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Old 05-24-2007, 10:51 PM   #1
MeefZah OP
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Joined: Nov 2003
Location: New Philadelphia, Ohio
Oddometer: 11,071
15 cubic inches around Ohio

I decided that today I would ride to the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, located in the southeastern corner of the state. This area is replete with beautiful scenery and incredible roads, and is home to such adventuresome destinations as The Old Man’s Cave, The Wayne National Forest, and the college towns of Nelsonville and Athens. I decided that to add to the “adventure” aspect of the outing, I was going to do this on my kick-only 250 cc motorbike.

With no real routes planned, I loaded the barest of essentials onto my 2001 KLR250. I was anticipating a strictly street oriented trip, and I brought with me only a camera, cell phone, credit card, CamelBak, and GPS unit. This would be the first time I had used the GPS since purchasing it.

Around 9:00 am I motored off, striking a comfortable cruising speed of about 50 mph in 6th gear. I rolled through the gently undulating farm fields south east of Mt.Vernon, the smell of tilled dirt heavy in the air from recent planting. The morning breeze was fresh and crisp, and I opened my visor fully to catch the occasional scent of pine leaves, fresh cut grass, and roadside jasmine.

Near Zanesville, I stopped to photograph this abandoned schoolhouse, and to reflect briefly on the generations of rural kids who were likely taught in it.

Traffic was oddly light, even in Zanesville, and I decided that I would try flicking the 250 through the legendary curves on SR 555. SR 555 drops south almost to the Ohio River, an asphalt roller coaster with blind curves, off camber corners, gravel in the apex of turns, and the occasional cow or other domestic animal trundling across the road. This area sees more than its fair share of motorcycle crashes, and while some sport-bike riders like to try and achieve triple digits and obscene lean angles, the road is really best enjoyed on something like a 250; light, flickable, and not too fast.

As I rode south, enjoying the solitude and quiet, I looked to my left and saw a phenomenal trail network stretching to the east, up a power line cut. From my vantage point, it seemed to go on forever.

Although I had told myself repeatedly that this trip should really be street-only (for safety, as I was by myself), I can’t resist the allure of seductive curves… and hills, and dirt. I found the next county road southeast of where I had spied the trails, and turned left, onto Fattler Ridge Rd.

Not even ¼ mile east of 555, I located what had to be the trail head. It was unmarked, but I could see small swatches of earth between tree branches that told me it led straight up the hill and to the power line nirvana beyond.

I took a deep breath, downshifted to first, and twisted the throttle. The front wheel bounced over ruts and roots as the rear MT21 scrabbled for traction. The trail was rocky and deeply rutted, and was the kind of hill climb that starts off easily enough; to lure you in, but quickly becomes steeper and steeper. By the time I discerned how steep the hill was and recognized that I shouldn’t have been trying to ascend it by myself, I was committed to going up it. The front wheel began a lazy drift skyward on several instances, but I flung my weight against the gas tank and fought the KLR’s inclination to topple over backward. Even in first gear, the engine was lugging, operating almost at a stall condition.
"A man turns his back on the comforts of home, and when the dust all settles and the story is told, history is made by the side of the road..." - DBT

MeefZah screwed with this post 05-24-2007 at 11:05 PM
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Old 05-24-2007, 10:54 PM   #2
MeefZah OP
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The track began to level off just as I felt as if the KLR was going to completely stall. I felt the familiar surge as the engine came back into its power band in first gear, and the motorbike was spat over the crest of the hill. The quad track from that point on was fairly easy, and mostly level.

I reached an area which had been cleared for the power lines, and I could see quad track in every direction, and up every ridge adjacent to the power lines.

I rode a good portion of the track, negotiating some less intense hill climbs, and some mud holes; before the trail unceremoniously dumped me out back on Fattler Ridge Rd. I wanted to go back and continue to explore the area, but being by myself, out of cellular range, and with no one knowing my itinerary made me uncomfortable. I marked the area as a waypoint on my GPS and opted to continue south on 555, saving the Fattler Ridge off road area for another time.

