Day 3
October 9th, 2004
Parkersburg, West Virginia

The alarm clock on my cell is proving to be a handy addition, every morning it awakens me to answer the call of the road.  On this morning I was up at 7am and out the door a little before 8.  Not riding far today, I only plan to go as far Youngstown.

The morning was cool and partly cloudy.  I was leaving the parking lot when I saw the owner of the Gixxer standing beside his bike with another sport bike owner.  I stopped to chat.  "Where y’all riding today?" "Not sure, but somewhere south." Both were members of STN.net, a sport touring site with a large following.  I gave them my card and they recognized who I was, both frequent my web site.  They were embarrassed to tell me they trucked their bikes down from Michigan.  I didn’t hold it against them.  I wouldn’t want to ride a crotch rocket very far either.

I wished them safe riding and made my way to I-77 north, landing in Ohio a few short miles later.  My plan today is to ride the twisty, hilly roads of southeast Ohio, and when I leave the hills to scurry up to Youngstown on a few interesting back roads.  Not a lot miles, but given the terrain, a full day.

Traffic was light on 77 as I crossed the Ohio River and readied for the culture change after crossing the Mason-Dixon Line.  A few 18 wheelers were getting an early start but not much else was moving.  I wanted to leave 77 for SR 26 in Marietta, but there is no exit for the route and no signs on 77 to direct a Long Rider on how to find it. The end result was I kept on north to the first exit, which happened to be SR 821.

I took the exit and pulled to an empty lot to check the atlas.  A small cafe was nearby, and a X rated video and novelty store was just down the road.  The sign said it was open 24 hours a day.  What has this world come to, and why do the locals tolerate such stuff?

The routes were confusing because no directions were on the signs.  I took a guess hoping I was riding south to Marietta, but in actuality I was going north.  I sensed I was going in the wrong direction, and when I arrived in the tired township Elba, I knew it was time to turn around.  The deteriorated looking houses and washed out shops depressed me.  I did not see any activity taking place, and I wondered where the people were.  Even the quiet 1300 sounded like a jet in such surroundings.

The bumpy and patched up road was void of traffic, and the trees were turning color. The sun was trying to poke through the clouds, streaming rays of sunshine through red and yellow trees.  It took 30 minutes to work my way back to Marietta.

When I came into the city I immediately started looking for SR 26 signs.  I was forced to stop at the downtown fire station for directions when I failed to find any.  A friendly firefighter with a northern accent set me straight.  The Ohio River separates north and south in this part of the country, and I thought how it marks such a definitive line. Simply crossing the river, changes the accents of 2 entire states.

Saturday morning in the mill towns of southeast Ohio found many preparing for fall festivals.  In Marietta, police were barricading downtown streets in preparation for the town’s festivities.  I figured I better get out while I could.

The mill towns of the north demoralize me.  I would pass through them and wonder how much influence the mills had on each jurisdiction.  Like the grain towns of the Midwest many have fled them.  Entire towns were built around the mills.  It is common to find 3 generations of sons working side by side in these places.  Late afternoon rides past the mills often came at shift change.  I’d see the workers walking in the parking lot with old fashioned lunch boxes and chipped looking hard hats.  They were dirty and sweaty, but proud of just completing their 8 hours and to be on the way home.

I passed the high school in Marietta and thought about the kids that go to school here. Like Alabama, high school football is big such towns.  For many of the boys, playing ball brings hero status, and for a number of them it will be the highlight of their life.  They cling to their senior year and wish to freeze time, because they know when it’s over, it will be off to the plant lurking down the street.

This is the wonder of Long Riding, seeing and visiting these places close up.  My mark will not be noticed in Marietta, but this city by the Ohio will stick with me.  My life is a whirlwind of people, places, and excitement.  My home town is prosperous and growing, we are blessed with warm sunny weather, low taxes, and the citizens are predominantly white collar and well educated.  The contrast of Prattville and Marietta was striking.  I treat each day as a blessing and can’t wait for the next.  I’m sure there are many that find the mill towns colorful, bright, and optimistic, but as a Long Rider looking in I could not see those things.

