“Bike Aboard!” is a program offered by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad where bikers riding the Towpath Trail through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park can catch the train one way for three dollars. Early in the summer Aryn and I had been trying for several weeks to make this trip and mid July we finally had a break in the weather and schedules that made it possible. We started later in the afternoon and the original plan was to bike 26 miles from Rockside Road to the Akron North train station where we would catch the last train of the day back to our car. My warning to her was the 26 mile ride immediately becomes a 52 mile ride if we miss that train. She did not seem to mind but I was not too excited about this prospect and our time was tight.
Arriving we found the Lock 39 parking lot on the south side of Rockside Road was packed but the lot on the Northwest corner of Rockside and Canal Roads had several vacant parking spaces. The lot’s pedestrian bridge over the river to the Towpath was closed but you can gain easy access by riding across the Rockside Road bridge and through the Lock Keepers plaza parking lot. I noted that there are several bike racks set on a brick paved surface if you wanted to pull off the trail to eat at Lock Keepers, Yours Truly or grab an ice cream at Malley’s Chocolate. Sounds like good incentive to get the wife to ride with me.
The trail is an easy to follow mostly gravel path that follows the old Ohio and Erie Canal which connected the Ohio River with Lake Erie in the 1800’s. Portions of the trail near the more popular areas such as Boston Store are asphalt. There are many old remains and restored artifacts of the canal along the entire path including the various locks. One of the most interesting is the Tinker’s Creek Aqueduct that takes the canal over the creek. In case this is not clear, it is a bridge to take one body of water over another body of water. Other points of interest on the trail include the national park’s Visitor Center, Boston Store (free museum), and the restaurants and shops in Peninsula, Ohio. There is also an ice cream stand near the Boston Store.
This day was a sunny warmer day. The northern section of trail consisted of many fields that would have been hot earlier in the day when the sun is directly overhead. The southern section was mostly wooded providing ample shade. Because the trail is the original towpath for the canal it is relatively flat its entire length through the park.
From Rockside Road we rode just under 11 miles to the Boston Store where we took a restroom break, walked through the canal museum and refilled our water bottles. Prior to this were ahead of the train but not by much. The train departed the station before we hit the trail. Since we do not pedal faster than the train and not wanting a 52 mile ride today I knew the trip would be cut short, stopping at the Botzum Station after about 20 total miles.
At Botzum we did a couple of cool down laps around the parking area before heading to the station where we had a 15 minute wait for the train. The train stations are simple pavilions with a wooden floor, benches, and a roof to keep you out of the rain or sun.
When the train arrives the first freight car is where the bikes are loaded by volunteers and the next two passenger cars are for “Bike Aboard” passengers. Just pass them your bike and let them know where you will be departing the train so that they can hang your bike in the correct group. The $3.00 is collected as you are boarding the passenger car. The cars are fully enclosed, air-conditioned and comfortable. Snacks and an array of beverages are available for purchase. An air-conditioned train ride back towards your car it is nice way to end a bike trip.
Overall it was a great trip and quality time spent with Aryn before she headed off to college late August. If you are in the Cleveland/Akron area this a ride full of history with interesting relics from the early canal days and a $3.00 train ride. You can even make the ride short to be little kid compatible and include the train.