Whiskey, a Tent, and Three Days of Food
Riding the Adirondacks
This is a short story of a weekend in the Adirondacks on a Suzuki DL650. The purpose of the trip is to cover as many miles as possible while also taking in some points of interest. I did’t want to burn any time sitting in any restaurants waiting for food, so I packed my own. I can eat at restaurants while at home. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I went with two campgrounds and a one man tent. this is only a weekend in length, but I hope the information covered will help those considering riding up there while giving a front seat view to those who don’t ride. Enjoy the ride! ~ Joe Walmach
Day one: Effort, PA to Cold Brook, NY – 213.2 miles
It’s 6:10 in the morning and I’m finally rolling the bike out of the garage. What I forgot to pack I’ll just have to buy at this point. I hope I thought of everything as the only stops I want to make are for the sites I plan to see and to sleep. The sky is clear with temps in the low 50’s. The sweat shirt under the Firstgear mesh jacket isn’t going to help enough in these temps, but it’s only 24 miles to work so it’ll do. Just a “quick” stop at work for 8 hours and I can resume my trip, at least work is in the direction I’m going.
The bike feels new to me this morning because it’s the first time I’ve loaded this DL650 down for a multi-day trip. The other trips were on different bikes, one remains in the garage, the others now belong to other riders. I stop for gas 5 miles up the road to fill it up, should be easy enough to make Cold Brook, NY by night fall. About 200 miles from where I’m filling, well within the range of this bike.
As I finish off the rest of the commute, my mind jumps around between staying with the Adirondacks or going with the original plan which was rt. 6 across PA to Erie. Erie’s weather improved a little according to weather.com. I’ve been thinking about riding that road for 3 years now, but the Adirondacks is going to be filled with more scenery while giving me a change to get far enough north to escape possible rain. I’ll ride in the rain, sleeping in it while inside a one man tent is another story. While at work, I decide to stick with the Adirondacks. I’m just not up for tenting in the rain if I can help it. As I pull up to the motorcycle parking area, I once again get a look at the bikes I’ve never seen there before. With 5000 employees, you get a good cross section of bikes that show up every now and then. Now if only 3:30 would get here so I can get going!
The end of the work day is upon me and I exit the building to get an eye full of blue sky and cotton ball clouds. The temps are in the low 70’s and it’s slightly breezy. I ease the bike out of the parking lot and make my way off the property onto rt. 423 north. To start, 423, 196, and 191 all feel like I’m commuting home with all the traffic but the scenery up here is nice as I make my way to Honesdale. In Honesdale, 191 meets rt. 6 which gives me one last chance to switch plans and head to Erie. I decline though and stick to my plans. After making my way around some construction detours, I’m finally getting out in the open as 191 heads out of the busy town. Soon however, I’m confronted with traffic again as I notice I’m approaching the entrance to the Wayne County Fair. As I approach, I notice that this fair is huge and I’m pleased to see that everyone is turning into it as I cruise ahead on 191 all alone. Now it feels like the trip has started.
191 is a nice road up here which is the furthest I’ve ever followed it. In Equinock, the road bends westward and follows the Delaware river up to Hancock, NY where you cross the river over a small bridge. This part of 191 was the best. For the most part, you get the feeling you’re in a tunnel of trees as most branches keep you covered from the sky with just a trickling of the sun getting through. NY State is to my right across the river and there are occasional homes tucked down dirt driveways that have terrific views of the water. There’s no one around as I make my own pace winding along the river really allowing my mind to settle into the trip. At the time, I never would have imagined how the return trip here on Sunday would be the ride into hell. Today I have the best of this road, on Sunday I get its worst.
Route 17 is a four lane divided highway that follows the Delaware up to Deposit, NY. Views of the Delaware and the small towns scattered along it are nice but the size of the road gives it more of a commute feeling than I’d care for. I’m anxiously waiting for rt. 8 north out of Deposit which isn’t too far away. As I branch off of 17 and onto 8, there’s a guy with a sport bike on its center stand over on the other side. He’s on a cell phone and I figure if he bothered to lift the bike up on its center stand it’s not running. I wanted to stop and see what was up, but it would have been difficult for me to cross over grass medians, etc. to get to him. Given he was talking on the phone, I figured someone was going to come to his rescue.
Rt. 8 starts off as an old highway which has as many cracks in the pavement as there are in the old rt. 8 signs. But soon the road gets smaller and you go through some of the most beautiful farmland you can imagine. The state speed limit signs say 55, but everyone is going 65-70. It seems to go on forever up to Utica as you’re treated to trips back in time as you go through each town along the way. The town speed limits are only 35-40 and I’ve been told more than once to do what the signs say up in this area. I had no problem with that since these towns are time capsules that made me want to just stop and hang out for awhile. There was no time for that but I did enjoy the 35 mph for a bit as I took in the sites and snapped a few pics. Along the way you see an occasional abandoned house being swallowed up by over grown tress. As I ride by, I think about who may have lived there and way it as such that the house was forgotten. I also noticed that abandoned houses and shops up here are not boarded up. In another place, these building would be torn apart of they weren’t, but these towns are sill living in a period where they don’t have to worry about this like that.