The directions provided by the firefighter were easy and quick, and I found the route near I-77.  I took it north, and went into Wayne National Forest.  The first 10 miles of  26 north of Marietta were the best. The surface is smooth and the curves good.  Many were of the banked variety and I found them fun to lean.

Traffic was not a problem, in fact the locals in cages knew these roads well, if anyone was in the way, I was.
Route 26 follows Little Muskingum through the woods of Southern Ohio. The 1300 was in its element.  The road kept me leaning in all directions, with many blind hills. The elevation was not as great as in West Virginia, but the roads were much more difficult. SR 26 was severely flooded by the Little Muskingum, everywhere I saw evidence of high water.  Muddy water lines were still visible 10 feet on the trunks of trees.  Guard rails were covered in mud, and dried mud and dirt caked the road surface.  I even saw pieces of a bridge 15 feet up in a tree, testimony to the torrent of water that poured out of the banks of this now tranquil little creek.
​"I even saw pieces of a bridge 15 feet up in a tree, testimony to the torrent of water that poured out of the banks of this now tranquil little creek."
One of the 90 degree curves on Ohio 26
The route was thorny and prickly.  So many curves were littered with dust and sand I thought I was at the beach.  I kept my speed down and paid close attention.  Sections of 26 had hundreds of tar snakes.  I watched them carefully keeping in mind the snake that took out brother JerryR at NNN rally.  I also had to watch out for Amish horse buggies, they had a nasty habit of popping up at the worse time.
​"The route was thorny and prickly.  So many curves were littered with dust and sand I thought I was at the beach"
I was diverted by a detour route at Bloomfield.  The floods were just too much for 26 and it caved in.

The detour was SR 260.  A fine road all by itself.  The first mile or so wound up a long hill, it was great riding.  I stayed on the route to Marr where I stopped at an old fashioned general store for a break.  It was my first real stop of the morning.

The entire time I was in these hills my riding was deliberate and calculated, I NEVER went faster then I was able to see.  That meant on many twisting curves I was less than 15 mph.

Marr is a silent place, and not much was going at the store, or a nearby community center. A wood frame house stood next to the store, and a single gas pump stood on the south side of the wood porch.  I shut the 1300 down making sure I kept the way clear to the gas pump, and strolled up the wood steps.

​Mrs. Parks the owner of the store
​Parks General Store, Marr, Ohio
The building was at least 60 years old and the wood plank floors echoed from the sound of my boots.  I opened the door and went inside, squinting in the dark waiting for my eyes to adjust.  A white haired lady behind the counter offered assistance but I declined, "just gonna get a diet coke m’am."  In a tone that reflected intelligence and eloquence, the lady said, "How does one so far from home find Marr?"

"I’m here because I really have no real place I hafta be. I just like riding and seeing places, and meeting folks."
The lady’s name is Mrs. Parks the owner of the store.  She informs me not much has changed in Marr in the 50 years she has run the store.  I offered my condolences when she told me Mr. Parker died 4 years ago.

I scanned the store’s shelves as she spoke.  A little bit of everything could be found here.  Canned goods, bread, a few hardware items.  I saw soap and seed displays crowding around the lady.  A large wood stove dominated the center and I’m sure locals gathered around it on cold Ohio days.

"I think I’m goin to Youngstown tonight." "Why??." " Just looks like a good place to hole up for the night."  As our conversation continued she told me about the simple life in these hills, about her farm and house, and the comfort the hills that surround her give her.  She asked my name and I told her.

She came out from behind the counter and took a seat near the stove.  "Looking for a job? I need someone to help me around the store and to look after the house and the barn across the street.  I can’t pay you much but free room and private bath."  "Thanks for the offer m’am, but I have a job back home for a little while longer."

"what do you do?"


"oh my, I didn’t know"

"Why are you surprised? Do I NOT look like a firefighter?"

"Now that I know, of course you do, I just assumed anyone riding the country because he likes to ride, didn’t have roots."

"M’am I’m about as root bound as you can get.  I love what I do, but I love my home also."

"Why do you say a little while longer?"

