Bondo, Mouzouris, Tate and ‘Arris all get together for an early CMG Fall Tour in search of a perfect loop through upstate New York and Pennsylvania.
By Editor ‘Arris
It’s been a few years since we did a CMG Fall Tour. Things change constantly and I found myself with little time to put into a tour and group test to wrap up the riding season and keep the fires stoked through the long winter.
However, with Costa Mouzouris, Steve Bond and Larry Tate all part of CMG and all available for a few days’ riding, it seemed like a good time to resurrect the idea, even if a tour in early September was just a tad early to be considered the fall.
The idea was twofold in nature; run a route that I’ve been pondering for a while that would connect eastern Ontario and western Quebec to the Niagara area of Ontario without a single shitty road in the process (via the US), and do a test of all the new 1200cc sport touring machines.
The latter translated to a Ducati Multistrada, a Honda VFR1200 (automatic) and BMW’s revamped R1200RT. A mixed bag to be sure, but it not only enabled us to test three new bikes in one shot, but to be able to compare three very different ideas of sport touring to boot.
And so it was that after a day’s delay — thanks to Hurricane Earl’s predicted path to hit my home in Sackville right on the nose (it didn’t, but you never know till it’s done) — and a two day ride, I met up with Costa (who had ridden down from Montreal the same day) in the town of Glenn Falls in upstate New York.
After a late lunch we meandered through Labour Day traffic hell south to the glorious Catskills to meet up with Bondo and Tate who were working their own way south from the border crossing at Kingston, Ontario …
BTW, all maps have a link to the original Google Maps. If you do this route and have any recommendations (roads, hotels, food, etc) please let us know as we’ll be putting this route into a new touring section shortly.
Small Mountains, Big Riding
By Larry Tate
While some CMG readers and Soapbox posers — er, sorry, posters — might think that the big hills on the Left Coast are the only mountains worth checking out, those ancient worn-down crags that track from Quebec’s Gaspésie all the way down past Kentucky offer an awful lot of superb riding.
I’m referring to that chain known variously as the Catskills, Alleghenys, Poconos, and the Blue Ridge Mountains … all connected in that southwest to northeast corridor that is called the Appalachians.
And pretty damn much anywhere within them are a mass of superb roads winding through equally superb scenery, with restaurants, pubs, and hostelries in great abundance to cater for any type of rider.
The Catskill-Allegheny area is a reasonable riding distance for a big chunk of Canada’s population (say London to Quebec City), so as summer wound down we decided to head down there for the CMG 2010 Fall Tour to work hard at finding fun places for you to go.
‘Is Editorship came up with the tour of two days of group riding, meeting up in the New York Catskills the evening prior and then splitting up on our merry ways home on the day after. As it worked out, the first two days require a lot of hours and some hard riding, so feel free to adjust as you feel necessary.
Day One – Kingston area to Oliverea, NY (498 kms)
Bondo left his Oshawa home on “his” Multistrada and pointed its beak at “my” VFR1200’s butt in Napanee to follow me to the Wolfe Island ferry in Kingston (free), then to Cape Vincent, N.Y., on the amusingly tiny Horne’s Ferry ($7).
It’s Labour Day, and I don’t want to get caught up in what is certain to be a horror show at the Ivy Lea road crossing farther east.
The ferries do take a bit longer, but it’s a LOT less stressful way to start a vacation (I mean, a tough work week), considering that the Cape Vincent Customs involves chatting for a minute with a couple of friendly guys in a garden shed at the end of the pier.
From Cape Vincent we head southeast on pretty roads to south of Watertown, hit the I-81 for a couple of exits to Rte 177, then head east to join the map route at Lowville.
The 177 is pleasant enough, the countryside getting progressively wilder as you head east, and going southeast on 12 you get your first glimpse of the Adirondack Mountains to the east. Depending on your schedule, there are a couple of excellent ways to catch some mountain roads.
As the map shows, we take Rte 8 over to 10 and south; if you have more time, riding Rte 28 and then down 30 (or back over to 10) is fantastic. The 28 is probably my favourite road in the entire Adirondacks, but I’ve got to say that the top third or so of Rte 10 in the park is right up there.
