Southern Ohio: Lighten Up
Judging a tour by miles ridden is like rating a meal according to calories consumed. Camping tours, in particular, pilfer at least a couple of hours each day for set up and tear down and often leave one wondering where the time went. With the goal of lowering daily mileage while raising enjoyment, this flexible two-to-four day Ohio loop can be easily customized to a rider’s preference due to several “extra” places to stay along the route. Total mileage is around 565 and daily mileage is about 140 if ridden in four days. The tour, as originally planned, was a veritable parfait of “lightness,” from the minimalist gear and low daily mileage to the small displacement bike I’d hoped to snag for the trip. The desired bike didn’t materialize, and a spotty weather forecast added some items to the gear line-up, but in the spirit of the excursion I said, “So what, lighten up!”
Fellow ADVrider Mark Meftah joins me for the adventure, which links several campgrounds with equally beautiful and often challenging tarmac. We’re riding our personal mounts, Suzuki DL 650 V-Stroms, and the bikes are well suited for the sinuous and sometimes rough pavement encountered. The tour begins and ends at Wolf Run State Park near Belle Valley, conveniently located at an I-77 exit.
Motorcycle & Gear
2005 Suzuki DL650 V-Strom
Jacket: Fieldsheer Mesh Sport
Pants: Scorpion Deuce
Gloves: Eska Tour Waterproof
Boots: Alpinestars Gran Torino GORE-TEX
Helmet: Scorpion EXO-700
Although we’re not staying at Wolf Run this time, its Y-shaped, 220-acre lake was a family favorite of ours back in the 70s, and little has changed over the years. The park is a perfect first night stop for anyone arriving after a day of travel. As for us, the journey starts as I fire up the GPS after a nostalgic ride through.
The pavement snakes through a mix of family farms and hardwood forests, and we quickly settle into a rhythm of exiting one corner while setting up for the next. It’s tough to find that ideal combination of speed, braking, and line choice, but practice makes perfect, and we’re getting plenty. Route 313 frequently hugs the shoreline contours of Seneca Lake and offers a potential dunking as an incentive to concentrate on the business at hand.
Seneca is Ohio’s third largest inland lake and dwarfs Wolf Run with its 3,550-acre size. If the serenity of Wolf Run isn’t your cup of tea, Seneca offers numerous campsites and water-related activities as well as a recently remodeled marina and restaurant.
In Barnesville, Mark shows me an abandoned railroad tunnel that is hidden quite nicely off one of the busiest thoroughfares through town, and we pause for a few photos. Next is Barkcamp State Park. It’s too close to Wolf Run to consider stopping, but I haven’t seen it before, and we do a ride-through. It’s nice but not quite wooded enough for my taste. Our destination for the day is Beaver Creek State Park, and I’m impressed with the roads that lead us here. The ride is very calming, with bucolic scenery and enough curves to keep things interesting. Arriving with ample time to set up and unwind, we settle on a wooded site at the end of the park. Mark lounges on a picnic table while I erect my tent, and I correctly surmise that he’s going to simply spread his sleeping bag out on the table for the night. We’ve had a fun day, and there’s still a pleasant evening ahead of us.
Choosing to rinse some of the odeur ‘de summer off before dinner, I head for the sun shower. Sun shower is such an inviting phrase, isn’t it? I mistakenly assumed both the sun and an overhead water supply were involved. The host is out of the two-gallon shower bags, which would have been filled with cold water anyway, but a sponge bath has the desired result. Back at camp, I heat up a can of stew for dinner while Mark heads for the nearest Subway. Such selections are often available in the state’s wilderness.
Falling asleep to a blend of crickets and vintage rock, the latter compliments of our neighbors, I awaken to the splat of raindrops several hours later. My request for a shower has been answered. Mark is hastily erecting his tent in the darkness, and I ask if he needs help. He says no, and I’m relieved that I don’t need to stall for time in my dry tent until he’s done. Arising to a blustery dawn and light rain, I boil some water and stir up some instant coffee and oatmeal. Fortunately, the rain stops and we have only residual drips from the trees to deal with.