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Scooter trip: PA to Rochester and the Finger Lakes

01 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.

02 03

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.”.

07 08

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:

L to R: Rome Celli, me, Chuck Ingersoll, Otto Bruno, Bob DeRosa.
L to R: Rome Celli, me, Chuck Ingersoll, Otto Bruno, Bob DeRosa.

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:

13My 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.

Published in Pennsylvania Rochester Scooter Travel


  1. Mom Mom

    Great account of your travels. Sounds like a perfect first trip. Glad we were part of it. ??

  2. Mom Mom

    Not sure why there are question marks … Guess “hearts” don’t work here. 🙂

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