By EILEEN MCCLORY
Motorists on county and state routes may see more cyclists on the roads this week and businesses may see an influx of visitors.
The Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure, or GOBA for short, has been held annually for the past 29 years in some part of Ohio where there are enough bike trails or county roads to link towns to one another for the week of rides, which average 50 miles a day.
Opening ceremonies and a parade kicked off the event Saturday at the Hancock County Fairgrounds before the riders set off today.
They will ride to Tiffin, Upper Sandusky, Bellefontaine and Kenton before heading back to the Hancock fairgrounds next Saturday.
About 1,500 people will be in the area for the event from over 30 states and from other countries. This is a tourist ride, GOBA director Jerry Rampelt said, and meals and tourist attraction fees are not included in the registration fee. Local restaurants, church groups, schools and other community organizations do make food stops for participants.
GOBA riders typically camp in the towns they stay in, but some take hotel rooms, Rampelt said.
“There’s a lot of supporting the local economy and a conscious effort to do that as you travel through these towns as well,” said GOBA volunteer Larry Jenkins.
Rampelt said the weeklong bike trip is meant as a scenic, touristy ride through the countryside. Participants will ride a minimum of 271 miles and a maximum of 431 miles. Registration is closed for this year’s ride.
There isn’t a specific way to choose which part of Ohio will host the ride each year, Rampelt said. He added, though, that Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik had met with him before GOBA and was very supportive of the ride. Mihalik and Hancock County Commissioner Tim Bechtol helped judge a costume contest as part of Saturday night’s welcome ceremony.
Rampelt said the people who come to GOBA often come back year after year to see old friends and ride through a new part of Ohio.
Lois Harwood of Ontario, Canada, said she and a friend, Nestor Klem, have been doing the ride for 10 years.
“Some friends of ours in Michigan we met on GOBA,” Harwood said. “We see the same people year after year.”
Harwood added that drivers in Ohio are more patient and willing to wait than they are where she lives, something she appreciates.
Khang Le and Danilo Benitez, both of Virginia, came to the ride with a Special Olympics team.
They have done the ride before and enjoy biking and meeting new people.
“I came here because I like to experience new places and meet new people,” Benitez said.
Rampelt said he was looking forward to the restaurants and small Main Street shops in Findlay.
“There seems to be a lot of community spirit and community pride here, something I think a hometown should be proud of,” Rampelt said.
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