Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day Trippin' in Upstate NY

No matter what else happens, today I want nothing more than to sleep in late and hang around OFF THE BIKE for the day doing absolutely nothing. Dream on, girl!

Weather forecast for today is for beautifully clear skies and idyllic temperatures, whereas the forecast for tomorrow is for rain, heavy at times, and gusty winds.

So guess what I'm doing today? Not sleeping in, not hanging around OFF THE BIKE. That's for sure!

Therefore, the plan for the day is to get up early and head south out of Cortland NY to go to Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton PA and then east to a couple of national park units of the greater Delaware Water Gap historic corridor, in the Upper Delaware region.

It was cool but not uncomfortably so as I left Cortland and got onto I-81 heading south through Binghamton and on to Scranton. Despite being an interstate, this road is plenty pretty - green mountains and high-speed sweepers - all the way to Scranton.

Steamtown is a large collection of steam-era rolling stock,donated by the orginal Blount family, which had accumulated this collection in the '50s and '60s. The following is from the NPS Steamtown website:
Steamtown NHS occupies about 40 acres of the Scranton railroad yard of the former Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, one of the earliest rail lines in northeastern Pennsylvania. At the heart of the park is the large collection of standard-gauge steam locomotives and freight and passenger cars that New England seafood processor F. Nelson Blount assembed in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1984, 17 years after Blount's untimely death, the Steamtown Foundation for the Preservation of Steam and Railroad Americana, Inc., brought the collection to Scranton, where it occupied the former DL&W yard. When Steamtown National Historic Site was created, the yard and the collection became part of the National Park System.
My first husband (a huge steam engine fan) and I visited the park in Vermont in the early 1970's. The collection was huge, with much of it sitting outside on short rail beds. They ran a train on a short out-and-back route, giving us a great steam engine experience.

So getting down to Scranton to see the same U.P. Big Boy that I stood and admired nearly 40 years earlier was a treat. The National Park museum is built around the Scranton Lackawanna terminus and working roundhouse. This is a far better home for these historical trains than was the setting in Vermont. It kind of reminded me of the wild exotic animals - like lions, tigers, and bears - that are rescued from intolerable conditions and placed in the humane care of wildlife sanctuaries to live out their remaining lives.

After spending some time here - and buying some souvenirs - I left Scranton and headed east to US-6 and eventually to a very good motorcycle road, highway 590, which twisted its way over the Poconos to a tiny little hamlet on the Delaware River. Here are two national historic sites: Zane Grey Museum and Roebling Aquaduct and its adorable little toll house. While the getting there was half the fun, the being there was the other half.

First of all, Zane Grey's house sits on a small rise over looking a very picturesque section of the Delaware River. I could easily imagine how creative writing "juices" would flow in this setting. I found the house but rode on past it to find the tiny little bridge. It's one lane wide and I had to yield to another car already on the bridge coming the other way.

Crossing the bridge was something else! It has high wooden walls on either side and only needs a roof to qualify as a covered bridge. There is a small parking area on the NY side of the bridge and I parked there, grabbed my camera, and walked back to the bridge and the little toll house that sits next to it. The bridge description, from the NPS web site:
The Delaware Aqueduct is the oldest existing wire cable suspension bridge in the nation. Begun in 1847 as one of four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canal, it was designed by and built under the supervision of John A. Roebling, future engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I got to ride over the little bridge again, then, to head back to the Zane Grey house. Such a beautiful house! I chatted a bit with the young park ranger, who told me a bit more about the bridge, as well as some about Zane Grey and this house. He told me that when they inspected the bridge for structural integrity recently, they found it to be in excellent shape and its cable tensile strength to far exceed today's structural standards yet, at the time that Roebling designed and built the bridge he had no precedent and no idea what engineering standards to shoot for.

So after my little visit at the Zane Grey house, I got to ride back over the bridge once more, to the NY side again, and then headed up NY 97, a designated Scenic Byway. It was a beautiful road, hugging the Delaware River, matching it curve for curve. Sometimes the road climbed up to a bluff overlooking the river, sometimes it descended down to river level and followed along its eastern bank.

It was while I was enjoying this road that I noticed my GPS suddenly jump from "arrival at 4:30 PM" to reading "arrival at 5:38 PM." That seemed mighty odd, but I just assumed it was the nature of the road. It took a very long time to get from Scranton to the Zane Grey Museum on 590, since it was a narrow, twisting road on which 35 mph felt very fast, 20-25 mph more typical, and 10-15 mph 90-degree or greater tight turns occasional.

But when I got to Binghamton and merged onto I-81, I knew this wasn't right. Worse, it kept adding a minute here and there even though I was moving along faster than the speed limit. I checked the turn-by-turn directions on the GPS and those were all correct, showing 62 miles to destination, which was correct.

As I neared Cortland, the turn-by-turns were on the money for correctness yet the arrival time was still way off...off by more than an hour. When I pulled into the motel parking lot, the map showed me at the motel, but the GPS arrival time still showed more than an hour later AND the GPS did not say "arriving at destination." So strange! Someone else in our group said that their GPS did something similar that day, so we chalked it up to a GPS-like Bermuda Triangle somewhere in the area.

It was a very good day ride for me, Not so many miles - maybe around 260 miles for the day - but some great national park destinations, a few more stamps for my National Parks passport book, and some really nice roads between Scranton, Zane Grey museum, Roebling Viaduct, and back up to Binghamton.
Tomorrow will be a different story: I do fully intend to NOT RIDE!


As forecasted, Wednesday morning was gray and rainy when I woke up. Everything was wet in the parking lot so it had apparently rained quite a bit during the night and threatened to do more today. An MTF member from Rhode Island came in yesterday and he and I made plans to go for a morning run today. I had a 3 mile route mapped out and we agreed to a 7:00 AM start.

So there I was and there he was, both right on time in the parking lot and we struck out heading south on Church St toward US 13 westbound for a mile or so, then turning into SUNY Cortland campus. I warned him that I'm not a fast runner but he didn't seem to mind, and struck out a few times on some short sprints until I could catch up with him. Once on the SUNY campus, the road wound through the athletic facilities and then popped out in an unexpected place.

It was then that I realized we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere on that campus and I was pretty sure we were further west by about a mile. Once on a main road and heading sort of north, I saw where we were. Highway 222 was just ahead and we had a long run east on 222 to get back to the hotel. A check on mapping software afterward confirmed that we'd run 4.38 miles, not the promised 3 miles. But my running partner didn't mind..in fact he took off on one last sprint past the motel then doubled back and joined a few of us in the motel lobby for coffee.

On that run, he and I passed by a great little diner within easy walking distance of the motel that promised to be the perfect breakfast spot for those of us hanging around the motel for the day.

A leisurely breakfast, followed by some web surfing and getting caught up with email, then Claye (from MTF) and I walked over to Main Street and had lunch at a great NY-style deli. We all spent a some-what dissipated afternoon until those that did brave the weather returned from their rides and we all walked over to the Community Restaurant for one last dinner together.

Tomorrow morning those of us still in Cortland will all be heading out to our various corners of the country, me to Bangor ME to visit Acadia National Park before heading south toward home.

1 comment:

  1. Steamtown is one of my all time favorite NP. I have been there 3 times and I am sure I will go back. Enjoying your journeys to my local.