July 2, 2011

Easy Ridin', Northeast-Stylie

Left to Right: Hippie's bike, IIA, Hippie, IIA's bike.
This past weekend, my cousin and I decided to skip out of Connecticut on the bikes and get lost in the Pennsylvania and New York countryside.  Or, as my new-found Irish relative P. K. would say, "We're gonna fuck off to PA for a bit?!"  With a half-day of work on Friday locked, loaded, and time sheet submitted by noon, I kissed the wife, dog, and son-to-be goodbye and threw a leg over the saddle and spun over to my cousin's place where we took a look at the map to confirm his route for the day.  My cousin, to whom I shall refer only as the Irish Italian American (IIA) in deference to his internet privacy, was visibly giddy at the outset of his first motorcycle camping adventure (though by no means his first motorcycle adventure).  And I, as the Self-Proclaimed Motorcycle Adventurer (SPMA), was more than eager to show him the ropes (and my stash of cool camping gear).  Also, sometimes it's healthful to sack up and drop the whole hippie thing and expand my carbon footprint every now and again.  Gas is cheaper than Zoloft, eh?

The IIA on the shore of the Delaware River.
Well, I should back up a minute here and explain things.  I felt as if I owed the IIA an adventure of some sort as a result of his ill-fated experience with the glorious backcountry cabin ski trip which I gushed over here and here.  Those dedicated readers of this blog may have noticed that the IIA was not mentioned in that trip report, but alas, he played a brief, albeit spectacular, role in that trip.  The IIA joined his brother Johnny G and I on the first day of the trip with every intention of enjoying a weekend of snowboarding and backcountry shenanigans but, to his chagrin, he fell victim to an unfortunate case of food poisoning at the hands of a D'Angelo's grinder in West Lebanon, NH on the ride north.  Halfway up the trail to the cabin, the tainted bacon or chicken or whatever gained the upper hand in the gastrointestinal battle for digestive dominance and the rest was in the history books.  Johnny G. and I escorted him to the base lodge, booked him a hotel room for the night, and left him to dance the porcelain two-step as we reascended the mountain to keep our date with a cabin in the woods.  So, in the end, I did feel bad for abandoning him in his hour of need, but every skier knows and accepts the one hard and fast rule of the slopes - there are no friends on a powder day...

50 mpg and cooler than your Prius.
So, after stashing the last of the gear on the bikes, we roared off towards the New York line in a fury of partially-burnt hydrocarbons and hot rubber.  Well, perhaps the IIA's bike roared westward whereas my steed probably purred along with mild flatulence...while we both rock V-twin engines, his has a few more cubic inches and a hell of a lot less muffler than mine!  The whole MoCo vs. Japan thing...such distinctions are pretty worthless once you get on the road.  In my book, it doesn't matter what you ride as long as you ride.  At any rate, the IIA's bike is the type that provokes either love or hate in the ears of the pedestrian subjected to the raw explosions of the straight-piped Twin Cam 88 engine as it passes through some quiet hillcountry town.  On the one hand, the midnight purple Softail Night Train inspires moist panties and envious looks from, respectively, twenty-something females in tight blue-jeans and pussy-whipped males driving automatic transmission Toyota Corolla sedans with tan interiors.  (alright Dad, that's not too "Thoreau" for you, is it?)  On the other hand, the bike probably has the capability of drawing the ire of anyone who works third shift and sleeps in the daytime.  At any rate, I think his bike is straight up rad (yup, child of the 90's here), and, having had the opportunity to swap bikes and ride it, I can totally appreciate the whole Harley-Davidson thing.

Diners, bikes, and Jeeps.   This is America, bitches!
Alright, so back to the ride.  Throwing myself to the whims of the weekend, I totally entrusted the first day's route finding to the IIA, which, according to his father (my uncle), was akin to handing him the keys to my as-of-yet unborn first child.  I could not have been more pleasantly surprised, as his route brought us through pastoral New York farm country and a magnificent traverse of the Shawangunk mountain range outside of New Paltz, complete with conglomerate/sandstone cliffs, 180-degree hairpin turns, and mountain laurel in full bloom.  Breathtaking, I assure you, especially atop a motorcycle.  Port Jervis, NY served us our first taste of adventure as a cloudburst tested our riding mettle mere minutes after we donned our raingear in response to a light shower.  We kept on trucking despite fogging helmet visors and were rewarded with spectacular scenery along the raging Delaware River and some technical (if not gravel-strewn) riding once across the PA border.  As the day grew long in tooth and our odometers climbed towards 200 miles on the day, we pulled into a dive bar in Hawley, PA for a well-deserved burger and pint (just one, Mom, don't fret) of Juengling.  And, much to our delight, the bar also sold 12 packs of High Life to-go, so we were able to fulfill our needs for dinner and camp beer rations in one convenient stop.  Thank you, Pennsylvania!  The last half-hour of the day found us winding around the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack, PA's largest man-made lake, in search of a campground, which we discovered at the motorcycle-friendly Ironwood Point Recreation Area.  A modest expenditure of twenty-five dollars bought us a chill campsite and ample firewood for the night.

