Cincinnati Through Louisville And Down To Nashville.
A Motorcycle Ride With Tasty Start & A Country Ending
When you are planning out a weekend motorcycle route from the Ohio area headed south, or even central Tennessee headed north. You have some excellent options that can take you along meandering rivers spotting boats, over county creeks watching for wildlife, and to some big city stops that will leave you feeling like your batting a thousand. Make it part of your big adventure or just a weekend escape. Either way, you’ll be happy that these places are where your meals met the road.
Don’t leave on an empty stomach
If you plan to kick-start this trip from Cincinnati, you best fill up with fuel for you and the bike before you go. The bike has lots of options, for yourself, we’d recommend filling up on something that will last as long as your bike's tank of gas will! Skyline Chili is a Cincinnati icon that has been around since 1949. An old family recipe for chili that finds its way onto everything from heaping bowls of pasta to Coney Dogs smothered in Chili, and each serving always comes with a heaping helping of cheese on top. A great place to start or stop your road trip. Not to worry there are lots of them, but if you include our next stop on your list, then we’d recommend the 290 Ludlow Ave location as it’s only about five minutes away from the next stop, the sign museum.
A sign in the right direction
A fun stop before finally hitting the road, The America Sign Museum will satisfy all of your neon needs and leave you laughing at some of the options people used to use to get your attention in a busy world. They have over 20,000 square feet of signage dating back across more than 100-years. Anything from hand constructed tin signs, to a slightly more modern mix of flashing lights and glowing neon. Set aside an hour, and if you are really feeling like you want some signage satisfaction, take an organized tour of the place.
Ok, let’s get out of town
If you stick to the idea of making your way from Cincinnati to Louisville you have some great options to view the luscious landscapes and enjoy stunning river-views when you stick alongside the flowing Ohio River. Head from Cincinnati central towards Lawrenceburg on the US-50 heading west, following it across the state line into Indiana into Aurora. Here in Aurora you can turn off the main route onto the secondary route of the Ohio River Scenic Byway (the 56), and start riding the route down the river's edge to Rising Sun. This first part will take you about an hour and will be a mix of city scenery and a start to the river-views on sealed roads.
Rising Sun, a bit of a gamble
In case you need a lunch stop, want to lose some money or are looking for a place to escape some nasty weather, you can make an easy detour into the Rising Star Casino in Rising Sun. From Aurora on road 56, it’s a quick drive that will land you at the resort or river-boat casino for 24/7 gaming, comedy nights, live music and on and on. Pretty much all things tacky gambling resort and flashy gaming related that you would expect.
If you drive by or depart from here after a stop, stick on the 56 working your way towards Madison. You’ll be touching on Amish country and can detour off this route to explore the area, or just stay on these roads to enjoy countryside views that wind their way back towards the flowing waterway. Once you hit Madison, you can either detox from the Casino stop by searching out some wildlife at the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge or continue on down to Louisville. If birds and beauty are more your thing, then turn north on the US-421 into the refuge.
The Big Oaks Refuge is a massive 50,000 acre protected area and the largest of three regions like this in Indiana. The refuge was a WWII munitions testing area formerly and isn’t thoroughly cleaned up, meaning it is not all accessible, though there is a significant amount that can be seen. With over 200 species of bird and 46 species of mammal in the refuge, you can stop for a photo break, or they also have areas for fishing, and hunting white-tailed deer and wild turkey if that’s your thing. A nice place to soak up the scenery on a detour while heading south. Check their webpage for opening times and information. From Rising Sun to Big Oaks the roads are all highway or paved country routes with a bit of twisting here and there. When you’re hugging the river, you might get to view some river barges or a number of boats that regularly use it.
Twists and Turns. The Waterfall Route
Once you have had your quick-fix with Indiana, you can kiss it good-bye and say hello to scenic Kentucky! From Madison just ride across the nice bridge into Milton, near the water's edge. Take the US-421 down to Bedford then the US-42 towards Prospect. If you are looking for a river-side stop for lunch or a snack, you can take a turn on road 524 towards Westport. It’s a quick route that will lead you right to Westport where you’ll come to a T in the road. Go to the right, and it will take you down to the river where they have some picnic tables set up for a relaxing bite to eat. Just up the road in the opposite direction is a little store if you need to grab some snacks. After you can backtrack to the US-42, or try your luck at a different path. Sticking on this one is all paved, and a direct shot back on your way to Prospect.
