American Legion gives Ohio bicyclists a warm welcome to Medina
MEDINA – Four Ohio bicyclists stopped in Medina for the night Thursday on a tour riding the Erie Canal towpath from Albany to Buffalo.
Two of the riders, Dave Knight of Grove City, Ohio, and Peter Toomey of Rocky River are both veterans and they often contact an American Legion when they are passing through a town. Yesterday, Glen Whitmore, commander of the Butts-Clark American Legion Post in Medina, got a call from the cyclists asking if they could camp on the Legion grounds for the night.
Whitmore said yes and arrived at the post to wait for their arrival.
The pair, along with fellow cyclists Buck Hickman of Dresden, Ohio, and Candace Lipton of Brunswick have been riding together since they met a decade ago at the Great Ohio Bike Adventure.
“There were 3,000 people there, and it was karma that we met,” Hickman said.
All retired, all but Toomey recently rode the Greenbriar Trail in West Virginia. It was Toomey who suggested they ride the Erie Canal trail.
“I have stayed in Legions in Ohio and Texas and had wonderful experiences,” said Toomey, who was a master sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was been riding bicycle steadily since 1982.
Knight is a Navy veteran of eight years. He started riding bicycle in the early 1950s when he was looking for a fun way to exercise.
After arriving at the American Legion Thursday afternoon, they discovered there wasn’t much lawn available to them, and Whitmore suggested Butts Park.
The riders have a vehicle with them, which tows a small trailer with their camping equipment and supplies. They take turns driving each day, while the other three ride. They drove from Ohio to Albany and began their ride back west along the canal trail.
“We thought we’d start at the farthest point and see how far we can get,” Lipton said. “Then if we don’t make it all the way back west, we won’t have so far to go if we want to come back and finish the trail.”
They camp out each night, as long as weather is good. They did spend one night in a hotel when it was raining. They look for facilities called Warm Showers, which is someone who opens up their home to travelers for the night.
Near Syracuse, they stayed at a Warm Showers home whose owners raised hops. They visited the Griffin Hill Brewery and ended up harvesting hops with their hosts.
“It was great fun meeting so many wonderful people,” Toomey said.
On Wednesday, Hickman and Lipton, who arrived first in their Suburban, waited at the park for Knight and Toomey, who spent time at the Culvert on the canal to take pictures. The historic landmark is listed in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and is the only place in the world where a road goes under a canal.
The brewery, culvert and Cohoes Falls have been highlights of their trip, the riders said.
The bikers had a beer at the Legion and supper in a downtown restaurant Thursday night.
“We’ve not run across anybody on this trip who hasn’t been hospitable,” Lipton said.
They don’t know where their next adventure will be, but they’ll probably discuss it on the drive back home, Toomey said.