250 Miles of the Catskills

This particular Saturday marked the official end of a heatwave with moderate temps, low humidity, and a near cloudless sky. It had “motorcycle riding” written all over it. The only piece missing to this day was my wife Denise who was away for the weekend. Sullivan and Delaware counties of New York were on tap for this ride. The roads up there are gorgeous and quiet but I did have an ulterior motive for choosing the area. Three micro-distilleries were in the path of my route as it was time to stock up for the summer with some superior spirits this area of the state is known for.

Unlike most of our rides, where we’re off on our own, I was to meet Keith and Mary on their Kawasaki Voyager and Ashton on her Yamaha Road Star. I was to lead the group to the three distilleries and a loop around the Pepacton Reservoir. Some areas I had been to before, other I have not. But, I trusted New York State to deliver great riding nonetheless.

We started the day with the 29 miles route 402 offers as it spans Monroe and Pike counties of Pennsylvania. Assigned its route number in 1929, we rode it from its start at the junction of 209 to just shy of its end at route 6 by exiting onto route 84 to pick up 434 in Lords Valley. 434 turned into 55 as it crosses the border into New York State and the temps dropped slightly as we rolled further north almost to the point where it could be slightly chilly but not quite.

Route 55 will take you all the way up to 17B in Bethel but a large corner can be eliminated on your way to the Catskill Distillery by making a left onto the smaller and more scenic Dr. Duggan Rd. For this day, the Dr. Duggan Rd included a close up view of a deer as added scenery. I had just turned my camera back on and glanced to my right only to look back and see the deer coming from my left. It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to seem to worry about it. I grabbed a fist full of brakes at the last moment and it was just enough to put enough space between us for him to slip by. That was the closest I’ve come to a deer while on a bike, I hope that record will stand forever.

Fortunately it was time for a break after that episode as the Catskill distillery was almost in sight and it was time to stop and pick up another bottle of their fine spirits. Monte Sachs is the owner and distiller who, while attending veterinary school in Italy, learned the art of distilling on the side. Today he operates a beautiful place complete with a store outfitted with a bar from the 1939 World’s Fair and the Dancing Cat Saloon with outstanding food. This is my third trip here, their spirits are that good. Hints of the ‘60’s are scattered around the grounds with its famous peace sign out front which tells you you’re just across the street from the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert.

I loaded the bike with a bottle of their “Fearless” straight wheat whiskey and we all headed over to the concert field and got a look at the monument which was put there in 1984. Once a farm, the field now has the Museum at Bethel Woods and the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in the background. It’s interesting how a site chosen out of near desperation for a planned concert event went on to become a maintained landmark complete with an arts center and a museum commemorating that day. Next year is the 50th anniversary, one article I’ve read claims that Michael Lang has revealed plans for a possible 50th anniversary concert that August.

It was time now to head to Roscoe, NY to visit the Prohibition Distillery. We left the concert field by way of Hurd Road and I had my GPS bark out the orders to Jim Stephenson Rd, then a right onto Behr Rd. then a left onto 144 to route 52 north, a very nice road in great condition with hardly any traffic at all. This brought us to the little town of Youngsville.  It was one of those towns you’re riding out of almost before you realize in you’re in it. It was very hard to find any information on this area, the most significant place seems to be the Clair Inn here on my right. (as seen in the video) It’s still open today and it appears there’s some rich history with this building. From there it was a left onto 149 and another left onto Huber Rd. Huber went to Gulf Rd and finally Stewart Brook Rd into the town of Roscoe. Most of these roads were very secluded making a rider feel they had the pavement all to themselves. An occasional farm or home trickled by us as we rolled along at a relaxed pace. The day was so pristine, there was no need to rush anything. Roscoe was called Westfield Flats in 1789. It was the home of the Delaware Indians where wolves once roamed freely. It is named after the late Senator Roscoe Conkling who served form March of 1867 to May of 1881. Its 2010 census revealed a population of only 541 people.

We pulled into the Prohibition Distillery, a 1929 firehouse with an outdoor bar and a 20’s styled store inside. This would be my second visit here as I grabbed a bottle of their bourdon and another glance at their distilling equipment which is one of the more sizable setups I’ve seen among all the mico-distilleries I’ve visited. We took a walk down Stewart Ave and stopped in at Raimondo’s for some lunch where Ashton was generous enough to pay for the lunch! It was a crowded place and we had to wait a bit for the food but it was excellent.

From here it was time for the second half of the trip which was to start with a ride around the Pepacton Reservoir. We left Roscoe by way of route 206 north where we would go right onto route 30 to take the reservoir loop. This reservoir was formed by impounding ¼ of the East Branch of the Delaware River. New York City purchased the valley it’s made from in 1942 and displaced 974 people and destroying four towns in the process. Arena, Pepacton, Shavertown, and Union Grove were all wiped out. It also submerged ½ of the Delaware and Northern Railroad in the process. The dam, which is located in Downsville, PA, was finished in 1954 and the flooding was complete in 1955. It’s 15 miles long and about 7/10 of a mile wide at its widest point. It supplies New York City with 25% of its drinking water. The name of this body of water comes from a Lenape Native American term which means “marriage of waters.” It’s a beautiful place for a ride and I soon noticed a collection of motorcycle headlights in my mirrors as we went along. It’s obviously a popular place among riders.

