Slow Riding Through Pennsylvania Back Country Roads

Pennsylvania Farm

For a change of pace, I headed towards the Ohio-Pennsylvania border today on the FZ6.

I took Route 6 out to Meadville, then Route 27 over to Titusville, and finally Route 89 up to Erie and back to Painesville.

The Pennsylvania roads in the northeast would be great for anyone looking to do some cruiser or 2UP riding. They aren’t too technical, their curves tend to be long and sweeping versus tight and twisty.

You do have to be mindful, though, especially this early in the season. The corners still have sand, gravel, salt and ash left over from the Winter. It’ll take a few really good Spring storms to clean those road obstacles out.

That said, there are other challenges that will continue through the year. Many of the side roads are dirt or gravel, with lots of trucks pulling the debris onto the country highways as they pull out.

I also ran into patches of Amish buggies moving slowly across some areas, and slow moving farm equipment in others.

It ended up being a 250 mile ride, which isn’t much by “iron butt” standards, but the relaxed pace and scenic countryside made up for it.

My Motorcycle Has a USB Port

Now that Winter is in full force in Northeast Ohio, I have started some cold-weather mods for my 2004 Yamaha FZ6. I’ve completed some maintenance basic work, including changing the oil, flushing the coolant, and switching out the spark plugs.

One of the first mods is the addition of a TAPP USB Power Port from 3BR Powersports. This cable connects into the motorcycle’s charging system to provide a powered USB outlet that I can use to charge my smartphone or power my GPS unit. The port has a weather-protected seal that will prevent rain-damage, and I have a compatible USB cable for my Garmin Nuvi that forms a water-tight seal with the port.

To hold the GPS, I added a Givi S950, which connects to my handlebars, giving me an easy to access view of both the GPS and my instrument panel. The bag is weather-proof, but the plastic window still allows the touch screen to be used, even if it can be clumsy sometimes.

One of the features I didn’t like about the FZ6 is that Yamaha built it so that only one of the lights will be on when in “low-beam” mode. Both lights only come on when switched over to “high-beam”. This has caused a number of people to tell me that one of my lights had burnt out. I rewired the headlights using Motogiro’s headlight mod kit. Now I have both lights, and the road is much brighter for it.

Finally, I installed Killernoodle’s clutch slave mod. This updated clutch slave lever helps with the FZ6’s “binary” clutch, giving it a much larger and smoother friction zone.

I can’t wait for the Spring weather to come so that I can try out all of these updates!

My May Motorcycle Adventure

I took advantage of the warm weather in May for a mid-week motorcycle adventure. Like most motorcycle adventures, I did not plan ahead a specific itinerary. I simply pointed my 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 motorcycle in a general direction and went where the roads would take me.

I knew that I wanted to make use of the southern Ohio roads again on this trip, but also knew that I needed some new tires for my vintage ride. I stopped at Shop Dog Cycles in Hilliard, Ohio to get a new set of Spitfire S11 sport touring tires put on. Shop Dog Cycles is a one-man affair, but owner Ryan puts great care in his work. An older bike like mine meant more work to pull 34 year old tech apart, but Ryan did so with patience and professionalism. I have to say, the back country riding with those new tires was certainly smoother.

While in Hilliard, I encountered one of their sets of double roundabouts. The road signs for the roundabouts look like a mess of circular arrows, but once you’re in the middle of it all, it makes sense. The roundabouts make for an interesting alternative to the normal intersection with stop lights. While they require more work on the driver’s part, I think the extra attention required works to make the affair safer. Traffic constantly flows, versus the stop and go of a light, which is welcome as well.

Leaving the Columbus area, I took off to the back country roads of southern Ohio. I hit most of the more famous roads here, like Route 555, 78 and 26. Route 26 feels like a roller coaster, with plenty of tight and sweeping turns, hills and spectacular views. Route 78 has plenty of twists as well, but I always find myself stopping at points just to take in the view when you get to the top of one of the hills and can see miles of rolling Ohio in all directions.

One particular stop I did want to make on this trip was the Sisterville Ferry. This ferry shuttles cars across the Ohio river between Fly, Ohio and Sisterville, West Virginia. I crossed the border into West Virginia so that I could take the ferry back into Ohio. There’s something magically adventurous about crossing a river on a ferry with a motorcycle, and as soon as I heard about the ferry, I had to make the detour. Although a short trip across the river, it was absolutely worth it, if only for the view in the middle. The ferry crosses as one of the longer straight sections of the river, giving you a view down the river in both directions for miles.

As the sun started to set, and the clouds began to darken, I made my last stop at the historic Lafayette Hotel in downtown Marietta, Ohio. The hotel sits next to the Ohio river and offers many spectacular views from the rooms. The rooms themselves are like a time capsule from the 1940s with their furniture. Definitely a must stay if you’re in the area.

The next morning, I took the straight shot home up highway 77 north. It was another great trip, and I am glad I was able to take the time to experience it. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

An April Motorcycle Adventure

Last year, I began my motorcycle journey with a 2009 Yamaha Vino 125 scooter and then a 1973 Honda CB350F motorcycle. Earlier this year, I added a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 to my stable. The scoot and CB350F are great fun, but aren’t really designed for a longer ride that I had started imagining over the Winter here in Ohio. The KZ650, on the other hand, had the performance (and reliability) to make a multi-day trip.

So I took three days off during the first week in April, and set out to ride through Ohio (and a little bit of Pennsylvania). I even managed a stop at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame near Columbus, Ohio.

Some very cold and wet weather, along with a number of thunderstorms, delayed most of my progress on the first day. Fortunately, I had plenty of tech to help me out, and was able to bring up the latest weather reports on my tablet to help avoid the worst of it.

I was able to get onto State Route 78 and 555 on the second day. Both roads are filled with plenty of twists and turns, along with the hills and scenery one expects in southern Ohio. I was able to really enjoy the ride, and gained new confidence in all that I’ve learned over my first year as a motorcyclist.

Towards the end of the day, I headed through West Virginia, and on to Pennsylvania, where I stopped at Pittsburgh for the night. The next morning, I gave into my geek side and visited the Carnegie Science Center before heading back up to Ohio.

The map below shows my progress across those three days, but I like to think of it as a larger sign of the progress I’ve made as a rider. I definitely look forward to more opportunities to get onto the open road for some more motorcycle adventure.

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