Saturday, June 30, 2012

S-ADV 6/24/12, day 3

An early start towards cell phone service and in search of a "real" cup of coffee, I parked across the the street from this landmark:

At McBreakfast (I have to do better at morning camp food) I plot my course home.  The GM route I'd planned was the longest of the thee days, and the western portions of it the least interesting to me.  I resolve to just see what the day brings.
The Pine Creek valley - rt 414 to 44 - is filled with beautiful scenery, no traffic, and fun roads.  Every now and then a dirt road shoots off 414, taunting me.  I think I want to come back and base camp in the area, doing several day loops.  There are just too many spots that beckon you to stop and look around - which you can't, if you need to make time.

A random sample, somewhere along rt 414:

One excuse of this route is "checking out" the rail trail that follows Pine Creek from Wellsboro-ish to Jersey Shore-ish.  Melissa and I would someday like to bicycle - camp this 60-ish miles.   It looks to be an amazing ride, but a ways from "civilization" on a bike.  The trail can be seen hugging the stream looking almost straight down from the road:

Approaching McConnel's Country Store in Waterville, PA, I spotted a parked VStrom with hard bags: all the excuse I needed to stop.  The rider turned out to be a retired gentleman named "Steve," who has logged a LOT of miles on two wheels and has done some amazing rides: Copper Canyon Mexico; flying the bike out west and riding back; 30+ day trips, etc.  I'm on a "super" 2-night weekend, and Steve's up from Delaware doing day loops for (I think) a week.  I hope to look Steve up sometime for a guided tour of West Virginia.

Slipping around in my tent and O-C internet research disorder has me wanting some wool blankets.  I like the idea of a tent carpet which I could roll into if it gets cold... and in my mind a sheet and wool blanket would pack smaller than a sleeping bag (at least MY sleeping bag).  Real wool has amazing qualities, blah, blah, blah... I stop at the home of the "Pennsylvania Tuxedo." 

... and leave empty-handed.  Their wares are way out of my price range.

My originally-plotted course was a very direct line from Woolrich to 322.  The need to save time/ miles is just a rationalization to ride more dirt/ gravel.   Bald Eagle State Forest is nothing but roads like this - seemingly miles and miles of them.  Garmin is clueless, trying to route me on non-existent roads into the trees, and once sending me down a lonely stretch of gravel road which turned out to be a long private driveway.   It would be fun to get lost for a day here, but you hit that point where you know you have to get moving if you're going to get home before dark.  At that point, being lost for another hour with a useless GPS, no landmarks, and a flashing gas icon on the dash starts losing its charm.

Emerging from the woods, I'm again up against the clock.  I have to make some time so it's rt.80 to Bloomsburg, then 42 to Ashland, then 61 to Schukill Haven where I take a break and check in with HQ.  I've been on the bike (except for the photo op above) since Woolrich.  It's 3:30PM Sunday and I know SADV weekend is winding up.  Rather than fight it, I slab 61 to 78 and home by 4:30.

A dirty, water-spotted, Strom belching gear in the HQ driveway.  The bike and all my gear worked flawlessly, the weather held, I stayed on, and I rode some great rodes - it's hard to imagine a better trip.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

S-ADV, 6/23/12, Day 2

I was anxious for cell phone coverage (and breakfast);  GPS found both in Liberty, NY.  Getting there via Parksville, NY involves this brand new interchange which has been carved from the bedrock.  It seems like a whole lot of rock to move just to make getting on and off 17 a little easier.  Google hasn't even street-viewed this spot yet - this is a brand new section of highway.

Backtracking to the Willowemoc Creek campsite on Pole Rd and beyond, I passed this spot.  Luckily it was early in the day and I reasoned that stopping at this sort of thing is a big part of the reason I'm riding.

GPS tracks claim N41 55.607, W74 37.524.  A big field with nothing but a standing hearth and chimney.  How do you not stop to check that out?  A sign leaning against the back of chimney simply proclaims, "Tommy's Land."  If I were a stealth camper, this is would be a great spot.  Can't help but wonder at the personal history of this site.
From the road:

Side opposite the road.

Looking back from the chimney to the bike at the edge of the road.

On Pole Rd to Frost Valley Rd/47 (a fantastic road following a stream), another GPS screw-up/ detour/ backtrack, and I eventually come out to 28/ 30, stopping for gas, water, and coffee at Arkville.
I remember 30 being a fantastic road from last year's Catskills trip which I couldn't enjoy due to lots of rain, wet leaves and sketchy tires.  Having another crack at this road is a big reason I re-visited the Catskills.
The dirt roads and Frost Valley Rd will probably pull me back again.

At some point I texted Mark about possibly meeting in Wellsboro to camp the PA Grand Canyon that night.  Plans to drop the PA tag at the extreme northeast corner of PA were also laid:  and not even requiring a big detour, the drop is made.

