Round Trip Tour - Columbus, OH

Round Trip Tour - Columbus, OH
Despite the good cheer and warm camaraderie swirling about the "MotoStars: Celebrities and Motorcycles" exhibit opening at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the billowing ebb and flow of showery gloom is the real reason I haven't yet departed. Then briefly, glaring like the Bat Signal, a stab of sunlight illuminates the east-facing windows. Not one to ignore a prompt from the touring gods, I bid hasty goodbyes and aim for blue skies.

As I'm pulling away from the lush, shaded campus of the American Motorcyclist Association, the museum's home in Pickerington, Ohio, it is the foliage that captures my attention. Though a brilliant swath of sunlight has laid an afternoon shimmer across the damp streets, cool, slightly menacing gusts have inverted nearly every leaf in sight. In the old neighborhood, we kids fervently believed that this was a harbinger of dangerous weather. Okay, we also believed that Bubble Yum was made with spider eggs, but the sight of leaves exposing their light-green undersides still gives me the willies. Unfortunately, a glance back west exacerbates my discomfort. A roiling brew of inky, mottled clouds has hitched a ride on the same breeze that's nudging my back.

The weather, and thus direction you're heading, can change on a dime in the Midwest.

Heads or Tails

Like most sunny breaks that briefly tantalize during gaps in severe weather, that bright fissure of blue rapidly closes, fading to black, and in Brownsville on Highway 40, it becomes obvious that shelter will soon be a valued commodity. A call of tails decides it. I shun the extra time required to wriggle into my raingear and use the spare minutes to seek a port to wait out the ensuing storm. I sprint north on Route 668 trusting my instinct that the signs for Flint Ridge State Memorial are indicating it's more than a wide spot in the road. Centuries ago, Native Americans traveled to this place to mine the high quality flint for their weapons and tools. On this day, it's prized by me for its large picnic shelter, a perfect place to hang loose, stay dry and work on a crossword puzzle as the fierce storm rumbles past.

Motorcycle & Gear

2008 Honda VTX1800T

Helmet: Shoei RJ-Platinum R
Jacket: Vanson Vent
Pants: Draggin' Jeans
Boots: Sidi Strada Air
Gloves: Rev'It! R59
Luggage: Lee Parks Design Laguna Tail Pack and Dowco Fastrax Tank Bag

Continuing north beneath a carpet of low, moist clouds, I'm enjoying the unruffled hum of the Honda VTX's big twin harmonizing with the hiss of tires on wet pavement. The musty, yet oddly refreshing scent of the forest floor is riding pillion with the post-storm humidity, and as I near Fallsburg, the road narrows and becomes completely shaded. It's the perfect setting for an ambush. Running the gauntlet under the heavy boughs, I'm easy prey for residual raindrops that mercilessly rat-a-tat the windscreen. Other chilly shots shimmy down the sliver of exposed skin at the back of my neck. I draw a deep breath of earthy, damp air and wonder how anyone could prefer traveling by car.

A Market Basket Morning

I'd often heard the Longaberger Basket name bandied about by the ladies strolling into the craft shop next to my favorite java joint. And being more consumed with "guy stuff," I usually chuckled and made hushed comments about them being "basket cases." But after spending the night in Newark, I manage a wrong turn while leaving town and land squarely in front of the Longaberger Company's doors. The building is a remarkably accurate seven-story likeness of their Medium Market Basket, just 160 times larger. It even sports handles, replica brass hardware, and enormous wooden rivets. As impressive as the structure is to view, I'm all about making tracks today. And besides, I have no desire to see the size of the ants drawn to this picnic!

A condensed history of advertising, small-town style.

A lazy pace fits the nature of the roads crossing these gently rolling hills dotted with clusters of neat homes and small farms. No one is out. The townspeople are obviously in no hurry to get their Sunday morning started. Heading west, I zip across I-71 on a lonely, pothole-pocked two-lane bridge; and from that isolated vantage, the super-slab's tacky billboards have never looked better. With a glance and a blink, they disappear behind the waving grass.

Along the southern end of Alum Creek Lake, the outer edge of Columbus begins to inform the landscape. The upscale housing developments sprouting behind split-rail vinyl fences are a good indicator that I need to be turning back north. Though the sun has dominated most of the day, rain clouds are converging on the horizon. Finally, near Magnetic Springs, they get their act together and move in. As I'm reading the historic marker describing how water from a nearby spring actually has the capacity to slightly magnetize steel objects, a slowly gathering whoosh gets my attention. A whitish-gray wall of precipitation marches toward me, blurring the distant tree line. It just so happens another picnic shelter is but a few hundred feet away and I pull the VTX under cover as the sky opens up. Note to self: Carrying crossword puzzles on Midwest tours in June is a good idea.