Fiery dragons, mystical wizards and brave tales of adventure await, at a Harry Potter-themed Little Free Library in Clintonville, OH. Doctor Who (who I confess to knowing rather little about) is the inspiration for another library, built to resemble an old British police callbox, painted vibrant blue.
It’s a Tardis, I’m told – a fictional time machine and spacecraft, featured in the television series. It is not what you expect to see, as you roll your bike through the neighborhood. . . that is, unless you were on a mission, looking for a good book to read. If that’s the case, then you are delighted at the discovery.
Who needs to leave town for adventure, when the neighborhood is littered with Little Free Libraries to explore? Why not hop on a bike and head out looking for them? There are so many of these treasures, both registered and unregistered, and you could probably discover a new one every day, if you tried. . .
It sounds romantic, indulgent, making time to get out on your bike, every single day, aimed at locating a unique Little Free Library along the way. What better way to simultaneously increase your fitness, feel like a kid again, get some fresh air while out in nature, and see a bit of your neighborhood? What better way to find, and share, free books?
Sounds like a challenge – I’m up for it!
But it was April 1st when I did this, in the Midwest. Cold rain and gloomy skies are to be expected in the month of April. This is not a time when many cyclists are eagerly jumping into the saddle, besides those who ride all year. Weather is unpredictable, muscles are out of shape, and cyclists are still coming out of hibernation after a long, frigid winter.
What was I thinking. . . . ? Well, you see, I’d made a pledge to do so, with #30DaysOfBiking. As it turns out, I am a woman of my word. For seven years running, since I first fell in love with cycling, I have suited up every day in the month of April. Rain be damned – I won’t melt!
Nothing stops me! I have tossed my bike into the back of my Subaru Forester, when traveling for work, so that I wouldn’t miss a day of riding. When that was not possible, because my travel required me to book a flight, I rented or borrowed a bike from a local bike shop. As a last-ditch effort to keep my commitment, I had even settled for using the stationary bike at the hotel gym. (What a bore, but it counts!)
As a photographer, travel writer and blogging adventurer, I’ve spent years writing about my bike rides, as a way to document the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve met, and the diverse locations I’d visited. This year was going to be different, whether I liked it or not, because in the spring of 2020 the world was becoming more and more foreign every day.
Despite the novelty of the situation, I feared that something would be missing.
COVID-19 had me “grounded” from interstate travel, for work or pleasure, and international travel was out of the question. This year I would not be spending the month of April traveling from city to city, riding a Cruiser in Jacksonville or Miami, checking out the Bike-Share in Nashville, or visiting a bike shop in Boston.
The early spring had introduced us to the wide-spread practice of Social Distancing.
With the tailspin that COVID-19 had thrown us into, for the first time all 30 of my April rides for #30DaysOfBiking would be in Columbus, OH and the surrounding area. Not one to back down, I challenged myself to get out there every day and make it a true adventure, worth writing about. I was looking for a theme to tie my riding experiences together.
Because I am a Little Free Library steward, I chose to bring my love of cruising the neighborhood together with my love of the written word. My own library resides in Franklinton area, just west of downtown, where it is a community effort to keep the library stocked and organized. I visit it every couple of weeks, just to check in and see what’s new! (See Day 25, on the map at the end of this blog, to explore my Little Free Library.)
Getting to know your community, one library at a time, is exciting, and often touching.
A visitor may never know where a book originated, or its backstory, but the patron who borrows a book from a Little Free Library becomes part of that book’s history, whether she reads the book or passes it along to a friend.
30 April bike rides in 2020, visiting a unique library (or two or three) on each ride, provided a release from the stress, anxiety, and boredom that many people experienced under COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders. Who can possibly be bored when there are so many amazing books out there? Looking for a new adventure? Just turn the page!
Riding every day gradually got me out of the sluggishness of winter, providing gentle conditioning, early in the cycling season. I hope for a busy summer of cycling! I have not ridden a century (100 miles) in a couple of years, and there are plenty of longer routes and overnight bike camping trip in the fall, if we are permitted to participate in group rides.
Why did I ride every day, for 30 days? Because I said I would.
It was motivation to get out of the house, on a COVID-19 Sunday morning that might otherwise leave me feeling like there was nothing to do, nowhere to go and no adventure to be had. It got me out of the house I had been working, eating, sleeping, and lounging in . . . all. . . week. . . long. . . .
It was a breath of fresh air, whether it was 77° air (April 7th) or 26° air (April 16th).
And that’s what 30 Days of Biking is all about. #30DaysOfBiking
“30 Days of Biking is a pledge to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online with the hashtag #30DaysOfBiking. There’s no minimum distance – down a hill and around your garage count just like a 20-mile commute or a 350-mile charity ride. If you miss a day, no worries. Just keep riding and don’t give up! It’s all for fun, or as serious as you want it to be. What matters is we’re all in this together.” (30 Days of Biking website)
The 2020 #30DaysOfBiking Map
Follow this link, and the map you will discover plots each of the 30 libraries I visited, and then some, including photos of each Little Free Library.
Below is a deeper look into the stories and the special meaning of some of the most striking and memorable libraries I visited during the month of April:
Here we go – April 1st: As the month begins, we know we are in for a whirlwind of weather conditions. We will have cold days. There has historically been rain, lots of rain, and perhaps even some snow – it has happened! I dust off my bike – it has been quite some time since I was on it, and I am a bit rusty. So, the first ride is just a slow stroll around the neighborhood.
I do not choose the nearest library (there is one right across the street), but I’m just a few streets down, close to Walhalla Ravine, when I snap my first photo of the month. The library is full of books, neatly arranged, and it’s a registered library – #46294. Some are not. Its blue exterior matches the house it’s in front of, and a small pink heart above the door gives it a touch of charm, here in Clintonville.
