Ohio bike tour sparked idea for Hermann Hassle

April is the time when bicycle enthusiasts all over the nation and in several foreign countries are getting in shape to ride in a famous event in Ohio. The Tour of the Sciota River Valley begins in Columbus and extends more than 100 miles south to end up in the city of Portsmouth. That’s the Saturday segment; they bike back to Columbus on Sunday. Thousands of riders of all ages have been doing this for many years. I first heard of it from Donna, a college student from Columbus who was in one of my bicycling classes.

"We should start a ride like that here," she said on enrollment day. She joined the Booneslick Hostel Club and helped establish a shorter but challenging ride, difficult because of hills. She and I worked out a lot of the details of the Hermann Hassle before Donna saw the route. A hassle is "a violent skirmish," and this 63-mile per-day trip was just that. The Auxvasse creek hill and the Starkenburg hill make for beautiful scenery, but they require skill, perseverance and determination. It would be 65 miles to the park and would be about the same distance returning by a partly different route.

The club liked the idea and began to schedule longer rides. Before the ride, Donna and I went to Hermann to get special permission for riders and families to camp in the city park where toilets and showers were available. We chose a route from Columbia to Fulton to the Readsville corner and then east to Americus, south past Starkenburg Catholic Church to Highway 94 and left to Rhineland. Seven miles farther, it turned right on Highway 19 and

across the Missouri River bridge into Hermann. Parents and others not on bikes volunteered to buy, cook and serve a simple, nourishing evening meal and lots of it. We also arranged for people to have breakfast in a large meeting room of a local restaurant, each one arriving when he pleased and paying for his own.

Soon after sunrise on Hassle day we met at Eastgate. As riders arrived, Walt Gerard and other bike mechanics looked at brakes, gears and other parts to make sure that bikes were safe. Donna handed out sketches of the route and instructions. Two men who drove "sag wagons" had a good supply of water, first aid and snacks in their trucks. Most people put their camping gear in the trucks. Before taking off, we answered questions, and I repeated my favorite old Welsh blessing: "May the hills melt down before you and God protect you in the hollow of his hand."

Just after sunrise, the faster riders took off single file with their sag truck to follow later. Each person wore a large yellow-and-black number on his back. Then the rest of us set out. My husband, Chub, drove the sag for the rest of us. That was in 1970 and was the club’s first long overnight ride; it became a tradition and was repeated often. I made Donna and me white bike bags with "Hermann Hassle" in black letters.

The next year, six members of the Booneslick Hostel Club participated in the Ohio Tour of the Sciota Valley. Donna’s mother hosted us on Friday night. I didn’t try for two days of about 104 miles each. I rode the first day but was the last one of our group to arrive at the hotel in Portsmouth. In 1972, I completed the full 204 miles! My club buddies waited for me and boosted my bike up the ramp to the finish line at the Ohio Capitol!

Click here to return to the index
Copyright © 1994-2010 Sue Gerard. All Rights Reserved. No text or images on this website may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author, except small quotations to be used in reviews.