Northeast passage - part I
Just finished a ten-day mototrip from Wilton, CT up through New York's Adirondack region, Vermont, and the notches of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I rode my 2002 R1150R, and a school buddy, Jim from Marin County California rode my 2000 Buell M2 Cyclone (although I took it for a couple of days). Jim is a long-time rider who owns a late-model Ducati ST4 and an 80's Suzuki 1100 Katana. He has taken many long trips in the West, but hadn't been on a longer road trip in a while. Our wives (Emmary and Martha) followed in a "chase" car (my wife's "stealth" Ford Escort), which was pretty handy as we could carry a lot more equipment, such as multiple jackets for different conditions.
We initially headed up to Lake George on a Friday for three days at Americade, where we stayed at a very unique B&B in a converted boathouse right on the lake at Bolton Landing, about nine (blessed) miles north of the festivities at Lake George Village. The Taconic Parkway in upstate (read: anywhere north of NYC) New York is a beautiful road, but currently not in perfect repair. About halfway up, Jim noted, "This Buell kind of beats you up". By the time we arrived in Bolton Landing, he added, "That was about enough for today". Ah well, he had three days to recuperate as we did only local riding, with the ladies riding their only pillion time of the trip. Americade was amusing as usual -- if you haven't been there it's worth a trip (I go every year, but usually travel the rest of the following week by myself). A caveat: on the recommendations of other guests at the B&B, one night we drove twelve miles up Route 9N on the lake to the View at Indian Kettles restaurant for dinner. The view was, as advertised, splendid -- a broad sweep of the northern end of the lake from a high bluff. The food, however, was inedible. Stop for a drink only. US 7; US 84; Taconic Parkway; NY 295; NY 22; NY 372 and 29; US 87; NY 9N.
On Monday we took a leisurely ride up to Lake Placid, where we were booked at the Hilton immediately overlooking Mirror Lake (utilitarian, but comfortable). An interesting stop on the way was the Adirondack Museum, which was a lot more impressive than I expected (including a large Adirondack boat collection). Regrettably, we didn't get to Lake Placid in time to ride up Veterans' Memorial Drive to the summit of Whiteface Mountain, but we did manage to work in a speedboat rental on Lake Placid. Forty-five miles per hour on the water certainly feels different from that speed on a bike. Pretty cool. US 87; NY 8; NY 28; NY 30; NY 3; NY 86.
Next morning we headed down the Keene Valley toward the sixth Great Lake, Lake Champlain, which sparkled a deep cerulean blue as we descended from the ridge above. My imperfect navigation had put us at the ferry crossing from Port Kent (NY) to Burlington (VT), rather than the Essex (NY) to Charlotte (VT) ferry that I usually use. Having finally done it, I think the Port Kent ferry -- which takes about an hour -- is actually the more rewarding of the two, and it serves a limited selection of food and drink (for those in a hurry, there are a couple of short alternative ferries, and a bridge at Crown Point). As big as the lake is, I've never had a rough crossing, and this day was no exception. After picking our way out of Burlington, we had a fine ride through the Lake Champlain Islands, and then a rambling and rolling ride through classic Vermont countryside of small rivers, pastures, and tree-covered rounded hills, eventually taking us up over Smuggler's Notch (the second-highest paved road in the state) on the edge of Mt. Mansfield (the highest mountain in the state). As we traversed the sharp hairpins at the top of the pass under the canopy of trees, the temperature dropped noticeably. The descent from the notch in the warm light of late afternoon deposited us in the quaint and charming (hackneyed, I know, but I can't think of a better way to describe it) village of Stowe for the night at the Green Mountain Inn. Jim's comment on arrival: I'm not used to this anymore. I think my neck may be broken". Bonus fact: Outside Stowe is the Von Trapp Family (Sound of Music) Lodge -- the hills are alive with the sounds of tourist buses. We stayed away, and opted for some Mexican food at Miguel's Stow Away -- pretty good. NY 73; NY 86; NY 9N; NY 373; Port Kent ferry; US 89; VT 2; VT 78; US 7; VT 104; VT 108.
Wednesday found us meandering across Vermont and New Hampshire. The terrain changes as you move from Vermont, where the countryside in generally gently rolling, to New Hampshire, where it becomes craggier. At Gorham, NH, we turned south and rode down through Pinkham Notch, past the Mt. Washington auto road, which we would ride tomorrow, weather permitting. New Hampshire's Notches are deep cuts below the surrounding mountains, and have been the way to traverse this region for centuries. After a brief stop at Meredith H-D/Buell at the bottom of the Notch in North Conway to have the shifter adjusted on the Buell, we turned west and rode through Crawford Notch to our evening's destination, the Bretton Arms Inn at the Mount Washington Hotel. The Hotel itself is a huge relic (completely restored) of a time when railroads carried people from the big cities of the East to vacation in the White Mountains, a major tourist region of the day. As it happens, my wife's parents met there, when both were summer employees of the hotel -- her father a doorman, and her mother a waitress. VT 100; VT 15; US 2; VT 16; US 302.