One of the highlights of my year so far was my trip to the 2021 BMW Riders Association National Rally. This year’s event took place in Waynesville, N.C., in August, and I was joined on the journey by my riding buddy Alan Smallsreed.
The forecast for the ride down wasn’t looking too friendly, so Alan and I decided to take the fastest route from Youngstown to Waynesville — which is Interstate 77.
We followed I-77 through southeast Ohio and central West Virginia to the interstate’s overlap with Interstate 81 and stopped for the day at a quaint, well-maintained Scottish Inn. The inn had wonderful porches with rocking chairs out front — a perfect setup for some evening bench racing.
The next day, we made a stop at Dale’s Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum in Maggie Valley, N.C., before finishing the ride to Waynesville. My last visit to the museum was 17 years ago, and my oh my how much it has grown. For those who don’t know, the museum was founded by AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dale Walksler, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year.
Dale’s son, Matt, has continued his father’s legacy of maintaining an excellent variety of motorcycles in a timeless museum setting.
Among our activities at the rally were riding the sweeping curves of the scenic Cherohala Skyway, as well as a spirited-paced ride through Deals Gap. I was able to keep up with two younger riders on the 11-mile, 318-turn stretch of road, which made the riding very exciting and rewarding.
It got a little hot in the riding gear, as daily temperatures topped out in the 90s for the most part — but it’s very important to wear all the gear all the time.
The Riders Association put on a stellar rally this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the vendors and exhibits, as well as seeing old friends.
The only downer part of the trip happened on the ride back to Youngstown. We got caught in a heavy rainstorm, during which an electrical gremlin with one of my BMW’s sensors caused the bike to stop running. I called Gene Robinson of Mathias BMW in New Philadelphia, Ohio, and within an hour a truck and trailer showed up to transport me and my bike to the Mathias BMW shop.
Even though it was a Sunday, Gene’s crew got the bike running again that same day. Gene’s a rider through and through and has a reputation for going above and beyond for his customers — just like he did for me that day.
My tag-team partner, Roy Dyckman, drove about 70 miles down to the shop from Canfield, Ohio, to get me and my soaking wet gear home. A turer friend cannot be found.
Overall, it was a terrific weekend, and Alan was an excellent companion for the ride.
Ride smart, wear all the gear all the time, and I’ll see you down the road.
To enjoy a day ride through Allegheny National Forest, take Interstate 80 to Pennsylvania State Route 66 North (Exit 60) toward Shippenville and Kane — in the heart of the world’s finest hardwood forest. The route also runs close by Cook’s Forest State Park, which is home to fine strains of ancient timber and the third-tallest tree in the United States. There are several other state record trees are located in that region, too.
After following SR 66 to the town of Leeper, you can turn right on Pennsylvania Route 36 and ride by the park’s headquarters about six miles down the road. If you stay on Route 66, the approach to Marienville offers a splendid view of the Allegheny highlands — miles of gently rolling terrain. Within the region is the southern trail head for the 96-mile North Country National Scenic Trail. The trail passes through the Allegheny National Forest, and the crosses Muzette Road about two miles west of Marienville. When it’s completed, the trail will be part of the longest continuous footpath in the United States — about 4,600 miles from Crown Point, N.Y., to North Dakota.
If you stay on SR 66 to Kane, Pa., you can visit the Kane Memorial Chapel and the Kane Depot. Don’t forget to stop by Bell’s Meat & Poultry — an old-fashioned grocery store that has recently been remodeled. The store features fresh produce, meats and cheeses, including some sausage made from family recipes like Swedish corn sausage and bigfoot sausage. Other local businesses to check out are CJ’s Spirits — a craft distillery — and Flickerwood Wine Cellars and Cocktail Lounge. Flickerwood is an award-winning winery that also features a deli menu.
If you’re looking for a good breakfast joint, look no further than Grandma Bair’s Family Restaurant and Catering. My favorites there are the variety of huge three-egg omelets, and the eatery also has tasty fish dinners and chicken dinner buckets.
Kane also serves as a central location from which to explore the forest region over a weekend, and The Spoonwood Inn is a great place to find lodging for the night. The family-owned inn motel was recently remodeled and features free wi-fi, cable TV, complimentary breakfast and a hike and bike ride from your room.
Another local establishment to sample is Texas Hot Lunch / 4 Sons. Opened in 1914, the restaurant is home of the original Texas hot and specializes in Souvlaki, Greek and American cuisine. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open seven days a week.
Check out the podcast of this week’s episode of Armstrong’s Street Scene Power Hour, which featured James Sopher from the Bug Infestation Show. The show takes place Sept. 25th in Geneva, Ohio, and is for VWs and anything German.
When my plans to visit the National Motorcycle Museum over Labor Day got put on hold by my bank account, I devised three northeast Ohio rides for that weekend — and they didn’t disappoint.
