Archive for the Stories Category

“Hi Boss, I’m Out Riding. I’m Gonna Be A Little Late” 3-18-2011

Posted in Geocaching, Images, Rides, Stories on March 19, 2011 by vinnylombardo

Today the weather was absolutely perfect for a ride; 78 degrees with a mild wind blowing. As luck would have it, most of my morning commitments got postponed, and I was able to get in 90 miles of saddle time before work! I did what I needed to get done in the morning,  and was out the door by 11 a.m.

I hatched a quick plan to ride out to Upper Black Eddy in Bucks County, and visit Ringing Rocks Park again, to grab a few geocaches there. It’s about 40 miles from home, and about 35 miles back to my job. With one errand along the way, a few photo stops and maybe a bite to eat, I figured  I’d have plenty of time to be at work by 3 p.m.

I headed out of NE Philly, made a quick withdrawal at the credit union and traveled north. Presently, there is a detour along Second Street Pike just past Richboro, so I took Worthington Mill over to Swamp Rd. There are some rock quarries in this area, and a lot of big trucks travel these roads. I had forgotten how much wind turbulence they generate for a biker!

I soon linked up to Durham Rd, and took that for a stretch before turning onto New Hope Rd. I took that until it basically turns into a horse trail north of Holicong Rd.  I pulled off there to snap a few photos from my cell phone.

Being in traffic on a bike can be somewhat unsettling at times, particularly when you have not been out riding in almost four months! Needless to say,  it was a relief to be the only traffic on Holicong Rd. I was feeling hungry and ready for a cigarette, so I turned onto Mechanicsville Rd. Then hit up Creamery Rd, and took Old York Rd. down the hill to River Rd, stopping at Dilly’s Corner.

I’ve gone past here countless times in my life but really only remember ever stopping here once as a child, and maybe one other time as a teen; both times for ice cream. So I took a chance and pulled in. From the outside, the place reminds me of Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside, CA. I glanced over the menu sign which features burgers, hot dogs, french fries and the like, and as a vegetarian, I was repulsed. But at the bottom, I saw they had black bean burgers, so I ordered one. The girl at the counter asked if I wanted dressing on it, and pointed to a sign listing 7 or 8 different options. I went with basil mayo.  Mmmm. It was really good. I washed it down with a pink lemonade. I know I’ll be stopping there again! I grabbed a quick smoke and headed north on River Rd. towards  my destination.

As I was riding, I noticed a waterfall along River Rd. but there wasn’t a safe place to pull over nearby, and I was pressing for time. But I wanted a shot of the Delaware River, so a few miles north of the waterfall, there was a safe place to pull off. I snapped a shot from each angle.

Near the town of Erwinna, I turned onto Headquarters Rd. and then Tinicum Church Rd.  This set of roads was my favorite part of today’s ride. These roads are, a bit twisty, isolated, and it was mostly uphill. On a motorcycle,  I enjoy going uphill slightly more than going down. Both are fun, depending on the road, but I always enjoy the climb more than the descent.

At some point, Tinicum Church Rd. becomes Chestnut Ridge Rd.  I was jamming along when something caught my eye. I  had to turn back and pull over for a photo.

I was jarred by the word “Peace.” But I think it was the contrast of the snowflake on this warm day that really drew me in. In any case, it was a stop and snap moment!

Within minutes, I had arrived at Ringing Rocks Park, and had logged my first geocache. There were two others, but I had to make it quick. I hiked 1/4 mile to the location of the second cache, but had a little trouble locating the container. The listed coordinates were off by about 25-30 feet.  I re-read the clues and soon found it. There was a third cache I wanted to log, which involved taking a photo of myself at the coordinates.

Yes it was a good day, but my fun had to end soon. It was 2:15 when I took this photo.  I had 28 miles to go and had to stop for gas too! So I quickly tromped across the rocks, and back to my bike. I took a few back roads out of the park, and eventually linked up to Route 611. I made my way to Route 413 and then 232, riding right into the detours,  arriving at work 20 minutes late!  Oh well! Luckily, my boss rides too, so he understood!

Feeling Green? 3-17-2011

Posted in Images, Rides, Stories on March 18, 2011 by vinnylombardo

Winter is almost over! It has been a turbulent one; in the world, as well as, in my own life.

