Though you might venture far from home, you’ll never be alone when exploring the Allegheny Mountain backroads.
In case my hiatus from penning up the monthly diatribe that is Backroad Ramblings these past few months has left you completely unfamiliar with me, allow me to apologize and briefly recap. My name is Jason and I am a motorcycle addict. For me it all began in the early 1980s with a 3-wheeler that was already an antique then: One Sperry Rand Tricart (Google that one if you don’t believe machines evolve just like living organisms) of unknown model year powered by a 2-horsepower Briggs and Stratton taken from my dad’s push-mower when the deck finally became too rotted out to handle his yard’s trim work. You may think I’d be bitter for having started out so humbly but not so. I like to think that such lowly roots place me in a unique position as one of very few individuals on the planet who can actually consider moving on to a 1981 Yamaha YT125 Trimoto an upgrade!
Still you may have noticed I have cleverly danced around the more obvious question, “where have I been?” Well as much as I would like to convince you that I possess the sheer raw speed and talent to rake in the big cash as a professional racer, the truth of the matter is racing, like photography and about a dozen other activities I enjoy, tends to cost far, far more than it ever returns. As such, to make ends meet, I often find myself floating around the rough and tumble arenas of book publishing, auto show covering and occasionally performing services as a gigolo. Of course, I’m kidding about that last one, but the truth of the matter is that this spring and summer have been terribly busy with promoting upcoming books and other mundane activities that the non-riding population typically refers to as “living”.
Secretly, with each and every dull meeting attended and press release edit performed, I am hoping that a beautiful motorcycle column will unfold before me. Never mind that the closest to riding for me in these situations typically involves headphones, YouTube and a mouse-finger ready to shrink said window with speeds that could make a wild west gunslinger envious.
Getting an early start is crucial when afternoon temeratures reach triple digits on a regular basis.
All of this brings us back to the present where, as indicated by the fact that you’re reading this, I have been allotted a chance to settle down back in NY, enjoy a little time in the saddle and with that a little more time spent hammering away at the keyboard.
Like much of the nation this summer, the East finds itself in the grips of a brutal heat wave with near triple-digit temps and stifling humidity. This would be fine and good if motorcycles came equipped with canopies, air conditioning and a permit that allowed for indecent exposure but alas such is simply not the case. Especially not on a fairly minimalist dual sport model like the 2012 Husqvarna TE449, which I recently acquired in a fit of spontaneous downsizing – whereby I realized perhaps a single dead battery and tank of oil in need of changing would make more sense than the combined maintenance of a Suzuki GS500, KTM 450EXC and ATV I had sitting in the garage. The logic here: Neglecting maintenance on one machine is always less guilt-inspiring than neglecting the maintenance on three!
Eager to log some quality bonding time between my well-used yellow Thor MX pants and the gray seat cover of the TE, I ventured out for a few mid-afternoon cruises around the block and quickly discovered that unless my riding destination happened to be directly into my brother-in-law’s pool, the full MX getup (including boots) simply wasn’t going to work.
On a whim I decided one particular morning before work to take a spin just after sunrise when the temperatures were a much more reasonable 72 degrees and the humidity was, well, it was still a little balmy but did I mention 72 degrees?
Enthralled with the conditions that greeted me, I began taking larger and larger loops before finally happening upon a public trail network I had visited many years ago in the nearby Allegheny Mountains. The trail network, with its 25-mile technical loop and countless circle-back offshoots, has become an absolute obsession in the weeks since. The trek spans about 75-total miles: 25 of true hilly backroad riding each way and said 25-mile offroad loop assuming one doesn’t get distracted with the abundant vista points and countless worthy side roads. Not only is the rooty singletrack itself absolutely addicting, experiencing the forest at dawn’s first light is rife with the type of encounters that make for priceless daydreaming during meetings or putting together press releases.
Speaking of which, it feels great to be back scribing a fresh Backroad Ramblings based on experiences worthy of sharing. You can be sure that I put in my morning expeditions with the secret hope of a beautiful motorcycle column unfolding before me each and every time. Until that happens, this one is going to have to do.