For some eye-catching views with a brief walk, you can look for the small waterfalls just outside of Prospect. On the US-329 just outside Prospect, if you scan the hillsides looking down on the right-hand side of the road, you should be able to spot the waterfalls. You can hop off the bikes at the top of the hill and take a quick walk to get a good photo of the falls. The road through here is all paved and in great shape, with some quick turns and some steep hills and descents to keep you awake. From Big Oaks to Prospect it’s just over an hour plus however much time you take for waterfalls and photos.
Louisville. Old bikes, new bats & a lot of horsepower
Louisville packs enough “to-do’s” that you might want to pick this as an overnight stop or at least plan on a full day around here to catch a few of the sights. From Prospect you stay on the US-42 heading south until you hit the Interstate 41 into the city. Once you get here, you’ll need to contend with more traffic than the small town route you just came from. However, you’ll get in plenty of time to enjoy a break from it all at one of the optional stops.
For a mid-week stop that could include burgers, beers, and bikes. You can pull up to Barret Bar & Gill, where they serve up a great vintage motorcycle night every Wednesday. Here you can see a collection of old bikes from the area that are sure to have you pondering over where you might fit a 1930’s Indian Scout into your collection. The menu has some interesting items like Portobello sliders and smoked chicken wings too. To get back to the roots of where horsepower really came from, you might want to time your visit in May where you can watch six-figure price tag horses run the Kentucky Derby. Or if slower sports are more your pastime, book yourself an out of the park visit to the Louisville Slugger Factory & Museum. They will walk you through the history of the bat, and you can see them being made right on-site. Save some room in your saddlebags, as you’ll leave with a bat at the end of the tour.
Bluegrass Motorcycle Museum
If you are seeking out a straight-shot route to Nashville from Louisville, this isn’t it. When looking to meander a bit off the main drag in search of some two-wheeled history, then follow this road to the Bluegrass Motorcycle Museum in Hartford, Kentucky. This delightful little museum is home to over twenty American made vintage motorcycles and over thirty-years of various motorcycle memorabilia. The lovely couple Jake and Nancy Embry own and operate the museum and would love to see you there. They have an impressive collection that includes a 1911 Yale with its original paint, the only one of its kind still in existence. Another rare piece that they have on display is the 1912 Eagle, one of only ten manufactured models. And you thought you had trouble getting parts for your bike! Look them up on Facebook if you have any questions.
Getting here is rather easy, just take the I-65 once you are out of Louisville and follow it all the way down until you hit the KY-9007 and exit there, or take the I-62 if you are looking for something more scenic. Once you get to the 69, turn left towards Hartford then follow your GPS to the Museum. The drive here on the I-62 will have you passing through old towns, across rivers and creeks and you might get to see some wildlife like an Eagle or two if you’re fortunate. The road itself has a few curvy sections with a lot of wide open spaces. The speed limit goes from 25 MPH to 55 MPH depending on what towns you are passing through, so don’t expect to speed along on the I-62 route.
Image: National Corvette Museum
A quiet drive with a loud stopover
From the motorcycle museum you can backtrack a bit to the KY-9007 S, then follow that south to the oddly named city of Bowling Green (I checked, Bowling Green has a bowling alley if you think that would make for a funny photo as much as I do). The road here is easy riding with scenic views of the landscapes and smooth riding for every level of rider. Once in Bowling Green, you can get re-acquainted with your love of horsepower, as I’m sure after only leaving the motorcycle museum not too long ago you will probably need a fuel powered fix again.
You’re in luck, as the National Corvette Museum is here and you can check out all things Corvette including some interactive stuff like the Pit Crew Challenge and various other on display activities. One you might have heard of is their new sink hole display, yes it’s the museum where all those great looking Vets got swallowed up by the earth. The city also has the Lost River Cave, a place where you can go and explore the underground cave via a boat tour. A great little stop on the way to Nashville.
To complete the tri-state tour, you can roll on out of Bowling Green and make your way to the country music mecca of Nashville, Tennessee. For this, you have a couple of options depending on what kind of time you have left, what you want to see, or what you like to ride. If you choose to go down the I-65, you can rip along on a reasonably straight road at interstate speeds and arrive in about an hour. If you still have some scenic time to kill, take the countryside route on the 31W down to Franklin, then follow the 49 to Springfield, taking the 431 into Nashville. This will allow you to wind your way through the quieter towns and municipalities without much traffic, while you work your way into a route ending drink at the Grand Ole Opry.
Overall the whole route is an excellent mix of farmland, cities, interstate and small-town routes. You could easily do the entire route as a beginner looking to get some miles under their belt, or as a seasoned veteran who is just wanted someplace to ride. A cruiser, a rocket, or anything under the 500cc class would all be fine for this drive. If you’ve got more time, draw it out into a week and really get to know the area, take in some sights by the river see what the cities have to offer in full. Either way, enjoy the ride.