Majestic mountains and rambling rivers
About two hours north of New York City lies State Route 28, a portion of which, in combination with several other roads, is soon to be designated as the Central Catskills Scenic Byway. It is truly a fitting description for this wonderful series of rural roads that is mostly contained within the 700,000-acre Catskill Park. Route 28 and the roads that intersect and surround it can either be traveled as a day ride, or spread out over a weekend
The byway has what I consider two of the major elements that make up a great ride: An open road, and places to relax and eat. Route 28 runs 90
miles from Kingston, New York, to Oneonta, New York. The part of the road that I toured is between Kingston (just off Exit 19 on I-87, the NYS Thruway) and Andes, New York—nearly 60 miles.
As you cruise west from the beginning of Route 28 on the outskirts of the City of Kingston—the first capital of New York—you will see Woodstock Harley-Davidson, one of the nicest and cleanest dealers in New York State. Woodstock H-D makes a nice bathroom stop and the dealership has some of the coolest T-shirts—some even tie-dyed. Continue on and you come upon the intersection of Routes 28 and 375, the proposed start of the Central Catskills Scenic Byway.
A two-mile diversion onto Route 375 takes you into Woodstock, the home of the original Woodstock H-D building. This sleepy, artsy town was the name used for the rock festival back in the ’60s, although it actually happened over 30 miles away. Woodstock has quaint shops and places to eat, and it is a biker-friendly town. Tie-dye is still in fashion there, too.
Continuing past Woodstock will bring you back to Route 28, where several towns were flooded many years ago to construct the Ashokan Reservoir on the south side of Route 28 that now supplies New York City with its water. Because of the construction, some of the towns ceased to exist, others were relocated and even some of the graveyards were dug up and remains moved.
Once you get past the town of Shokan, a ridge of majestic mountains comes into view and urban upstate is left behind. The road now begins to
rise and fall and gently curve. Keep in mind that the speed limit changes as you enter the many hamlets, sometimes dropping to 45 mph or less. And the New York State Police do patrol this road.
It is estimated that up to 70 percent of the homeowners in the area are seasonal, and as you leave the town of Boiceville and head toward town of Mt. Tremper you will pass a farm stand on the right where most of the seasonal homeowners stop on Fridays to pick up their fresh vegetables for the weekend. One of the most beautiful places to stop and shop along this road is the Emerson Resort and Spa on Route 28 in Mt. Tremper. Here you can shop, eat or find lodgings if you like—all first class.
The panoramic views become even more stunning the further west you ride. When you see the sign for Phoenicia, if you haven’t had breakfast yet you can hang a right and go down to Sweet Sue’s Restaurant on Main Street. This small eatery offers one of the best breakfasts anywhere. Everything is fresh and you can’t finish a stack of pancakes. But, as with all rural areas, you must be patient as they march to a different drummer. The line forms outside with people chatting as they wait for tables, and the restaurant usually closes by 3:00 p.m., so get there early!
This area suffered tremendous losses when the rivers overflowed during Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Much of the low-lying areas were under water and they are just coming back. Parts of Route 28 that you will be riding on were washed away by the Esopus River that winds back and forth, underneath the highway bridges that you cross using this route.
As you travel farther west, the views of the mountains and rivers are breathtaking. Once you reach the Pine Hill area you will begin to climb toward the area’s peak, Highmount—the home of the Belleayre Ski Resort. During the off-season, mountain bikers are welcome here. Past Highmount is the town of Fleischmanns, named after the owner of Fleischmann’s dairy products. At the turn of the century, this town might have had 10,000 visitors on a weekend. During the time of the 2010 census, the population was 351.
To your left is an entrance to Catskill Park and its still, wild and open land. If you feel like a slice of brick-oven pizza, Oakley’s Pizza, a real biker-friendly place, is along Route 28, as well. You can park and eat on the front patio, within sight of your steed. They also serve Italian food and liquid refreshments.
As you lumber into the next town of Arkville, the home of the historic Ulster and Delaware Railroad, you could stop and take a scenic ride to the Village of Roxbury; a two-hour round trip. Roxbury was the home of the famous Gould family that controlled the railroads in the 1890s. The Gould descendants still reside in the nearby town of Dry Brook.
A little further along Route 28, where it intersects with County Road 38, is the Cha Cha Hut BBQ. If you love barbecue then stop in and say hi to the owners Frank and Cherie. You never know what special is up that day and the food is fantastic. They are open some weekdays and every weekend. This place is worth the ride alone, with the bonus of some beautiful roads and scenery. If the Cha Cha Hut is closed or you are interested in some reasonably priced breakfast or lunch, next door is the Arkville Bread and Breakfast—a train caboose turned into an eatery. My friend Jack, originally a Long Island boy, owns and runs it, and it’s just a fun place to eat.
Continuing along Route 28 you can see Margaretville on your right, and then you climb and twist over the mountain and down into Andes. The
road has some steep spots and with the curves I always wonder what it is like in the winter. Once you reach Andes, you can continue to Oneonta, or turn around and go back over the mountain, heading south onto Route 30, which will take you on a fantastic ride around the Pepacton Reservoir. You can take Route 206 south to Roscoe, and then Route 17 south toward New York City and downstate.
There are a lot more roads off of Route 28 to discover, and plenty of restaurants and lodging for overnight stays—I just barely scraped the top layer. Also remember that these people look forward to meeting you, and welcoming you back if you choose to return. A good part of the area’s economy depends upon people like us enjoying ourselves and spending a few dollars.