Category Archives: Ride Reports

Ride Report: Columbus to Portsmouth via SR 104


Introduction 

On June 30 I took a ride with a co-worker and his buddy to Portsmouth, Ohio, to attend the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. My co-worker Rob suggested taking Ohio State Route 104 to Portsmouth instead of U.S. Route 23. I had ridden/driven U.S. 23 several times for a previous job and was happy to give another route a try. Both routes follow the Scioto River and I was not expecting the alternate route to offer much more than U.S. 23 does. The route turned out to be very enjoyable and I am sure I will be riding it again sometime soon. 

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Route 

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Route Map: Port Side to Portsmouth

The ride began the same way many good motorcycle rides do: with a delicious, hearty American breakfast. I met up with Rob and his buddy at Port Side Café II and Catering on U.S. 23 near Lockbourne, Ohio. After a western omelet, home fries, and toast, the three of us started riding south on U.S. 23 and turned right onto SR 762 west. We rode for a couple miles until we reached SR 104 and turned left to head south toward Portsmouth. 

We stayed on SR 104 until we reached Chillicothe, Ohio, where we turned onto East Main Street (signed U.S. 50) and then got on the U.S. 23 expressway. We followed U.S. 23 (which SR 104 duplexes with just south of Chillicothe) to Waverly, Ohio, where we stopped for gas and water. SR 104 splits off from U.S. 23 in Waverly and we followed the SR 104 alignment from Waverly to where it duplexes with SR 73. From there we followed SR 73/SR 104 into Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s clubhouse is located on Front Street. It looks out on the Ohio River and is one block south from where the SR 73/SR 104 bridge over the Scioto River connects with Portsmouth’s downtown. 

For the return trip to Columbus I decided to take U.S. 23 to compare the routes back-to-back. 

 

Weather 

The ride featured sunny skies and hot conditions on the way to Portsmouth, as well as on the way back to Columbus. Temperatures were probably in the high 80s or low 90s with moderately high humidity in the afternoon. I was sweating pretty good when I was stuck at red light after red light in downtown Portsmouth on the way home.

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Analysis/Summary 

I was not expecting SR 104 to be any better to ride than U.S. 23 considering both routes mostly follow the relatively flat Scioto River valley. I was pleasantly surprised by SR 104’s undulations, scenic views, and ties to Ohio transportation history. 

There was very little traffic on the rural sections of SR 104 during the ride. The section north of Chillicothe offers some scenic views of the agricultural fields and some foothills. It is a nice, low-stress, low-traffic volume alternative to the four-lane U.S. 23 highway.  

The southern portion of the route (south of Waverly) begins with a neat section of road atop a dam embankment on the southeast side of Lake White. The remainder of the route features some minor elevation changes but few scenic views due to both sides of the road being tree-lined. 

The most exciting part of the ride for me was the sighting of an old canal lock adjacent to the route. Further research has determined SR 104 by-and-large follows the routing of the Ohio and Erie Canal. I only saw the one preserved lock on the ride but will be researching the route further to determine if there are any other remnants of the abandoned canal to be visited. I am also really interested in going back to the preserved lock to see how its dimensions compare to those of the Genesee Valley Canal and Enlarged Erie Canal locks in Western New York. 

There was also a fancy-looking dirt speedway on the southwest side of SR 73/SR 104 just before the route enters Portsmouth proper. The facility is called Portsmouth Raceway Park and appears to be well-manicured for a short dirt oval. I may have to head back to Portsmouth sometime soon to see the track in action. 

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Ride Report: Rochester, NY to Allentown, PA: September 7, 2017


Introduction 

Yesterday I rode my Ninja 500 from Rochester, New York to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I lived in Allentown 2013-2014, and wanted to see it again on my way to this weekend’s MotoAmerica action at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey. It was the second ride on my little Ninja 500 loaded down with my full compliment of soft luggage (tank bag, tail bag, and saddlebags). Before the trip I had a new Kenda K-671 Cruiser tire installed on the rear. The previous rear was a Bridgestone Exedra that worn past the wear bars when I got home from Pittsburgh a couple weeks prior. I also had to play with the throttle cables as the throttle had too much play in it. They were still not perfect but I did not have enough time to perfect them before I left. While doing the throttle cable maintenance, I had the seat off and noticed that the Ziploc bags holding my sockets under my seat had been frayed and several of the sockets were missing. Off I went to Harbor Freight Tools to buy a new set of metric sockets before I shoved off. 

