Friday, April 9, 2010

Pokey in the Poconos

Friday morning, I rolled out late after staying up to post here and let the stranded-by-a-dead-battery adrenalin wear off. It rained overnight but stopped. I loaded up and pointed the GPS at Port Jervis, N.Y., on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which opened in 1828 to carry coal from Pannsylvania to New York City.

Stopped at Losee's Homestyle Deli, which still had a sign promoting "+Lenten Specials+" including Fish Fry, Fish Dinner and Clam Roll Dinner with prices from $5,49 to $7.49. Ordered an omlet, which arrived browned on the outside and dry in the middle, but heaped with home fries. The sign in the dining room read "Oh Lord, if I can't be skinny, please make my friends look fat."

Checked tire pressures, put on the fleece under my jacket and thermal liner and pulled on the snowmobile gloves. The tropical temperatures I'd been enjoying till now were over.

US 209 led me through Catskill the town and over Catskills the mountains and Catskill the river. Noticed a billboard for the "Lady Rooter" drain cleaning business and admired grafitti under a railroad overpass protesting that "Punk is NOT dead!"

Around 2 p.m. I arrived at Delaware Water Gap, a spot on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border where the Delaware River cuts through a mountain ridge.

The Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail cuts through the town of Delaware Water Gap.

On Delaware Water Gap's Main Street I found an offroad motorcycle shop, bikes lined up in front on the sidewalk. I dropped in to find six or seven boys of all ages, 12 to 50, working on several semi-disassembled motorcycles and ATVs. A woman say behind a glass case next to the cash register. Nobody seemed to notice me for awhile.

Finally, the woman asked, "Can I help you?" I said I was travelling through toward Front Royal Virginia to ride the Skyline Drive and I wondered if anybody had any advice about roads to take to get there. One by one, the guys joined the conversation. Boy, did I get advice!

Fortunately, they reached a consensus that I should take Cherry Valley Road to Saylorsville. After that, I could either turn on Kunklestown Road or pick up US 209 again. Both would take me southwest toward my goal.

Cherry Valley was a delight. Narrow, two-lane, curvy, it led me through the woods and over hill and dale and lush farmland, past ponds full of ducks and geese and green pastures. After about 20 miles of bliss, I chose US 209 over Kunklestown Road. My bad. The road was choked with traffic.

I stopped for gas and asked the attendant if I should try to cut over to Kunklestown. "No. This is just Friday afternoon traffic. It'll peter out in a few miles and you'll be back in the country. Should be a nice ride."

The Poconos were abloom despite the gray day.

He was right, up to a point. Unfortunately, further down the road were more Pennsylvania coal and manufacturing towns with streets choked with Friday afternoon traffic. I sat in several half-mile long lines waiting for one red light to cycle, freeing five or six vehicles at a time.

I'd been optimistic, thinking I could get to Virginia in two days from Portsmouth, N.H. Albany was a step in the wrong direction, unfortunately, and traffic in those mountain towns held me back. After just 265 miles, it was 7 p.m. and time to look for a warm place to stay. By then, I'd stopped to add a sweatshirt, zip in the thermal liner for my overpants and dig out the balaclava ski mask I'd almost decided to leave behind.

Day three took me from Albany almost to Lancaster, Pa.

I sent an email to a lot of folks in the morning before I hit the road to let them know the High Speed Wobble is back and many of them wrote encouraging notes, told me not to crash, suggested places to stop or just said "About time!"

Mahalo to all of you.

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