There are these places that, for any number of reasons, become motorcycle magnets. Usually, some sort of eatery that attracts riders like a moth to the flame. A place to gather, to kick tires, to be riders.
But sadly, over the last number of years, these local two-wheeled stomping grounds, have been fading away.
Being told not to be socially adaptable last year did not help the atmosphere.
Just a few days back a demolition team hired by Wawa began slowly pulling down The Chatterbox in northwest New Jersey, just a few miles from our home and Backroads Central. Like a friend in long-term hospice we all knew this was going to happen, but that never meant that riding by this once happy and now empty place did not bring a tinge of sadness.
For so many years we’d ride over to the Chatterbox; sometimes it was Thursday Bike Night and we even were in charge of picking the Motorcycle of the Week for a bit, giving a cheesy t-shirt as a prize. Sometimes it was to meet my mother as she was heading to my brother’s home. It was more or less halfway and I treasure and surely miss each one of those.
Sometimes it was just for a great cheesesteak or fried chicken, at which they excelled.
But no more.
Don Hall, the owner, took an offer he could not refuse from Wawa in 2018, and here we are, all these years later, riding over to watch this unique and, at least in my mind, memorable landmark being torn down to build a Wawa across from the Quick-Check that went up a few years back.
So, once again we lose a great motorcycle venue. A place to gather, to kick tires, to be riders.
Many of us have been around for a bit of time so the list has gotten longer over the years.
Here in our neck of the woods; The Red Apple Rest in Southfields, New York first comes to mind. For so many years it was the home to the celebrated the northeast two-day rally The Ramapo 500 – where Backroads had its debut.
But years ago…. Faded away.
The Red Apple was closed in September 2006 because, according to signs in the window and a telephone answering machine message, “we went away for a graduation and vacation.” The restaurant never reopened. It was condemned on Jan. 23 of 2007.
For nearly a decade and a half, it has sat there abandoned. A sad reminder of so many happy gatherings each time we ride by.
Is it worse when absolutely nothing is done with a piece of local history and it simply lies there, like some economic casualty discarded and ignored on the roadside?
The last time I stopped and looked in at the Red Apple I could still see the “Backroads Available Here!” sticker – now faded and cracked on the glass door behind the chain-link fence.
I often wonder how Pete and Vicky are doing – they were the best!
Just 40 great miles to the west was another landmark getaway - The Hawks Nest. This fantastic restaurant met an unkindly end on Halloween of 2000, with a fire gutting an all-time riding favorite.
Perched on the far end of the Hawks Nest Cliff it offered both superb views and great chow. When we heard it was on fire, we rode up immediately and got there in time to see that the fire department had dragged Ron’s, the owner, Triumph out of the front window along with a now scorched bundle of Backroads magazines.
These days along Route 97 there is only the old sign...holding court above the river far below.
In 2011 Marcus Dairy, arguably the most famous northeast riding destination, met the bulldozer making room for another store near the massive mall that already had too many.
How many of us made the ride up to “The Dairy?” Like the state of Jersey – you didn't even have to say Marcus – most riders knew what "The Dairy" was. Even Kawasaki did a great ad featuring this iconic restaurant.
I am sure there are others that escape me today – just as so many great dealerships and shops have vanished as well.
Today is Thursday and I think it is a good night to head up to Jumboland in Branchville and partake in a good ol’ fashioned “Bike Night.”
We should take them all before they're gone.
Publisher Rathjen weighs in on different things pertaining to motorcycling. Sometimes a bit hard to the point and slightly abrasive, his Free Wheelin’ column is not afraid to make a stand on issues that he feels are of importance to riders and riding.
Backroads’ fairer (and some say faster) half, Shira Kamil, has an interesting perspective on the day-to-day things riders run into which is both extremely well written and informative.
Having piloted a motorcycle for many years, Mark has many thoughts floating in his helmet and he's ready to share them with us. Sometimes cerebral, often technical but always enjoyable.
Backroads brings you around the region, the U.S. and internationally with travel stories that will inspire your own adventures.
Whether it's a new product for your motorcycle, some great gear or the latest in model releases, we'll give you all the information you need to make an educated buying decision.
Backroads will help you plan your calendar and keep you up-to-date with the latest events, rallies and other motorcycle gatherings around the area.
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