The Back Roads Of Morocco Greater Western New York

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Imagine The Awe That Filled Sullivan’s Soldiers As They First Set Eyes Upon The Fertile Flats Of The Genesee River Valley

Genesee River ValleyI had forgotten the beauty that is Greater Western New York. But for a tragic Thruway accident, I would not have been reminded.

I left early for Jamestown last week. But not too early. I couldn’t leave until I finished my weekly State of Greater Western New York Show. If you like trains, check it out at under Travel and Leisure. It’s an interview with Otto Vondrak, President of the Rochester & Genesee Valley Railroad Museum in Rush.

After quickly packing up the car, I left shortly before 1pm. Before departing, I plugged my destination into my route finder. Since I was going to Jamestown to pick her up, Betsy wasn’t in the car to complain about my insistence on doing this, even though I know exactly how to get to her father’s house. If she was there, I would have told her what I have told her many times before, “Google Maps tells us if we need to reroute because of an accident.”

This was one of those times.

Not at first, though. Initially, it gave me the usual Thruway route. I took a quick side trip to look at the office mail. When I hopped back into the car and turned on the GPS, it mysteriously said “rerouting.” I thought this had something to do with my restarting the device.

It wasn’t.

Still, I didn’t trust it. But I was driving by this point. It was impossible to check the reason for the rerouting. And, like I said, Betsy wasn’t in the car to do it.

“Oh well,” I said to myself, “It’s a beautiful day. I’m not in a hurry, and I haven’t traveled the back roads of Greater Western New York in quite some time.”

Ah, “the back roads of Morocco.”

For some strange reason, I’ll never forget that 1974 commercial for Sears Steel Belted Radial tires. You remember that one, don’t you? It’s the one that said something to the effect, “We not only test the tires in the lab, but we tested them by running them on the back roads of Morocco…”

Isn’t that odd? Why did they say “the back roads of Morocco”? I mean, Morocco? I knew Morocco ran from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to deep into the heart of the Sahara Desert, but I was learning world geography at the time. What about the average person?

Well, the movie Casablanca was still quite popular in 1974, and that was in Morocco. Contemporaneously, the 1970 movie Patton had recently won the Best Picture Oscar. Many World War II veterans were still around, and they certainly knew of the ruggedness of North Africa.

Still, Morocco seemed quite obscure. Baja California might have been better, but Volkswagen already laid claim to that race, its cars having demonstrated the ability to win there (and, yes, I vaguely recall an advertising campaign extolling that fact).

In terms of races, however, May 1974 saw the running of the 1974 London–Sahara–Munich World Cup Rally (a.k.a. “1974 UDT World Cup Rally”). It was a grueling race that saw only 19 cars of the original 70 entrants finish, the majority having gotten lost in the Sahara Desert because the route map was outdated. The race certainly gave meaning to the roughness of “back roads” in Morocco or elsewhere. Indeed, although they made it out of the Sahara, an unfortunate collision between their V8 Jeep and a large dog in Turkey knocked the American team out of the race.

So, in 1974, “the back roads of Morocco” may have had more meaning than you think.

The back roads of Greater Western New York are much smoother than their Moroccan counterparts. The sense, though, remains the same.

Better yet, the feeling calls back to the way the Greater Western New York Region first impressed the patriots of Sullivan’s Campaign during the Revolutionary War.

Almost immediately upon leaving the asphalt ribbon of Interstate 390 in Geneseo—the westernmost extent of Sullivan’s march across the Greater Western New York Region—you take the bend on 20A on the outer perimeter of the Wadsworth Homestead. Atop an arterial ridge, the full splendor of the Genesee River valley emerges. Imagine the awe that filled Sullivan’s soldiers when they first set eyes upon the fertile plain below.

That’s when it hit me (again). You can never lose the appreciation, the admiration, the inspiration when this vast vista opens up before your eyes.

But that was just an appetizer on my trek southwest. The slow snaking route took me across rivers, streams and creeks, as well as a smattering of small lakes. Water, water everywhere. Fresh water. Spring water. And I mean literally “Spring” water. The amount of rain we’ve had in the past few days rushed through these liquid veins.

And filled any idle, low-lying terrain. Traveling through Machias, just north of Ashford Junction where the Rochester branch of the Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railroad merged with the Buffalo branch on their way to Pittsburgh, the water sparkled in the sun like a crystal lake.

Only it isn’t a lake. It’s more of a swamp. But it’s really the overflow from Devereaux Branch, a thin stream that twists its way from natural springs near Bakerstand to Ashford Junction, where it joins Beaver Meadows Creek to form Great Valley Creek.

Funny how man copies nature. The railroad pioneers who first created the three BR&P lines followed these three streams. It was the Rochester branch that had the toughest time originally. The roadbed sits just a few feet above the waterline. Constantly washed out by frequent rainstorms, the company had to repeatedly rebuild that portion of the line. I couldn’t help but think of that castle that kept sinking into the swamp from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (if you don’t remember it, rewatch that scene from the movie).

It is the people who ultimately show the rugged independence of Greater Western New York. The small villages and towns that dot my journey to Jamestown stand testament to our forebears. These late 18th century/early 19th century settlers forged the earth with a resilience that lives today. Periodically, you see Gasden flags sprinkled throughout. These are those yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” Revolutionary War era flags.

Those from the more populated regions of New York State should be required to take a slow drive through this section of Greater Western New York. Maybe they’d show the people from these parts a tad more respect.


  1. […] and manmade paths through America’s First Frontier? Read this week’s Carosa Commentary “The Back Roads Of Morocco Greater Western New York” and experience the same feelings of those patriots in Sullivan’s […]

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