Ride Report: Beaverdam and Back 2020

Despite chilly conditions, I used Saturday afternoon to take my first “real” motorcycle ride of 2020–my traditional season-opening run to Beaverdam, Ohio. While the ride over mostly flat terrain was cold and unimaginative, the shakedown cruise went smoothly–spare realizing I had forgotten to reinstall a couple small parts–and Jadzia the Yamaha FJR1300 is now ready to start touring in 2020.

20200509_150723_hdrThe route I chose has been my season kick-off route since 2015. I bought my 2003 FJR1300 in January of that year, and when the salt was gone and it was warm enough to ride, I chose the run to Beaverdam as my first ride on the new bike. I chose the route because it allowed me to head north from Delaware, Ohio (where I lived at the time), and ride the bike at expressway speeds for about a full tank of gas on roads that don’t see a lot of traffic. 

I’ve made the trip to Beaverdam every year from wherever I lived–except for 2018. I bought my current FJR1300 from a dealer in Rochester, N.Y., so my first ride that year was the trek from Rochester to Columbus. 

I’ve thought about finding a new first ride route for a couple years now, especially with where I live on the east side of Columbus now. A run to Taco John’s in Athens, Ohio would probably work just as well as the ride to Beaverdam while skipping the stop-and-go through Lewis Center. But I decided to keep the tradition going for this year.


2020 Beaverdam and Back Map

I started my trip by taking Interstate 270 north from the Broad St. interchange to U.S. Route 23 North (exit 23). I stayed on Route 23 to Upper Sandusky, Ohio, passing through the commercial strip in Lewis Center and the small cities of Delaware and Marion. Route 23 duplexes with U.S. Route 30 in Upper Sandusky, beginning at an interchange on the east side of town and splits off at another interchange on the northwest side. At the second interchange, I stayed on Route 30, taking that to the expressway’s exit with the former U.S. 30 alignment, which doubles as an indirect interchange with Interstate 75. The Speedway I stopped at is in between the Route 30 and Interstate 75 exits.

The route home was the reverse of the above route description.

Miles Ridden: About 220


Overall: Cold

Temperatures: Mid-40s to low-50s

Conditions: Partly cloudy/overcast, windy


While there wasn’t much new to see along the route–and the coronavirus closure made an eat-in stop at my favorite Columbus eatery (Freddy’s Street Food in Delaware) impossible–the trip was a success. Other than discovering I had forgotten to reinstall a couple fasteners and reflectors, the bike ran nearly flawlessly. The accessories I installed over the winter (terminal blocks, Bikemaster heated grips, voltmeter) worked fine, the new braided steel clutch line gave better clutch feel, and the brakes felt the best they have on this bike. I now feel ready to tackle my first tour of 2020, whenever that may be.

20200509_145836_hdrTo say it was a chilly ride is an understatement, and the wind was gusting pretty good along the mostly flat, open central Ohio terrain. I could’ve made the experience a little more pleasant had I used my extra layers, Alpinestars rain gloves (which are well insulated), and neck gator. I had decided to wear my new Fly-brand riding gloves and use the heated grips to break them in. By the time I made it to Beaverdam, I had to wait about 15-20 minutes for my hands to warm up.

For the ride back, I changed to my Alpinestars and used the neck gator, which made the slightly warmer temperatures much more bearable. 




The Most Scenic Places I’ve Visited on a Motorcycle

I credit my love of motorcycles for providing the motivation to discover some amazing scenic views. If I hadn’t started riding, I wouldn’t have had a reason to travel through the areas where I found many of the places listed below. 

There’s something very peaceful and serene about enjoying a stunning view of the earth’s landscapes, and even more so on two wheels. One recent experience I had with scenery and riding was last year on my trip home from the MotoAmerica event at VIRginia International Raceway. While the best scenic view on the trip isn’t along Interstate 77, I found myself doing more than just looking at the majestic, never-ending stream of tree-covered mountains the interstate winds its way through. I wasn’t just seeing the mountains. Because I was exposed to the elements and not stuck inside a metal box on four wheels, I was–in a deeper, more impactful way–experiencing the the landscape I was riding through.

It’s often the same way with a scenic overlook. When you stop at one while driving a car, you get out and it feels like a different world. On a motorcycle, you’ve already been exposed to the elements of the environment within which the overlook exists. You don’t feel like you’re in another world; the view is part and parcel to the environment you’re experiencing as you ride.

Here’s a short list of the best scenic views I’ve discovered on a motorcycle.


Miller Motorsports Park/Utah Motorsports Campus

Location: Grantsville, Utah

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/RE8uwHyQNPsD6nyy6 

One of the most scenic places I’ve ridden to–perhaps the most scenic–is a road racing facility. Utah Motorsports Campus (a.k.a. The track formerly known as Miller Motorsports Park) sits on the floor of the Tooele Valley, about 30 miles southwest of downtown Salt Lake City. While the track and its associated buildings are nice and all, it’s the view of the surrounding mountains and Great Salt Lake that earn the track a place on this list.

