Posts tagged Route 20
Seasonal change doesn’t exist in Los Angeles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Who doesn’t like wearing shorts in November? It’s a pretty sweet perk, actually. But the months do tend to blend together here on the left coast. So when the folks at GM reached out to us to participate in the nationwide #FindNewRoads trip for the 2016 Chevy Camaro, we signed up for some different scenery.
Over 150 outlets participated in the Find New Roads Trip that spanned 48 states, 16 cities and about 160,000 miles over a four week period. Sure, we could’ve kept it local. LA to San Francisco is a pretty drive, but it’s not new to us. We chose the Syracuse to Boston leg of the program because we wanted to experience an actual autumn. And if we could hit up the Baseball Hall of Fame, party in Albany, pay a visit to the Johnson Family compound in Worcester and explore Cambridge and the Freedom Trail on foot in the process, not a bad plan, right?
Well that’s what we did. On one tank of gas no less. Can you imagine?
Taking the Scenic Route
All the media members in Syracuse selected keys from a Camaro bag to see which ride they would end up with. I pulled a manual 3.6L V6 in bright yellow. As I was driving this No. 2 pencil rocket more than 350 miles, I noticed that it turned quite a few heads. But I suspect most of those head turns weren’t due to the humming purr of the 335 horsepower engine or the svelte new look of the noticeably trimmer new model. Nope. I think people were honestly tripping on the color and wondering why anyone would take such a pretty machine and paint it to look like a lemon. Luckily, Chevy offers 9 additional color options for folks that believe a high performance sports car shouldn’t resemble a banana.
Color aside, it’s still a fantastic ride. This sixth-gen Camaro offers up 240 percent more horsepower than the first-gen Camaro’s 3.7L six-cylinder that was produced in 1967, so it was nice that I pulled a manual transmission. My camera gal was a little less enthused about the manual option, because you see, your humble car reviewer here hasn’t driven a stick since the 90s. I live LA, what can I say. But despite the early cries over safety concerns from my lovely passenger, the whole shifter car thing came back to me real quick, and I made good use of it as we put Syracuse in our rearview and bolted out to scenic Route 20 on our way to Cooperstown.
The designated scenic byway section of US Route 20 was a thing of beauty. I’ve been to New York City before, but us Angelenos tend to forget that our nation’s fourth most populous state isn’t just a series of gigantic cities. The 108 mile corridor from Lafayette to Duanesburg cuts across Central New York and rewards motorists with a colorful views of a lost American landscape. Think rolling hills, sprawls of agricultural expanse, derelict barns, every shade of tree and a distinct lack of human inhabitants. Carving through the turns of this scenic country byway made me feel like I was driving inside a warm, comfortable sweater.
Cooperstown to Albany
Albany seemed like a reasonable midpoint between Syracuse and Boston, so Cooperstown was a natural stop. Americana was on the agenda in a big way the entire road trip, so why not check out the hallowed halls of America’s pastime?
The first thing that struck me about the village of Cooperstown was that it was, without a doubt, a village. Less than 2,000 people live there. When I parked the Camaro on Main Street, I felt like I was on a movie set or something. It’s a well maintained area that embraces nostalgia without hesitation. Cooperstown pulls it off so well that it all seems not quite real.
That’s probably because by design, this place hasn’t changed in generations. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened up in the historic district in 1939. The post office directly across the street was completed in 1936 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. It’s just a time warp experience worth seeing for yourself.
After soaking up some baseball lore and chowing down on New York style pizza (or as the locals call it, “pizza”), it was time to get back on the road.
Inside the 2016 Chevy Camaro, 95 mph feels like 35. It’s really quite remarkable. You can be flying down a highway at top speed and the ride still feels pedestrian. The simplest nudge of your foot delivers the sweetest hum of power inside the cockpit. Just a little tap wraps you up in a low frequency sound blanket that you never want to remove. It never feels like you’re too much either. You accelerate as you want, when you want, with no hesitation or even the slightest hint of unsteadiness. Going fast in this car just feels right.
By nightfall we checked ourselves and the Camaro into the 74 State Hotel and went out for a wander. At the Albany Distilling Company, co-founder John treated us like homies, gave us a tour of the joint and sat with us to sample tasty rye whiskey and full-bodied bourbon. He sent us off with good spirits and a recommendation to visit Speakeasy 518.
The Prohibition-era throwback spot on Howard St. was the truth, man. Spotting the dingy red light above the door is the only way to track this dimly lit gem that’s unmarked from the outside. Of course, it wouldn’t be a speakeasy if you didn’t have to go through the motions of knocking on the door and working your way in all clandestine-like. It’s good fun though, and the service at this place was matched only by the quality of the craft cocktails they serve. Engaging bartenders, dated décor, live jazz and a no cell phone policy made this stop a real treat.
Onwards to Worcester and Boston
Jeremy Johnson is arguably the more senior auto writer here at MANjr, but he grew up in Massachusetts, so clearly he didn’t need to be on this mission. But we couldn’t pass through Western Mass on our way to Boston without making a stop in Worcester to visit the Johnson fam. Hanging out with your buddy’s parents without your buddy present makes for interesting conversation. It’s like I picked up an unauthorized biography that’s more authorized than any other source out there. And where else can you expect to find embarrassing childhood photo gold like this?
After enjoying the hospitality, lively chats and good eats at the Johnson household, it was time to make the final push to Boston. We rode Highway 90 across the entire state, and I don’t know why, but this particular stretch of asphalt just demanded to be driven with all deliberate speed. We weren’t in a rush and there was no emergency. There was just something about that fiery foliage backdrop, situational openness and the complete lack of awareness from criminally slow, aging, fast lane-clogging Mass-holes that just made me want to gun it across the state.
As was the case the entire trip, the 2016 Camaro responded well. Maybe it’s because the car’s more than 200 pounds lighter than the 2015 fifth-gen V6. Maybe it’s the increased aerodynamics, reduced drag or the improved chassis. Maybe I was feeling more comfortable in general because I could charge my phone quickly and sync up to Chevrolet Mylink with ease and flip through my phone’s Spotify selections using the on-wheel controls while still maintaining top speeds. Whatever the primary cause, the new sixth-generation Camaro is a winner.
Parting with this machine was bittersweet, but it did free us up to explore Cambridge and Boston on foot and by train. From Beacon Hill to Cambridge Commons, Fenway to the Freedom Trail, we soaked in all Beantown had to offer. If you ever get a chance to drink in historic pubs, dance to quality soul music selections and absorb all the history and character this city has to offer, I highly recommend it. And if you want in on the leaner, more powerful 2016 Camaro, they start at just over $25K. Not bad for a quality first entry of a new generation.
And if this whole road trip recap is just too long for you do read, check the video instead: