Thursday, August 23, 2007

Zanesville, Ohio to Stuebenville, Ohio

Here we are deep into the downhill slide out of summer and I've just completed my first "real" ride of the season. I've been in Puerto Rico working for most of the year and was unable (for reasons that should be obvious) to get much riding in. I've been home for a few weeks now and finally got to take a very satisfying road trip. I took my silver 97 Vmax. I bought it new and love to ride it on short jaunts and for profiling around town. It's a great bike that I've loved since I bought it new while working in New Mexico. It's not the most technologically advanced bike in the world but has a lot of character and aside from a rock hard seat has an extremely comfortable riding position (and it's a wicked fast accelerator). After riding around southeastern Ohio for most of my life, I figured I wouldn't be able to find a new interesting place to go. Fortunately my wife and I had just taken a drive a few days before that got me thinking about possibilities. With a quick check of my map of Ohio, I chose a route I hadn't traveled since before I was able to drive. It was my intention to ride to Steubenville, located on the Ohio River via Route 22. I hopped on State Route 40, the historic National Road to begin the journey.
22 and 40 run together through New Concord, John Glenn's birth place and part of the way into Cambridge. Route 22 is your typical southeastern Ohio road, which is to say it's well maintained, well engineered and well, scenic. I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating, no place is greener than Ohio in the summer. The roads are lined with Hemlock, Beech, Buckeye, Maple and Black Walnut trees among others. The woods of Ohio are as thick and lush as any on earth. My route cut through the bottom quarter of Salt Fork State Park. Ohio's largest state park. If you're very careful and quiet maybe you'll spot Bigfoot rummaging through the garbage cans.

After leaving the scenic lake area the road cuts through rolling hills and farm land as it skirts along the bottom of Amish country. Thankfully I didn't have to contend with any buggies, although there was a surprisingly high volume of semi-tractor trailer traffic for a windy two lane country road. I imagine it's due to 22 being a major artery for the smaller communities in this part of the state. The road is hilly with a lot of twisting sections, especially between the Peidmont Dam area and Cadiz. The ride is a breezy fast paced one but if you go anytime in the near future watch out for the severe grooves in the road around Cadiz. There is major road construction going on.
As I came down out of the hills (big hills, not quite mountains) I could sense the Ohio River in front of me. Much in the same way the Rockies have defined my wife, the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers have defined me. You can't really have grown up in this part of Ohio without feeling the influence of the currents. I've always been fascinated by rivers and will always take an opportunity to stop and stand by the shores of one. This was no exception. I parked the bike at the Ft Steuben historic site and walked out onto an old rusted steel framed bridge. It seemed pretty rickety and it had an open grating for the road. I fought back a rush of vertigo long enough to walk out to the middle and watch the water flow past beneath me.

Steubenville is a quaint town with a long history tied to the industrial age and everywhere you look are signs of it's former glory. Steel mills and factories on both sides of the river are still active but you come away with a sense that they are not what they used to be. I remember visiting Steubenville with Dad and Mom when I was little and after seeing it again 30 years later I told myself I wouldn't wait another thirty to come back and explore more. The way the city is built on the hills along the river has always fascinated me and on my first trip to San Francisco this is the town that came to my mind, even after all those years.

From Stuebenville I crossed the Ohio and headed down West Virginia State Route 2. It wound down along the Ohio through depressing and depressed industrial towns, alot like the Ohio side.

Once down into Wheeling it was back on I-70 for a high speed race for home. The weather had gone from skies threatening rain to sunny, dehydrating temps in a few hours. I hadn't noticed so gradual the change had been but I was worn out, I wanted to get home to dinner and the missus.

As always, my ride through Ohio had been a grand one. My home state never fails to satisfy and amaze.