'Nuff said.  Either you're on the bus, or you're off.
We slept well, which I find is always a boon on the first night of a camping trip when the body is not really accustomed to outdoor life.  Awaking on the late side of 8 AM, we jumped into the welcoming waters of Lake Wallenpaupack before striking camp and aiming the bikes toward the nearest greasy spoon for corned beef hash and pancakes.  After the obligatory and much welcomed deuce, we struck out toward the Catskills on the most obscure and winding back roads that we could find on our maps.  We had three sets of maps - my Rand McNally set and the IIA's H-D guide and an anonymous atlas page for NY state.  The funny thing was that these maps could not agree on what roads existed in this part of the United States.  Here we were, no more than 50 miles from NYC, one of the largest cities in the world, and we were left to navigate by dead reckoning, the positioning of celestial bodies, and a wet thumb stuck into the breeze.  

Once again, take that, Utah!  Although, this looks pretty steazy, too.
Okay, so I may be prone to hyperbole, but we were in the country for sure, which I fully enjoyed.  The IIA later commented that there were no chain restaurants to be seen for almost two full days.  Windy side roads brought us to the gateway of the Catskills in Liberty, NY where we faced our only stretch of interstate riding in no less than a veritable downpour.  The remainder of Day Two was destiny unbound motorcycle heaven - 60 mph sweepers alongside a mountain reservoir with views of high peaks and tumbling mountain streams to either side of the handlebars.  In true carefree road trip style, we pulled into a secluded roadside rest area and snoozed under a maple tree as hazy afternoon sunshine gave way to a brief shower.  An hour or so later, we pulled into the ski town of Hunter, NY to stock up on grinders (sandwiches, to the uninitiated) and beer before throttling southward to the evening's destination of Devil's Tombstone Campground.  (We had to pick a badass-sounding destination for our bike trip, ya dig?) 

The Delware in raging flood stage.
After a night of wet firewood (the IIA truly impressed me with his dedication to getting the fire started), we struck towards home, but not before ripping some RIDICULOUSLY FUN twisties right out of camp.  In true Woods Hippie fashion, I navigated this circus right into Woodstock, NY (yes, that Woodstock) for breakfast amongst some real granola/hemp/crunchy/tie-dyed folks in the one organic, vegan, don't-eat-anything-that-casts-a-shadow coffee/artisinal bakery shop in a town that boasts more yoga studios than gasoline stations.  And all I was really jonesin' for was a fucking sausage-egg-and cheese sandwich!  Well, at any rate, we supported local agriculture and independently owned businesses and all that jazz, and, with bellies full of low-glycemic-index complex carbohydrates and fair trade joe, we pointed this show east, crossed the Hudson, and made our triumphant return to the Nutmeg State.  After winding through Connecticut's gentrified western hills, I deposited the IIA and his gear at his domicile and sped towards home on the last ten miles of an absolutely fabulous weekend spent on two wheels...

Have a great Independence Day weekend, everyone.  Play safe, and think deeply and honestly about what liberty means to you...



  1. By the looks of the River i am happy i did not make plans to go trout fishing in the catskills.

  2. Woods Hippie releases his inner redneck. I love it, great report. Makes me want to get a motorcycle.

  3. Savage, all the rivers were like reddish chocolate milk.

    Sick Bird, I highly recommend it. I'm trying to figure out a way to mount skis or a board to the bike for a spring trip to Tucks next year for a real dual-sport adventure!

  4. I have no desire for a motor cycle but love a well told tale. Nice!

  5. Dad agrees that tan interiors are unmanly, but what's with the IIA twinkle-toeing on the shores of the Delaware River? Is his bike seat tan?