This article is part of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trail Moments initiative—to elevate new and tried-and-true trail voices around the country, and how trails impact the lives of Americans. Learn more at trailmoments.org and #TrailMoments on social media. Share your story, or view a collection of trail moments stories.
In December of 2019, I was planning a skateboard trip from Cleveland to New York City for the following spring. Then the pandemic hit. With lockdowns, restrictions and an overall disruption of normal life, I canceled the entire trip and waited until things got back to “normal.”
I started planning a route across Ohio instead, from Cleveland to Cincinnati on the Ohio to Erie Trail. On Sept. 22, 2020, I started my four-day, 300-mile skate journey. The route took me through many cities, such as Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, as well as rural forest areas and cornfields. Although I faced a lot of obstacles along the way, the weather was generally perfect—warm days feeling that dimming autumn sun.
Related: Scenes from the Ohio to Erie Trail
Day 1: Cleveland to Fredericksburg
It was a chilly fall morning as my mother drove me to my starting point, northern Ohio’s Bike and Hike Trail in Walton Hills. I’m from the Cleveland area and have done this trail thousands of times. At its end, the trail forms a loop that can take you to either Kent or Akron. I made it to Akron, where there was a lot of construction and a bad road surface, but I pushed on toward Barberton. As I continued west, I encountered a maze of frustrating construction and nearly got lost. I found a way on Route 5A that takes you up a hill into Doylestown (a little town outside of Akron) that led me into Route 585, a busy two-lane road I regret taking. There was fast traffic, semi-trucks and hilly terrain–it was basically an interstate disguised as a country road. I looked forward to getting back on trail.
It was getting dark, my legs were beginning to cramp, and I started to feel a bit anxious as I passed Orville. I pushed on through hilly, rural roads that were scary as it got dark. I made it to Fredericksburg and camped out. It was cold at night, but despite that, I managed to fall asleep.
Day 2: Fredericksburg to Mount Vernon
Wake up, Raveena! You’re officially in Amish country! My day on the Ohio to Erie Trail started with the sight of horses, buggies and a few Amish people on bicycles. The experience was more wooded, rural and isolated than yesterday with small towns and rolling hills. It was an uphill push into rural forest areas, but there was a long downhill stretch where you could get up to some fun speed. I crossed the scenic “Bridge of Dreams” on the Mohican Valley Trail and ended the day in Mount Vernon, a small, charming town. I booked a hotel there and took a long shower after two days without access to water facilities.
Day 3: Mount Vernon to London
I continued on the Heart of Ohio Trail through Centerburg. With one section closed, I was forced off the trail and had to skate on a rural road until I ran into the small town of Sunbury, where I realized I wasn’t far from the state capital of Columbus.
I took the trail through northern Columbus, then headed toward downtown. The west side of Columbus is more urban but still kind of reminded me of some of the rural towns I skated past. My favorite part of the trail was skating next to dozens of abandoned trains. As it got dark, I turned on my flashlight to continue rolling. Usually I skate with my music, but I turned it off just to hear the crickets chirping in the dark. I saw the moon shining in the cornfields as I reached London, where I camped out and slept peacefully.
Day 4: London to Cincinnati
This is what I call the grand finale of the skate trip. As I continued down the trail from London, I struck up a conversation with a guy on a bike who was impressed when I told him about my journey. When I got to Xenia, I met a lady who had spoken to the same man (he reached the town before me), and she treated me to some McDonald’s. I called my mother to let her know that I was almost finished, and she told me she would be on her way to come pick me up.
I continued down the trail through many small towns and rural areas. As you approach Mason, you can see the Kings Island rollercoaster from a certain angle. I got to Loveland as it got dark, but I didn't really care about darkness anymore—actually, I enjoy it now!
I crossed a lot of wooden bridges, as well as switchbacks where you can easily get lost. The last 25 miles in the dark felt like the most dramatic part of a movie before it ends. I eventually made it to Cincinnati and could see the Ohio River and Kentucky on the other side of it. I spent some time downtown and crossed the state border before my mother arrived to take me to our hotel. My legs were pretty darn sore, and I could hardly walk up the stairs, but I was happy and proud of myself!