Take a banana-split bike trip through Ohio this fall

Growing up in northern Ohio, one of my favorite things to do was ride my bike to get ice cream. I’d often travel two miles from Medina to a general store called Weymouth Pantry, where I’d buy an orange Push-Up for a quarter. Then, I’d sit and eat the frozen treat by the peaceful Rocky River.

As an adult, I still like to go for bike rides, and I still like to eat ice cream.

“Bikers really like ice cream,” said Dan Young, chief ice-cream dipper at Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs. His business is located near the Little Miami Scenic Trail, an old railroad turned recreational trail that extends 69 miles from Springfield to Milford. Young says he serves about 1,000 bicyclists each week.

Thanks to the Rails-To-Trails project, there are plenty of easy bike routes that wind throughout Ohio’s countryside. Fall is a great time to discover the trails, whether you’re a biker, hiker or roller blader. Many are paved and wheelchair accessible.

One way to soak up some scenery and end the summer with a cherry on top is to take what I call a Banana Split Trip. Pick a bike path, ride it a good distance, then treat yourself to ice cream.

Here are three of my favorites:

Kokosing Gap Trail

Where: Mount Vernon to Danville
Distance: 28 miles, round trip
Trailhead: Well-marked parking lot on Lower Gambier Road in Mount Vernon
Features: Gambier Bridge; a 1940 locomotive and a 1924 caboose in Gambier; and a park with playground equipment in Howard
More information: www.kokosinggaptrail.com
Commentary: This paved trail on a former Pennsylvania Railroad line is secluded with an abundance of wildlife, including chipmunks, deer and the occasional long-tailed weasel. The trail follows the Kokosing River, through woods and past family farms. There are plenty of park benches and ample bathroom facilities along the way.
Cool treat: Kent’s Ice Cream Station, 115 Newark Rd., Mount Vernon. Nostalgic ice-cream parlor with ’50s memorabilia and a nice selection of retro candy. Deluxe Banana Split served the traditional way with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla hand-dipped ice cream. Call 740-392-3477 for hours.

Little Miami Scenic Trail

Where: Yellow Springs to Xenia
Distance: 19.62 miles, round trip
Trailhead: Community Center, 100 Dayton St., Yellow Springs
Features: Bohemian town of Yellow Springs; Yellow Springs Train Station; and Xenia Station
More information: www.miamivalleytrails.org
Commentary: What makes this portion of the Little Miami Scenic Trail especially charming is the town of Yellow Springs, known for its unique shops and restaurants.
Cool treat: Young’s Jersey Dairy, 6880 Springfield-Xenia Rd., Yellow Springs. Farm and restaurant located on 120 acres.
King Kong Split is made with five scoops of homemade ice cream and topped with fresh whipped cream, a cherry and two animal crackers. Call 937-325-0629 for hours.

Holmes County Trail

Where: Millersburg to Fredericksburg
Distance: 20 miles, round trip
Trailhead: Hipp Station, 1 Trail Dr., Millersburg
Features: Trail is half paved for cyclists and half unpaved for Amish buggies.
More information: www.holmestrail.org
Commentary: Clip-clop, clip-clop is the sound you’ll hear while riding on this magical trail leading past rows of towering cottonwood trees and Amish farms.
Cool treat: Catalpa Trading Company & Old-Fashioned Soda Fountain, Berlin.
Listen to jukebox music and enjoy a banana split served in a glass dish upon a marble-topped bar. Call 330-893-3752 for hours.

For more info: For a free map of Ohio’s bikeways, call the Ohio Department of Transportation at 614-752-4685 or visit www.dot.state.oh.us/bike.