Southwestern New York

Southwestern New York
I've been hammering the Interstate for the last nine or so hours and I'm ready to quit for the day. Despite the surprising comfort of the Aprilia Falco and the diversion of my trusty iPod, I'm beginning to wilt. Thankfully, the mileage numbers to Jamestown, New York, have also wilted to single digits. This mind-numbing super-slab has me thinking curves, hills, and scenery. Right now though, I'm ready for a cold beer, a hot shower, and a firm mattress.

Amazing what a good night's sleep will do. I thought I'd be showing signs of distress from yesterday's concrete keelhauling, but I actually feel great. I credit the potent combination of comfy ergonomics and my own giddy anticipation of another tour. I've got a map with a bunch of squiggly lines highlighted, so how could I not be excited? On top of that, this tour is starting here in Jamestown, New York, the hometown of that most irascible redhead, Lucille Ball. Growing up, I enjoyed watching "Here's Lucy" with my parents and still love catching the reruns of "I Love Lucy." Yes, I'm a Lucy fan, and the idea of riding around her hometown is just plain cool. But just as Lucy left Jamestown to pursue her dreams of stardom, I, too, must leave to pursue country roads and the splendor of early fall in New York.

Off to Pennsylvania

The first morning begins with a southward jaunt out of town on Forest Avenue that heads for a brief meeting with Pennsylvania. The crisp fall morning is the perfect welcome for a ride in the country. The sky is a bit hazy, but not enough so to put a damper on the fall colors creeping into the trees. The road meanders over rolling hills and farmland off the beaten path. I pick up Route 957 in Sugar Grove and head west toward Corry and take Route 426 north back into New York. Across the state line in Findley Lake, it's coffee-break time, and there's nothing like being lakeside with a nice hot cup of Joe on a cool fall morning.

The Falco nimbly pecks away at Western New York's sweepers.

On the road again, heading east on Route 430 toward Stockton, the day becoming very pleasant, but this pesky haze will not burn off. I'm hoping this isn't a portent. Picking up Route 380 towards Lake Erie, the road begins to wind through grape country. The vineyards lining both sides of the road form an aromatic tunnel thick with the scent of the ripened fruit. The fall sugars are running strong through the dark clusters and roadside stands offer every type of unfermented grape product imaginable.

Crossing under Interstate 90, I head north on Route 5 parallel to Lake Erie. It's too bad that the large number of private residences along the lake obscure much of the view, yet I kind of understand. As beautiful as the Great Lakes are, I don't think having my own piece of waterfront privacy would bother me terribly. No need to despair though. There are quite a few places that offer access to the water, so it's not completely off limits.

Rolling into Dunkirk, I find several waterfront restaurants amid the piers. Unfortunately, it's still a bit early for lunch so the fresh fish will have to wait. For some reason, the stubborn haze hasn't gained any traction on the water, allowing the sky and lake to form a seemingly endless azure synergy rarely seen over fresh water. The people fishing and enjoying the picturesque day inspire thoughts of dropping anchor for a few hours. But my map indicates too much action in the squiggly roads ahead of me and not enough behind.

Work boats in Dunkirk await another journey on Lake Erie.

I bid Lake Erie adieu and head inland. At first the roads are rather uninspiring but around Sinclairville that begins to change. Through Charlotte Center, south to Ellington and back north to Balcom I'm treated to an abundance of differing roads. Some are smooth and straight, and some quite curvy, but most of them, in need of resurfacing, dish out beatings normally reserved for NFL linebackers. Thankfully, the nimble Falco is quite capable of gracefully handling these situations. In fact, after a while, it becomes fun. A number of road crews were out working, so things will obviously be better before too long. Although I'm sure these attempts to smooth the ride are quickly offset each year by the next brutal lake winter.

The grapes begin to make a comeback around Smiths Mills and Versailles. As goofy as it sounds, the air smells purple. By the time I'm finished here, I ought to own complimentary stock in Welch's. The vines again diminish as I leave the lake region and make my way back into the foothills. By now, I'm beginning to see a pattern that should be noted. Each county around here has its own numeric designations for the roads. The route numbers change as you cross county lines and rarely do they agree with my map notations. If you're not familiar with this area, it may be a good idea to seek out more detailed county maps.

Route 353 south offers a few more twists and turns as the mountains begin to dominate. The views from the hilltops would be nice on any other day, but the haze just won't let go. That's too bad, with the sprawling valleys wearing early fall colors, distant homes and church steeples take on a quality reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell scene.