An interesting house along the way.
Eventually I begin to leave the farm area and see signs for Utica. It’s getting close to 7pm and it’s starting to get cold. One mistake I made on this trip was the decision to wear my mesh gear. Any other August that would be the way to go but not this summer, if you can call it a summer. I thought about stopping to add another layer, but knew that after Utica I didn’t have much more to go.
Utica reminded me of their Utica Club beer and the beer balls we’d buy when in college. I know the brewery is still there but there’s no time for any tours this year. It was a pretty busy looking place as I suppose it was caught between the end of the commute time plus those making their way out for a Friday night. As I climbed out of Utica, still on rt. 8, my next and last town on my mind was Cold Brook, NY.
Just north of Cold Brook is the Ardirondack Gateway campground. My first criteria in hunting for a camp was price. There was no way I was going to pay more than $20 for a tent site as some do these days. In my searches, this one just gave me the right feeling from their web site and since that’s all I had to go by, I went with it.
This camp is very tucked away and if their 166 acres isn’t enough, there’s also a massive farm next door which gives the impression the campground makes up the entire hillside. As I pull in, a women who’s speaking with two men walks over towards me and says something. As I pull out my ear plugs and apologize for asking her to repeat she says, “you look all bundled up there”. I told her “well actually this stuff lets all the wind through so I’m glad I’m here to warm up.”
I explain it’s just me and it’s only for one night. We go into the office which is part gift shop, video rentals, etc. and I pay the $20. She then shows me the map and explains the area so I can pick out a site. She says “you could go down here and be alone but you may not want to go there on the bike”. I asked if cars go there and she said yes. I said “well if cars go there I certainly can with this bike”. She explained how once a guy on a bike pulling a trailer broke the trailer down in there. I assured her this bike can handle it and so I picked the most remote spot I could find. As I descended into the area she sent me I thought this was perfect. I’m many sites away from anyone, there’s running water 30 feet from me, this is it. The only problem, however, is there was zero cell coverage and I wanted the phone to be in contact if possible. I walked back to the top and found a nice site but it was getting near a family the owner had mentioned to me. I thought, “how bad could they be, this site looks great, I have running water and an electrical outlet at the empty site next to me. Fresh water, charged cell phone, this is going to be the place.”
Once I got the bike back up to the top, I began to get the tent set up. This is the first time I’m using this tent and so it took a bit of fooling to get things straight but before long I was set. Of course, AFTER the tent was set up, it happened. The family I was told about returned to their cabin not far from me. I’m all set up and now I discover I have a family with four kids and two dogs in the cabin up the road! The owner tried to warn me in a nice way, I didn’t listen.
I didn’t know what was worse, the kids, the mom yelling at the kids and the dogs, or the two dogs whining endlessly. At one point in the darkness one dog suddenly went silent and I hear the mom in a most satanic voice say “shut…the…hell…up!” I pictured her hand wrapped tightly around the poor animal’s snout as she spoke. So now what’s the dog supposed to think? “Oh, well since you used the ‘H’ word I’ll shut up!” At this point I remembered I packed my little Radioshack am/fm radio complete with loud family blocking headphones! And if that wasn’t good enough, WCBS Newsradio 880 out of NYC is reaching Cold Brook NY with the Yankee game! I’m not sure how I became a Yankee fan. I think it had to do with my grandfather, a man I admired very much, who was a Yankee fan back when Babe Ruth was on the field. He took me to my first baseball game in New York, I’m pretty sure it was 1964. Legends like Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, and Mickey Mantle were on that team. I didn’t understand the game completely back then and after some time I wanted to go home. I wish I would have gone back there again with him in later years but that opportunity has been gone for decades now. It’s a lesson in how things can slip by in life and so when I watch a game I think of him as I did tonight with my headphones blaring John Sterling’s voice over that family’s racket from up the road.
I start unpacking my propane stove and cookware and grab the cans of Dinty Moore stew. Dinty Moore was Sunday dinners for 4 years in college since the Cafeteria did not serve dinner on Sundays. I don’t think I’ve had this stuff since then, I was surprised to find it on the shelves today. A few sips of Whiskey after riding 200 miles hits the spot with dinner but the added benefit is I swear it keeps the bugs away! Keep a sweat shirt on and after enough of this you break into a small sweat and the mosquitoes take a hike! After dinner I cleaned up and wrote some notes down about the day so I wouldn’t forget. It was time to hit the tent but the radio had to come as well, it was extra innings in the game with a score of zero.
Where a one man tent takes up little space on the bike, it is meant for getting in and sleeping only. No room to sit up or hardly move at all. I crawl in, it seems the sleeping bag is upside down but no problem, wait, it is a problem. The part that loops around your head like a hood is now looped over my face. Gotta get this thing right side up which is quite a stunt inside this tiny tent. I’m drifting off to sleep, but once in awhile I wake to hear the game. What’s that? 15th inning?!? Can someone please score so I can get some sleep! I nod off, out cold, and then I wake to John Sterling with his famous scream. “It is high, it is far, it..is..GONE! An A-bomb from A-Rod!”
They did it, there’s another one for grandpa, the family up the road is asleep, I’m done for today.