After the bridge, I left route 30 to make a left onto BWS Rd No 4. I had hoped to then go left onto BWS Rd No 7 but it came up sooner than I anticipated and I don’t think the sign had that exact name on it. I continued straight on BWS Rd No4 which turned into Tremperskill Rd and as a consequence we didn’t make it to Downsville to see the Downsville Bridge. This 174 foot bridge built in 1854 spans the East branch of the Delaware River in Downsville, NY and was designed by a Scottish immigrant named Robert Murry. It is now the longest covered bridge in NY since the 232 foot Blenhiem Bridge was destroyed by the Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.  We’ll have to see it another time as I was too busy getting lost and taking us up to the town of Andes. I knew I was a bit lost but forged on with the thought that eventually we’d make it to Walton, NY for the final distillery visit. The settlement of Andes began in 1784. We didn’t spend any time in this spot but it seemed to be a quaint little town worth stopping in some day in the future. I did learn after the ride that Susan Dey of the Partridge Family fame moved to the town in 2007 and still resides there today. I went on through Andes only to stumble upon an area I was lost at just about a month ago. It was then I realized where I was and thought it would be a good time to take a short break and take in the view. Heading eastward on route 28 out of Andes will bring you to Finkle Rd and the start of the Palmer Hill Trail. At this spot, one can get a remarkable view of the “forever wild” lands protected for the public by New York’s state Constitution. New York City also protects the land in this area that feeds its water supply. More than 500,000 acres throughout the Catskills have been preserved to provide clean drinking water, an expansive wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and solitude.

We made the decision to backtrack into Andes to get some gas and recalculate our route to Walton, NY. There was one gas station in Andes and I led the group into the lot only to discover they were closed. After asking someone for directions to another station, we made the 15 mile trek to Delhi, NY. Delhi was named after the city Delhi, the capital territory of India. It had a population of 5,117 at the 2010 census and it is the setting for the classic 1959 novel “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. Born in 1919, Jean’s resume boasts over one hundred books for children and you adults during her rich career. It’s beyond the scope of this video, but it may be worth the while to read up on her life as she seemed to be a remarkable person.

After our gas stop, we turned left onto Delhi’s Main Street which is route 10 south to make our way to Walton, NY. Route 10 really opened up nicely after getting out of town and once again it was almost as if we had a road to ourselves. Along the way we passed the Saputo dairy company. Founded in 1954 by the Saputo family, it is today one of the top ten dairy processors in the world. They operate in Canada, the US, Argentina, and Australia. Their products get sold in over 40 countries worldwide.

William Walton was born in 1706 and was the son of Captain William and Mary Walton. The young William followed his father in the shipping and mercantile business and became a well-known figure in the colony of New York. His nephew of the same name owned 22,000 acres with most of it becoming what is known as Walton, NY today. It is the birthplace of William B. Ogden, the fist mayor of Chicago and the founder of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad line.

A computer programmer, abstract water color painter, and distiller, Cheryl Lins, owns and operates the Delaware Phoenix distillery in the town of Walton, NY. While searching for distilleries to visit in 2017, I came upon her web site and was instantly intrigued by her diverse and artistic background and impressed by her notoriety with articles in such papers as the New York Times, interviews on pod casts and YouTube videos. She is an expert in the spirit known as absinthe. Known in historical literature as “the green fairy” it was once outlawed but in recent years made legal again. It is a highly alcoholic beverage derived from botanicals. You’ll find wormword stalks, fennel, anise, hyssop, lemon balm, lemon thyme and even violet in her shop that are mostly organic and local with some being homegrown as well.

Around the corner from Cheryl’s distillery is Breakeys Liquor Store on Bridge St who sells Cheryl’s products. I decided to stop there first before seeing if Cheryl was at her place and it was a good thing I did. I asked the woman behind the counter where Cheryl’s spirits were and she pointed them out while saying the words “what I have left”. When asked what that meant she informed me that Cheryl was in a bad car accident and it was unknown if she would return to her distillery someday. Cheryl had already stopped making her whiskeys this year, sticking only to her varieties of absinthe. I grabbed one of the remaining bottles of her rye as that most likely will never be made again. I also grabbed a bottle of her absinthe as I asked more questions about Cheryl. I have found nothing about this accident and have no idea if this distillery will operate again. Payers go out to Cheryl for a speedy recovery. Perhaps someday I’ll get another chance to meet her.

With all my destinations reached for the day, it was time to start thinking of a way back home. We started off by continuing on route 10 south which once again opened up into tranquil riding with hardly a hint of other vehicles most of the time. From there we got onto route 268, another enjoyable road and then to route 191 to cross over the Delaware into Pennsylvania from Hancock, NY. This was an area that triggered a flashback for me from nine years ago. It was the end of a three day trip that punished me with the worse rainfall I’ve ever ridden in. The bridge was so heavily cloaked in fog that night it felt like I was riding into an abyss with its beams only showing themselves as I came within several feet of them. Once crossing over in Pennsylvania, the trees overhead seemed like the walls and ceiling of a wet cave as water rushed across my face shield. Today was a welcome contrast to the last time I rode this area as the day was taking on its later afternoon look.

Incorporated as a borough in 1831, Honesdale, PA would be the last significant town we’d ride through that day. Named after Philip Hone, former mayor of New York City and president of Honesdale’s Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, it offers boating, fishing, hunting, skiing, skateboarding, and rafting. It’s a very pretty town with hundreds of Victorian age structures.

We turned onto the Owego Turnpike outside of Honesdale which brought us across the top of Lake Wallenpaupack on route 590 and route 6 with a turn onto route 402 south for our final leg before separating for the day. Distilleries, reservoirs, whatever it may be, New York State always delivers a most satisfying day of riding. It was now time to go relax on the deck and open some of these New York spirits.

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