Saturday, August 19, 2006

Zanesville, Ohio to McConnelsville, Ohio

I had the great pleasure to be home for most of July for my wedding. The first two weeks were hectic with future in-laws, parties and a wedding to plan. The days were packed with activity but fun and rewarding. I was glad they were over though. Once the small honeymoon was over my dear new bride was generous enough to insist I go for a ride. I think the screen door was slamming before she got the entire sentence out. Before you know it I was headed down State Route 146 from my hometown of Zanesville south towards Chandlersville. I had planned on taking a circular route down to Cumberland and across SR 83 and 78 to McConnelsville on the Muskingum River. I've always loved that area since I was a boy camping with my parents at the Ohio Power Company campgrounds. There are large coal deposits all over the region and when I was young the area was nothing but a huge strip mining complex. I remember it as a mostly ugly, bleak landscape. The creeks used to run bright orange with the nasty leftovers of the mining operations. Somewhere in the early eighties that all changed and American Electric & Power was forced to do land reclamation. It's been a miraculous make over, with rolling green hills and small lakes scattered everywhere. The area is home to the largest wildlife conservation park in North America, the Wilds. I've never been but will definitely make it there someday soon. I'm not sure if this was planned or just a happy by-product of the engineered landscape but the roads are exceptional, well maintained and nicely curved.

When I got to Chandlersville I decided to take a small road which was actually the northern part of 284, I just picked it up sooner than planned, which turned out to be a good move. The road wound out of the small, sleepy town of Chandlersville up into the hills of south eastern Ohio. My wife, being from Colorado, routinely mocks the hills as too low. They may not be 13,000 feet but the views are still impressive. Traffic was light and the roads were smooth as a billiard table, all in all a blast.

About mid-way through the ride (close to the junction of SR 284 and 78) is the Miner's Memorial. On display is the bucket to Big Muskie, the only remaining part of the world's largest dragline. It was the largest movable landgoing structure with only sea vessels larger. The bucket is HUGE.

78 runs into McConnelsville, a quaint rivertown on the Muskingum River. I stopped to take a few pictures and headed north for the twenty mile trip to Zanesville. Route 60 follows the river and seems to have only gotten nicer over the years. The trees are larger and everything is cleaner than I remember from my youth. The one drawback is that it's a fairly busy two lane with few passing opportunities. I got stuck behind an eighteen wheeler with missing mud flaps and was pelted with rocks for a few miles.

I really gained a healthy appreciation for my own backyard. I hadn't really paid much attention until spending time riding in Arkansas. As many great places as there are to ride in Arkansas it's still over run with litter whenever you get close to people. You can still find the occasional front yard dump in Ohio but they seem to be fewer and in most cases even the poorest looking trailer is neat and tidy with a little flower bed. It seems Ohio has cleaned up considerably since I was a child and it really is a state I'm proud to call home.

Miles - 82

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