By Stan Purdum
I just completed riding in the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure (GOBA), an annual bike event that was in its 34th edition. This year’s GOBA circuit was in the northeast corner of the state, in the counties near Lake Erie.
I’ve written about GOBA before in RBR, but this year, I was struck again by how much the eight-day event in Ohio is a family-friendly affair. In addition to prohibiting both alcohol and firearms in camp, GOBA has a long history of including children among its participants, and quiet hours are 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. so there is no late-night partying. Required riding is limited to the four days where the entire “GOBAville” moves to a new community, but the other days are layovers, with loop routes available to ride, but not required. The special activities provided by the host communities are appropriate for all ages. The event also includes emergency SAG support.
This year, there were several family riding teams participating, using varying combinations of bikes, tandems and tag-alongs.
One that caught my eye consisted of two adults on a tandem — presumably mom and dad —with two very small boys on a two-seat tag-along being towed behind. In the brief moments when I was able to speak with the adults, they told me the boys were ages 3 and 5. At one water stop, there was a swing set, slide and jungle gym, and I happened to overhear one of the boys say, “Look! A PLAYGROUND!” I didn’t hear what the parents said in response, but I did notice as I pedaled away after using the porta-pot and filling my water bottle that the kids were now swarming over the play area and making full use of the equipment.
I was able to talk at length with another family unit, consisting of the father, Rich Kauffman, his 12-year-old son Noah and his 8-year-old daughter Willow. (Mom wasn’t able to be on this adventure but was fully supportive of the dad-and-kids multi-day outing.) Rich, who lives in the greater Cleveland area, is a flight attendant whose work keeps him away from home several nights each month, so time intentionally spent with his children is important, and GOBA offers a good platform for it to take place.
Rich and Noah were captain and stoker respectively on a tandem, and Willow was riding a tagalong behind, which had its own pedals. “So do you pedal all the time?” I asked Willow.
“Not all the time,” she admitted, but declared the riding “fun and tiring.”
When I asked Noah the same question, he said, “I pedal all the time, but sometimes I don’t use full pressure. But I push hard on hills,” he said, “and the work pays off.”
I asked Rich what sort of preparations he had made to include his kids on this trip.
“For me, the biggest adjustment was mental,” Rich said. “I’m the kind of rider who never takes the short routes, who never walks the hills, who never slows down. I had to let all of that go for this event,” he said.
He went on to explain that after completing the 50-mile route on the first day of the event, they skipped the optional route on the second day, so they could go zip-lining and ride bumper boats in the lake. (GOBA operated from the same base — a county fairground — for the first three days, so we participants still had access to our cars for offsite activities those days.)
“What helps to keep the kids engaged?” I asked.
“Bribery,” Rich said. “If they want to have ice cream for breakfast, I allow it. And they know we will take at least one day off from riding to do other things they like.”
Rich also mentioned that he carries some card and board games on the bike, like Uno and Hive, to play with the kids on rest breaks. Noah also has a smartphone with video games.
Regarding prep before the event, Rich mentioned a couple rides, with the longest being 20 miles.
With 1,100 riders at the event, Rich insists that his kids always be together if they aren’t with him, and he installed a “Where’s my phone” app on Noah’s i-phone to help locate them quickly if need be.
Having some responsibilities on the trip was good for his offspring, he said, adding that another motivation for the ride was to give the kids a boost in self-esteem.
Daily bathing facilities for riders take the form of a shower truck, and since neither Rich nor Noah can go in the women’s section of the truck with Willow, Rich brought supplies the kids can use in their tent to scrub down after the rides.
Most of the riding days were in sunshine, but it did rain part of one day. Rich and the kids waited out the rain at one of the rest stops, but this didn’t make Willow happy because she wanted to ride in the rain. She was fully engaged in riding that day!
So was the effort and extra prep to be together at GOBA worth it? All three Kauffmans said “Yes!”
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.