As I negotiate the curves directly outside Milford on Pennsylvania’s Route 6, the thought suddenly occurs to me that I am climbing something big.
I steer my motorcycle left on the 35-mph curves, then right as I snake along the smooth-as-glass blacktop road. I’m not prepared for the feast that lies before me when I top the grade. Here, close to the populated Northeast, is a land of startling beauty: deep green evergreen forests, swamps, bogs and placid ponds with all kinds of animals calling them home. This is the Pocono Plateau, and it undulates and gently rolls for miles as it travels through the Delaware State Forest. I am traversing some of our state’s wildest country, and what better way to do so than on a motorcycle?
Pennsylvania’s Heritage Route 6 has been designated one of America’s most scenic drives by National Geographic magazine. Although the speed limit is 55 on the mostly two-lane blacktop road across the state’s northern tier, the journey slows you down. This exciting highway snakes 400 miles and encompasses 11 counties, and needs a good five to six days to completely travel. Since the territory is sparsely settled, change has come slowly. That means unspoiled natural wonders, charming Victorian villages, history, museums, festivals and folks who conduct their lives as though “strangers are just friends they haven’t met yet.” From Milford, Pennsylvania, near the New Jersey border to Lake Erie in the west, PA’s Route 6 is a motorcyclist’s nirvana.
Besides taking in all the sights along Route 6, we also made this trip a celebration of eating at local diners along the way. The Real McCoy, for example, is a factory-built mobile restaurant transported to the site of operation. Folks in the Northeast take diners for granted, but on a national level diners are a novelty. PA Route 6 sports 14 along its course.
The Pocono Mountains
From Milford to Hawley, I ride past very little development, not even a sizeable hamlet. Then large farms appear butting right up to the road. Round bales of hay decorate the cut fields like natural sculpture. Long strips of newly mown hay sit cooking in the sun. The fragrance of sweet grass, honeysuckle and autumn olive fills the air and floods my olfactory senses. Through the Poconos there are such varied attractions as Steamtown National Historic Park in Scranton, which pays tribute to the golden age of steam engines in our nation’s transportation history, including a two-hour, 26-mile excursion in the summer months. Another great train ride occurs between the towns of Hawley and Honesdale, where a very realistic and exciting train robbery performed by Triple W Ranch and friends occurs on the Stourbridge Train Ride.
The Northeast and Endless Mountains
Moving toward the Endless Mountain Area, I see the spinning turbines on Moosic Mountain outside Scranton. They are a thrill to see, stretching out across the ridge. Eighteen or more, they convert wind power into energy, symbolizing freedom from foreign oil. A section of the route snakes alongside the mighty Susquehanna River for awhile, curving as the river curves, becoming a close and entertaining companion. From Towanda west to Wellsboro, the farmlands reappear, rolling in high swells across the bucolic scenery. Here we find ridge after ridge as far as the eye can see, black velvet nights with more stars than you’ve ever imagined.
One of the best places to get a grip on the beautiful land ahead is to pull over at Wyalusing Rocks Overlook in Wyoming County. A lookout signaling point by the ancient Iroquois, it offers one of the best views of the mighty Susquehanna.
Wellsboro in Tioga County is the rider-friendly town personified. Probably just as many motorcyclists cruise the beautiful elm-lined streets as other vehicles in the summer. The low rumble of chrome pipes on Main Street and the friendly pedestrians walking the streets give the feeling of a street fair or a block party.
Wellsboro is strategically located at about the halfway point on your crossstate PA Route 6 cruise. It’s a great place to base an exploration of the spectacular, 47-mile-long, 1,450-foot-deep Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, or do a circle trip on your bike to visit the many Northcentral Mountain attractions.
The Allegheny Highlands, The Wilds
The scenery west of Wellsboro, through Tioga and Potter County, is some of the most beautiful in our state. Starting off in the flat valleys of Pine Creek, the mountains shoot straight up from their bottomland beds like giant pointed ant hills. Then the road climbs through the Allegheny Mountains with long, sensual 45-mph curves. Ravens spread their inky black wings overhead and “Caw!” Whitetail deer munch in the neighboring fields, lured out of the protective forest by the lengthening shadows of the day and a hungry stomach.
Cruising through Allegheny National Forest gives you the feeling of being in the deep woods—dense conifers, expansive stretches of wilderness, towering cherry trees and white pines, nearly an arm’s length away from the road. The road takes us through Victorian villages like Smethport, with its pristine painted mansions and restored downtown, trying to lure you to stay. But we push on to Cambridge Springs in Crawford County, where the grandmother of Victorian grand hotels resides—The Riverside Inn, which welcomes riders with open arms.
The Far West, The Great Lakes
While cruising across this section of Route 6, check out the Linesville Spillway of the Pymatuning Reservoir, where the carp are so plentiful it’s said that “the ducks walk on the backs of the fish” to compete for the bread that many people feed them. Thousands of huge, gaping fish mouths reach out of the water and create a scene akin to a science fiction movie.
In Edinboro, there’s the quaint Crossroads Diner to indulge in, a very rare 1913 trolley with a curved, stained-glass ceiling. This streetcar of old has found a second life serving such specialties as enormous ham steaks and freshly cut French fries to hungry motorists.
Making a side trip to Erie, a short detour off of PA’s Route 6, is certainly worthwhile with its abundance of museums, open-air summer concerts, lake cruises and the very scenic spin around Presque Isle State Park. Don’t miss Sally’s Diner at the entrance to the park, where you can indulge in foot-long hot dogs and build your own sundaes, which you order at half of a pink-and-black ’56 Ford Crown Victoria that serves as a counterbase. Sally’s parking lot is full of motorcycles on any given summer night.
This stopover in Crawford/Erie counties is completely rejuvenating, and for the motorcyclist the adventure isn’t over. You still have to get home, perhaps retracing some miles along Route 6, stopping at an attraction you may have missed the first time around. Nowhere in Pennsylvania can you experience the beauty and the freedom of the open road on a motorcycle like following Route 6.
For a detailed guide/map/brochure:
PA Route 6 Tourist Association
35 Main Street, Gaelton, Pennsylvania 16922
(877) 276-8836 • www.paroute6.com
(This Favorite Ride article Northeast Getaway: Motorcycling Pennsylvania’s Route 6 was published in the May 2007 issue of Rider magazine.)