Work to do

Thunderstorm in Stowe gave way to a beautiful evening. The air was clear and it seemed we had weathered the storm. It turned foggy overnight and the forecast was for rain all along our route. Rain in the forecast all night and all day Thursday all along the route. It looks like we will have to earn this.

We’re on our own for breakfast. I rode into Stowe and am sitting outside a cafe waiting for it to open at 7. Riders are slowly streaming by – either because they got a convenience store breakfast or because they can ride without food. With 75 tough miles ahead, I need fuel. We’ll be on our own for dinner tonight as well. It seems things are falling apart as we near the end.

As I waited for the cafe to open, two other people stopped to wait. As other riders waved to me, one asked, “Do you know everybody?” I said, “No, just everyone who will ride by on a bike in the next ten minutes.” He shrugged, but the other guy was intrigued and began asking questions – ending with, “You did this on a bike?”

Cafe in Stowe – chocolate-pistachio torte

The Salsa Twins joined me for breakfast. It was a relief to see someone else not in a hurry.

Twelve miles in, I caught up with folks getting breakfast at a convenience store.

The ride was a hilly 75 miles – up and down all day, including a climb in the last couple of miles to town and a climb from downtown to the school. We rode through forests and farms. At picnic (10 AM) the sun peeked through. By the time we reached Littleton we were back under a cloud cover.

Arriving in town, I scouted dinner places for tonight. There is a bustling downtown so it shouldn’t be a problem. An espresso with a pumpkin scone awaited me in town before heading to the school to dry stuff out and set up for the night.

Cafe in Littleton

The forecast on my weather app calls for rain all night, with a 100% chance of rain when we are packing up and heading out. That calls for sleeping inside and for not washing today’s bike clothes, as they won’t dry. NOAA calls for a 60% chance of rain tonight, tapering to showers in the morning, with intermittent showers along the route. I like that one better. It is raining in Fryeburg (Thursday’s destination) now (Wednesday afternoon).

Yesterday’s bike clothes are drying, as is the rainfly. When the fly dries, I’ll hang the tent and ground cloth, as space is limited with all of us trying to dry things. My sleeping pad is dry – it always traps moisture underneath it overnight so it’s wet in the morning. If yesterday’s shorts and socks dry I can get through the week if it’s too wet to wash and dry any more.

Three days, three states to go.

Smuggler’s Notch

This famed pass through the Green Mountains has a storied past. The Embargo Act of 1807 forbade trade with Canada and Great Britain. The Notch was a handy smuggling route for Vermonters trading with Montreal. It was later part of the Underground Railroad, providing enslaved people with an escape route to Canada. During Prohibition it was a route to smuggle liquor from Canada.

Now it is an iconic climb for local folk. From the west, there is a long and relentless approach in the sun, then you enter shade for the final steep pitches. The summit comes as a surprise without notice. When I reached the summit, I asked, “Are we there yet?” and someone coming up the other side pointed to a spot about ten feet ahead of me and said, “almost”. From the east it is a 16% grade with tight turns and bad pavement, so the descent requires extreme caution. Once down the steepest pitch, it straightens out and you fly at 30-40 mph for several miles. As we approached civilization there was a police car checking for speeders. The limit was 40 and I was only going 35, though a speeding ticket on a bike in a 40 mph zone I might happily pay and ask if I could save the ticket.

Smuggler’s Notch, starting down
It’s about to get steep
On the approach
Bears climbing a house on the approach

We spent the night at SUNY-Plattsburgh, the second worst night of sleep on the trip (an improvement from 2018, when it was the worst). The dorm rooms were hot and stuffy even with windows and door open for ventilation. It finally cooled down about 3 AM. The mattress was lumpy. I prefer sleeping on the ground, but at least my tent was dry in the morning. Speaking of tent, it is showing the effects of daily use for 9 weeks (18 weeks if you count 2018). The rain fly is clearly faded and feels a bit stiff from UV damage. Pinholes are in both the “footprint” (ground cloth) and tent floor. It should still be good for occasional weekend use (like the century I will ride in September), but would not survive another trip like this.

We left Plattsburgh for a leisurely ride down to the dock to catch the ferry halfway across Lake Champlain. The ferry lands at an island, which we then traversed by bike, then rode to the mainland of Vermont on a causeway. Thirty miles of up and down led to Smuggler’s Notch. After picnic there were only a dozen miles to ride into Stowe.

