Happy Trails


It’s the end of the trail. Time to say goodbye to folks I’ve been riding and living with for the past nine weeks.

It rained Friday night, but we woke up no wetter than the usual from dew and/or fog.

We had a great breakfast in the University of New Hampshire cafeteria after a great dinner there last night. They have a stirfry station, where you can choose your own vegetables and they cook them fresh for you. I ate tofu for the first time in nine weeks.

We had a slow roll through Exeter, New Hampshire, home of Phillips Exeter Academy. When I was in junior high school I was a finalist in a scholarship competition for newspaper carriers and was invited to apply for a full ride scholarship to Exeter. I didn’t get it.

I occasionally wonder (but only briefly) how my life would be different had I been a boarding school kid. Would I have been hobnobbing with W or would I have been shunned as one of the diversity program kids, poor (but still lily white) midwestern boys?

We rode through beautiful rural New England roads and small towns. Crossing the border into Massachusetts was very low-key, with a tiny sign (smaller than the usual street identification sign) informing us in simple black-on-white that we were on the state line.

There are lots of cyclists out this morning. Either we are on a very popular bicycling route or there are  just a lot of Massachusetts people that ride bikes on Saturday mornings.

We also passed within a few miles of Seabrook, New Hampshire, Ground Zero of the US anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s. The Seabrook demonstrations catapulted the group Bright Morning Star to fame. Bright Morning Star included the folksinger Charlie King, who said, “America truly is a melting pot. The scum rises to the top and those on the bottom get burned.”

I had to stop and add air to my tire four miles before the finish. Before our ceremonial trip to the ocean, I had to change it. Flat #11.

As we came into town we were met by a flag-waving cheering section. I stopped at a lemonade stand and told the kids I had ridden from Seattle for this lemonade. They didn’t believe me until I showed them my jersey.

The rain held off all day; a few sprinkles mixed with sunshine. Once we arrived in camp, a downpour came. We made our way to the shore in light rain. We have a harbor cruise scheduled this evening. We’ll see how that goes.

We made our way down to the shore with a police escort. The local waterfront festival was going on, so we had an audience (and a funk band).We performed the ceremonial dipping of the front tires. Two people dove in for a swim. I mixed the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean waters.

I expect I’ll have more to say after this sinks in.

We’ll have to earn this

One more day!

Thursday night we had a little ceremony in the Fryeburg fairgrounds. Greg passed out plaques to all of the riders who will complete the coast-to-coast ride Saturday – 17 of us.

He said a few words about each of us, we each said a few words in turn (“I’d like to thank the Academy…”).

It was a chance to let this sink in for a few moments and reinforced for me what I said in here some time back – “We are a bunch of ordinary people doing an extraordinary thing.”

There has been talk that 2020 would be the last coast-to-coast trip for Cycle America. Greg backed off from that a bit, though that is the last trip he will commit to. 

Several people are already talking about doing this again next time, to share the last ride. Several have already done it more than once.

I made it clear that I do not plan to ride coast-to-coast in 2020, but I might meet them in Baraboo with a case of beer and ride to the ferry with them the next day.

Temperature Friday morning is 51 degrees. As Ken said, “We’ve been out here so long, the season’s changed.”

Friday was a meat grinder of a day. I feel like I’ve been chewed up and spit out.

We spent the day straddling the New Hampshire/Maine border. I wasn’t always sure which state I was in.

We lost about 350 feet elevation on the day on our way to sea level, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It was a roller coaster day. We climbed about ten times that in order to lose elevation.

Road surfaces varied from great to where Graeme said, “In Australia if they let a road get this bad, they’d be stringing somebody up by the ankles.”

Roads varied from idyllic country roads to highways to suburban streets.

The weather forecast had been for southerly winds 2-4 mph. By noon it was at least five times that.

