Even before we left the cool comfort of our Super 8 room in Morgantown, WV, we knew we were in for a hot day. The forecast was for record highs in much of Ohio and Michigan. We also knew that we may have to adjust our planned scenic route if we got too far into the day without traversing enough distance. So, we departed Morgantown with curvy roads on our agenda.
We took WV7 into the hills and hollows west of Morgantown. This was a nice road with plenty of ups, downs, and nearly non-stop curves. I don’t mean the insane curve-festival like the Tail of the Dragon, but rather a pleasant smattering of sweepers and semi-twisties spread out enough that you can actually take a breath before diving into the next corner. The pace needed to be fairly casual, since most of the curves were not marked with suggested speed limits. The scenery was a mix of forests and small farms spread across valleys and clinging to steep hillsides. There was a curious dichotomy to the quality of the dwellings; you might see a ramshackle hovel that looked like a stiff breeze would blow it over right next to a freshly built upper-class home with a three-car garage and a swimming pool. It was evident that there was more population hiding in the forests than was apparent in the small towns along the route. A “town” may consist of a dozen homes and a shop or two but it would still have a high school that must have supported 500 students. I found myself wondering if kids were being bussed in from an entire county.
We caught a lucky break going through Blacksville, WV. We entered town and immediately noticed that an unusually high number of the locals had decided to sit in lawn chairs by the side of the road and wave to us as we went by. It soon became obvious, even to my inflated ego, that they were really waiting for their Memorial Day parade to start. We were able to get through town, apparently in the same direction as the parade route just before they closed the roads; as we exited, the oncoming traffic from the west was being halted by a county sherif.
We eventually found ourselves at the US250 intersection and turned on a more northerly route towards Wheeling, WV. US250 proved to be just as curvy as WV7 but with a sneaky twist: some (but certainly not all) curves were marked with suggested speed limits. I was enjoying the challenge of a slightly more aggressive pace through the curves but was forced to occasionally apologize to Karen for he impromptu swear-filled rant streaming through the intercom after an unmarked curve. In spite of the added challenges, the scenery was dramatic; one minute twisting through the base of a river valley, the next minute riding a ridge with a view of miles of forested hills.
The one disadvantage to a long stint of curvy roads is that you don’t change your position much. I didn’t find too much time to put my feet up on the highway pegs between shifting and braking. Consequently, when we stopped on Wheeling Island for a rest and something to drink, both of us were a little slow to get off the Vector.
From Wheeling Island, we continued on US250 northwest on an angle in the general direction of Toledo, OH, our eventual exit point from the state. Knowing that central Ohio is as flat as a olympic swimmer’s abdomen, I was not surprised that the amount of curves on our route diminished as the miles rolled by. Forested hollows gave way to wider stretches of cleared farmland. Tiny villages gave way to small towns. An unwelcome byproduct of the change in scenery was an increase in temperature. By the time we reached the Tappan Lake State Park, the blistering heat made us want to drive the Vector right into the lake and join the countless pleasure boats plying the inlets of the large reservoir. Alas, cooler heads (but not really cooler) prevailed.
During a food stop (and let’s face it, air-conditioning stop) in Uhrichsville, OH, we compared our progress against the time of day and begrudgingly admitted that we had no further time for the scenic route. We chose a direct route to the major US30 corridor that could expedite our progress towards US23 north to Toledo, OH and our home state beyond. After a bite to eat and enthusiastic consumption of frozen beverages, we dragged the leathers back on and headed out into the 90+ degree (F) heat.
Note: Yes, I’m an “all-gear-all-the-time” kind of guy. As long as you carry water on the bike and can get to it, full leathers can actually be tolerated on a hot day.
Compared to the roads we followed earlier in the day, US30 follows a very simple path: west. As a result, the westerly winds that were whipping across the Ohio farmlands were not helping our gas mileage. To make matters worse, the support structure for my helmet’s visor had cracked earlier in the trip and this prevented the visor from locking down in the closed position. The extra headwind coursing up my chest forced me to re-close my visor about three times per mile traveled.
Stretching the gas in the tank, we made US23 and gassed up in Upper Sandusky, OH. We took the opportunity to use the facilities, guzzle something cold, and munch something salty to replenish some of the salt that we were sweating out our pores. We called home to let family know our revised arrival time, about 30 minutes later than originally hoped. Then it was time to head north into Michigan.
There are only so many ways to get from central northern Ohio into the Detroit metropolitan area, so the remaining miles were as comfortably familiar as an old pair of jeans. We rolled up I-75 along the eastern coast, observed two Great Lakes freighters being loaded on the River Rouge, and wove through the downtown Detroit traffic to the northern suburbs. I dropped off Karen at home, got a quick bite to eat, and was eventually back on the road to get my butt home to Ann Arbor. Karen and I have practically worn groves in the concrete between our two homes, so the last 40-odd miles don’t feel like they last very long. By the time I pulled into my driveway, the sun was long gone but there was still light in the sky.
It had been a record 95 degrees (F) that day in Ann Arbor. The first thing I did when I walked in the house was to turn on the air conditioner.
The following was the route for the day: