Eleven straight years - that’s how long we’ve been going to the Gray Ghost in Vermont. We missed the Backroads trip in July, so we scheduled our own in August, about the time we’d normally go for a “Summer Squeeze.” It was a glorious sojourn under amazingly blue skies with low humidity and we only had rain a couple times, neither of which we cared about. We missed the “family,” but we still had a relaxing time and we made new friends too.
It’s about 600 miles to the Ghost and we normally do it in two days - it’s more about the saddle time than the mileage, since we usually take a circuitous route to avoid the five cities (DC, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philly, and New York) that lay between us and our “second home.” We have used several routes, including straight “up the gut” of I-95, but we prefer more sedate paths. When we go someplace often enough, without going too far out of our way, we end up retracing previous steps…and that’s OK. Some of the roads are like old friends.
Our go-to route takes us to Annapolis and across the Bay Bridge to an Eastern Shore where traffic is light. We jump off US 301 onto MD 213 and enjoy the flat farmland and crossings of pretty waterways, including the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. At the state line, 213 becomes PA 841 and we’ll catch 82 near The Whip Tavern, a Diner Run site in the horse country outside Coatesville. We’ve gone a couple ways, including past Hermy’s BMW/Triumph, but for some reason, all our routes tend to end up near the bicycle velodrome on the west side of Allentown. We’ll use variations on a theme, but most have us crossing the river at Phillipsburg, NJ.
We’ve tried going up the west side of the Delaware Water Gap and through the Poconos on the PA side, but anywhere near a weekend and that turns into a traffic festival. Instead, we’ll cross over the free bridge at “PBurg” and hit NJ 519, the prettiest ride through an area of farms most people wouldn’t believe is NJ. It doesn’t matter how many times we traverse it, 519 is still a favorite. We may stop and see family in Northwest NJ…although the last time, fellow motorcyclist Dale at the High Point Mountain Motel on 23 was our new “brother.”
There are myriad ways of getting to Vermont from there, including forays into Connecticut and Massachusetts, but we like to swing out toward the Adirondacks. This time we rode the brilliant Hawk’s Nest (97) to 55 North, passing by another Diner Run site at Eldred, “The Piazza,” where we once had the best brick-oven pizza ever, and up toward Liberty (NOT our favorite place). Ultimately, we want to get to the “same old” route of 30 along the Pepacton Reservoir. Just like 519, we never tire of the curvy road along the “Res” and the points north, like Grand Gorge, which is truly “gorge”ous. At Schoharie, where there’s a little place to eat called the “Apple Basket,” we’ll turn east toward Troy and thence into the promised land via NY 7 and VT 9. Max BMW is on 7 in Troy and there’s a clean diner next door.
We also really like NY 22: like 519 and 30, we’d ride it anytime. There’s a great stopping place on 22 in Amenia, NY called “Four Brothers” and they have good pizza and Greek salads. They also sport a drive-in theater and we’ve promised to make a stay of it just so we can see a show. We can go toward a Diner Run site of Gracie’s Luncheonette in Leeds on the way before crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Or not. We’ve visited a bunch of sites up and down the river, from the Firefighter’s Museum in Hudson to the Rhinebeck Aerodrome, but we tend to stay away from 9E and 9W.
OK, I know this is “Backroads” and, like the Captain of the Enterprise, I’m supposed to be “seeking out new worlds and new civilizations” and I will, but there’s also something to be said for knowing there’s a nice stop in Amenia and Eldred and Schoharie and a great Greek place in Roscoe. There’s actually a dirty-water hot-dog guy in a gravel turnout on 206 between Roscoe and 30. It doesn’t matter if they’re the same-old, same roads: the views are still beautiful and the experiences are new and sometimes, like when going to The Ghost, it really is about the destination.