Southeast Ohio ramble 2023

Southeast Ohio Ramble – May 2023

Thursday, May 4th, 2023.

“Good Morning Aviators, This is your Captain Speaking…”

The past 6-7 months have taken my family through some heavy times. We all find balance in various ways – for me, it’s the solitude of the road on two wheels. I don’t often have the opportunity for 2 extended rides so close together, but the 2023 season has started out with the Southeast Ohio Ramble coming just 2 weeks after the 1911 Remembrance Ride in South Carolina. This would be the first year I’ve ridden to the Ramble and it not being my spring riding tune up. I was looking forward to the time away from work and life; “life” gets busy for me at the end of May with the local 4H horse show season running from Memorial Day through the weekend after the 4th of July. This would be my time to recharge.

I managed to get on the road Thursday morning and navigate Detroit before the morning rush hour slowed progress to a crawl as it often does. There were some slow spots in traffic, but I never put a foot down – that’s starting the day out right! I had put off ordering a new shield for my Neotec and planned to stop at IronPony in Columbus to pick up a new one. It was a great plan, except that both the clear shield and smoked internal sun visor were both out of stock – 500 Shoei helmets on the shelf – demo’s and new – and no replacement shields in stock. It was a WTF moment. I asked if they would sell a shield off a demo helmet or one in a box – nope.

Back on the road, the plan was to get south of Columbus and then turn east. I’d exchanged texts with FJRVFR and we were going to follow a similar path towards Marietta. I found my way onto OH56 and was working my way towards a gas station when my phone rang. I was leaving a stop sign and tapped my Sena to answer as I rolled away. “Hello” – to which I heard, “Good morning Aviators, This is your Captain Speaking…” it was FJRVFR – I had passed him while he was stopped to shed a layer…

We worked east on OH56 through the Hocking Hills State Park, finding our way onto OH78 in Nelsonville, then onto OH555 south, and OH676 on into Marietta. We caught up on life and things as we worked along, FJRVFR continuously casting doubt on his riding abilities, and such – which were all just feable attempts at selling me a story that just doesn’t hold water one bit at all. Smooth, consistent and predictable – all key attributes present on this day. It was a very enjoyable stroll over hill and dale into Marietta.

Turns out, it was only 3:30p Thursday afternoon when I checked in – lodging secured, I realized it was just too early to shut down for the day. D-Eagle was on his way, and rumor has it he’s a little nervous about riding in the dark – so I decided to make an attempt to intercept and offer supplemental lighting should he not arrive before sunset. I worked northeast on OH26 to OH800, then north all the way to I70. I backtracked slightly and made my way to Buffalo, OH- which sits just off exit 37 of I-77. Fueled up with gas and a sammich and moseyed down the expressway about 2 miles to the rest stop. A quick incognito phone call sorted out that D-Eagle was close; told him, “see ya at the hotel” and hung up – just as he cruised past the rest stop… It took me a minute to suit up and get rolling; Mr. D-Eagle’s pace was slightly above what I anticipated, as it took me a few minutes at max velocity to regain a visual – it was fine, the FJR loves to drink fuel like a college football team at the end of beer bong hose…

The parking lot had filled in by the time we arrived.

Friday, May 5th, 2023.

Operation Boat Anchor.

Saturday was a day to reconnect with Sir Wheaton and we spent the morning chatting about Mozart, the theater and how my choice of tire continues to be a limiting factor to improving my proficiency on two wheels. Try as I might, Wheaton remained nearly out of sight. An anchor holds a ship in place – preventing any drift, limiting or preventing progress. Clear roads, spectacular weather and a low level flyover by Maverick made for a terrific morning – even with the anchor-esq way I was riding. We stopped to let my tires rest and for me to collect myself at the Kiedaisch Point park – it overlooks the Ohio River. There has been a nice bench swing and deck / bench added along with a flag pole. As we parked, I notice the National Ensign was not fully seated at the top of the pole, but rather a foot or so short. Wheaton felt the need to document my un-fucking of this atrocity. Properly seated at full mast with a hurricane level knot securing it ensured who ever came to lower it next better have their stuff together…

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Fixing it…

Much better…

Onward to lunch across some more unbelievably flat (not), straight (hardly) and boring (yeah, right) roads into Beallsville, Ohio and the historic Beallsville Diner. Lunch there is always solid, but rumor has it that the slices of pie are diet sized…

We left Beallsville plus three. We worked back towards Marietta in the zigzag pattern that bounces between OH26 and OH7. It was spectacular watching the quartet in front of me dance along the shallow peaks and valleys and ridgelines – the accompanying four cylinder symphony created a visual and audio experience that brings a warm tingling sensation to the body. No wait, that tingling pressure was my bladder, so I stopped at a random well secluded field entrance to address this issue. I’m convinced that every ounce of fluid we intake to hydrate properly is multiplied 10 fold while riding. I was back on the road after an eternity of standing there and it was long enough to raise the Wheaton radar; I found the group and Sir Wheaton forced me to swap rolls from sweep to lead.