Day two: Cold Brook, NY to Peru, NY – 252 mi.
I wake at about 7:45 am. Not a bad night’s sleep, but not like a real bed. I’m using a Coleman self inflating pad which actually works quite well for what it is. I find a way to get myself out of the thing and I’m greeted with sunny skies and a decent temp for this time of day. After getting myself focused, I fire up the propane stove to cook up some Ramen noodles. I top that off with some fists full of peanuts and raisins and consider myself good to go.
Unsalted peanuts mixed with raisins is how I avoided lunch stops.
I hit the showers and then headed back to break down the camp. Something is odd though, the family up the road is quiet yet I see dogs and kids and look, the father must have shown up late last night as well. They’re all out having a good quiet time including the dogs. What’s missing…mom!!
I think some people are just bundles of stress so much so that it spews out on anyone within 20 feet of them. Sure enough, when mom emerged from the cabin all the noise cranked up within minutes. As she prepared to suck down yet another cigarette, the kids and dogs were already engulfed in a storm of noise and confusion where just moments before her grand arrival you could hear the wings of bugs going about whatever it is bugs do all day. But, I’m done here and soon I’ll be riding off in peace as long as I keep at least 20 feet from her.
My site from last night.
On the way out I realize I did forget something, sun block! With all my genes coming from northern Europe I can burn just talking about it so this is bad news. But, the camp office had all sorts of stuff, they must have sun block. No good, the door is locked. All that’s left is to hope there’s something up ahead. But then the owner of the place came out of her house. The good news is yes, they have sun block! Better yet, it’s only $3.49, so I stayed under my $5 “what I forgot to bring” budget.
Inside the office I start asking questions about the campground. I find out she and her husband are from south New Jersey and so we began talking about the beaches. When asked what brought them up here she got into how much that area has changed and said “it’s just not reality there anymore.”
Well, the Adirondacks Gateway Campground is real, thumbs up on this place. If I’m back in this area again, this will be on my list. It’s a rustic campground compared to a KOA, but it’s very clean and peaceful with the exception of four kids, two dogs, and a mom.
On my way out I was surprised at how soon I came upon the welcome sign to the Adirondacks. I was low on gas but knew from the camp owner there was a station within my range. As I made my way up rt. 8 (does this road ever end?) I see some homes along the way. Some look decent but are empty, some look abandoned but have people living in them! One house was rather unusual but with gas running low, I didn’t stop for a pic. I’ll have more on that house later during my return trip. The road climbed slowly and the surroundings took on more of a state park look the further I went in.
As I went along, I began getting a little nervous about the gas situation. I thought by now I’d see that station but each curve just revealed more seclusion. Am I going to run out of gas on my first full day? Finally, I see something coming up on my left but as I get closer I’m thinking, “no, just another abandoned gas station, but wait! This place is open!” The gas pumps were actually from the 70’s. Not only did I think these weren’t legal anymore, I figured no pump could even last this long! I haven’t seen a non-digital gas pump since, well the 70’s I suppose.
Attached to the gas station/general store is a liquor store which basically made this spot the “we have it all” place. Gas, food, camping gear, worms for fishing, booze, complete with gas pumps from when you first got your driver’s permit. I stepped inside the small place and asked the girl if I had to pay before filling and she said no. So, I go back outside to fill the bike and take a ride to the past as I watched the numerical dials spin. It was the 70’s all over again!
The bike took 5.2 gallons which meant I had 0.6 of a gallon left. Glad this old station kept these antique pumps going! I walked back in to pay and see the girl squinting through the windows at the pump. She says, “Can you tell me how much that says?” I thought, “wow, not only can you drive off without paying, you can name your own price if you decide to stick around and pay!” But, that’s how it was in the 70’s and the trusting attitude fits this place and is welcome.
It’s back on rt. 8 looking for the town of Speculator where I’ll pick up Rt. 30 towards Indian Lake. It’s getting mountainous now and the mesh gear is reminding me that it was a mistake to go with it. Not a problem though as I have another layer to put on underneath. The road just keeps rolling over the hills as you pass an occasional house and some mountainous views. I snapped a few pics along the way.
I make it to Speculator and turn right on to Rt. 30 to Indian Lake which made for some nice riding. All along the way there are dirt roads going off to who knows where, some with “keep out” signs and others with nothing. On a different kind of trip I’d take the time to explore, but I have too many miles planned in a short time period. Now and then you see a house tucked away or right on the edge of the road and I think, “these people really know how to get away”. Up one hill I came across two bikes and two couples on the side of the road. The one guy has his Harley in pieces as he wrenches furiously. I pulled over in case there was any tools they might need but they just said “we’re good” and I moved on.