I took my time going down 555, stopping at this decrepit old barn that has been resisting the temptation to collapse for at least the last few years that I can remember. Somewhere, before I went to a digital camera, I have film shots of my old ’78 GS750 and later my ’01 GSF600 in front of this same barn.

In Ringgold I veered east on SR 78, toward McConnelsville. I can remember seven years ago, riding my first street bike on 78, and what a white knuckle experience that was. At that time the asphalt was fresh and scary fast; a few years have elapsed and it’s not so fresh anymore but still plenty fast. I left the KLR in 5th gear for a bit more grunt, and let the long travel suspension soak up the pavement bumps and cracks.

I stopped for breakfast-for-lunch at the Blue Bell Diner, on the square in McConnelsville. Diagonally across the square from the diner is a statue commemorating local Civil War soldiers, and beyond that is the Morgan County Courthouse.

I ate my $6.25 meal in a corner booth, my thoughts undisturbed except for the occasional coffee refill from the waitress. I guess it is ADVrider policy to post meal pictures…

Following breakfast-for-lunch (I like saying that); I talked for a few minutes with a local guy who approached me about the KLR. While we were talking, we heard tires squealing and then seconds later, the awful sound of metal crunching. Two cars had plowed into each other while trying to navigate around the Civil War monument. It appeared that everyone was okay, and the local guy seemed largely unfazed, remarking that people crash in that spot constantly. Hmmm… a word of caution, then, for motorcyclists going through McConnelsville: beware the square.
"A man turns his back on the comforts of home, and when the dust all settles and the story is told, history is made by the side of the road..." - DBT

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Old 05-24-2007, 10:58 PM   #3
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By now it seemed apparent to me that I was probably not going to make it through the Hocking Hills. Something was pulling me east, and my earlier desire to ride that area was replaced with a new desire to get to the Ohio River.

I followed SR 376 southeast out of McConnelsville, paralleling the Muskingum River. I stopped at several locks, which appear to be abandoned but are in fact operational. Shipping traffic rarely uses the Muskingum, but the locks are still used by recreational traffic. An appointment is necessary to use the locks so that a “lock-keeper” can be on hand to fill and control the locks.

This lock is near Stockport. The building behind me is a former mill, now converted into a beautiful hotel and restaurant. Inside, the original mill components are still assembled, worn smooth by decades of handling by millwrights and later, by tourists.

I meandered northeast, to SR 60, and let my GPS lead me on a series of county roads back to SR 78. Once on 78, I continued east; my ultimate goal, the Ohio River. This section of 78 isn’t as curvy as the last stretch near the river, and to quell some of the boredom of riding the straighter stretches, I took a few “action” shots. None of them satisfied me enough to post them here, but I happened to see this uber-cool, shirtless, man-teated character coming the other way and was lucky enough to capture him on camera. My editing skills are lacking; this is severely cropped and blown up:

In Woodsfield I stopped to photograph the stunning Monroe County Courthouse, and also noticed this seemingly ancient weather-beaten billboard nearby.

My CamelBak ran dry just east of Woodsfield, which I initially thought was odd; since I never am really thirsty, and I have never depleted the contents of the CamelBak in a day’s riding before. I realized, though, after seeing a bank thermometer, that it was a cool 90 degrees; and I was wearing a 3 season coat without mesh venting. I stopped at a McDonalds, had some yogurt, and refilled my CamelBak with a mix of ice, water, and lemon juice.

The Honda Rider’s Club once rated the easternmost stretch of 78 as one of the 10 best rides in America. I don’t know about that, necessarily, but the long, fast sweepers and river views are damn fun. I was just settling into a nice rhythm when I happened to look to my right and see a river crossing accessible from the road.

Now, I’m drawn to water crossings like a moth to a flame… like Rosie O’Donnell to fucking Twinkies, man! I can’t get enough of riding through water. Hell, I had to replace my 650’s wheel bearings at a mere 9,000 miles because I rode through creeks constantly.

