The curves up the mountain are so tight that you are just peripherally aware of the rock alternating with the forested ravine, first left, then right; you're going so fast, you strain not to bang into the one or go sliding down the other. Your riding companion's taillight appears, then disappears; you focus, focus, as you continue the climb. But there is something about an ascent. As you crest the rise, the land falls away beneath you. Suddenly, the expanse opens up ahead, and you can see all the way to the distant line where it meets the sky. You feel the air inside your belly pushing out at your ribs, as you try to catch your breath and take in the vastness of what nature has laid at your feet. And you wonder if your wheels are still touching the ground.
It's two days after my 50th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than spending four days riding a motorcycle, with a dear friend, in beautiful countryside. We had arrived in Glens Falls from New York's Greenwich Village yesterday afternoon, just in time for the opening ceremonies of the Adirondack Balloon Festival. Earlier, we had picked up Christa's BMW K1200S from BMW headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. My own MZ Skorpion Sport 660 single was already upstate. We made camp at the Glens Falls Inn, an 1880s restored Victorian B&B, and had the Top of the Inn apartment suite for the next few days, as we explored the beauty of the Adirondacks.
Day 1: Lakes, and More Lakes
It's Friday morning. We head out of the inn - west, south, and west again - and find ourselves on the road to Corinth. The K1200S fits Christa as though made to order. While her usual ride is the upright Speed Triple, she easily adapts to the K's sport position.
Once we pass under I-87, we start up the incline in a series of pretty bends running through West Mountain Ski Area. Even though we're on the lookout for State Route 10, I only see the 45-degree turn over my right shoulder as we whiz past it. We go back and take it up to the eastern bank of Great Sacandaga Lake, where we pick up Route 7 south. Many of the lakeside homes have private docks and boats floating right outside the back door.
It's one of those partly cloudy/partly sunny days, and the pale grey asphalt matches the color of the sky. Sally, the shopkeeper at Twins deli & gas station, tells us that she and her husband have been riding these back roads for years and that we should see the nearby town of Day. As we walk out, I say sotto voce to Christa that we should ride to Day and ask someone the time...to see if, in fact, they would give us the time of Day.
At Canada Lake, the fall colors are mirrored in the still water and it's hard to distinguish the real trees from the reflection. Afterwards, we pick up Route 10, passing the auspicious Good Luck Pond, Kennels Pond, Sand Lake, and Spy Lake, among many other bodies of water. Christa leads me on a spirited ride through woods and countryside; and piles of drifting leaves seem to follow and dance in our wake.
We had agreed a while back to be on the lookout for lunch, and as we zip past the Oxbow Inn - overlooking Oxbow Lake - I honk and point; Christa looks back and signals a u-turn. Today's special is chicken-and-sausage soup, unexpectedly one of the best soups I've ever tasted. The Oxbow Inn is motorcycle friendly, and on weekends, you find lots of different bikes and bikers visiting.
The many brown and yellow signs along these roads remind me of those old National Geographic stories where people wore penny loafers and wandered the great outdoors in fin-tailed Chevys. On Route 8, we receive fair warning: "6 miles bad road." I ride my pegs, but even so, the scenery is beautiful; we parallel a stream with a stone bed, escorted by Monarch butterflies. We pass Loon Lake and Brant Lake, and at Hague, shortly before reaching Lake George and 9-N south towards home, we investigate the Country Store. Here, you'll find a deli, groceries, pizza, ice cream, filet mignon, drugstore supplies, fishing rods, oars, hardware, and...a music repair shop, with pianos and keyboards in various stages of assembly.
Day 2: Towns and Farms
Today, we'll ride through lands that served as a backdrop to America's early history - from Native American days to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution - and villages established in the 1700s. We leave via compact downtown Glens Falls, which, with its several first-class restaurants, a new, Broadway-worthy theater, a "dinner-and-a-movie" house, shops, a sports arena, a pool hall, and the Hyde Museum and Chapman Historical Society, offers visitors the amenities of a miniature metropolis.
In and out of quaint Hudson Falls and Ft. Edward, we are quickly in the countryside, passing a graveyard crowded with flat, worn tombstones. The familiar Singer-sewing-machine sound of Christa's BMW echoes back. At Route 372, we encounter the first set of the day's bends and curves: the beauty is that the land is mostly even, and you can see your track far ahead. We coast through the artsy town of Cambridge, where shopkeepers are setting up for what will be a busy Saturday.
A downhill right brings us into Hoosick Falls, where Main Street looks like a Hollywood movie-set for a period piece, and where Grandma Moses was "discovered" when she was 80. As we ramble through quiet and spread-out residential and rural areas, a huge flock of starlings darkens the sky over a fleet of bright red tractors, and wild turkeys along the road glance at us with little interest.
We pick up an unremarkable stretch of Route 22 as a means to an end: a personal favorite, Route 26, with some eight miles of turns, up hill, down dale, through the woods, and over a creek, ending at Route 66. I'm sure that Christa has a big grin on her face - as do I.
The fun continues in the land of the "Chathams": East, North, Old, Circle, and just plain Chatham. Old Chatham is an adorable intersection, very upscale these days. Paradoxically, a friend's grandfather had long ago owned the now chic Old Country Store, at a time when people came there to get milk and fresh eggs, and there was sawdust on the floor.