My bike has been sitting in a garage and hadn’t been ridden since 12-24-2010 for a short trip the the grocery store. The Philadelphia region had a few big snow storms over the winter, but it seems to have ended a bit early this year! The past few days, temps have been reaching the mid 50’s, and today the forecast called for a high of 68 degrees! Oh yea!

Today, I went to get my motorcycle out of storage! I fired up the bike, and it took a few minutes, as well as a few runs around the block to get warmed up. But soon it was idling properly, and all was well. Off I went! I had to head home to drop off some gear, and get ready for work. But I still had about an hour to ride before work.

I took the longer way in, and after 45 minutes, I  stopped off for a few moments at Tamanend Park  which is a couple miles from my job.

All in all I rode about 40 miles today,  mostly commuting, but it still felt wonderful to be out riding a motorcycle again!

Tomorrow, the high is supposed to be 75 degrees, and depending on how my day goes, I may get in a longer ride. But either way,  Spring is almost here, and it’s riding season again! Hooray!

Dark Hollow Geo-Cruise 11-22-10

Posted in Beer, Bridges, Geocaching, Images, Rides, Stories on December 1, 2010 by vinnylombardo

The weather in November has been fairly mild this year, with temperatures averaging in the high 40’s and low 50’s. The month offered a few days with warmer weather to ride, but with my work schedule at 6 days per week, it’s hard to get in serious saddle time. I’ve put on a few joyful miles here and there before work a few times this month. I have Mondays off, and a few of them it rained or I had other things to do like get my car fixed, or run errands, or watch my niece, etc… But on  Monday, 11-22, the temperature reached the low 60’s. The day started out much colder at dawn, but by 9 a.m., it was in the 50’s. I showered, dressed, and loaded up my GPS unit with geocaches to find. By 10 o’clock, I was on the road.I gassed up, and cruised around for awhile, zigzagging my way north along Swamp Rd. toward Rushland. Up until 1800, this place was known as Sackett’s Ford, as the Neshaminy Creek is shallow enough to reach the mill and store there. This is where I found the first cache of the day, near the end of Old Sackett’s Ford Road.

This seemed like a good spot for a hide. I really liked the isolated feeling of the dead end road there. I found the cache, and headed on. There were a few more caches nearby, so I  headed over to Dark Hollow Park, a place I’ve been to before, on my old Honda Shadow. Its a really great spot, but located right near private property.

Of course, I couldn’t resist the temptation to ride across the bridge  for a photo.  As I was getting back on my bike, a property owner came out and started yelling at me, so I took off empty handed without finding the cache here. Dark Hollow Rd. is broken up into sections, so I cruised around,  and hit up some of the fun stretches of asphault nearby (Mill Creek Rd, Penn’s Park Rd., Durham Rd. and Forest Grove) to get to the north side of Dark Hollow Rd. I was led to an abandoned lot, near some large power lines, and a long strip of county land . I hiked into the woods to find the cache, and it was located near Robin Run Lake. It was a nice little spot, tucked away from the utility lines. When I opened the cache, there was a diposable camera inside so I excitedly took a few pics on it, but forgot to take some of my own there! Ooops! Anyway, I hiked back out to my bike, and rode over to another cache a little further north on Dark Hollkow. It was on the opposite side of the lake, and when I parked I had to hike about three-tenths of a mile to locate the spooky tree!

Back to the bike, and onward to some other caches. I hit some familiar roads and ended up on Pineville Rd.,  which I haven’t been on since May 2009!

Yes! It is still NOT closed to me!

There was a multi-cache located here at the bridge. It was my first attempt at a multi-cache! For those unfamiliar, there are questions to be answered in order to get the proper cache coordinates. In this multi-cache the number of names on the bridge stone was combined with a geography and history question.

It took a bit of thinking, but I figured out the proper coordinates and located the cache. As I was perusing the contents, a LEO drove up, and slowly turned along New Hope Rd. but left me alone. I grabbed a token for a free beer at Triumph Brewery, left some swag in the cache, and took a snapshot of Pidcock Creek at dusk.

Pineville Rd. was a blast with no cars for almost two miles! I headed onto Stoney Hill Rd.  and hit up Aquetong Rd.  Last month, this tree was full of brilliant orange leaves.  On this day, it was barren.

I headed over to Van Sant Covered Bridge, where I discovered a cache that was hidden there! I also discovered that the scarecrow was still there too!

