Ohio’s Triple NickelHighway 555


Photo Courtesy Ohio Ride Guide
A funny thing happened one day at the BMW MOA Forum.
I was cruising through the posts and I read this comment from BMW MOA Ambassador Jim Shaw:

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“Fair warning... nobody conquers 555. You just massage its humps and tickle its twists a little. Go too fast, and it conquers YOU.”

Now, everyone that knows me knows that I love challenging rides. I mean, who else would be grinning ear-to-ear while riding in the mountains southwest of Monterrey, Mexico in the dark, foggy, freezing cold rain? While I have many more stories like this, my point is that when somebody says what Jim Shaw said, well... I’ve decided to ride way out of my way to Beemerville... just so I can ride this road.

The Triple Nickel sounds like a great road to ride with friends.
Photo courtesy of Mike LaBar

OK, it probably isn’t that tough, but it does sound like a great ride that I haven’t taken and I’d like to share what I’ve learned as I plan my trip.

Just as challenging as the Dragon
“I would put Route 555 just as challenging as the Dragon. Ride it all the way to Zanesville if you dare” – Lorazepam (from the BMW MOA forum)

A dragon in Ohio? This I have to see! I thought Ohio was flat and full of farms. Well, getting out the maps, I see that OH555 starts about 8 miles west of Parkersburg, West Virginia on US50 in a town on the Ohio River called Little Hocking. It goes approximately 80 miles north to US60, and according to Mike the Bike on the “Ohio Sportbike Roads” page, the road is “...a real workout on the arms.” He also talks about a significant amount of gravel at the north end of the road, corroborating Lorazepam’s comment. Hmmmm... sounding better all the time.

More information found on the web tells me “this road is very technical and tight. Not a speed road. It is full of tight off camber turns and rises that you can’t see over till you are on top of them. The road likes to turn quick with no warning. Even fun at slow speeds. A good workout for rider and bike. Skinny road, low traffic, a few small towns, NO GAS or hard to find.” Oh yeah!

Along the way
After filling up in Little Hocking, I’ll head north to Decaturville, and take a short side trip 3/10ths of a mile east on CR6 to see this covered bridge. It’s closed to traffic, but crosses the south branch of the Little Hocking River. Looks like a great place to stop for lunch (assuming you brought your food with you).

Lunch stop: a covered bridge, just east of
Decaturville. Bring your lunch.

Photo Courtesy: Dale J. Travis

Heading north, the next point of interest is in the small town of Chesterhill. According to the people at The Multicultural Genealogical Center, the Quaker’s Friends Meetinghouse was a stop on the Underground Railroad... a secret system of safe houses and other resources that helped slaves escape their bonds back in the 1830s. (Image Courtesy Multicultural Genealogical Center)

Stay in a cabin...
If you're interested in the history of the area, and you're looking for a place to stay for the night, you might consider this small cabin located nearby. The Federal Hocking Cabin is located a few miles to the west of Chesterhill down OH377 and OH329 in the small town of Stewart. The rates are reasonable, especeially if you're travelling with a friend or two, and there's a mid-week special.

... or go camping for the night.
One thing that’s most enjoyable about touring the backroads on the way to the Rally is the opportunity to get a little closer to the land than you do when riding the slab. Just a day’s ride of 600 miles on I-75 will take me straight from my home in Atlanta to Beemerville in Lima, but I think I’m going to take the twisty way through West Virginia and make it a 2-day trip.

That ought to put the end of day one at about halfway up Hwy 555, where the Burr Oak State Park looks like a good place to stay for the evening. Situated in the Sunday Creek valley, the Burr Oak area was once a coal mining center, that was turned into the Burr Oak Lake in 1950. There are 100 non-electric campsites to accommodate campers. The campground offers showers, flush toilets and a dump station. Thirteen primitive sites are offered at Dock #2 and eight primitive sites at Dock #3. Primitive looks good to me, and Dock #3 is closest to 555, just 5 miles down OH78 and CR14.

On my way to the park, Motorpsycho Jim on the Ohio Sportbike Roads site tells me that at mile marker 8 in Morgan county, just 1.1 miles from 555, there's a turnout where "you can see for many miles, absolutely beautiful scenery."

The gnarly part
Rough roads are best ridden when you’re fresh, so I’ll save the second half of this road for the morning. Nothing other than good riding showed up while searching the web for information on towns along this part of the road (this is probably a good thing!), so it’ll be a great early morning ride, and then head west to the rally.
Photo Courtesy Jason Kaplitz

Near the north end of 555, check out what's left of Big Muskie, part of what was once the largest coal moving machine
on earth.

OH555 heads north and ends at Brush Creek and OH60, which is just south of Zanesville. From there it’s just a short hop to I-70, which heads west to Beemerville. Or.... perhaps I will take some more backroads and stop at the AMA Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington. Good buddy and BMW MOA member Ed Youngblood is the curator of a new exhibition that will be open by that time... the history of Motocross!

A camping breakfast, some country roads, vintage MX bikes and seeing all my friends in Beemerville. Sounds like the makings of a great day!