A Collection of Articles from the Archives of

Harry G. Pellegrin

Novelist and Musician


Read on, my man!

Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx





Adirondack Weekend

Damn! I always hate it when the phone rings early in the morning awakening me from sound sleep.  It usually portends disaster of one sort or another.  I rolled over wearily and snatched up the receiver.  "Bro, get your butt out of bed, it's already sixty degrees.  They say it's gonna be clear.  I figure we can scoot out to Red's house."

My brother-in-law Dan has never let me down.  Good rides on great roads always are his specialty.  Beside that, I had heard before that a trip to Red's was always an adventure.  After a quick shower and a quicker coffee, I was in the saddle.

Sunlight splashed through overhanging  branches  beginning its daily task  of  drying up the  morning dew. The  bike felt stronger by the minute as she warmed up completely.  I cut the engine as I rolled into Dan's  place  -- I  didn't feel like blasting anyone out of bed.   Not that my bike is all that loud but any  sound in that crystal-like morning air would shatter the magic of an early summer day.          

Dan was already out in his chicken coop where he garages his bike. "Ready to roll?  Want some coffee?"  I  replied "I'm good to go".    Dan rolled his Harley Softail out of the coop.  We are definitely a strange sight on the road the Kawasaki  Ninja and the Harley Davidson, me in my one piece black one-piece leather and blacked full face helmet, Dan in his chaps and fringed vest -- Darth Vader and Easy Rider laughing and yelling back and forth, and having a great time.

It always seems that his electric starter is going to just miss actually starting his bike.  You'll hear one piston rise through TDC and then silence for a fraction of a second as the starter gathers its strength to lift the other piston.   Unless it's below 30 degrees, she'll always start.  Thunder erupted from the Softail's pipes as she settled into her choked idle  My brother-in-law and his buddies used to kid me about my bike when I had the stock mufflers.  Its  exhaust note sang with all the passion of a major  household appliance. A  set of Cobra F1-R's  makes my bike sound like Doug Polen's  Ducati,  but at relatively  polite volume levels.

We swung out onto the two lane blacktop and headed through the sleepy little town of Hagaman,  on our way to County Highway 107 which leads to Route 30.    There is a diner in Hagaman called Cronies.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner -- hey, they actually advertise themselves as a pizzeria.  I've never had their pizza.  North on Route 30 is the beginning of many scenic rides through fine twisties.   Herba Honda - Suzuki - Yamaha is located in Perth on Route 30. (R.D. 4  Perth Road, 518-842-8812)  They don't deal Kawasaki but they've always been very helpful.

Route 29 crosses 30 about a mile or two past Herba.  Turning east at this intersection takes you out to Saratoga with its quaint hotels and bistros as well as its famous horse track.  Traffic through here during race season is full of partiers so caution is well advised.  Twenty-nine also leads to the Northway (87),  which can take you to Lake George sight of the Americade every June.

 Our trip would take us past this crossroad and continue north on Route 30.  Great Sacandaga lake is the first major tourist attraction though you will see very little of it from the road.  Sacandaga is a very pleasant lake for swimming and picnicking but we planned to ride much further.   After Sacandaga. Route 30 begins to climb up into the Adirondack Mountain range.  These are old mountains geologically speaking.  Weathered and rounded,  the mountains possess  charm and beauty that might be lost on someone accustomed to the crags and pinnacles of the Rockies.  They suit me though.  Uphill sweepers abound along this section of highway.  Just as often, the road will throw a quick set of downhill esses before settling back into its ascent.   The road follows a river that feeds into the Great Sacandaga.  This  churning current  plunges into the woods and hills then emerges on the left hand side of the road, a  stone filled rapid, rushing past under the pine trees.

I sniffed the air as we passed under the trees.  That is one of the blessings of riding-- actually experiencing the landscape as you travel through it rather than merely watching it go by until you arrive at your destination as you do in a car.   Of course,  you really "live the reality" of riding past  chicken farms!

