It was half way into the bike trip and Caroline Schuster had barely broken a sweat.
The 9-year-old Sandusky girl had another 10 miles of trail to go, but she sounded prepared for the challenge.
“I am a little tired, but I think I can do it,” she said confidently.
Caroline might be too young to be considered an experienced cyclist, but she looked like a pro Sunday during the annual Pedal Erie Parks bike event.
Entering its sixth year, the bike ride drew more than 200 cyclists of all skills and ages to the McBride Arboretum, even though it had rained just before departure time.
A few ominous clouds weren’t going to keep north-central Ohio bike-enthusiasts like Caroline from hitting the open roads.
The amusement parks and beaches in Erie County get a lot of attention. But the county also has plenty of lush green spaces perfect for spending a leisurely Sunday afternoon on foot or on two wheels, organizers said.
“It’s to promote family fun and also to promote our parks. We have new distances and rides this year so people get to know Hoffman Woods,” said Pat Vorhees, publicity chair of Friends of Erie MetroParks, the sponsoring organization.
The proceeds from registration costs help pay for other park events later in the year hosted by the non-profit group.
Cyclists on Sunday chose from four bike trails varying in length from 10 to 50 miles. The mostly circular routes began at the arboretum and headed as far out as Cemetery Road, well east of Edison Woods.
As if the scenic trails weren’t enough of an incentive, a picnic pit stop at Hoffman Woods was thrown in for good measure. Cyclists were also fed for free at the end of the trip.
The event is held at an early hour — beginning at 7 a.m. — for a reason. A lack of traffic allowed riders to often take up as much of the roads as they pleased. The scarcity of automobiles also meant wildlife were out in large numbers.
“I saw different kinds of birds and a baby bunny,” Caroline said.
Caroline wasn’t the only young rider. Jenna Hofer, 8, rode alongside of her mother, Debby Hofer, 36, and several other relatives.
Debby Hofer said it is exciting Jenna is old enough to ride on her own. Two years ago, that wasn’t the case.
“Last time we did it she was on the back of a bike. This time, she had to pedal it,” Debby Hofer said. “It’s a little different when you have to pedal.”
Even though the Hofers called it quits after 10 miles, they weren’t completely wiped out by the ride. In a year, Jenna might be ready for a lengthier route.
Steve Dice, executive director of Erie MetroParks, was pleased to see so many people take advantage of the opportunity to get outside. He said enjoyment of outdoor spaces and good health go hand-in-hand.
“Part of what parks do is help people have healthy bodies,” he said.
There are so many lazy ways to spend a Sunday morning. Dice was glad Friends of Erie MetroParks had provided a healthy alternative.