I made a hard U-turn and rode across the creek and back a half dozen times or so, then rode up and down the creek about 1/8 mile in each direction. Despite having seen the thermometer earlier, I hadn’t really realized how hot it was until I felt the cool water splashing my legs and showering up under my front fender and misting on my face. Fifteen minutes spent in the creek cooled me substantially. I even managed to use the camera’s self-timer combined with some mad scrambling to get a shot of myself in the water.

"A man turns his back on the comforts of home, and when the dust all settles and the story is told, history is made by the side of the road..." - DBT

MeefZah screwed with this post 05-25-2007 at 03:36 PM
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Old 05-24-2007, 11:02 PM   #4
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I tagged the Ohio River and rolled north on SR 7. SR 7 is marked as a scenic route, but I’ll never know why. Yeah, it runs along the Ohio River, but it’s a hot, flat, unwelcoming strip of asphalt that is intermittently 2, then 4, then 2, then 4 lanes; and runs beside power plants and through gritty, decaying towns. I stomached all I could of SR 7, and put my trust back in the GPS as it navigated county roads which ran the ridges high above the Ohio. Up here, the air was cooler and fresher, and there was no other traffic. I explored some incredible twisties that plunged from the top of the ridge to the base, and then along a small tributary of the Ohio River for fifteen miles.

I came across some kids fishing off a bridge, and asked if I could take a picture. After some initial apprehension, this kid allowed me to.

I followed the river that he was fishing in about ten more miles, and came to the Ohio River again, near the town of Bellaire. As I entered Bellaire, I began seeing dirt paths on the side of the road, and I realized that an entire trail network has been established right near the town. At the trailhead I got on some of the quad track, and I explored several miles of an abandoned railroad and some adjoining hill climbs. The area was obviously well used, but wasn’t signed and I was unsure about the legality of using it. A pockmarked-faced middle aged guy on a quad passed me going the other direction, and I flagged him down and asked him about the area. He indicated that the property was public access and that it is used by a lot of locals; no permit required.

I explored the area as well as I comfortably could given my earlier described apprehension about off-roading alone. I did come across a large group of kids that were using the trails on dirt bikes, quads, and on foot. After some convincing, I got this guy to do some wheelies for me. We got to talking and he told me that the trail network runs all the way to the nearby town of Neffs, which is about seven miles, and has a lot of river crossings and hill climbs near it.

I was pretty excited about finding another trail network, but mildly annoyed, too. I’ve done a fair amount of research online trying to find Ohio ORV trails other than the redundant Perry State Forest and a few others. Every time I input “Ohio Off Road Trails” into a search engine, I get 500 porn hits on Jenna Jameson taking the elephant man up her ass while an Al Sharpton look-a-like geezes on her forehead, but I get nothing on renegade trails like these. WTF? Clearly they exist, and based on the wear and tear of the trails, they see a lot of use. Makes me wonder how many other righteous trail networks are out there, unbeknownst except to locals?

After I left the trail network, I went into downtown Bellaire to fuel up and plot my gradual return home. Gas there was $3.09 a gallon. Cheap. Funny how I’m already conditioned to believe that. By now it was after 5:00 pm.

I decided to let the GPS navigate for me, and I began working my way back and forth on west and north roads. In the town of Scio, I saw this abandoned, run down pottery factory. The front of it was inaccessible, but even from the rear you can make out the once impressive “Hollywoodland”-esque lettering on the roof.

As I was leaving I caught a glimpse of the factory in my rearview mirror. The lettering, when seen in the mirror, was legible. For a minute I was almost glum, wondering why the mirror didn’t also have the ability to reverse the clock to a time when the factory and the town that died with it were in their heyday.