Oh, look – hooligans… As we were standing there, a county sheriff car rolled in. Quote of the day was, “sheriff’s sure don’t look like that were I come from…” Yeah, she was attractive.

Saturday, May 6th, 2023.

“That was as useful as a Styrofoam Boat Anchor…”

Saturday presented another fine motorcycle tuned day for us. I spent the day wondering the roads north and west of Marietta with the legendary “Zoomm’s”. We took in some favorites segments of the country side, ending up in Caldwell for a rest stop. Ohio 78 never disappoints and there was minimal traffic as we moved west past the Big Muskie Bucket and into McConnellsville.

We ended up on OH555 south in Ringgold. The section of OH555 from there south into Chesterhill is a peach of a road. It offers a rider the opportunity to probe the limits of their skill threshold, their bikes performance envelops with it’s sharp blind hill crests, blind corners and unreadable terrain. It’s a segment that for me, it’s the opportunity to process road conditions, hear, feel, and interput what the bike is doing and what it needs; to analyze suspension performance, and it forces me to funnel every once of concentration into the bike and road ahead. It’s a weird place to find peace, quiet, and solitude because ridden aggressively, it is the polar opposite of those things. The bike swings from that high rpm wail to raspy decel growl as fast as you can transition from one corner to the next to the next crest, pushing against the gravity in the depressions as your eyes scan and gather data of the next corner or crest – does it drop off beyond the sight line, does it turn, which way, how sharp – or does it crest to a plateau allowing you to hold the throttle pinned? You feel the handlebars go numb for an instance as the front suspension reaches its extended limit and the tire hovers – a millisecond later reconnecting with the black ribbon of road. Hard braking with a little protest from the bike as the rear tire scratches for traction because you’ve asked it to lean in to the right hander we’ve blitzed. Its reward is a firm press back into the asphalt as the engine repeats it’s climb toward the upper limits on the tachometer. Laying these dance steps together successfully encourages just a littler more throttle, a little more brake, a little more of everything.

In this chaos, this rapid succession of aggressive inputs to the bike and its responses, where distraction brings a price none can afford, I find a peace that should not be there. A Zen where everything in life has dissolved into the background – for those few minutes, none of it exists.

The past 8 or so months have been challenging and taken a toll. We do our best to be that calm voice of reason and reassuring presence when those we love need that more than anything. There is anger, frustration, helplessness when a loved one fades and surrenders to a cureless monster. It weighs on us, lingers, gnaws until we find balance. Balance for is where acceptance that what was done is done, that actions taken were the best at the moment based on known data points, and those departed expect us to carry on. NO, not just carry one, but strive to live better, seize the here and now – live every minute of every day we have as if it was our last.

In that short, twelve mile stretch of gloriously wicked asphalt was the opportunity to be bold and seek the balance that has been lost, to dance with the devil to an angry, aggressive symphony of rising and falling engine wail that only sounds harmonious to me, only I can hear, one only I can feel. It is my – fortress of solitude. In all the chaos that is life, this is where my peace is found. Peace in this state is compliant suspension – absorbing the road imperfections, providing balance; peace was the four cylinder wail of the motor providing thrust on demand and those brake pads overcoming the velocity built by it.

Lunch at the Triple Nickel Dinner was delicious, even with the clamoring of the large group that also choose the diner for lunch…

you need a, you bottle the emotion so you can be that for them. I’m sure there are better ways, more preferred ways, but it’s the tool I had to get through it. There is so much anger and frustration that comes in loosing a loved one to a illness with no cure; to see them fade in front of you and to be the one in the room to hold everyone together. There’s a price to pay for that. Missing an apex, cresting a hill into oncoming traffic, floating off to oblivion – give me any of those rather and the slow fade I witnessed in March. Please.

Sunday, May 7th, 2023.

Places to be, pictures to take…

There was not time to linger Sunday morning. Those here who are connected to us on FB have likely seen and read her posts about this journey she is on with her horse. This day was her first show of the year; Harleigh would be there as well working and riding in classes. I was KSU just after 6am, rolling north on I-77 instead of my normal exit via OH676 > OH555. I ducted off of I-70 in Zanesville to run the diagonal to towards Toledo.

It was this day that mother nature would make some of us pay for the previous three days of gloriousness she had allowed us to enjoy. I rode directly into it and stopped just outside of Mansfield when it was at its peak. Gas, some caffeine and sugar, and by the time I rolled away from the gas station, the rain was letting up; the radar indicated that I’d have dry roads before Toledo. The Dunlops were young yet and provided confidence in the wet conditions. Time was not on our side. Through Toledo, north through Detroit and past the house – The horse show was another 30 minutes beyond. I arrived in time to walk down to the arena just before Annette and Little Miss walked in for their last class of the day. Kitchen Pass Points bagged, I departed and headed north to knock out the lawn at my folks place. My day ended with me rolling into the garage around 7:30p that evening. Four days had added 1,400 spectacular miles to the odometer; the bike sits just short of 97,000 miles now. It won’t have much love for the next 6-8 weeks, so we’ll resume our journey to 100k miles in July…

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