Postcards from Pennsylvania

photo credit: Eric Vengroff

By Eric Vengroff
Day 1
Regular readers may recall that roughly three weeks after returning from a 2,500 km road trip, I had been invited to go on another on the Civic Holiday long weekend. Unlike my last trip, I had no trip planning to do whatsoever. Our ride leader was well acquainted with riding these roads through accumulated miles and days in the areas we were going. Moving northwest to southeast, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. By comparison, I had only been through some of these states on a bike twice – both times headed to Washington, DC.

An early departure on the Friday assured that I would avoid the majority of the typical Toronto holiday traffic that was already building northbound by 7:30 AM, according to the radio reports. Nevertheless, construction delays made up for time I was hoping to pick up, and I arrived at the QEW and Casablanca road about 20 minutes late. When I pulled up, some of them were already donning their gear for the short blast to the U.S. border at the Peace Bridge. After a routine stop, we continued for about a half hour to our breakfast stop, the Three Girls Cafe in Boston, NY, just off highway 219 south of Buffalo. The breakfast was excellent and the service friendly – certainly worth the stop if you’re ever this way.

I was starving. Not having even a cup of coffee since I woke up at 5:30, a batch of pancakes hit the spot, and I was ready for a nice easy ride through western New York and on into Penn. No such luck however. Highway 219 continues leisurely through Ellicottville and through the Seneca Nation land, and would have been nice for a postprandial cruise, scenery moving by as I ruminate in the saddle, but we chose some narrow, bumpy, county roads through deep forest and farm country. As expected, these roads were not well suited to my overgrown scooter, with its cushy suspension, cavernous luggage holds and heavy feel. The big bike wallowed over the heavily patched roads as I scrambled to find a smooth line. After crossing into PA, we found ourselves on Sugar Run road, which was overlaid with oil and gravel for about 15 miles.

This segment required that we keep our attention absolutely focused on the condition of the road ahead. What I couldn’t pay attention to were the little black blobs of oil that were sticking to my fenders, saddlebags and the lower parts of my bike. As it turned out, only a thorough washing and application of goo remover upon my return would dislodge these.

We exited the dirt road and continued in a westerly direction along PA-59, where we stopped near the Kinzua dam. Here I was able to get this shot of the reservoir at the northern edge of the Allegheny National Forest. It was early afternoon and we were still a long way from our destination, State College. I was eager to get in by 4:00 PM, so I decided to take a more direct route, leaving my fellow riders to carve up the back roads. Taking the popular Highway 6 that runs along northern Pennsylvania, I turned off south towards Ridgeway, at the southeast corner of the Forest. Here, I stopped for gas and smoothie from one of the many Sheetz gas stations in the region. These folks have turned the routine gas stop into an event, as you can be entertained with food, drink and diversions for quite a while if you wanted to. No time – must press on…and press on I did. Another hour through another state forest, and forty-five minutes on the Interstate, and I put my kickstand down in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn at five minutes to 4:00. By the time my buddies arrived, I was reclining by the pool reading my new copy of Zoomer magazine -not bad for the first day!