The track’s location features stunning views of the snow-capped Oquirrh Mountains to its east and the dry Stansbury Mountains to its west, as well as a splendid view of the mountain and lake to the north (from the track’s higher elevation areas).



Lovers Leap

Location: Meadows of Dan, Va.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/A5CgrRBTEYqWuXLf7

I found this view the first time I went to VIRginia International Raceway to cover a MotoAmerica event, and have been back to see it every year since 2016. The overlook is part of U.S. Route 58, which is a very fun road to ride. 

The overlook offers a stunning view of the Blue Ridge hills, and is not too far away from the Blue Ridge Parkway’s interchange with old U.S. Route 58 at Meadows of Dan, Va. There’s no MotoAmerica event at VIR for 2020, but I’m still going to take a ride to Martinsville, Va., or Danville, Va., so I can enjoy this amazing road and view for the fifth year in a row.

You can read more about Lover’s Leap on the Virginia Tourism Corporation website at https://www.virginia.org/Listings/OutdoorsAndSports/LoversLeap


Cherohala Skyway

Location: North Carolina/Tennessee Border

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/59wAee6WZoWwXDQp7 

This is a well-known scenic road, but it’s still worth discussing here. The about 50-mile parkway was completed in 1996 and features more than 4,000-feet in elevation change from its western terminus in Tellico Plains, Tenn., to the highest point along the route.

All along the parkway there are scenic overlooks to enjoy, as the road is a designated National Scenic Byway. It’s name is a portmanteau of the two national forests the road goes through: the Cherokee National Forest and the Nantahala National Forest.


Hawk’s Nest

Location: Port Jervis, N.Y.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/fwZYuGTH19c8hrCbA 

Have you ever wanted to ride through one of those short, twisty sections of road you see in motorcycle advertisements? Well, this is one of them, and it has a great view of the Delaware River to boot. 

If you live near or are riding through New York City or the Catskill Mountains, you’re not far from Hawk’s Nest, a string of short curves cut into a rock face along the north/east bank of the river. The twisty section of the road is short, but its visual appeal–coupled with the commanding view of the river gorge–make this a great place to shoot some photos of your bike.

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Lake Chautauqua Rest Area

Location: Bemus Point, N.Y.

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/U956wnAki1zZ78Lo9 

Though my memories of my early riding days aren’t what they used to be, I’m pretty sure this is the first scenic view I discovered while out riding. The overlook is part of a rest area on eastbound Interstate 86 near Bemus Point, N.Y., on the eastern shore of Lake Chautauqua. The rest area is at the peak of a hill, about 150 feet above the lake’s shore line. A parking area existed at the site as early as the 1970s and the modern rest area was constructed in the mid-2000s.

I found this view in spring 2009 while out on my last ride with my 1997 Honda Nighthawk 750 before I listed it for sale. I stopped just to get a break from riding, and was blown away by the view of the lake and hills. I try to stop at the rest area at least once a year, as well as take my bikes there for a new-to-me bike photo shoot.

Fast Mike’s Favorite Roads to Ride in Upstate New York

If my last post was a homer article, this one is a hometown article. Upstate New York is where I grew up, as well as where I learned to ride a motorcycle after I got my license at age 23. My family is from the Rochester area, and I went to college/graduate school in Buffalo and Binghamton. I spent a lot of time riding the state routes of Wayne County before I started riding the fun, curvy roads in the Southern Tier.

I have a lot of good memories–as well as recollections of a few close calls–on Upstate roads, and wish I could make it back to upstate more often to ride them. I’ve lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but have to say that New York does the best job of the three states in maintaining its state and national highways. The road signage is really consistent in New York too in terms of recommended speed through corners. (I’m not recommending you do or do not adhere to the suggested speed. I’m merely saying you’ll have a very good idea what kind of corner is coming up from the signage.)

Please keep in mind I’m writing this article from slightly distant memories, and have not turned a wheel on these roads in at least three years. Hence, I have not been on them recently to assess pavement conditions, land development along the routes, or the like.

Here–in no particular order–are my favorite roads to ride in Upstate New York:

NY 21

New York Route 21

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/g7RaNbXDLP4WQK7RA

Length: 51 miles

This is one of the longest fun routes I found during my time living in Upstate, and it has a little bit of everything. I’ve ridden it both northbound and southbound, and found riding it south to north is better. From Hornell to Naples, the route is mostly a variety of sweepers, then flattens out as it goes through Naples and the lakeside hamlet of Woodville. After passing the row of lake houses in Woodville, it’s a fun, uphill ride out of the Canandaigua Lake valley, followed by gentle sweepers the rest of the way to the outskirts of Canandaigua.

You can use New York Route 64 (another good motorcycle road in its own right) from U.S. Route 20 and 20A to Route New York Route 21 as a fun loop route.