In Indian Lake I turn left to stay on 30 towards Blue Mountain Lake and then right out of Blue Mountain on 30/28N. It’s more beautiful riding as I make good time up to the town of Long Lake. As I approach the traffic light I pull to the side. I need to read my directions and make sure I’m making the right choice here. In the distance, I hear the rumble of a pack of cruisers. As they approach the light I realize the rumble is more like ear splitting jackhammers. I’m thinking, oh no, make a choice here and just go so as not to get stuck behind this mob! Loud noises, possible chrome pieces flying off in my direction, I don’t need this. (I have a chrome bike at home as well, so just kidding) The leader stops to make a donation to the volunteer fireman in the street and I realize this is my chance. I take off to the left onto Rt. 30 towards Tupper Lake which turned out to be the right choice anyway. But as I come down by the bridge to cross over Long Lake there’s no more rumble. I figured they must have gone on 28 N or found another bar at the intersection or something. I stopped for a few pics before crossing the lake. The Adirondack Inn was there and I noticed a ski plane across the street parked near the beach. I always enjoy seeing a ski plane take off or land on the water but with the engine covers off, it didn’t look like they were leaving very soon. I later looked on the internet and the plane appears in a photo on the hotel’s web site as well. It must be used to give rides often there. My next goal was Tupper Lake and I was growing a little anxious for Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain. The wait was worth it!
Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake
Rt. 30 to Tupper Lake and Rt. 3 to Saranac Lake are great rides with ascents and descents and all the good scenery this place has to offer. Route 3 runs into 86 which heads to Lake Placid. Upon arriving, I quickly broke my no shopping rule to get more batteries for my flashlight and took a pic of Whiteface Mountain from the parking lot.
Lake Placid had all the leftovers from the 1980 Olympics including a road to ride up and see the old ski jump but I passed on that. In the center of town things were busier than I expected for this time of year. Inns, shops, the old ice skating track, and more, were all here and lots of people came to see it. Next stop, the summit of Whiteface Mountain!
I asked someone in town about getting to the summit of Whiteface Mountain and it was simply to follow Rt. 86 until I saw the signs on the left. The entrance is to Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway (431). Once on 431, the first entrance turned out to be for the ski slopes, I quickly figured that out since the sign simply said “entrance to summit not here!”. I turned around and went just a couple of more miles to find the entrance. Along the way I see a sign on the left about 400ft waterfalls. Sounds like something to check out until I saw a building out front charging admission to see it. I can understand those places that send you with a tour guide inside a cavern, but charge me to look at falls? Forget it.
Soon, I’m at the road to the summit and start to head on up to the gate. On the way you’ll pass the”North Pole” and Santa’s workshop. My parents took my sisters there shortly before I was born to see Santa and the refrigerated pole they had inside. It’s the North Pole to the 4 year old mind or how ever far the parents want to take the story. Having not ever been there I figured I’d take some pictures. I can remember the old family photos and it seems the place hasn’t changed.
Another mile or so brings you to the gate to enter the summit. It was $9 to get inside on a bike which stunned me. How much is a mini-van with kids? From the gate it’s a cool ride to the top with switchback roads offering views around each corner. Each view had a small sign to let you know how many feet up you were. This is the third highest point of the park at 4867 feet. Upon arriving at the top parking lot, I was greeted by a parking attendant who checked for my ticket and gave instructions on where things were. First, there’s a 476 foot tunnel cut into the peak of the mountain to the center where you then take a 276 foot elevator ride to the top! Ok now, that’s taking some of the sting out of the $9.
Tunnel to the center of the mountain’s peak.
Inside, the floor was wet from water dripping through the rock above.
The top is awesome with a beautiful round stone observatory and you’re free to walk anywhere you want around the summit as well. I hit the jackpot with the view as it had 80 miles of visibility which I was told is rare. Normally, one can expect 40 miles. It was only 43 degrees at the top but I was dressed for it with a t-shirt and two sweatshirts under my mesh jacket. I was also amazed how one is free to jump off if they choose to do so. These days you would expect this place to either be fenced in or closed. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to fall off. There were also hiking trails to the top and seeing people emerging from the trail made me feel pretty soft since I rode to the top. If you’re near this mountain on a clear day, don’t leave without seeing the top. After I took in as much as I could, it was time for the elevator ride down.
Once I made it back down to the gate, I went just a little further back down but made a left onto Gillespie Dr. as I wanted some time on smaller roads.
I took Gillespie Dr. to Franklin Falls Rd. into Franklin Falls and then headed north on Rock St. into Alder Brook. These choices of roads had little to do with my ultimate destination for the day, it was just a chance to get on some roads that required some zooming in from Google maps. It was no disappointment either as these roads were fairly remote leaving me alone to ride at my own pace as the roads carved through deep woods. Occasionally I’d see a mailbox with a driveway leading deep into the woods and I wondered if anyone could get any further away than that without being completely cut off from the rest of the world.
Once in Alder Brook, I made a right onto Alderbrook Rd. and into Union City. Union City had a little dam you’d pass by on a small bridge and something I have no idea what it was. If anyone knows what it is, please let me know. This unknown structure was just the beginning of what was to become the Twilight Zone for me.
