So, you have to write when the muse is around, right? So I’ve heard. Anyway, I’ve been sitting on the back porch with Sammy, enjoying the beautiful weather, reading and working on my beer, and the mood struck. I’ve really wrestled about which back road that I wanted to write about first – should I write about the trip that sparked this whole idea in the first place? Or how about the road that’s been one of my absolute favorite back roads, even before I had my motorcycle?
Even though I don’t have any pictures of the Fern Hollow ride, and even though it’s actually quite short (only 15 total miles), it is still quite possibly one of my absolute favorite places to go. It includes a number of my favorite elements of back roads, and is not very high traffic to boot. And, should you decide to continue down Rochester Road instead of cutting down McAleer, you’ll run right past two of the best restaurants in the North Hills – Franklin Inn and the Rochester.
I digress. (I like saying that) This route is one of my favorites because it features incredibly beautiful woodlands, at least three bodies of water, windy uphill roads (better for those on motorcycles), minimal traffic and very few stop signs and red lights (even when you’re going through Sewickley). Oh, Sewickley and Sewickley Heights, too. The Sewickley Heights link doesn’t have many photos – apparently the wealthy don’t want pictures of their borough plastered all over the internet. Here are a couple of the homes for sale in Sewickley Heights, to give you a better feel for the place.
Start on the Coraopolis side of the Sewickley Bridge (map linked again here). Take the bridge over the Ohio River, but make sure to take a glance west (left) and east (right) as you are crossing the river – if you are lucky, you will catch a coal barge pushes hundreds of tons of coal up and down the river. Plus, if you are on a bike that has a chrome headlamp like mine, the reflection of the bridge trusses is very cool.
From there, head briefly up two of the main roads through Sewickley – Broad & Beaver Streets. Adorably cute Americana-style shops line both streets, and gives you a good feel for the “village.” Also, the China Palace on Broad St has pretty good Oriental food, if you’re hungry.
Heading up Blackburn Road is where the ride starts to get really good – mature oak and maple trees, beautiful Victorian and estate-style homes, and a wonderfully windy uphill road, including a hairy 270◦ switchback – take it slow! Hook a left at the first and second stop signs, and you will be on Fern Hollow Road – by far the jewel of the ride. An amazing tree-lined stretch at the bottom of a small valley, Fern Hollow Road braids its way back and forth across a small babbling brook, crossing over it at least three or four times. To be frank, the road has an almost magical feel to it – like you’ve stepped a well-written fairy tale or the “so real it seems fake” feel of a 1960’s-style Disney movie.
Once you pass the merge with Little Sewickley Creek Rd, the mystical part of the ride is done, but the “fun for drivers” portion is just getting warmed up. A couple decent bends and hills get you warmed up for what’s to come – a fun blast up the twists and turns of the western section of Rochester Road. It doesn’t look like it on the map, but there are two fun switchbacks and several sweet curves on this section of the trip, all of which is uphill – so you can really get down into the guts of your engine and see how your vehicle performs!
Once you’ve crossed over 79 and into Franklin Park, make sure to hit the sharp right onto McAleer Rd – you won’t be sorry (unless you want some delicious Mexican at the Franklin Inn). The road is shaded, has gentle curves, and a very private feel to it. Hook the left onto Mt Nebo Road, and you’re almost done. Several decent curves and slopes await on this final stretch, and don’t forget to stop at Trinity Jewelers to ensure your spouse don’t mind you taking your vehicular toy out for a stretch!
That’s all for today, I think. I had no idea I could write so much about a 15 mile trip – I hope I can trim it down for some of the longer rides!