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The Scenic Route
by John Michael Flores

My college days are disappearing in the rearview
mirror of life faster than you can say, cheezy
motorcycle metaphor, yet the roads that connect my
hometown of East Hanover, NJ to my collegetown of
Ithaca, NY are etched in my mind with a permanent
marker. 80 West. Delaware Water Gap. 380 West.
Scranton. 81 North. Binghampton. 79 West. Ithaca. With
the exception of 79, each road is a model of
mind-numbing efficiency. I plied these byways as a
student, forever rushing to get to one of the
endpoints - with never enough time or interest to
explore what lay between. This time, on a weekend trip
to meet friends in Ithaca, I vowed to see what I had
missed all these years.

The trip North was a dismal failure. I sense it
coming, as my Friday 2pm ETD slips to 3pm slips to
4pm, slips to Escape from New Jersey Summer Rush Hour
Weekend Exodus Hell pm. While I do manage to avoid 80
and the Gap, I follow a string of cages north on Route
206 spaced just wrong preventing safe overtaking
and any sense of acceleration. By the time I reach
Milltown PA, I have to chase the setting sun and take
interstates to Ithaca. Boring, as expected, except for
toying with the odd leadfoot who thinks that their
expensive European sports sedan can accelerate like a
modern multicylinder sportsbike. No chance, junior
executive. The weekend itself is fun - good food and
good times with friends. Ithaca is a great weekend
getaway town - good restaurants, wineries, waterfalls,
gorges, etc...the things I did not take enough
advantage of when I lived there, but now relish.

The return trip starts much like the trip up,
charging down 79 towards Whitney Point, playing some
more I watch the expensive European sports sedan become
a small dot in my mirror on this rural, rolling,
farm-lined two-laner. While fun, this is not the type
of riding I hoped to do this weekend.
At Whitney Point, where I usually join 81 South, I
stay on 79. The vibe and my attitude change almost
instantly. I am still on a rural, farm-lined
two-laner, but gone is the hustle and bustle of other
vehicles rushing to the interstate. Now I am able to
focus more on pastures than on passing, and absorb the
idyllic Americana that fills my periphery. Piloting
the bike through gentle bends echoing a nearby river,
I roll through small, well kept towns still groggy on
this early Sunday morning. No, I am not on some
awe-inspiring mountain pass in the Alps, or in some
too-picture perfect NewEngland hamlet - but like
Goldilocks, this vibe is just right.

My meandering on 79 lasts until Route 17 at Windsor,
where I choose to head East on 17 in search of the
Catskills. 17 is a gawky, pubescant road in these
parts - one moment a smooth, modern, 4 lane highway,
the next moment an overgrown county road with traffic
lights. Its saving grace is the hilly land it
traverses like a sinewy, high-speed contour line. You
can balance on this line at 80+, bike leaned over
some, hanging off some more, pretending to be on
Monza's Parabolica curve.

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