With echoes of last Tuesday’s election (rightwing anti-tax crap; immigrant-bashing via criticism of sensible driver’s license reform; the unfortunate success of local Republicans in maintaining a county lej majority) still bouncing through my skull like heavy metal in a “detainee” cell, I hopped on my bicycle for a backlots tour of the vast Henrietta Wilderness.
Motorists see only the fringes of this tract, which dominates the town of Henrietta’s northern half. And in one sense, they’re not missing much, since what they see at the roadside – endless pavement, scraps of greenery, bigger scraps of “brownery,” and throwaway architecture – is very similar to what one sees in the backlots. No, this is not your Grandpa David Brower’s wilderness, which teemed with life and beauty; rather, it’s a kind of spiritual desert that acquires some wildness from its the absence of life, not including the occasional delivery vehicle that rolls violently through the scenery.
Few dare to tread here – and even fewer to lay down their tire tread.
I know what you’re thinking. Biking in Henrietta? Gimme a Break. Or better: Lemme Outta Here. But don’t prejudge. The fact is, Henrietta, the scourge of pedestrians and aesthetes, offers great cycling opportunities.
Think about it. Not only is this part of town covered practically wall to wall in asphalt; much of the asphalt is in the form of abandoned or underused parking lots attached to obsolete big box retail buildings. That translates into expanses wide enough to pedal at top speed in any direction, do blindfolded figure-eights, try the technical moves your mom and dad warned you about, and otherwise live in a blissful state of transpo-anarchy. Yeah, you can have a grand old time riding the Erie Canal Trail or cruising this or that urban neighborhood. But in Offroad Henrietta, even as you hug the ground, you can fly with the birds.
If you live in the city of Rochester, there’s a “wilderness trail” you can use the next time you are inspired or forced to go to the main post office (Jefferson Rd.), Borders Books (an anti-union chain that’s best steered clear of), the regional market, or goddess forbid, The Home Depot.
Say your destination is Borders: You can take the Genesee River Trail south to the Erie Canal, then head east toward Pittsford, getting off the trail at Clinton Ave. Then head south to Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road and go right (west) toward East Henrietta Rd, where you can access a sidewalk (recommended for newbies along this stretch) that will take you down toward Jefferson Rd. But before you hit Jefferson, or something hits you there, you can go to the right through some access roads to the regional market. After you cross Clay Rd. just west of the market, you can cruise behind a slew of commercial buildings till you get to some parking lots under construction, then go south a few hundred yards to Jefferson, which you can cross quickly at a new traffic light – which even has walk-don’t walk buttons, though the sidewalk itself is unfinished.
Once across the mad, mad flow of Jefferson, you’ll easily see your way southwest to the delivery and parking areas of the plaza surrounding a Wegmans. Look for Borders down near the end of the development. When you get there, turn around and head for home – and spend your book money at Greenwood downtown, or order from powells.com (a unionized Portland, Oregon-based retailer that’s the thinking person’s book service).
If you follow this advice, you’ll naturally ask yourself why the hell you pedaled out to Macadam Junction in the first place. But that’s where the wilderness ethic and spirit of the explorer come in. You went because it’s there, and you didn’t know any better. Besides, you can pause to rejoice the recent end of James Breese's long pull as Henrietta supervisor, though this life change was undoubtedly painful for him; but the fact is, he strove mightily to make the town a laboratory of sprawl, and he all too successful. I think of his regime every time I navigate the edges of the RIT campus. Talk about "gimme a break." That neighborhood cries, Gimme Shelter.
By the way, on your exploratory trip to Borders, etc., you should take a county or town map. Sometimes the wilderness can play tricks on you. Speaking of which: no grizzlies are likely to cross your path through Henrietta, but watch out for growling, snarling diesels.