My last “New Jersey Hell Ride” was by far the worst yet. I needed a trip on the Brick to undo the mental damage the heat did to my soul. I needed a pleasant open road to remind me why I love my motorcycle. I am slowly learning which paths to take and at what time to take them. NYC has a millions of people residing here, and they all seem to want to come and go at the same time. My goal is to avoid them at all costs. I don’t want to be sitting dead stopped in traffic again – ever.
I figured a nice ride to a state park would be a good destination. I could pull off the road, walk around a bit, and recharge my adventure batteries. I made a plan to drive right through the middle of Harriman State Park known for it’s beautiful hiking trails and many lakes.
I took the George Washington Bridge to the Palisades Parkway. There is no toll when exiting the city over the GWB, and in the effort of economizing I figured I would take a cheaper route back. I now fuel up on the Jersey side as well to save a few bucks. There is a station right as you get off the bridge with gas almost a dollar cheaper than NYC. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but over time this will add up. I filled up my tank and got a coffee and biscuit at the station instead of a sit down breakfast at a diner, again pocketing some cash. I headed up the Palisades Parkway and got on 87. From my mapping it appeared that there was an exit to get onto Seven Lakes Drive which cuts right through the center of the park. This unfortunately was not true.
Driving along 87, I could not find an exit anywhere on the west side of the park until I already passed it up. At first I started to get angry, but then I stopped myself. I was driving in the shade, the road was beautiful, and there was almost zero traffic. This was an important step for me. I beat myself up when I make mistakes. I am an imperfect perfectionist so the beatings can be frequent. My normal thought process is, “How could I have been so stupid?” and then I feel anger and rage. But what I am learning more with each time I ride is the process of the journey. I had nowhere to be on this gorgeous day. There was no rain coming, and I had plenty of petrol in the tank. Why am I getting mad? Then I did something I have rarely ever done. I decided to not get mad. I am exploring these roads and the path I took was wrong, but I learned from taking it. I now know there is no westerly entrance to Hariman Park off of 87. Done. Filed away in the memory banks for further usage.
I figured I could have just entered the park from the north but I wanted to drive the full length in both directions. I wanted a lot of time with trees. After careful GPS calculations and several sketchy u-turns, I doubled back on 87. I exited on 17 which connected directly with Seven Lakes Drive. Finally, I was on the path I originally wanted to be on. I tempered my anger. I learned. I was enjoying myself.
Driving through the park was a great experience. The road was a bumpy in the first section, but soon became smooth and flowing. The speed limit was only 40. Many people are attracted to motorcycles for the exhilirating speed they provide. The horsepower to weight ratio is very high, so acceleration is well beyond that of most cars. It was addictive and when I was young, and it was the main reason I was attracted to bikes. But now, riding through this park, I was enjoying the lower speed limit. When anybody crept up on me I just let pass, and continued to putter along on the scenic route.
It was a beautiful ride up through the park and I decided to continue with my original plan. Take Seven Lakes Drive all the way through and then turn around. On the way back down, I saw some nice spots to stop so I pulled over at the first one which was Lake Tiorati. It was large lake with a small beach and the sun shimmered off the water as if my eyes had star filters on them. There was a convenient rest station with a bathroom, and a few other bikes parked there, a Triumph Bonneville and the ever present Harley with straight pipes. Some hikers were chatting with the bikers about their rides and one said, “Whose old beemer is that?” I smirked and just kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t up for talking today – this was a day for me to unwind and recover.
I traveled further down the road and pulled off at Lake Skannatati and laughed to myself wondering if Italian families had fights over naming these lakes. I found a shady spot for the Brick and pulled her up on the center stand. I was not wearing full leathers but purposely wore Levi’s and my trusty Merrell hiking boots to do some climbing. I could not have picked a more perfect spot. I threw my jacket and helmet into my side bags and put on my rumpled straw hat. I also applied a coat of SPF55 sunscreen as a precaution.
I started hiking up a trail and realized that it went straight up the side of a mountain that over looked the lake. The path was well cut but still very steep. I huffed and puffed and made my way higher and higher. I came to an overlook that was far above the lake. I found a shady rock and just sat. I am getting better at this activity as I have mentioned before in my writing. I have always had some huge goal to work towards and now as I approach 50, I realize I forgot to take time in my life to just sit – just be. In the final pages of Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree, the boy who was the tree’s friend comes back after being gone for a long time and just sits on the stump of the tree. “I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
I have worked very hard in my life and I have done a great many things, but now I am at a place where I can appreciate rest. I admit the dreams of most of my endeavors have never been fully realized. I never got to make a living as a songwriter or a musician, but I have accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I have performed in front of thousands and I am left with a large body of work that I am very proud to have created. I am lucky to still make music with my best friends, even if it is as hobby.
I looked over the vista of Lake Skannatati with awe and disbelief that such a place exists so close to the 8 million people stacked high in boroughs of NYC. I am sure I will visit here again. It’s just too damn calming.
I descended the mountain and mounted the Brick. I took Seven Lakes to 17 to 87. I missed my turn for the Sawmill and laughed to myself again. I was not able to make a right turn all day, but by getting lost I discovered something new within myself. It’s not the getting lost part that’s my problem, but how I react to the situation. Today I reacted differently.
By missing the Sawmill I realized I saved myself a toll. It seems that getting lost sometimes is the right way.
Click images for larger versions:
The peace of Lake Skannatati
A nice view of Harriman State Park
|Lake Tiorati||Hiking up the mountain||A nice seat|
A few turn arounds but still fun