Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Two Jug Trip

I had the day off last Friday and it was a beautiful day! I had previously arranged for my motorcycle to get its spring servicing and annual inspection that morning, following a long cold winter. After picking it up around lunchtime from S&P Harley Davidson in Williamstown, I headed off for a nice little ride.

It felt good to be motorcycling again on such a sunny day. Riding a motorcycle through the countryside is so much different than riding in a car. You can feel the rush of the air, along with subtle variations in the temperature (such as when passing by a shaded hollow). You can even smell the aromas of things like fresh cut grass, farm animals, or gas wells.

But my favorite difference is the way the motorcycle and rider lean together through the twists and turns, as if gyroscopically bound together. The rider slows upon entry, hits the apex at full lean, and accelerates back to vertical on the ensuing straightaway. The lean angles are only possible with the momentum of the rotating wheels—one would fall on the ground if standing still at those angles. A motorcycle rider is in full control, and his or her own safety depends on making the right decisions all the time. There is risk involved (especially with today’s distracted drivers), but to me the reward is still worth it. I think it is a bit like what the ability to fly would feel like.

I decided to head north along the Ohio River, with the first goal to cross on the Sistersville Ferry. In the early days of our country, ferry boats were the only way for vehicles to cross rivers. Wheeling became a prominent town in part because it had one of the first bridges across the Ohio River. Now there are only two ferries operating on the entire Ohio River.

But first I needed to get on the other side of the river, plus eat some lunch. I crossed to the Ohio side and ate a hotdog at The Jug Restaurant in Newport, Ohio. It is just a small place situated on the bank of the Ohio River, but it has been there for years and is a very popular location. I love sitting on one of their picnic tables under the big tree and watching the boats go by.

Then it was up Ohio Route 7, beyond the little town of New Matamoras, Ohio, to catch the ferry boat over to Sistersville. You head straight down the riverbank and, upon the ferry’s arrival, you then drive right onto the boat. We were slightly delayed in our crossing by a large towboat that was making its way downstream, which gave me more time to take my helmet off, walk around to stretch my legs, and enjoy the scenic views.

Once we were on the West Virginia side, I made a quick tour through the quaint small town of Sistersville. The old hotel there (The Wells Inn) is getting some business again from the natural gas boom in the area. I headed south on Route 2 out of the city and turned inland on Route 18 towards Middlebourne, the county seat of Tyler County.

I passed by the Tyler Consolidated High School as I got closer to Middlebourne. I know from my school board days that it was a hard decision to merge Sistersville High School and Tyler County High School into the new Tyler Consolidated High School in 1993 (if I had been involved, I think I would have avoided a name that matched the initials of the former Middlebourne school—so I would have preferred calling it John Tyler High School), but hopefully the hard feelings have subsided.

As I got closer to Middlebourne, I saw a new restaurant called “Speedway Diner.” I didn’t have time to stop, but it looks interesting. There aren’t many aluminum diners in West Virginia. Best of all, it features a real race car mounted on a pole for its sign.

Soon I was riding through the heart of downtown Middlebourne, past the Tyler County Courthouse, and out the other side (it is not a very big town). Besides riding the Sistersville Ferry, my second goal for this ride was to check out another place known as “The Jug.” This “Jug” is named for a geographical oddity of Middle Island Creek (West Virginia’s longest creek). This creek has an over three mile circular loop (like a jug handle) before returning within a hundred feet of itself. In the late 1700s, a trench was dug across this narrow strip of land to power a mill on the downsteam side. [This trench is also known as a raceway, which is ironic when you consider that Tyler County Raceway, a dirt oval racetrack, is only a few miles away.]

Floods had destroyed the mills that had been built (and rebuilt) there over the years, and the raceway had been made even larger by the flood erosion, changing the overall flow of the creek, leaving very little water for those living on the three mile loop. In 1947, the state of West Virginia built a dam there to restore the flow of the water to the original channel. The state also owns the land on the inside of this loop of the creek, and operates it as a wildlife management area.

A friend had told me that “The Jug” makes a nice place to kayak, because the dam allows you to paddle a big circle and then come back to where you park your car. I wanted to check it out on this motorcycle trip, and then come back this summer with my kayak. I was surprised to find out it is all located within sight of Route 18 not far beyond Middlebourne. The sound of the water going over the dam and the rapids below is melodious. I look forward to returning there this summer for a kayak trip!

While I was exploring the dam area, I had noticed some race car haulers passing by on Route 18. I thought that Tyler County Raceway ran on Saturday nights, so I was a bit confused as to why I had seen several race cars go by. So before heading for home, I continued out Route 18 a bit further, to the Tyler County Fairgrounds. It turns out they were having a special race that Friday night, and the crowds and cars were already starting to appear. I couldn’t stay, but it was fun to revisit the speedway and see some of the race cars unloading in the pits before I headed back across Route 18 and down Route 2 for home.

All in all, it was a great day for a motorcycle ride, from The Jug to The Jug and home again.

Looking across the low water dam that was built to block the former cut in the hill which formed the raceway to the mill. Supposedly one can kayak down the creek (disappearing in the distance to the left of the hillside) for over three miles before reappearing just downstream from this dam.

No comments:

Post a Comment