It Was a Long Winter

It’s been a long off-season for riding.  My October didn’t line up well, I either had plans or it was raining every Saturday or Sunday during the month and I never really did any fall riding. After that, winter set in and the season was over.  I got the bike to my dealer and back in March to repair a faulty speedometer but other than that, this was the first weekend I was able to ride for fun since September.  Usually I can get on the road earlier in March. Again, the weather didn’t cooperate.

This weekend was the first time I was able to get out and ride in earnest, and I couldn’t wait to hit the road.  Saturday was just a local run in Hudson County.  My time was constrained so I kept it short.

Of the 21 counties in the state of New Jersey, Hudson is probably the worst to ride around in.  For all the great things Hudson County has to offer, none of them are the types of things that Harley riders crave such as open roads and scenic views.  The closest two things we have to “scenic” are Liberty State Park in Jersey City and JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken so I hit both of those spots.  On my way home, I got stuck in a traffic jam on Port Imperial Blvd. in Weehawken.  While it felt good to get out, it was a rather unremarkable ride.

JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken, NJ

JFK Blvd. East in Weehawken, NJ

Sunday was wide open on the schedule and the weather was perfect so I got up and split.  I had all winter to think about where my first ride should be yet somehow I managed to pull out of my garage and I had no idea where I was headed.  I’m not sure why I didn’t plan anything out but I just figured that it would work itself out.

The first thing to do when you ride in Hoboken is to leave town quickly.  Options in this area are pretty much to the west and the north to start and you can branch out from there.  So, I jumped on NJ Route 495 and then on NJ Route 3 and headed west.

At some point as I was passing the Meadowlands, it occurred to me that I had been meaning to visit the Paterson Great Falls.  It seemed like a decent destination even if the roads there wouldn’t be all that exciting so I made my way up to I-80 West and exited in Paterson and followed my GPS to the park.

I hadn’t been to the falls since I was a child and it was neat to see them again.  Unfortunately the foot bridge that gives the best view of the falls was closed so I wasn’t able to get very close.  I snapped a few pictures and headed back on the road, this time with no particular destination.

Paterson Great Falls

Paterson Great Falls

Riding with no place to go is one of the most enjoyable ways to do it.  It frees you up to just head in random directions and try roads you find if they look interesting.  I don’t even know where I was exactly for the next hour or so, I just headed north until something looked familiar.

I ended up in Wanaque which is a town I’ve been to quite often.  It is known for its scenery and open roads around the reservoirs in town and I passed dozens of other bikers along the way who apparently had the same idea that I did.  I have a route that I almost always take that snakes around the lakes but this time I went around them a different way.  Again, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was but the road had to come out somewhere that would be familiar.

Eventually, I found Greenwood Lake and headed north along the lake into Orange County, NY.  The road that tracks the west shore of the lake is normally bustling with activity in the summer months, but it was pretty empty that day.  It didn’t seem like too many boaters got an early start to the season.

New York Route 17A passes the northern tip of Greenwood Lake.  I headed east from there and that route becomes one of the most scenic and interesting rides that you can find within an hour of Hudson County.  It heads up and down through the hills of The Sterling Forest and eventually turns into County Route 106.  The scenery felt like a sharp contrast to the weather.  It was a warm and sunny day but there were no signs of spring anywhere along the route.  Roads that are normally shaded by lush green leaves were instead lined by gray and brown trees with no signs of even the first buds of the season.  There were even still a few stubborn patches of snow that had yet to melt along the landscape.

If there was ever a road that I could use to easily demonstrate to someone the pleasure and excitement of riding a motorcycle, it would be this stretch.  It has elevation changes, twisting roads, and tracks several bodies of water.  It challenges your skills as a rider, forcing you to break and accelerate properly into and out of curves, and to pay very close attention to where you are going.

County Route 106 eventually comes to a T at US-9W in Rockland County.  I made the right and started to head south along the Hudson River towards home.  It was along the way that I noticed something unusual about my new speedometer.  It had a digital read that displayed what gear the bike is in.  I’ve never had a gauge like that, in fact I didn’t even know they made one.  Shortly after I noticed it, I realized that it doesn’t work very well.  It doesn’t have a sensor inside the transmission that can tell what gear the bike is in, it simply calculates what the gear it thinks the bike is in based on RPM and speed.  Therefore, if you are headed up a hill and don’t downshift, the gauge will guess incorrectly and display the wrong gear.  It also only works when the bike is rolling so if you look down while you are in neutral to try to see if the bike is in first gear, it will be blank.  I came to the conclusion that this feature is unnecessary, annoying, and useless.


An anchor I found along the river on US 9W near Tomkins Cove, NY.

US-9W crosses into New Jersey in northern Bergen County and runs along Palisades Interstate Park.  I wanted to track Henry Hudson Drive along the river but it is not fully opened yet for 2015.  I managed to make it to the Alpine Boat basin and parked there for a bit before headed back up to the highway.

On the final push home, I got stuck in a traffic jam in Weehawken on Port Imperial Blvd.  I guess I hadn’t learned my lesson on Saturday.  From now on, I’m never going that way home during the day again.

I made it to Hoboken and did a loop around town, trying to set off car alarms with the roar of the engine.  That generally gets on peoples nerves so I enjoy doing it.  There were tons of people on Washington Street, crowding the outdoor areas of the bars.  As much fun as that looked, I was pretty content to have spent my day on the bike instead of drinking.

I made it back with 140 miles on the trip meter for the day.  My nose was slightly tanned, I got to see some new and old places, and I managed to set off one car alarm.  Winter is over and for the rest of the season, it’s time to let it rip.

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