US 62

U.S. Route 62

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/fKsUFG2SYLm4tZGV7

Length: 28 miles

While the sweet part of this road isn’t very long, the ride out of the valley in Gowanda southbound is a blast. I used to pick up the route in Hamburg and ride south to Gowanda through the rolling Western New York countryside. Once you’re in Gowanda, follow the road south and get ready for a barrage of turns (something between tight sweepers and mild twisties), then a nice mix of corner types until you get to the interchange with Interstate 86.

Gaskill Road

Gaskill Road

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/2F4FpZe3uk32MBMU8

Length: 6 miles

It may only be about six miles long, but Gaskill Road lives up to its name. With so many fun turns packed into a short route, it will certainly bring your fuel economy down a bit. The road is located in the hills west of the Binghamton suburb Endicott, and is best ridden northbound. The road’s southern terminus is at Day Hollow Rd., and the route starts with gentle curves before two 90-degree corners begin the fun. The second set of corners is technical, as the ground-off portion of my former Honda Nighthawk 750’s left footpeg can attest to. You slight right before a hard, downhill, off-camber left-hander, which is followed by a sharp right-hander at the bottom of the hill. After that, there’s a steady flow of elevation change and sweepers until the road ends all-too-soon at New York Route 38.

US 20A

U.S. Route 20A

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/B2Mqt9gfR2nMwC236

Length: 12 miles

This route has a little bit of everything packed into about 12 miles of fun. I’ve only ridden the road eastbound, starting at where U.S. Route 20A splits off from its duplex with New York Route 15A. It’s a fun set of uphill sweepers to begin the route, followed by sweepers mixed with a good bit of elevation change. There are a couple scenic views to be enjoyed as you crest the series of glaciated north-south hills. The fun ends at Route 20A’s junction with New York Route 64, but you can turn south on Route 64 and enjoy its curves before taking New York Route 21 (discussed above) back toward Rochester.

NY 39

New York Route 39

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/Pya6gbyCR9TF4P6F9

Length: 16 miles

This route isn’t about the curves: it’s about the windmills. While there is a continuous flow of gentle sweepers along the route, it’s a lot of fun to ride the route west-to-east out of Arcade and through the Bliss Wind Farm, which went operational in 2008. Most of the windmills–at least the last time I rode it–were on the right side of the road, and they cover most of what the eye can see in that direction. Some may think these man-made objects may be littering a natural landscape, but I think there’s a serenity to seeing them in action.

NY 53

New York Route 53

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/CcSJm6bU6NM1L3Ca9

Length: 22 miles

If you’re tired of taking I-390 from Bath to Rochester or vice versa, this is a great alternative. I’ve ridden it in both directions, and it’s fun either way. The route features a mix of tight and wide sweepers mixed with ample elevation change from its interchange with I-390 near Kanona to it’s northern terminus at New York Route 21 (discussed above) just south of Naples.

Old US 219

Old U.S. Route 219

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/g2ysjckwi65e2SGe8

Length: 11 miles

I found this route while doing a project for my first masters degree, and it was a pleasant surprise. It’s best ridden northbound from the intersection with New York Route 39, and the mix of sweepers and twisties keeps going all the way to the hamlet of Boston. The curves turn more gentle north of Boston, but there’s more fun to be had. You can take a left onto West Tillen Road and enjoy the sweeping climb out of the Eighteen Mile Creek valley to the U.S. 219 expressway and head back to Buffalo from there.

Creative Commons License
The above photo of the Bliss Wind Farm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License by Windtech at English Wikipedia, used without changes


Fast Mike’s Favorite Roads in Ohio

This is a bit of a homer piece, but Ohio isn’t as flat and boring as many think. Yes, large parts of central, western and northeast Ohio are well-glaciated terrain, but southeast Ohio is home to some of the best motorcycling roads I’ve ridden. 

Here–in no particular order–are a few of my favorite Ohio motorcycling roads:

OH 83

State Route 83

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/qjnwkqTSUamhNatM6 

Length: 103 miles

This isn’t the most technical or most scenic route in Ohio, but it’s one that is near to my heart and a blast to ride. State Route 83 has its northern terminus at U.S. Route 6 near the Lake Erie shoreline in Avon Lake, Ohio, but the fun part of the route starts just south of Wooster, Ohio.

From the BP station at the corner of Dover Rd., Millersburg Rd., and Madison Ave., head south on Route 83. I divide up Route 83 into four sectors. Sector 1 runs from Wooster to Millersburg, and features some lazy sweepers and some OK scenic views. The party really gets started in sector 2, which extends from Millersburg to Coshocton. It’s not technical, but it’s a bunch of sweepers with lots of change of direction and some fun elevation change. There’s a set of switch backs just before you get to Coshocton.

