Northern Tier brings cross-country adventurers through Bay
Any given day during the late spring, summer and fall, at least one Northern Tier bike route traveler is likely to pedal along Lake Road in Bay Village, as part of a cross-country bike trip. Some travel alone, but others travel in groups. Some can be seen towing small trailers, yet others may only have small backpacks or a pair of pannier bags hanging from the back of the bikes. Some are from the U.S. and others come from across the globe. Each is on an adventure of a lifetime.
The Northern Tier trail crosses the northern-most part of our country, stretching from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Anacortes, Wash., just north of Seattle. It covers 4,264.5 miles of road. No official count of cross-country bikers exists, but according to Melissa Thompson, a cartographer at the Adventure Cycling Association, 266 maps of the Indiana, Ohio and New York section of the Northern Tier were sold last year by her organization.
The Adventure Cycling Association is a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire people to travel by bicycle. It researches and produces maps for the largest cycling network in the world, covering over 42,180 miles of cycling routes within the U.S. Melissa estimates that many of those buying maps are going to bike the route, but she said groups often share maps and others use digital maps, so the number of riders is likely even higher. It is safe to say that more than 250 cross-country travelers bike through Bay each year.
Riders often camp in parks along the way and rarely carry much food because the weight would slow them down. Instead, they tend to eat at restaurants and gas stations along the route. On Wednesday, Aug. 27, around 5 p.m., I gained the courage to flag down a lone Northern Tier biker near the western border of Bay.
During our brief conversation, I discovered that he was from Tokyo, Japan, and had started in New York City, but cut north to the Northern Tier somewhere in New York state. He planned on camping in Sandusky that night. Ultimately, he planned on biking to Anacortes and from there continuing south along the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles, Calif., where his bike adventure will end.
If you get the chance, be sure to welcome one of these amazing world travelers and take the time to hear their story. Even if you don't get to talk to them, respect them on the road. Give them, at minimum, the legally-required 3 feet of space when passing in your automobile. Their impression of our city and region may be solely based on how all of us auto drivers treat them as they pedal through.
Patrick McGannon has been a Bay Village resident for most of the past 33 years, is a board member of the Village Bicycle Cooperative, is a board member of the Bay Village Green Team, and is an avid road cyclist certified in traffic safety skills.