Last April I tagged along with my cousin when he went out to Columbus to take a look at a Scrambler he found on Craigslist. About five minutes after he sealed the deal and parked this “new to him” Scrambler in front of his apartment he asked me if I wanted to go ride “The Triple Nickel” sometime soon. Per my comments in December about setting goals, somehow I had not yet managed to get out to Ohio State Route 555, but with my cousin moving out of state in a few weeks, that invitation couldn’t wait any longer.
My normally cast iron ride schedule was rapidly foiled as I realized I’d left my debit card at dinner the night prior and I had to shuffle credit cards and cash back and forth with “The Boss” before leaving well past the intended “zero-eight-hundred” start time. Once under way, I was apparently so easily distracted by the back and forth chatter on the Sena headset that I also successfully missed a turn, despite running the route with my Garmin. I suspect this was actually foreshadowing…
After passing miles of cornfields on a series of unremarkable state routes, we finally arrived at Sheetz in Zanesville for gas and grub. My Brother-in-law raved about Sheetz from his time at Muskingum University; I have to say, it is as convenient and delicious as advertised… I look forward to future encounters!
From Sheetz we were literally half a mile from the north entrance of Ohio Route 555 and finally getting into the exciting stretch of the trip. For those who haven’t looked over my Moto Bucket List already, Ohio State Route 555 is a 63 mile stretch of incredibly twisty rural two-lane that runs from Zanesville to US-50 along the Ohio River near Parkersburg, West Virginia. I heard about “The Triple Nickel” not long after obtaining my endorsement, and vowed that I would go ride this legendary Ohio road someday.
While this trip was undoubtedly about riding “The Nickel”, there was no way that I was going to make my way that far east without setting eyes on the Big Muskie Bucket the same day. Just a few miles into the gentle rolling hills of OH-555, we diverted over OH-669 to head toward Miner’s Memorial Park, resting place of the remnants of Big Muskie. This is naturally where the story gets interesting; I made up the route with Rever, and decided to export it to my GPS so I could get turn-by-turn instructions. For whatever reason, somewhere in the rural depths of OH-669, my Garmin was convinced that I had missed a prescribed turn and suggested I re-route. I swear I clicked “no”, but for whatever reason, the blue “magic carpet” was distinctly telling me to head the opposite direction. So, unable to recall the intimate details of the route, I followed the GPS, which naturally had all “avoidances” disabled. About a half mile into the detour, the asphalt faded away in favor of county gravel. Both of us were unfazed thanks to our trusty British Scramblers, however the welcome site of an “off-road adventure” was somewhat tested after a few miles of undulating unimproved roads that wound along the hillsides. After several hair raising downhill moments on exceptionally loose gravel, my mind began to wonder if I had actually planned for this off-pavement excursion, or if my GPS had just led us astray. Despite the challenges, we continued to enjoy the views, which even included a covered bridge, hidden among the large swaths of wooded countryside.
Following several miles of varying degrees of gravel, we finally arrived at OH-37 and eventually OH-78, the road that would take us over to the Muskie Bucket. Again, the GPS sent me the wrong way, still looking for “shortest distance” to the gas station at the bottom of OH-555. After some otherwise enjoyable curves along OH-377, we got wise to what was going on and doubled back to OH-78 and finally on to Miner’s Memorial Park, just outside McConnellsville.
When I hear “coal”, I typically think West Virginia and Southeast Kentucky… but as it turns out, the largest drag-line earth mover ever built was actually here in Ohio. “Big Muskie”, completed in 1969, harvested 18 million tons of coal (via strip mine) from southeast Ohio until 1991. Technologically obsolete, and otherwise stalled because of regulations, Big Muskie was finally dismantled and sold for scrap in ‘99, save only the giant, 220 cubic yard, bucket. In Miner’s Memorial Park, the Big Muskie Bucket was left as a monument to the miners and their families for their service to the industry. The bucket itself is unquestionably massive, but what really caught my eye were the chains. Laid out along the stacked stones, each link was nearly the size of a Scrambler… I couldn’t imagine how much each one weighed. From other photos I’d seen, I had dreams of pushing Rosie up into the bucket for a picture. However after examining the “teeth” up close, I have yet to discern how other riders got their bikes into the bucket. I snapped a shot of “Dual Scramblers” in front of the bucket just the same, and admired the view from the park hilltop.
From Miner’s memorial park we were finally headed back over to the Triple Nickel along the planned route. Intersecting the heart of the legendary 555 twisties, I was rapidly reminded of the road hazards that I had been warned about. Winding through farmland along the rolling Appalachian foothills, “The Nickel” intersects with a large number or rural driveways, and otherwise backcountry topography that sheds gravel into the roadway when it rains. If the countless blind curves weren’t enough, finding endless patches of gravel in the apex of the frequently off-camber roadway is sure to keep you on your toes; or in my case, holding a quite bit in reserve. There’s no question that OH-555 is a “must-do” for motorcyclists in the Buckeye State, but it goes without saying it is not for the foolish or faint of heart.
At the end of notorious 555 roller coaster we arrived at a service station in “Little Hocking” on US-50. Reflecting on the day, it was nice to have checked off, not only one, but two items from my bucket list; even better to have completed them so early in the riding season. Despite that, the moment seemed almost anti-climactic, overshadowed by the preceding off-road adventure. Perhaps it’s obvious where my heart is now; despite my unquestionable love for lonesome, twisty, rural roads, I’m apparently gravitating more to the unpaved variety. Along with that, I also have to mention that OH-78, OH-377, and even parts of OH-669 were also stellar roads. Per Lance Oliver’s recommendation, I expect I will venture out that way again, in search of more immaculately manicured asphalt… and unquestionably another series of unmaintained roads.