Labor Day Adventures, Part 3 (Monday)

After riding an old favorite on Friday and enjoying a short expedition along Ohio’s north shore on Saturday, I rounded out the Labor Day weekend with an about 250-mile route through north-central Ohio’s rolling terrain.

The first non-interstate portion of my route was part of an unexpectedly fun ride for me in 2020. The latter half featured a stretch of Ohio State Route 93 that I hadn’t ridden in a few years — and an unplanned back roads detour.

From my home in South Euclid, Ohio, I made my way to Interstate 271 south. I decided to mix things up a little — I had ridden I-271 south during Saturday’s ride — and took Interstate 480 west and Interstate 77 south back to I-271. I continued south onto Interstate 71 and got off at exit 173 — Ohio State Route 39. 

Route Map

The portion of SR 39 from Mansfield to Loudonville — which is part of Ohio’s “Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway” — really surprised me when I rode it last year. The mix of tight and wide sweepers starts just east of the interchange and continues most of the way to Loudonville. The road is not very technical — the fun factor is in the variety of corners and steady flow of left-right and right-left turn combinations.

Though this part of SR 39 really impressed me last year, it didn’t generate the same level of excitement this time. This was a bit of a lesson to me as a road critic, as it demonstrated the importance of expectations in writing about riding.

After reaching Loudonville and sitting through the traffic streaming out of Mohican State Park, I stayed on SR 39 — which begins an overlap with Ohio SR 60 east of the village. After a few miles of nondescript riding through typical central Ohio hillscapes, I turned south to stay on SR 60. 

Unlike the sweepers on SR 39, familiarity with the twisties on SR 60 did nothing to diminish the riding experience. The about 30-mile stretch to Tunnel Hill, Ohio, features lots of tight, technical corners that invite you to push a little harder each apex. It was a bit of a workout steering my about 700-pound FJR1300 through the twists and turns — though the ride was dulled some by a pickup truck that was trying its best to not slow me down too much for a few miles.

What makes the SR 60 fun isn’t just the tight, 90-degree corners: it’s the sharp elevation changes before or after the apexes. The challenge of figuring out the correct line for the radius and elevation of each set of sharp curves makes it one of my favorites.

After passing though the villages of Killbuck and Warsaw, I turned east on Ohio State Route 541 when I reached Tunnel Hill. Though not as technical or memorable as SR 60, SR 541 has some decently-fun sweepers as you descend from hill country toward Coshocton and the Muskingum River valley.

After riding by the historic Roscoe Village on Coshocton’s west side, it was time to stop for lunch. I had planned to stop at the Hardee’s/Red Burrito for some tasty, affordable tacos. The Hardee’s dining room was closed, so I crossed the street and feasted on a generous helping of Arby’s sliders.

While I was eating and re-hydrating, I checked Google Maps on my phone and noticed that there was a bit of a traffic jam on I-77 south of Canton. I figured this may be a good opportunity to take a back roads route home. My plan had been to ride Ohio State Route 93 north back to SR 39, then trek home on I-77. 

I studied Google Maps for a few minutes and realized I could ride SR 93 more-or-less to Ohio State Route 21, which leads back to I-77 northwest of Akron. After enjoying my last refill of Diet Dr. Pepper,  headed out to SR 93 via the U.S. Route 36 divided highway. About seven miles miles later I arrived at the intersection with SR 93, turned left and hoped for a traffic-free ride to Sugarcreek, Ohio.

I got to enjoy just a few of the road’s sweepers and sharp elevation changes before having my enthusiasm curbed by very slow traffic. The posted speed limit is 55 mph, but I don’t recall the truck and trailer getting much above 40 mph. The corners I had discovered about seven years prior on the way to the Swiss Festival in Sugarcreek teased me every time I navigated through them with little to no lean angle. 

The slow poke finally got off the road somewhere between Baltic and Sugarcreek, but a fire department had the road blocked near the village’s southern boundary. I got to tour some of the area’s finest back roads as I tried to find a paved route that would take me back to SR 93. I eventually found one, and was tempted to make an unplanned stop when I realized I was right near the Walnut Creek Amish Flea Market. I had no money to spend and little room in my saddlebags, though, so I headed east on SR 39 and turned north on SR 93 at the Sugarcreek village center.

It’s about an 11-mile ride on SR 93 from Sugarcreek to the intersection with U.S. Route 250. A sharp right turn onto the national highway was quickly followed by a sharp left onto SR 21, and I passed through the village of Navarre on the way to Massillon. SR 21 becomes an expressway north of its interchange with U.S. Route 30, which I followed north to I-77 in Fairlawn. A few miles later I merged onto I-271 and finished the ride home.

My Labor Day riding finale wasn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, as some of its best parts were marred by slow cagers. Even so, the twisties on SR 60 alone made it enjoyable. Perhaps I’ll try this same route next year and see if the traffic gods will grant me swifter passage on the whole of SR 60 and SR 93.

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