A trip down memory lane turns into a blast through the past
I have been planning a trip back to my home town, Marietta Ohio, for a while now. I have wanted to get the bike up there since I started riding a mere 4 years ago. Last weekend I finally did it.
First some background. My family moved to Virginia from Marietta when I was just 11. My entire family on both my mom and my dads side lived from Marietta up to Zanesville and at stops in between.
You always wonder what life would be like if you had stayed here or there or done this or that. I don't wonder too much though because life has turned out pretty well so far. I married my high school prom date 22 years ago and we are still going strong. Who knows how many divorces I might have had if I stayed in Ohio. :D
But back to the trip. I finally picked a date and started watching the radar. Being a relative noob to traveling by bike, I wanted to avoid rain as much as possible. The forecast for the weekend looked pretty good so I packed up the bike on Thursday evening.
I got a call that evening from a friend of mine who I will be riding back to Ohio with in late July to the go to the mid-Ohio vintage bike races. He told me he had gotten his tent and mattress pad. So I asked him if he wanted to pack up on last minute notice and go with me. Wouldn't you know it, he said yes. But he had to work for a half day, so I would start up without him and he would follow me up later. How is that for a riding buddy? I have trouble getting people to take trips with me but it seems he is game.
So Friday morning I get up at 6:00, shower and hit the road by a little after 7:00. First stop would be Princeton WV for gas. I knocked that off pretty quickly. In fact, the whole trip went quickly, all 290 miles of it. After a brief stop at Princeton, I mounted up and headed to my next stop in Ripley WV. But first I would have to clear 3 toll booths at $2 each. I don't know where my $12 (round trip cost) went, but it doesn't appear to have gone into the roads.
After making Ripley I needed a break. I have had trouble making 200+ mile rides with the stock seat so I bought an Airhawk cushion. That thing did the trick. It isn't perfect, after 200 miles or so you start feeling it. But once you stop, you can adjust it to a new position and when you sit down it is like you just started riding. I reeled off the last 50+ miles in no time. I was now in Marietta Ohio! :clap
Proof that I made it.
My plan was to ride around town for the rest of the day, revisit old places and wait for my wingman to make it into town. So the first stop was along the river for some photos.
Looking North up the Ohio river toward the bridge to Williamstown, WV.
Looking South down the Ohio River.
Now that is a river! The Muskingum river dumps into the Ohio just to the right out of sight in the picture above. It is not as big as the Ohio but it is still pretty good size and supports house boats and such. When I moved to Virginia, I was near the New River, Holston River and now the Roanoke river. They can be waded across in many spots. I am use to rivers that you can barely hit a golf ball across if that and that can support large boats. Ok, enough complaining about rivers here.
A real river can run barge traffic. :D
Marietta is proud of their rivers and their history. There are lots of historical markers and monuments around.
They have parks facing the river.
Notice the post in the top, center of the previous photo. That is a marker that has diagrams of various smokestacks of the paddlewheelers that use to ply these waters.
Marietta was the first settlement in the Northwest territory. There is a marker with the names of the 48 charter members.
Little known fact here, my family on my grandmother on my mom's side were among the founders. In fact there were 3 of them. Over 6% of the founding party were my descendents. Pretty cool to have pioneer blood in me. :evil My descendent is the first in the list and there are two more Devols further down. There is a town on the outskirts of Marietta called Devola and guess who that is named after? :wink: So I guess that is my little known claim to fame.
Next up, time to setup camp and do a little more riding before my wingman gets to town.
Finshing out day 1
Next task at hand was to setup camp. I had reservations at the only campground I found on Google in Marietta. It is along the Muskingum river. It was a newish campground and rather plain and open but it was nice. It had a huge picnic shelter. That is where we parked our bikes for the night to keep the dew off.
I ran into Randy at the campground. He summers here and winters in Florida. He had a Yamaha under a cover under the picnic shelter with 90,000 miles on it. He has been all over the country on it. Look him up if you are there he is a nice guy and it was great talking with him.
My office away from home.
It was time for some coffee so I got a recommendation from Randy and headed down the river to historic Harmar village. Now I use to live on Harmar hill and had know idea we had a village. :D
I stopped at the Busy Bee restaurant for coffee. Randy said they had the best breakfast in the area but we never made it back.
I had the usual diner look inside.
After coffee it was time to go see the old house. This is where I lived until I was 11. The neighborhood sure looked smaller than I remembered and doesn't look like it has been kept up very well.
Next stop was back to town for more exploring. The next few shots are of various parts of town. Marietta is a neat, old, historic town. I don't know what people do for a living there.
Other end of the park.
Downtown. Love the brick streets though they are rough on a bike.
Another part of town.
Love the old homes in town.
Another brick street.
Historic marker describing the locks on the river.
I love the architecture of old churches.
The Lafayette Hotel apparently is the place to stay while you are here. It is at the intersection of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers.
