Boy, 4 1/2 hours is a long time on a motorcycle. I could have taken longer and more frequent breaks, and probably would recommend doing so if riding the entire route. Scenery along the northern loop was the standard SE Ohio farms and forests. There are a few towns along the way, but city street driving is by far the exception, not the rule. The drive is a nice mix of technical riding and speed limit cruising with long stretches of both. Road hazards were at a minimum today, there were less than 5 patches of gravel, one guy that didn't know better than to blow grass on the road, and a particularly suicidal squirrel.
The morning started with a ride through Marietta to pick up Route 26. I had an instance of people being fascinated by the Rebel on the way across town. I was stopped at a light and ended up having a couple minute conversation with all three occupants of a SUV because they liked the looks of it. The entire 67 mile length of OH 26 was the first real part of my ride today. The road is windy enough that you are only traveling at the posted speed limit of 55 mph for 15 miles total of that length in less than 1/2 mile sections. It is well maintained and many of the sharper turns are banked, so you can exercise your cornering skills under close to ideal conditions. I was lacking confidence for the first 20 miles and was taking the corners much more conservatively than normal. I still had a blast because the road is so lightly traveled and riding through the middle of a national forest is a beautiful drive.
The first speed limit cruise of the day was taking Routes 78 and 37 to connect to 555. Again the roads were well maintained. There were more farms across this part of the ride, and even though the roads are straighter it doesn't make them any flatter. I got a bit lost making the transition from OH 78 to OH 37 in McConnelsville. I hadn't zoomed the map in enough to see that they were the same road for a little bit and was concerned about missing the turn and so went off track looking for it when I should have just stayed on the road I was on. I stopped to check Google Maps on my phone, but it turns out that there is not very good cell reception in a town of 1700. I eventually decided to ride Route 78 just a bit farther and found where to transition. Route 37 carried me to the Triple Nickel and the second technical portion of the day's ride.
I hadn't ridden this portion of Ohio 555 before. Gear selection isn't as forgiving here as it was on 26. It is a really good time but I ended up taking entire portions at low speeds because I didn't downshift for a hill. The twists, hills, and trees conspire to keep what is ahead of you hidden. This is a great time and pretty ride, but quick gear selection was not my friend today. I had some problems with gauging some of the turns too. I could have been inattentive, but I didn't notice some speed recommendations on turns I felt should have had them. This lead to me over braking before some gentle turns because I still wasn't at 100% confidence. I was also a bit disappointed by the road maintenance for this being a famous (semi-famous?) motorcycle route. For the first time I was hitting rough roads and uneven patch jobs. It may have just been that I was getting fatigued and sore. I took a significant break after I got onto 550 and the remainder of the ride was less painful.
The sections of OH 550 and OH 339 on the northern loop constitute the second speed limit cruise portion of today's ride. There is a 90 degree turn at a stop sign in the middle of this "section" but the similar riding groups them together. We are back to smooth roads and back to doing the speed limit for the entire stretch. This section is more residential country than farming or forested country, so grass becomes the major hazard to watch out for instead of gravel or critters. Long stretches of straight roads allow us to relax before our last section.
I am still convinced that Route 676 between Watertown and Marietta doesn't get enough recognition. Maybe it is because it is only 13 miles long or that it is so close to so many other nice motorcycle roads, but I never hear it enter the conversation. It has a nice mix of gentle turns and short straight aways with an occasional peg scraper. I never regained full confidence so the only peg scrapes today were unintentional ones on 555, but 676 is still my old familiar friend.
I had a great time today and can't wait to check out the southern loop tomorrow. If it is as good as the ride today was I may submit the ride for consideration for next year's rally.
2009 Rebel 250