Monday, June 10, 2013


HD9WN stands for Harley Davidson 9W North. It's a project that I've contemplated for years and have finally begun to bring to fruition. Route 9W has always been a special road for me. As a "city kid", US Highway 9W, an old road even when I was a youth, served as a transporter not only to a different place but to a different era and culture, as well. I clearly remember piling onto a school bus with my Fort Lee Day Camp companions and traveling on 9W North, high above the Hudson River, for a trip to Bear Mountain and a day in the fresh air. Whenever we were on 9W, heading north, as soon as you left Englewood Cliffs, we felt we were in the COUNTRY.

As is the case with most metropolitan areas, the further one gets away from the City center, the more one finds himself in a place very different from the city AND, in many cases, transported back in time, too. So it is with Route 9W. As you travel North, away from New York City and to the communities that dot the road, some dating back to the 17th Century, the topography itself changes, and with it, your very attitude. The canyons of NYC are soon replaced by nature's verdant kind. Brick, mortar and asphalt are gradually turned into carpets of lush green. The air is fresher, cleaner. Within a mere 20-25 miles, you are a world away from the maddening pace that is New York City. Still, there is "life" here, too. 9W snakes along the Hudson River, sometimes running along its banks while, at other times, ascending to staggering heights with breathtaking vistas of the river and the valley far below. Because of this strategic location, 9W winds through the area that was, in many ways, one of the cradles of the American Revolution. Hence, many of the small towns that you will encounter as you travel the road have real historic significance. Evidence of this is provided by the myriad of historical makers one encounters along the way. In fact, one can hardly travel more than a mile without stumbling upon one.

Until the Palisades Interstate Parkway was built, Route 9W provided one of the few North-South thoroughfares for cars traveling from New York City to Northern New Jersey and the communities of Rockland County and the so-called Upstate New York areas. In its hay day, Route 9W was THEY road for New Yorkers to escape the City's summer swelter for cooler, greener pastures - literally. Many of the upstate communities built their economies around this summer influx. It reached its pinnacle during the 60's when most families had cars, gas was cheap and the way to travel was to drive. City folk headed out in droves, with many of them heading "upstate". And the communities reaped the benefits. A plethora of roadside services dotted the highway. Hot dogs. Beer. Barbecue. And Ice Cream - lots of ice cream, was available. One would certainly not starve to death on their sojourn from NYC to Shangrila!

But time changes and so do fads and trends. The New York State Thruway was completed (along with the Tappan Zee Bridge) in the 1960's. A larger, faster road, it opened up areas of New York State previously difficult to access, providing more travel opportunities for New Yorkers. It was also the era of a burgeoning air travel industry which further siphoned off visitors who had used 9W as their vacation route. Hence, the road, and the roadside businesses associated with it, declined. Many disappeared. But not all. Many have hung on, in near ruin, rusting and hanging on by their fingernails, but THERE. They provide a sort of time capsule to help transport us to what many of us see as a simpler time.

There are few compelling reasons for me to travel north on route 9W. No business reason takes me there. There is no restaurant that beckons me to return. There is no vista that I can't live without seeing again. Yet, I travel it, again and again. I find myself drawn to it. No longer on a yellow school bus, I ride my 1450cc Harley Davidson motorcycle the length of its serpentine spine - hence the "HD9WN". For years, I promised myself that, one day, I would stop long enough with my camera to catalogue what is left of this bygone era. Some remains, but in the every expanding universe of urban sprawl, more and more disappears every year. Soon it may all be gone, sacrificed to the gods of the strip mall.

So, I've taken my small, inexpensive pocket camera and hit the road on my vision quest.  I have a more professional camera but I've chosen not to use it. Part of the point of the trip is spontaneity. I am trying to capture things, in a sense, as "I go bye". I want it to be organic. It's not a trip about photography. It's a trip about discovery and history. It will be revealed as it is revealed. I hope to make most of the photos without even getting off my bike. The photos will be presented in a series. There simply will be too many to present at any one time. I hope to travel at least 150 miles, from Haverstraw to Albany, stopping where I feel like stopping. I share it with you, now. Here's the first leg: HAVERSTRAW to NEWBURG.

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