The Catskills

The Catskills
Angry clouds unleash a summer storm worthy of the evening news, toppling power lines and causing flash floods. I'm on an Aprilia Tuono (Italian for thunder, ironically), protected by a gas station canopy in Masonville, New York. I'm not alone though, as other riders have sought shelter here in the only dry place for miles. I set off when the storm subsides, and two bolts of lightning strike in the direction I'm heading. It's going to one of those trips…

The day started much differently  -  hazy, hot, and cloudless in Port Jervis. It's two days before the summer solstice so there's plenty of time to wander and explore the Leatherstocking and Catskills regions of New York while the sun takes a long, lazy ride across a blue sky. In winter I dream of days like this.

From Port Jervis, NY 97 follows the Delaware River upstream to the Hawk's Nest, loved by motorcyclists for its enviable views and serpentine road. Further upriver in Minisink, the Delaware Aqueduct Bridge crosses over to Lackawaxen, PA. Designed by John A. Roebling, it's the oldest existing wire suspension bridge in the country and foreshadows his masterpiece, the Brooklyn Bridge, by 20 years. I admire Roebling's handiwork, then cross back and head north toward lunch at Bubba's in White Lake on NY 55. It's a lightly traveled road with great pavement, nice sweepers, and a good lunch spot along the way.

Rollings roads are rarely straight in Central Leatherstocking.

NY 55 leads on to Liberty, where I jump onto NY 17 west and hurtle through the landscape in a series of perfect straights and large radius sweepers. It's mildly enjoyable but the high-speed efficiency is suffocating my soul and spurring a search for more engaging asphalt. The search ends on Old Route 17 (County Route 179). Echoing the twists and turns of the East Branch of the Delaware River, it's slower, a bit bumpier, but much more interesting.

Motorcycle & Gear

2008 Aprilia Tuono 1000R

Helmet: HJC AC-12 Carbon "Elbowz" replica
Jacket and Pants: Joe Rocket Alter Ego
Boots: TourMaster Solution
Gloves: Teknic Violator
Saddlebags: Bags-Connection Rearbag

Next up is Cannonsville Reservoir, the westernmost reservoir in the New York City water system. The towns of Downsville and Walton are quickly dispatched, leading to NY 10 shadowing the West Branch of the Delaware as it feeds the reservoir. Roads here flow along valley floors clean and free of traffic. Clouds begin to fill the western sky, and within ten minutes I'm waiting out the storm at the Masonville gas station, glad that I brought my rain gear.

The calm after the storm is cool and dry. The pavement is damp, but with the sun out again my field of view expands, taking in the scenic landscape of New York's Central Leatherstocking region. Named for the leggings worn by pioneers, the area is dotted with farms and small towns. NY 8 and NY 23 lead to Norwich, and NY 12 takes me to Sherburne. It's relaxed, easy riding, and a perfect way to end a long day of wandering. From Sherburne, NY 80 and then NY 13 carry me to Cazenovia and tonight's accommodations, Stone Cottage.

One of "the barns of Madison County," just north of Cazenovia.

Day 2: Cazenovia to Roxbury

Day two dawns cool and calm with soft cumulus clouds stretching to the horizon and the threat of rain a distant memory. Cazenovia, a tidy town with a well-preserved historic district and pretty tree-lined streets, encourages dawdling, and the innkeepers and other motorcyclists suggest I take a trip to the 167-foot cascade of Chittenango Falls, just a short detour north on NY 13, a sweet little twister road.

Lunchtime arrives near Cooperstown, a mere 50 miles as the crow flies  -  but my ride nearly doubles the distance on idiosyncratic NY 80. While flying fowl and more urgent travelers follow the straighter roads north of me, I am virtually alone rolling through the quiet farming communities of New Woodstock, Columbus, and New Berlin, bending and turning as the undulations dictate. In Georgetown, I stumble upon the Spirit House, a very odd residence built in the 1800s to resemble a wedding cake.