It was also a day of optical illusions. Several times my eyes said the road was level or tilting down, while my legs said it was going up. The legs were right. I felt weaker than I really was. Still, I was prompted to say (to quote Jens Voigt), “Shut up, legs!” as I fed them more electrolytes.

L-R: The road to the local brewpub Thursday; the sentry guarding a house, next to a “No Trespassing” sign; a lake we passed this morning.

Tonight’s forecast is for thundershowers. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for Gloucester all day tomorrow. Looks like we’ll get wet (not from dew or fog) one more time.

How the other 1% live

Wednesday night I was in the school using their electricity and intermittent WiFi, when Ruth dashed in to say it was coming down hard out there. I unplugged and scurried outside.

The sky was lit up like the Fourth of July but it was not yet raining.

I beat the rain to the tent by less than a minute. I turned on my headlamp and noticed a fine mist in the air, then heard dripping. I pulled out my phone and posted a real-time review of the tent on REI’s  website.

Thursday dawned foggily, as usual. The ride upstream on the Ammonoosuc River beat the heck out of Wednesday’s start in rush hour traffic on bad roads.

We rode into the White Mountains, where my boss’s boss has a family cottage (photo below). Since they only had a partial staff on (this being the offseason), we just stopped to use the pool and sauna and have cognac and caviar at the outdoor fire pit before moving on.994A5D54-FEFE-4A62-A4ED-32E3680BFE7F

Seriously, this is the Mount Washington Hotel. If you have to ask the room rate, you can’t afford it. It is not the hotel used for exterior shots in “The Shining”, though it certainly reminded me of that.

After lunch outside a ski lodge we got onto the very scary Westside Road. If this is an off-season weekday, I’d hate to see ski season weekend traffic; and the pavement was something to write home about.

I’m posting this from the parking lot of the Maine Tourist Information Center, just a few yards across the border, in case I have no WiFi access later.

Tomorrow is an 80+ mile day before our triumphant Champagne-sipping finale to the ocean on Saturday.

RIP Aretha Franklin

Tirebiters and alligators and fog, oh my!

We spent Tuesday night in a campground at the edge of a highway construction project.

As soon as darkness fell, the floodlights were fired up and the heavy equipment started.

It looked like the set of Close Encounters at Devil’s Tower. When the fog settled in it became surreal, as the bright lights glinted off the water droplets in the air.

They packed up and left at first light.

Our ride out of Stowe was on a busy highway with multiple tirebiters:
Tirebiter (noun)
1) a linear crack in the pavement, parallel to your direction of travel, sometimes made worse in hot weather if filled with tar;
2) a sewer grate with openings parallel to the direction of travel;
3) a railroad crossing with tracks at an oblique angle (the closer to the direction of travel, the worse it is).

The best (worst) tirebiters and alligators were in places unsafe to stop for photos. An alligator is an area of pavement that resembles alligator skin.

Once we got onto back roads the ride improved immensely. We did briefly revisit US 2, last seen out west. It sprinkled off and on much of the day. The most rain came while the sun was shining.

Stuff that will change next week:

     1) I won’t have to worry about where I can plug my phone in next;
    2) I won’t have to wonder where the next bathroom is or where there is a tree or secluded place where I can pee;
     3)  I won’t have any yellow arrows to follow to tell me where to go;
4) I won’t have to worry about getting into camp early enough to spread everything out to dry;
5) I’ll have to cook my own food;
6) I won’t be able to eat so much ice cream;
     7) I’ll have to make my own coffee;
     8) I won’t drink as much espresso or beer;
     9) I won’t do laundry in the shower every day;
     10) I’ll go to work every day instead of riding my bike.
11) I won’t check the weather forecast for two cities every morning – the one I’m riding from and the one I’m riding to.
12) I won’t go looking for WiFi or worry about exceeding my data limits.
13) I won’t be writing this every day.

The WiFi here is intermittent. The login screen keeps popping up again. Saving of this post only works some of the time and photos appear and disappear at random. I will try to post this, but publishing has failed three times now.