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The Long Way Home in Western New York

Elise GrakowskyOctober 06, 2015
Canandaigua is Seneca for “The Chosen Spot” and this view shows why.

Canandaigua is Seneca for “The Chosen Spot” and this view shows why.

As motorcyclists, we need the freedom riding gives us from phone calls and everyday family and work pressures. If you are like me, it’s rare to find time for an extended tour or even a weekend away.

Over the years, I have tried to perfect a route near my home that features lots of turns, little traffic and stunning views. Yet the route has to be something I can ride after work, on a Sunday morning, or even better, during a long lunch. Clocking in at 100 miles and 2 hours, I get a needed break without missing anything at home or work.

Doonise, the final “Meryl Sister” curve along Italy Valley Road in Italy, New York, is a deceiving and thrilling ride with elevation changes and multiple apexes.

Doonise, the final “Meryl Sister” curve along Italy Valley Road in Italy, New York, is a deceiving and thrilling ride with elevation changes and multiple apexes.

My ride starts and ends at Mendon Ponds Park, a 2,500-acre county park south of Rochester, New York, known for its glacial features like eskers, drumlins, kettles and erratics. Better visited on foot, there is a large deer population that makes motorcycle travel treacherous at dusk.

Locks, Stock & Barrel is great for après-ski or après-ride.

Locks, Stock & Barrel is great for après-ski or après-ride.

Traveling south on State Route 65 for 11 miles, I head through Honeoye Falls into West Bloomfield on smooth roads with gentle curves and a 55-mph speed limit. Route 65 ends at Historic U.S. Route 20, a two-lane road that crosses the entire country from Massachusetts to Oregon. As I continue south on County Road 37 toward Honeoye, the view ahead of the Bristol Range adds to my excitement, knowing I can see the terrain I will soon be riding. I turn east on State Route 20A for just two miles to where the real fun begins. If you have time for breakfast, lunch or just ice cream, the Mill Creek Café in Honeoye is a friendly place to stop for fresh coffee, microbrews and delicious food.

A right onto East Lake Road followed by a quick left onto County Road 33 South puts you into the heart of the action. For the next 16 miles, my Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 is in its element, with sweeping curves, elevation changes and varying road conditions. There are rarely any cars and I keep the pace a little higher than the road patrol might like. Running past farms, streams and within sight of two ski areas, Egypt Valley follows Mill Creek and features a natural gas spring that first attracted settlers after the Revolutionary War. The final approach to Naples has a sharp curve and a steep drop through a dense neighborhood, so prudence is called for. Turning south onto State Route 21 puts me into the center of town.

This chimney is all that remains of a 19th century home in Egypt Valley along County Road 33.

This chimney is all that remains of a 19th century home in Egypt Valley along County Road 33.

Naples is worthy of its own day trip another time. Known for its Grape Festival in late September, Main Street has a number of unique and interesting grape-themed shops and restaurants open all year. On summer and fall weekends, the parking lot of the Middletown Tavern is full of other riders enjoying a pint or pub food. Past the Tavern, I bear left onto State Route 53 for one mile until turning left onto Italy Valley Road. The next 15 miles are the highlight of the ride. With 45-55 mph speed limits, tight curves and little population, I keep a brisk pace. My favorite section is a series of four curves I’ve named the Meryl Sisters. The Saturday Night Live “Lawrence Welk” skit features the Meryl Sisters from the Finger Lakes. If you recall, the last one is particularly nasty, just like these curves. All are marked at 20 mph, are blind and have elevation changes. Until you’ve ridden them a few times, obeying the posted limit is advised.

Wishing this road would last another 15 miles, too soon it ends at State Route 364, where I turn left toward Potter. Not just the end of a great road, this turn marks my turn back toward home. After five miles up and over Upper Hill, I merge left onto State Route 245 in the hamlet of Middlesex and ride past the Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area and Naples Creek. The road takes me back to the north end of Naples, where I turn north on State Route 21 for just a half mile before a quick left onto County Road 12. I cross my fingers there is no traffic, as the next two miles is a steep climb that rises over 1,000 feet in elevation. Getting stuck behind a truck here would seriously ruin the mood. The hard work the bike puts in getting to the top is rewarded with the best view in the entire Finger Lakes region. On the right you will find a parking area that gives you a spectacular view of Canandaigua Lake. Taking my only break to drink some water and soak in the scenery, it’s easy to understand why Canandaigua Lake is second only to Lake Tahoe in home prices. The lake is named for the Seneca word for “The Chosen Spot.” Aptly named indeed.

Fellow riders enjoying a cruise down Main Street, in Naples, New York.

Fellow riders enjoying a cruise down Main Street, in Naples, New York.

Back on the bike for the final leg home, I continue north on County Road 12 until it ends and turn left on State Route 64 in South Bristol. Riding north through Bristol Valley brings a little more traffic, gentle sweepers and a view of Bristol Mountain ski resort. Offering fall sky rides for non-skiers, both my daughters have enjoyed the chair lift up and down the mountain before the snow flies. A quick look at my watch makes me realize I’ve got to get back for my next meeting, and there is no time to stop for wings and a beverage at the Locks, Stock & Barrel tavern, which caters to riders for three seasons and skiers in the fourth.

The final 25 miles home on Route 64 is not nearly as twisty as the previous hour’s ride, but cornfields, dropping elevation and views northward are a nice way to finish. Coming back into Pittsford, I turn left at Canfield Road to get me back to the starting point and the reality of the day. My cooling engine is still ticking as my phone rings and work begins anew, but the promise of another ride on another day is always on my mind.

Online Info:

Mill Creek Café in Honeoye, NY
millcreekcafe.com

Information about restaurants, attractions and activities in the Naples Valley area
naplesvalleyny.com

Bristol Mountain ski resort
bristolmountain.com

Mendon Ponds Park in Pittsford, NY
www2.monroecounty.gov/parks-mendonponds.php

Hi Tor Wildlife Management Area in Middlesex, NY
dec.ny.gov/outdoor/24439.html

Scratching out a living among the hills and valleys is not for everyone, as this abandoned turn-of-the-century home in Egypt Valley attests.

Scratching out a living among the hills and valleys is not for everyone, as this abandoned turn-of-the-century home in Egypt Valley attests.

Map by bill tipton/compartmaps.com

Map by bill tipton/compartmaps.com

One comment

  1. Mine is actually on the road that goes through the part of the Angeles National Forest that is currently ON FIRE. I hope that the road hasn’t been destroyed, too.

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