It was getting dark, and I had to find one more cache on my list, appropiately named, Run Dark Hollow. It was located in Dark Hollow Ravine not far away in New Hope. I found the cache quickly, and as I was signing the log, some muggles dressed in deer outfits were spying on me.  I took their photo, but they only showed me their eyes!

From here, I sneaked by the muggles to my bike,  and  headed over to the Triumph Brewery to  (cache) in my free beer token for a pint of Rauchbier. It has a smokey flavor, as the malted barley is dried over open flames. It was a delicious treat to end the day and unwind. I relaxed for awhile at the pub after one pint, and eventually headed home under the nearly full moon.

Fall, Foliage, Fun, and Photos – 10-25-2010

Posted in Bridges, Geocaching, Images, Rides, Stories on October 30, 2010 by vinnylombardo

Autumn foliage around these parts peaks in mid to late October, as the leaves change from green into a brilliant array of fall colors.  The temperatures have been moderately warm for mid-October, so the colors might last a little longer this year. But once we get a morning frost, those leaves will star drying out and turning brown, leaving the trees barren until springtime.

With Monday off from work, I decided to take an afternoon motorcycle cruise, and capture some of the autumn beauty before it disappears. I really didn’t have a route planned, but knew that I wanted to find a few geocaches towards Upper Bucks, and ride over into New Jersey a little. I hit up some familiar roads close to home, and decided to take some photos right away.

Chinquapin Rd.  is a short, fun,  little, detour road that links Bristol Rd. with Holland Rd. and Buck Rd. As you can see, there is still a lot of green left on some trees…

While others have peaked and are starting to drop leaves.

I motored up Chinquapin, and then turned around….

Heading back to Bristol Rd, I  then went north on Bridgetown Pike. The SEPTA West Trenton rail line runs over this road and it is quite a crazy corner.

The temperature reached the low 70s and the warm sun felt nice this late in the year. It provided some awesome shadows, too.

Some hooligan came buzzing through on a BSA while I was taking photos.

I wanted to get this angle to show the dramatic colors of the season.

From Bridgetwon Pike, I ended up on Woodbourne Rd. in Middletown, still not far from home. The sign promoting apple cider at Styer Orchards caught my eye, so I pulled in.

As a kid, my parents would bring me and my sister here. In the fall Styer makes great cider, and they have hayrides where you can pick your own apples right from the trees. They are also known for making the best pumpkin pies, and around Thanksgiving they always sell out fast. I went into the market, and grabbed a cup of cider. They have a big juice dipenser with cups, and use the honor system with a box for coins. This month Styer Orchards are celebrating their 100 year anniversary.

The sign says… “From November 25, 1910, until the present, The Styer Family Orchards have passed from generation to generation, dedicated to the cultivation and harvesting of produce for sale to the public and to the preservation of the site for the education of future farmers. The Styer Family has conveyed this 107 acres to the township of Middletown to remain in perpetuity as a living testimonial to our agricultural history.”

I rode around the farm a little to look for the old tractor we used to play on as kids.

The tractor gets moved from time to time. This year it is on display out near the pumpkin patch.

I headed off to find more fall foliage, piloting my ride over to familiar turf through Yardley. I turned off Sandy Run Rd. onto Reading Ave, and went past St. Ignatius, where I attended grade school, then checked out the beautiful colors on Oxford Valley Rd.

I motored on from here, through Yardley…

and went north along River Rd.

Along the way, my odometer turned another milestone!

Having hit 25,000 miles on the Vulcan, I have  considered selling it soon, and buying a  larger motorcycle.  But for now, it’s mine, and it’s still all smiles!

From River Rd., I went up to Lurgan Rd, and turned on Covered Bridge Rd.

Legend has it the Van Sandt Covered Bridge is haunted, so I figured with Halloween around the corner maybe the ghosts might be a little restless. All I saw was this guy off in a nearby field.

I wasn’t scared, but I did get out of there fast! There were more colors awaiting over on Aquetong Rd.

I headed along Sugan Rd. and stopped at another familiar spot.

Even though I’ve gone past them hundreds of times, the only time I explored the Mills ruins in New Hope was at night about 20 years ago, and I was high on magic mushrooms,  so I felt like it was a good time to see them once more.

