2017-06-16

Country Roads, Country Bridges: A Ride Through Delaware and Sullivan Counties, New York

Country Roads, Country Bridges: A Ride Through Delaware and Sullivan Counties, New York:

New York State motorcycle ride
The Hamden Covered Bridge, Route 10, Delaware County, was built in 1859 and crosses the West Branch of the Delaware River. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Photos by the author)

Whenever I want to add a favorite ride to my repertoire, it requires two components: great roads and something unique and impressive to see. The bridges of Delaware and Sullivan counties of New York fill the bill. These two counties have some of the best motorcycling roads in the Northeast, leading to covered, stone arch, steel framed and aqueduct bridges, and snaking blissfully through the countryside.

New York State motorcycle ride
Originally built as a canal boat crossing, the Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct suspension bridge was in operation from 1828-1898. Today, riders can cruise across it to Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, or just walk across. There is parking on both sides.

I began at the confluence of State Routes 17 and 17A in Tuxedo, New York, heading west on 17A, a roller coaster of a road traveling through the 22,000-acre Sterling Forest State Park. The soothing rumble of my 1,700cc Kawasaki Voyager sang in my ears, while it cruised a serpentine route up and down mountains. The cool mountain air invigorated me when I stopped at the Bellvale Farms Creamery overlook, with its panoramic view of farmland and forest flowing west like a sea of green.

New York State motorcycle ride
The author cruising on a back road in Delaware County.

At Warwick, I rolled south on State Route 94 to County Routes 1A and 1, thundering across the flat farmland of the Black Dirt region to Port Jervis. After sailing my Voyager through the sinuous Hawks Nest, where State Route 97 cuts its way across a mountainside perched high above the Delaware River, I climbed into the highlands of Sullivan County on County Routes 31 and 32. Both are back county roads that sway through forests and quaint villages.

New York State motorcycle ride
A typical farm found in Sullivan/Delaware counties, where some claim there are more cows than people.

The smoother State Route 55 continues this experience. Taking the Lake Superior turnoff, I bounced along this pretty road passing country homes and two lakes, and through a deep, dark forest to County Route 17B, where farmland spreads out like a multi-colored quilt. A side excursion on Hurd Road leads to the famous 1969 Woodstock Festival site, where more than 400,000 people gathered for “three days of peace and music.” It is now called The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The original concert field is preserved, and there is a 1960s-1970s museum and various music venues.

New York State motorcycle ride
The author “feeling groovy” at the Woodstock Monument and Festival site, which took place on Max Yasgur’s farm. The field behind him served as the amphitheater for the famous festival’s “three days of peace and music.”

State Route 52 leads to Kenoza Lake and Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park. Built in 1880, the three-arched stone bridge crosses the Callicoon Creek. I always stop there for a brief walkabout before heading to the famous Roscoe Diner for lunch. A curving cruise from the park travels through the rural countryside on County Routes 128, 122 and 123. Rolling and weaving the Voyager through the forested countryside felt like I was riding waves at the beach.

New York State motorcycle ride
The historic marker at the Stone Arch Bridge says it all.

After lunch, I pondered my afternoon route: “I could go east, I could go west, it was all up to me to decide” (Bob Seger). East leads to the Livingston Manor Covered Bridge; west leads to the Beaverkill Bridge, which is still in use. Erected in 1865 of wood lattice design, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Cruising alongside Beaverkill River on the Beaverkill Road passing rustic homesteads and an old country church, it felt like I had crossed into “The Twilight Zone” and returned to the 19th century.

New York State motorcycle ride
The cool water of the Callicoon Creek flows under the stoic beauty of the Stone Arch Bridge. The 20-acre park is in the town of Delaware in Sullivan County at the intersection of Routes 52 and 52A.

At the bridge and nearby park, you can enjoy an invigorating swim in the cool, clear river while floating right under the bridge. The Beaverkill River is famous for its fly-fishing opportunities. In season, the bathhouse and campground are open.

Returning to State Route 206, I rolled west to State Route 30 toward Delaware County, a great ride that sways along the forested shoreline of the Pepacton Reservoir, past the dam and to the Downsville Covered Bridge. Still in use, it was built in 1854 and spans 174 feet, crossing the East Branch of the Delaware River.

New York State motorcycle ride
Duke Delvin was 27 years old and living on a commune in the Texas Panhandle when he came to the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and never left. He serves as the festival’s historian, greeting visitors from all over the world.

Leaving Downsville, my Voyager climbed the smooth, winding County Route 26 up the mountain and descended toward State Route 10, with an expansive view of the Cannonsville Reservoir. Route 10 travels northeast to covered bridges in Hamlin, Delhi and Utsayantha Mountain in Stamford, a route I took on a previous ride. A demanding dirt road leads to the summit with an impressive panorama of the countryside, but it challenges even the most experienced riders with a white-knuckle descent.

New York State motorcycle ride
The author and his riding buddies contemplating lunch at the rustic Welsh Cabin Pub.

Blasting southwest on wide-open Route 10, I savored the vistas of mountains, farms and the Cannonsville Reservoir while heading toward my night’s destination: the Hancock House Hotel. Both State Route 268 and County Route 67 twist over the mountains into Hancock. The hotel is relatively new with large, clean rooms and a restaurant and taproom on premises, and the manager Rosie and her staff welcome riders.

New York State motorcycle ride
Loyal and patient iron steeds wait for their owners to finish lunch at the Welsh Cabin Pub, located at 495 Hessinger and Lare Road, Jeffersonville, Sullivan County, New York.

After a good night’s sleep, I saddled up and headed home on State Route 97, a scenic byway that serpentines for 70 miles paralleling the Delaware River. You can blast the entire length to Port Jervis or stop at some of the bridges and sites along the way, such as Skinners Falls, a 1901 steel-framed structure, or the famed Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct Bridge, the oldest existing wire suspension bridge in the United States.

New York State motorcycle ride
The Downsville Covered Bridge is currently under reconstruction but should return to service this summer. Nevertheless, a small park supplies a scenic respite.

My favorite spot is the 1896 Tusten Stone Arch Bridge. Riding the dirt road alongside Ten Mile River is sublime, and the rustic location of the bridge is a great place to commune with Mother Nature by listening to singing birds and a rumbling river.

New York State motorcycle ride
The Beaverkill Covered Bridge is 128 feet long and has recently been renovated. Off-season, it’s a soothing spot for reflection on the rural simplicity of 19th century life.

Sailing home on the waves of State Route 97, with the warm wind caressing me and the sun twinkling though the trees, I reminisced about the great roads and bridges of Sullivan and Delaware counties. With so many different roads and routes left to ride, I promised myself I would return for further riding exploration and to enjoy the different seasons here as well.

New York State motorcycle ride
A map of the route taken, by Bill Tipton/compartmaps.com.

(Via Rider Magazine)

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