"Retiring sometime soon, just not sure of the exact day, but in 11 months I can retire max benefits, I can go now if I’m willingly to take a little less, I had my time in last January."

"You’re much to young to retire Guy, but if you do, the offer still stands.  Not likely any others will ride in here and take it."

I suspect Mrs. Parks does not really need any help, but instead wants a little companionship and security.  I stayed far too long and told her I had to get moving. She thanked me for stopping and for spending a little of my day with her. Mrs. Parks is a kind and caring individual, she brightened my day.

My time in Marr was over and I fired the 1300 up to see what other adventure waited for me in these hills.  The landscape was mostly good, but for some reason a lot of jokers that called this place home, lived in squalor.  Many homes had junked cars in the front yard, with clothes and boxes covering the ground.  More than a few houses hadn’t been painted in years. These places blighted the land in ugliness.  A sad thing to see in a otherwise pretty setting.

From SR 260 I went to SR 537 and hooked back up to SR 26.  My trip through the hills of Southeast Ohio was coming to a close.  The riding had been good and I leaned a whole bunch.  Leaves were not yet peaking, but the color still worthy of a postcard.
I found this haunted house at the crossroads of Routes
26 and 800.  The fall color of southern Ohio is not to be
underestimated.  It was gorgeous.

Morning was passing by when I left the hills on SR 800 and went through Woodsfield. I stayed on the route north out of town, and the landscape was transforming from hills and timberland to farmland and corn fields.  I welcomed the change of scenery.

The same sweet scent I had in West Virginia followed me to Ohio.  Every time I caught a whiff of it I smiled.  I’m glad I use motorcycles to travel.  I’ve loved them since I was 14.  The sensation I have when I glide through such inspiring country keeps me coming back.  How could there be a better way to explore America than on a motorcycle?  I’ve seen the most magnificent scenery anyone could ever imagine from the saddles of my motorcycles.

By the time I got to Barnesville the reserve bar was flashing, so I chose a gas station near a bank, that way I could just walk over to use the ATM after gassing up.  Con stores have ATMs but the fees are all over the place.  Banks seem to be less pricey.  After I picked up my cash I called PeterM.  I advised him I would call later to set up a time for the next day’s meeting.

The countryside slowly flattened out the farther north the 13 carried me.  Cornfields became more numerous and the farms grew bigger.  A few times 9 split farms right down the middle, house on one side, and right across the road the barn.

I stopped in Carrollton when I saw a McDonalds.  I went inside for a Diet Coke to take with my Cliff Bar.  The quarter pounders and fries were very tempting, but I remained strong.  This diet was really beginning to suck, but I knew I'd hate myself if I caved in. Willpower was not much of a problem at home when I'm running and biking everyday, but on tour hamburgers and fries just go together.   I comforted my being with the knowledge if I did good, I could eat a good supper tonight.  I left before I bushwhacked the 5 year next to me and confiscated his Happy Meal.

When I left the McDonalds the route took me straight to the town square, where a full fledged fall festival was taking place.  Scarecrows lined the town and folks in sweaters were walking to and fro.  The town called it "Scarecrow Square."  It was a nice setting.  

The road improved as it took me north.  The surface was better, and markings and signs came back.  It was nice.  The improved conditions allowed me to pick up the pace.  I took a glance down at the speedo and I was hovering near 70 mph.  There were still a few hilltops to deal with, but they were fewer and fewer, and not as biting as those south or in West Virginia.

A few miles after Carrollton, I closed down on another horse buggy.  I eased off the throttle and thought about what PeterM once told me.  " Yeah, we have several buggy/car crashes a year, what a MESS."  I kept the aftermath images of such a collision in my head to keep me honest.
​I've forgotten the name of this town found somewhere on SR
9, but I'll never forget this image of fall in the Ohio Valley.

