Nutcracker 200 Adventure Ride offers backwoods bliss
September 24, 2010
By James Holter
The Buckeye Dual Sporters is an AMA-chartered club in Southern Ohio that is rapidly gaining a reputation for putting on some of the best dual sport and adventure rides not just in the state, but in the country.
The club’s events, which are part of the AMA Yamaha Super Ténéré National Adventure Ride Series and AMA KTM National Dual Sport Trail Riding Series, are known for offering the type of scenic backroads and challenging trails that only years of local knowledge and community relationships can put together.
Considering the club’s well-earned reputation, a number of regional riders were understandably disappointed earlier this year when the club announced that a series of unexpected events conspired to force a rare cancellation. Fortunately, the adventure ride portion of the weekend is now back on. We caught up with club member and organizer Bill Kaeppner (right) to get the details on the event -- and talk a little about adventure riding in general, which happens to be one of motorcycling’s best-kept secrets.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: So, what are the new dates for the Nutcracker?
Bill Kaeppner: We’re back on for Saturday, Oct. 16, and Sunday, Oct. 17.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Why the switch in dates?
BK: We ran into a bunch of unexpected circumstances. We had key personnel in job changes. We had key personnel in weddings. We had key personnel with babies coming. It was all coming to a head at the same time, and we decided it would be better to cancel and try to find another date than have a screwed-up event.
When everything goes right at one of these things, it’s tough enough. We just didn’t want to have a bad event.
Actually, with the rescheduling, we’re pretty excited. It’s going to be the peak of the fall colors. It will be a great ride. We have two days, one with 150 miles, and one with 100 miles, and it’s all awesome.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What kind of roads can riders expect?
BK: What we call green roller coaster roads. These are little single-lane roads that are completely under tree cover. You can’t see the sky. There’s old broken up chip and seal. Gravel roads. Roads that have grass growing up through them. We look for the roads that nobody knows about. We look for roads that, if you tried real hard, it would be tough to maintain 30 mph. A lot of these roads run by these old cemeteries.
If you’re driving by and you see these roads, you would think they were somebody’s driveway, but then you turn down one and you find it’s a four-mile long ride through the country side. There’s a sign on one that says “Single Lane Bridge Ahead,” but two vehicles can’t pass on the road, so you tell me: What other kind of bridge could it be? Hah! Some of these roads aren’t five minutes from my house, and I’ve never been on them. I can’t believe they’re here!
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Are they never used?
BK: The majority of them are township roads. These are just original roads from the turn of the previous century. Some are drivable. Some folks, not many, use them on a regular basis. Unlike our dual sport event where we focus on the X roads [Kaeppner explains that township rightaways in Ohio that aren’t maintained are known as “classification X roads”] and private property, for adventure rides, we focus on regular-use, high-clearance roads. You wouldn’t want to take your family car on them. You need at least a pickup truck. It’s not uncommon for there to be a 12-inch height difference between the center of the lane and a tire track.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What sort of variety can riders expect?
BK: We ride a big mix. One time, we put on an event that was all gravel roads, and folks weren’t happy. So we try to mix it up. We aren’t going to be on state Route 93 or 28. We won’t be on any state highway. Our best roads will be single-lane service-style roads, broken up chip and seal, gravel. It runs the gauntlet.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Are these roads for novices? For two-up?
BK: I wouldn’t be afraid to ride any of these roads two-up. There won’t be any singletrack or trail riding, per se, but there will be farm lanes and service roads. Someone running straight street tires might have a tough time. It won’t require off-road knobbies, but a dual-sport tire or aggressive street tread would be good.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What kind of bikes are recommended?
BK: Basically, adventure-style bikes. If you have an aggressive enduro bike like a KTM 300 EXC, you probably won’t have much fun. This is set up for the rider with bigger, heavier bikes. Bikes that are 650cc and larger have a really good time. The bigger the bike, the better adventure you’ll have.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Rain or shine?
BK: These rides run rain or shine. We’re going to have a great time either way. And there’s free camping on site.
We already have a lot of out-of-state folks planning to come. They are sending in pre-entries, even with the date change. It’s always exciting to see that level of interest. We have riders coming from New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Where’s the start? When should riders show up?
BK: The easiest way to get here would be find Logan, Ohio. It’s right at state Route 93 and U.S. 33. Then, go one-and-a-quarter mile north on 93 -- it jogs through town -- and we’re there on the right. Saturday morning sign up is at 8 a.m. Or, you can come Friday night and camp if you want.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What's going on other than riding at this year's Nutcracker 200?
BK: On Saturday, in the evening, we’ll have a local hog farmer do up a whole hog. We’ll get out the projection TV and show some movies and have a dinner and get together and B.S.
On Sunday’s rides we break into two groups -- a 100-mile loop and a 40-mile loop. That way, the ones who ride all day on Saturday can take the shorter route if they want. That lets the folks who want an early quit to have it, and also accommodates the folks who want a whole day of riding. On Saturday, everybody rides the whole thing -- 155 miles. There will be door prizes, shirts and hats. It will be a fun time.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What goes into planning one of these rides?
BK: Well, we go out a few weekends and play. We go to different places. Club member Steve Kraft, he has become the adventure ride guy. He carries about 85 different maps with him. He’s been the one who has done most of the layout. Steve and I have been out on four different weekends since late July and early August. We did a truck day once.
What we’ll do is go here, here and here, and randomly ride up and down the roads and then sit down with the maps and tie them together and make a rough route card. Then we’ll ride it for mileage to fine tune it.
This year, for example, we went down Wildcat Hollow, which I knew was a good road, but then we looked closer at the map and found another road that was parallel, and we dropped over to it, and it was awesome.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: Does it change year to year?
BK: Every year, we build on what we’ve had before, and we tie it together differently. For example, we have a different idea for next year. Because we laid this out with the idea of running along the dual sport ride, we set the adventure route to parallel the dual sport route. Next year, we’re looking at doing an adventure ride that will go it’s own way and will all be in Hocking County, so you’ll never be more than 15 miles away. We think we can do it.
a-c.org: What makes Buckeye Dual Sporters rides so special?
BK: When you look at how long it takes to plan a dual sport or an adventure ride, it isn’t just the six or eight weekends that you’re riding the route. It’s the months ahead of time where you’re building relationships with landowners. These can be a year in the making. A lot of the things we ride in our spring ride literally took years to put together and make happen. It gets complicated when these large tracts of land are owned by family groups that require everyone’s permission to ride on.
Having the right reason to put on a ride is important too. What we do is we donate to the volunteer fire departments. If anyone has any trouble in this area, it’s one of three emergency departments that will help them out. So, we donate to our local fire department, and we let people know. We write articles and submit them to the local papers. That way, folks know what we’re doing. They know we’re not just going to be in their way on the roads this weekend. We’re contributing to the community, too.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com: What advice do you have for others who want to stage something similar in their part of the country?
BK: I would never, never, never advise anyone to put on one of these events to make money for themselves. You need to have volunteers to make them happen, and if you’re going to have volunteers, you need a reason to ride and a purpose that will benefit the community. This reason is substantial. It’s one of the reasons you have a club, and it’s what makes you part of a community.
Folks who want to make a difference for motorcycling need to be involved across the board. Go to local commissioner meetings. Go to township trustee meetings. Be known and involved in your community. That way, when something happens, you will have a voice and a vote. If the only time you’re involved in something is when you’re close to losing it, you’re going to lose it the majority of the time.