The sign reads, “MILLS In 1700 Robert Heath aquired 1000 acres of land from an original William Penn grant to Thomas Woolrich. As part of an agreement with Penn, Heath built a grist mill here on the north bank of Aquetong Creek. The mill was powered by the contstant flow of water generated by the great spring. Mills continued to operate at this location for over two hundred years. The ruins of a grist mill and a cotton mill converted to silk mill still exist on the south bank of the creek. These mills and their workers were immortalized in several paintings by Robert Spence in the early 1900’s. New Hope Historical Society”

This is a view from inside the silk mill, looking out onto Aquetong Creek.

I was enthralled by these ruins, and took quite a few shots here.

The colored ivy growing on the walls was very pleasing to me.

This is a view from inside of the grist mill.

Another view from inside the grist mill.

As I was about to leave, I heard the New Hope Ivyland heritage steam train  going by, and snapped off a quick shot.

I left and went a few miles to find a geocache.

Success!

This spot led me to a road I had never known about, which ends in Union Square, the site of New Hope’s train depot. There is a dead line here and some old trains.

This old train looked very interesting.

Originally built in May 1963, this diesel locomotive was repaired, repainted, and restored to service in February, 1997. It carries freight and work trains, and is a substitute passenger engine.

I went into town, and ate some pizza before crossing over the bridge into Lambertville, N.J. My plan included finding some geocaches in and around Sourland Mountian, but it was getting late, and I was really enjoying the foliage in this preserve, while riding on some roads I’d never been on.

This was on Mountain Rd. in West Amwell, NJ.

I cruised a little more, and took a picture on Orchard Rd. as the sun was going down through the clouds.

I only had enough light left for a few more quick photos of fall foliage.

This was on Linavale Rd., also in West Amwell.

I filled up my tank in NJ, and headed down Bear Tavern Rd. to the Washington Crossing bridge. On my way home, I stopped for one last photo on Woodbourne Rd. near Lake Luxembourg.

All in all, it was another fabulous time spent riding. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and the birds are flying south, so I really cherish these last few warm days of the season. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get in a few more good rides before winter!

Bikes and Beer Generally Don’t Mix, But…

Posted in Beer, Images, Rides, Stories on October 30, 2010 by vinnylombardo

On my way home from Centralia, I was riding right by Pottsville, so I decided to stop by the Yuengling Brewery, located at W. Mahantongo Street at 5th Street in Pottsville, PA.

Established in 1829, D.G. Yuengling & Son, commonly called Yuengling (pronounced Ying Ling) is the oldest operating beer brewery in the United States. The company brews a wide range of styles including bock, ale, and porter, but their most popular beer is lager. If you walk into most bars around here and ask for a lager, you’ll be served a Yuengling.

The first time I drank Yuengling beer, it was early 1992. I was 19 years old, and living in West Philly. The neighborhood has a number of old wherehouses that were converted into underground clubs, for live bands and/or raves. One such space was called Killtime, and I went there to see avant-garde noise band Crash Worship. I think it was a three dollar cover, which included a red plastic cup for the keg. When I put the tap in my cup, a dark colored liquid came out, and it looked like cola. But my housemate Jahan assured me it was a beer called Yuengling Porter. Up until then,  I had only tried a handful of different beers, like Rolling Rock, Heineken, Coors, Busch, and Bud. I didn’t really know much about beer, or actually enjoy it, but I drank beer because  it got me drunk.  It was cold that night, but this Porter warmed me up insside, and after trying this rich, dark, malty beer, I was opened to a whole new world of flavor. I now regularly enjoy a variety of small craft beers, but it is Yuengling Porter that I will always remember as the first good beer I drank.  So when I saw the signs off Rte 61 for the brewery,  I felt I must see where this beer comes from.

Originally called The Eagle Brewery, the company switched to “D.G. Yuengling and Son” in 1873 after Frederick Yuengling joined his father David in running the company.

Although the company’s name changed, the bald eagle remained the company’s emblem.

To survive the prohibition years, Yuengling ran a dairy and went into the ice cream business, opening a factory across from the brewery. The dairy closed in 1981, and the building now sits vacant.

Yuengling produces 3.6 million barrels annually, at this brewery and two others; one in Pensylvania and one in Tampa, FL.