Mostly decent pavement, no traffic, twists and turns, ups and downs, and a gas stop available at Canada Lake (important if you’re riding a VFR1200 with its smallish tank).
If you do the 12/8/10 thing, a GPS is a good idea, as getting over to 8 can be a bit of a pill; the cross-roads aren’t always marked as you head south, and 12 is a limited access road at that point.
As you head out of the park the countryside gets more settled and civilized again — still pretty and fun riding, but broken up by lots of little towns.
I’d like to go back and explore a place called Sharon Springs; it was a big holiday destination at one time for mineral water baths, with some amazing huge old hotels and pavilions, now mostly ramshackle. But the spectacular American Hotel has been restored and reopened, and the place has acquired new life in recent years.
Once at Stamford it gets wilder and emptier again as you continue south into the Catskills to our stop at the Alpine Inn – great spot, highly recommended. We ate just down the road at the Forsthaus Restaurant, part of the Slide Mountain Forest House; ditto for that.
Day 2 – Oliverea, NY to Slate Run, Pa. (362 kms)
This was planned as a long day (lots of twisty roads rather than kilometres), taking us almost due west to the village of Slate Run, so we set the alarms and get an early start (for a CMG tour anyway).
Continuing south on Frost Valley Road (County Rd 47) is one of the highlights of the trip. Empty, twisting, hilly, mostly excellent pavement, gorgeous forest scenery and scenic stops with a near cloudless September morning – doesn’t get any better.
Turning southwest when 47 dead-ends at 19, you go through the hamlet of Neversink with the Neversink Reservoir nearby, which supplies a major amount of the water for New York City, almost 200 km to the southeast.
Amusingly, when the reservoir was built in the early 1950s, the original Neversink was, er, sunk … Then moved. Or at least the residents were.
The route moves into lower country as we head west, but it’s still hilly with lots of blind corners and almost continuous turns. It’s hard work, but the bikes are all loving it in different ways.
Crossing into Pennsylvania at Damascus, we pick up the 371 which despite climbing across a series of hills is almost as straight as an arrow. It’s still entertaining though, as there are enough squiggles to break it all up.
The hills start to get larger again as we approach the Allegheny Plateau, an odd area of flat-top hills with deep valleys carved between. From a high lookout, it very much looks as though God’s Own Cake Knife had taken the tops off all the mountains; very odd. However, the valleys are full of roads madly winding around the flat-top mountains, so it’s all good.
We stop for lunch in a shabbily friendly town called Nicholson, known mostly for the breath-taking Tunkhannock Viaduct (also called the Nicholson Bridge), built in 1912-15.
Nearly 0.75 km long and 73 m above the valley, this arched mass of 129,000 cubic metres of poured concrete and 1,120 tonnes of reinforcing steel was built to replace a winding and hilly section of railroad. Local legends have it that someone is buried in the concrete; alternatively, that there’s a gold hoard in there somewhere.
Nicholson also had a brief moment of fame in 1986 when a Bengal tiger got loose from a zoo and was never found. We don’t see it either, but lunch at the Nicholson Diner is very good indeed, the special being great homemade meatloaf the size of a loaf of bread.
Continuing west the countryside varies radically, from hilly farmland to densely forested wilderness, but the valleys get steeper and more closed in.
It’s here that Editor ‘Arris takes us down our first goat path, just before Liberty. Since I’m not riding a goat, I don’t see the point, and since we have decided that most of the CMG readership would think likewise, the map has been altered to take in more of the rather civilized 414.
Rte 414 is one of the gems of the trip and from Liberty to Morris it’s in excellent shape, great fun with its blind twists and turns.
From Morris to our destination at the Hotel Manor in Slate Run it traces the shore of Pine Creek, becoming narrower, much rougher and tighter, and heavily treed; it’s like riding through a green cavern.
Honestly, I find parts of this a bit claustrophobic, although the others just look at me oddly when I complain.
Our destination of the Hotel Manor is a superb wilderness stop-over. Owner and chef Mark has done a great job with presentation and the menu; hikers, fishermen, bicyclists, and motorcyclists make up a lot of his clientele.