The highway winds and climbs through scenic small towns with great names like Speculator and Indian Lake.   There is a diner in  Indian Lake.  It is situated  behind a bar and supermarket.  Dan knew of it  and had eaten there many times.  They serve a huge breakfast for a small sum. It was 10:30 when we arrived, but there was still a healthy sized breakfast crowd.  That didn't keep us from finding a table.  I ordered scrambled eggs and sausages.  It came with four slices of toast, home fries juice and coffee  -- huge mugs with limitless refills.  I swear the price wasn't much past three dollars which  is quite  good especially considering the jumbo size of the servings.  My leathers felt a  quite a bit tighter after finishing.   I'm very sensitive about such matters!  I don't think anything is as satisfying as a big breakfast after a long,  brisk morning ride.

At Indian Lake,  Route 30 continues north.  Dan and I hooked a left onto Route 28.  The first settlers of this area must have had no romance in their souls whatsoever.  The landscape is punctuated by some of the most beautiful jewel-like deep blue lakes surrounded by post cars mountains and forests.  These pioneers gave them charming names -- Lake One, Lake Two, etc., apparently up to Lake Seven.   Talk about flower imaginations!   Poor naming aside, this part of New York state is a dream to ride through with lots of spectacular twisties with rapid elevation changes.  My favorite kind are those banked right-handers in between two small hills.  You know the type -- where the bike's suspension compresses from the gravity load -- the whole weight of rider and machine coming down on the suspension while the tires are  hitting the bottom of the bowl forcing up on the suspension.   Here you can turn harder than on a flat surface because gravity is gluing your bike to the pavement.

We had fallen into a definite rhythm with the road when I  started began to notice Dan slowing down and gazing  intently into gaps and holes in the surrounding forests or hillsides.   We had come upon an area that he recognized as being close to the Moose River and he was looking for a seldom-used side road that parallels it.   Finally he swung right.   Sharp turns and switchbacks swirled at me almost faster than I could pick a line.  Unfortunately the best lines were also the ones chosen by sand and gravel washed from the shoulder.  This led to some interesting mod-corner heroics!  My Kaw always seems to handle better the more I rely on her.   On this day, the more I asked, the more she gave.   After about eight miles, I was starting to get tired of razor precise moves and was glad to see Dan heel over hard into Red's driveway.

Red has the ideal set-up for a motorcyclist.  His garage is detached from his house but has a wood-burning stove to keep the humidity out and the temperature comfortable.  This is an absolute necessity this far north.  The garage itself would  have fit about six cars, but Red had better ideas.  Beside a huge stereo and sofas, he's got an automotive workshop and a fridge stocked with beer and pepperoni.  Like I said, ideal!  (On a  future trip to Red's, we would ride the last fifty miles in a thunderstorm complete with large hailstones.  Boy, did it feel good to roll into that garage full of dry heat.)   On one wall hangs  a Champion spark plug add with James Dean working on his Porsche Spider  --  a sort of  memento mori for the place.

An old Harley FLH resides in that garage as well.  Red traded a very nice  '55 Chevy street-rod for that bike.  He got the better end of the deal.  I'm not particularly a Harley man, but this one is sweet.  It's basically a stripped dresser, silver on gray.  He's polished the pants off of everything he could.  It's detailed as nice or nicer as anyone's ride.

So, in we roll.  He must have heard us coming because the e automatic door is on the way up as we coast up the drive.  Red greets us in his pleasant, laid-back style.  He makes me feel right at home even though I don't have a Harley.   There are some guys out there who actually have enough love and respect for all things mechanical that they don't automatically rag your ride just because it isn't what they ride.  Both  Red and Dan are planning to add V-Maxes to their stables in the future.

After stretching out a bit, we decide to all go out for a short ride.  We took Route 12 south for a bit.  This is a terrific road for seeing just how fast your mount will move.  It's also well known as a high speed testing venue to the State Police.  We did not wish to collect any High Performance Riding Citations from the State of New York, so we only blasted for a short stretch of very clear road.