With arrangements made to contact Mark at 3pm, I need to put a lot of miles behind me.  17 across NY is a slab/ slog.  I pop back down into Sayre, PA, at 2:50 and find a Burger King with cell service to contact Mark, who has already texted me he won't be meeting me.  I plot a course to Wellsboro.

  Having stopped at "Tommy's Land," taken an accidental GPS detour (again), and diverted to drop the ADV tag, daylight is dwindling.
An annoying number of miles behind slow Florida plates:  I did 6 miles of rolling farmland dotted with gas wells standing on the pegs (rt 4014 to rt 6).  A caravan of truck, RV, and a few cars takes a few miles to overtake out of Wellsboro, and finally I'm on 660.  It's the third longest day of the year, so there's plenty of light left as I'm climbing the few miles of Forest Road which peak at Colton Point, where I'll be camping for the night.

I register and set up, meet my camp neighbor Howard, who has pedaled his bicycle from OHIO to the PA Grand Canyon.  A native Californian, he's happy to get PA touring advice from a "local."  He tells me there's cell service at the lookout.

And you just don't go to this spot without taking the obligatory pics.  This is a VERY photographed spot (google "PA Grand Canyon" / images) but photos just can't communicate the scale and awe of vistas like this, IMO.  Very similar to Hyner View, and worth a few minutes' stroll from camp. 

Looking South: 


I contemplated that view for 15 minutes or so, enjoying complete solitude, listening to nature, and just digging the trip and yet another day of riding in front of me when the inevitable roar of Harleys closed in on me.  Soon I was sharing the lookout with a group of people who were very loud, crude, and thought themselves far more interesting than they were.  That's not a rant against "Harley people," it's a rant against these PARTICULAR "Harley people."

To my dismay, Colton Point had posted signs warning that the water is contaminated and should be boiled.  Earlier in Arkville, when I was checking out with my coffee, I told the register woman that I'd also taken some water, and joked whether it was free.  She was quick to ask which faucet I'd used, as only one is filtered/ potable.  On my way home on the last trip, I stopped in Lawrenceville for gas/ water only to find out they didn't have potable tap water, either.  Putting aside all the questions this trio of experiences raises, I've decided to get one of those hi-tech hiker water filter jobbies.  I'm sick of dehydrating.  My initial research has uncovered the chilling (but unverified) statement that, "there is no source of open water in the Eastern US that is safe to drink."  No matter how remote/ secluded, acid rain and farm runoff has made it everywhere.  In fairness, that claim is made by people trying to sell water filters; sadly, it's probably true.

A quick walk back to camp, and I make some supper, have a coffee, clean up, and make a fire.  I've never managed a "moto fire" before - either because of rain, or lack of wood, energy, time, and/or desire... whatever.  My first solo moto fire, and the beautiful, secluded campsite at Colton Point:

My trip odo is at 500- something miles.  The drone of the highway and drudgery of being stuck behind a slow vehicle for miles is fresh in my mind, but I remind myself that I woke up and spent a good chunk of day jerking around in the Catskills, and I was going to bed in the PA Grand Canyon.
A great sleep ensues, to be followed by another day of crossing "must rides" off my moto bucket list.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Super ADV 6/22/12 - Day 1

Packed for 3 days, 2 nights.  The extra day and night is what makes it "super."  ;)
Kickstand up at 10:30.

Indian Trail and fresh oil and chips take me over the Blue Ridge where GPS guides me to marker 1, "Koch Rd."
This is my first time "playing back" a pre-planned trip on GPS points (Garmin 205 doesn't support routes, so I've saved a bunch of "favorites" imported from work done on  Forgetting the defaults of "shortest distance" and "fastest time" for routing makes me miss the road between the reservoirs and Hell Hollow Rd, which I was really looking forward to.

View adv we 1 in a larger map

To point 5 without incident, I'm trying to explore a network of dirt roads around Camelback/ game lands found via GM.  Sure enough, there's gravel, and GPS is routing on non-existent roads and is missing others.  Nav forces me to backtrack Hypsie Gap Rd to point 5, skipping 7-11.  A light rain starts and weather is going downhill.  Rt 423 thru to Rt 191 is a nice ride.  Stop at "Spanky's Breakfast and Lunch" near pt 17 in Newfoundland, PA for lunch:

 ...and ambiance.

While there I check in on the PA ADV tag game and discover the TAG has been dropped minutes ago, and only 16 minutes from where I'm sitting.  Stoked about incorporating a tag in ADV weekend, I re-route to Mountainhome, PA, via 447 and backtrack to Newfoundland with possession of the tag:

"Dangerous storm" clouds are gathering south of me, and needing to make up time, I skip Towpath Rd (point 19/A) and take 84 for an exit or two, then let GPS take me to the Roebling Bridge, pt 20.  This was one of the first tags I dropped.


View Pennsylvania Tag-o-Rama in a larger map


The aquaduct from NY at nearly 3PM.  There is violent lightening to the south of me.  It's clear I'm either going to have to move north fast or I'm getting wet. 

