My Quest for 88 Barns

By Mike LaBar aka Bike LaBarn

Jimmy Smith sure had a great idea early this year to have a Bicentennial Barn Photo Contest.  What better way to experience the beauty of the buckeye state?  At the beginning it was fun short day trips finding the twistiest way to get to the barns painted with the ever so familiar bicentennial logo.  The day trips turned into long day trips figuring out the most direct route to get the most barns in a day’s time.  Finally, it got serious with making the best time to the intended counties - 100 miles or more to the first barn - and from there figuring out the best routes to photograph the most barns, while taking advantage of routes never taken, and at the same time taking in all the rural splendor that Ohio and it’s 88 counties have to offer.

The first half seemed to happen as social riding with friends.  The last half seemed to be more of a solitary mission.  I enjoyed every mile and now wished that I had spent more time at the barns and meeting the owners.  I did meet a few barn owners and every one was gracious and proud of their barns with a story to tell.  One of the most impressive barns is the Defiance County barn.  Owned by a young guy who had no farming background, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the massive T-shaped barn with two logos painted on it… But he was proud to be the owner and tried to meet all the visitors that stopped.  The owner of the Muskingum County barn is an elderly tall thin man that talked to Kim & I for a half hour showing us pictures and telling the history of the place..  He put a sign out by the road inviting folks to pull into the driveway - Another proud Bicentennial Barn owner.  These folks have become ambassadors to the state of Ohio and have shown down home hospitality and pride in Ohio.

Anyone who has participated in the contest has a better appreciation for Ohio and the great riding opportunities here in our own back yard.  My favorite barn to get to was barn 59 Monroe County.  I rode Route 26 from Marietta, a road I remember riding a few years back while attending the RA National in Hocking County.  Route 26 follows the Little Muskingum River and is hoot to ride.  The banks on some of those curves allow for maximum smiles at a nice clip.  This road has no gas stations and I began to worry that rt 26 would go on forever.  I spotted some humans by the side of the road and asked about gas ahead.  I was assured that there was gas on Rt 800 (another awesome road). Good thing.  The red light was on and the sun was a half hour from setting. Other roads I would like to revisit – Routes 555 (the Triple Nickel), 550, 78, 93, 250 – but you can’t go wrong with any of the roads in Southeastern Ohio. I’m glad I saved that area for last.

Planning routes was all part of the fun.  GPS coordinates made things easier and at times frustrating.  There are a few barns that have bad waypoints.  Keep riding, they will appear.  And, when the GPS tells you hang a left off of an interstate where there is no exit, you just use you head the information you have.  I asked a few folks, “Where’s the Bicentennial Barn?” most locals will know, and be glad to tell you. How I ended up in Pennsylvania, I’m not real sure, but I won’t blame the GPS on that.

My longest Bicentennial Barn run started on a Wednesday in mid October.  I captured 28 barns in three days, covering 1200 miles.  From one northern corner to the other, the autumn colors and the rural farmlands stick out in my mind as well as the cold morning temperatures.  Just before the last barn of the trip in Wayne County, I noticed a BMW dealership on the GPS.  It was 9:30 Saturday and I thought I would stop in and possibly get a new back tire and an oil change if they weren’t too busy.  My bike came from and had been serviced at All Seasons in Wooster, and I knew they would recognize the bike. I walk in and who do I see, but the very gentleman that sold me my RS.  He checks out his old steed and asks about it while I check out his 2 yr old K1200RS with 25K on the odometer.  We chat for a while over coffee and doughnuts and he introduces me to the folks at All Seasons.  They all thought the Bicentennial Barn contest was a great idea.  James bike is ready and we say goodbye, but I let him know to call me when he sells his K bike.  My bike is finished in an hour or so and I’m off to the last barn before hitting the slab home… with a big ole smile on my face.

Bicentennial Barn Memories:

1st barn – Clermont County with snow still on the ground in March


Getting a speeding ticket on rt 52 while on lunch break on Good Friday after shooting Adams and Brown County barns.

The rainy ride to the Mini Rally and the community shot taken in Mercer County.

While leading the Mini Rally riders to the Paulding barn, enjoying the ride, I glance at my mirror and notice nobody is behind me.  I pull over and wait a minute before Allen comes to get me and show me where I missed the barn.

The Defiance County barn.  I thought it was impressive. Then I rode away and saw that it was a T-shaped barn and had a second logo painted on the other side.  An awesome barn with a nice owner.


Running into Henry & Mary at the Madison County barn.  The quick shot was from I71, but Henry, Pete, and I had the right idea to shoot the other side of the barn from the dead-end road.


Finding Barn 43 Mahoning County without getting on the expressway.

All the aromas that come with riding – the dead skunks, the poulty farms, the awful smell of riding behind three trucks full of pigs.

The yellow barn in Cuyahoga County.  It seems out of place.

 The barns up by Lake Erie.

The fun barn run with Chris & Ann.  Bike to bike communication is a good thing.


The Richland County barn and eating at MaLaBar’s Farm.

The Amish country and the horse drawn carriages packed with multiple generations on dirt roads.

The mid-morning fog that surrounded the valley around Mosquito Creek Lake.

Circling Steubenville twice trying to find a hotel and ending up in Weirton, WV where they took pity on me at the Holiday Inn and re-opened the kitchen to fix me the best cheeseburger I ever ate.

My last barn – the first barn painted – Belmont County.