Day 43
I sleept well and long. I was still exhausted from my long day fighting headwinds. I should have listened to my body yesterday morning and stayed in bed instead of doing report and email stuff. Being in a motel without a phone on the room means having nothing to do but write my ride report and sleep. I was in bed before 9 PM and got up at about 7:30. When I went to bed I felt feverish, a good indication of having abused my body, and when I woke up I felt rested, unlike the previous morning.

Since there was no restaurant nearby, I ate my two bagels that were left over from the previous day, got dressed, packed, and was on the road by 8:15 AM. I headed south on 11. This part will get very repetitive since I will be heading south on 11 till I reach Bristol TN! It was foggy, but the fog was lifting and the day was forecast to be very nice. Riding got interesting almost immediately. I was reminded that the son of a friend of our goes to school at Syracuse University so that he can be on their ski team.

I climbed 1000 feet in the first 10 miles I rode today, more than I climbed all day yesterday, almost as much as I climbed in the 110 miles from Malone to Waterford. I stopped in Lafayette for a real breakfast: 3 eggs, 3 links of sausage, and 3 pieces of french toast. It wasn't great but it was a good buy and it was good bicycle fuel. I like to think of meals in terms of how far I can ride before I need another meal. This was a 30 mile breakfast.

After the first 10 miles, thing settled down to gently rolling; the next 20 miles only added 100 feet to my total climbing. It was great riding. Beautiful 'mountains' with the road running fairly high up on the side of a ridge. Really nice weather, really nice scenery, really nice road, hardly any traffic, etc. This continued, with the road descending very gradually, till Homer, just before Courtland. It was still nice after Homer, just not so beautiful. Courtland was nice, but 11 is routed strangely through it (all over it..) and I had to stop and ask for directions.

I stopped in Marathon for a 'soup and sandwich' lunch and again in Binghamton for a bigger meal. In Binghamton I ate a 12" Subway sub (specially priced on Tuesdays) and visited with a fellow from western New York who is a bicyclist, but had never seen a bicycle tourist before. I haven't seen any recently either!

Binghamton is special to me because my favorite author, John Gardner. No, not the John Gardner who writes crime fiction, but rather the John Gardner who wrote 'Grendel' which is a re-telling of the Beowulf Saga from the point of view of the monster, as well as some of the best american novels written in the 60s and the 70s. He taught at NYU Binghamton until his death near there in a motorcycle accident in the early 80s. He was 52.

In and after Binghamton the traffic was a bit heavy, and the road was 4 lanes with no shoulder. NY drivers continued to impress me with their polite passing behavior. I did not experience a single incidence of rude behavior by a motorist in the three days I rode on route 11.
After the last connector to I-81 south of Binghamton, the road goes back to two lanes with a shoulder. Riding was still good, although not as good as the great section between Syracuse and Courtland, all the way to the Pennsylvania border. 11, in New York state, is a very good bicycle touring road. I know it is also a very good bicycle touring road in Virginia, but I'm not so sure abut Pennsylvania. I'll let you know.

I think it is appropriate at this point for me to specify what I think a good bicycle touring route is and isn't.

It is:

a route that can easily be followed by someone who had never been in the area before.

a route that has either good shoulders and low to moderate traffic, or no shoulders and very low traffic.

is a route that has enough variety/scenery/whatever to be interesting to ride.

a route that goes somewhere a bicycle tourist might want to go.

a route that does not have bad enough pavement to make riding difficult and uncomfortable.

a route that has services often enough that you don't have to carry food and water for more than a few hours of riding.

It is not:

a route that requires a detailed cue sheet to follow. Cue sheets are a pain and they quickly become out of date.

a route that has teenage idiots who yell obscenities or lots of dogs that chase you down the road. Although neither of these things is major for me, they do detract from the enjoyment of riding.

a route that often intersects interstate highways so that I get to ride with drivers who are conditioned to blasting their way across the countryside pretty much oblivious to anything that might get in their path. This is simply too dangerous for me.

a route where the traffic levels are too high to permit my enjoying the scenery. If I can't pay attention to the scenery, why am I riding a bicycle instead of driving a car?

Almost all of Route 11 in NY meets almost all of these criteria.

I crossed into PA at about 4:20 PM, hoping that I would find some where to stay before I reached Scranton. I did, but only a few miles from Scranton. I rode 126 miles today with 3100 feet of climbing. It wasn't really as bad as my 110 mile ride into the wind a few days ago, but it was more than I like to ride (over 9.25 hours in the saddle) in a single day. On the other hand, it was beautiful day for riding and I enjoyed almost every minute of it.

Coming into PA, route 11 deteriorates markedly. It no longer has rideable shoulders and the traffic lanes themselves are pretty badly surfaced, and, with moderate traffic, it was not fun to ride. It does have a center lane for passing, so riding without a shoulder is not as bad as it might be otherwise, but you still have to depend on the drivers seeing you and moving into that lane. There were also times when that lane was occupied by someone passing from the opposite direction. A bit tense compared to riding with shoulders in NY.

At New Milford, 11 gets shunted off to the west. Very little traffic uses this section, there are no services for roughly twenty miles, and it is a great ride! The road, which is concrete with small potholes, climbs some 400 feet or so out of New Milford and then follows first the rail road and then a beautiful river valley (Hop Bottom Creek) that gradually descends to Nicholson. I was cruising at 16 to 17 mph for most of it. A car or truck would come along every five minutes or so, but mostly I was able to just enjoy the valley and the ride.

At Nicholson, which has a magnificent railroad bridge looming hundreds of feet above it and stretching across the valley, I stopped to get some sports drink and ice cream. I also bought two of what had been my favorite candy bar in Canada, Oh Henry!, but the US version is not as good as the Canadian version. It is also about 20 % smaller, 51 g versus 65 g! I think the candy industry has wimped our candy bars to increase their profits, just like so many other products where we now pay more for a smaller package. Like 13 Oz 'pounds' of coffee, we get 2 Oz candy bars. Darn it, Canadian Oh Henry!s had become my staple energy food.

Leaving Nicholson, there is another 370 foot climb as the road goes over the ridge to the next valley. Note that the two climbs on this section make up 80% of the total climbing. The rest of the climbing is on Rt 6, which is now also Rt 11, coming back east to Scranton. This part of the ride was less fun, but not too bad except for two set of teenaged jerks who yelled (I think - they were too cowardly to slow down enough to make their yells understandable) obscenities at me. This was very 'harmless', but obnoxious behavior. I didn't have too much trouble with drivers on this section, but I did get passed too close to a couple of times. PA is not doing well compared to NY as a place to bicycle tour in my book, but most of the problem is created by poor road shoulders and poor road maintenance in general.

Tomorrow I head into Scranton for breakfast. I'm at a $32 (cash) motel with no restaurant nearby. Then 11, and I, follow the Susquehanna River west and south.

Previous Page Next Page