Route 

Since I wanted to avoid some tolls and take a more scenic route, I left Greater Rochester by heading south on I-390. There usually is not much traffic on I-390 and I enjoy its course through the Southern Tier foothills and mountains. I stopped for lunch at the Subway inside the Pilot Travel Center in Kanona, New York before continuing onto I-86 East to Binghamton. When I reached the nearly completely reconstructed “Kamazaie Curve” interchange, I headed south on I-81 to Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania where I stopped at a Sheetz for lunch. I then took I-476 South (also known as the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to U.S. 22 on Allentown’s northwest side, where I got off the Northeast Extension and followed U.S. 22 to my accommodations off of Airport Road. 

Weather 

Overall the weather was relatively cooperative. I hit two patches of light rain. One patch was in and around Corning, New York. The other patch was on I-81 as I was approaching Scranton. Both rain showers were relatively light and short-lived. As I was riding I often saw dark clouds on either side of my route and was fortunate to not hit more of those rain pockets. The temperature remained constantly cool all day. I was glad I was wearing my extra layer, and wish I had not forgotten my second long-sleeve shirt was in my saddlebag’s outside pocket. The higher elevations were noticeably colder and windier than the valleys and plains.  

 Roads 

Road conditions were overall good for the entire ride. There is still a good bit on construction in Binghamton on the section east of Kamakazie Curve, as well as the southern portion of I-390. That construction appears to be coming to a close for the season, but also appears poised to resume next season on the oldest section of I-390 (Wayland to Dansville). The section of U.S. 22 that runs through Allentown could use some attention too. The very northern section of I-476/Northeast Extension had just been repaved and was a joy to ride through with some gusto.  

Analysis/Summary 

Overall it was a positive travel experience. It was great to see some roads that I used to ride a lot for work or to head back to Rochester through the Poconos, as well as ride through another former hometown in Binghamton. The progress on the Kamakazie Curve interchange is impressive and I am looking forward to the day when I-86 extends from north of Erie to Binghamton uninterrupted. The bike did well for what it is, but I still really miss the FJR’s heated grips, more spacious ergos, and better wind protection. They would have made the ride more enjoyable. What this trip and the trip to Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago have shown me is that the Ninja 500 is a very capable sport tourer, but only for shorter trips and with some add-ons. A new seat and heated grips or gloves would make the bike more user-friendly in colder conditions. I also really miss the FJR’s hard luggage. When traveling long distances alone, having to fit all of the heavy tools needed for potential roadside repairs in soft saddlebags is far less than ideal. It is very doable, but not very ideal.  

Ride Report: Final FJR1300 Ride, 4/22/17


Unfortunately, this is the last ride report I will be writing for a while. Usually writing ride reports is one of my favorite things to do. For me, it is basically a running journal of the places, roads, and people I get to learn about when I go out riding. Each journey, recorded on paper or not, becomes a small kernel of history that allows me to learn a little more about the world I live in. Unfortunately, like any other form of history, there are always dark kernels. April 22, 2017, was one of those dark kernels for me.

The plan was to head down to Circleville, Ohio and come back to Youngstown the same day to cover an Ohio Mini Roadracing League (OMRL) event being held at Circleville Raceway Park.  I headed out later than I had planned due to waking up late and the unseasonably cold temperatures. Once I was fueled up, I hit the road around 7am. Because I was running late I took the fastest route to Circleville, which is I-76 west through Akron to I-71 south to U.S. 23 on the south side of Columbus. I had already traveled all of those roads several times this year and found them to be in good condition. Since it was a weekend and early in the morning, the traffic going through downtown Akron on I-76 was very light. While the weather forecast has called for steady rain the entire ride, I did not encounter at all during the three hour ride.