It's amazing what a little torque (lots, actually) can do.  My Kaw generates just as much horsepower as Dan's Harley.  He puts out lots of torque low in his rev range.  In a drag race, he pulls ahead of me right after launch.  After about forty, I am catching  him.  At sixty, I've just hit the meat of my power curve, while he's starting to near the end of his.  At eighty, I'm  leaving him further and further behind.   Past the ton, he is all out of revs, I'm still holding a substantial reserve.

We turned around at Corning (where they make the glass and cookware) and headed on back to Red's garage.    Dan and I planned to return home by this route the following morning.  At Red's we barbecued and bench raced the evening away.   Things that are pleasant to relate never make a good story, but things that are shocking and horrible make a great tale.  Therefore I won't go into details about the evening since it was neither horrible nor shocking. I awoke on one of the sofas in the garage feeling just like I had spent the night on a sofa in someone's garage.   The sunlight was streaming through the window over the workbench illuminating a small mountain of beer cans.  But that's another story -- and I'd probably take a beating for talking out of school.    We had a famous breakfast and loaded up the bikes.  The map below shows the route we followed on this trip.   We left the Amsterdam area and traveled counterclockwise.

Utica is connected to Amsterdam by at least three roads.  The New York State Thruway is one way of making the trip if speed is essential and you like paying tolls.  Personally, I can't stand having to take a toll ticket, find a spot in my leathers for it and then, having arrived at my destination, having to stop, take off my gloves, retrieve the ticket, find some change, zip myself up, put on my gloves and leave before the hoard of angry cagers behind me organize a lynching party.  I digress.  When traveling from Utica to Amsterdam, the only route to take is Route 5S which parallels the southern banks of the Mohawk River.

The Mohawk River of James Fenimore Cooper fame is steeped in history, most of it bloody. You might find The Martyr's Shrine in Auriesville interesting.  High cliffs overlook a picturesque valley with gently rolling hills and farmland.  I can understand why people fought and died for this real estate.  On a tourist-type note, the Mohawk is also intertwined with the Erie Canal.  Between Amsterdam and Schenectady there are a number of functioning locks that service pleasure boats during the summer months.  Most of these locks have a picnic area and park attached to them.

 5S is less patrolled than the Thruway and it's a good thing too, because this is one nice road to take at somewhat more than the national limit. People will flash you if a State Boy is lurking near.

Rolling hills through open farmland lends to a great feeling of freedom.  One must watch for the gates into the farm's fields though.  The tractors that use these gates deposit large quantities of mud (or other brown deposits associated with farms) in the roadway -- not nice to find as you're leaned over and committed to a corner!  Sweepers are the norm along this road and it's just as much fun in either direction.

Little towns and villages hamper a truly headlong attack of 5S which can be a good thing.  I find the scenery very relaxing and some speed zones make it easier to appreciate it.  You're forced to slow down and notice.  The landscape is punctuated by abandoned farms and factories, mute testimony that any given quantity of political rhetoric won't cure a fallen economy. Ilion, just east of Utica seems particularly hard hit.  You slow down and notice this as well.

Heading east on 5S, we eventually saw the city of Amsterdam down in the valley a few miles distant.  We had had a terrific weekend of riding but it would soon be ending.  Just as well though, I needed a shower!  Nothing like being zipped up in black one-piece leathers and riding vigorously on a warm day.  I sometimes feel I could just get on my bike and ride forever, but maybe it would take the excitement and adventure out of riding if one did it all the time -- sort of turn into a job, maybe.  NOT!!  They always say home is where the heart is though, and my new wife was there waiting.

We swung back over the Mohawk river once again heading north on Route 30.  We came up the hill out of town towards the Shop 'n Save and K-Mart and stopped at the last traffic light.  We waved and silently parted.  

Harry G. Pellegrin


LOW END is Published by Bedside Books, an imprint of American Book Publishing.

ISBN 1-58982-074-6

LOW ENDCopyright 2003 Harry G. Pellegrin

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