I maxed out on family in the Syracuse area for a few days until Sunday, June 10, and then headed home for Gainesville via a slightly different route. I rode south out of ’Cuse (as the city is now affectionately known, thanks to the Syracuse University basketball team) and picked up N.Y. Highway 13 southeast in Cortland. Here’s the old biker on Pompeii Hill just south of Syracuse — finally, some sun!
From Cortland, it’s a short ride to Ithaca, where lovely Cornell University is located. A bit south of Ithaca, I took Interstate 86 west to Corning, N.Y., home to Corning Glass Works, one of New York State’s largest and most successful industries.
In addition to its many glass applications in support of manufacturing worldwide, Corning Inc. creates some spectacular glass art. A trip through the glass-blowing shop is a joy. The Corning Museum of Glass is world class containing, as it does, more than 40,000 pieces of glass of artistic or utilitarian value collected from 3,500 years of world history. I’m fortunate to call several Stueben pieces my own.
I took U.S. 15 south from Corning toward Williamsport, Pa. This gorgeous route winds its way through the Pennsylvania hills with breathtaking vistas at every turn. There is a marvelous tourist rest stop atop a hill overlooking Tioga Dam on the Tioga River which flows into the Chemung River to the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay.
Tioga Reservoir is about 500 acres and is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as is Lake Lanier. It provides drinking water and flood control in its locale. As you can see from the photo, it’s a lovely sight.
I cruised on into Williamsport, home to the annual Little League World Series in which teams from Georgia have participated so successfully, winning in 2006 and 2007. This tournament for 11- to 13-year old kids has been held every August since 1947.
I had the best meal of the trip at the Bullfrog Brewery & Restaurant in Williamsport. I was there early on Sunday afternoon and they had a three-piece jazz band a-playin’. The joint was jumping with local folks of all ages, genders and ethnicity; my kinda place. I had huevos rancheros and it was delicious. Check out the murals on the side of their building – they’re not windows!
Then it was south on U.S. 220 again to Bedford, Pa., where I spent the night.
The next day, I continued south through Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. Along the way, I had one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve encountered on a bike.
On two-lane federal highways, I usually cruise along at about 60 mph. One of the many things I love about riding is that it is a marvelous head-clearing endeavor. In order to be safe, one must remain in the moment at all times.
I constantly scan the shoulders for escape routes, glance in my rearview mirrors to assess what’s behind me and generally watch for other drivers who might do something unexpected that could affect me. Failure to do this can be dangerous.
I always slow coming into a curve, move to the outside of the lane, slide to the inside at the apex and accelerate back to the outside while exiting. I followed my routine into a blind right-hand curve on U.S. 220, slowed to maybe 45 to 50 mph and headed for the apex of the curve on the inside.
Just as I came to the apex, I spotted two deer grazing on the right shoulder next to me. Deer are notoriously unpredictable. They can’t be herded and will jump in any direction at any instant. I love the story about why the chicken crossed the road — just to prove to the deer that it could be done!
Anyway, I jumped on the brakes. Nothing was coming in the opposite direction, so I swerved to the left lane. Just as I did so, one of the deer bolted up the bank on the right and out of the way. The other chose to leap to the left across the road right in front of me.
At about 30 mph now, I swerved back to right, knowing for certain that I was going to hit it. I tried to brace for impact, rising a bit in the saddle so my knees could absorb some of the blow. The deer leaped again to the left and I missed it by inches!
The thing that amazed me was that it all happened so fast that I wasn’t even badly shaken. I was grateful that I had spent so many hours practicing imaginary emergencies in parking lots.
Near Hot Springs, Va., I came across a portion of U.S. 220 named Sam Snead Memorial Highway. Well, I had to check that out. Sam Snead was self-taught; he never took a lesson. He played The Homestead Golf Course near his home and became an assistant pro there at age 19.
Snead eventually won 82 PGA tournaments and seven majors, although he never won the U.S. Open. He always maintained his ties with Hot Springs, where he grew up. He died in 2002 at the age of 90.
The Homestead Resort, located on U.S. 220 in Hot Springs, is right up there with The Sagamore in Lake George, N.Y., for opulence and turn-of-the-century ambiance.
I continued south on Route 220 to Roanoke, Va., where I picked up I-81 again. This time I rode it to I-26, which I followed south through Johnson City, Tenn., toward Asheville, N.C.
South of Erwin, Tenn., I-26 climbs into the Blue Ridge Mountains with some lovely winding curves and overlooks. One such vista point rendered the accompanying photo.
In Asheville, I picked up I-40 west to Waynesville, N.C., from where I rode U.S. 23 back to Franklin, N.C. Just south of Franklin sits the lovely Smokie Mountain Host Visitors Center.
This is a great stopover with clean restrooms, a shaded picnic area and an interpretive center which discusses flora and fauna of the area. I had a picnic lunch there, since I knew I’d be home in time for Diane’s chicken casserole for dinner.
Bill Rezak lives in Hall County. His upcoming book, “The Arab and the Brit,” will be available this fall.