I live in Southern California now, so I get to ride my motorcycle year-round. But one thing that I miss about living in the Northeast is the change of seasons, especially the arrival of autumn. Green gives way to gold, red, yellow and a spectacular explosion of color just before the trees give up their leaves. Already beautiful scenery becomes outrageously, fleetingly mind blowing. The show moves from north to south, as fall creeps slowly down from Maine to Georgia. Florida doesn’t get as much of a show, but then Florida has a show year-round anyway.
When I lived in New York City, I had three favorite routes out of town for great day rides to see the foliage.
My favorite route was always directly to the north. We’d ride up the West Side Highway and onto the Taconic State Parkway. Almost immediately upon leaving the border of New York City up in Yonkers, the Taconic becomes a beautiful divided highway, with long stretches of curvy, tree-shaded two-lane road carved into the rocky hillside. There are even some challenging sections for a motorcyclist, with changes in elevation, decreasing radius turns and off-camber curves. Mostly, it’s a beautiful country ride through the Hudson River Valley that can make you forget you were ever in a crowded city. We used to ride up to Lagrangeville for brunch at the Daily Planet Diner then tool around Poughkeepsie, looking at the architecture and admiring the campus of Vassar College before heading back to Manhattan.
As the foliage line progressed southward, we’d head east, out to Long Island. Once we were able to clear the clutter of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, we’d take the Long Island Expressway until we reached Hicksville, then depart for the North Shore of Long Island. We’d ride through Huntington Station, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson and Rocky Point, marveling all the time at how the house thinned out, the trees got bigger, and the ride got more beautiful. At Riverhead, we would continue north to Southold, then dip down into the tony Hamptons, and if we were feeling ambitious, on to a lunch in Montauk, out at the very tip of Long Island. Pulling up to the elegant Montauk Manor on your Harley-Davidson, dressed in full leathers, is quite a liberating experience, and lunch at the Breakwaters Café is excellent. We’d usually take a different route home, hugging the South Shore through Bellport and Sayville before succumbing to the lure of the LIE and the quicker trip back into the City.
Sometimes, I liked to pack a lunch and go back to my family roots, so I’d plot a route west through New Jersey. Once you clear the dense urbanity of Jersey City and the Oranges, New Jersey’s hills and dales are surprisingly beautiful, especially as the leaves turn in the fall. A meandering route on Route 10 will touch on Dover, Mill Brook and Succasunna. I always detoured for a leisurely ride around Lake Hopatcong, which doesn’t seem to have changed much in the past 40 years or so, thank heavens. Route 46 will lead to US 611, which will take you to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area , and some of the most stunning scenery in the area. Pack a lunch, find a place to park and hike a while up the Appalachian Trail. It’s hard to believe that all this beauty is a comfortable day ride away from Manhattan and back.
I never found that great ride to the south of Manhattan. The closest I could come was southwest, to New Hope, Pennsylvania. I would ride through the Holland Tunnel and jump on the New Jersey Turnpike, the antithesis of a relaxing ride in the country. At Exit 9 or so, I’d jump off the Turnpike and follow my nose to the more relaxed route, through the gorgeous college town of Princeton. Following winding country roads, I could feel my muscles relaxing. By the time I got to Lambertville, New Jersey, I was in a mood to shop for art and pottery. Crossing the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, parking my bike and walking up and down New Hope’s quaint main drag seemed like the perfect day. I would often explore the back roads of Bucks County , especially during the Fall. The changing of the seasons and the beautiful show of foliage made me long to drop my everyday life and pick up palette, easel and canvas, and join the long list of artists who called the area home. I had the inspiration, just not the ability or talent needed. So, I would reluctantly ride home to the City, and return to my computer keyboard until my next recharging ride.
Have you found some great Fall Foliage rides in your area? Please share them here.