Though one of the routes wasn’t as twisty as the others, two of them allowed me to enjoy some fine Ohio backroads I hadn’t ridden yet in 2021. The other allowed me to explore a part of Ohio I hadn’t visited before and discover an area that I need to spend more time getting to know.
The route I chose for Saturday — Ohio State Route 83 — is one I used to ride a lot when I lived in Brunswick, Ohio, in 2010 to 2011, and is one I didn’t ride nearly enough when I lived in Columbus. I made it my first ride because — if weather didn’t cooperate the other two days — I wanted to make sure I got to ride SR 83 in dry conditions.
As I covered in another article, SR 83 is a favorite of mine, but not because it’s the twistiest or most technical road in Ohio. The part of the route from Wooster to its southern terminus at Beverly at Ohio State Route 60 offers a mix of sweepers and short twisty sections; isn’t too far from the Cleveland metro; offers several turn-around points to get back to Cleveland quickly; and has a couple neat villages along the way.
Now that I live in Cleveland, I had to pick a new return-to-home route. I chose one that looked pretty crooked on Google Maps — and that road (Ohio State Route 339) greatly exceeded my expectations.
From my home in South Euclid, I made my way to Interstate 271 on Cleveland’s east side and headed southbound to its terminus at Interstate 71, which I followed to the interchange with Ohio SR 83 (Exit 204).
Though SR 83 has a direct interchange with I-71, the fun doesn’t begin until south of Wooster. It’s about 18 miles of riding through nondescript, glaciated Ohio countryside and around the City of Wooster before the fun begins.
My rides on SR 83 usually include a stop at the BP gas station/convenience store at the corner of Dover Road (Ohio State Route 3) and Millersburg Road (SR 83). It’s a chance to fuel up and get some additional fluids in you before starting about 40-100 miles of riding fun (depending on where you decide to turn around and head home).
With my tank full of fuel and plenty of water and Powerade Zero in my system, I exited the BP parking lot onto Dover Road, maneuvered through the tight left-hand turn to get onto SR 83 and began the ride I’d been waiting all year to take.
I divide up SR 83 into sectors, with Sector 1 being the Wooster hairpin to the intersection with U.S. Route 36 near Coshocton. It’s the least technical of the three sectors. There are some sweepers with decent elevation change in the first sector until you get to the village of Millersburg.
It’s always neat to meander through central Millersburg, which boasts some well-kempt, classic architecture buildings and a restaurant that I often see a lot of motorcycles parked outside of (still haven’t stopped at it yet — maybe next ride).
South of Millersburg, the turns and elevation change get more pronounced — though I didn’t get to enjoy some of my favorite corners because of slow traffic holding me up for several miles.
When the slow-pokes finally got off the road, I got up to my usual back roads pace and got to enjoy a few memorable corners — including a fun set of them that are carved into the side of a hill. You start the segment by turning to the right while descending the side of the hill, then G-out as the pavement curves hard and uphill to the left. Next there’s a blind right-hander that transitions from uphill to downhill. It’s a section of road I think belongs on a road racing course.
After enjoying the remaining sweepers, I arrived on the outskirts of Coshocton and — after passing the really neat Roscoe Village — headed south on the SR 83/U.S. 36/Ohio State Route 16 bypass to the intersection where SR 83 and SR 16 go their separate ways.
This is the start of what I call Sector 2, which features mostly sweeper corners — with a few exceptions. There’s a downhill, left-right set of corners that remind me of a couple sections of the Portimao circuit in Portugal. With foreknowledge of the corners and a reasonable corner entry speed, it’s a fun left-hander that travels down a natural ledge that leads to a hard right turn. Your suspension bottoms out just before you turn into the right-hander, so a little too much speed and you’ll quickly find yourself in the left-hand lane.
There’s also a technical score of turns a little north of New Concord. As the road ascends a hill, it switches back a couple times with several tight, uphill curves that are a blast to lean into.
The terrain flattens out a little after the twisty bits as the route approaches New Concord. SR 83 runs to the west of the village and the Muskingum College campus, intersecting with U.S. Route 22 and, a mile or two later, Interstate 70. After crossing under the I-70 right of way, you’re greeted with a fun set of sweepers that gradually work their way downhill — leading to a very tight, 90-degree left-hander that had a big drop in it mid-corner. I have no idea how there isn’t a semi rolled over every time I ride through that corner.
From there to the route’s southern terminus, it’s a mix of tight sweepers and a few tighter corners. A short section of road where SR 83 overlaps with Ohio State Route 78 has some fun twists and turns, including one that feels sharply banked — like you’re riding around the rim of a natural bowl.
When I reached the southern end of SR 83, I rode on Ohio SR 60 east to the village of Beverly, which is the western terminus of Ohio SR 339. Looking back at the ride, I think I may have enjoyed riding SR 339 more than SR 83.
