SEA TO SHINING SEA: A Ray Bradbury ride across Ohio

We passed this Longaberger Basket office building east of Newark, Ohio as we pedaled along the Evans Foundation Recreation Trail - another one of Ohio's tremendous system of biking and walking trails. BY DENNIS FORNEY
July 22, 2013

DAY 69 - July 22, 2013 - This was one of the most pleasant days of riding we've enjoyed since we struck out from Astoria, Oregon on May 14. Who would have guessed that Ohio could evoke such lyrical beauty?

We pedaled through rich agricultural valleys with flowing rivers, all defined by heavily forested ridges rising to 1,000 feet and more on both sides of us. In tiny Conesville, on the Muskingum River, we stared in awe at the tall stacks of a coal-fired power plant that drew its cooling waters from the river.  The plant dwarfed the town.

After we passed by, we climbed a ridge and looked at a ribbon of natural gas pipe being ditched through the valleys and over the hills.  I speculated that the natural gas would eventually replace coal for the plant and wondered what would happen to the railroads that work night and day to supply plants like this one, and the one owned by NRG on Indian River, with their fuel.

Kai's owner said the natural gas pipeline is being installed to carry gas from Ohio and Pennsylvania to a bigger pipeline headed for Texas.  "They'll shut that plant down before they convert it to gas," she said.

I have my doubts.  That gas line is going suspiciously close to the power plant.

Kai is a bearded border collie that dropped stones at our feet when we stopped on the road by her owner's house to photograph the pipeline construction. "She's from Columbia," said her owner.  "She can herd cattle and any name more than one syllable would be a mouthful when trying to get her attention."

There was a haze in the air today that added further beauty to these rolling hills of south-central Ohio.  After a string of 90-plus-degree riding days, the 70s and 80s of today were sheer pleasure. Along Route 36 - the one I had been hearing about - I found modest architecture and grandiose homes. Several of the neat little towns, with their well-kept homes - many of them white clapboard - put me in mind of passages in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. At one point his space travelers found themselves in a community on Mars that matched communities in Ohio. It was then that the space travelers realized that at that moment, they were Martians.

And so today we are Ohioans and it feels good.  We are starting this week as Ohioans.  We will pass through West Virginia briefly in  the next couple of days and then for several days we will be Pennsylvanians. And all the while Americans.  I still think about Lewis and Clark heading west to map this nation's west.  That was the frontier in 1800. Such a sliver of a frontier compared to the frontier of the universe that Bradbury considered in his science fiction writing - and compared to the frontier of the Higgs Boson.

We passed through one little town called Seventeen, for the number of the lock there on the long-abandoned Ohio-Erie Canal.  And the historical marker at Gnudenhutten said this was the site of an 18th century Moravian missionary community where, in the 1780s, 80 Christian Native Americans were massacred. Such rich, varied and sometimes disturbing history all across this land.

Ohio was the nation's frontier before our war for independence.

Here are some photos from Sunday, and with them, another week begins.

This pleasant day of riding gave us another 73 miles to add to our total which is now 2,810.

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