Modern post offices sure lack the personality this one has.
The public library.
The court house. It pales in comparison to the City Hall in Philadelphia, but very nice anyway.
Swung by the old ball fields where I use to play. There must be a dozen fields here. I have never seen a town that apparently loves baseball like this one.
I was getting a little hot and hungry, so I thought I would have a little snack while I cool down. This sign distinctly says "pie", but they didn't have any. :cry
So I had double chocolate chip cookies instead. They were excellent but they weren't pie.
It was time to move toward the Muskingum river now. Like most historic river towns, this one had a lot of shipping in the past, especially with paddlewheelers. I would love to go back in time and see the shore lined with various paddlewheelers loading and unloading passengers and cargo.
The Valley Gem. You can take river cruises on these boats.
Another angle of the Valley Gem. I don't know what the name is of the boat closest to shore.
There is a historic paddlewheeler at the museum called the W.P. Snyder. It has run down and it appears they are finally going to restore it. But it has been 2 years since this sign said they started the project and the boat still looks terrible.
The W.P. Snyder.
What is a river town without some stories of floods. They are proud of their history and proud of their floods.
My great aunt died at the age of 95. She was 6 years old during the flood of 1913 and she could still remember it. But with waters that high, it would be a memorable event. The flood of 1913 rose to the top of the 2nd pole from the right. That flood was 53' higher than the next highest flood.
This is a sign at the museum showing how much the river use to freeze over. I don't remember the Ohio freezing over but I do remember the Muskingum freezing over. Deer would walk across it and people would walk out and build snowmen on it. I don't know if it still freezes over or not.
About this time I went back to camp to wait for my friend. He showed up a little after 6:00 pm. We setup his tent and went down the river to the Boathouse BBQ restaurant. They have a nice outside dining area overlooking the Muskingum river.
If you look closely in the photo above, you see an interesting blue house in across the river. Here is a closer look. Apparently people like to make their houses look like boats here.
That was it for Friday. We went back to camp and hung out until time to hit the sack. Before hitting the sack we finished off some whiskey and some micro-brew from the Marietta Brewing Company. Saturday we planned to follow the Muskingum river to Zanesville and hit route 555 back.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I too used to live there from appx. 1953 to 1968. Not a lot has changed but the river front does look new and improved.
On Saturday we did more riding than picture taking. I wish I could learn to take pictures on the fly but my camera (Canon G10) is probably not the right camera for that. Someday I need to pick up a pocket cam for this purpose.
The plan was to head to Zanesville Ohio following route 60 up the Muskingum river. This is a road I have traveled a 1000 times but this time was different. I was on a bike. :clap It is a nice two lane road that meanders along the river. It gives you a good slice of rural mid-western America. Lots of farms, produce stands and small towns.
We stopped for a Red Bull break on the way out of town. No, my friend isn't a cop, but this is a police bike. It was a demo model and has been stripped of all the lights and siren. Too bad, could have some fun with those. :evil
There use to be a lot of single wide trailers along the river and there still are, but there are many more campers these days. Lots of people setup for the summer. I could really see me being a river rat. I would love a camper on the river, a boat at the dock and a bike in the driveway. Could it get any better than that?
Once we got just below Zanesville the road was blocked for construction and there was a detour that took across the river. Lo and behold, it took us right to route 555 which is where we were going anyway. I didn't know exactly how to find it but it turned out I didn't have to worry about it. It must have been divine providence.
Route 555 started out kind of boring so I was starting to wonder why they call it the Dragon of Ohio. After a few miles we found out though I would compare it more to the Snake than the Dragon.
Ohio doesn't have mountains, but it has rolling hills in this area. You start up a curvy hill and pop over the other side. In many cases you can't see which way the road is going to go until you crest the hill and find out in a 200' you have to turn left or right. :eek1 I was sitting up as straight as possible to try to get an early look at which way the road would go.
I am not use to that kind of riding. I usually ride in SW Virginia, West Virginia and East Tennessee where we have mountains. You wind your way up a mountain and down the other side. The rolling hills were more like a roller coaster. It was fun.
But soon the fun was over, we ran into more road construction and another detour. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. :D The detour put us back down by the Muskingum river but on the opposite side of route 60. On the way down, I was in the lead so I pulled over to take a nature break and a photo.
On the left hand side of the photo below you can see the start of the gravel area I pulled into. The ground in Ohio isn't hard, red clay; it is soft, black dirt. I guess that is why the mid-west is the bread basket to the world. Anyway, I didn't have any problem, but my friend lost his footing in the gravel and dropped his Road King. :eek1 At that same time, two other riders showed up behind us, one one on a brand new Road King. He was embarrassed more than anything. Fortunately the engine guard and saddlebag guards prevented any damage. We righted it and continued on our way.
Looking back the way we came.
