Epilogue - You CAN go home again - CycleBlaze


What I learned from this trip

It's been about a week since I've returned home and I think I've had enough time to reflect on the trip. Tropical Storm (née Hurricane) Florence is starting to dump rain where I live in Georgia, so I figured I'm stuck inside, let me put some thoughts together on the tour. (more pictures at the bottom if your interested in just skipping my writing and looking at the pics. Go ahead, I'm not offended).

I guess the bottom line is this tour fulfilled its main goal of getting me to ride home and visit areas that I rode a decade ago prior to my move to Georgia. And, I was able to see my parents and spend time with them since I don't see them as often (they in PA and me in GA). But there were also aspects I looked forward to that turned out to not be really enjoyable. I'm not a complainer - I tend to power through unpleasantness - so this is just a retrospective around the tour. And I feel guilty that I'm not 100% overjoyed at the tour. I live in an economic situation where I AM able to take off for a week and do nothing but ride my bicycle, see sights, and eat. And yet I was still left wanting more out of it.

Consider this-

  • I'm two miles away from the state park where I plan to camp and there are no hiker/biker campsites, no tent sites, no place for me to camp. They suggest an alternate state campground but when I ask where that is, they don't know.
  • I travel 4 miles on a "not ready for prime time (or any time)" rail trail in northern-PA. It's rocky ballast, constantly throwing my front wheel in all directions, and when it's not that (which is about 80%) it's sandy and I'm fishtailing through the trail.
  • When I do get to the improved trail, it's under construction (and closed) for the next 7 miles
  • I'm on paved asphalt bike paths through Scranton/Wilkes Barre, and they are closed (due to laying down fresh tar).
  • Sections of the D&L trail are still closed, providing peaceful riding one moment, and then ditching out to the road the next.

So again, this forces me to not ride the route i planned to ride, but to have an alternate adventure instead. And there are choices I could have made to change some of these. For instance, I could have wild camped instead of a motel when the state park was full (they didn't have two trees I could hang my hammock - crazy). 

But, there are highlights. I was able to visit a really good museum in the 1890 house in Cortland. I saw history with the Marconi Tower (I know, that's the engineering nerd in me). And I explored some good sections of the D&L trail. Then there was the Levee trail in Wilkes Barre - you're up on top of the levee with the river to one side and the airport in a valley on the other - a great ride. I also liked the train trip home - I traveled in my own roomette and slept overnight, arriving in Atlanta the next morning.

So, if you're keeping score (or even if you're not), here's what went well:

  • Day 1 - I really liked the ride from Syracuse to Ithaca. Now that I've had a chance to reflect, it was a good route, and would its way through the mountains and Finger Lakes region. I'm thinking I would like to return and spend more days around the Finger Lakes region. Roads were good and traffic was pleasant.
  • Day 2 - Heat index 104F. Bright spot - South Mountain Recreational Trail outside Ithaca. The road to Owego (not Oswego on the lake) was good, but then from Owego to Binghamton just lots of road noise, sun, 4-lane. Really more of a point A to point B ride. I should have found a longer but more pleasant route.
  • Day 3 - troubles with the trails. But, I'm happy I ditched the trail and headed onto the roads in the Endless Mountain region. Very pretty. Lots of local railroad history because this is where the railroads started in the US, hauling coal out of the mountains. The hamburger at the end of the day was good, and the glass of Cab was a HUGE pour that night.
  • Day 4 - highlight was the trail from Mountaintop all the way to White Haven. About a 1.5% grade downhill for about 8 miles. just a really fun ride. Yes, I had to pay for it with a 4-mile uphill climb in full sun but the downhill made me forget about the climb. Sitting on the cabin porch in Jim Thorpe with my friend and being probably the only ones in the campground that night (much different than the state park a few nights ago).
  • Day 5 - riding with a longtime friend through disconnected sections of the D&L trail and then arriving at her house to have dinner with her & her husband and the longtime friends. It's good to reconnect and it's a reason why I called this journal, "You CAN go home again" - you can be away from true friends for several years and yet when you get back together again, it's almost as if you've never left. The conversation picks up immediately.
  • Day 6 - riding out from my host's house, picking up some of the roads I used to frequent on my road bike, and connecting with the Delaware Canal in Easton. And then a 50-mile ride all the way to my parent's house. And then getting to spend some time with the parents.

So all-in-all, not my favorite route but there were aspects I found invaluable. If I were to ride home again, I would try a different approach, maybe coming south from Rochester, into the Pine Creek Gorge, through Sunbury, and then into Perkasie connecting with the Schuykill River Trail. Ahhh, so many tours to look forward to.

Starrucca (pronounced Struk-ka) House - a famous 19th century social hall. Being refubished and planned to reopen 2019
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I'm glad I took the detour through the Endless Mountain region. Very pretty roads
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A little too much ivy on this building
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Statue commemorating JFK's visit to Pittston - he drove through between campaign stops in his convertible, and people were so excited to see him they pulled at his arms and actually ripped one of his sleeves off
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In the middle of nowhere in Mountaintop, PA
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On the 1.5% (estimated) downhill run to White Haven. This was a great rail trail
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Crossing the Lehigh on the way into Jim Thorpe. Just a really great view
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MM94.5. When the D&L is fully connected, it's going to be a great car-free path
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Covered bridge on the Delaware Canal
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Trees trimmed to create a tunnel for the canal path, at this point in the ride, improved crushed gravel on limestone - a very smooth ride
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My own private nirvana - a roomette on the Crescent
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Amtrak has really stepped up its game on the dining cars
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