Route 83 runs concurrent with U.S. 36  and Ohio Route 16 on a divided highway around the downtown Coshocton and right by Roscoe Village (a neat canal-era living history museum with some good restaurants). South of downtown, Route 83 splits off from Route 16 (start of sector 3, arguably its most fun section). The sector features lots of sweepers and one set of corners I call “Ohio’s mini corkscrew” (if you hit that corner even a little too fast, you’ll know which one it is real quick). One of the best sets of curves is right before you get into New Concord.

South of New Concord (which marks the start of sector 4), Route 83 crosses I-70 then continues the barrage of sweepers for another about 35 miles to the Route’s southern terminus at State Route 60 near the Muskingum River village of Beverly. The Route overlaps with two other Ohio state highways: Route 313 in Claysville and Route 78 (discussed below).

The route has a special meaning to me because it was the best road I could reach within a reasonably short ride when I lived in Brunswick, Ohio. Route 83 intersects with Interstate 71 at exit 204, a little more than 20 miles from the Brunswick exit. I had to ride through some of the flat country to get to where the fun starts, but it was a much shorter than the other roads mentioned in this article. I’d ride south to either U.S. Route 36 or Interstate 70, then head east to Interstate 77, which took me back north to Columbus.

OH 78

State Route 78

Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/6ibERh2Z5bgxTeBQ8 

Length: 104 miles

If you’re looking for a technical road to ride, State Route 78 is nearly non-stop sweepers, twisties and off-camber corners from Nelsonville to the Ohio River. Do not try to ride at your usual back road pace your first time on this road; you will quickly find your limit. I’ve only ridden Route 78 eastbound as part of a loop Route with Ohio Route 800 (discussed next).

I start my rides on Route 78 at it’s junction with the U.S. Route 33 expressway, near the road’s western terminus at Ohio Route 691 and old Route 33. Other than the few villages the route passes through, it nearly non-stop curves and elevation change for the more than 100 mile ride to its eastern terminus at Ohio Route 7 near the Ohio River. 

OH 800

State Route 800

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/j3i8ydckkPByY3NL9 

Length: 74 miles

While most of this route is twisty-fun ride, it’s the southern end of the Ohio Route 800 that makes it an unforgettable road. I’ve only ridden Route 800 south to north, and only once started my ride at its southern terminus at Ohio Route 7 in Fly. Route 800 steeply rises from it’s terminus along the Ohio River up a steep hill with several switchbacks. It’s a demanding few corners, but the uphill angle lets you push your motorcycle through corners harder, which really increases the fun factor.

The remainder of the route consists of sweepers and twisty bits as the road makes its way north through Ohio’s Hocking Hills. The best riding is on the section of the route south of Interstate 70. Route 800 runs parallel to the interstate for a short ways until turning north again. It’s northern terminus is on the south side of Canton, but the fun riding on Route 800 really ends about where it intersects with U.S. Route 250 in Uhrichsville. 

Since I live in Columbus, I usually take this route from Fly to Interstate 70, then head home from there.

OH 164

State Route 164

Google Map Link: https://goo.gl/maps/4QYRk7nrThH2Q2tJ6 

Length: 44 miles

This route is tucked away at the northern end of Ohio’s rolling hills, but is one you’ll keeping going back to once you’ve ridden it. The northern terminus of Ohio Route 164 is in North Lima, but it doesn’t get twisty until you get south of Lisbon. I’ve only ridden the road southbound from Lisbon. Don’t let the first few miles of gentle sweepers deceive you. The more aggressive sweepers and switchbacks with start coming quickly, and it’s that way for the most part all the way to the route’s southern terminus at Ohio Route 212 near Leesville.

I recommend staying on Route 212 west–which features some gentle sweepers and a scenic view of Atwood Lake (see header photo)–to Interstate 77. Another option is to take 212 to where it splits with Ohio Route 39. I haven’t ridden it yet, but it looks like a fun ride that takes you to the southern terminus of Ohio Route 9–a legendary Ohio motorcycle road that I have yet to turn a wheel on.

Fast Mike’s Favorite Motorcycle Destinations, Part 4 (Landmarks)

Museums aren’t the only history-themed stops I like to make on a tour. While many landmarks lack some of the amenities that museums offer—like shelter from the elements—their existence marks a place or event that has been memorialized in the minds of other people. That, by itself, should give us reason to pause and take a look.

Maybe the aspect or period of history of a landmark isn’t significant to us individually, but oftentimes you learn the most by looking at the things you’re least familiar with.

Like the other articles in this series, the list below is restricted to places I have visited in person.


Iowa 80

Location: Walcott, Iowa (near Davenport)

While there’s a trucking museum that shares the name of this landmark (that is discussed in another article in this series on museums), the Iowa 80 is, on its own, a living piece of history. Billed as, “the world’s largest truckstop,” the Iowa 80 is very big and keeps getting bigger.

