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Picture this: you're zooming down a twisty, two-lane highway in the middle of dense evergreen forest. As you come down a steep hill, you snatch glimpses of clear blue lakes backed by mountains. Your gaze wanders up into the cloudless sky and then off to the trees lining the side of the road. No need to pay attention to the road, because you're the pillion rider on a motorcycle trip in the Adirondacks.
The Adirondacks is a vast, 9,375-square-mile area in upstate New York. Created in 1892, it's the largest state or federal park outside Alaska and is more than double the size of Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. That means hundreds of miles of twisty, hilly, forested pavement to explore. Even though the Adirondacks are within a day's drive for 60 million people, by staying out of the major tourist attraction areas we had the majority of the roads to ourselves - if you don't count the deer and turkeys we glimpsed along the edges of the forest.
We met my husband Mike's brother Wayne and his wife Colleen in Indian Lake, our headquarters for the weekend. It seems like almost every town is situated on a lake or river, and sometimes both! Indian Lake has around 1400 inhabitants, but it boasts a larger than expected downtown with two restaurants so busy we needed dinner reservations, a great local diner for breakfast, and a variety of arts and community events to enjoy.
Saturday morning, we were treated to clear blue skies and the promise of perfect temperatures: upper 60's to upper 70's. Anticipate temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than populated areas up here in the Adirondacks!
Another bonus to riding pillion: Mike shelters me from the wind and I can snuggle up to his back to stay warm. We planned a circular route, heading east on Route 28, then turning south on Route 8. What really struck me were the trees that hugged the roads and covered every available surface as far as I could see.
Back home, Vermont offers wide-open views of the mountains. Riding through the Adirondacks, I felt a part of the forest, surprised every so often by a clear panorama of mountain peaks and valleys. As a pillion rider, I had the luxury to gaze endlessly at the side of the road, catching glimpses of hidden lakes or a cabin tucked away in the forest.
Route 8 turned into Route 30 and our first stop to stretch our legs at Java John's in Northville on Sacandaga Lake. We knew we were among friends when we saw the bikers welcome sign out front. John himself was working on Saturday, and we enjoyed friendly conversation, cold beverages, fresh-baked scones and turnovers, and local artwork covering the walls.
Sacandaga is actually a reservoir, created in 1930 to prevent spring flooding from the Hudson and Sacandaga Rivers. This valley was already a playground for New York City folks in the early 1900's, and Northville's main street retains much of the flavor of that era. County Road 7 took us along the eastern shores of the lake, which on this warm summer day was filled with sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and swimmers. Yet there was little traffic on the roads, giving us the opportunity to enjoy the lake views by ourselves.
Riding west on Route 29 along the southern edge of the Adirondack State Forest, the scenery opened up into farmland. Suddenly, a line of windmills appeared on the horizon. I love the powerful look of wind farms, and the Hardscrabble Wind Power Project in Fairfield is exceptional. The 37 2.0-megawatt turbines measure 322 feet from the ground to the center hub and 476 feet to the tip of the blade. We were blasted by the wind as we crested the rise and headed down into the valley, understanding immediately the power captured by the giant windmills that marched in a north-south line across the landscape. I was glad I rode pillion and didn't have to pay attention to the road, and spent my time counting windmills as far as I could see.
It wouldn't be summer on the BMW without an afternoon stop for ice cream. Even though Adirondack towns tend to be small and 10-20 miles apart, we didn't have any trouble locating an ice cream stand. Properly fortified, we hooked back up with Route 28 in Middleville, and rode the final two hours back north and then east to Indian Lake. We passed pristine, undeveloped lakes as well as lakes ringed with summertime vacation homes and the amenities tourists crave. I was especially fascinated by the Fulton Chain Lakes, numbered First through Eighth. I guess there are so many lakes in the Adirondacks, they ran out of names and resorted to numbers!
We left Indian Lake about 9:30 a.m., and returned 230 miles later at 6 p.m., just in time for dinner at one of the local restaurants. Small, locally owned motels, cabins, and camping opportunities are everywhere in the Adirondacks. If you're more comfortable in a chain motel, you'll need to stick to major tourist areas such as Old Forge, Glens Falls, or Lake George. These larger towns have more traffic, and on busy summer and fall weekends you'll spend more time sitting stopped in a traffic jam than you will enjoying the twisty mountain roads.
We chose the local option, staying at the family-owned Indian Lake Motel. The rooms were small but comfortable, and we were able to park the bikes and walk the half-mile into town for breakfast and dinner. It was a perfect weekend, and we're already planning our next adventure. With over 6 million acres and only 100,000 full-time residents, there's a wealth of riding opportunities in the Adirondacks!
Lynn Grieger rides with her husband Mike Ryan on their BMW F800GS motorcycle throughout their home in New England and around the world. You can read her blog about their travels at www.pillionpapers.blogspot.com
Plan Your Trip through the Adirondacks:
Snowy Mountain Inn
Rt. 30, Indian Lake, NY
Marty's Chili Nights Restaurant
Indian Lake, New York 12842
(518) 648-5832 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting
Adirondack Lodge Old Forge
2752 New York Route 28
Old Forge, NY 13420
The Forge Motel
104 Lamberton Street
Old Forge, NY 13420
The Old Mill Restaurant
PO Box 578
Old Forge, New York
The Flip Inn (Feels Like I'm in Paradise)
214 Co. Hwy.152, Northville, NY 12134
431 Division Street, Northville NY 12134-0643
The Adirondack Museum
Rt. 28N & 30, Blue Mountain Lake, NY 12812
Phone: (518) 352-7311