Northern Tier 2010

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.


September 3, 2010

Don’t Tread on Me

Filed under: Section 11, Vermont — Henry Scott @ 11:00 am

I slept so well at Dan and Judy’s place that it was harder than usual to get up; I watched daylight slowly spread across the Champlain Valley through the window while still lying in bed. Once I made my way downstairs, I was treated to melon freshly picked from their garden and more time to talk about bikes, gear and touring.

Judy followed through on her offer to escort me up the first major Vermont climb, The Middlebury Gap, and even recruited her friend Molly to join us as well. She made plans for the three of us to meet at Steve’s Park Diner so I’d have time to tour the village of Middlebury and the campus, most notably le Chateau, where my mother spent two summers in the 1950’s immersed in French as a participant in their famous language program.

The breakfast was good and very fun — Molly is incredibly inquisitive and knew enough about Earth’s interior to ask excellent questions. By the time we started riding to the climb, I felt like I had known these two for years. The camaraderie was quite welcome because, as expected, the grades were steep — reaching 15% in some sections according to Judy’s cyclocomputer. We stopped for drinks at the Ripton Country Store and quickly befriended two more cyclists who stopped as well.

We reached the Bread Loaf writing retreat and ultimately the gap before I knew it. At the top we crossed paths with a hiker on the Vermont Long Trail, on his way to the Canadian border, as a “break” from the Appalachian Trail. His A.T. companion, his father, had to stop due to an infection in his foot, and the two will pick it up again next year.

From the summit, it was time for Judy and Molly to turn back, and for me to continue on. After descending the steep grade down the other side, I stopped in Rochester for lunch and realized my plan of covering another 45 miles was unrealistic: it was almost 3:00, and I would have yet another steep climb for the day. I figured I could make it, but I’d be racing the sun, and I decided to instead go for a relaxing afternoon and a long night’s sleep — it is only 7:00 as I write this, and I’m about to turn in.

Although I didn’t need anything, I made my way to the Green Mountain Bicycle Shop just to check it out. From the outside it just looks like an old house with some bicycle paraphernalia along the side, but inside it is packed with bikes and parts in a way that conveys a deep commitment to providing excellent customer service — this is not a “showroom shop.”

I brought my map in with me and asked, somewhat pessimistically, if anyone could recommend places to camp closer than where I had originally planned. The employee with whom I spoke was knowledgeable, friendly and very helpful. He knew about the one official campground on the route, pointed out places along the White River where I could safely, and legally, camp, and then proceeded to tell me about places where I could stay for free right in town and gave a rundown of the best local meals.

I decided to continue a little further to camp by the river, although it was very tempting to stay in town. After continuing for another ten miles or so I found a trail leading away from the road toward the river and devoid of no-trespassing signs. It led me to a perfect place to camp: close enough to hear the river, rather the road, but back enough from the banks to be under forest cover.

At the end of the day I’ve only covered 40 miles, but it was a great ride thanks to Judy, Dan and Molly. The beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains certainly didn’t hurt, either.

September 2, 2010

Moon Rocks in the Adirondacks

Filed under: Geology, New York, Section 10, Section 11, Vermont — Henry Scott @ 11:30 pm

I faced a tough decision early this morning: after a small breakfast in Blue Mountain Lake, Travis and I rode to the Adirondack Museum, which is housed in a large, rustic, yet modern building. Having grown up in New York, Travis had heard very good things about the museum, so we were anxious to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t open until 10:00, which would have meant a two hour wait.

With hurting knees, waiting for the museum was the obvious choice for Travis, but for me it was harder because I want to make sure I have time for a thorough visit in Acadia. As I mentioned yesterday, I can get there on the 8th with modest daily mileage, but I ultimately decided to push on. The Adirondack Museum will be yet another site that will have to wait for a future visit with Jennifer.

I have absolutely loved riding through the Adirondacks: I can see how the combination of beautiful mountains, a sporadic population of small, seasonal vacation towns, and a decent balance of public and private land have continued to make them a popular destination.

The hills may be a little steeper than what I encountered in the West, but not by much, and they aren’t very long. But, being older, and much more eroded, they are heavily forested, and the many lakes give long stretches of rolling hills following the shores with gorgeous lake views.

I need to do more research about Adirondack geology, but the brief description I’ve read so far said there would be anorthosite in the interior, and that bright white igneous rock is exactly what I found. It is a somewhat unusual rock in that it is mostly made of just one mineral: anorthite. Anyone who has ever looked at the moon has seen anorthosite, at least from a distance: it is what makes the lunar highlands so bright.

Today’s ride took me up and down through Long Lake, Newcomb and North Hudson before ultimately delivering me to New York’s eastern edge with a long, screaming descent into Ticonderoga. From there I took a small cable-drawn ferry across Lake Champlain and entered Vermont. I didn’t need the welcome sign to let me know where I was: maple syrup was for sale on the boat.

I’m staying Dan and Judy, who I contacted through Warm Showers. They live in a two hundred year old farmhouse a few miles west of Middleburry. I haven’t seen their home from the outside yet because I arrived after dark, but the interior is fabulous. We’ve stayed up until almost 11:00 talking about touring: Dan did the Southern Tier a few years ago, and the two of them will be doing a five-month tour of Asia starting this November!

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