According to Iowa 80 Truckstop website (https://iowa80truckstop.com), the facility opened its doors in 1964 and has been continuously open for business since then. The idea to build a truck stop next to the not-yet-finished Interstate 80 expressway was hatched by Bill Moon, a Standard Oil executive. A year later, Moon took over operating the Iowa 80. In 1984, Moon purchased the Iowa 80 from Standard Oil’s successor-in-ownership Amoco, and the Iowa 80 is among the several trucking-related businesses owned by the Moon family today.

You don’t have to be a trucker to appreciate the sheer largess and many products and services the Iowa 80 offers. It’s website states that site’s main building has been remodeled or expanded 28 times since its opening and is home to more than half-a-dozen eateries, a truck showroom, “a dentist, a barber shop, a chiropractor, a workout room, laundry facilities, a 60-seat movie theater, a trucker’s TV lounge, 24 private showers,… a convenience store, a custom embroidery and vinyl shop, 42 gas islands, 16 diesel lanes, a fuel center, a seven-bay truck service center, a three-bay Truckomat truck wash, a CAT Scale [and] a Dogomat Pet Wash….”

While motorcyclists aren’t hauling 80,000 pounds of cargo across the country like an over-the-road trucker is, the variety of services at the Iowa 80 makes it a great stop on a cross-country trip. Like motorcyclists, truckers can’t carry many personal belongings with them when they’re on the road. So, having somewhere like the Iowa 80 that offers so much more than a typical truck stop, restaurant or rest area can adds some pampering to the touring experience.

As a long-distance motorcycle rider, I’ve always felt a sense of connection with truckers. Like motorcyclists, truckers are road users who are sometimes misunderstood and treated poorly by motorists.Both groups also spend lots of time traversing the nation’s road network. When I stop at a truck stop for a meal, I look around for talkative truckers and pick their brains about the routes I’m going to ride later that day or the ones I have trips planned for. And what better place to find a trucker to talk to than a facility that has parking for 900 big rigs?


Fort Niagara

Location: Youngstown, N.Y.

If a future tour takes you through upstate New York, plan at least part of a day when you pass through Buffalo to check out Old Fort Niagara. It’s about a 40 minute ride from New York State Thruway exit 50 (for those traveling westbound on the Thruway) or exit 53 (for those traveling eastbound). Standing in the middle of the parade grounds of a pristinely-preserved 1700s fort is more than worth the detour.

Old Fort Niagara is located at the mouth of the Niagara River, where water from Lake Erie finishes its journey over the Niagara Escarpment (at Niagara Falls, about 15 miles to the south) to Lake Ontario. Prior to the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the portage (a ground route connecting two water routes) around Niagara Falls was of economic and military importance to the Western European powers. France constructed the first permanent fortification, the French Castle–which still stands as the largest building within Old Fort Niagara–in 1726. 

The French constructed the earthen walls (they received a brick facade during the American Civil War) in preparation for the French and Indian War, yet the British captured Fort Niagara in 1759. The British held the fort during the American Revolution and surrendered it to the Americans at the end of the war. The fort was recaptured by the British during the War of 1812 and was returned to American possession in 1815. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a presence just outside the old fortification, and the grounds to the east of the old fort continued to be used by other military branches through the 1960s. 

The restoration of Old Fort Niagara took place in the 1920s, and those preservation efforts have resulted in a splendid, expansive example of military engineering and construction from the colonial era. The stone buildings remain in excellent condition, and the preserved earthworks give a visitor an excellent idea of the scale and nature of colonial era warfare. 

Old Fort Niagara is open year-round and is the site of battle reenactments and other American military history-related events each year. I suggested planning at least 2 hours–if not 3 or 4–to adequately take in everything the site has to offer. Check out the fort’s website (https://www.oldfortniagara.org) to learn more.


Tree in the Rock

Location: Buford, Wyo.

What may seem like an unusual–but otherwise insignificant–parking area in the median of Interstate 80 in southeast Wyoming is home to one of the coolest landmarks I’ve seen on a tour. In the middle of a circle of pavement accessible by a left-hand exit from I-80 in either direction stands something most unusual: a tree growing out of a large rock. The site is located near mile marker 333, about a 30-minuted drive from Cheyenne and about 20 minutes from Laramie.

Known as “The Tree in the Rock” or “Tree Rock,” it features a limber pine tree growing out of a crevice in a boulder. The boulder is held together by metal cable. According to the plaque placed into the side of the boulder, the tree/rock duo was discovered by railroad workers who were building the Union Pacific mainline in 1863. The mainline passed about 50 feet to the south of the landmark.

The site holds significance to me on both abstract and personal levels. In addition to its unusual appearance, I find the site to be inspirational. Seeing something that’s supposed to be impossible (a tree growing without an apparent soil bed) is a reminder that the improbable is not impossible. On a personal level, the Tree in the Rock is a symbol to me of the start of the American West. I saw the Tree in the Rock for the first time in 2010 on my first cross-country motorcycle trip (Buffalo, N.Y. to Salt Lake City, Utah). I had not had an opportunity to ride to the West again until last year and made the Tree in the Rock my turn-around point. Every fiber of my being wanted to keep going, but it was victory in itself as I pulled into the asphalt oval surrounding the landmark on Memorial Day weekend 2019.

