The day had finally come. It was time to stop lazing round Cincinnati where I’d happily sat round, ate lots of ‘Papaya Chicken’, watched TV, hung out with a close friend, read books and, outside of trying to get Abdul into running, had been slothlike. Looking at Google Maps and Warmshowers, I’d managed to come up with a loop that was about 200 miles that I could do in 3 days. I’d contacted Mark, a host in Richmond, IN, and Andrea, a host just outside Dayton, OH and made arrangements to stay with them.

Being a short trip and knowing where I was staying both nights meant I had a much smaller load than normally. There was no need to carry much beyond a change of clothes, some electronics and the remaining slices of pizza from the night before. Knowing I didn’t need to take much I figured I’d arrange it on the morning before I left which worked nicely, until about 30 minutes in when I realised I’d forgotten my water bottle and then around lunch when I was saddened by the lack of pizza.

I’d made my way out of the minimal sprawl that Cincinnati has and onto quiet roads taking me north. There was a headwind, but with my bike probably 40-50lbs lighter than usual it wasn’t anything close to as noticeable as usual. The flaps that are on the side of the Titanico X are shorter than those on the B17 and it turned out that blindly putting it on before I’d not positioned it correctly. At first I’d thought it was down to just not being on the bike for a while and so by the time I started to make changes was a little too late, I adjusted things and the saddle felt better, but then a couple of hours later the top of my knees were starting to twinge uncomfortably. I was glad to make it to the very pretty town of Oxford, home to Miami University, where I stopped for a free Subway, which I’d earnt doing a 5k in Cincinnati, and to call England and wish my granny a happy birthday. I had a lovely stop and continued reading about Alastair Humphrey’s bike ride through Africa and completely forgot that I’d not drunk anything.

I headed north and with the sun beating down on my back-to-pale skin I realised I’d also forgotten my suntan lotion. I thought of the 7 P’s and looked on my GPS for a place to get water. There was a town about an hour further north and while it looked small, there was sure to be a shop or something where I could get water from. I pulled into town to find a closed sign on the only shop in town. I guess the joys of owning a shop in such a small place is that you can post opening hours, not stick to them and not really annoy anyone other than the guy foolishly cycling without any water and starting to get parched and peckish.

90 minutes later when I pulled into Richmond the simple 60 mile ride had turned into one of my more uncomfortable days of riding. I was suffering enough discomfort from my mistake setting up the bike that sitting wasn’t that comfortable and I’d still been unable to find anything to eat or drink. Even though I was only a mile away from Mark’s place, I stopped at the first shop I saw and happily paid the 50c for a styrofoam coffee cup. I usually put a couple of tsp of sugar in my coffee, but not this time. I filled the cup equally with coffee and sugar and gave it a good mix. I gulped it down and very soon after felt life coming back. It was the best 50c I’d spent in a long time.

No longer having the desire to collapse on the floor, I jumped on my bike and sprinted like a Tour rider to Mark’s place and was greeted by his wife and two young children. A couple of glasses of water and a shower later and I was fully revitalised and got to spend an enjoyable evening with Mark and his family. They are bike advocates and we soon settled into bike talk and test riding each other’s bikes until tiredness took over and I retired.

The next day, Mark rode out with me with his daughter sat on the back happy to get to use her newly installed handlebars. I was still slightly sore from the day before and so was mainly standing as we made our way through the local park where we filled up the water bottles I’d received from Mark with fresh spring water. At the exit to the park we parted ways and I headed back into Ohio and along a very straight quiet road for a couple of hours until I made it onto a series of bike paths. They took me away from any traffic and all the way into the centre of Dayton where I was dumped out by the Great Miami River and then the wonderfully named Mad River.

A little while later I got to Beavercreek and met my hosts for the night, Andrea and her husband Manav. I was welcomed in and after cleaning up was told that with my camping experience I must be great with fires and so got to start the BBQ. I didn’t mention that I’d got rid of my camping stove about 6 months earlier. I’d only started one BBQ and that was back while I was hanging out with Alix in Orlando and that one took two attempts to get it working. Thankfully, I must have learnt as this fire quickly took light and I was soon busy contributing towards the delicious Indian food that we’d be eating.

Andrea and Manav had only been in Beavercreek briefly, but they’d made some good friends and two of them, Angel & Brett, would be coming over for dinner and the game of Scattergories that took place afterwards. I’d never played before, but was well aware of it from my teaching days and apparently my win was down to being able to name both British and American sweets, an important quality.

People often assume that I get bored of answering the same questions all the time and are a little surprised when I say I’m not. While the conversation does usually start with the same handful of questions, there are plenty of ways the conversation can evolve and my night in Beavercreek was a perfect example of that. Everyone you speak to has their own interests and so the conversation gets flavoured because of them. The conversation kept flowing and it was already past midnight before Angel & Brett left and even though my bed was made up shortly after that, I kept talking with Andrea & Manav until around 3am.

Before dinner, I’d emailed Abdul letting him know that I expected to be back around 3pm. I figured I’d be up and out by around 9am. Due to Andrea & Manav’s superb ‘guest-manipulation skills’ I was eating a delicious omelette around then. I was still expecting to be leaving soon and was surprised when hearing about their wedding and looking at photo snaps I found out it was almost noon. After a cup of chai for the road I didn’t end up getting on the bike until 12:30, but wouldn’t have wanted it any differently. I’d had such a positive time with them and it re-invigorated me for my future journey.

A few miles south of their place, I made my way back onto the network of bike paths that seem to be so common in southwest Ohio. I got onto the rails-to-trails path that winds its way through woods that line the Little Miami river all the way back down to Cincinnati. On my way up through TN and KY, I’d been saddened by how spring had not started, but during my downtime with Abdul, it had come in full force and so I got to see and smell all manner of vividly coloured flowers. Outside of a slight detour to enjoy some of the hills that the path was skillfully avoiding I took the path the whole way back to Cincinnati energised by some snacks I’d been given by Andrea & Manav and the thought of the pizza that I’d left back at Abdul’s.

The ride had been enjoyable, but not without hitches caused by my own lack of planning. Forgetting my water bottles and not taking snacks had made day 1 painful. Not setting my saddle up properly in advance had lead to discomfort on the first day which extended to the second day, but improving by the final day. I’m optimistic that when I have the Titanico X properly positioned, then the soreness I experienced will vanish and it will prove to be as good as everything I’ve read about it suggests.