Have you ever taken ride on your motorcycle down a road where each exit, gas station, and rest stop is like going through a flip book of your life? Where each page is a memory of a specific event, ride, or vacation? That’s how I feel about rt. 17 (aka “Future 86”) which runs through Western NY. I never totally realized it before, but there has been a lot happen to me and my family over the years all along that highway, and so it seemed to be a great way to spend my first road trip back in the U.S. in over a year and a half.
For those who haven’t been reading, I’ve been living (and riding) in China since December 2010. It was my first time back home in a long time and it was a treat to be riding on American pavement again with my American bike (and my British girlfriend as a passenger whom I had met while in China :)). Compared to our trip down the Chinese coast to Qingdao, this one was much more relaxing despite us doing about the same amount of miles in half the number of riding days (believe it or not, New York drivers follow the rules more than Chinese ones and it seems those stimulus dollars are going to good use as there are many fewer potholes compared to say just north of Qingdao for example). The trip was a total of a little over 1,000 miles in a total of 4.5 riding days, with most of the riding being done in the first two days.
For those who are interested and looking for some good rides in New York State (and Vermont), here’s a quick rundown of the points of interest and roads we took:
Day 1: A Ride Down Memory Lane
This was our longest day, just about 475 miles in total from New York City to Niagara Falls. NY Rt. 17 is a great way to get up north to Western NY/Canada. It’s relatively quick as you can do near expressway speeds, but there are not as many trucks and there is some nice scenic riding as you go through areas like the Catskill mountains. It was nice going through the Palisades Parkway as well on our way out of New York City especially as it crosses the Appalachian Trail at one point, a trail I thru-hiked in 2005 (like I said- memories)
Day 2: Adirondacks and Biker Meetups
A bit of a shorter day, but the fact that we were up until about 2am the previous night catching up with my old friends from Toronto while visiting Niagara didn’t make the day any easier. With a late start, we couldn’t hit as many of the scenic routes as I would have liked, but we did get to go through the Adirondack National Park which was my main goal for the day. For those in the area, I highly recommend Rt. 8 through the southern end of the park. The last bit was particularly nice as you start hitting some pretty steep curves, which are particularly nice with the fresh air of the mountains.
We also got a nice surprise as we accidentally stumbled upon a local biker meetup. As it turned out, the weekend we were riding through was the weekend of Americade, a biker rally annually held in Lake George, NY. It turns out that there was a group bikers that had grown tired of the massive crowds of the rally but still wanted to experience the atmosphere and the riding of meeting up with fellow bikers. So they started organizing a get together themselves in an area where one of couples had a house and a barn a couple hours west of Lake George on Rt. 8. When I stopped after seeing their sign “Bikers Welcome!” and saw all the bikes outside, I thought it was just a biker friendly bar/restaurant. After we asked about food and they offered us drinks though, I realized that it was simply some friendly bikers that were getting together to enjoy the Adirondacks. Unfortunately, we were one day too early because if we had stumbled in the following day, they would have had a chef and a band! The place is called the Harryville Adirondack Biker Hangout (they have weather cams set up too, mainly for snowmobiling in the winter which you can see here and here), and if you’re ever in the area, I recommend you stop in and say hi as they are very welcoming!
Day 3- Beautiful Vermont Roads… and a Flat Tire
I would also highly recommend this stretch of road (but also recommend not getting a flat tire). Rt. 22/Rt. 22A in Vermont and New York provided some nice turns and beautiful farmland scenery. The bikers from the Lake George rally were out in full force as well as everyone was out enjoying the perfect riding weather. Nothing ruins a good ride like mechanical problems though! After feeling my back tire slipping out from under me after a very little bump, I pulled into a gas station and saw my back wheel was completely flat. It turns out that a nail had lodged itself in the tire which also brought to light an unusually large number of loose spokes in the wheel. Tough luck though as this all happened on a Sunday, so Amy and I were stuck over night waiting for some shops to open up before we could be on our way again.
Day 4+5- Last Leg of the Trip
When we were finally on the road, it was only a short way to my parents’ house in Connecticut which had been our goal for the previous day. Connecticut has some nice winding roads as I found out on my first time on a motorcycle in the area. There were some good bits in particular on Rts. 7, 202, and 63 going by lakes and through little hamlets. The last day we closed out our trip with a quick 90 minute ride back to NYC and my first trip down the Saw Mill Expressway, which was MUCH better than the typical route I take down I-87 when headed back to Queens. Though the traffic, trucks, noise, and construction don’t compare to the approach into Beijing, still no fun after a long week of riding.
Though it was short, it was great to be back on the bike during my visit home. Still looking forward to getting back to my much smaller and not nearly as comfortable bike “Mafan” in China, continuing to explore the roads of NE China after this brief respite on U.S. soil!