Salt Fork State Park

When I woke up, way too early, my brain wouldn’t stop spinning. It wasn’t Trisha stuff, just life stuff. As the sun came up, I realized that my van and campsite had been infested with insects. Flies inside, mosquitoes outside, and something with a stinger everywhere. I’d planned to sit at Hidden Hollow much of the day before making a short drive to a Cracker Barrel in Cambridge, Ohio for the night, but with the bug infestation I was ready to leave immediately. I found Salt Fork State Park along the short drive to Cambridge, so I plotted a course and figured I’d work there for the day, and give Lister some outside time.

What I found was so much better than I expected. It fit all of my stated needs, but there is so much more to see there. There’s an extensive network of paved and gravel roads all over the park, winding all around its lakes. After work was done, I did something unusual. I found a place to park the van, then unloaded the bike just to buzz around a bit. Loading and unloading the bike is kind of a pain, but I needed to explore this place, and a dual-sport motorcycle was the best way to do it.

Ready to roll!

I headed back to some gravel roads I’d passed on my way in. They had a great deal of loose rock strewn across them, which meant the bike would shimmy around under me quite a bit as I rode. I was thankful for my new knobby tires, which are better for situations like this. With a bit of practice, I got used to it, and bombed all over the place. I stuck strictly to the marked roads, as the signs required me to, but enough of them were like this to keep it interesting and challenging. Other roads, typically leading to the more snooty places like the lodge and the golf course, were smooth, pristine pavement. But the gravel roads, where I even encountered a couple of hunters carrying rifles, were the most fun. (I’m glad I wore a bright jacket.)

This was some beautiful riding.

In my travels, I even found road R-54. When I used to race autocross in Maine, my car number was 54, and it just kind of stuck with me over the years. So it was funny to find a road with my “name” on it.

Car 54, where are you?

And to think I would’ve missed out on all this if I hadn’t decided to explore a bit. I was seriously considering skipping Ohio entirely simply as a matter of principle because Trisha now lives here, especially if I went riding in West Virginia. I’m glad I didn’t, though. What started as a lousy morning turned into a pretty darn great day. It was so worth it, even with the hassle of loading and unloading the bike. I may do this sort of thing more in the future.

How about tomorrow? My friend Colin from New England Riders told me to check out the “Triple Nickel,” Route 555. It’s not far from where I’d already planned to go, and it looks like a seriously fun, twisty ride. It’s all paved roads, and that’s just fine. That’s why I didn’t get dedicated off-road tires. In fact, I even found a Harvest Host brewery in the town of McConnelsville, where a fun route on the NER website including the Triple Nickel begins and ends. All the pieces are falling into place. Even better, although this delays my progress west slightly, I can easily make it up on Saturday, doing just a bit more driving during a day I’m not working. I’ll visit the Air Force museum Sunday, then get to Meg’s in Illinois sometime Monday, just as I originally planned before changing and improving my trip through Ohio.

I’m amazed how well this part of my journey is suddenly coming together. It’s a good lesson to listen to my gut and go with the flow more than I have been. When I do, everything just falls into place, as if Hannibal Smith himself was the mastermind behind the plan coming together.

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