Some days you simply want to escape your world, even if only for a while. The shortest of the Windy 9 routes, the “Zaleski Zipper” gives you the opportunity to do exactly that. Hop on your bike, head out of town, and leave your troubles behind as you zip towards the Zaleski State Forest! It takes only moments before you find yourself transported to a more peaceful state of mind.
We have traveled the Zaleski Zipper several times now and have enjoyed each and every ride. The route is beautiful every season of the year, so you won’t be disappointed. Starting on route 56, we wind gently through the countryside, with only the occasional road-going tractor or tight curve to slow our progress. We motor past farmland and woodlands, and an unexpected lily pond along the way. We breeze past Carbondale, where once-abundant coal resources were mined in the hills and valleys in the late 1800’s.
Take a left turn on 278 and you’ll find yourself entering the Zaleski State Forest. As we enter the trees, I’m reminded of my childhood car rides through the Tennessee Mountains and I’m once again transported to another time and place. Shortly thereafter, we arrive at the Lake Hope State Park, which serves as the perfect halfway point to stop and stretch your legs or perhaps spend the day.
The 2,983-acre Lake Hope State Park offers all of the outdoor activities you might expect, from hiking and biking trails, to fishing and other water sports. Remnants of mining days are now park attractions, and camping sites and lodging are available. We always make sure to time our stop when we are hungry and visit the Lake Hope Lodge. Our first time on the Zaleski Zipper, we were blessed to eat lunch seated at one of the few tables located on the lodge balcony. The view overlooking the lake below is marvelous. The lodge offers a variety of faire from wood fired pizzas, which are worth the ride from Athens, to BBQ and craft beers. The relaxing atmosphere, scenic views, and savory foods allow me to forget, for a few brief moments, the life I have left behind.
Once our bellies are full and our hearts restored, we head out on the open road once again. We ride South on 278 through the small town of Zaleski, passing swamplands before turning back towards Athens on Route 50. We cruise homeward, opening the throttle to highway speeds. The Zaleski Zipper has given us exactly what we were looking for – a quick, beautiful ride on the Harley-Davidson Road King Classic and the opportunity to make yet another wonderful memory together on Ohio’s Windy 9.