Vermont, dead ahead
Last view of New York

The sky was threatening and it was too early to check in at the campground, so we stopped for coffee and a chocolate-pistachio torte before continuing on to the campground. The gear trailer was not yet there and rain came while we waited. When the trailer arrived and the rain stopped we unloaded gear and set up camp. The rain did not clear the air, but left it hot and humid, a harbinger of more to come. The sky is darkening again. Dinner tonight will be in a Chinese restaurant 4 miles from here, so we will shuttle via vans. Tomorrow we are on our own for breakfast. I have found a couple of places, so it depends on how crowded each is when I get there. With 70 of us looking for places to eat, it could get wild. Plus, I don’t yet know which direction we head out. If we continue the direction we’re headed and not back to Stowe, only one of them is close enough to make sense. Otherwise we may be looking down the road.

If we’re playing Clue, my answer is “The skeleton, on the bike, with the rake.”

On to New Hampshire, four days to go. Sitting in the tent in a thunderstorm. My weather app says “light rain stopping in 16 minutes”. It is light rain, here in the tent. Outside it is coming down pretty hard. Rain is likely tomorrow afternoon in Littleton, it says.

Five days, five states to go

After a great weekend in Lake Placid, we are back on the road for a final week. The day was mostly downhill and only about 60 miles, so we were into Plattsburgh before noon. We found a good coffee shop to while away the hours until it was time to show up at camp.

Bike garden at hotel breakfast

We rode mostly north, aiming for the ferry crossing of Lake Champlain tomorrow morning – and to take the scenic route. We rode past Whiteface Mountain early in the morning. The ambitious among us climbed it. It is reported to be 8 miles at an average grade of over 8%. The Dread Pirate Roberts rode it and said he was soaked with sweat by the top. The descent was cold. He also says he was humbled by The Hammerhead, who rode his wheel for much of the preceding 4000 miles but he couldn’t keep up with her on the climb. She is 30 years younger, which might help. Another rider called it “spectacular”. It being a toll road, I skipped it.

Metal sculpture – see post from 4 years ago for sculpture at the other end of this bridge

The person at the toll booth told folks that the road wasn’t open yet – one person said she told him it opened at 8:30, another says she told him 8:45. She could let them go early but only if they paid cash. When the riders came down there was a different person in the tollbooth, in uniform (she was not), so it sounds like someone found an illicit income source.

Canada, US, Australia at Ausable Chasm

Our picnic was at Ausable Chasm, a spectacular gorge. They offer a walking tour for $18. I skipped it last time. Today I saw people on the tour and saw the reason for the cost as well as the reason it would not be a good idea to try in bike shoes.

Ausable Chasm tour – zoom in to see tiny people clinging to rock and crossing on a cable bridge

We are in a dorm at SUNY-Plattsburgh. This was the worst night of the tour four years ago in a hot and stuffy room. I got very little sleep. Tonight will be better. It is cooler and there is a breeze.

Tomorrow we will cross into Vermont via ferry and causeway across Lake Champlain, then climb Smuggler’s Notch, a challenging climb and pass through the Green Mountains. Four years ago we climbed it in mist and drizzle. Tomorrow looks to be better weather.

The Last Week

A day off in Lake Placid, sleeping in until the sun rose. Cold walking to breakfast, warming up walking back, hot by the time laundry was done. That which didn’t dry in the dryer dried quickly in the hot sun.

A leisurely bike cleaning and lubing while doing the hard work of charging my backup battery by the sun led to a walk to lunch with two others, then a walk for ice cream and to check out the bike shop – they bought stuff, I didn’t.

The thermometer on the bank says 85º and my phone app says 72, which is much more believable. The dry mountain air (dewpoint 45º) makes it hot in the sun and cold in the shade. I almost need a fleece jacket in this breezy spot in the shade. Fifty feet away I’d be sweating, as I was this morning sitting exactly where I am now.

Dinner in Lake Placid

Tomorrow will be a short ride to Plattsburgh and Tuesday we’ll ferry across Lake Champlain to Vermont. The rest of the week will include VT, NH, ME, and MA.