I took a hundred-mile ride today in the company of my pal Wiggus, who rides a sweet Triumph motorcycle with a much bigger engine than Zaphod’s. I didn’t ask him, when it was all said and done, how much slower than normal he’d had to ride, because I was afraid he might tell me. Truth be told, I don’t think he had to throttle down that much. Those winding Central PA roads tend to even out the size of one’s engine.
So that’s the route up above. Believe me when I tell you that the map can’t even begin to represent the beauty of this drive.
The first part of the ride, over the mountain in the direction of Hungtindon, was one I’ve taken a couple times before. In fact, I first did it on Vroomfondel (photos). And I rode part of Route 305 just the other day. But today we took 305 much further. And it was stunning.
I don’t have a picture of most breathtaking moment, which was coming around a corner to see a wall of mountains to the right and a mile-wide swath of farm fields between the road and the mountains, all of it stretching away over the horizon. I can’t remember if this happened before or after Martinsburg, but I do remember the tingle that ran up my spine when we rounded the bend and saw this majestic vista.
We made it to Martinsburg only to discover that Mamie’s Cafe, our destination, was closed on Sunday. I peeked in through the window and it looked lovely. A counter covered in pastries and cakes and pies, with classic round tables and wooden chairs visible through an archway. Definitely worth a return trip.
Wiggus knew of a place in Huntingdon, so we headed up Clover Creek Road and over the mountain to get there. At one point we were passed, fairly dangerously, by four guys on crotch rockets. They whipped around Wiggus and me and the car ahead of us, all uphill around a blind curve. All four survived. Later we were passed by their two friends, one of whom barely missed hitting an oncoming Harley, the driver of which was not amused, if his gesture was any indication.
The joint in Huntingdon was also closed, because this is central PA, so we ended up getting drinks and snacks at Sheetz and then coming home via 26.
Going back up the mountain on 26 I started losing power, but Wiggus pointed out that it was likely a fuel delivery problem, and when I thought about it, that made sense. I was nearly out of gas, going up a steep grade with the throttle wide open.
We parted ways to our respective homes shortly thereafter. A fabulous day, and definitely not my last ride with Wiggus.
Perusing Steve Williams’ Scooter In The Sticks blog, I came across this line from Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” This is similar to the idea of “pashal,” which I’ve explored in two poems.
The quotation and the concept are apt descriptions of today’s ride. I was sitting on the couch around 5:30, listening to the Red Sox and playing Triple Town, when I suddenly realized that I wanted to be on my scooter. Five minutes later I was out the door with no idea where I was headed.
I drove north on North Atherton, heading toward Park Forest and beyond. Wound through some neighborhood streets till I ended up on Valley Vista Drive. Because I seldom know where I am or where I’m headed (I’m stilling learning my way around), I ended up crossing back over Atherton, onto the expressway. I got off at College then took a random right onto Puddintown Road. And that led to the adventure.
Eventually, after exploring a few small, newly built neighborhoods, I took a left onto Rock Road. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Later in the ride, I figured out why I knew it. I zipped around the curves and up and down the rolling hills. As I came around a turn, I passed Big Hollow Road to my left. I decided on the spot to try it, so I turned around.
It’s a paved road with trees close in on both sides. I love this kind of riding. I was minutes from home but the densely packed strip malls of my neighborhood were hard to even imagine in this setting. And then, not to far along, even the pavement was gone and I was on a narrow dirt road.
As you know if you know me, I never wanted to live in Central PA, but having a scooter has given me a greater appreciation for the countryside here. I can leave work or leave home and within 10 minutes be in a dense forest with turkey vultures lumbering through the air just above my head. I saw three of them on Big Hollow Road, both as I was going out and coming back. They were in the same spot both times — a rocky dip beside the road. I couldn’t see what they were eating.
My Aprilia Scarabeo 150 has two things that make it especially fun: a Rotax engine and big wheels. The former means it goes much, much faster than a typical 150cc engine. The latter means it handles dirt roads with relative ease.
