Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
By Janie Southard
Beginning this weekend, the Mercer County Fairgrounds will become GOBAville. The expected residency is 3,000 high energy people with nothing to do for the next week but bike around the area.
The Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA) begins and ends in Celina for the third time in its 19-year history. Bicyclists will take off Sunday for a 300-mile trek that makes a loop from Celina to Van Wert, Wapakoneta, Troy, Versailles and back to Celina.
Dean and Norma Schweizer of Celina and their children, Greg, 21, and Wendy, 19, have pedaled around Ohio for 12 of GOBA's bike adventures, which always include cyclists from all across the nation and even outside the United States.
"GOBA is generally an easier ride, more oriented toward family ... Sometimes there have even been infants in cabooses (small trailers hooked onto the bicycle)," said Dean Schweizer, a cyclist for many years. "Most of the bikes are not real expensive. You see a lot of $100 Huffys."
He credits his mom with pushing him toward cycling.
"We lived out in the country when I was a kid. So whenever I wanted to go to the swimming pool in the summer, my mother told me I'd have to ride my bike. And, I did," he said, adding he enjoyed that 5-mile ride on his Huffy 3-Speed.
Norma Schweizer lived on a gravel road when she was a child and didn't have much opportunity to ride her bike. It wasn't until the GOBAs that she started riding seriously. She does value the incentive to "get in shape" every year. Plus, she loves an excuse to "eat like a pig" while she's training.
"The kids have gone with us since they were very young," she said, while working the Celina Music Store, which she and her husband own and operate.
Her son enjoys the opportunity to make friends on the big ride. He says there's a lot of characters amid the 3,000 cyclists.
"There's a guy who puts on a kilt immediately after the day's ride. Then, another guy smokes a cigar as he rides along the countryside," said Greg Schweizer, who in the past has colored his hair pink, blue and spiked it up with Elmer's Glue for the rides.
Along with having fun, food is a big issue for those making the 300-mile, weeklong ride. Dean Schweizer said food providers, such as church groups, volunteer organizations, etc., must follow the instructions GOBA provides.
"We're talking 3,000 people arriving in towns, which sometimes have a population of 600 people. They need to understand what it takes to feed 3,000 hungry people," said Norma Schweizer, who recalled several food stops over the years where the food was gone long before even half the riders had been fed. "One little town group barbecued 300 chickens and thought that would be enough. It wasn't."
After riding 50 or so miles, the riders are definitely craving carbs, she said. Spaghetti dinners are a frequent menu item as are other pasta dishes and fresh fruit.
Riders usually carry their own snacks as well as everything they need for minor repairs of their bikes.
There are a variety of mobile services that follow the pack, such as clean towels, shower trucks, cell phone charging service, folding chair rental and repair shops on wheels, plus others.
As well, there are a whole bunch of volunteers along the way. At the least, 500 people donate their time to making sure the riders are as well cared for as possible.
The Schweizers agree it's a well-run ride that provides new friends and memories to savor the rest of the year.
GOBA schedule and daily mileage:
Sunday: Celina to Van Wert, 49 miles
Monday: Van Wert to Wapakoneta, 57
Tuesday: Optional loop out of Wapakoneta, 54
Wednesday: Wapakoneta to Troy, 62
Thursday: Optional loops out of Troy, 52 or 103
Friday: Troy to Versailles, 56
Saturday: Versailles to Celina, 39