There’s also more to see than just the Tree in the Rock. Visible across the westbound lanes of I-80 are a set of oblong-shaped, yellow- and red-colored boulders that appear to be stacked on top of one another. Signs along the westbound parking area state that the boulders were left the way they appear today by glacier activity. The size and height of the big rocks gives you a good idea of the scale of the glaciers that shaped North America’s landscape in prehistoric times.


Fort Ticonderoga

Location: Ticonderoga, N.Y.

Another colonial-era fort worth visiting in upstate New York is Fort Ticonderoga. Located southeast of the village it shares a name with, the fort was originally named Fort Carillion and was built by the French in 1755. It is located along a portage between the south end of Lake Champlain and the north end of Lake George and overlooks Lake Champlain’s South Bay. The fort was the scene of several battles in the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, and was abandoned as a military post after the British surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. It was purchased from the State of New York by a private citizen in the 1820s, and restoration work on the fort began in the 1920s.

While the vast majority of the stone work is not original, the restored stone walls, commanding overview of the bay and scenic setting give Fort Ticonderoga a very different vibe than Fort Niagara. The engineering flaws in the fort’s design and location (which you’ll learn about during your visit) add to its different vibe. The grounds also are home to a museum and gift shop that’s worth spending some time in after touring the fort.

There’s a neat, tree-lined driveway that you follow to get to the site’s parking lot, and the grounds are home to a lot more than just the fort. There’s also the six-acre King’s Garden, which is located on the property’s lower elevations to the northeast of the fort. There’s also battle reenactments and other programs at the site throughout the year. Check out the Fort Ticonderoga website (https://www.fortticonderoga.org). The fort and grounds are owned and operated by The Fort Ticonderoga Association, a charitable nonprofit.

One of the best parts of visiting Fort Ticonderoga is the ride there. Nestled in the scenic Adirondack Mountains, it’s a pleasant ride north on New York Route 22 from points south, such as Lake George–the home of the annual Americade rally. 



Location: Denver, Colo.

If you stand at the intersection of Uinta Blvd. and M.L.K. Jr. Drive in Denver, Colo., you’ll see modern-style homes and apartments and the rolling hills of neighborhood greenspace on three sides. One the fourth side, there’s an abandoned air traffic control tower that’s been converted into a restaurant. No, it wasn’t relocated to the neighborhood. It’s the last remaining piece of what was once Denver’s bustling Stapleton International Airport.

Serving as Denver’s main airport until Denver International Airport was opened in 1995, what’s now the site of a New Urbanism-styled community was home to runways and concourses for more than 50 years. While it’s lack of terminal space, parallel runways and the developed land on its boundaries led to its demise, the site is a spectacular example of successful adaptive reuse. 

Stapleton isn’t worth visiting just because of what it used to be; it’s also an example of what urban planners have in mind for new-built neighborhoods across the nation. It features a mix of multi-family and single-family detached homes placed on small lots with ample common greenspace. Many of the single-family detached homes have garages on the rear of their lots that open onto alleyways that run through the center of blocks of houses.

Take a moment when you visit Stapleton to stand somewhere and pull up some historic aerials of where you’re standing on your phone. Then just try to imagine standing in the middle of a giant runway while you’re parked on the shoulder of a pleasant residential street.


Graffiti Highway

Location: Centralia, Pa.

At press time, local media reports indicated that the graffiti highway is in the process of being covered over with dirt. The information below has been left in this article as a memento to what was one of the neatest places I’ve ever visited on two wheels and a prominent example of public art.

While visiting the Graffiti Highway is technically trespassing, it’s also one of the neatest places you’ll visit on two wheels. The highway is what remains of a four-laned section of Pennsylvania Route 61 that was constructed to serve the village of Centralia. 

A coal mining town since the 1800s, Centralia was home to more than 1,000 residents in May 1962 when a large fire started in the abandoned coal mines below the town. It’s speculated that the fire started when the city tried burning the trash in the city dump, which was an abandoned mine pit on the east side of town. After decades of trying to get the fire under control, the village is now a ghost town, with most of the buildings gone and the grid of village streets remaining.

The four-lane portion of Pennsylvania Route 61 was eventually abandoned due to the underground fire causing unevenness and fissures in the pavement, and the route was reassigned to a two-lane road to the southeast. 

The remains of the four-lane road has become a giant concrete canvas for graffiti artists and some juvenile delinquents with cans of spray paint. While some of the graffiti is amateur and immature in nature, the eclectic nature of what is there, combined with the ghost-road feel and the good works of graffiti make a visit a truly unique experience.

Be advised, if you choose to walk the highway, you do so at your own risk. The fire still burns, and the ground can give way at any time. Fissures in the ground can release carbon monoxide and other harmful gasses and the roadbed is uneven in many places.