Down the dirt road we sped, passing even smaller side roads, most of which were probably private roads leading to a single house. Eventually, even the dirt road ended. There was a nice house with a big yard at the end. Just to the left of the road was a path leading off deeper into the woods. The path was two sets of mostly overgrown tire tracks. Of course I took the path.
Eventually I came to a gate. I had absolutely no idea where I was, or where this path might lead. I now know it’s the Arboretum To Spring Creek Canyon Trail (PDF brochure). I walked up the trail just enough to realize that bug spray would be essential to any enjoyment of this path. I’m not ashamed. I’m more of an indoor kid.
Then it was back to Rock Road, which winds along Spring Creek, hugging the water tight. Water is very important to me. This is one of the few times in my life I haven’t lived near a big body of water, usually either a Great Lake or an ocean. I get a thrill each time I spot a creek or a pond. And I’m still excited by the feeling of cruising along on Zaphod beside running water.
I stopped at a wooden bridge across Spring Creek that served as the entrance to someone’s driveway. I-99/Route 220 passed overhead like two massive contrails. I thought about how people had probably used Spring Creek for transportation hundreds (thousands?) of years before anyone thought to mar the landscape with highways.
I continued down Rock Road till it met up with Fox Hill Road, which runs past the airport. It was then I realized why I knew Rock Road — I use it, briefly, when I take the back way to Bellefonte. I watched a single-prop plane land as I passed, headed for home and more baseball.
Last week I took my longest scooter ride so far: 500 miles from State College, PA, to Rochester, NY, and then on to Canandaigua, a small town in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. I took this ride to have lunch with some friends. Admittedly, this is a crazy way to have lunch.
The real question, of course, was how Zaphod, my Aprilia Scarabeo 150, would perform at highway speeds for an extended period of time. The answer? Like a total champ. Sure, I got passed a lot, but not like I was going backwards. Just like I was going a bit more slowly than everybody else. And I had way more fun than all those cars.
I left around 7 a.m. on Thursday. It was cold, just on the edge of too cold for my First Gear jacket. I have a mesh jacket with a rain liner, and I had a long-sleeved t-shirt under it. I did a little bit of shivering, but I’ve always been very susceptible to cold.
I took smaller roads as far as Williamsport: 45 to 192 to 445 (past Krislund, where my friend Stacy Tibbets was a camp counselor), then on to 880. It was a gorgeous ride, particularly in the mountains around Krislund, where water flowed down the rocks and across the road. The fog was often thick and visibility was low in spots, although the sun did its best to break through.
From Williamsport on I switched to the highway. My first stop for gas was at Cowden’s Market near Hepburnville, PA. It’s a nice little market with everything a traveler needs, including live bait. I ate a bit of my sandwich and took a few photos.
After about 4 hours on the road, I made it to 86W, where there were signs regarding two kinds of rattlesnakes. I have a family connection to the latter kind, as my great-great-etc uncle John Flanders fought in Sullivan’s army. I addressed this in my poem “I Am Not An Indian.”.
I was a little worried about being on the highways until I actually got on them, and then the worry evaporated. I’ve always been a ride-in-traffic kind of bicyclist, and that same feeling came back quickly on the scooter, even at high speeds (by which I mean 65 or 70). The engine’s temp gauge was great the whole way, and as the sun came out and the morning turned to noontime, it warmed up, too.
Finally, 6 hours after leaving my apartment, I made it to Rochester, about 40 minutes late for lunch.
However, I’d been updating Facebook the whole way (shocking!) and so my friends has just ordered when I arrived. Here they are:
These are four great human beings.
I worked with Rome in the Green Party, and he then became my campaign manager when I ran for city council in 2003. He also gave me one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever received, modeled after something his own dad had received when he ran for office (more successfully than I did).
I met Chuck at Jazz90.1, where I was station manager and he was a DJ. Chuck has one of the greatest radio voices I’ve ever heard, and he’s a quality guy from top to bottom. And he knows his soul jazz. Chuck was also the host of many a fine Tunes Night, where he and Bob DeRosa and I would get together and play music for one another.