From Union City I went left onto Casey Rd. and then left onto Silver Lake Rd on into Clayburg. From Clayburg I went left onto Rt. 3 and branched off onto Standish Rd. and followed that up to Lyon Mountain. I’m not sure if it was on Standish Rd. or 374 into Dannemore, but somewhere along the way there was a town in the middle of nowhere with run down houses and a “Community Center” which looked like it was about ready to fall down by sunset. But, it was in use! A boy had a skate board setup in the middle of the street which showed me not many come through this way. Now I consider myself a nut at times but even I didn’t want to stop to take pictures. Something told me to keep moving or else become part of some sacrificial ritual of which I would not merely be a spectator. The place was as creepy as they come and it was as if I was being watched by those just waiting for me to either be foolish enough to stop or fall over to be caught. So, onward I pushed only then to come into the town of Dannemore not knowing it’s the home of the largest state correctional facility in New York!
I’m slowing as I entered town as I always do and I notice the southern side of the street looks fairly vacant. Then I notice the north side of the street is just a wall. It was the wall of the Clinton Correctional Facility. The town IS the correctional facility basically. But Cook St. (374) looked like a town from the past with very few places left open with one being a liquor store. I would imagine a large portion of the town is employed there as I later learned the place confines 3000 inmates. They have a web site here and describe the place as “With only a few thousand residents, our village provides a safe and friendly atmosphere and we welcome all to our neighborhood.” Ok let’s see if I have this right then. You have a few thousand residents and that prison currently holds a few thousand? I’ll be right up to raise my family there! No offense to those living in Dannemore, and God bless those who work there. But living in a town with a one to one ratio to the inmates is certainly something different.
From Dannemora I stayed on Cook St. (374) out towards West Plattsburg. At this point the ride is less scenic but at the top of hills I could see the mountains of Vermont across Lake Champlain. From 374 I went right to go south onto Rand Hill Rd. and then right onto 22B to head south down to Peru. As I pulled in to the camp ground I thought how the adventure was over, but I was wrong about that.
There were two warning signs about this campground I regretfully ignored. One, it’s listed as an “RV Park” and two, the woman on the phone mentioned they had Karaoke on Saturday nights. That should have been enough for me to hang up immediately but the location was too perfect and so I made a reservation. Now nothing against the RV, I have a camper at home myself. But, I’m with a tent and on a quest for quiet this weekend but this place didn’t offer too much of that.
As I pulled into the Ausable Pines RV Park, I noticed a small office on the left. As I walked into the tiny office, a woman was sitting in front of me smoking a cigarette. The woman was nice as she went over the campground map. She knew I was looking to be alone so she gave me as remote a site as she could. I stepped outside to get my bearings and find the women’s husband looking over my bike with a friend of his. His friend just arrived by car for a visit and pulled a Coors Lite out of his trunk. We talked bikes for awhile and went over the “so where are you from” part, etc. and then the guy pulls a bottle of Jack Daniels out of his trunk and starts sucking it down. He hands it to the owner to take his share as well. I figured this is a good time to throw the helmet on and find my camp spot. I hope that guy isn’t driving home later on. I asked for privacy and that’s what I got. Unfortunately only crossing the border to Canada was going to get me far enough away from that Karaoke. Nothing against Karaoke, it’s just when I camp I want it quiet enough to hear a frog fart and this isn’t going to do.
Setting up camp was easier this time around since now I had experience getting the tent set up from the night before. The mosquitoes were terrible and so I kept both sweat shirts on and broke out the whiskey. Shortly thereafter I broke a small sweat and the bug problem was gone. Now I know some of you are thinking this doesn’t really work and I’m simply drinking enough to no longer feel the bugs biting. But I have the lack of bug bites to prove this! Now if I could only find something to drink to make loud campers leave! I now have the loud family a few sites away through the trees. Camping isn’t supposed to be done loudly!
Now I have food cooking and even a camp fire roaring though the fire didn’t last as long as I would have liked. The Karaoke is going to drive me mad and so I went to the bike to get my radio and headphones. First I tried 880 AM again as I had no idea if the Yankees had a day or night game. It didn’t matter since this camp site was obviously within walking distance of a local AM station. Every station I tried was the same AAA baseball game and so it was off to FM land. I came across a DJ by the name of Mike Harvey on 96.7. This guy was playing music mostly from the 70’s and so I turned up the volume until the struggling Karaoke singers were no longer heard.
The first song that came on was “Make Me Smile” by Chicago followed by “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, and “Surfin’ Safari” by the Beach Boys. At this point the trip couldn’t get much better, the food, the fire, the music, the bugs packing their bags to get away from my stench, then the sports news came on and the Yankees had won their day game. There’s another one for grandpa!
After a trip down memory lane, it was time to get back to reality and clean up from dinner. While walking down toward the sinks the moon was once again present and nearby was big old Jupiter just hanging there waiting for me to grab my telescope. Unfortunately I didn’t pack the scope and so just stopping and staring at the night sky was going to have to do. The Karaoke croaked on and it was nearing 11 pm. I thought “this was going on at 7 pm when I pulled in, does this ever stop?”
As I was settling in for the night, I began thinking how this was all just about over. All that remained was an uneventful return trip tomorrow but “uneventful” wasn’t the right word.
Day three: Peru, NY to Effort, PA – 396 mi.