The brewery conducts tours of the facility, but I would have had to wait nearly two hours for the next one to begin, so I only got pictures of the outside and  in the lobby near the gift shop.  If you want to know more about the history of this brewery or where Yuengling beer is available, click here for their home page, but you must be 21 years old to enter. Also, wikipedia has a good background page on Yuengling.

After arriving home safely about 2 hours later, I parked my bike in the garage, and cracked open a bottle of Yuengling Lager. Then another, and another…

Ghost Town – Centralia, PA

Posted in Ghost Towns, Images, Rides, Stories on October 25, 2010 by vinnylombardo

The Coal Region is a seven county section of Northeastern Pennsylvania, situated in the central Appalachian Mountains. The area is home to the largest known deposits of anthracite coal found in the Americas. Settlements in this region pre-date the Revolutionary War, but the population boomed in the early 1800’s with the discovery of this coal.

Bull’s Head Tavern opened in 1841, in what is now known as Colombia County, and within a few years, streets were laid and homes were built. The village was dubbed Centerville. But in 1866, the town was renamed Centralia and given it’s own ZIP code, to avoid confusion with another town in Schuylkill County.

Centralia grew. At it’s peak, the town had over 2,000 residents, 27 saloons, 14 general stores, 7 churches, 5 hotels, 2 theaters, a bank, and a post office. Centralia was served by two railroads, and operated it’s own school district, and three-man police force.

But that would all begin to change in May, 1962. Town planners had previously failed to install a fire-resistant clay barrier between a garbage pit and an abandoned coal mine. So, when haulers lit the trash, an exposed coal vein in the underground mine also ignited. Fire crews thought they had the blaze contained, but within a few days the fire had moved underground. For the next two decades every attempt to suppress the blaze failed, and the flames had consumed an underground area some 400 acres in size.

The fire caused fissures in a section of Highway 61 that runs through Centralia. Smoke, fumes, toxic gases, and in some cases flames, rose up through the ground, and into people’s homes. Several cases of carbon monoxide poisoning were reported. People began moving out. The fire was literally consuming Centralia.

According to a 1983 engineering study, the Centralia mine fire “could conceivably spread over an area of approximately 3,700 acres” and might still be burning in another hundred years. After dragging it’s heels for two decades, the U.S. Congress finally acted in 1984, doling out over $42 million to relocate the 1,100 residents who remained in Centralia. Most took the grants, and settled in nearby Ashland and Mount Carmel, as the government began tearing apart their town, piece by piece.  Though some families refused to be bought out, in 1992 all properties in Centralia were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and condemned. Highway 61 was closed off in 1993, and permanently rerouted around the town. In 2002, the U.S. Post Office revoked Centralia’s ZIP code. A majority of the buildings that once stood in Centralia have been demolished; the last remaining house was razed in Sept. 2007. Today, with just 9 residents remaining, and little trace that it ever existed, Centralia is a ghost town.

It was April 2009, just after completing my cross country trek, that I first learned about Centralia while researching ghost towns in Pennsylvania. A few nights later, I was watching TV and saw this segment on History Channel’s series, Life After People.

I was determined that someday I had to make a journey there. That day came Oct 11, 2010. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was Indigenous People’s Day, aka Columbus Day.

The day before, we celebrated my sister’s birthday, so I woke up fairly hung over. The little tasks to prepare myself and my bike for the journey seemed to be taking longer than normal, and I didn’t hit the road until 11 a.m. Depending on traffic, and the route I chose, I could be there in 2.5 hours. I took Bristol Rd. out of Bensalem, which linked to Limekiln Pike, Bethlehem Pike, and ultimately Rt. 309 for a long stretch. Rt. 309 is at times like a freeway, alternating between stretches of two lane roadway through some towns. I stopped for numerous water breaks along the way, and made one fuel stop.

Eventually, I turned on Highway 54 and cruised past some active coal mines and small towns. After a few miles, I had reached Big Mine Run Rd. My GPS said to make a right, and I followed the directions it gave. Then it kept telling me to make a u-turn. If I did, I would have ended up in Ashland. I ignored those directions and continued up Big Mine Run Rd. for about a mile when I came to the intersection of Highway 61 (Locust Ave.) and Highway 42 (Centre St.). I thought to myself, “Am I in Centralia?”

Pulling over at the intersection I looked left up the hill on Locust Ave. and saw a few parked cars and people strolling up a dirt road.

So I rode towards them.

