Take back roads whenever possible. I just got back from a five day, 1000 mile long motorcycle trip with my two brothers through a bit of New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. Wherever possible we took back roads.
As mentioned in the first blog (The Journey is the Destination) on this website, both of my brothers enjoy motorcycling. Each of us took up the hobby at different times, and has had differing experiences, but because of our common interest we ride together whenever possible.
Our usual outings are to visit tri-state markers – just because they’re there – and because their locations are usually so far out in the boondocks they provide an excuse for us to go exploring. So far we have visited 18 of the 36 dry land markers.
Last week the three of us took a trip to the Adirondacks. This was our so-called “Lake” trip, because of all the lakes we visited: Lake George, Lake Champlain, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid, Mirror Lake, Great Sacandaga Lake and Colgate Lake. In addition we took a side trip to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, took in Au Sable Chasm, and visited with friends and family.
And we took back roads. Some pass through towns so small there isn’t even a cross street, where houses crowd right to the edge of the road, with old folks sitting on their porches who wave as you pass by. In some towns the road takes you passed paint-peeling buildings with sagging roofs that testify to a lack of work ethic. They are crumbling, dilapidated towns with barefoot children playing in the dirt too close to the road and dogs that chase you for a lap or so. Some roads circle through proud towns with meticulously mowed lawns, pots of bright flowers hung on parking meters, enormous American flags flopping lazily atop high flag poles in front of the volunteer fire departments and city halls. Each road has its own personality. Every road is unique.
Back roads take longer to traverse so you need to allow more time if you have a timetable to maintain. But that extra time is never wasted, even when you get delayed at a railroad crossing by a freight train pulling in excess of 100 cars. Depending on its speed you can be there a while. You turn off the bike, dismount, retrieve some water from your saddle bags, stretch your legs (that needed stretching though you had not yet noticed), lean back up against the bike, and watch the hawks circling unhurriedly overhead. Then, with one or two last deep knee bends, and a wave to the lone workman in the back of the caboose, you mount your bike and you’re on your way again. You never even consider checking your watch.
Some back roads become dirt roads. They are dangerous because of the loose gravel but they are the only roads that can take you to where the few choose to travel. You’ll need a good map, a gazetteer if you can find one, because dirt roads have a way of becoming narrow trails that just might turn into nearly impassable pathways. You know the ones; the ones leading to the abandoned quarry that’s now filled with water. There is always a tree by the water’s edge with a rope tied to one of its limbs for swinging out over its mirror-like waters. Kids will be kids. Or the trail that leads to a long-ago-abandoned fire tower with its broken-slatted ladder climb to the top for vista views of hazy mountains in distant states. You’ll have to swing a leg off your bike and hike a bit to get to most of these destinations but the exercise is good for you and it’s fun.
I know. We cannot follow every dirt road wherever they all lead. There just isn’t time in a single life-time. But there is time to follow a few. Look for the thinnest lines you can find on your gazetteer. They are the roads that lead from where you are, to where you want to go, but do not yet know how to get there. Follow them. They will surprise you with the most revelations. They yield unsolicited knowledge. They are a bit edgy.