We didn't rejoin 555 but stayed on the river road and ended up back in Malta where my grandparents use to live. We crossed the river and stopped in the McConnelsville square to take a few pictures.
I don't know who this guy is but he is rudely standing in the middle of traffic.
This is the Opera House. Pretty high falutin for a little town like this.
Historic court house. Buildings just have no style like this anymore.
We headed down route 60 to Beverly and crossed the river again to take a different route back to Marietta. We passed this late 1800's church on the way. Churches don't look like this anymore either.
This picture doesn't fully convey it, but when I am in Ohio I get such a sense of the sky being all around me. Notice the skyline coming down to the base of the church? I know that doesn't make much sense, but living in a mountainous area, there is always a mountain or ridgeline preventing you from seeing very far on the horizon. But riding the hilltops in Ohio, the sky comes all the way down around. They say Montana is big sky country but I say Ohio could give it a run for its money.
We got back to camp after this and hung out for a while. I laid out on top of one of the picnic tables and thought maybe I dozed for a few minutes. My friend said I was out for 45 minutes. :D We had a little time to kill before going to dinner so we rode up number 7 along the Ohio river to Newport. We passed Willow Island on the way. There is a huge lock there so we stopped for a few pics.
Willow Island dam.
Willow Island lock.
This is a power plant on the WV side near Willow Island.
That is it for the photos. We crossed over to Marysville WV and followed route 2 back to Williamstown WV. We crossed the Ohio once more to get back to Marietta. We ate at the Marietta Brewing Company and took another growler of beer back to camp.
We chatted with Randy some more before hitting the sack. We had almost 300 miles to make the next day so it was time to get some rest.
Sunday, the last day of the trip. :cry
We woke up around 6:00 am on Sunday. I pulled out my phone to check the weather radar. WTH? There was a huge band of rain practically on top of us. :eek1 I suggested we pack and scoot down the road to Ripley, WV before stopping for breakfast and that is what we did.
We got to Ripley and ate a nice breakfast at Bob Evans. We probably should have grabbed a biscuit at McDonalds and got out of there sooner but it might not have mattered. As soon as we were making our way to the interstate it started to rain. We were stuck in the rain all the way to just above Princeton.
Fortunately, most of the time it was just a steady rain and not a downpour. But just before the last tollbooth it started to pour. My friend had a rainsuit on that prevented him from easy access to the toll money. So it took him a couple minutes to dig out the money and pay. I had a textile jacket on so I just unzipped the pocket to get the money. It wasn't easy but was pretty quick.
I had been stopping on the far right side and waiting on him to clear the booths and this time was no different. There I was, in pouring rain, sitting on my bike beside the road just past the toll booth. People must have thought I was crazy. :D It was strange but the vibration and staccato sound of the v-twin idling was reassuring.
We pulled of at an exit soon after to get out of the downpour and to avoid what appeared to be a traffic backup. We drank some coffee and planned a route around the backup. But after 10 minutes when we mounted up again, the interstate was moving like nothing happened. I have no idea why it was stopped or how it cleared up so quickly. So we jumped back on 77 and motored on home. It took me an hour to unload the bike and hang my stuff up to dry.
Now you may be wondering about the title of my ride. Well I had planned a somber solo trip to my roots and was planning to see all the old homes of my family and now their graves including my mother who was killed in a car wreck about 10 years ago. And they say motorcycles are dangerous?
But my friend came along at the last minute so I didn't get to see all the sites I had planned but ended up having a blast. It was a fun trip and it left me with reasons to get back on the bike again some time. Next time I want to get out on 78 outside of McConnelsville and see the strip mine area along with the Big Muskie bucket (the worlds largest drag line crane). I didn't realize it was gone now, glad I got to see it when I was a kid.
Now for a question. When we got up Sunday to pack to head home, the tent fly was soaked with a heavy dew. It would have taken hours to dry. Fortunately we were headed home so I could hang it to dry. But what if I was continuing the trip and needed the tent that night? How in the world would I pack it so that it didn't soak the rest of tent?
One more pic and a question. I am using the Wal-Mart dry bag to hold my tent, sleeping bag, mattress pad and inflatable pillow. It holds them fine, but I need space for other stuff as I can't get one more thing in the bags I have. Has anyone tried the dry duffel bags at Wal-Mart? They have a pack with two duffel bags of different sizes for $30. They are made out of a similar material to the dry bag I have. I am thinking I could stack them and not be any taller than the dry bag I currently use. I could put the tent and stuff in the larger bag on the bottom and pack more clothing and such in the smaller bag stacked on top. What do you more experienced bike packers think?
Great photo's and write up... your town town is only about ten weeks younger than white settlement in my country! Love your work!
Nice pictures and RR. I was the same way when I went back to my old town in Fall River, MA. Things just looked so different than when I left. Sort of run down you may say with not much going on.
Great ride and read! Thanks for the detailed report and pics :thumb
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