I rode briefly along the TappanLake along US 250, and arrived in Dover / New Philadelphia just around dusk. I stopped at Adventure Harley Davidson to use their bathroom. Although it was after 7:00 pm, they were still open. I was reluctant to use their indoor bathroom as I wasn’t a customer, so I opted for their outdoor one. I was highly impressed; even their outdoor facilities were leather and chrome trimmed. Kudos to Adventure HD, I’ve never pissed in (on) more style! I did, however, get the fuck outta there double time once I was zipped!

I was in familiar territory now, and I switched the GPS over to the map screen to watch the towns click off as I rode through them: Sugar Creek, Walnut Creek, Berlin, Millersburg. The sun was setting fast in the western sky, and I had a front row seat.

I stopped for gas one last time, in Loudonville, before tackling the dark, deer infested curves of SR 97 through Mohican Forest. I got on some well worn back roads which I know almost by heart, and worked my home; arriving about 9:30.

The total ride was 416 miles, 12 ½ hours, on a ‘lil 250. My gear and the motorbike worked flawlessly, I had no close calls, the weather was perfect, I found some new areas to explore, and I got to piss on a 25,000 urinal mint! I had, as I always do when riding, a wonderful time!
"A man turns his back on the comforts of home, and when the dust all settles and the story is told, history is made by the side of the road..." - DBT

MeefZah screwed with this post 05-25-2007 at 09:28 AM
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Old 05-24-2007, 11:07 PM   #5
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Nice RR.

Awesome photos.
Danger is one thing. But danger plus extreme discomfort for long periods is quite another.
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Old 05-24-2007, 11:27 PM   #6
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Great ride!
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Old 05-25-2007, 12:58 AM   #7
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I'm from Columbus and my dad grew up in Mt Gilead- his dad was the butcher during WWII. All my family is back there still.

Cool ride! Brings back memories...

Forgot to mention, those Mail Pouch Barns are a HUGE deal. I think they are landmarks or the like now- seriously. My mom's mom was a tobacco farmer and its what put her through OSU back in the day.
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Old 05-25-2007, 01:36 AM   #8
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Location: Dunedin. New Zealand
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That was a very cool report. Nice and cruisey. The piss stop topped it off nicely. Thank you.
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Old 05-25-2007, 01:59 AM   #9
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Bridge, barn and food. Extra credit for abandoned stuff, a killer sunset, excellent description of the feel of the roads and trails. Top it off with a potty break.

Good writing. Great report.
It takes less time to do things the hard way than to be too nervous to even start at all.

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Old 05-25-2007, 02:13 AM   #10
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A very nice ride and report, thanks for letting us come along with you
02 GSA written off by a DRUNK in pickup.
04 GSA Written off by a pickup.
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Well it was a car this time #L/tib & fib in the same place as the previous F wit crushed it
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Old 05-25-2007, 02:21 AM   #11
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Nice, Meef Great use of yer camera timer
Even though I ride those roads alot, I never tire of seeing or hearing about them.
"A warrior does not get ready, a warrior IS ready." - Rudy Reyes

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Old 05-25-2007, 04:23 AM   #12
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Page one material. Great report Mark!! ( BTW, the XT250 is running great..)

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Old 05-25-2007, 04:25 AM   #13
MeefZah OP
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Originally Posted by blimpman
Page one material. Great report Mark!! ( BTW, the XT250 is running great..)

Perhaps we can do a two-man Ohio tour-de-250 this summer? The KLR ain't too much more advanced than the XT...
"A man turns his back on the comforts of home, and when the dust all settles and the story is told, history is made by the side of the road..." - DBT

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Old 05-25-2007, 04:34 AM   #14
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Mornin' Meef

Very nice and well written

Heading to Duluth, MN in a few hours Turn that last photo into the front page pic guys, whoever that is
Everyone should be so lucky as to be able to ride a motorbike through the Himalayas.
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Old 05-25-2007, 04:38 AM   #15
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Very nice Ride Report.

An altogether great day for you!

Your pictures came out quite well, even the ones where you used a timer.
I know how difficult that can be, so good job.
Thanks for posting.

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