It’s more like a big B&B than a hotel, really, and comes with a great deck by the river from where you can down a few beers, eat some great food and relax after a great day’s ride. HIGHLY recommended.
Day 3 – Slate Run, Pa to St. Mary’s, Pa (205 kms)
CMG fan Brad (no, really!) lives in State College, Pa., not far from Slate Run, and has ridden up to have breakfast with us and guide us to a local lookout, Hyner View State Park.
Hyner Road, or State Route 1014, connects roads 44 and 120, and is great fun to ride, as is the challenging cut-off to the viewpoint area.
The tiny park is in the middle of a wilderness area, atop a mountain, with an absolutely breathtaking view over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.
The lookout is nearly 400 m above the river, and as The Who sing, you can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles …
It’s an excellent spot to stop and contemplate the wonders of being out on the road in wonderful weather on somebody else’s new bikes. It’s also a popular hang-gliding spot, although I’d be a corpse before you’d get me over that freaking cliff edge.
Continuing west, just past Renovo we cut a spectacular loop north on 144, then back down through Kettle Creek State Park. You know that God loves you when you find pavement and roads like this left dead-empty for you and a fast motorcycle.
Lunch is at the Willows Inn, a slightly dumpy-looking restaurant that came highly recommended by Brad. It’s also conveniently located on the 120 right where the Wykoff Run Road cuts off (we skipped it because of time, but ‘Arris says it’s excellent), near Sinnamahoning (would I make this stuff up?).
Then a quick run with a photo stop across the highly-entertaining 555 (plus a detour to an “elk viewing area” for Hunter Bondo that displayed no elk, but another good view) and suddenly we’re in St. Mary’s at Gunners (Sadly, Towne House Inn has closed – ‘Arris), a downtown bar/restaurant with a few rooms tacked on the back. Not fancy, but perfectly adequate.
Sadly Bondo has to head back to the GTA that night and misses out on the Straub’s lager, brewed just down the street since 1872, and perhaps the best American craft beer I’ve tasted.
The food and atmosphere are good, and the rooms clean too. What more do you want or even need?
Day 4 – Home
‘Is ‘Editorship ‘eads north on 219 toward Buffalo and Fort Erie to get back to the GTA, while Costa and I go east, reversing parts of the previous day’s run.
Bypassing Slate Run we find a delightful little road (Rte 284) between Waterville and Buttonwood, then from Canton continue on the part of the 414 we missed the previous day due to ‘Arris’s goat-path; a fabulous run, bumpy, but otherwise a superb riding road.
From there we stick to the 414 (veering off the previous route) towards Towanda and catch the 706, which looks straightish on a map, but isn’t; I’d put it in the top five runs we had the whole trip.
By the time we get to the I-81 the threatening weather has taken a dump with temps in the mid-teens and rain, so we split – Costa to Montreal via the Adirondack park and me straight up to the border at Ivy Lea.
I’m home shortly after five, making a nice eight-hour work day, while Costa doesn’t got home until about 8:30, proving it’s possible to start or end the tour at St. Mary’s without a day of painful highway.
For once a CMG tour has ended without one of those awful CMG moments (where’s Mr Seck when you need him?). Nice change, although of course said moments always provide entertaining reading later on …
Thanks for the Accommodation:
The Alpine Inn
Large Alpine style manors with main chalet for food and drinks. You gave to book ahead for dinner (or go across the road) but breakfast is sure to fill. Great for single rider or large groups.
Alpine Road, Oliverea, NY. 845-254-5026
Located in a gorgeous deep valley by a river with large deck to drink beer, eat food and ponder the day’s ride. Rooms are small with a single queen bed, but perfectly good. The perfect stop.
392 Slate Road, Slate Run, PA. 570-753-8414
Downtown bar with good pub food and option of motel rooms at back and over top. We took the rooms out back to be close to the bikes and away from any bar chatter. Eat, drink, sleep – it’s got all you need!
33 South St Marys Street, St Marys, PA. 814-834-2161