Archive for March, 2012
A sunny and unusually warm spring day creates perfect conditions to bike in the the Finger Lakes region. No throngs of tourist traffic, plus you get a great view of the water, because the leaves are not yet out. I chose to circle Keuka Lake.
Keuka in Iroquois means “canoe landing.” It is the most unusually shaped Finger Lake as it resembles the letter “Y.” Keuka has the unique distinction of being the only lake in the US that flows both north and south.
Penn Yan is the largest town, located at the end of the northeastern branch of the lake. Branchport is at the end of the northwestern branch, and at the southern end of the lake, is Hammondsport.
Keuka is a fabulous lake to ride around. The West Lake Road (54A) runs right next to the lake, while the East Lake Road (54), though not quite as scenic, has several great roadside picnic grounds and an unusually wide shoulder. The full circuit is about 46 miles and the hills are not as intense as some of those around the other Finger Lakes.
There was a strong wind coming from the southern end of the lake, so I decided to start my ride in Penn Yan, and take the longest leg first (RT 54).
If you want to get closer to the lake as you ride, try some of the many smaller east lake roads. These roads are paved though rough in spots, but are much quieter. At times these roads become tiny lanes but remain paved. Very nice if you are not in a hurry.
Route 54 continues along the west side of the lake from Penn Yan to Hammondsport. I take a break in Hammondsport for lunch. There is a nice little lunch spot, a park for picnicking and a grocery store very close to the park.
For the second leg of the journey I ride north on route 54A. Here I had the best views of Keuka Lake, but there is not much room to ride. The road follows the edge of the lake, making for smaller hills, and with the tail wind it is a very easy ride. I advise making this ride during the off peak season when the road has less traffic.
The road levels as you approach Branchport at the northwest end of the lake, but do not be fooled. As you leave Branchpost you have to go up the longest incline of the entire loop. Branchport has the “Crooked Lake Mercantile” for snacks.
Rt. 54A turns right at the light and the traffic increases considerably. Fortunately the shoulder is very wide. Near the top of the climb is a scenic overlook where you can get a nice view of the lake.
Once over the crest you enjoy a long coast down into Penn Yan. If you are looking for a great spot to eat lunch or dinner, try Lloyd’s Limited in Penn Yan.
The best way to see the Finger Lakes is to get a view from 3,000 feet. Finger Lakes Flight School provided me a great view of the stunning landscape while simultaneously allowing me to cross an item off my bucket list — riding in a plane with my 17-year old son flying. I should have read the warning. “Before taking off remove stomach.”
Our pilot, Mike, has been flying for almost 60 years. He was Nick’s teacher and told us that he had learned to fly as a teenager in Honeoye Falls. Apparently he did not get along with his bus driver, so he would fly to high school.
Our plane carried the 4 of us packed into a space so small we had to be instructed, one at a time, on how to get in. If you never have flown in a single engine Cessna, picture fashioning a your private plane out of tin foil, sliding into it like a foot using a shoe horn to get in a shoe. The propeller spins like a propeller on a wind-up balsa-wood plane. You look out the window and you are 3,000 feet above the earth. Remind yourself to breathe, and tell yourself over and over that you are PERFECTLY SAFE.
Mike was gracious and generous as a flight instructor. We took off and headed north to Lake Ontario. Once we hit the coast we headed towards downtown Rochester, flying over Irondequoit Bay, downtown Rochester and back over Canandaigua Lake. The view along the shoreline of the lake is spectacular. It was a beautifully clear day. The sun came out and I could see the shadows of the trees projected over the lake edge. OK, maybe this is not too scary.
Now that I am on the ground again, and still breathing, I highly recommend you take a flight over the Finger Lakes.
While traveling to or through Finger Lakes country you should definitely stop at the Magee Diner. Everyone is called “Honey” at this truck stop that serves meals all day long, 7 day s a week.
My son ordered a traditional breakfast, but I had to try something I have never seen on a menu before — Pig Wings.
I promptly ordered the “Pig Platter” for breakfast.
The Pig Wing is a tender St. Louis pork rib, lightly breaded, battered and fried to a golden brown. The platter includes BBQ beans, cole slaw and honey glazed corn bread. (ALL WHICH ARE SUPERB) The Pig Platter features MaGee’s original sweet and sour, buffalo hot or spicy BBQ sauces.
Located right off Thruway exit 41, (RT 414, Waterloo)
Open 6am- 9pm M-Sat, Sun 6-3
Geneva is a charming college town located at the north end of Seneca Lake. While researching some Finger Lakes history at the Prouty Chew House, we stopped at the Red Dove Tavern a “gastropub” on Castle Street, in downtown Geneva.
Inside the Red Dove I was instantly reminded of the friendly tapas bars we frequented while in Barcelona’s Barre Gotic neighborhood. However unlike the limited fare at traditional tapas bars, The Red Dove’s mission is to “expand palettes” and the variety of offerings on the blackboard menu above the bar was tempting proof.