Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 4 - Pure Dirt

As the poet and sage Charlie Sheen would say, today was filled with all kinds of “winning!!!”

The sun was bright this morning when we pulled away
from the hotel and headed southeast on 541. This stretch of pavement was somewhat familiar, as we had come this way a few days prior in the other direction. Well paved and chock full of long sweeping turns, we were on the throttle hard, enjoying the fresh, cool morning air.

Just past Plainfield we turned left onto a gravel road and once again found ourselves in pristine farm country and rolling green hills. We stopped to take some photos and have a quick drink of water before continuing on to what Steve had promised would be some of the best dual sport roads of the trip. As the road narrowed and the gravel turned to pure dirt, we knew that Steve’s advice was not going to let us down. This area was unlike anything we had traveled on over the past few days. The road was tight and relatively unmaintained with a mixture loose dirt and exposed rock. At times we’d be forced to ride the center berm, as to either side what was once tire tracks had become deep, rain eroded ruts. For a long while the only signs of civilization were power line towers and locked farms gates.  

Throughout this area both Dad and I were either standing on our pegs or way up on the front of the seat with our thighs clutched tightly around our gas tanks. The graveless dirt road allowed us to maintain high speeds equally thru the curves as in the straights. The tree canopy was very dense thru this section but on the top of a knoll we came to a wide-open area where large puddles and deep ruts made it clear this was an ATV playground. The puddles were wide and deep but I was able to skirt around them only to find myself on the large swath of land carved out by the power line. Cut into the woods on the far side of this expanse was a tight trail and I beckoned Dad to join me. We crawled along the trail as it was deeply rutted with muddy whoops. It dumped us out on the top of a large hill that dropped steeply to a tight valley with single-track trails running along its bottom. I was ready to drop in and test myself on the hill climb back up, but Dad was adamant that it was not within my ability, nor did I have the correct bike to attempt such a feat. We went back and forth on this for a little while, but in the end I’m pretty certain common sense prevailed and Dad’s cool head won out over my reckless abandon.

Lunch came early in Newcomerstown at April’s
Country Kitchen, which was a highlight in the article and a “must stop” according to Steve. Both of us were not quite famished enough to get the famous open roast beef plate and just had cheeseburgers, but the early meal gave us a good jolt of energy for the remaining miles.

From Newcomerstown the route took us under Interstate 77 and along the edge of Salt Fork State Park. On a small dusty back road we crossed over an old one lane wooden bridge and I suggested to Dad that this would be a good place for a water and photo break. When I dismounted the bike and looked up I found myself staring down a long straight corridor of freshly mowed grass flanked by a never-ending arch of low hanging tree branches. After taking some shots of the bridge, Dad took off down the “tunnel” and kept going, and going, and going until he was just a little orange dot that disappeared into the woods. I quickly mounted the bike to follow his tracks and felt as if I was traveling in a wormhole as, even at low speeds, the close proximity of the trees and lush green path underneath provided for a surreal experience. The “road” continued, straight as an arrow, for a mile at least, before popping out on a small paved road. We didn’t know quite where we were, and not wanting to lose our GPS track (which was giving us flawless directions) Dad followed me back down thru the tunnel once again. This was one of those little unique happenstances that will no doubt be remembered as one of the highlights of this trip.

The remainder of the ride returned us to the gravel roads we had become accustomed to over the previous few days and we ended up on 541 for the final leg back to the hotel. After only 90 miles both Dad and I were spent and we got off the bikes for the last time covered in Ohio dust.

I have been looking forward to this trip for three years
and it did not disappoint. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Christa Neuhauser and the folks at Road Runner Magazine for bringing this area to our attention as well as to Steve Mauk, our intrepid guide, for taking time out of his busy schedule to show us around. His knowledge of the area and generous hospitality made this trip all the more worthwhile.

Once again, however, I am thankful to my Father for making all these wonderful adventures happen. I greatly appreciate all of the time he puts into planning routes, booking hotels, finding restaurants, hooking up the trailer, strapping down the bikes… you get the picture. But most important are the great memories we will forever share of getting lost in the world on two wheels. I am well aware of how special it is we have this relationship and I don’t want it to go unsaid.

I’d come back to Eastern Ohio in a heartbeat. I know there are thousands of more roads and trails yet to be ridden and we have only scratched the surface of this area. Some of my oldest and closest friends are from Ohio (Cincinnati) and, although they no longer live there, they still have a fanatical pride about their home state. I never understood what was so great about Ohio until now. It really is “The Heart of It All.”

See you down the road.


  1. Some of those roads look like top gear, throttle pinned and throw that rear wheel sideways and keep it pinned roads. Love that kind of riding. Wish I were there.

  2. Am I the only one following your blog? Where the white woman at?