Otto is one of my best friends, and my brother from another mother. I also met him at Jazz 90.1, where Otto hosts the Sunday Music Festa. I wrote a poem about Otto for my first book, and he’s been a regular presence in my life for more than 10 years now. Just one of the best people.
Bobby D was part of the aforementioned Tunes Nights, but I think we actually met in connection with his Tritone Jazz Fantasy Camp, where adults get to work with jazz professionals in a very relaxed environment. Bob plays bass and makes music happen.
We had a fun lunch — lots of laughing, great Golden Port dim sum, and the kind of atmosphere that only comes from not having to explain everything.
After lunch I rode down Route 96 toward my parents’ new home. I grew up in Canandaigua, but my parents moved from there to Manhattan and then Cape Cod, only recently relocating to Cheshire, a little hamlet outside of Canandaigua. I hadn’t been to their new home yet, and we’d only recently been back in touch, so I was excited to surprise them.
On the way there, I stopped at the house where I grew up, on Knapp Road in, technically, Bristol. Knapp Road is one of the dividing lines between Bristol and Canandaigua. Our side of the road was Bristol, but our mailing address was Canandaigua, and I went to school in Canandaigua. Here’s the house, although it looks quite different with its dark stain:
And then I arrived in Cheshire, where I hung out with my parents and my sister:
My mom asked if I wanted to stay the night. It’s time to come clean: I’d packed my toiletries in case she asked. Thanks, Mom! We had a long conversation on the front porch, then a lovely dinner, and then we rode into downtown Cheshire [pause for laughter] to get ice cream. Mom joined me on the scooter. She and my dad are both motorcyclists, although they got rid of their bikes not too long ago. I think they should get bikes again.
I meditated and went to bed early so I could get up and be on the road by 7 the next morning. Which I was, after eating a nice breakfast made by my mom.
I did the entire ride back on highways, because I had to get to work. I’m the boss, but I still wanted to get there close to my normal start time. Well, the first bit wasn’t on a highway — it was on Route 21, which winds down the end of Canandaigua Lake to Naples and beyond.
It was very cold again, but the day warmed up nicely as I went along, and I made it back in 4.5 hours, which is about an hour slower than the same trip in a car. Not bad at all. The success of this ride means I’ll be taking even more of them, of course. Stay tuned.
Today my friend Gina became the owner of my previous scooter, Vroomfondel, a Bintelli Sprint 50cc. As you can see, she’s quite happy with her decision. We picked him up from Campus Skooters, where he was having a headlight replaced. We took a quick spin over to Sheetz for gas and a snack before driving to Webster’s so I could finish out my workday. As soon as work ended, we were back on the road.
We cruised west, stopping first at the new location of Far Corners Asian Market. They didn’t have any good soy sauce, though, just Kikkoman, so we moved on.
Gina has lived in this region a lot longer than I have, so she had some great ideas for smaller roads to try. We headed in the general direction of Gatesburg, PA, west and a little south of State College.
Central Pennsylvania is gorgeous. No two ways about it. Everywhere you look there are rolling hills and picturesque farms and tranquil cows.
I’d never ridden with another scooter owner, and it was a blast. We rode side by side when it was safe to do so, and I enjoyed the speed limitations placed on the ride by Vroomfondel’s smaller engine. We moved through the countryside fast enough to get somewhere and slow enough to see what was around us. At one point, two horses galloped alongside us as we passed their corral. A few minutes later we spotted a heron (or maybe a crane?) lifting off into the air.
We entered Halfmoon Township, the most sparsely populated of Centre County’s towns. It covers 15,000 acres, most of which are occupied by cows. We stopped to visit a beautiful Quaker cemetery on Halfmoon Valley Road. Question: Does anyone know where the township got its name? I can’t imagine there’s a Henry Hudson connection, and I couldn’t find the answer online.
As the last rays of the sun broke through the clouds, we returned to State College for some Mexican food. I love cruising solo, but cruising with a friend is a special joy all its own.