EATON — This weekend and the following days will see a major influx of bikes on area roads as the Preble County Historical Society holds its fifth annual Bridges, Bikes, and Blues event on Saturday, June 18, and the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure arrives in the region on Sunday. Main Street downtown will be closed Saturday and Sunday between Barron and Maple Streets.
Bridges, Bikes, and Blues is a Historical Society fundraiser offering a 78-mile motorcycle ride through Eaton that crosses both one of the oldest double-barrel covered bridges in the United States, the Roberts Bridge, and one of the country’s newest, the Hueston Woods Covered Bridge.
Riders will assemble at the Preble County Historical Center (7693 Swartsel Rd.) at 9 a.m. to pick up registration materials. A $4 pancake breakfast will be offered. The ride will begin at 11:30 a.m. Cars may take part in the cruise as well, and pre-registration is available online at preblecountyhistoricalsociety.com for $25, or on-site for $35 the day of the event. Registration includes eight tickets for raffle prizes, and one free t-shirt.
At 4 p.m., riders will reach Courthouse Plaza in downtown Eaton for an outdoor party with food and merchandise vendors, a beer garden, and live blues by Flat Out, Bad Men on a Mission, Tall Paul Boyd, and Ray Fuller and the Bluesrockers.
Early Sunday morning, the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure will hit Preble County. The weeklong excursion will see 1,600 Ohio and international bicycling enthusiasts covering an average of 50 miles per day, passing through many parts of the county and staying overnight in some locations. Over the tour’s 27 years, GOBA has generated nearly $10 million in tourism revenue for the towns along the route, and showcased many local attractions. This year’s group includes 124 riders over the age of 70, and 130 under the age of 15.
This year’s tour will begin Saturday night in Hamilton before heading to Eaton early morning on Sunday. Bikers will spend the day and night in town, heading out to Oxford the following morning, leaving town entirely by 9 a.m. Their route will wind in and out of the county with stops in other towns, including overnights in Oxford Monday and Tuesday, and Brookville on Wednesday. Attractions on the tour include stops at numerous covered bridges, Kings Island and Soak City, Hueston Woods, Miami University, Carillon Historical Park, and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The tour pre-arranges for three local food stops about every 15 miles along each day’s ride; area residents should expect large groups of bikers in restaurants and grocery stores. Water is distributed at multiple stops, but according to a press release, “the most welcome sight to the riders of GOBA is a ‘Free Drinking Water’ sign in a front yard or front window. This need not be anything more than a spot where they can fill their water bottles. Many youngsters do this at their homes, which gives them the chance to meet people from all over the world, and the satisfaction of knowing they have helped out. On an especially hot, sunny day, riders also appreciate a shady spot to sit in your hard as well as children with hoses along the road spraying them with cool water as they pass. if you would be so kind as to offer water, we suggest putting a sign to that effect jsut before your location, to give the bicyclists time to slow down and stop.”
The release also indicates that children are encouraged to set up lemonade stands where riders will happily stop and purchase drinks and talk with bystanders. Many residents also make welcome signs or set up lawn chairs, and riders sometimes stop for conversation.
During the Eaton stop on June 19, the Visual Art Center of Preble County will host Amanda Dalton from Wild Hearts Zoo in Lewisburg, who’ll bring raptors, reptiles, and other animals, as well as a touch table and animal coloring sheets from 1-4 p.m. During this time, the art center will be offering canvas and painted pottery activities no studio fees, charging only for supplies. Scott Trochelman’s Don’t Bug Me show will have insects on display for children, and Safari Junction/Valley Exotics will be on hand with a petting zoo and animal area. Families are welcome to attend.
Downtown, from 2 – 7 p.m., a mini-festival will be held with refreshments from Skyline, Adam’s Rib, Bratt’s Tasties, Ullery’s, Main Street Treats. The band Worley Boys will perform at the Courthouse from 4 – 7 p.m. Preble Trails Cycling Advocacy group will be on hand at Courthouse Plaza and at the campsite at Eaton High School. The Preble County Visitors Bureau will provide information to the GOBA participants on places to dine and visit while in the area, and Booster volunteers will provide food and services at the campgrounds.GOBA town coordinator Heidi Bortel said of the events, “It’s important for people to know that this is for everyone in town, not just the GOBA riders, and we want everyone to come out and have fun with us. Also, it’s a great way to celebrate Father’s Day as a community.”
Bike Miami Valley board member Ken McCall will be doing the GOBA ride for his fifth time this year, and encourages citizens and businesses to welcome riders.
“There’ll be 1,600 wallets on wheels coming into your community, and we get hungry out there. We buy a lot of food and drinks and have a good time; it’s sort of a rolling party. It’s a good thing for businesses, communities, and nonprofits for people from all over the state and beyond to get to know your community.”
“I love the opportunity to ride on new roads I haven’t been on before,” he said. “I love riding on country roads, and Ohio has lots of gorgeous ones.”
“The challenge of the ride adds an extra texture to it,” said GOBA acting director Julie Van Winkle, “that makes it something more than just spending time with strangers. You bond over the road, and by the end of the week, it’s a family.”
Winkle took on the role of acting director only this week, after executive Bill Gordon died suddenly last Saturday morning at age 57. The team is now making final preparations for the tour to continue without him.
“On Saturday night in Hamilton,” Van Winkle said, “we’ll have opening ceremonies, and I will be saying a few words about Bill. Each night, we have entertainment for the riders, and whether it’s myself or someone else, I’m sure we’ll be remembering him each night. He’ll be with us round the clock.”
Bike Miami Valley executive director Laura Estandia emphasized the importance of road safety and courtesy for auto drivers.
“Patience is the most important thing. Patience and caution. One thing drivers can do to help is give cyclists a safe passing distance, and give at least three feet of space when they approach a cyclist. That became a local ordinance in Dayton recently, and is in some other major cities in Ohio, and is just a good rule of thumb. Aside from that, avoid distractions as always, and pass with care. Drivers sometimes forget that bicyclists are allowed to use the full lane.”