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Category: Pennsylvania

Riding to Big Hollow

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.

Click for a larger version of today's route.
Click for a larger version of today’s route.

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.

Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.
Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.

Same spot, looking the other way.
Same spot, looking the other way.

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.

Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.
Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.

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.

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Click for larger versions.

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.

Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it's the panoramic photo.
Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it’s the panoramic photo.

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.


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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.

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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.”.

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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.


Scooter cruising with a friend

10394581_291831070976956_1180057433808519618_n 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.

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Central Pennsylvania is gorgeous. No two ways about it. Everywhere you look there are rolling hills and picturesque farms and tranquil cows.

IMG_20140517_185101_518 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.



Scooter ride to the pharcyde, er, Lewisburg

lewis001 My original plan was to ride to Rochester, NY, and back today. But the weather forecast convinced me otherwise, showing big storms along the route and flash flood warnings on my return. Instead, after a quiet morning drinking miso soup and listening to podcasts, I popped out the door and onto Zaphod (my new-to-me Aprilia Scarabeo 150) with no destination in mind. A pashal, I think it’s called.

I headed out Blue Course Drive and just kept going, eventually meeting up with Route 26 and then with Route 45, which is the path I decided upon. I’d been on it once before to go to Shingletown Gap, but I wasn’t sure where it went after that. I saw a sign for Lewisburg, home of Bucknell University, and decided to make that my destination.

Right at the beginning of the trip, Zaphod hit a mileage milestone:


Little did I know, because I really don’t know the area well at all, that 45 runs right through Millheim, the place people always mention as an exception whenever I talk about how right-wing Central PA is.


Millheim is a lovely little oasis, with an art gallery, at least two excellent music venues, and a nice coffee shop.

All but the latter were closed at 11 a.m. on a Thursday, so I stopped to take the photo above and then moved on down 45, not stopping again till I reached Lewisburg.

lewis004 Lewisburg is a pretty town. It looks more like my image of a college town than State College does, but it also seemed very boring. In its defense, the semester is over, so maybe the place is crawling with students during Bucknell’s school year. But Penn State’s year is over, too, and State College is still lively. Quieter than normal, certainly, but not a ghost town like Lewisburg. Still, there were quite a few nice buildings to look at. And they have public poetry, including a poem by Natasha Tretheway, who just ended her term as poet laureate of the United States.

I took the obligatory scooter photo and pointed Zaphod west to go home.


On the way home, I stopped in Millheim again to visit singer/songwriter/community organizer/event guru Erin Condo. If you haven’t yet, you should hear Erin’s album Love And Lightning, which you can buy here. Erin was at the Bremer Town Ballroom, as were her two little boys and her sister-in-law, who is also a friend of mine. We had a lovely visit. In fact, I wrote a poem about it. Then I drove home just in time to beat the rain.

My scooter riding wasn’t done, though, because Erin played later in the evening at The State Theatre as the opener for Iris Dement. I rode into town wearing a bow tie under my bike jacket. And a shirt and pants and stuff, too. Erin played a set of her songs. She’s a great storyteller.


Iris Dement was, as usual, completely wonderful. In fact, the whole day was just perfect.