On Sunday I overslept. The second night on the ground was starting to take its toll I guess. In a way I was getting used to this sleeping pad which I think is very good, but there was still a lot of tossing and turning that went along with it depriving me of some sound sleep. After breakfast I started packing things up and after seeing the bathrooms I decided I didn’t really need a shower right now. It’s one thing if a place is rustic, out here you would expect that at a camp ground, but when it’s dirty, you just don’t want to be in there if you don’t have to. The owners were very nice to me but the Karaoke and less than clean bathrooms will make me push this place towards the bottom of the list. It’s a shame, as the secluded area I was in was nice. Overall this place is fine but it wasn’t was I was looking for. But I’ve been known to pull into woods off the side of the road to sleep just to be alone.
Where I pulled out at 10 am yesterday, I didn’t pull out until noon today. This was going to be a marathon ride from one gas station to the next so I figured it would be no big deal. However Mother Nature had other plans later on.
As I pulled out onto Rt. 9 south, the sky isn’t quite as sunny anymore and I knew the last weather report I had seen (Friday) had chances of some rain on the way back. I go 4 miles and suddenly my “what was that?” alarm went off , “gotta stop and turn around! What was that?”. I had just passed over the Ausable Chasm. I never heard of it but this was worth stopping for some photos. Fortunately right after the bridge was a parking lot that I had time to pull into. I know nothing about this place nor have I looked it up to learn more, but here are the pics I took.
Route 9 south is a nice road with good views of Lake Champlain to your left from time to time. You pass through quaint towns like Keeseville and Willsboro and enjoy both small and large homes tucked in here and there, some with great views of the lake.
In Keeseville, I went to the left to get on 22/9 while 9 became 9N off to the right. About 3 1/2 miles later I made a left onto Rt. 22 to head into Willsboro and continue the ride a bit closer to the lake than had I stayed on 9. The journey on 22 down to Willsboro really made me realize how much above sea level I had been for the past two days. I descended down towards Lake Champlain more than I thought I would until things leveled off in town.
Route 22 took me down to Essex where I had zoomed in on Google maps in order to see if I could stay close to the shore line still. I was in luck with Lakeshore Rd. out of Essex, which was an absolute pleasure to ride! Despite being so close to the shore, the road had ups and downs sometimes reminding me of a roller coaster all with interesting homes along the way. When I got to the end of that run I recall saying out loud to myself, “that was cool!” Eventually, Lakeshore ends when it meets back up with 22 just above Westport.
In Westport, I stayed straight with 22 becoming 22/9N towards Ticonderoga. On the way, I passed through places like Port Henry and Crown Point, all looking like good towns to stop in and explore. No time for that today however and so I just pushed on taking in the sites of homes, farm houses, and further views of the lake.
Looking across Lake Champlain towards Vermont.
As I got near Ticonderoga, 22/9N split and I went to the left onto 9N. It was time to head to Hague and pick up good old rt. 8 which will take me back to where I started on Saturday morning. Between Ticonderoga and Hague I began paying closer attention to the west as I knew very soon I’d be heading back into the mountains to return to Cold Brook and head south to Utica. Almost all the mountain peaks were cloud covered by now so I knew this ride was going to be changing very soon.
In Hague, at the intersection of 9N and rt.8, I pulled into a tiny parking lot to gear up for the mountains again. This time it wasn’t going to be the double sweat shirt under the mesh jacket, rather it was rain gear. Looking at the beginning of rt. 8 told me that this road was going to have me in the clouds in no time, so may as well buckle up now. As I turned up 8 I was amazed at how fast this climb really was. In no time at all I lost the sense of any lake shore riding and was suddenly back into the thick of the forest again. Not long after the forest feeling set in I hit the first wave of fog/rain.
What am I getting into!
As I journeyed towards Brant Lake, I was thinking how I was being robbed of the scenery. Each time the road climbed a bit I’d be in fog missing whatever views were hidden from me. Even as I descended down to Brant Lake, the water was blanketed with fog blocking views to the far shore line. But at the same time the fog and light rain brought positive things to the ride. There was calmness in the patches of fog and since in most areas the view of the road in front of me was fine, I was OK with all of this. I stopped in Chestertown for gas since I really didn’t know what I’d find between there and my next goal of Speculator.
Soon after Chestertown, I found myself slowly catching up to another bike. It was rare to synch up with someone on a bike on this trip. Speed and location never seemed to match up with bikes going in my direction and so I saw very little going my way. At a traffic light, I caught up and noticed he was on a Kawasaki ZRX 1100. We both nodded to each other and I let him continue with the lead as the light turned green. At this point in time I knew I was not going to make the time I once thought. The rain was light, but it was enough to slow everybody down and the miles clicked off slowly.
I think it was somewhere after Wevertown that the rain began to get harder. I could see the ZRX rider hunching down in an effort to avoid the rain and soon he pulled over and I figured he was going to reach for the rain gear. He looked to be just on a day trip but did have a small pack on the back. He seemed like everything was under control so I kept going as the rain increased in intensity. Johnsburg, Sodom, Baker Mills, Oregon, Griffin, and any others I passed through was all just a blur to me as all my attention was on the road directly in front of me. The rain gradually picked up as I made my way into Speculator and it was completely pouring as I pulled into a store’s parking lot to re-group.