I took SR 45 around Salem, and united with SR 14 for a brief ride to SR 534.  I coasted to a stop at the Berlin Center crossroads of 534 and US 224.  A large flashing caution light advised everyone to slow down and prepare to stop.  A good idea after the fast and straight nature of 534.  When I was pulling away from the intersection I noticed 2 young boys on the shoulder, one had his arms over the neck of his friend hobbling and skipping.  I pulled to a stop and quizzed them.  "He ok?"  "Yeah, he twisted his ankle back in the ditch, I'm gonna help him get him home."  I looked down at the ankle in question.  It was blue and swollen.  "Might be worse than a sprain, better have ya folks get it checked."  When I sped off I could still see the duo in the mirrors straining to get somewhere.

I'd just witnessed a case of true friends.  All males of any age remember the guys they could count on growing up.  They were the buddies that you swore allegiance to, and you never worried about them selling out on you.  When the feces hit the fan, they'd be right there with you.  Caught passing notes in class?   Don't worry he'd never say where it came from.  Help sneaking in the drive in?  He's right there.  He was the best lookout a guy could have while looking at naked books in the drugstore, and if your bike was broke down, he'd let you buddy up on his.

It was a cool pleasant day, but somewhat cloudy.  The sun came and went.  The temps rose to the low 60s and no further.

I didn't have any plans on what to do when I reached Youngstown.  I figured I'd just surf the interstate till I found a place to stay.  My surfing abruptly ended when I saw a sign for a Motel 6 at one of the first exits I approached into the city.  I learned a long time ago to try and stay on the outskirts of the big cities when possible.

The motel was located on a dead end just off I-76.  A large truck stop was across the street, and a quarter mile from there was another XXX DVD store and massage parlor.  I guess being across the street from a busy truck stop is good for such places.

The afternoon was still early when I set the stand down in front of my ground floor room completing a 269 mile day.  Not a lot of miles, but a really good day.  I had a lot of fun.

After unloading I changed into my running stuff and logged 4 miles, running the half mile street up and down till I felt covered my desired distance.  I know how long it takes me to run 4 miles, it was close enough for government work.  The only problem was I had to go by the XXX store 4 times, not that it bothered me, but I wondered if someone watching was thinking I just couldn't get up the courage to stop, so I kept going back and forth.  They were going to have a long wait if they were waiting for ME.

When I finished my run I cleaned my windscreen while I ate sunflower seeds.  The seeds took some of the sharpness off my hunger, and at that moment I was feeling pretty hungry.

I felt good after a HOT shower and bath, and I looked forward to a nice meal at the nearby Perkins.  I took a short hike across the street and a young hostess found a window booth for me.  

A helpful waitress took my order for a small steak and baked potato.  While I waited for my food I made notes and called home.  I sent my son a picture over the phone of a BIG lady milking the hot bar with 2 plates.  After supper I lingered around and read the paper.  I called PeterM and set up the rendezvous for tomorrow at a town in Northern Pennsylvania called Wellsboro.

Usually I don't mind fielding questions from strangers, but on this night I was glad no one thought me interesting enough to quiz.  I just wanted to be alone to enjoy my paper, and I was looking forward to going back to the room to watch the baseball game, or one of the movies or TV shows I brought with me.

That's exactly what happened when I got back to the room.  I watched baseball, but before going to sleep I performed a weather check.  Temps were going to be cool tomorrow, and no sun.  Hey, I knew that before I came up here, I'll just have to deal with it.

The lights went out in room 127 about 11:30pm.  Looking forward to Northern Pennsylvania the next day.


Update- April 29th, 2007 I received the following email.

Hi, my name is Zach and I'm writing you in regards to your website. In one of your entries, you visited Marr, Ohio in 2004. You refer to the lady as Mrs. Parker... its actually Parks. It's my aunt Mary actually... and I can give you a little background on the store. The stores been open since (from what I've known) my Great Grandpa Parks was living and that was back in the early 1900's... so your right when you say its about 60+ years old. Marr, for my family is a great get away because of its simplicity and quietness. I love going there and I miss my Uncle Walter... you prolly would have liked him a lot if you would have gotten the chance to meet him. Anyways, I just wanted to tell you that its not Mrs. Parker, but Mrs. Parks. If you could correct this, I'd appreciate it... thank you also for taking pictures. I havent seen the store in a long time and it was nice to see it.. even in a picture. Have a good day, and safe travels.

Thanks for the note, I made the necessary corrections.