How You Can Help Improve Motorcycling’s Image

The tone of media coverage of motorcycling is, all too often, not reflective of the vast majority of the riding community. Shows like Sons of Anarchy bring the one-percent lifestyle to living rooms across the nation and plenty of local media outlets produce daily stories about riders who are hurt in crashes or groups of motorcyclists riding irresponsibly. This kind of persistent, negative coverage perpetuates motorcycling pejorative stereotype and exacerbates other problems like the profiling of motorcyclists and frustrates advocacy efforts on other issues.

While one of riders’ biggest safety concerns is the drivers who don’t see us, another problem is the few motorcyclists who drivers often remember seeing. From the sportbike riders popping wheelies while riding on a freeway to those who choose excessively loud exhaust systems, the motorcyclists who do everything they can to call attention to themselves on public roads drive the negative stereotype home with non-riders. A driver is more likely to remember the one rider who cut them off or the one whose exhaust sound had their dog barking his head off in the backseat instead of the half-dozen or so motorcyclists that rode by them without incident.

The negative stereotype issue isn’t the fault of most motorcyclists, but it is, unfortunately, all our problem to deal with. Our factual innocence of the behaviors described above does nothing to help our community’s need for a more positive image with the non-motorcycling public.

In the end, it’s up to all of us to do what we can to turn the tide against this anti-social image to help the motorcycling lifestyle thrive for generations to come. Some within our community take on some of the larger, more formal tasks like advocating within the public policy arena or creating public relations campaigns that show what our community is really all about.

However, the most powerful, positive image a non-rider can see is the one standing right in front of them. We all can do a little each time we get in the saddle to help combat the negative stereotype with our actions and our riding. If each one of us can change how just one other person views our community, we’re a lot better off.

Here are five simple, almost effortless things you can do while your out riding to put forward a positive image of motorcycling:


Most of us are doing this anyway every moment we’ve got the throttle open. But making sure to smile, even if you must force it, changes the way someone looks at you. And when they see you–to them–they see the rest of us, too.

There are times we’re not smiling, like if we’re making a roadside repair in the pouring rain. But when you stop at a rest area, restaurant, gas station or anywhere else on a ride, take off your helmet and make sure everyone can see how much fun you’re having.

Say hello

As an introvert, this idea scares the crap out of me. But more important than my discomfort with other people is the need for those people to realize there’s a person, just like them, inside the riding gear.

When someone walks by you as your standing next to your bike in a parking lot or a gas station, take a second to say hello to them. Breaking the ice between rider and non-rider may not seem significant. But, if it gets them to pay more attention to the motorcyclists on the open road or chips away a little at that negative stereotype, a simple “hello” can go a long way.

Answer questions

All of us, especially those who wear all the gear all the time have gotten out fair share of questions while out riding.

“Doesn’t it get hot in that gear?”

“What do you do if it rains?” (Answer: I get wet)

“How do you change gears on that thing?”

The questions may seem trivial to us, but the fact that someone’s asked them means our lifestyle has caught someone’s eye. At that point, it’s our job to help them learn more about who we are and what they’re missing out on. You may be rushing to make it back to the rally grounds for the dinner buffet but do take a few minutes to answer people’s questions. There will be plenty of fried chicken left if you get there a couple minutes late, I promise.

Ride defensively and courteously

Like I mentioned earlier in this article, the rider a person is most likely to remember is the one who wronged them. Do your best to ride defensively and show courtesy to other road users. Motorcycles’ short wheelbases and maneuverability allow us to dart between traffic on expressways and ride twisty country roads and high speed. While a little “spirited” riding on country roads may be in order now and again, excessive speed or weaving through traffic isn’t going to win us any support from non-riders.

Show patience and practice tact when riding in traffic and be courteous to other road users and those living along your favorite country roads by riding at reasonable speeds.

Talk about your two-wheeled adventures

My friends and family are probably sick of me talking about riding and touring on motorcycles. But I keep talking about it anyway to keep the positive aspects of motorcycling in front of them.

If you’re a rider, it’s likely most everyone knows about it (one way or another). I’ve learned to stop boring people with all my nerd-esque outtakes on the finer points of motorcycling, but talking about the places you’ve been or the cool things you’ve seen or experienced while riding is important. It brings out the aspects of riding that non-riders can relate to and feeds their memory banks with examples of fun, positive riding experiences.

Talk to other riders

Even though I’m an introvert, my desire for learning as much about motorcycling as I can overrides my lack of desire for human interaction when I see someone else out riding. I’m one of those riders who walks up to nearly every motorcyclist I see at a rest area or gas station to find out where they’re heading or ask about some farkle they have on their machine.

