Tour to Niagara Falls on a Recumbent Trike

By Wally Hertler

 

            In May I had done a five-day version of the Hawk Mountain weekend to test the feasibility of doing a 15-day tour to Niagara Falls on my recumbent trike and to work out any kinks. I had a Falco 500-watt hub motor with two 36-volt batteries to assist, especially on the climbs. But, I was still concerned about the multiple mountains on day 13 from Williamsport to Pottsville.

            The first day was 50 miles from Faraway Farms Bakery/Café north of Downingtown to a Super 8 Motel on PA 22 between Kutztown and Allentown. From home to the bakery it was 21 miles, so I headed out early in order to have about an hour to partially re-charge my battery at the bakery while I snacked. I left the bakery about 30 minutes ahead of the rest of the group knowing they would soon pass me. The only mountain on the route was South Mountain, which we climbed on benign Forgedale Road At the motel there was a problem fitting the trike into my room, but we managed to get it in.  We had a nice dinner at an adjacent Italian restaurant. [Day 1: 72 miles, 3800 ft.]

Kutztown, our destination on Day 1

Carol on her recumbent approaches South Mountain

               Next morning we headed across farmland to the D@L (Delaware and Lehigh) Trail along the Lehigh River. The trail was very nice and well used. My trike just fit between the bollards, and, with even more difficulty, around the bollards that had been set in a triangular pattern (to discourage trikes?). The trail took us through Blue Mountain rather than over it.  At one point the trail dumped us onto town streets, and Dwight, Fred, and I failed to find where the trail resumed. So we ended up on busy, limited access PA 248 into Lehighton. Then US 209, with an al fresco lunch stop, got us to the Inn at Jim Thorpe where we were joined by Ira. We were able to fit the trike and all the bikes into the bicycle shed behind the inn. [Day 2: 69 miles, 3000 ft.]

Barely fits through D&L Trail bollards

Checking out the D&L route

Blue Mountain seen from the D&L Trail

Nearing the steep descent into Jim Thorpe on US 209

Broadway in Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe taxi

               Monday we began our ride to Scranton with the long, steep climb out of Jim Thorpe on PA 903. Then we rode along Lake Harmony to take PA 940 to Tobyhanna and some pretty heavy rain. With the rain delays, climbing and a late start due to slow service at breakfast I arrived at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton too late to visit Steamtown.  Since my trike did not fit in the elevator, I stored it in an unused meeting room.  In Scranton we added Mary to our group. [Day 3: 60 miles, 4300 ft.]

A glimpse of Lake Harmony enroute to Scranton

Famous speculator Jay Gould lived here in the Poconos

               Next morning we headed northwest (uphill) from Scranton through Clarks Summit toward Nicholson and ultimately Vestal – a suburb of Binghamton. It was an eventful day, and as we approached the view of the famous railroad bridge spanning the valley, a motorist knocked Carol off her bike and into a patch of poison ivy while trying to avoid running over a dead squirrel.  Fortunately Carol was nearly uninjured, and, more importantly, the remains of the squirrel were not squashed. After some brake-clearance adjustments to accommodate the slightly out-of-true rear wheel, we were on our way again only to coming close to being assaulted by two guys in a pickup who believed I should be riding in the gravel on the shoulder of PA 92. After a snack stop in Nicholson we split into two groups; the one taking a hillier route to Vestal through Montrose; the other following US 11which was partly well paved with a good shoulder and partly broken up. At the Hampton Inn in Vestal we received perhaps the warmest welcome ever experienced on a tour, with a welcome WCBC sign and bags of cookies. [Day 4: 70 miles, 3200 ft.]

Nicholson’s concrete multi-arch span built by Lackawanna Railroad

A warm welcome at the Vestal Hampton Inn

               The Day 5 ride to Big Flats (EconoLodge) went past several historic sites and an unusual bicycle route along the Susquehanna River. I must have been riding too fast to try to keep up with the others, because with seven miles to go, my spare battery quit.  For five miles I was reduced to riding at about 3 mph, which made crossing two lanes of fairly heavy traffic to get in the left turn lane challenging. After successfully completing the left turn I discovered that my rear parking brake was engaged. Releasing the brake helped a lot.  Mary Clare rode out to help me find the motel. Depleting both of my batteries made me realize that I would never be able to complete Day 13 with several steep mountain climbs without a third battery. Fortunately Falco agreed to ship a third battery to our hotel in Williamsport for me. It turns out that I really needed it. [Day 5: 68 miles, 1671 ft.]

Unusual bike route along Susquehanna River

A bit of history enroute to Big Flats

Elmira: Roberts’ Rules of Order

Perhaps I left the parking brake on after leaving the Gentlemens Club enroute to Big Flats

               The 77-mile ride from Big Flats to the Country Inn in Mt. Morris would be our longest so far. As on all the previous days of the tour the scenery was spectacular. We passed through the towns of Bath and Dansville. We enjoyed the cookies at the Country Inn and suites. Several of our group took a ride through part of adjoining Letchworth State Park. [Day 6: 77 miles, 1518 ft.]

Rockwell Museum enroute to Mt. Morris

Caboose Motel

               The ride to Lockport took us over pretty gentle terrain. We spent two nights at the Lockport Inn and Suites so that we could spend a day visiting Niagara Falls. [Day 7: 56 miles, 1661 ft.]

