EATON — After months of planning and anticipation, the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure rolled into Eaton on Sunday, June 19, bringing 1,600 bicyclists into the region for an overnight camp-out, celebrating a communal Father’s Day in the area.
Two people enjoying an active Father’s Day together were Michael Virgin and his 11-year-old son, Mitchell, of Columbus. Michael did the GOBA tour once in 1995, but caught the flu halfway through the tour and had to return home. This year, he rejoined with his son in tow for their first trip together. Fatigue hit Mitchell about halfway through Sunday morning’s ride to Eaton.
“He felt like he wanted to quit at one point,” Michael said, “but he just kept going, and he got his second wind and decided mentally that he could finish. A lot of people on the tour were really kind, and were telling him ‘Good job!’ and encouraging him. Today was a hard day, but it was good, and I’m proud of him.”
Adams County resident Roy Willman and Dayton resident Mary Wahrer were part of the 100 bikers who traveled with the Dayton Cycling Club. While Wahrer was enjoying her third GOBA run, Willman has logged so many that he’s lost count — “Oh, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen or so,” he said.
“For 10 years in a row,” he said, “I did GOBA with my son and daughter. They stay home now, and Mary and I go. The route changes every year, so now we pick years where it’s a little closer to home, or when the terrain is a little hillier.”
Wahrer cited the challenge as her primary reason for keeping up with the tour, but also the people.
“It’s like this moving community,” Willman said, “where you gain knowledge of people, and at the end of it, even though you’re worn out, there’s a certain sadness that it’s over because you’ve created a family.”
“It’s definitely a family affair for us,” said Columbus resident Ted Amling, on his ninth year along with his wife, brother, sister, and other family members, as well as his daughter, Natalie.
Natalie, 18, is preparing to begin college at The Ohio State University in the fall, following in her father’s footsteps — like him, she will study to be an engineer.
“My parents used to put me and my brother in carts behind their bikes and pull us along with them,” Natalie said. “The first year I was in high school I rode, and I did 100 miles and really liked it, so every year since then, we’ve done it as a family.”
The joyful family element carried a bittersweet tinge as the event carried forward without Bill Gordon, GOBA’s executive director, who died suddenly at age 57 one week before the tour began.
Julie Van Winkle served as director for years before Gordon, stepping down to associate director during his tenure, and is functioning as acting director for the current activities.
“I keep thinking, ‘I can’t wait to tell Bill how this turned out,’” she said. “He worked so hard and then didn’t get to see this. He was so excited; it was in his DNA. But the positive spin there is that he made it possible for us to have the week we’re having now. My constant thought is, ‘We’re doing this for Bill.’”
GOBA riders moved on to Oxford on Monday, June 20, and were to make their way back through other parts of Preble, Montgomery and Butler Counties thereafter.
Reach Duante Beddingfield at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @duanteb_RH.