Monday, May 21, 2012

Beautiful Landscapes, Bad Maps

Three years ago I read an article in Road Runner magazine about a 4-day dual sport ride in and around Coshocton, OH. The time was never right to make the trip north but after a trip to Colorado did not materialize this spring, Dad and I decided to seize the opportunity and go roaming around Eastern Ohio. We have chosen to try and follow the Road Runner routes as closely as possible and are looking forward to rolling hills, pastoral landscapes and Amish buggies. Our home base is the Coshocton Inn and Suites recommended by the article. Dad is on his KTM 500EXC and I am on my Suzuki DRZ 400.

Day 1 - Beautiful Landscapes, Bad Maps

Started my morning off with a short run right out of the hotel that went along the old locks of the Ohio & Erie Canal. The fog was swirling off the river and the sun was rising behind the trees and it was perfection. After breakfast, Dad and I began getting the bikes prepared for the day’s ride. We made an easy decision to follow the first route laid out in the article, which would take us northwest of Coshocton towards Millersburg. By 9am the heat was turned on and we were itching to get on the bikes and cool off. Shortly out of town we turned off on to an empty back road and within a few miles found our first stretch of dirt. The cool crisp air and nuclear green spring foliage made for a spectacular start and we knew we were in for a fantastic day.

We were clearly in a very remote area and before long Amish farmers began to dot the fields with their families, tilling and working the land. When Dad and I would ride by, fully geared out on our noisy dirt bikes everyone in the field would stop what they were doing and stare at us like we were riding flying unicorns. We’d all wave to one another as we continued on, climbing over low ridge tops and dropping down into low farm valleys all the while darting under tree canopies hanging over the road.

There was a lot of dirt in the early part of ride and I began to get very excited that this sort of riding would make up the bulk of the day but unfortunately we began to run into problems on the outskirts of Millersburg.  The routes plugged in to the GPS did not match the reality of the roads and we found ourselves turning into driveways and pulling over to the side of the road often trying to determine our position and where we needed to go.  Unfortunately neither of us had a decent map (which had the smaller township and county roads) but we knew the general direction we needed to head and so we just started winging it. The GPS would occasionally get back on track and we’d follow it for a few miles and then lose the tracks again before too long. Still, the day was beautiful; the traffic minimal and driving thru Amish country was at times otherworldly.

Just before noon we found ourselves in the small town of Baltic and recognized Millers Dutch Kitchen as one of the outstanding local eateries from the article. Being tired, hot and a little lost, we figured the time was right to take a break and fill our bellies.  Millers was short on atmosphere but more than made up for it in the quality of the plates. Dad had a simple Chicken Salad sandwich, but on our waitress's recommendation I had the open-faced roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. It was full of goodness and primed me for the rest of the day.

While paying for lunch I spotted a map of local back roads and purchased it thinking it might be a good alternative to our failing GPS tracks. We made a loose plan to get out of Baltic and wind our way back towards Coshocton.  Just like the Amish, forgoing modern technology and using a good old map might have been the best decision we made all day. Within moments of leaving town we were back on dirt roads, climbing small hills and rolling through the lush countryside. The roads were very dry and following Dad was at times like being behind a moving cloud of dust. I’d often drop back two-tenths of a mile just to have enough visibility.

Our last stop of the day was under a shade tree and I took my armor off and laid down on the freshly cut grass. It was cool and smelled of spring and I was in heaven. Dad got some pictures and I think he let me take a 5-minute nap, which was just what I needed to get us back to town.

We covered just under 100 miles our first day. When it was all said and done I’d say that roughly 75% of it was tarmac, but seeing how we were having trouble with our GPS tracks, staying on the more prominent roads kept us from getting too lost.

Earlier in the week Dad was able to contact Steve Mauk, who was the guide of the original Road Runner trip. He called our hotel room and we have made loose plans to meet tomorrow and he will take us on the day 2 tour so even if we get lost, at least we’ll do it with a local.

All in all our first day riding eastern Ohio was a success. We got lost and I ate a lot of dust, but we saw some beautiful countryside and ate some great local faire. Tomorrow looks to be considerably cooler and having a guide with knowledge of the area can only mean good things. 

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