enjoy with our bicycles.

We rode 37 miles on the section of the trail that meanders through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park from near Tinkers Creek east of Cleveland to the Botzum trailhead in Akron—a round trip that originated in Peninsula, itself an historic canal town of that period.

While surrounded by the urban sprawl of those two large cities, virtually the entire trail is an oasis of woods, wildflowers and waterways. Its riding surface is mostly very smooth and compacted gravel with portions of deteriorating asphalt.

We easily negotiated the ride with our mounts of one mountain bike, my hybrid road model and two of the variety with skinny tires.

Miles and miles of the ride are through a wooded tunnel with tantalizing views of the river. We passed many slowly deteriorating locks; like tombstones in silent salute to that era gone by. Several times we were treated to long boardwalks where we rumbled over marshy areas.

We rode under the Ohio Turnpike, where traffic passed silently far overhead on a massive concrete bridge that spanned the river valley. We stopped to visit two of many museum-style, historically preserved buildings staffed by the park service.

One other delightful treat available to riders is in the form of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Cyclists can hail the train at numerous stations along the route and for a 2 buck fare, climb aboard--bikes included--for a ride.

Their excursion schedule alone could keep you occupied with area travel treats all year long.

This, my first ever visit to this gem of a cycling experience, certainly will not be the last.

Gary and Lynn (above) are visiting a small museum along the trail which features life-size models and artifacts of the canal boats from that early era of commercial transportation. Gary and Ted (below left) and other visitors are dwarfed by this nicely preserved lock that helped canal boats move up and down-stream adjacent to the Cuyahoga River.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

BIKING THE TOWPATH—A Cuyahoga Valley National Park ranger uses a working model to explain the operation of the locks that once helped propel the nation’s commerce up and down the Ohio and Erie Canal. Today, a bike trail runs the course once used by mules to tow the canal boats—not without peril as shown in the bottom photo where paramedics arrive to assist an injured biker near Peninsula, OH.

Please stop by Saturday for a peek at this marvelously recreated venue.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We rented a boat that day and slid across a glass-smooth surface of Knox Lake under intense blue sky and decorator clouds. I was serving as the local, fishing guide for my visiting sportsman friend Ted Kmet from Gainesville, FL.

While put-putting to and fro on my favorite inland impoundment, he regaled me with tales about the routinely productive fishing in those sub-tropical, salt water aquariums which surround his state--known as the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

After several delightful hours of throwing everything but the tackle box at the local lake’s legendary Largemouth Bass population, we re-rigged with bobbers and small hooks tipped with wax worms and finally managed to catch (and release) a handful of bluegills.

Considering boat rental costs, a couple of senior citizen fishing licenses and some gasoline at 3.75 a gallon or so, I figured those scrawny pan fish cost us about 12 bucks each...

...a small price indeed for the enjoyment that happens naturally in this sport where participation with a good friend is its own reward

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sisters Havilah, Abigail, Heather and Tabitha Justice are indeed The Maidens IV in a recent Bellville performance while a beaming Mom (lower right) pauses in her production chores during their show.


The entertainment scene in Bellville took on an international flavor one recent evening when the enthusiastically talented group Maidens IV treated an appreciative audience to a rousing, twilight treat of Celtic music.

I was surprised to see their van had Ohio license plates. I was even more surprised when I learned these young ladies were from a family of nine children who grew up on a farm in the nearby Hayesville, Ohio area.

The Gods of Celtic music sure strayed a long way from Dublin when they blessed this family with their abundant musical talent.

And, their proud mother smiled quietly in the back of the hall when daughter and lead singer Heather quipped lovingly, each of the girls began their musical training on the violin, “...because that was Mom’s instrument.”

The four coaxed their marvelous sound out of two violins, an acoustic guitar and a Bodhran—a shallow Irish drum; most of their music in the form of original compositions, no less!

While to my untrained ear there was a mild sameness to their individual pieces, their instrumentation, vocalization, and “...eight dancing maidens feet” combined for a thoroughly enjoyable pair of 45 minute sets; an evening of high voltage entertainment I would be happy to experience again; soon, and often.

The venue for the performance was Pumpkin Hollow, a dandy, Bellville antique shop and eatery tucked along the bicycle trail. Even with recent remodeling to host such events, it still has some work to do, however. It was very crowded on a warm summer evening and the three ceiling fans were not an adequate substitution for air conditioning.

And, stage lighting was abysmal. It would have been an improvement if folks in the front row were simply given flashlights for that purpose. But, like the class act they were, the Maidens IV expressed their gratitude for the remodeling recently accomplished.

For a sample of their delicious sound go to their website, click “CDs and More”, turn up your volume, kick back and enjoy your very own audition of their remarkable talent.
For other upcoming programs of an eclectic musical variety click here to check the website of Mansfield’s very own promotional group, Highlands of Ohio.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Saturday, Fogeyisms tells the story of four marvelous young ladies from nearby Hayesville who did a rousing performance of Celtic music recently at Pumpkin Hollow in Bellville. Please tune in for this treat by the Maidens IV. (Photo compliments of their web site. Click!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An Enchanting Walk in the Woods--

Lady friend Jenny Lezak and I winked at the encroaching calendar and headed to the Gorman Nature Center for their recent “Summer Walk for Seniors” * gasp *. Turned out we were the sole participants on that hot, summer day.