One of the things on my “to get” list is a pair of water proof riding boots, it just hasn’t made it in the budget these days and so I stopped to do something about my soaked feet at this point. I don’t mind being wet, but since I was still in the mountains, I was getting cold and I knew that had its limits. The store had an open side to it where you could shop outdoors but with a roof over your head. It was a variety store which included camping gear so I browsed the shelves looking for answers to this boot problem. Finally, I just asked the women who worked there if I could buy some of her plastic shopping bags. She looked at me and said “now I’m not going to charge you for these bags, how many do you need?” I figured she wouldn’t charge me, but felt it polite to offer. I explained my situation and how I wanted to put them over a pair of dry socks for the rest of the trip. She said, “I used to do that for my kids when they played in the snow!” I was offered a dressing room to do the operation and I didn’t know whether she was just trying to be nice or she wanted to hide this soaked rider from her customers. Either way, the dressing room sounded good, so off I went with a pair of plastic bags and dry socks from one of my side bags. By the time I got back on the bike, the rain had stopped! But I knew it would come back so I felt this was time well worth spent.
Water proofing my socks!
With the rain stopped, I was making good time down rt. 8 as I passed through familiar territory from Saturday. I just had one more planned picture to take of something odd I had seen the day before on the way up. This gives new meaning to the word “Houseboat”.
Even though it looked empty, you couldn’t be too sure around here as I was surprised to see people living in some of the places I’ve seen. After the pics, it was time to get through Cold Brook and into Utica. The hours on the road were piling up and the level of scenery was diminishing. I was looking forward to hitting 191 in PA again (so I thought) and just had to endure the rest of rt. 8 into Deposit where I could pick up rt. 17 east towards Hancock. Once in Deposit, I left rt. 8 with mixed feelings. There were some great areas it delivered but it’s been enough for one weekend. I was happy to be heading east on 17 for a little while but as I looked south across the Delaware River, I began to see my future and it wasn’t looking too good.
At first, it was just a patch of dark clouds which cut the sunset short and dimmed the sky as if it was suddenly a lot later than it really was. Then I could hear the rumbles of thunder and began hoping it was small enough of a storm where I’d be east of it by the time I turned south in PA. As the miles flew by, the Delaware began to vanish in the fog with only tiny openings from time to time revealing some of the homes along the southern shore. Otherwise, I only knew of the homes by their muted lights glowing through the fog when they weren’t washed out by lightening. To the north, I had small mountains with clouds pouring down towards me like flowing lava and it’s at times like this you begin to really feel small. I looked to the right again and the river was completely concealed in fog while a small flock of large birds appeared and then disappeared. That particular view looked like something right out of a “Lord Of The Rings” movie. As the lightning and thunder grew more intense, I kept foolishly thinking rt. 191 would be my escape route and pushed on with growing anxiety. At last, the town of Hancock, NY was coming up and within minutes I would be in PA. I was closing in on 9 hours on the road and all I want is to wrap this up with a decent ride through northern PA.
I pulled off of 17 and followed the signs for 191, soon I’d be back to the bridge were I entered New York and stopped for some pics. As I came around the corner, I could see a bit of the dirt lot where I was just a day ago but where’s the bridge?!?! I slowed as I went forward and then like a ghost, some of the beams were revealing themselves in a wall of fog. All I could see were the first few beams, the rest of the bridge was hidden giving the illusion it was a bridge to nowhere. As I plowed ahead into the fog, there was an incredible rush of icy air blowing up from the river below and I remember thinking it was unusually cold for a day like today. The fog got better after I got away from the water and I could see a store that was closed for the day on my right. A perfect place to pull in and let my wife know I’m back in PA. As I’m pulling in, I notice the parking lot is chained off, I only have a little room off the road but it’s enough. I get off the bike, pull off my helmet, unzip the rain jacket and reach for my phone. As I’m dialing, huge drops begin to fall one at a time and I knew it was going to be one hundred at a time in just a few moments. Like some sea monster, this storm comes rolling over the hills in front of me ready for the attack. My wife answers and all I can say is, “I’m in PA, the sky is opening up on me, I gotta go! I’ll call again soon!” I shoved the phone in my pocket before it got wet and started to zip up my jacket. “Damn, it’s stuck!” I force it as high as I can get it and just figured that’s good enough for now, there was nowhere to hide from this, I just had this feeling of wanting to move on.
After slamming on my helmet, I pop my gloves on and fire up the bike. I start pulling out of the edge of the lot and now I have two cars behind me. I creep forward but I have no visibility, have to pull up the face shield a bit to see what’s going on. That’s better, now ahead at about 20 mph. I look back again and see some distance between the cars and me and next thing I know their headlights are gone. I’m thinking, “where could they have gone? There’s nothing back there to pull into.” Then I figured they just stopped in place to wait it out. Do I stop? Well not if I can ride, even if I go ten mph I figure the more I can move the less time I’ll have in this as I was going south east and I knew this storm was heading north. As I crept forward, those wonderful trees that created a shady tunnel on the way up on Friday now just made a dark wet cave to ride through. I began counting the seconds after each flash of lightening until I heard the clap of thunder, “one, two, three…” OK, that one was ten, there’s another, “one two three…” Good, that was eleven. Now another “one, two, three…” Twelve, ha! I’m pulling away from the storm! Here’s another one, maybe this will be fifteen. “One, two, three…” BOOM! Ah crap, this storm is everywhere! I look at my headlights and it’s as if there’s a water fall in front of my bike. It was too thick to make out any drops, it was just a flow of water as if buckets of water were being emptied from up in the trees.
