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11-04-02: Pedaling inspires writing about rural Ohio
Standard Correspondent
    In 1985, Jeff Traylor and his wife, Nadean, did what a lot of us would love to do, if we had the nerve, the motivation, and the quadriceps to do it.
    Facing an increasing conviction that they had become bogged down by their careers, their small family-run business, and life in general, Jeff and Nadean Traylor locked up the house, jumped on their bikes, and pedaled away - for two months.
    "We brought along only what we thought were the essentials, which amounted to 90 pounds of gear between us. We said to ourselves, OLet's create some open space, and see what flows in,' " Jeff Traylor said.
    They traveled 1,600 miles in those two months, and discovered that they already had everything they needed.
    "We learned how little we actually needed to survive and be happy. In fact, we found ourselves packaging up a lot of the things that we had brought along, and sending them home, because we were carrying more than we really needed," he said. "If you can carry everything you need on your bike - there's a lesson to be learned there."
    During that time, the Traylors also discovered the treasure that was their home state. Bicyclists aren't welcome on interstate highways, so their travels led them along back roads all across Ohio. They found that it was a beautiful place to be.
    And so was born their new life. When they returned home, Jeff Traylor, who had worked as a counselor mainly among the state's correctional institutions, and Nadean Traylor, an artist who had been running a food booth at a public market, collaborated on the first book either of them ever attempted. Called "Life in the Slow Lane: A Tourbook for Bicyclists, Time Travelers and Other Backroad Buffs," it helped readers explore the beauty and history of Ohio's back roads, and it was an immediate success.
    Since then, the Traylors have written other books in what has become a series. The entire state is covered in the compilation, "Life in the Slow Lane: 50 Backroad Tours of Ohio."
    Traylor, 54, who has since resumed his work as a counselor in private practice, also has continued to write and speak about Ohio, its people and places. He has written a book called "Ohio Pride: A Guide to Ohio Roadside History."
    "You know those black-and-white historical markers that you see right outside of town. I saw one outside of Clyde that piqued my interest. And so I started researching the information on those historical markers, until I
had done 256 one-page summaries. Together, they tell the story of the history of Ohio," he said.
    He and his wife have also collaborated on a series of CD-roms featuring Ohio historical sites that are used in fourth-grade classrooms across the state, as students study Ohio history.
    "My wife and I can't believe our good fortune sometimes, that we've been able to support ourselves by traveling around Ohio and writing about it," he said. "There's so much to see in this state. Its geography is so diverse. Eastern and southern Ohio are so hilly. Then you've got Lake Erie. And west-central Ohio is what I like to call Ohio's big-sky country - nowhere else in the state can you see for miles like you can in that area. And there's so much history there, the cross-tipped churches, the Miami-Erie Canal, Anthony Wayne, Fort Recovery."
    They do sometimes travel outside of the state, Traylor said. But they're still exploring Ohio, still finding new places.
    "When I give a talk, a lot of times someone will come up to me afterwards and say, OI'll bet you haven't seen this'' and tell me about some local landmark. Usually, I have seen it. But once in a while, somebody will still come up with some place that's new to me."

 Speaking in Celina

    Ohio travel author Jeff Traylor will speak on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Richardson-Bretz Memorial Building, 115 W. Fulton St., in Celina. His local appearance, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Mercer County District Library and the Friends of the Library.
    Traylor is the author of "Life in the Slow Lane: Fifty Backroad Tours of Ohio" and other Ohio travel and history books.
    "I'm going to be talking about Ohio's backroad treasures," Traylor said. "I'll be showing people a timeline of Ohio based on things that are still on the landscape."
    Although Traylor is a dedicated bicyclist, his tours of Ohio can be made by bike or car, he said. "They're also good trips for people who like to take pictures," he said. "My talk usually turns into a pretty social occasion, because people tend to hang around and talk about all the unusual places and things they've seen in their own travels. It's a good way to take a break from the hectic pace of daily life."


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