Please, leave a Book: Not all the libraries are well stocked. Located on busy streets, with less foot traffic, some libraries do not receive as much TLC. Still the books are valued, and it is a good feeling to leave a Little Free Library tidy and full of stories when I roll away on my bike. That means I often have my paniers, or a backpack, loaded with books to drop off.
If you happen upon a Little Free Library that is closer to empty than full, please, leave a book. As an act of community support, I have been known to “relocate” books from wealthier parts of town, where books are plentiful, to poorer neighborhoods, with less access to books that are age appropriate, and in good condition. I consider that being a good steward. (This was day 3 – library #42635)
Walhalla Ravine: When I moved to Clintonville it was because I would be working from home, and needed a 3-bedroom rental to share with my partner– We ended up in a duplex with 100 years behind it. I vaguely knew the neighborhood, but I never imagined how many “Ravine Loops” we’d make, on various bikes.
It started as a morning ritual, on summer days, before the sun got too hot. It’s a quick couple of miles from the house, through the neighborhood, down Walhalla Ravine, then back up the small hill to our place. Sometimes we ride the loop in reverse – because it’s too cold, or too wet, or too late at night to be skidding down the curvy road that winds through the ravine.
(At the start of the season it’s quite the climb, but after tackling the beast of a hill that takes you into Worthington Hill, straight up from Hill’s Market, in Worthington, it’s a piece of cake, relaxing even)
In any case, if you zip by too quickly you might miss this Little Free Library, tucked back into the foliage, near the end of your trip down the ravine, on the south side of the street. I am always bringing books here – trade paperbacks fit nicely on its narrow, shallow, short shelves. I suspect walkers happen upon it unexpectedly, take a book, and then never think to return a book. That’s okay – I have plenty to share!
My own Little Free Library:
Scioto Audubon Metro Park:
While it’s not the only Columbus Metro Park with a Little Free Library this one is my favorite, decorated with images of just a few of the feathered friends that visit the park. Just south of downtown, you can see the city skyline from the back of the nature center. Books are sometimes, though not always nature-themed. Largely children’s books, there is a lot of color, beautiful illustrations and wild adventures to be had.
If you have a chance to go into the educational nature center you’ll find photography displays, live animals that educate school children, and adventure backpacks that can be borrowed for the day, by families ready to explore the park. There is also an amazing library inside the nature canter, a retreat of sorts that looks out on the park. Bird lovers can read up on their favorite species, recline in a comfy chair that’s easy to sink into, and settle in for as long as they like.
Scioto Audubon is proof of the diversity of bird species in a city setting!
Sunny Glen Wellness Little Free Library: Devoted to personal wellness and community sharing, this library is a hidden gem, sitting in front of a modest, unassuming ranch home, just East of the highway that runs through Columbus. It’s only because of the Little Free Library online map that I discovered it, so please register your library!
I’ve made a return trip to his library, to drop off books. In return, I’ve borrowed colorful volumes, full of photos, that educate me on the “Top 24” yoga places in India and a how-to guide to cultivating house plants that will thrive. This is a library that wants to serve the community. It sits on a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat and Monarch Waystation.
A journal inside the library allows visitors to leave a message, and chronicles the activity that the library has brought to this little corner of the world.
A Surprise, Right Around the Corner: Did I fail to notice this beautiful library because of its natural color palette? Clintonville is full of duplexes like the one this library sits in front of, and I’ve ridden or driven past it many times. My “radar” for libraries is usually on high alert, buy my eyes must have always been focused on the busy road – the library sits on Indianola, which shuttles many commuters into the city every morning.
My heart belongs in nature, I’m a card-carrying tree hugger, and my father and grandfather instilled a love of woodwork in me – my father being a collector and his father being an industrial arts teacher. (So schools still offer such classes? Will they in a post-COVID world? Can we expect a post-COVID world?)
In any case, the curving trees that adorn this library are whimsical and draw readers in. Shortly after I visited this library, which I now notice every time I pass by, the stewards changed out the sign in the window, which had been damaged by rain over the years. I encourage you to find this library on the map, and discover the message that’s there now.
If you haven’t noticed already, there are just so many books. . . . . . . . and these days, we have time to stay in and read. Curl up with a good book!
The libraries have been impacted by COVID-19
- One announced in hand-drawn Crayola lettering that it had been sanitized with Lysol, which is in short supply during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Another library, exuding kindness and a sense of community, offers masks to those who do not have protection of their own, in the form of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE).
- One library Steward decided that the risk of spreading the virus throughout the neighborhood was too great, and posted a sign letting Patrons know that the library was closed, indefinitely.
#30DaysOfBiking has been impacted by COVID-19
“COVID-19 UPDATE: Our plan is still to keep 30 Days of Biking active I April. Pull it off however you can, whether that means biking down your hallways, on your exercise bike, in your garage or, if your situation allows it, going for a solitary ride down the street, keeping your distance form others. Staying active is very important in a time like this. Let’s do that while keeping each other and our communities safe!” (30 Days of Biking website)
Do you know where your nearest Little Free Library is? See the links below to discover hidden adventure, without leaving your neighborhood!
Join me on my next adventure,
Related Links & Social Media:
30 Days Of Biking (#30DaysOfBiking): https://30daysofbiking.com/
Little Free Library (#LittleFreeLibrary): https://littlefreelibrary.org/
Sunny Glen Wellness Little Free Library (on Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/SunnyGlenWellnessLittleFreeLibrary/
Grange Insurance Audubon Center: https://grange.audubon.org/?fbclid=IwAR0BAahem_Y6Wk0RvISJAtZdJn6x2OVQUjywzisjuRjIFheGfDNqxgPYV1Q