There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as a motorcycle trip through a countryside bursting with the colorful hues of autumn. New York’s glory roads – the serpentine byways of the Catskill and Adirondack mountains – supply picturesque views of lakes, farmland, waterfalls, and small towns.
Naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” More often than not, I hear a different drummer and prefer solo excursions at a contemplative pace over fast-paced group ones. Nevertheless, I have a fantastic crew to ride with when companionship is desired.
After leading my friends on a tour of Pennsylvania, two of them – Darwin and Mae – offered to lead a tour of upstate New York. We started our journey just north of the New Jersey state line, taking New York State Route 84 through Sterling Forest State Park to Route 17A. To make time, we thundered up the New York Thruway (Interstate 87) for 80 miles through the scenic Hudson River Valley.
Near Saugerties, we continued north on Route 32, where the Catskill Mountains rise from lush farmland into the heavens like a fortress protecting the hinterlands. Catskill Park consists of 700,000 acres of preserved land, and the greater Catskills region encompasses hundreds of thousands of additional acres. Similar to the Adirondacks, Catskill Park is not a contiguous wilderness, which makes it a great place for riders to meander.
Our eclectic group of motorcycles handled the snaking Route 23A with aplomb. Climbing into the mountains, we rumbled past the trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls, a two-tiered cascade that drops more than 260 feet. Route 23A wanders west through the northern Catskills, passing through small towns tucked among the mountains. Hunter Mountain Ski Resort offers rides on its Kaatskill Flyer ski lift, providing panoramic views of the Catskill, Berkshire, and Green mountains.
At the junction with Route 23, we turned east and stopped for lunch at Chicken Run Family Restaurant and Steak House in Windham. With a rustic ambience and good food, it is a perfect stop for riders. We continued north on the snaking and rolling Routes 21, 20, and 145, weaving through farmland and the lush landscape that lies between the Catskills and the Adirondacks. Connecting with Route 7, we passed just south of the impressive Howe Caverns and the Iroquois Indian Museum, which celebrates the art and history of the Iroquois Confederacy, a union of six Indian Nations that controlled large areas of New York prior to the Revolutionary War.
Wheeling north on smooth Route 30A, we approached the lower boundary of Adirondack Park and Great Sacandaga Lake. Testing our riding skills on twisties on both sides of the 26-mile-long lake was a true adrenaline rush, and crossing it on the Batchellerville Bridge supplied great views.
Connecting with Route 9N, we cruised to our two-night base camp in Lake George Village, home to the Americade motorcycle rally, which is scheduled for September 21-25 this year. Our motel, Americas Best Value Inn and Suites, has comfortable rooms, a heated indoor pool, an outdoor fire pit, and is within walking distance of several restaurants.
Lake George is a tourist village packed with activities. It is also the gateway to Adirondack Park, the largest park in the lower 48 states, covering six million acres and home to less than 135,000 people. Large tracts of wilderness surround small towns and villages, and hundreds of miles of well-maintained two-lane roads ramble through the park, making it a motorcyclist’s dream come true.
Saturday’s forecast was cloudy with showers, and Darwin had a long ride planned. Unfortunately, a bone spur caused me a lot of pain on our first day’s ride, so I embarked on a less ambitious solo ride. Mounting my Kawasaki Voyager, I traveled north on Route 9N (Lake Shore Drive) along the western edge of Lake George, one of the most impressive lakes in the Northeast. Its crystal-clear water and surrounding majestic mountains have given solace and joy to visitors for generations, as it did for me on this day.
My Voyager handled the rolling turns over Tongue Mountain with ease as I sailed through the Lake George Wild Forest. Passing Rogers Rock Campgrounds brought warm childhood memories of camping there with my parents and sister, and of continuing the family tradition with my two daughters, Lisa and Shannon.
North of Lake George is Mount Defiance in Ticonderoga. A narrow, bumpy road leads to the summit for an impressive vista of Lake Champlain, farmland, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and historic Fort Ticonderoga. Its stone walls and cannons pointing into the countryside make for an awe-inspiring sight. Built from 1755-1758, it was under British control at the beginning of the Revolutionary War until being captured by Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys in 1775. In 1777, the fortress was surrendered to the British after they hauled cannons to the summit of Mount Defiance and threatened to rain artillery fire down upon the Americans.
Near the fort is a ferry that crosses Lake Champlain to Vermont. Arriving just as it departed and seeing threatening clouds on the other side, I rode back to Ticonderoga and west on Route 74. It starts off like a highway but transitions to a country road as it climbs into the mountains and passes several lakes. With the sun peering through the clouds, the cool fall air caressing me and cleansing my lungs, and the pulsating rhythm of my machine singing in my ears, I felt the invigorating freedom of solo riding. That euphoria continued as I rode to Schroon Lake, Loon Lake, and Route 28 back to Lake George Village for a ride up Prospect Mountain.
The next morning, we retraced the first day’s ride until we connected with Route 30 near Amsterdam and weaved through the rolling farmland to the western Catskills. From Roscoe, we jumped on Route 17 for our return trip home. Cruising along, I reminisced about what a great trip it had been. We enjoyed camaraderie, fantastic roads and scenery, good grub, and tasty libations. Who could ask for more?