6.03.2011

Equipoise: Riding the Delaware Water Gap


  
   The curvature of route 97 along the Delaware River is at times sublime. The river itself, the only major eastern waterway that remains undammed, is wide and sweeping. The road is a thin hanging flake along the steep cut of the valley, seemingly held up by nothing more than the handful of trestle bridges that span the gap.

   August was now in its peak, lending a sweet humid taste to the air, and giving life to a buzzing chorus of insects. We reached the famed "Hawk's Nest" midday. This section of exceptionally beautiful, twisting road has been featured in dozens of car commercials and, with the rest of the river ride, is easily one of the more spectacular motorcycle routes in the east.

   The route centers around a set of switchback turns running alongside a gorgeous vista, from which kayakers and rafters appear as small blips along the river's surface. I'd met many challenging corners in my cross-country ride and flown down many high-speed straightaways, but it was always the rarest thrill to find a road that combined the perfect mix of both.

OneShirt pays tribute to Ray and Diane

   The twistiest of roads are often so curvaceous that they force one to slow down under 30mph. The hairpins around Mt. Rushmore had banked so sharply that could barely get out of second gear without toppling over (a fate encountered by several riders I met that day). These roads are challenging and exciting in their own right, but the absence of terrific speed can leave one lacking.

   Then there are those lonely, unmoving desert highways. Devoid of anything, and anyone, these paved speedways are made for fast riding. It was on these that I had tested the limits of my machine, and learned the taste of air at 100mph (don't worry, mom, it only happened twice). There is of course the idiot joy of top speed, but in reality there is very little difference between cruising at 60mph on a bike or burning out at 90.

   But, of course, there is the flawless mix of these two extremes: a utopian recipe of speed and slant that one finds on only the greatest of roads. Here, the corners are tight enough to drag a knee, but long and wide enough to touch 50 or 60 on the speedometer. Hawk's Nest was one of these roads, and after we burned through our first take I knew once was not enough. There was no need to even discuss it, and without even stopping we doubled back in wordless agreement.

   We rode it again and again, backwards and forwards a dozen times, timing our rides with the gaps in traffic. Riding and leaning and turning and bending, over and over, soaking in that rare and perfect clarity of space.

Completing another pass at the Hawk's Nest (in background)

Curvy

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