Day 47 Binghamton NY to Berwick PA
This was a very mixed day of riding with both some of the best and some of the worst riding of this tour. I'm still trying, and it is my fourth try, to find a route through Pennsylvania that doesn't have really bad parts. Today I tried PA 92, PA 29, and PA 309 as an alternative to riding US 11 through Scranton and the endless strip that follows it on 11. It wasn't good riding, although it was probably better than going through Scranton. PA 29 would have been better if some idiot hadn't messed up the shoulder with the worst kind of rumble strip, but even when the shoulder was rideable, it was often too much like riding on an interstate with only two lanes.
PA 309, which follows 29 on my route, had a better shoulder, but it actually became just like an interstate highway for the last five miles before it crossed US11, and for five miles before that it was an exciting, but not safe, place to ride a bicycle. US 11 is not great in the section from Kingston through Hanlock Creek, but compared to what had come before it was gentle bicycling. There was a major jerk whose large dog lunged at me from an open (and I think opened for that purpose) rear window as he brushed past me in his SUV. But that had little to do with the road quality. I've had that same trick played on me on a nice rural road in NC.
I started the day by riding through Binghamton. Since that means crossing interstates several times, it isn't relaxed riding, but, as riding through cities goes, it isn't bad. After Binghamton, US 11 is pretty rideable (it seems to be NY Bike route 1) till the Pennsylvania border. Then the road quality deteriorates greatly and the riding is fair to lousy till after New Milford. I stopped at a restaurant near Halstead for second breakfast and at a ice cream place just after New Milford (in passing I noticed that there is a bike shop in New Milford) for a banana shake. I knew it would be a while after that before I'd stop again in Nicholson.
When PS 706 heads west from US 11, it takes most of the traffic with it. The road quality is still poor (Pennsylvania doesn't 'waste' much money on road quaity..), but the riding quality becomes excellent. US 11 follows Martins Creek along the bottom of a steep walled valley. It is easy riding (but dodge the potholes) and very beautiful. The road quality improves a lot at Kingsley and the traffic picks up after Hop Bottom. The road quality goes down a few miles before Nicholson, but it is still fine riding. It also offers two great railroad bridges crossing well above the road. The one in Nicholson (Lackawanna Viaduct) is truly magnificent.
After Nicholson, I left 11 (which climbs a couple of big ridges and intersects 6 a few miles later - not great riding anymore) and followed PA 92 towards Tunkhannock. A hilly and, in the later part, rather rough, road. Pretty good riding. I can now claim to have ridden through East Lemon PA, and I doubt many other tourist have done that. I mean, I've done the Cabot Trail, but so have lots of other folks. How many folks have ridden through East Lemon! East Lemon is also where the sign saying 'loose chips and fresh oil' gave me a moments pause, but it turned out not to be a problem.
US 6 was scary for the first half mile after 98 intersects it. No shoulder and heavy traffic including lots of big trucks. Fortunately a good shoulder appeared after that. US 6 is very hilly (signs for The Endless Mountains are all along it) and not much fun even with a shoulder. When I got into Tunkhannock, I stopped at a gas station to ask for routing advice. It came down to "All the routes have too much truck traffic, but PA 29 has a rideable shoulder most of the way." OK. When I got to where PA 309 and PA 29 split I elected to do 309. Part of the reason for that choice was so I could stop at a Bagel place in Kingston. I did, but it closed at 5 PM and I got there at 5:15 PM. Sigh. I ate at a Taco fast food place.
After Kingston - which wasn't as dangerous after five PM as it was when I rode through there in the middle of the day - 11 becomes a two or three lane road with no shoulder but wide lanes. It isn't great, but it is OK. Maybe ten miles later it gets a rideable shoulder and becomes pretty good riding. A bit hilly and a bit too noisy, but good for 'getting on down the road' riding.
The last time I rode this stretch I noted that PA doesn't like to call things by descriptive names: "Retreat" is a prison and "Steam Plant" is a large nuclear power station. Both are on 11 before Berwick. Berwick was where I planned to stop - about 110 mostly hilly miles from where I started - and I had to ride pretty well all the way through it before finding a motel where I could have a phone in my room. I'm in an Arab owned mom 'n pop place which cost me $25 less than my room last night. Now I get to see how well the phone system works...