Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Catskills

The Bun Burner ride was under my belt, I was fed and though not really rested I was feeling energetic and ready to explore this southern region of New York state. Binghamton was in the throes not of revolution (like the French who dare to actually protest against their government!) but some sort of parade celebrating something sporting no doubt, as overpaid athletes hold this nation's attention far more firmly than any political outrage.I have never much visited the Northeastern United States and these brick buildings and Victorian type of downtowns are as strange to me as a shopping mall might be to a Martian visitor.This is decidedly not my world. Temperatures were hovering around 50 degrees (10C) the skies were leaden and for someone used to sunshine and waxy palm fronds waving in the breeze, the atmosphere of tired decay and mellow autumnal fruitfulness was not energizing.Decay is not only a state of vegetative seasonal change it is a fact of life in places where the economy is switching gears. In Florida, a state much derided by people who prefer not to live here, an empty storefront is another opportunity for some enterprising new arrival in the Sunshine State to work a scheme. Old industrial cities Up North look so much more depressed as change sweeps through their frigid streets. It's just me feeling gloomy.
Then there is that feeling that in the (good) old days people took pride in doing things well, of making something as commonplace as a facade look permanent and purposeful and decorative even in it's solidity. Nowadays plasterboard and some paint are all you can expect on a new commercial building. It's a shame.I turned my back on Binghamton, wishing the town well as it plans to spend the rest of it's existence without me. I hope they put on lots more parades as I expect snow will be falling around here soon and they will enjoy the color and the music to offset winter's grip.
As I rolled east on Highway 17, a four lane expressway through the southern Catskills I started thinking about how lots of people actually like winter and snow and short days and cold. I am not one of them clearly, but the opportunity to be here in the middle of these winding roads with these incredible displays of leaf colors, all with the prospect of going home to sunny Florida, was too good to be true. Were I to ever get a middle class retirement I could see living in the Keys and taking off from time to time to go for a winding ride. Come to think I'm not exactly waiting for retirement to do just that.My knowledge of New England is pretty much limited to movies and movies don't tell much of a story about real life. But cemeteries covered in dead leaves- now that's evocative. Night of the Living Dead? Maybe?
I turned off Highway 17 and took Highway 30 across the hills. It was a most excellent ride. A Triumph owner called Sal who lives in these parts once told me he felt sorry for my Bonneville stuck as it is on the flat straight roads of Florida. He may be right, the motorbike grew wings as we chased ghosts up and down and around these hills. Stupid fish mail boxes abound in New York just like in Florida.
They have silly signs too.
I thought this neck of the woods deserved to be trespassed it was so pretty.
Who needs a Bonneville when local transportation is for sale?I'm pretty sure one these poseurs was a v-twin rider, judging by the rumble, just not a Harley Davidson. It looked like fun so I figured I'd better keep going. This bridge caught my attention so I stopped again, almost as soon as I started.
History is everywhere. This is a much more relaxing way to ride than doing an Iron Butt.
The bridge itself wasn't that relaxing to ride across. The vertical metal strips had the weird effect of making the tires go their own way so the middle of the bike felt as though it was hinged. I have read about these types of bridges and the advice always is to ride gently and let the bike find it's way. It's good advice because it works. It still felt creepy riding across the little bridge.
I kind of wished I had gone exploring but I returned to Highway 30 and went back to the business of riding the winding road. It was by now mid afternoon and I had plans to sleep on the shores of the famous Hudson River.
I was really enjoying my ride, cows, hills, towns and everything.
Highway 30 was a great ride.
Aside from these picturesque little towns there was the miracle of the leaf change going on. People pay good money to take vacations and see the leaf colors going crazy. I just happened to be there quite by chance.I wasn't alone. This was Columbus Day and there were other rides out goofing off on this holiday. It was hard for me to realize that I really was out there, miles from anywhere familiar, riding my bike in all this loveliness.
I had no idea these populated places also harbor wide open stretches of not very much. There was also an infestation of lady bugs which I found to be considerably less invasive than the Florida state bird, the mosquito.
The leaves were definitely in the business of changing their colors.
The only Fleichman I knew was the doctor on Northern Exposure. This sign struck me as particularly bizarre. Are they all called Fleischmann, the inhabitants? Is is their first name or last name? Are they Fleischmann Major and Fleischmann Minor? Or Fleischmann 1 and Fleischmann 2? Such is the speculation that courses through the brain of a busy motorcycle rider.
Pumpkins; a reminder that my birthday is just a few weeks away. I hate Halloween. Not because it's my birthday but because everyone goes "Ooh you were born when?"?
These leaves really were quite extraordinary. They fluttered to the ground as i rode by, like orange snowflakes whirling above the road. It was too early for many to have fallen so no piles of wet leaves were cluttering the corners of the roads. That slick little trap was waiting for me next day. I stopped for a nap and a phone call to my wife in this meadow that was some sort of abandoned development and turned into a dog park according to a dog owner I met there.
I stopped for fuel as I approached the city of Kingston on the Hudson River. This fuel pump bore, I thought a rather cheerful, grammatical set of instructions. I expect they got tired of people (like me) who come into the convneinece store not knowing which pump they are on...I like paying at the pump myself.
The sun was setting, traffic was building as I approached the metropolis. I found a supermarket called Hannafords, which I thought was an odd name, though perhaps no odder than say, Publix. I bought a salad and asandwich for my solitary dinner but for wine I had to go to a liquor store which is another of those weird state laws that I don't understand. Hannaford's sold beer, but not wine, God forbid!
I took my loot to a Quality Inn, paid $92 for a room and passed out watchinga documentary about Al Quaeda, a subject about as far from my current situation as it is possible to imagine. That was a hell of a day. And yes, my Bonneville takes corners superbly, thank you for asking. At last I know the truth.