Starting Off Around Columbus
So there’s a twist for our last road trip this year! Rather than starting out from home, we start out today from Delaware, Ohio, where our friends Justin and Jennifer live. Jennifer organized a Star Wars-themed costume party in nearby Columbus last night. Besides not wanting to miss hanging out with one of her best friends, Becky is an avid cosplayer and a rabid Star Wars fan. Some fans wear costumes to celebrate their favorite sports franchise, while Becky loves getting everyone in costume to celebrate her favorite movie franchise. I always liked Star Wars too…and will say that it is more fun this way!
Anyway, we spent the night at Justin and Jennifer’s house last night, putting us about an hour or so closer to our destination for the night, which will be some as yet undetermined motel. Rather than taking freeways, we’ll mostly take US-23 the entire way, which will take us through parts of Ohio and Kentucky that neither of us has ever seen. I’m not sure where exactly we’ll stop, because I honestly have no idea how long we’ll spend at stops along the way. And we’re getting a motel because tonight will be the first freeze of the season in much of the Midwest and Appalachia. The weather warms up over the course of the week, and should be just fine for camping.
Following the Scioto River
We started out by following US-42 to SR-257/Riverside Drive, which eventually becomes US-33 and Dublin Road. Along the way we passed two dams and the Columbus Zoo. The drive was very pleasant, with a park between the road and the river almost all the way down. It reminded me of the Valley Parkway in the Cleveland Metroparks or Riverview Road in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, except much busier and with a lot more development.
The plan was to take Dublin Road until it becomes Long Street downtown, where we’d turn south on High Street towards the south side of Columbus. Unbeknownst to us, the Columbus Marathon was being held today, so it was impossible to get to High Street north of I-70. We lost some time trying to figure this out, but we eventually got back on track.
Now US-23 follows High Street at this point, and runs all the way down along the Scioto River from Downtown Columbus to Downtown Portsmouth, which is where the highway crosses the Ohio River into Kentucky. Along the way you pass through or around the towns of Circleville, Chillicothe, and Waverly, which along with Cleveland and Akron were on the route of the old Ohio & Erie Canal. The Ohio & Erie Canal revolutionized travel and shipping across the state in 1832, reducing the trip from Cleveland to Cincinnati from a few weeks to just 80 hours. Railroads came along two decades later, causing most of the canal to become abandoned early in the 20th Century.
There are three things I’m especially interested in seeing along our route this afternoon: the Scioto River for one, the city of Portsmouth since it’s on the Ohio River, and the city of Chillicothe, as it was Ohio’s original state capital. Had it not been for so much politicking in the state’s early history, perhaps Ohio’s “Three C’s” would have been Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chillicothe! I suppose we’ll never know, but maybe that’s how things unfolded in a parallel universe…so maybe one day we will find out…
Since US-23 now bypasses Chillicothe, we exited to follow Business-23 (which quite honestly is the only Business Route I’ve ever seen in all of Ohio) to go through town. The actually center of Chillicothe is a few blocks off of the old US highway, so we took a detour to check it out. While there were lots of old buildings in good repair, Chillicothe didn’t seem to be all that big of a place and was certainly not bustling this Sunday afternoon.
So we continued south back to the bypass and continued to Waverly. On the south side of Waverly, we followed SR-104, which follows the Scioto’s west bank all the way to Portsmouth. This road was marked scenic on my Rand McNally atlas, and it did not disappoint. There were sweeping views of the river all along, passing through small farms and unincorporated hamlets. The land along this part of the river seems vastly untouched.
The road joins up with SR-73 just before West Portsmouth, and at the interchange with US-52 we stayed on SR-73/104 to go through Portsmouth. At this point, you can see two prominent bridges…a steel cantilever bridge directly ahead, and a newer cable-stayed bridge towering to the east. After we crossed the Scioto River right next to its mouth, we noticed a huge floodwall a block away. Besides its height, the 21-foot floodwall attracted our attention because it was covered in murals across the entire western section of the city.
It was definitely time for us to refuel, and the cheapest gas I found was just over the river in Kentucky. So before we got dinner and explored some more, we drove across the cable-stayed bridge on US-23. After gassing up, we went back over to Portsmouth to a restaurant I’d found on Google Maps that had a menu that worked for both of us.