The east-west route connects Beverly with Ohio State Route 821 right near the Interstate 77 alignment, and I used the route to get to I-77 and start my journey back to Cleveland — and boy was it a fun ride.
The corners just keep on coming — tight sweepers or mild technical sections that do a great job balancing higher corner speeds than twisties while still keeping the motorcycle flip-flopping left-right-left-right for its entire about 14-mile length.
SR 339’s eastern terminus is just south of the Johnny Appleseed memorial — which, in a rush to get home, I completely forgot to turn left at SR 821 and check out.
As I rode back to Cuyahoga County, I felt happy that I’d finally gotten to ride SR 83 again, but was just as happy that I’d discovered SR 339. I was seriously impressed with the flow and pace of SR 339 and may work to incorporate it into my other southeast Ohio day ride routes.
As Roy Dyckman and I packed up our bikes Sunday morning at last weekend’s MSTA Mail Pouch Fly-By Rally, we took our time because temperatures were already in the 80s by 10am and the humidity was stifling. Roy mentioned that we weren’t too far away from the American Motorcyclist Associations campus in Pickerington, Ohio, and that he’d like to swing by and check out an item he donated to the museum well over a year ago — a pin vest. And not just any pin vest, but one that is adorned front and back was with pins from nearly every state.
Because of some issues with my bike’s clutch, we decided to take the quickest route, which was Interstate 77 north to Interstate 70 west to Pickerington. When entering the campus of the AMA, you get a terrific feeling of oneness with all motorcyclists. Entering the museum, Roy and I were greeted by an enthusiastic museum employee who answered our many questions. We haven’t been there in at least 10 years.
I’m a fan of road racing and flat track racing. so I headed to that section first, spying the exhibit for Scott Russell exhibit — a master at Daytona. Cal Rayborn and Chris Carr also have bikes they rode on display there.
On the dirt side, there are artifacts for John Penton, Malcom Smith and Don Emde, and there’s even a section for female riders like stunt women and trials champion Debbie Evans.
There are also some neat exhibits that feature just one brand, like the BMWs or the “around the world” HD Superglide driven by Dave Barr.
If you’re an AMA member, you get in free. If not its a nominal cost of about $8 and you literally could spend hours there.
Speaking of the AMA, please consider joining. There’s strength in numbers and we need every motorcyclist to join forces and stand with the AMA to oppose legislation that is counter-productive to motorcycling. To find out about member benefits, call 1-800-AMA-JOIN or visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com.
Larry Ward and I left Canfield, Ohio, on Thursday, Aug. 26 — making time down Ohio Route 11 towards East Liverpool and eventually turning west onto Ohio Route 7 — to Marietta , Ohio for the 2021 Motorcycle Sport Touring Association Mail Pouch Fly-By weekend.
The MSTA is a diverse group of motorcyclists who don’t care what you ride, but live by the motto, “All the Gear, All the Time.” This is an annual ride meeting friends who we haven’t seen for a year.,
Thursday afternoon was sunny and cloudless, ensuring another 90-degree day of riding in the afternoon. Larry and I decided to visit the Blennerhassett Island and Mansion Thursday afternoon, which required taking a ride on a paddle wheeler. The boat trip to the island was uneventful and, once we arrived, we looked for a cold beverage and had time to think about what to do next. A park ranger gave us a ride to Putnam House, which belonged to one of the more prominent settlers in Marietta. We also explored the opulent Blennerhassett Mansion.
The last ferry off the island left at 4:30 p.m., and we scampered onboard and sat on the upper deck — availing ourselves of the cool river breeze.
Friday morning, Larry suggested a trip to the famous Hillbilly Hot Dogs. We left the hotel and got onto Interstate 77, then crossed over the Ohio River into West Virginia and exited onto State Route 2. The route closely aligns with the south bank of the Ohio River, and we followed the route to Lesage, W.Va., where Hillbilly Hot Dogs is located.
Quite frankly the place looks like a junkyard. But, the old adage, “you can’t tell a book by its cover” applies to this place.
Hillbilly Hot Dogs serves some of the best hot dogs you’ll find anywhere and is situated in a very unique environment. The eating quarters are old, faded yellow school buses with thousands of names scribed on the bus ceilings and walls.
Some years ago, Larry did an in-depth radio report on the Mothman sightings around the time of the Point Pleasant bridge collapse, which took place December 17th, 1967 and killed 42 people.
For a scant $4.50, you can tour a museum on Hillbilly Hot Dogs grounds dedicated to the Mothman phenomenon that features historical evidence surrounding that day.
The town of Point Pleasant has moved on from that tragic day but still embraces the remnants of the Mothman saga. All in all a grand day and it culminated our One Tank Trip.
On this past week’s Armstrong Street Scene Power Hour, Larry Ward interviewed BMW Riders Association editor John Flores and Vice President Eric Ratermann about all things RA, including the site of next year’s national rally.