Morning snack at a café in Batavia enroute to Lockport

A wildlife preserve enroute to Lockport

               We were joined for the day by Sally and Jan, who drove up to enjoy Niagara Falls with us. Some of the group crossed Rainbow Bridge to visit the Falls on the Canadian side. I just enjoyed the views from Goat Island. A woman, who had biked to the falls from Akron 40 miles away, was kind enough to take my picture. As planned, Carol left us in Lockport. Husband Pat had provided several days of pannier transport that was much appreciated. [Day 8: 46 miles, 634 ft.]

Niagara Falls from Goat Island

Two rainbows

               From Lockport we began the ride home. With occasional showers we rode to Warsaw. There was a very steep climb near Attica State Prison, and we climbed a long, steep hill on US 20A to the very friendly East Hill Inn, where we ordered in dinner from a Warsaw pizza shop and dined on the front porch. [Day 9: 52 miles, 2400 ft.]

Octagonal house in Akron, NY enroute to Warsaw

Attica State Prison

I stopped by this roller coaster to put on my rain gear

Windmills along a ridge near Warsaw

East Hill Inn high above Warsaw

Dinner on the porch at East Hill Inn

               From Warsaw we headed into the southern section of Letchworth State Park enroute to Wellsville, NY.  The mountainous scenery was wonderful as viewed from along the Genesee River. [Day 10: 60 miles, 1700 ft.]

Southern part of Letchworth State Park

Letchworth family home

Bridge out – minor route change to Wellsville

               From Wellsville, NY we rode through occasional rain to Wellsboro, PA, home of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. In Potter County we noted the source of the Genesee, Allegheny, and Susquehanna Rivers flowing into three different watersheds. Some of our group visited the grand Canyon and hiked down to Pine Creek below, while the rest of us went straight to the Penn Wells Lodge. [Day 11: 57 miles, 1237 ft.]

Back in PA

Potter County, PA – a triple divide

               Following a challenging climb out of Wellsboro we had the most spectacular descent of the tour on PA 287 followed by a gorgeous ride on PA 414 and the adjacent Pine Creek bike trail. Then we had two nasty climbs going east on PA 973 followed by a paved bile trail along nearby US 15 into Williamsport and Genetti Hotel. There my third battery was waiting for me. We had dinner at nearby Bullfrog Brewery, where I had the best salmon I had ever had.  After dinner we spent some time with the artist, who had painted the unique murals across the street from the hotel. In Williamsport we bid adieu to Dwight and Mary who headed home. [Day 12:76 miles, 2669 ft.]

A resident’s cable car connection to his home across the creek from the road enroute to Williamsport

One of several restrooms along the Pine Creek Trail

A bridge on the Pine Creek Trail

Part of mural across the street from Genetti’s Hotel (Bullfrog Brewery next door)

Extraordinary breakfast buffet at Genetti’s Hotel, Williamsport

               The ride from Williamsport to Pottsville was by far the toughest so far, with several steep mountain climbs and numerous shorter climbs even before we reached the first mountain at Catawissa. I needed all three of my batteries, and even then, the motor conked out on a long 9% grade.  I was ready to call AAA to see if I could get a rental suv to go home.  Instead I called Falco (the engine’s manufacturer, and was told that the motor stopped from overheating, and needed time to cool off. That turned out to be the problem. I was very glad to reach the Pottsville Ramada Inn. Since the trike didn’t fit in the elevator I had to store it in an alcove next to the elevator. [Day 13: 80 miles, 5843 ft.]

               Since heavy rain was forecast for Saturday (which would be our last day – Day 14 – Everyone except Fred and I decided to ride home on Day 14 by Way of Hawk Mountain with over 100 miles of riding.  Fred an I headed for Reading by going west to go through Blue Mountain on PA 72 at Swatara Gap, and then going east to Reading. This route had numerous steep (typically 12%) relatively short climbs. We didn’t find any food stops until we had nearly reached Reading.  Again I needed all three of my batteries.  In Reading we stayed at the Inn at Reading. On Saturday, with constant rain as predicted, we got rides home. [Day 14: 72 miles, 4800 ft.]

Fred tops a steep hill enroute to Reading

Beginning a descent enroute to Reading

Vista shortly before the descent to Reading

               This was a very enjoyable tour, and it was my longest. When I got home I weighed my panniers. They totaled 35 lb. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to do the tour without the help of my companions. I often needed help to maneuver the trike into and out of my motel rooms. Roger helped a lot with mechanical problems. For instance, when my Mirrycle mirror failed (expected from past experience with the vibration-induced fracture of the brittle plastic expander inside the bar-end; but fortunately I had brought along my helmet mirror), he installed the Sunlite HD bar end mirror that we found in a Binghamton bike shop along the route. This well-designed mirror continues to perform flawlessly. I had two flats in my front tires that Fred helped me fix. Others, such as Mary and John, had many more than two flats. The Falco 500-watt hub motor performed nearly flawlessly until it was faced with long, steep climbs where it struggled and overheated. I am thinking that for another tour over mountainous terrain I should upgrade to a 750-watt hub motor.

               As great as the scenery was on this tour, the companionship was even greater. Many thanks to all the participants. I hope most of you will join me on a 2016 Tour of Somerset to visit, among other places, the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, PA.