Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Deep South (Part 2) - The trip begins

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By Thursday night everything was packed and mostly on the bike.

Off to work bright and early Friday morning. I was kidding myself to think that I would work a whole day with a fully loaded motorcycle in the parking lot. Early in the day, I told myself, "I'll get an early start and leave around 3:00." It didn't last. By noon, I had the mandatory work stuff out of the way. Time to go!

Besides normal trip anxiety, there was an approaching front. Grey skies and cold rain were on its way. Not exactly the most pleasant motorcycling conditions. If at all possible, I wanted to get down the road and miss the weather.

Pulling away from work, I felt like a kid who'd just left school for Christmas break. Unlike many vacations, I'd left my mobile number and instructions to call should the need arise. My plan was to completely disconnect and "reset." Thoughts ran through my head about all the riding I had ahead, anticipation of what the Deep South would be like, and general elation that the only thing I needed to do for the next nine and a half days was to ride my motorcycle.

My child-like elation was quickly interrupted by the reality that Friday afternoon traffic was extraordinarily heavy. So heavy, in fact, that I was forced to a complete stop on a freeway on-ramp. Here I was almost exactly two miles from being "out of town" and traffic is at a complete stand-still. I had nearly twenty minutes in those two miles to postulate what possibly could be causing such a backup at this intersection of two major highways (71 & 270). At first I was irritated that I was being held up. This turned into concern that there might be a horrible accident ahead. To my dreaded amazement, someone thought it would be a good idea to block off all but one lane of Interstate 270 to replace a section of guardrail. This is one of the primary routes out of the city toward the South!? I guess I should be thankful that it wasn't something more serious.

After a quick stop for lunch I resumed the trek south. Dad still wasn't expecting me 'til at least seven or seven-thirty. I didn't want to affect his plans since I had route planning for the upcoming day still to do. My route this day was primarily determined by the wall of cold rain which was now over my shoulder. It was traveling in a Southeasterly direction. I continued south until Chillicothe where I saw on the Navigator that Highway US 35 went directly southeast. This sent me directly away from the rain. It was a good thing too because it started to catch me -- but no more than a few sprinkles fell.  Though necessary, riding in rain is no fun.

By the time I reached Jackson, Ohio I had been able to out-run the storm. The scenery was nice if a bit flat. Some of the younger trees had a little color and there was a definite nip of fall in the air. Though I never would have planned on cutting across US 35, the detour worked out nicely. This route allowed me to pick up Highway Ohio 93 -- one of my favorite routes to get to southern Ohio. As I understand it, Highway 93 used to be the "main" route north. This was before US 23 had been built across the flat farmland north of Portsmouth, OH. Unlike US 23, SR 93 was built into the terrain rather than over it. Because of this and because traffic is usually light, I enjoy riding the sweepers and ridges of this route. This day was no exception.

Dad was quite surprised when I arrived hours earlier than expected. He was cleaning up from a project he had been working on for weeks and couldn't wait to show me the results. He, almost by himself, had installed a privacy fence the length of his property. It looked great. I was happy for him since this is something he had wanted to do for years.

As we discussed plans for dinner, Dad warned me that the first place he mentioned, Jewel City Seafood, was "nothing fancy." "We can go somewhere else if you want," he said. Nothing fancy is exactly what I had in mind. Jewel City is a local joint where people eat just because the food is good. In keeping with “nothing fancy,” the dinner is served on a vinyl table-cloth, drinks in Styrofoam cups, and food on ceramic plates.  This place was packed.

I had planned to stick with something familiar -- blackened trout or fried whitefish. Our waitress suggested that I try the Swordfish. "It is mild and steak-ey. I think you'll like it," she shared. She was right. I had the Swordfish (blackened), Hushpuppies, fries, and coleslaw. I could have left it at that but Dad insisted on a piece of Pecan pie. The pie, as it turns out, was a nice addition to an enjoyable evenings visit.

Columbus, Ohio to South Point, OH (132 Miles)

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