While my actions are driven by my curiosity, what’s more important is all the non-riders who witness the friendly interactions. There are many examples, both fiction and non-fiction, in popular culture about hostile motorcycling groups, and making friendly conversation with other riders is a powerful way to put forward a positive image of our sport. Motorcycling is a way of life for its most ardent enthusiasts, just like skydiving, skiing, fishing, mountain biking or model train building is for others. We need the public to see that our lifestyle doesn’t match the stereotypes.

Fast Mike’s Favorite Motorcycle Destinations, Part 3, Con’t (Museums)

One article about the best museums I’ve visited just wasn’t enough. Without further ado, here’s eight more museums that I’d recommend making stops on your next two-wheeled tour.


Louisville Slugger Museum

Location: Louisville, Tenn.

Website: https://www.sluggermuseum.com/

As far as traditional museums go, this one hits it out of the park. The museum portion teaches you everything you could want to know about how baseball bats have been manufactured and improved over the decades through fun, easy-to-understand exhibits. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, the exhibits are plenty entertaining, and may even turn you into a fan of America’s pastime. There’s also an opportunity to take a guided stroll through the Louisville Slugger factory where baseball bats are manufactured and painted.


International Towing Museum

Location: Chattanooga, Tenn.

Website: https://internationaltowingmuseum.org/

This was one of my Johnny Cash stops, and I was planning on making a very quick stop and getting right back on the road. Instead, I was there for about 45 minutes and really enjoyed the exhibit. It looks like an old storefront, but don’t let that deceive you. Inside there are some neat tow trucks and related artifacts. When I was there, they had the world’s fastest tow truck on display. I won’t spoil its story for you, but that’s just one example of the cool things you’ll find here.



Fort Pitt Museum

Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.

Website: https://www.heinzhistorycenter.org/fort-pitt/

While Pittsburgh’s Point State Park is a serene place today, it was a battlefield in the 1700s. The museum is housed in a rebuilt bastion of Fort Pitt, which was the second permanent fortification construction at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. The museum is full of artifacts from the era when the fort existed, and there’s still one permanent structure from the fort standing (known as “the blockhouse”). There’s also an impressive model of the fort and its surrounding terrain near the museum entrance. The museum was built as part of a several decade-long effort to transform the point from an industrial wasteland into what it is today.


Barksdale Global Power Museum

Location: Shreveport, La.

Website: http://www.barksdaleglobalpowermuseum.com/

Admission to this military museum isn’t as easy as it used to be, but its artifacts make the advance arrangements worth it. The Barksdale Global Power Museum’s grounds are located along the northwest boundary of the Barksdale Air Force Base. The outdoor portion of the museum features more than 15 retired military planes, including a B-17, SR-71 Blackbird and a B-52G Stratofortress. There’s also several indoor exhibits (that I didn’t get a chance to tour) and a gift shop.

Unless you have a U.S. military common access card or a military sponsor, you’ll need to complete a visitor request form at least 30 days prior to your planned visit.

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Erie Canal Heritage Park

Location: Port Byron, N.Y.

Website: http://www.newyorkcanals.org/home/old-erie-canal-heritage-park/

While it’s only open a few months each year, it’s more than worth making Erie Canal Heritage Park a stop on your summer trip along the New York State Thruway. The park features a restored Enlarged Erie Canal lock, as well as a visitor’s center that contains exhibits about the canal’s history. One of the exhibits is a a 1893 lock model that was built to showcase the canal’s technology at World’s Fair in Chicago There’s also several buildings from the Erie Canal era that make up a small living history exhibit on the east end of the park. The park can be accessed from eastbound I-90 between exits 40 and 41, or from Rochester Street (State Route 31) in Port Byron. It’s open May 1 to Oct. 31 each year.

Roscoe Village

Location: Coshockton, Ohio

Website: https://roscoevillage.com/

This isn’t your typical museum. It’s a preserved portion of an Ohio and Erie Canal town that mixes the old with the new. For a small fee, visitors can visit several of the buildings that showcase what canal town life was like in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mixed into the village are modern restaurants and shops housed in 1800s structures. It’s great stop on a trip through Ohio, and there’s enough to see to fill up an afternoon or more.


Abraham Lincoln Museum

Location: Springfield, Ill.

Website: https://www.alplm.org/

This is one of the stops I chose for my Johnny Cash riding project. The museum puts more of an emphasis on re-creation of Lincoln’s environment than “hard” history with lots of artifacts and infographics. However, the fine level of detail in its design and construction help bring the story of one of the nation’s most famed presidents to life.


Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor

Location: Youngstown, Ohio

Website: https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/museum-and-site-locator/youngstown-historical-center-of-industry-and-labor

Ask any Youngstown local about their city’s history, and they’ll happily tell you all about the region’s formerly thriving steel industry. The Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor is the institution tasked with preserving that industrial heritage. It’s exhibits cover more than just the machinery of the mills and focus on the story of the workers who toiled and sometimes suffered in the steel mills. There’s also a section that captures the despair of the 1970s when the emergence of the post-industrial economy decimated Youngstown’s heavy industries.