It’s hard to believe you can launch a rural road trip from New York City, but you can. Travel just 25 miles north of the Big Apple, to the neighboring villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, and you find yourself in a different world. This roughly 180-mile ride takes in the Hudson River valley, ending in the Gilded Age city of Saratoga Springs.
The route takes you along Seven Lakes Drive, into Harriman and Bear Mountain state parks, through West Point, into FDR’s hometown of Hyde Park, and back into time at Woodstock. In between, this slow, meandering trip also takes you past small villages and valley vistas.
This Land is Your Land
Why do they call it Seven Lakes Drive? The road that springs northeast from Interstate 87 and into Harriman State Park unfolds through the woods and passes (yes) seven lakes: Sebago, Tiorati, Stahahe, Askoti, Cohasset, Kanawaukee, and Skannatati.
Pack a bathing suit. City dwellers from New York and residents from surrounding areas have made these lakes refreshingly popular destinations.
At Bear Mountain State Park, take Perkins Memorial Drive to the top and not only will America stretch out before you . . . so will the Big Apple. Look to the south and New York is visible on the horizon, only 25 miles away. Hard to believe you’re less than a half-hour away from the capital of capitalism.
West Point Story
On the campus of West Point, Trophy Point is one of the most important sites in America. As seen from the hilltop, this bend in the waterway forced ships to slow down, making it a strategically important section of the Hudson River.
Controlling the Hudson meant controlling commerce and traffic between New England and the rest of the colonies, which motivated the British to bribe Benedict Arnold for its surrender. Stories like this confirm that riding through West Point is like riding through history.
Men and Their Machines
You never know who you’ll meet on a motorcycle tour. At a pullout north of West Point, on winding and steep Highway 218 in Storm King State Park, it was these three motorcyclists.
Even though they were from the area and had seen this view before, each rider was as impressed with this Hudson River overlook as this native Floridian. Understandable.
As you ride along this magnificent waterway, picture explorer Henry Hudson and his crew sailing north aboard their ship, the Half Moon. Since his voyage in 1609, the dramatic views along the river that now bears Henry’s name have barely changed—although I bet he would’ve had more fun making his journey on two wheels.
Hyde Park: FDR’s R&R
Given that he was elected to four terms, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt might have preferred moving the White House to Hyde Park. This was where FDR was born and raised and where, outside of his 13 years in the capital, he spent most of his life.
At Springwood, his house, you can watch an overview film about him and see his papers and exhibits in the onsite museum, and then you can walk through the house itself, which is filled with his furnishings and belongings—there’s even a wheelchair he created from a simple kitchen chair. Both FDR and his wife, Eleanor, are at rest in adjacent rose garden.
Woodstock: 111 Years of Peace and Music
Resting comfortably in the 1960s, the village of Woodstock maintains a distinct sense of peace, love, and creativity. These attributes were originally planted in the early 1900s, with the arrival of the Arts & Crafts Movement, and then bloomed with the arrival of residents such as Bob Dylan and The Band’s Levon Helm.
History Happened Here
Considering that his name became synonymous with treachery, at the Saratoga National Historical Park it’s somewhat of a shock to learn that, two years before he turned traitor, Benedict Arnold was a true American hero. His headquarters still sits upon a hill, framed by a row of cannons. It’s a strong and powerful image at the site of a true turning point in American history. What else? This park’s 10-mile loop road is a pleasing ride, with stops at other key historical sites.
An American View
More than a thousand buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places in picturesque Saratoga Springs, a destination that appeals to every type of traveler.
The Gilded Age resort town has an active commercial district, historical hotels, colleges, spas, performing arts centers, and the ever-popular Saratoga Race Track.
A ride along the shores of nearby Saratoga Lake is peaceful, as is a continuation of the tour 30 minutes north in the motorcycle-friendly community of Lake George.
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth piece in our eight-part series on motorcycle travel by Gary McKechnie, author of Great American Motorcycle Tours, which has just been released in its fifth edition. For more tips and itineraries, see the other articles in this series in Motorcycle Road Trips.