From Roebling, it's 97 N - a famous mc road, but I don't really see why.  I'm getting ahead of the weather and hugging the Delaware, so I start thinking about dumping the tag at the extreme NE corner of PA - I divert.  15 min into the diversion I check how much time this is costing and abandon the idea, heading back towards 17.  It's really, really, dark and windy, but somehow I missed the rain.  The roads descending into Roscoe, NY are steaming, and it's foggy and WET.  There's a sense of it having just stormed here violently only minutes before.
In Roscoe I get gas, meet some NYers, and put on the rain gear.  A "GPS assumption" sends me the wrong way on 17; another GPS issue (routing preferences, still) has me climbing a fairly steep, muddy Cox Rd.  Fearing the downhill side in mud, and now being rained on, I backtrack to 17 and navigate religiously point-to-point.  I think this is when I finally checked the routing preferences.
Dodged a weather bullet and pulled into Willowemoc Campgrounds around 5 or 6pm.

DB NYer's across the pond seem to think "camping" = "make noise."  An ill-fated trip to Liberty, NY looking for non-existent grocery store;  a visit to the camp store for noodles and sauce; and about 275 miles from 10:30AM, I quit.

View adv we 1 in a larger map
Knowing there's another whole day, night, and day of riding feels like a dream.

Boulder Field... almost

A last-minute Sunday evening ride brings me to the boulder field in Hickory Run State Park.  Well, almost brings me there.

They're so obvious to the eye but so hard to photograph with a cell phone.

Surrounded!  But using my supernatural powers, I naturally escaped.... un-harmed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

5/19/12 Cherry Springs... with NO moon

 It just wouldn't be Spring witthout a pic of my bike next to a tent.  Mark and I in Cherry Springs, again - this time strategically moon-timed.

Camp "Packs-a-lot"

I always marvel at how much crap can be lugged on a bike.

The gas station/ camp store a few miles up the road which provided ice and noodles.  Every gas station should look like this.

The stars were amazing - I was surprised how many satellites, meteors, and just general commotion is going on over our heads unnoticed.

On Sunday morning, we rode into Coudersport, PA for breakfast at a local diner, which was strangely empty.  There was a road crew there painting lines - maybe that scared the locals off.  Friendly peeps.

Rode home via 49 thru farmland to 15.  Lake Cowanesque is neat; Tioga and 15 is georgeous.  

The gas station in Lawrence, PA doesn't have potable water due to fracking.  The sign on the men's room door even cautioned against washing your face with it due to "high salt content."  Not being able to get water is a drag when you're riding all day in heat.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

I hate texty posts.  No one reads them and they all smack of self-importance:

Northwest of the Lehigh Valley the Appalachians curve past us in a broad arc.  A satellite map will show a series of green stripes - each a mountain ridge - separated by brown quilts of farmland.

Each valley has its own main line:  Lehigh has 22; Mahoning has 895 and 443; 209 is the next north, 54 is the one after that.

I've never really gone off the main lines until today, and the impression I'm left with puzzles me:  In addition to it's own main line, each valley seems to have it's own character; it's own economy; it's own history/ legacy.

Just north of the blue ridge, 895 winds thru what appears to be "wine country" Private homes are well-spaced, large, and expensive, on huge lots.  Many farm buildings look freshly painted.  Schuykill Haven to Lehighton.  Places.
There's even a small valley that isn't reached by 895, just south west of Tamaqua.  Beautiful country roads, a sprawling dairy complex with the unlikely combination of ice cream, mini-golf, and waffle house.  I want to live here.

The next valley up is 209's:  Pottsville, Coaldale, Tamaqua.  This valley seems mined out, but not beaten up.  The little blue-collar towns along 209 smack of middle or lower-middle class.  They remind me of Catasauqua in the 1970's.

Valley 54 is next up, and it is just sad.  Ashland, Frackville, but especially: Mahanoy City.  Abandoned businesses and houses abound.  The lived-in houses look as though they ought to be abandoned.  The whole place is faded, rusted, and boarded up.  The remains of the coal industry are everywhere, and everywhere abandoned, collapsing, and blighting the landscape. The people all look sad, or angry.  They are just one valley south of Centralia, after all - by definition the saddest part of the coal region.

Now, here's the thing:
The beautiful wine valley is only about 8 miles from Mahonoy City... but you have to cross two ridges to get to it.  These valleys stretch in long SW-NE stripes of "same" while just on the other side of the ridgeline, another valley runs parallel to it.  The neighboring valley will have an entirely different "feel", history, and property values.

Each valley appears to have evolved oblivious to - and isolated from - the other side of the ridges bounding them.

Moto addendum:
The "good" roads are those that connect the parallel valley roads - forming a ladder.  248 will take you thru the gap, and 309 is just a highway over a mountain.  Every other north-south road seems to be a switch-backing old trail with a name which invariably contains either the word "gap," "ridge," "mountain," or something similar.  Would be travelers are often threatened by "travel at your own risk," and "no maintenance," signs.  Less treacherous, better-maintained roads will just limit trucks.