Northern Tier 2010

September 6, 2010

The Maine Route

Filed under: Maine, New Hampshire, Section 11 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

Last night almost got too cold, but not quite, and I slept very well. It was great to start the day with about fifteen miles of mostly downhill riding — I was still coming down from yesterday’s high point at the Kancamagus Pass.

I made oatmeal at my campsite, but I stopped at the Conway Cafe for a second breakfast, access the Internet, and warm up. I stayed for longer than planned talking with the waitress and some customers, and by the time I left, it was much warmer. I shed my jacket and long pants and enjoyed what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.

I entered Maine just a few miles east of Conway and was taken aback by the sign at the border: “State Line” on one line and “Maine” on the other. Not much of a welcome, but I suppose they let the landscape and coastal access speak for themselves.

So far I’ve experienced very little level ground in New England: it’s always either up or down. But, with my low gearing and patient (i.e., slow) approach to hills, I haven’t had any problems. Today was no different, but I think the excitement of being so close to the end makes the climbing even easier. The tailwinds and relatively cool weather I’ve been getting haven’t hurt, either.

I didn’t stop again until Naples, but that also turned out to be a longer than expected break: lunch at one place, desert at another, and then some grocery shopping. It was 3:00 before I knew it, and I started to worry about how far I’d get for the day and, more importantly, where I’d camp for the night.

Southwest of Lewiston I encountered a roadblock and an associated detour which would have taken me ten miles out of my way. I decided to chance getting past the obstacle, which turned out to be a collapsed roadway due to a sinkhole and river undercutting.

Getting by wouldn’t have been difficult, but the only path around goes straight through the now-cordoned off front yard of an elderly couple, who due to continued slope failures toward their home have become very nervous. Plus, with such a long detour, they’ve faced steady pressure from motorists trying to cut through their property. There are now security guards at both ends.

Normally I wouldn’t press such a situation, but with nightfall approaching, I didn’t want to risk going far off route on a detour. It took some finesse, luck, and the help of a neighbor, but I managed to coordinate permission to cross with both security guards and the elderly couple.

After showing me a path around the blockades, through the thick trees lining the elderly couple’s property, and back onto the main route, the neighbor asked where I was going to stay for the night. When I explained that I was still looking, he offered his front yard, which I gladly accepted — he lives just a few houses down from the elderly couple. The blockade has now become a benefit, because with no traffic, I’m sure to get another good night’s sleep. That said, I’m past due for a shower, and tomorrow I’m definitely going to stop at a real campground!


September 5, 2010

Live Free or Die

Filed under: Geology, New Hampshire, Section 11 — Henry Scott @ 1:00 pm

New Hampshire isn’t very wide at this latitude (or any latitude, for that matter). I had to stop early again to ensure that I’d spend a full day here, a necessary step to justify using the state motto for a title. Actually, I suppose I’m dragging my feet a bit and savoring the last few days of the tour. In any event, my camp has been totally set for the night since mid afternoon.

I got an early start this morning and was rewarded with breathtaking views of the Penigewasset River valley once I finished the last bit of climbing up from the Wildwood Campground, and began the descent to North Woodstock, where I stopped for breakfast.

As Jennifer’s father, Bob, pointed out in the comments a few days ago, that put me within five miles of Franconia Notch State Park, which is home to the Flume Gorge. During breakfast, I got to know Dean and Nancy, who vacation in the area, and they were able to give me specific directions to the park. They left before me, but it turns out the cabin they’re renting was on the way. They were sitting outside on Adirondack chairs, waiting to greet me, as I made my way to see it — a very nice surprise.

The wonderful folks at the visitor center allowed me to bring my bike inside and stow it in a safe place so I could enjoy the short hike to the Gorge, and a few other park attractions, without worrying about it. Bob’s comment already provided some details about the Gorge: it is a steep-walled granite canyon with water still actively flowing through. The fracture was once filled with a basaltic dike, but most of the more-readily eroded basalt is gone, leaving the gorge in its place.

I rejoined the Adventure Cycling route on highway 112 in Lincoln, and after stocking up on food I continued east on 112, which is better known as the Kancamagus Highway as it heads up into New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Being a holiday weekend, traffic was heavy, and I didn’t stop for photos as much as I may have otherwise, but the “scenic overlooks” were excellent.

At the pass I decided to make camp at the first good spot I could find in USFS land. Because tonight is the last night of the holiday weekend, I didn’t want to risk finding the official campgrounds already full. I found a perfect spot close to the Swift River sooner than expected, which is why I’m all set up so early. Other than the occasional roar from a Harley, all I can hear is the stream working its way through rounded granitic boulders. It is cooling off quickly, and there are almost no mosquitos; I suspect I’ll sleep well.

I should still be able to make Bar Harbor by the 8th thanks to some long days the past few weeks — the Adirondacks, Green and White Mountains have been so beautiful, it feels good to be taking my time.

September 4, 2010

Subaru States

Filed under: New Hampshire, Section 11, Vermont — Henry Scott @ 12:59 pm

Perhaps divine inspiration led me to stop early yesterday, because in hindsight it was a very good decision. I had plenty of time to make camp, eat, get cleaned up, and relax by the river. I was in my tent for the night by six, sleeping seven, and I didn’t emerge until after seven this morning. I slept for almost twelve hours! I ate more calories than I burned, preparing for a longer day cycling than what materialized, and the combination of fuel and rest brought me into today feeling strong.

Additionally, riding conditions were much better today: the haze of recent days lifted, and the temperature and humidity both dropped. And, I had a strong tailwind for most of the day, as opposed to a headwind yesterday. I didn’t mention yesterday’s headwind to avoid being greedy — except for a couple of days near Lake Erie, I’ve clearly benefitted from westerly winds since Muscatine.

The Vermont roads have been excellent, and although steep in sections, the climbs haven’t been as difficult as I feared, leaving me free to take in the beautiful landscape. The locals are apparently, and understandably, quite proud of their state based on the high frequency of Subarus plastered with pro-Vermont stickers. They also continue the trend I’ve experienced across the country in terms of sharing the road, even when it gets narrow, and I often receive gestures of encouragement from the passing Subarus (by far the most common vehicle I see).

I found myself crossing the Connecticut River and entering New Hampshire around lunch time. I was disappointed to not see a NH welcome sign on rural 113, but I followed the Connecticut River north for the next ten miles and, at the advice of a cyclist I met along the way, crossed back over to VT for lunch at the Fairlee Diner, and was pleased to get the desired self portrait when I made my final crossing back into NH on the more heavily traveled 25A. (Subaru continues to be the most popular car.)

After a decadent hot fudge sunday in North Haverhill, I made my final climb of the day toward Mt. Moosilauke (west of North Woodstock) and am now camped in the USFS Wildwood campground. I finally got caught in some rain on the way which, oddly enough, was a welcome opportunity to use the expensive rain jacket that’s spent most of the tour packed away — it was a much-appreciated birthday present from Jennifer.

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