10 March 2013

Found: the National Road

Saturday, 9 March 2013

My ride today started with errands to mail a package—getting there only a minute before the office closed—and to drop off a CD at the library.

Then I took the Great Miami River Trail north toward Taylorsville Reserve, thinking of Troy as my turnaround point. When I crossed the Miami River from Harrison township to Wayne township, I noticed a small farm building that was clearly from the 19th century, so I crossed over to Powell Road and rang the bell at the owner's house.

When he opened the door, I pulled out my 1938 map and asked, "Are you perhaps Mr. Spahn?" He answered, "No, but I bought this house from the Spahn family in the 1970s." I asked about the barn and whether there still are remnants of the lock on the Miami and Erie Canal that passed just east of their home. He invited me in to talk with his wife, who has a much greater range of information about the location. We three had a great time talking about the locks, distillery, former owners, and old buildings that still stand nearby.

His notes on the 1938 map helped clarify where Johnson's Station had been. Where today Little York Road passes underneath the railway through a large tube is where Johnson Station had been. Today, the area is home to several businesses, including Butler Asphalt and the Miami Valley Shooting Grounds. A modern bridge has replaced the crossing that existed even as early as 1875, and a new bridge has been built at the north end of Rip Rap Road Park as part of the Great Miami River Bikeway.

Remnants of the National Road, at the end
of Silvan Cliff Road, Vandalia Ohio
Back on the bikeway, I headed north again, more cognizant now of the canal that parallels the bikeway and the Miami River, until the canal crossed over the river where Taylorsville Dam is now. About a mile north of the dam, I took an abandoned road up out of the park, over two sets of active railway, and up a ravine to the Cassel Hills Golf Course. I spoke with a manager near the clubhouse, who mentioned a toll house monument just outside the golf course entrance. Just beyond that monument was a rolling bluff-top neighborhood and an old cut into the hill, curving down toward the river. It was the remaining excavations for the National Road curving up from the river to Vandalia. The former village of Tadmor lay along this part of the trail. In 1875, the village may have had only three houses, owned then by W. Crook and M.S., and J. Sunderland.

I left exploring this trail for another day, when I could walk the area with hiking shoes rather than cycling cleats.

Remnants of National Trail bridge across the Miami and Erie Canal, just outside Tadmor Ohio
I returned to the bikeway along the same abandoned road, and headed further north to photograph the remains of a bridge that crossed the canal, near the former location of Tadmor. I descended to the river, hoping to find remnants of a bridge crossing. But I was disappointed in that hope. Instead, what looks like a stream outlet to the river is so gradual—and serves no actual stream from the surrounding forest—that it seems to be an engineered exit for fording the river.

Finally back in riding mode, I continued on the new bikeway into Tipp City. I had used a lot of time in my explorations, so I turned around here for a bonk-tinged ride back home. I'll leave for another Spring day a ride to Troy, which was my planned turnaround for the ride.

Ride conditions
Temperature: 53 to 56°F late afternoon
Precipitation: none
Winds: calm to 5 mph from the southeast
Clothing: Skinsuit, longsleeve undershirt, ankle socks, open-finger gloves
Bike: Lotus Legend fixed 48x16
Time: 14:40 to 19:30 for 44.95 miles
Heart rate: no data
Bikeway users: 9 cyclists, 25+ pedestrians, 6 dogs

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