Ohio — Midwest Motorcycling’s Secret Gem
On your way to the AMA Hall of Fame or AMA VMD? Don’t forget the rest of the Buckeye State!
May 4, 2021
If you’re a road rider, Ohio has what you need. Great roads, great scenery and great history means plenty of great riding in Ohio.
Interested in following the route of the Underground Railroad? Ohio has you covered with some great scenery and historic homes. More interested in river culture? The Buckeye State has some historic Ohio River towns. Or maybe you just want to enjoy the scenic roads in the foothills of the Appalachians. Ohio offers those and more.
A fun Underground Railroad trip starts in the little town of Summerfield, one of the stops on the journey. A clandestine network of courageous individuals banded together between about 1817 and 1865 to help escaped slaves chase freedom in what was known as the Underground Railroad. In those five decades, they managed to help an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 slaves make it from house to house on perilous journeys from the South to Canada.
From Summerfield, a ride up state Route 379 takes you to Barnesville, which was then the heart of Quaker country. Further north the land flattens out and the roads get less twisty. State Route 800 offers easy sweepers. In the town of Zoar, most of the buildings are straight out of the 1800s.
From there, visit Canton (home of the NFL Hall of Fame), Canal Fulton, Lagrange, Sheffield, and then fire up State Route 301 out to U.S. Route 6, which runs along the shore of Lake Erie toward Lorain. Slaves who made it by boat from here to Canada found freedom.
For a fun river ride that offers a taste of the 1800s, southern Ohio is the place to be. There are bridges every 20 miles or so that make it easy to dodge back and forth between Kentucky on the south and Ohio on the north. Ripley, Ohio, boasts the preserved homes of John Parker, a former slave, and minister John Rankin, both of whom helped slaves escape from Kentucky.
Then U.S. 52 in Ohio and U.S. 23 in Kentucky pass through the Ohio towns of Portsmouth and Ironton on the way to Huntington, W.Va. From there it’s a lazy ride along the West Virginia side through Ripley Landing and on to Williamstown. Picking up state Route 14 you come across Henderson Hall, a surviving example of a 19th century plantation. The 17-room Victorian mansion was the centerpiece of a 2,600-acre plantation named for George Washington Henderson, who built his own river landing and train station here along the banks of the Ohio, across from the booming river town of Marietta.
The Federal Highway Administration has designated several National Scenic Byways in Ohio, including the Ohio River Scenic Byway.
The federal agency says, “This history-rich byway meanders along the banks of the Ohio River, hugging its shoreline and offering almost continuous views of the river. The history of the Ohio is found both in rural landscapes and quaint river communities, covering periods from native American habitation through western settlement, affecting transportation patterns and industrialization.”
Information on the Byways can be found at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/byways
Other Ohio routes on the list include the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway, which is the 25-mile Ohio Route 374 featuring tight turns, babbling creeks and exposed sandstone. The Hocking Hills are the lowest range of foothills for the Appalachians.
When riding state Route 374 you lean into corners as you follow the side of a hill then drop down into a valley near a creek before riding up the side of another hill. Deep green forest comes right up to the edge of the pavement. The road then rounds the shoulder of a hill exposing a sandstone outcropping on one side and a “hollow” — that is, a narrow valley — on the other. You don’t ride this road to get anywhere. You ride it to enjoy the ride.
The Amish Country Byway, the federal agency says, offers “cultural and historic treasures of the Amish and northern Appalachian people as you wind through curves and over the hills of the pastoral countryside. Experience simple living and sustainability along charming country roads, taking you to a bygone era still present, manifest in the people and their lifestyle.”
The Ohio & Erie Canalway tells the tales of trails, trains, scenic byways, canal towns, working rivers and great lakes.
The Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail offers a trip along the Lake Erie Islands, coastal marshes, prairies, rivers and waterfalls. Features include maritime museums, restored freighters and lighthouses.
And of course, smack dab in the middle of the state is the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, just east of Columbus. Among other things, the Hall of Fame preserves the heritage of motorcycling, educates the public about American motorcycling’s great traditions, and honors those who have contributed to the heritage of motorcycling. For more info, go to https://americanmotorcyclist.com/hall-of-fame/
And of course, don’t forget AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days July 23-25, 2021 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Tickets: https://midohio.com/tickets/2/vintage-motorcycle-days-ama. For more information visit https://vintagemotorcycledays.com/
Like we said, Ohio is pressure packed with great roads, great scenery, great history and great attractions — all of which are better seen and accessed on a motorcycle. See you this summer!