Motorcycle Trips: Scenic or Highway?

Lieback’s Corner (10) 7.15.2011

The night before leaving, I had four words written down on a pocketsize notebook: five days, four nights. That’s how my solo-motorcycle trip began last week for AMA Pro Road Racing at Mid-Ohio.

I then poked around Google Maps for an hour or so, jotting down various roads I’ve never traveled.

Since I had the first day to burn, I decided on the scenic Route 6 to Lake Erie from my Northeastern Pennsylvania homestead. I would crash in Erie a night, and then streamline it to Bellville, Ohio, the following morning.

So there’s that black and white mix, that binary opposition that I loved throughout my college studies in literature: relaxing sport-touring one day, and then hauling down some major highways to reach a destination the following day.

Most would love the relaxing side and shy away from the major-roads due to the tractor-trailers, texters and various stenches of road kill. But there’s something inside me that also likes pushing the mind to the limits over long-distance travel on major highways. I will go for the New York City to Los Angeles record one day. When? Who knows…I need loads of practice first.

So that Thursday before the AMA races, I awoke extremely early, 5 a.m., and got some work done on the website. I left around 11 a.m., traveling 351 miles along Route 6 and 79 to Lake Erie, stopping many times for scenery. Route 6 through Pennsylvania has some of the nicest views in the state, from overlooks high above the Susquehanna, to a mix of open and wooded spaces in lacking population.

I stayed near Lake Erie that night, awaking Friday to a phone call from the girl. I knew I either missed my wake up call or something similar, but once look at the clock and I was way behind schedule, like a few hours. Those last few rounds of billiards the previous night relaxed me a little too much…

But I wasn’t missing Lake Erie, and had the Givi bags loaded within seconds. I rode out to Presque State Park, which is an isle the reaches into Lake Erie’s blue soul. Once I got to the 10th Beach, I parked the bike and took a stroll on the beach, wishing I had a day to waste away, drink some good vino and read some Whitman.

But the smell of high-test gas and worn tires was my true calling this weekend, so I had to shorten my visit. I then streamlined it 140 miles south, making it to Bellville, Mid-Ohio, in good time.

Here I was, grounded in Bellville, Ohio, calling a Days Inn my home for three nights, as were other motorcycle travelers there, the same crowd that meets every year. The race action was amazing like always, but since I was on a motorcycle trip I needed more.

After the races were complete Sunday, and the stories were written, I grabbed some eats before riding a few miles North to the Ohio Reformatory where the Shawshank Redemption was filmed. I began playing around with camera angles, and shot three sides of the building.

Facing the building from the right side of the street is where the true art would be created, considering it was the backyard of the famed prison that opened in ???, shutting its doors in 1990.

But there was a problem; the new prison stood to the right, and it was clearly marked that cameras were not allowed. There was that binary opposition again, this time presented in in the old devil vs. angel way.

I went with the devil, and took about 20 shots before a guard became rushing towards me. I jumped on the VFR with a slight rush, and throttled away, as if I didn’t see him. That capped the trip, I though sitting back at the room a few miles later, enjoying a hoagie and a few Blue Moon ales.

Then I scoured Google Maps again, planning my destination ride home. Scenic or highway? I decided on a scenic route, one that swooped through lower Ohio, traveled through Pittsburgh, and took all country roads home.

Another relaxing trip home. I was satisfied, and slept very well that night.

But after the Givi bags were once again packed, and the VFR was started, something inside me shifted, the binary oppositions developing once more. A rush hit me, like seeing that prison guard walking towards me at the Ohio Reformatory.

And there I was, on north I-71, taking it to east I-76 to I-80 all the way home. Once again I followed that adventure part of my soul, and became obsessive about beating my old time home from the Mid-Ohio races two years ago.

The time: 6 hours and 7 minutes, 407 miles. This includes one 10-minute stop for gas, and a 20-minute lunch break. I beat my old time by an hour and two minutes.

Moments after unpacking my things, I realized a few hours of daylight remained. Should have I taken the scenic roads home, and spent an extra four or five hours traveling? Or was the highway the correct decision?

Those binary oppositions started again…but looking back now I’m glad I took the highway. I need practice for that NYC to LA trip anyhow…

Stay twisted; throttle yr soul
– Ron Lieback

Lieback’s Corner is the Online Editor’s weekly column, which delves into RL’s recent motorcycling mind breaths and wanderings.