There is a notice board posted near protesting the evictions and demanding that Governor Rendell takes action on .

In recent months, 2 more residents were evicted as state officials wrestle in court with the remaining holdouts, who have filed suit to reverse the 1992 eminent domain claim. The sign references a notorious hate crime murder in nearby Shenandoah.

Across the road, the land appeared to be level, as if engineered for some type of structure. But behind the level spot, was a crater in the ground, where the fires once burned. There was steam rising from it, though its hardly visible in the photo.

I rode up the hill along what remained of South St. The pavement was smooth in some spots, but buckled and broken up in others. At the top of the hill is SS Peter – Paul Orthodox Cemetery.

I jumped off my bike, snapped a few photos, and was about to walk around the cemetery, when I heard the familiar rumble of a motorcycle getting louder. A man and woman rode up, we chatted briefly, I took a photo for them,  and I went on to see some other parts of Centralia.

On my way back down South St. an older fellow wearing a US Navy cap was driving toward me. He slowed down to say something, so I stopped. In a frail voice, he said that used to be where he lived, as he motioned toward a plot near us. I didn’t know how to react. I asked where he lives now, and he said Ashland, and that he was glad he took the government buyout, because “there’s nothing left here.” Then he drove on.

In this image, you can see the steam busting through the dirt. I rolled down the hill and was  back on Locust Ave. I turned  left went about a block, to Park Ave.

There I saw what was left of the veteran’s memorial.

From other photos I’ve seen, there used to be a bench here, and a large replica of the Liberty Bell was once the memorial’s centerpiece. What remains today is a cinder block alter with a few painted stones placed there, like this one.

Also in this park, there is an eerie reminder of the town’s past.

It is expected that many former residents will attend a ceremony in 2016 to open the time capsule. I rolled down Park Ave. to see if I could find any signs of what once was.  The area appears to be a field with a paved street and driveways, but no homes.

About a quarter mile down, the street abruptly ends in a pile of litter and bramble and the former neighborhood is being overrun by new-growth forest.

I walked around a little bit on what seemed to be at one time, someone’s home.

A few hundred yards away, I encountered some type of ailing structure. If I had to guess, I’d say it was once a chicken coup, or some other type of animal pen. But I really have no idea.

I walked back to my bike and hopped back on, heading  back toward S. Laurel Ave, to look for the closed portion of Highway 61. I went south, and rode along the new portion of Highway 61, going past the shell of the Byrnesville washhouse, but three cars were parked there, so I turned around and went back up the hill and  parked at the top  on the former site of St Ignatius Church, where now only a graveyard remains.

Across the ridge, on the other side of town, you can see a clear view of one of the few buildings still left standing in Centralia. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, still holds weekly services.

I walked around the cemetery a bit.

Past the southern end of St. Ignatius Cemetery, large piles of dirt block off the abandoned portion of Highway 61. It is likely accessible by motorcycle, but there was a 3 foot mud puddle there and I didn’t feel like risking it. I walked along this stretch of road, taking in some of the graffiti.

A pair of ATVs suddenly came along out of the wooded area, startling me as they went by. I got a little freaked out, and without seeing the entire closed portion of Highway 61, headed back up toward the graveyard, thinking to myself, “For a ghost town, there sure is a lot of activity here!” There was another abandoned logging road behind the cemetery.

The stunning autumn colors are occasionally contrasted by the remnants of a vanquished culture.

I went back to my bike, and checked out a few other streets in Centralia. Heading north on Locust Ave, I went through the intersection of Centre St, and back to the other side of town, where the Municipal Building is located.

Apparently a fire crew is still operating here, as there were two trucks parked in a garage behind the building.

The Centralia Police Dept, however, no longer exists, and the area is now patrolled by PA state troopers.  Through the door, a sticker was visible from the outside.

There was much more to see in Centralia, but as I was cruising around the areas fun roads, thunder started clapping, and I saw some lightning, so I needed to get moving.

I left the ghost town with mixed emotions. After seeing firsthand the carcass of an abandoned town being reclaimed by nature, I thought, “Was this a look into the past, or future? Am I seeing what was, or what is to be?”

Cruising to the Catskills – August 2009

Posted in Bridges, Images, Rides, Stories on October 20, 2010 by vinnylombardo

In late July, 2009 my bike got  new tires put on,  a new chain and sprockets installed, and had a leak fixed in the engine. While it was in the shop, I had them do an oil change too.