It also turned out Staff Naturalist Jan Ferrell, was substituting for a recently injured Steve McKee, director of the center. Steve had taken a tumble while researching another hike he was preparing to lead a few weeks earlier.

Since it was Jenny’s first visit to the center’s spiffy new building, Jan was quick to agree to the three of us creating our own agenda for the day’s program, starting with a tour of their modern facility which was constructed on the cutting edge of environmental friendliness.

“Ceiling beams and all interior woodwork were fashioned from scrap lumber so absolutely no trees were cut for the building’s construction” Jan enthused. The toilets are the earth friendly, composting variety. The entryway floor is done with recycled car tires. Heating and cooling are geothermal. And on, and on.

All of those techniques are wrapped around the handsome meeting area in the top photo which attracts such groups for their meetings as the local Bassmasters fishing club and the Mid Ohio Bikers, the quiet variety of cyclists; folks that appreciate a building that salutes the environment just as their organizations do.

Jenny and I offered to move along that day and give Jan some unexpected free time, but, she instead proposed a pleasant compromise and the three of us wound up enjoying a delightful walk in the cool woods of their 150 acre grounds.

It wasn’t very long until we encountered a white tail deer relaxing in the shade of a downed tree across a dry creek bed. It watched us for a bit then drifted into some nearby brush while we went slowly on our way; four souls in harmony with the woods and each other for those tranquil moments.

We sampled some tasty berries and examined the pesky armament of the Nettle plants and kept a watchful eye for poison ivy as we passed deeper into the forest. Far up in the northeast corner of the heavy woods, silence overtook us.

Nothing but the sounds of nature pleased our ears.

Then, after an attempt here and an attempt there, Jan’s owl calling skills were rewarded; first by twittering flocks of mostly songbirds creating their version of a rally to assault the pesky “owl” they suddenly heard—but couldn’t find.

Then, far to the south, a male Barred Owl responded to Jan’s entreaty. She deepened her calls to more closely resemble the female of the species. And, their conversation continued.

But, it was clear the wise old male owl wasn’t on the move and Jan opined he may have been more interested in territorial matters than the attractive sounding “lady owl” with whom he had been conversing.

Jenny and I exchanged quiet eye smiles and were just a little sad when it was time to reverse course and head back down the wooded trail.

Thanks Jan!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Numerous Amish buggies are a visual treat along the Holmes County Bike trail. The tunnel in the small picture below right is where the trail passes under SR 83 south of Holmesville. I did the shadowed silhouette of Lynn pedaling while I chased her on my bike and manipulated the camera with a free hand. Our colleagues wisely gave us ample room for this creative silliness.


Numerous Amish horses and buggies clippity clopped their way past our bicycles as our different cultures ricocheted along the combined-use bicycle trail that spans the old railroad line between Fredericksburg and Killbuck in Holmes County.

Without fail a wise and white-whiskered face would smile a gentle morning’s greeting, or a young family with giggling children would wave with friendly shyness from their horse propelled vehicles.

Somehow both cultures—theirs and ours--seemed to know, while there was vast difference between us, on this day and using our own versions of animal powered locomotion, differences were not so great after all.

This marvelous bike trail was so pleasurable it felt like it was downhill in both directions.

The buggy and bicycle halves of the trail were separate, sometimes with a pesky elevation change between them and reversing sides here and there as if by some very curious design.

My riding companions were locals Lynn Rush and Gary Courtright and ex-local Ted Kmet of Gainesville, FL who is visiting family here for the summer. We awarded Ted an A+ for suggesting this marvelous venue for our day’s ride.

The trail covers 15 miles from top to bottom passing through Holmesville and Millersburg along its mostly shady way. The segment from Killbuck through Glenmont and on to Brinkhaven will be another 16 miles when completed.

We logged just under 30 miles by riding both segments out and back from our launch at the delightful Rails to Trails Hipp Station in Millersburg.

The abandoned rail line on which the trail resides traces its history to 1854 when it was a branch of the Cleveland to Pittsburg line. At one point in its history the line became known as the Hook and Eye Division because of its large employment of local Mennonites.

It wound up owned by CONRAIL until the lines were abandoned in the early 1980s.

The Federal Rails to Trails legislation which supports the construction of many of these bike trails throughout the US seeks to preserve the old railroad corridors should they ever be needed for the nation’s transportation use once again.

Meanwhile, the rhythmic beat of horse’s hoofs and the swishing hiss of bike tires join the songbirds and burbling streams to caress the souls of those lucky enough to enjoy this trail’s bountiful gifts.

The refreshing temptation of a rippling Salt Creek gave us a relaxing pause as we briefly left the bike trail and rode a very picturesque Fredericksburg Rd., that paralleled the creek south of that quaint, valley town.