I move on ahead and see some lightning cracks in the sky ahead of me while at the same time flashes from behind. There’s an occasional silhouette of a mail box from the scarce houses I could see on Friday. I thought about pulling in but they were all very long driveways and made of dirt, which was now mud. I had a good rhythm going and so I decided to forge ahead in hopes I’d ride right out of this thing soon. Drops began to sting my eyes each time I didn’t hold my half opened face shield at the right angle. One way I couldn’t see much at all, the other I could see everything until I got an eye full of water. With a little practice, I found the right place to hold my head. At this point I was fairly wet. The boots with their home made plastic lining gave out miles ago and that damn jacket with the stuck zipper allowed the rain to seep through my mesh jacket and onto my sweat shirt. It was warmer here than up in the mountains but I knew in time I’d have to do something about this.
The initial ferociousness of the storm passed as I made my way south east and it settled into a steady heavy rain. Finally, I came to the point where 191 turns completely south which meant getting away from the tree covered area by the river. Once out in more open territory, it was easier to feel your position despite the fact it was getting dark. I headed south and bobbed up and down with the road as it rolled through tiny towns and farm land. I had the town of Hamlin on my mind as that would be the first town I really knew this far north before Friday. On each hill top I could see the next town ahead thinking that was Hamlin but I was way off the mark. Eventually I see a lit Ferris wheel in the distance glowing behind trees obstructing my view. I had no idea what they were doing out here but that’s because my mind was way ahead of where I actually was. The Ferris wheel was part of the Wayne County fair, in Honesdale! “Ah, this is only Honsedale!” I thought. While passing by the fair, I could hear the voices of people even through my ear plugs and couldn’t believe there were people still there. I suppose it didn’t get as bad here. By the time I reached the center of town, it wasn’t raining any longer and people were walking the streets.
I kept moving on and back out into the wilderness again trying to make good time to Hamlin. As I rode, I knew I had reached the mileage where it was time to lube the chain, in fact, I was overdue and the rain I just went through didn’t help either. The chain was really starting to sing now and if Hamlin didn’t show up soon, I’d just have to stop somewhere to address it. Everything above Hamlin here I didn’t know, so for all I knew, each town was going to be it. Headley, Pink, (that’s a town?) Lake Ariel, and finally…Hamlin.
There’s not a whole lot going on in Hamlin as far as I know besides one of the most humane zoos I’ve ever visited (Claws & Paws) and a cool mini-golf course. So, if you’re ever up Hamlin’s way, be sure to take the kids to the zoo. But for me, this night in Hamlin is everything. From here, I now knew exactly how much further I had and there was enough things lit up to find a place to work on this chain. I called my wife to let her know I made Hamlin and then got to work on myself with these wet clothes. I fixed the jammed zipper and changed into dry shirts. I then grabbed some peanuts and raisins before getting my hands dirty with the chain.
Once the chain was done, I was all zipped up, dry, and ready for whatever nature had for me on this last leg. The last stop was going to be the old train station in Tobyhanna where I’d call home one last time.
As I headed down 191 out of Hamlin, I waited for the expected drop down towards a stream and then its sudden rise again. As I reached the stream area, the fog began to break and there it was above, a star! Not just one star, but the entire sky was clear. I looked east and there was Jupiter just like the night before, the car in front of me pulled off just leaving me to carve my way down to Tobyhanna.
The bike seemed very quiet at this point due to the fresh lube and the dual headlights of the Strom sliced through the darkness as I kept my eyes open for the eyes of deer reflecting in the trees. At least the ride ends in this way, alone, gliding through familiar territory under the stars. In what seemed a very short time, I reached Tobyhanna and pulled into the train station (now a museum) to report in that the rain was gone and I’d be home in 30 minutes. It’s been 10 hours now since I left the campground in Peru, NY and even a nut like myself had had enough of this.
As the last mile or so came up, it began to hit me that it was over. It was a tiny ride compared to what’s been done by others, but big for me since I haven’t had this much adventure since my week long bicycle tours when I was in my 20’s. I’ve been on motorcycle trips like this before, but they didn’t come with a storm like that. Where I was glad to be pulling into my neighborhood, I was already thinking where I can go the next time. Spending your days in a cubical only to go home and wait for the news to tell us what the latest thing to be afraid of is can make you a member of the living dead. There’s nothing like a little adventure to breathe life back into you. Whether it’s a solo motorcycle trip, a canoe trip with the family, etc., turn the TV off and stop watching the adventure, rather, be in the adventure.
After cleaning up, getting changed and saying my hellos to the family, I sat with my younger son watching the Yankees erase a Red Sox comeback and go on to complete a four game sweep of their rivals. I thought again about grandpa. I picked up my glass of bourbon and took a sip to a successful trip and another one for grandpa.