Friday, April 18, 2008

In search of crooked pavement in Ohio

It’s been a while since I did a multi-day, multi-state tour with a bunch of my friends. But here we were, four of us departing on a motorcycle trip. Me on my ST3, my boyfriend Mike on his Triumph Tiger, my friend Rick on his ST3 and my other friend Alex on his Suzuki V-Strom 1000. The meet up location was my driveway. The meet up time was 5AM, an hour or so before sunrise. Leaving way early is a necessary evil especially when departing on a weekday since the Chicagoland rush hour starts so early and lasts pretty much all day.

My alarm went off at 3:45AM, I still had a few things to do this morning. At 4:45AM I was in the driveway packing up the bike. It was having a rather difficult time doing this in the dark. The only light was the fluorescent on the ceiling in the garage but it was not bright enough to reach my bike in the driveway. Our garage is full of bikes and other stuff so there really isn’t any space to pack in there. I also bought a new tank bag and this was the first time I was going to be using it on a ride. I had tried it out in the garage on my bike while it was parked to see if it fit the bike’s tank shape and it seemed to fit good, but I didn’t get an opportunity to actually ride with it yet. When Alex and Rick arrived at the house we learned that someone had already managed to get a speeding ticket just 2 minutes after leaving their house for 6 over the speed limit.

Traffic wasn’t too bad on the toll way although this road has been under construction for as long as I have been touring on a motorcycle. The four of us droned on the interstate occasionally zigzagging through traffic passing slower vehicles. For a brief moment our focus switched from passing to admiring. The sun had finally slid above the horizon. It hung over the interstate, this giant faded red glowing ball.

(Picture by Alex) All of us at the first gas/bathroom break

From left to right: Alex, Rick, Me and Mike

Before we knew it, we were in Indiana, which now accepts the I-pass so we didn’t have to pull over and pay for the toll with cash money. The next toll booth experience was not as good as the first one. The toll booth gate didn’t go up for us, and all 4 of us had to back up and hand our transponders to the toll booth attendant so she could scan them manually. Ohio still requires cash but you are required to take a ticket at the first toll booth when you enter the Ohio Turnpike, you pay when you exit.

We rode the toll way quite a bit past Toledo and finally took an exit and we were done with the interstate for today. From here the plan was to take all back roads. But before we left civilization we stopped for a quick bite to eat at a Wendy’s. We were hungry and we were now in the Eastern Time zone now so locally it was almost 1PM.

The route I had created for this trip was broken in to two segments - going there and coming back. I didn’t break up the route in to four days of riding because I didn’t want to have us locked in to riding a particular amount of miles each day. Friday night and Sunday night we would find lodging as needed. Saturday night we had a reservation in Clearfield, PA.

I had planned around 840 miles of roads for us to ride in the next two days. The more miles we rode today, the less miles we had to ride tomorrow. We were hoping to get to West Virginia by tonight.

We pointed our bikes south and the further south we rode the more the roads curved under our wheels. Sunny skies, temps in the low 70’s and empty ribbons of twisting asphalt flowing through endless green pastures. We could have not asked for a better day. Good roads, good friends and our favorite activity, sport-touring.

I didn’t want the hassle of riding through any cities, so when I designed the route I just looked at the map and picked a bunch of random rural roads that looked interesting. I’m amazed how lucky I got. All the roads were great, with curves and very little traffic. Toward the end of the day we were riding some technical roads, with blind crests, blind turns and hairpin turns. You know a road will be super twisty when it’s got that sign posted on it, that one that shows a semi truck broken in half falling of a cliff.

By the early afternoon we realized we lost Rick. I’ve been riding with Rick for years and knowing how he rides I knew exactly what had happened to him. We don’t always ride together as a group since our pace varies. Everyone has the route and we do try to wait for each other at turns. We also take turns leading.

Rick was ahead of everyone so when the road we were riding on suddenly made a left, and I didn’t see Rick waiting at the turn and I didn’t see him ahead of us, I knew he missed the sign and continued straight. Once we reached the next town we pulled over and called him, but receiving voice mail and making calls was difficult, so texting came in really handy. Hoping that Rick pulled over and read the messages, we continued forward. At the beginning of the ride we all agreed that if someone got separated, to go ahead and try to meet up in the next town on the route.

About an hour and a half later we pulled in to a gas station. We were going to gas up and call Rick again and take a break and let him catch up to us. Before we even managed to get our phones out he spotted us from the road.

(Picture by Alex) Rick and the group reunited, this was the gas station where he found us

After a longer break and checking out the route, we decided to shorten it just a bit. The sun was going to set in a couple of hours and we wanted to make sure we were near a town and not on some twisty road after dark.

(Picture by Alex) On RT 7 in Ohio facing the Ohio River and West Virginia on the other side of the river

The last couple of roads turned out to be slow going due to so many curves, so we took another road and finally made it to the main road and across the river to New Martinsville, West Virginia. Just like we had hoped, we made it to West Virginia. We did about 530 miles today.

(Picture by Alex) The group at the end of the day

From left to right: Mike, Rick, Alex and me

The first motel we pulled up to was the AmeriHost Inn on Rt 2. It had some weird policy that no more then 3 people share a room. And even crazier, the combination of two rooms with two people in each room cost more then three people in one room and one person in the other room. The rooms were the same mind you. Too crazy for us. We wanted to stay together and save some money if possible.

We made some phone calls and found another motel not too far away for less money, but the other motel didn’t have a pool and we were already here and the sun was getting ready to set and we were tired. So we got two rooms. One room for one person, with two beds and one room for the other three people with two beds. Did they actually think that we’d have three people in one room with two beds while an empty bed sat empty in the other room? Mike and I took one room and Alex and Rick were right next door to us. For diner it was Pizza Hut delivery. Pizza always tastes so good after a long ride.

Parked for the night at the AmeriHost Inn in New Martinsville, West Virginia

The one on the left was really good, Rick made it up; pepperoni, mushrooms and onions. The others was meat lovers. The pizza was delivered to Alex's and Rick's room and this is what it looked like by the time Mike and I got there.

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