The OMRL event was great. They has 44 competitors turn out on a day when it was supposed to rain all day, compared to 51 competitors for the 2016 season-opener under near-perfect weather conditions. It was also great to visit with the Anthonys before Gavin Anthony made his debut as a professional motorcycle road racer at the MotoAmerica event at Road Atlanta the next weekend.

I left the event later than I wanted to (around 4pm) and was heading to Freddy’s Street Food in Delaware, Ohio for dinner when I was involved in a motorcycle accident. I do not want to go into details about what happened or my injuries at this time. However, my FJR1300 has been totaled and I will need to take some time to heal up before I can ride again.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the EMTs who responded to the accident from the Orange Township Fire Department. Several of them ride and did their best to keep me in good spirits. I would also like to thank the nurses and staff at the OhioHealth Lewis Center Emergency Department who tended to my injuries quickly and kindly.

 

Ride Report: I-76, I-71, and U.S. 30, Youngstown, OH to Beaverdam, OH


Ride Date: March 28, 2017

For the past two years when I lived in Delaware, Ohio, I would take my touring bike out on a test ride from Delaware to a Speedway gas station near the indirect interchanges between I-75 and U.S. Route 30. The ride was exactly 200 miles round trip, which was just under one tank of gas on my FJR1300. Even though I moved to Youngstown, Ohio last year, I decided I would keep the tradition going, even though the ride is twice as long. If clearing the old, Stabil-containing gas out of the tank with a one-tank trip is good, two tanks is twice as good, right?

In any event, I got a late start but headed out from Youngstown around 930am. The ride took me up I-680, to I-80 until it changes to I-76 at the Ohio Turnpike interchange. I continued on I-76 through Akron, where I-76 overlaps with I-77 for a short bit, onto I-76’s western terminus at I-71. I got on I-71 at Exit 209, and got off at Exit 176 onto the U.S. Route 30 highway. I stayed on U.S. 30 until its interchange with the Lincoln Highway (old Route 30), which provides indirect access to I-75. There is a Speedway gas station just west of U.S. 30’s trumpet-style interchange ramp, but east of the I-75 alignment. After getting gas, buying a snack, and chatting with a another rider, I got back on U.S. 30, this time eastbound. The very unusual ramp from old U.S. 30 to U.S. 30 eastbound, which loops in the median of the freeway, can be a lot of fun for the peg-scrappers out there. I essentially repeated my route on the way back to Youngstown, except I decided to use the I-277 bypass around downtown Akron to I-77 North, which took me back to I-76 East. I was feeling a bit tired early into the ride back, and stopped at an Arby’s in Bucyrus for a quick snack. Nothing like a corned beef slider detour. I got home around 515pm.

Overall, and despite the rough winter, all road surfaces were in good condition. During my previous rides on U.S. 30 between Upper Sandusky and the I-75 interchange, only portions of the eastbound lanes had been paved with an odd asphalt. Now both sides of the divided highway have received the asphalt treatment. The asphalt is very ridable, it just has an usual texture about it. It feels both slightly slick and abrasive at the same time.

The route is very rural and does not offer a lot of scenic viewing opportunities, unless empty farm fields are your thing. However, I enjoy this route because it is four-lane, divided highway (with intersections, however) and is not heavily traveled. It is very effective as a toll-free thoroughfare between Canton, Ohio and Chicago/Gary. The route is also very effective as a test route. It allows a rider to maintain a normal highway pace (65-75mph) with little traffic and ample shoulder space in case something does go wrong and roadside repairs are needed.

My FJR1300 performed very well with no mechanical issues on its first extended use of the 2017 riding season. This was despite a heavy crosswind that is typical of wide-open freeways that run through flat, un-forrested terrain. After a successful test ride I can now have confidence that, barring unforeseen problems, the motorcycle is prepared for what will be a very busy 2017 riding reason.