Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 2 - It's Good to Have a Guide

            Woke this morning to overcast skies and significantly cooler temperatures, which, after the heat of yesterday turned out to be a nice respite. Steve Mauk, the guide and route planner of the original Road Runner article, called us shortly before 9am and made plans to meet us in the town square of the small hamlet of Warsaw, OH. After gassing up the bikes and getting our cameras and gear all dialed in we were on our way. The day promised to be better than yesterday as, at the very least, we’d be traveling the roads with a local.

Steve is a fantastic guy and the three of us immediately hit it off. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about the days travel plans, which was to try and follow the 2nd route of the Road Runner tour. Dad had the waypoints plugged into his GPS and we were going to see how far that got us. Steve did not remember verbatim the original route and his GPS uses a compass modem, instead of waypoints, where you plug in a destination and the device continuously points you in the right direction. If nothing else, he knew where he wanted to have lunch and plugged in a few of the landmarks we wanted to hit from the article.

Less than a mile outside of Warsaw we turned off on to a small dirt road with Dad in the lead and Steve and I in tow. There didn’t seem to have been any significant rainfall the night before and the dust was kicking up in thick clouds. Still, we knew this was part of riding the dirt roads and maintained plenty of space between riders. This first dirt section was fairly long and felt like it was about as much as we had covered on dirt in total the day before.

The hills seemed a lot steeper, the canopy a lot thicker and the roads a bit more challenging as yesterday the gravel seemed less squirrely. Our confidence was quite a bit higher however as we were a bit more used to the terrain and we knew we couldn’t get too lost with Steve as our guide. As we exited the early dirt roads and pulled up to a stop sign, Steve asked how we were enjoying the roads so far. As we were to later find out, he has done some guiding for other Road Runner tours and rides with people of various abilities. In true guide fashion he wanted to gauge early on where our comfort level was so he could know what sort of terrain we were capable of. I’m pretty sure that the giant grins on our faces was a fairly good indicator that he didn’t have to worry about where to take us.

In the small town (if you can call it that) of Walhonding is where the GPS route made its first major deviation. It was telling us to go left but clearly that road was not the direction we wanted to be heading. Steve plugged some coordinates into his device and we followed him for the rest of the day. He had warned us when we first met that he had a bit of a lead wrist and he wasn’t kidding.  He tore off like a rocket down the road and his confidence on the dirt made him much faster. Still, true to form he never let us get out of his rear view and always made sure we’d be able to see turns he was about to make.

Not too far out of Walhonding we turned off on to a very small barely used road that cut directly thru some farmland. This wasn’t so much off a road as an access point. We made a short but fun creek crossing and quickly found ourselves at the bottom of a very steep and deeply rutted incline. This was the infamous hill climb that was oft mentioned in the article and Steve got off the bike to check its condition. Steve was riding a KLR with primarily road tires as were the tires on my Dad’s KTM. My DRZ had full knobbies on it but I had put in about 28lbs of pressure for the pavement and would have had to of taken a significant amount of air out to confidently make the climb. After a short discussion we all agreed it was way too early for any of us to be doing anything that could lead to dropping the bikes or sustaining even a small crash and we turned around and headed back to the main road.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur as we covered a lot of ground constantly turning on and off gravel roads and hardly ever seeing another vehicle of any kind.  This was ideal riding with cool temps and beautiful views and unlike yesterday we spent much more time moving and less time stopping to look at maps. With Steve’s compass GPS, he would slow down, take a look at a road, determine if it was possibly interesting and either take it or leave it. In most if not all instances this led to great roads, but without specific waypoints we at times found ourselves either backtracking or doing a loop past familiar farmhouses and landmarks. It became a bit of a running joke as the afternoon wore on that we really weren’t covering any new ground and that Steve was just taking us in circles. Thankfully, he took our prodding all in good humor.

Some of the prettiest riding of the day was northwest of Coshocton in the Mohican State Park area. The topography here was much different than our home base with less farmland and much denser forest. It is clear that the Mohican River is a vacation destination as evidenced by the large amount of very touristy campgrounds and signs for canoeing, fishing and zip lining.  One small loop, which took Steve a few circles to find, took us on a very narrow, steep dirt road, that was unlike any thing we had done so far. Even though it was short it was well worth it for the adrenaline rush of flying down a steep, rocky incline under a thick canopy of trees.

The time had come for lunch and one of the highlights of the article that Steve insisted we try was the Malabar Farm Restaurant.  When we pulled into the parking lot I quickly became aware of just how dirty and disheveled we all must have looked, as this place was clearly more fancy than a burger joint. It was actually a wonderful place and we were welcomed as road weary warriors. I was starving and had a delicious chicken salad sandwich and one of the best bowls of French Onion soup I’ve had in yearIs. Steve had a soup and salad and Dad had the meatloaf. All of it was locally raised farm fresh and simply outstanding. We had great lunch conversation, talking less about motorcycling and more getting to know one another. Seems that we have all had similar paths of spending the better part of our youth moving around before settling down with families.

After lunch we took a quick trip up Jeez Hill just above the restaurant and had a spectacular view of the surrounding valley overlooking Malabar Farm. The Farm was built in 1939 by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield and after coming down from the overlook we made a quick stop at the visitor center and walked around the grounds admiring the goats, cattle and other farm animals.

By the time we left the Farm we had clocked close to 100 miles since leaving Coshocton and knew that even though we’d be taking a more direct route back to town it would still be a long ride home. As the next two days our plan is to ride south of Coshocton, there were still two major landmarks we wanted to see in this northern quadrant. One was the covered bridge and the other was the painted barn. Steve plugged in the coordinates and we wound our way back south occasionally taking dirt roads but sticking mostly to pavement. On the plus side, following Steve all day boosted Dad and my's confidence considerably and we were able to keep up with him on the dirt with no problem.

It was a very welcome sight when we saw the sign informing us we were entering Coshocton County as Dad and I were both exhausted having been in the saddle for between 7 and 8 hours. We took a short photo break at the Covered Bridge and made our way in the direction of the painted barn which was one of the article highlights that was a must see. Steve took a right at an intersection that took us out of Coshocton County and I could tell that both Dad and I were worried that Steve had made another wrong turn and our tired butts and brains were beginning to fail. Shortly after the turn however the barn clearly came in to view with a huge mural of the Beatles staring at us. The barn was truly a work of art, with all sides representing some of the greatest rock and country musicians of the last 50 years. It was really very cool and well worth suffering a few more minutes on the bike.

The last leg took us all on pavement right into the historic area of Roscoe Village on the edge of Coshocton. Burgers and beers were definitely in order and we ate at The Warehouse, which Steve had been raving about all day. We were not disappointed and enjoyed more great conversation and wound down after almost a 180 mile day.

After gracious thank you’s and exchanging all our various contacts we parted ways with Steve at the restaurant and promised to keep in touch. Thankfully the hotel was less than a mile away and Dad and I did not waste any time locking the bikes up and getting to the room to relax on the bed and FaceTime our girls back in NC.

Without a doubt this was one of my favorite days I’ve ever had on a motorcycle. The incredible roads, variety of terrain, lack of virtually any traffic whatsoever and wonderful camaraderie made this a day I will not soon forget. Dad and I are both indebted to Steve for taking us on such a great adventure and I am certain that without him this trip would not have been as memorable.

Ok, I am totally wiped out. Can’t wait to do it again tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you guys are having a blast. Looks like great riding and lots to see. Have fun and keep us posted.