By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
TROY — Looking out a car window while traveling up and down the interstate, Ohio isn’t exactly the most entertraining swatch of land across which to traverse.
From a bicycle seat along the Erie to Ohio Bike Trail, however, the view can be quite beautiful.
“It was very entertaning,” said Troy resident Mark Looney, who spent five days this summer traveling the 330 miles from Cleveland to Cincinnati along the trail. Once he got to Cincinnati, Looney then traveled another 100 miles north to Troy along the Miami River section of the Metro Parks system.
“The trail puts you through some of the prettiest parts of Ohio. It’s not wide-open cornfields. You go through Cuyahoga National Park, down along the Tuscarawas River and down through the Little Miami River. There are some parts that are boring, but for the most part it’s actually a pretty entertaining ride.”
Looney got the idea to travel along the length of the trail this winter, when he read in a newspaper article that it had been recently completed.
“They had just put up the maps, so I made that my project for this year,” Looney said. “I did my research before I started.”
Traveling long distances on his bicycle is nothing new for Looney, a fitness enthusiast who once served as the cross country coach at Lehman High School. In 1983, he crossed the entire length of the United States, by himself, on a 45-day cycling journey.
While Looney is an expert in “adventure cycling,” he said the Erie to Ohio Bike Trail is a task that can be accomplished by riders of various skill levels. During his five-day trip, Looney averaged 83 miles per day — but said the journey can be broken down into smaller chunks by less-experienced cyclists.
“You’ve got to know what your range is,” Looney said. “For casual cyclists — people who participate in the (Great Ohio Bike Adventure) and that sort of thing — their range is typically 50 to 60 miles. I have a range that is generally 100 miles a day. You can break it up any way you want.”
Looney stayed in a pup tent and sleeping bag that he toted with him the entire length of the journey. He packed “survival food” in his backpack for the long stretches between towns and cities, but said he also stopped along the way to visit various stops and eat locally.
“I would bring enough food to cover myself, but I would also stop from town to town and stop at a grocery store or farmers market to eat,” he said. “I would stay as long as I wanted to in each town. At night, I would sleep in a small pup tent and sleeping bag I brought along with me.
“When I would camp, my objective was always to leave no trace behind. Nobody knows I had been there or where I am. That’s the adventure part of it.”
Although he traveled down the trail solo, Looney said he made plenty of new friends along the way.
“You always meet friendly people,” he said. “That’s part of the fun. That’s part of what makes it entertaining.”
Looney said he wants others to know of the importance of Ohio’s bike trails. He kept a journal during his ride, which he said he hopes to publish either as a book or an article in a magazine.
“I want people to know what a valuable resource they have right in their own backyard,” he said.
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong