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Erik Trautman

“Everything you can imagine is real.”
-- Pablo Picasso

NY to NE

I departed from Pittsburgh, a city of rivers, bridges and steel that positively overflows with character, and headed north via a winding series of narrow highways through the hills that overlooked green valleys and small towns. I soon left the interstate and picked a path along local roads. Sometimes that gamble pays off with amazing scenery and sometimes it becomes stoplight, logging truck, and school bus hell. In this case, it was the latter: I went 80 miles in three hours. On top of that, the cool air made it difficult to find a comfort zone even when I had stretches of road to myself.

Once I finally returned to the highway, it became a race to get to Syracuse before dark. Atypically, this ride was actually much better than the local roads had been. The rolling hills were draped with long fast curves and occasional farms that gave the whole ride a pleasant backcountry feel. The further north I got, the more color began to fill the forests as autumn made its presence known.

I didn’t beat the darkness but did bear witness to the most spectacular sunset of the whole trip in my side mirrors, a blood red spray of clouds over Lake Erie that lit the whole dome of the sky with a glorious display of late day pyrotechnics. The awe this generated, however, was quickly replaced by a healthy dose of concern as I began to see deer absolutely everywhere… the fields, the side of the road, and most concerning of all, in the median. I rode that final leg while hiding behind a truck that looked big enough to take down a healthy buck without much issue.

I arrived in Syracuse, NY in one (somewhat frozen) piece and spent a great couple of days catching up with a childhood friend while the bike was serviced with a local dealer. We grilled up some of the biggest steaks I’d ever had and discussed the finer points of slow cooking and Kansas City style rubs.

Wednesday morning I left upstate New York and ventured into New England. It had been almost a decade since I experienced a real golden autumn so I was thrilled to be back in Patriots country once again. The air was cool and the weather forecast made me a bit nervous but I breathed deeply and took in as much as I could while threading the needle between rain patches that popped up on my radar. The air was definitely pregnant with the smells of fall, that wet leaves and apples blend that takes me back to trick-or-treating when I was a kid.

As I headed east towards Maine, I made a point to check out some of Vermont’s famous covered bridges.

In New Hampshire, I rolled through one small town after another, many just like where I grew up in Massachusetts. When I wasn’t tapping my foot impatiently at lights or inching along behind school buses, I enjoyed the trip down memory lane. I grabbed dinner in Manchester, NH, which is a medium-sized New England city without as much going on as I would have hoped on a Wednesday night.

After a night spent holed up in the woods outside a random state park, I took the slow roads into Maine beneath what was to be my only sunny day for a week and eventually made the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Rt 9 along the southern Maine coastline was a great ride, passing through lightly colored forests and tidal flats that carried the smell of mud and the ocean on the crisp morning air.

I pushed up the coast towards Portland, ME and stopped off at Fort Williams to see one of the area’s most storied landmarks, the Portland Head lighthouse. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to visit what was already a gorgeous landmark. The sea was calm beneath a spotless blue sky.

I crawled up the coast, soaking up the seaside ambiance, until I rolled into Portland for a lobster roll lunch on the docks. The Louisiana crawfish I’d eaten in Houston certainly had their own charm, but I’ve sorely missed some of the New England clam bake staples like lobster, steamers, and clams.

Satisfied with my trip to see the Ocean, I turned west again and passed some of the purest “Fall New England Countryside” that you can ask for.

I continued through the White Mountains, where the elevation again demanded my full complement of winter layers but provided plenty of great curves to make up for it. I even passed some of the old trailheads that I’d hiked in years past. In the mountains, the usual fall smells were joined by a distinct blend of lake and pine trees.

I went on a hunt for some maple syrup and ended up on a random country road staring at a fence post that Google claimed was their address. A quick call confirmed that they were another wholesale company with a phantom address (not the first time that’s happened to me). The detour would have been frustrating had it not placed me right in the lap of the kind of beautiful country farmhouse that I’d been seeking for days.

I spent another five days in New England but the weather turned terrible on me and it rained or drizzled or misted almost the entire time, making the motorcycle portions various shades of miserable and cold. Despite this, I ventured up to Burlington, VT to meet up with my family. My brother and I celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday with a bicycle brewery crawl around Burlington and Stowe,VT that poor weather just couldn’t put a damper on. I’ve come to really enjoy craft beer of the past few months and it was a perfect way to spend a long weekend off the motorcycle.

The morning after the long weekend I had just a couple of hours of decent weather before a monster rain front pushed into the region. I used them to head south of Waterbury on VT100, one of the most scenic rides of my time in New England. To contrast with a lot of the other country roads in the region, this one passed through real farm country and the towns were quaint but without many stop lights to hinder the ride. Had the sun only been out, it would have probably been the highlight of my trip north.

I’ve been rained on countless times on my trip so far but usually I’ve been able to minimize the damage by going around or straight through the storms. My ride south through Massachusetts to my parents house in Newport RI was the wettest I got in four months. The rain started as a gentle misting but quickly got heavier until it was hard to see much on the roads and I was soaked to the bone and frozen. I arrived on my parents’ doorstep like a lost puppy and welcomed a few days to recuperate for the final leg of my trip: back to Houston.