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C2C Day 25: The Big Lebowski? July 26, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Having found the spirit of the ride again, I left Brazil on I-70 only to avoid backtracking to get back to US-40, but soon hopped off to rejoin the National Highway.  US-40 was the first highway build with federal funds, authorized by Congress in 1806 in the Jefferson administration.  US-40 runs locally through Maryland, and I had traveled it in the more mundane sense quite a lot, but out here in Indiana, it was an old friend offering portions of country scenery interspersed with small towns tempting me to stop to just look around. 

While taking US-40 though cities was bound to be interesting (I had through Terre Haute and several times in Baltimore), and I had recaptured my philosophy of taking my time a bit more, I knew that mid-day city riding was going to slow me down just a bit to much to justify “sight-seeing” alone.  So as I approached Indianapolis I hopped by on I-70, and rejoined US-40 in Greenfield.

xenia-nemesisCrossing into Ohio, I left US-40 for US-35 toward my next prime objective of the return trip: Xenia, OH.  Apparently Xenia is primarily known for being obliterated by a tornado in 1974 during a super-outburst that spawned 148 tornadoes in the Midwest in a 24 hour period.  But to HOG members, Xenia is the holy grail ABCs of Touring: the “X” point.  Entering from the east of town, I found a much larger, newer community, than when I made the quick in-an-out from the south last October (though I must say, the older parts had more character).  Collecting my point, I rode on up US-42 to rejoin I-70.  I was now within my “normal weekend riding range” of home, and was now ok with being on the interstate.

I rode along wondering where to stop next.  Had I no other destination but home, I could have stopped anywhere after Xenia and been home the next day with a reasonably easy ride, but I still needed one more county: Indiana, PA.  “I” counties are very infrequent, and it was all I had left on my county list (after riding through TWO of them without a picture in Michigan).  I wanted tomorrow’s ride to be nice, easy, and early to facilitate my transition back to “real life”, plus the expectation of east coast thunderstorms gave me an impetus to reduce the last day’s miles.

As I rode down I-70, I almost stopped in Zanesville, almost in Cambridge, and almost in St. Clair, but pressed on toward Wheeling, WV.  Getting off I-70 and back onto US-40 just after crossing the Ohio River, I rode through some older, eclectic parts of Wheeling.  Having plowed though on I-70 several times before, I made a mental note to come back to explore it more fully. 

I didn’t really take the “proper> amount of time to check out my possibilities and pulled into the Hampton Inn upon seeing it – but it turned out very well.  The hotel was in the middle of renovations, and my room was very nice and reasonably priced for what it was.  Right across the road were a couple of bars and restaurants allowing me to leave the bike parked in covered parking and proceed on foot. 

Armed with my laptop, I went to The 19th Hole, which the hotel clerk recommended as one of the more “interesting” bars in the area.  As you would have to know by now, my objectives for food and drink on travel are to experience the local flavor.  The watering holes where the locals come to have fun in their own local way are what I seek… and this place hit the jackpot for people watching and random conversation.   And being only a short walk from the hotel afforded me a longer evening than I typically have. 

I started out talking with a Safety Inspector, Kelly, who was a veritable atlas of the 5-state region giving me more route advice than I can remember.  I spoke briefly with Tom the fire fighter a bit about the my ride and about the Wheeling bar scene.  There was a small group of women out to drown a “bad day” compiling a list of pickup lines on a legal pad from the remainder of bar.  One of the “bad day” group was there with her boyfriend, who uncannily had both the looks and personality of Diedrich Bader. The activity in the bar moved around in waves as the night grew on with a focus forming about the more hearty revelers from the “bad day” group.  I spent quite a bit of time talking with a guy and girl from the restaurant across the street.  She had just moved back home from Florida as the economy drove her rent up and her tips down.  He was a former cocaine dealer who recently spent five years in prison.  You’d not know it to talk to him; he had a really great demeanor, enjoying everything that was happening around him.  “Good stuff” was quickly becoming his catch phrase in response to all the chaos, drama, and absurdity unfolding in the bar. 

I was reminded of my Chincoteague ride, stopping in a local pub on St. Paddy’s day when four bar fights broke out.  Though there were no bar fights this night (almost one at the pool table), it was one of the more raucous evenings of the trip.  I had a lot of conversations with a lot of interesting people, and was told three times by three separate groups that I looked like The Dude (Jeff Bridges) in The Big Lebowski — I guess being on a Harley for a month can have that effect on a person.