On June 30 I took a ride with a co-worker and his buddy to Portsmouth, Ohio, to attend the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. My co-worker Rob suggested taking Ohio State Route 104 to Portsmouth instead of U.S. Route 23. I had ridden/driven U.S. 23 several times for a previous job and was happy to give another route a try. Both routes follow the Scioto River and I was not expecting the alternate route to offer much more than U.S. 23 does. The route turned out to be very enjoyable and I am sure I will be riding it again sometime soon.
The ride began the same way many good motorcycle rides do: with a delicious, hearty American breakfast. I met up with Rob and his buddy at Port Side Café II and Catering on U.S. 23 near Lockbourne, Ohio. After a western omelet, home fries, and toast, the three of us started riding south on U.S. 23 and turned right onto SR 762 west. We rode for a couple miles until we reached SR 104 and turned left to head south toward Portsmouth.
We stayed on SR 104 until we reached Chillicothe, Ohio, where we turned onto East Main Street (signed U.S. 50) and then got on the U.S. 23 expressway. We followed U.S. 23 (which SR 104 duplexes with just south of Chillicothe) to Waverly, Ohio, where we stopped for gas and water. SR 104 splits off from U.S. 23 in Waverly and we followed the SR 104 alignment from Waverly to where it duplexes with SR 73. From there we followed SR 73/SR 104 into Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s clubhouse is located on Front Street. It looks out on the Ohio River and is one block south from where the SR 73/SR 104 bridge over the Scioto River connects with Portsmouth’s downtown.
For the return trip to Columbus I decided to take U.S. 23 to compare the routes back-to-back.
The ride featured sunny skies and hot conditions on the way to Portsmouth, as well as on the way back to Columbus. Temperatures were probably in the high 80s or low 90s with moderately high humidity in the afternoon. I was sweating pretty good when I was stuck at red light after red light in downtown Portsmouth on the way home.
I was not expecting SR 104 to be any better to ride than U.S. 23 considering both routes mostly follow the relatively flat Scioto River valley. I was pleasantly surprised by SR 104’s undulations, scenic views, and ties to Ohio transportation history.
There was very little traffic on the rural sections of SR 104 during the ride. The section north of Chillicothe offers some scenic views of the agricultural fields and some foothills. It is a nice, low-stress, low-traffic volume alternative to the four-lane U.S. 23 highway.
The southern portion of the route (south of Waverly) begins with a neat section of road atop a dam embankment on the southeast side of Lake White. The remainder of the route features some minor elevation changes but few scenic views due to both sides of the road being tree-lined.
The most exciting part of the ride for me was the sighting of an old canal lock adjacent to the route. Further research has determined SR 104 by-and-large follows the routing of the Ohio and Erie Canal. I only saw the one preserved lock on the ride but will be researching the route further to determine if there are any other remnants of the abandoned canal to be visited. I am also really interested in going back to the preserved lock to see how its dimensions compare to those of the Genesee Valley Canal and Enlarged Erie Canal locks in Western New York.
There was also a fancy-looking dirt speedway on the southwest side of SR 73/SR 104 just before the route enters Portsmouth proper. The facility is called Portsmouth Raceway Park and appears to be well-manicured for a short dirt oval. I may have to head back to Portsmouth sometime soon to see the track in action.