In early August I managed to take a few days off from work. I had been filling in for other co-workers, and they owed me. I had four days off beginning Sunday 8/2/09 and didn’t have to be back in work until Thursday 8/6/09. I decided to head north and check out the Catskill Mountains in New York State. Years ago, I attended a conference in Callicoon Center NY, and I remembered that the drive there was through some beautiful mountain roads. My plan was to leave Bensalem early on Sunday morning, head north through the Pocono Mountains in PA, and eventually get to the Catskills to ride the area, and visit some of the covered bridges around there.

I got up early Sunday, excited about some time off to ride, but my joy quickly turned to frustration when I looked outside to see dark skies and a steady rain falling. The forecast was calling for rain through the day, and rain it did. Over 3 inches fell across the region in just a few hours. The rain caused a mudslide along the Schuylkill Expressway, while area creeks and rivers flooded some towns.  By the time it stopped raining, it was 4 p.m. and the roads were still wet. It was a mess, and I wasn’t about to ride a few hundred miles in that! So I stayed in.

On Monday morning I double checked that I had packed everything I would need for a 500 mile road trip. My plans to go through the Poconos changed when I learned there was a big NASCAR Race in the area that day. I wanted to avoid all the traffic that would create,  so I decided to head straight to the Catskills, and see the Poconos on my way back. I left my house around 10 am, headed north through Bucks County to New Hope, and crossed the Delaware River into Lambertville, New Jersey.

After the first few miles my Garmin Zumo GPS unit started cutting in and out. The cable which runs power from the horn directly to the unit, has a short and the power kept switching to the unit’s internal battery. It was very frustrating, but I managed to navigate to the New York state line in about three hours, which included a 45 minute lunch stop at the River Star Diner in Hackettstown NJ.

There was no “Welcome to New York” sign, but I stopped for a quick photo anyway. Within an hour, I arrived at the Monticello Casino in Monticello, NY. It’s a racetrack and slots parlor. They only have video slots, so I walked around for about twenty minutes without making a wager. I left there and rode along Route 17, checking out a few nice side roads. Eventually, I came upon the Bendo Covered Bridge located on Conklin Hill Rd. in the town of Rockland, in Sullivan County, New York.

Bendo Covered Bridge is one of 29 historical covered bridges in New York State. It is a lattice truss design.

A single span of 48 feet, Bendo Covered  Bridge crosses over Willowemoc Creek.

The Bridge was originally built by John Davidson in 1860, and was located in Livingston Manor. The Bendo Bridge was cut in half, and moved to its present location in 1913.

After spending a few minutes there, I headed off to find some more nice roads, and shelter for the night. I made my way over to Liberty, New York, ate a sandwich, and passed out.

In the morning, I woke up before dawn, showered, dressed and gathered up my stuff. I grabbed some coffee and a muffin at the hotel, and headed out of Liberty to go explore the Catskills.

The morning air was cool but it felt good. There were very few cars out at that time, and I enjoyed cruising along at a spirited pace. I turned off the main road, onto a bridge over the Neversink River and stopped for a quick photo.

From there I cruised some more and found Frost Valley Rd on my GPS.

It looked like a fun twisty, so I turned left, and cruised along, until I noticed a waterfall.

I decided to snap a few shots.

I rolled along Frost Valley for a few miles until it became Olivera as it switched back up the mountain. When I reached Big Indian, I went left onto NY28 in Ulster County, near Shandaken. From there I turned onto Park Rd, and saw the Friendship Manor Covered Bridge.

The Friendship Manor Covered Bridge sits at the base of Bellayre Mountain, and serves as the entryway to the Day Use Area there, crossing over Birch Creek.

Friendship Manor Covered Bridge is 72 ft. long, 22 ft. 4 in. wide, and has a 9 ft. 6 in. height limit. It was built in 1992, and is a pre-cast structure, known as an Inverset bridge which is made of steel beam and concrete decking.

I turned back onto NY 28, and stopped for fuel a few miles up the highway. There was a neat little roadside shop and cafe there too. So I walked around a bit, looking at all the trinkets and baubles, but left without making any purchases. Eventually I turned on Dry Brook Rd, and cruised along until I noticed I was approaching a small covered bridge to my right.

