By Heather Wilson
Ohio has some of the most wonderful scenery in the fall with the changing colors of the leaves, and I wanted to get a good ride in before winter hit.
I’d heard about the Windy (with a long “i”) 9 motorcycle routes that the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau developed in conjunction with RoadRUNNER magazine.
The rolling hills and paved roads of Southeastern Ohio are favorites among motorcyclists year-round. But the warmth and greenery in the spring and the amazing hues of autumn prove especially attractive.
These nine routes, totaling nearly 1,000 miles, are designed to provide riders with physical challenges, beautiful scenery and interesting stops.
I thought it would be great to try one of those routes, rather than just riding until I feel like turning, like I usually do. I was able to sneak away for a day of riding during the first week of October. I convinced my grandpa, Bob Warga (a former enduro racer turned road rider), and his friend, Jim Keeny, to ride along. They are avid road riders and, surprisingly, I’d never gotten to go on a ride with them.
We chose the “Rim of the World” route, which is about 87 miles long.
“Rim of the World” heads east out of Athens and goes north into Amesville, Stockport and McConnelsville before heading southwest through Glouster and then southeast back into Athens.
The route led us through beautiful rolling farmland and the wooded hills of southern Ohio.
Historical markers dotted the route. These markers are signs that allow you to not only appreciate the scenery, architecture or monument in front of you, but also understand the history behind it.
At the beginning of the route, I was tense. Grandpa and Keeny are experienced riders and move along at a pretty good pace. I could feel my arms stiffening up on the first curvy road we encountered.
It was simply nerves, because I don’t have a lot of motorcycle experience in the “twisties.” (I’m usually more of an off-road rider in Southern Ohio.)
Most of the roads had gently sweeping curves, with only a few hairpins.
Once I told myself to calm down–and, most importantly, reminded myself to ride my own pace–I began to really enjoy the ride and take in all the scenery.
The Stockport Mill Inn & Restaurant offers some breathtaking sights.
All photos by Heather Wilson.
First Stop, Stockport Mill
We stopped at the Stockport Mill Inn & Restaurant on the dam in Stockport, Ohio, and the view took my breath away.
The Stockport Mill Inn & Restaurant showcases machinery from when the mill was operational.
The historical marker at the site said it was the third mill built on the site since 1842 and that the mill standing today was built in 1906. The mill, which ceased operation in 1997, once provided electricity for the town.
The mill also was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped escaped slaves find their way to the free states before the Civil War.
Today the site is used as an inn and restaurant, catering to locals and tourists alike.
Next, we crossed the bridge and stopped at Historic Lock and Dam No. 6. The dam and lock opened in 1841 and operated until the 1920s. We spent a few enjoyable moments learning how boats once traversed the Muskingum River.
Resuming the ride, I found myself settling into the groove of the curves. The roads were smooth blacktop, although one recently paved section still held some loose gravel. As my comfort grew, I began to enjoy the ride more.
Rock Hollow School in McConnelsville, Ohio, was originally located near Ringgold, Ohio.
Our next stop was in McConnelsville, where we took in the town square that housed the opera house, courthouse and the Blue Bell 50s Diner.
Although we didn’t stop at the diner, Keeny said he and my grandpa have eaten there many times and that it has the best pie in the state.
Workers broke ground for the Twin City Opera House in October 1889, and the venue officially opened in 1892.
The dungeon is something you would have wanted to avoid in the 1800s.
It was among the first buildings in the county to be lit by electricity.
In 1913, the theater began showing silent films. Then, in 1930, “talkies” arrived. Today, the theater screens recently released movies.
Just a little farther down the road, we stopped to see a dungeon. Yes, a dungeon.
In the early 1800s, prisoners convicted of rioting, larceny and adultery were confined in a dungeon near the courthouse. Although this isn’t the original site of the dungeon, it was still fascinating to see this re-creation. It stands 11 feet high, 5 feet wide and 12 feet long.
Sitting next to the dungeon was Rock Hollow School that was built in 1877 near Ringgold, Ohio, and moved here from its original site. This one-room schoolhouse operated until 1934.
The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway offers train rides aboard historic railroad cars out of Nelsonville, Ohio.
Rim of the World
We threw a leg over our bikes once again and headed southwest on State Route 78. Keeny knew the perfect pull-off point to see the “Rim of the World” the route is named for. Just look for the barn, and you’ll know.
The hilltops along this route provide a vantage point where riders can view the surrounding landscape stretching for miles to the horizon.
Because we were somewhat familiar with the area, we made a slight detour off the route into Nelsonville before returning to Athens and saw the local train station and Rocky Boot Outlet Store.
I’m a bit of a history nerd, so this route definitely satisfied that side of me. But this route works equally well for those who prefer to just ride and enjoy the sunshine and the scenery.
OHIO'S WINDY 9
The Windy 9 routes are available at www.athensohio.com/category/wheretoplay/ohios-windy-9. Maps may be printed from the site, and GPS files are available for download.
Rim of the World
This route along State Route 78 takes riders through Wayne National Forest and Burr Oak State Park and the past Stockport Mill. Length: 87 miles. Attractions: Miner’s Memorial Park in McConnelsville, Underground Railway Historical Marker in Stockport, Chesterhill.
This route takes you south along the Ohio River Scenic Byway through river towns of yesteryear. Cross the Ohio to spot the “Mothman” in Point Pleasant, W.Va., or take a break at the Gallipolis City Park. Length: 94 miles. Attractions: Bob Evans Farm and Homestead in Bidwell, and Shade Winery in Shade.
Hocking Hills Nipper
Through Wayne National Forest into the famous Hocking Hills region, riders discover one of America’s most popular eco-adventure destinations. The Hocking Hills Scenic Byway passes two state forests: Hocking and Zaleski. Length: 93 miles. Attractions: Old Man’s Cave and Ash Cave in Hocking Hills State Park.
Cruise alongside the Hocking River to its confluence with the Ohio, passing Ohio River locks and dams. The biker-friendly town of Pomeroy features one of the region’s best riverscapes. Length: 101 miles. Attractions: Buffington Island Battlefield State Memorial Park in Portland, Forked Run State Park in Reedsville.
This route features rolling hills along one of the more challenging sections of Ohio’s Windy 9, touching on State Route 555–better known as The Triple Nickle–and breezing through Stroud’s Run State Park and Gifford State Forest. Length: 105 miles. Attractions: Valley Gem Sternwheeler in Marietta and Coonskin Crossing in Amesville.
Old U.S. 33 once was the main thoroughfare connecting Athens to the Ohio River. This route passes through Pomeroy before heading deep into Ohio’s Appalachian backcountry. Length: 64 miles. Attractions: Shade Winery in Shade, Jefferson Airplane icon (and avid motorcyclist) Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch and Psylodelic Gallery in Pomeroy and Pleasant Hill Vineyards in Athens.
Black Diamond Run
This ride celebrates the Hocking Valley’s coal heritage, passing through the Little Cities of Black Diamonds, upstart mining towns. The route also passes through Wayne National Forest and Nelsonville’s Historic Square. Length: 101 miles. Attractions: Robinson’s Cave (Birthplace of the United Mine Workers), in New Straitsville, Hocking Valley Scenic Railway in Nelsonville.
The Triple Nickle
State Route 555 snakes through east-central Ohio from U.S 50 at the Ohio River north through Chesterhill, Ringgold and Roseville, then on into Zanesville. The highway–sometimes referred to as Ohio’s Tail of the Dragon–is one of the state’s most challenging roads. Length: 66 miles. Attractions: The twisties. That’s all you’ll need.
Heather Wilson is the assistant recreational riding and volunteer manager at the AMA.