(Editors Note: This is a facebook post from the Rotary Tour for Mesa page.)

Day 5: Mansfield--Loudonville—Ashland - The Loudonville Rollercoaster

The reward for crawling uphill all day at 3 mph is a few brief hair-raising downhills at 35-40 mph. But unlike roller coasters, nobody was willing to go back and do it again.  Our host families from the Mansfield Rotary graciously fed us breakfast and returned us to the Holiday Inn , where re-assembled our bikes and gear and obtained final instructions from “Sergeant Pepple.” MESA Chairman Dave Daugherty was also on hand to send us off. Thanks so very much, Dave, President Andy Chalk, and the Mansfield Rotary for your wonderful hospitality and generous support of MESA and the Tour.

We knew to expect hills on our way to Loudonville. But we didn’t realize someone had relocated the Alps. One long climb followed in quick succession after another, with only short mild downhills in between. What was supposed to be a bike tour turned into a bike walk for many stretches. Of the nice downhills, most seemed meticulously designed to have a railroad crossing or a stop sign at the bottom, meaning a brake-controlled descent and re-start at the bottom from nearly a dead stop. Although the shortest mileage day of the Tour, it was definitely the hardest work. Fortunately, the temperatures were cool, the humidity low, and the wind was not a significant factor. When we were able to catch our breath between climbs, we enjoyed pastoral serenity and picturesque views.

The final descent into Loudonville was a nice turn-about. Veterans of the second year of the Tour (2006) recalled how leaving Loudonville the morning of Day 2 meant climbing the South Market Street hill out of downtown, with Tom Herberger being the only successful non-walking ascent. This time we flew down the hill at speeds meriting a traffic ticket. Of course, the stop light at the bottom was red to quickly end our reckless fun.

Our lunch rendezvous was at the Mohican Historical Society/Cleo Redd Fisher Museum, where Loudonville club president John Carrol and his family and other members of the Loudonville Rotary graciously hosted lunch and a fascinating tour and description of the various displays, memorabilia, and history of the Loudonville area. It was great to see a local club supporting both its local historical roots through the Museum, and the future well-being of individuals abroad through MESA. Thanks, John Carroll and Loudonville Rotary for your support!

We went back to climbing up and racing down the roller coaster hills, though the back nine of today’s ride was not quite as challenging. Everyone rolled into the YMCA in Ashland well ahead of schedule, in time to shower before dinner at the Y hosted by Ashland club president Dennis Miller, president-elect Jerry Strausbaugh and other members of the Ashland Rotary.

Our dinner was a fabulous meal catered by club member and former Dartmouth and Ashland University chef Terrence Webb, with salad platters and fruit arrangements so artistically arranged we felt guilty disassembling them. For about 5 seconds. Everything was scrumptious. We went back for seconds of everything, and thirds of Italian sausage (generously contributed by club member Kevin Turk of Turk Brothers Meats) and those fabulous cupcakes. After the penance on today’s hills, every indulgence was guilt-free!

And to top off the snicker doodles and cupcakes, after dinner President Miller presented MESA a generous check in support of MESA (in addition to a monthly contribution regularly made by the club). Thanks so very much, Ashland Rotary, for your generosity and support of the Tour riders and the service of MESA!

It remains to be seen if our dreams tonight will be about long crawls uphill or insanely fast races downhill! Or perhaps of home, as we ride our last day of the Tour tomorrow and return to our starting point in Elyria.

Rounding the corner on the back straightaway and heading home…WE RIDE!