The Forge Covered Bridge, built in 1906, currently sits on private land. It is a 27-foot long single-span, known as a Kingpost truss. The Forge Covered Bridge is the only one of it’s kind in New York state.

A few miles SE of there, in Hardenburgh, I came upon a very strange looking structure called Myers Covered Bridge.

It is a two lane bridge that is 47 feet long. Myers Covered Bridge crosses Dry Brook Creek.

Built in 1990, Myers Covered Bridge is a steel stringer bridge with a concrete deck.

Cruising on, I hit some nice roads and gorgeous scenery, but my GPS unit, which had been okay most of the day,  started cutting in and out again.

This fact made navigation a bit stressful, but I persisted and made my way to Millbrook Rd. in Hardenburgh, where I saw the Grant Mills Covered Bridge, AKA the Millbrook Bridge.

Apparently there is some controversy over the actual name of this bridge according to a Notice posted inside.

The Millbrook is a single span, Town lattice truss bridge, and was built in 1902.

The bridge was bypassed in 1964 when Mill Brook Rd. was relocated a short distance to the south, but it remains in excellent condition and is still open to foot traffic.

As I was getting back on my bike, I spotted a few deer running across the road.

Bambi’s Mother turned and posed for the paparazzi before darting off!

By this point in the day it was about noon, and I had nearly completed a loop in and around the southern portion of Catskills Park. I cruised around until I found Beaverkill Bridge Park.

Beaverkill Bridge, also known as Conklin Bridge, is a 98 foot, hemlock lattice truss covered bridge, located along Campsite Rd. (aka CR 30) in the Town of Rockland. It was erected in 1865, and crosses Beaverkill River. The bridge was an early step in bringing civilization to a remote area that, at the time was largely unsettled.

I stayed here for awhile, enjoying the warm sun as I ate some of the food I had packed. On my way out of Rockland, I passed through the Livingston Manor Covered Bridge.

Built in 1860, this bridge too, has some controversy about it’s name. It was once known as Mott’s Flat Covered Bridge, and then Van Tran Covered Bridge. A single span of 117 feet, this Town truss with a laminated arch, crosses over the Willowemoc Creek. It is one of the neatest looking covered bridges I’ve seen.

The Livingston Manor Covered Bridge is nestled in a small park on Covered Bridge Road off Sullivan County Route 179. State Route 17 can be seen from the bridge and the park.

With my GPS going in and out, I got on CR 149 heading south, and passed through many  small towns with cool sights. Near Youngsville, Ny, I took SR 52 South, and eventually crossed the Delaware River back into Pennsylvania.

I navigated my way past many lakes, and fun roads to get to the Poconos. Despite that I was feeling too tired to stop for many photos, I did pull over for one, as my bike had reached a milestone!

I bought this bike in August 2007 with 221 miles on the odometer, so it felt like it was a personal milestone for me as well as the machine. 20,000 smiles on this bike and counting!!

Within an hour I was playing slots at Mt. Airy Casino, where I nearly lost all my money, but then started winning it all back, a little at a time. Then I got lucky and hit for $1000 jackpot. I cashed out and left there ahead $800!

I cruised on some awesome roads for awhile and found some geocaches before I went to a hotel in nearby Mt Pocono. Again though,  I didn’t bust out the camera. I ate some pizza, and grabbed a six pack of Yuengling Lager, before watching some baseball and falling asleep.

In the morning, it was a bit overcast with a potential for rain in the area, so I wanted to get up and out of there early. On my way out of town, I lamented the fact that I missed some good photo ops, as I pulled over for one quick shot.

The story ends like this: With my GPS cutting in and out, I missed an exit off Rt. 611 near the Deleware River Water Gap, and ended up in Northern NJ. Eventually the GPS’ internal battery was completely drained and I got lost. But it was one of those feelings of not really caring that I was lost. I knew I was headed south, and as long as I stayed close to the Delaware River, I’d eventually find some familiar roads. It was actually some very pleasant riding. I ended up on quite a few interesting backroads, in small mountain communities, before I got to Frenchtown, NJ, which crosses the Deleware River into Upper Bucks County, PA. Turning south on River Rd. I made my way back to New Hope and had breakfast at Cafe Lulu’s on Main St. I rode a little more that day before heading home and going back to work the next day. All in all it was a fun trip, and I hope to see more of those places again someday.