The last day of our MAMMARY run ride was greeting with good news and bad news. The good news was that the weather forecast for today called for only the tiniest chance of rain. The bad news was that it called for near-record high temperatures. Karen and I would be riding through some nice two-lane roads in south-central Ohio before hitting the superslab for the last stretch home. There would be no cool mountain passes or sheltering forests to ride through today.
After a good night’s sleep, the first thing I noticed as I got up this morning was that someone had been feeding on me the night before. My ankle was marked by a neat little row of three tiny bites. I’ve read articles on how the bedbug has been making a comeback in recent years but this is only the second time I stayed in a hotel where I was bitten.
After packing up and loading the bike, we headed north across the Ohio River and picked up OH60 north of Marietta, Ohio. This road snakes along the Muskingum River from Marietta all the way up past Zanesville. Like most of the midwest, Ohio has received higher-than-normal rainfall this spring so the Muskingum was flowing swollen and muddy brown. The Muskingum riverside is home to dozens of small campgrounds and all of them seemed near to capacity for this last day of the Memorial Day weekend.
We gassed up the Cruiser in McConnellsville and took a minor detour just south of Zanesville. The detour directed us by an older neighborhood filled with beautiful, albeit often neglected, examples of mid-1800s architecture.
This is the third time I’ve taken this backroad route from Marietta to Marion but only the first time in the last four years. Consequently, I need to check the map for a moment on the north side of Zanesville. You’d think that would be enough to keep me out of trouble, but it wasn’t.
To paraphrase the immortal words of the philosopher Bugs Bunny, “I knew I should have taken that right turn at route 586.” I didn’t, and found myself at an unfamiliar T-shaped intersection where I knew there shouldn’t be one. So I drove on in the general direction of where I thought I should be. That led to another unfamiliar T-shaped intersection at an angle where it was a total toss-up as to which direction would but me back on course. I finally resigned myself to the need to look at a map so I parked in some roadside shade and pulled out the iPhone only to find that I had no signal. (The GPS in the iPhone dutifully found my location but without a data connection, the maps around that location wouldn’t render, giving me no context as to my relative location.) So, out came the full sized atlas but it didn’t show the intersection we were at because the cross street was too small.
I flipped a coin in my head and headed left, confident that highway 586 would show up soon. It didn’t. After about five miles I saw a cell phone tower on a distant hill and stopped in another patch of roadside shade to try the iPhone again and get a real bearing on my location. Sure enough, route 586 was in the opposite direction. Oops.
We got turned back around, located the missing route 586, and was able to find our way through the small farms and horse pastures to Mt. Vernon, Ohio. We attempted to find a nice local eatery for a late lunch but all of the local joints were closed for the Memorial Day holiday. I know I usually shun fast food joints on motorcycle tours but it was hot and we needed food, beverage, and a bathroom, so we ended up at a Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The route from Mt. Vernon over to Marion, Ohio is very simple and I was able to find my way without a repeat of the day’s earlier fit of directional misplacement. We stopped for gas in Marion and picked up US23 north towards Findlay. Karen noted that her company has a store in Findlay but we were unable to see it from the highway. We took the turn onto I75 north and headed on to Toledo.
This was the first long trip I’ve taken on the Cruiser since 2006 so I wasn’t surprised that this trip exposed a few bugs to work out. I did not, however, expect the list of nit-picky items that needed work to grow quite so long. It was with this thought in mind that I uttered several flavorful words of discouragement when I heard a new metallic ring loudly resounding from the front of the Cruiser. The problem was that one of the wind deflectors on the front forks had a broken mount and it was now hanging down and rattling against the engine guard. We pulled into a closed weigh station so I could tie it back in place with a few cable ties.
Aside: These damn wind deflectors have been a serious thorn in my side for years. They suffer from metal fatique and crack at the bolt holes. I’ve even resorted to using huge fender washers to try and distribute the securing force over a wider patch of metal but this only delays the inevitable. Yeesh, time for another set. This must be the fifth.
The weigh station we stopped at was closed because the road through it was entirely torn up. This prompted a detour through the grass to get to another patch of pavement. This looked far too risky for Karen and she walked across the grass instead of riding. I did my little dirt-bike imitation without incident and we were on our way.
We stopped for gas one last time in south Detroit. As I was entering the mileage data for the gas stop, my ESPN iPhone application notified me of the final score of today’s Detroit Tigers game. I checked the score quickly, not because I wanted to know the winner, but because I wanted to know if it was a home game. A home game meant scads of Tigers fans all trying to get home, most of them up the same I75 corridor that Karen and I need to take to the northern suburbs. I took a minor detour around where the worst post-game traffic would be and merged onto I75 to find it surprisingly clear. We rolled the final few miles without any new wrinkles and parked in Karen’s driveway to find Karen’s Mom, Dad, and daughter waiting for us. They had been following us on the “Where is Ghost?” page and knew we would be arriving soon.
After some story telling and unpacking, I needed to get myself home. I said my goodbyes, kissed Karen, and mounted up for the last 45 miles to Ann Arbor. I’m accustomed to returning home from motorcycle tours in the late afternoon or early evening, but not necessarily from the east. I’m usually heading up from the south on US23, down from northern Michigan on US23, or coming in from points westward on I94. For these reasons, it felt a little strange to be proverbially riding into the sunset for the last few miles to home.
I pulled into the driveway just before the sun disappeared over the horizon. The final mileage for the day was 389 miles. Overall, the heat hadn’t been that bad. The high humidity did make it a bit difficult to get relief while wearing the leathers but we made sure to keep plenty of water, cold water, on the bike at all times.