Friday, August 17, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Eat my syn-lube, New Hempshire, I'm a Vermonter now. Just crossed over this morning. Yesterday was a serious monster day--61 miles and 4100 ft. of climbing. After my brief post from Woodstock, I hit what I expected to be an easier climb than Kancamagus Pass. No deal. This was harder and had a two mile section of solid 12 %. To be fair to the bloke who advised me about this, I don't think he'd actually ridden it himself, but any cyclist would never forget that climb.

I finished my dance with the White Mountains in a long, sweeping drop to Haverhill (Have-yer-HEART-ATTACK-after-that-hill). I was a spent doggie and needed a place to crash. Some locals advised me of the high-end bike shop down the road: High Intensity Bicycle Shop, just perfect for this high intensity day. I talked to them a bit, and they first, offered my a place to pitch my tent; second, offered me a nice room, shower the works! Sweet. The couple who own this shop originally had it as a B&B/bike shop, but the bike business got to big. So they have this large 19th century farmhouse with a barn and all set up for selling super mountain bikes. The husband, Tom, was some kind of pioneer in the downhill scene and so specializes in "free ride" and other wild mountain bikes. In all it was a perfect place to stay, though I did get a solid dose of ribbing for cooking broccoli, which grossed them out big time--the smell, I gathered. They all had a whopping dinner of pancakes and sausages. Tom, at one point, had been a fruitarian of all things. People change. I told him I was a recovering vegetarian. So went my stay at Camp High Intensity.

Today has been one glorious green vista after another. A total screaming riot of chlorophyll. Scads of it. Oceans of it. Green, wondrous green and blue skies to cry for. The climbing has been tough, but I've parked the ego and don't worry about pushing, which I did a little of today. I met my first trans-Am couple who were headed east. They, too, had done some pushing. So it goes.

My body is slowly adapting to this riding, and just about the time I can tear the top off any mountain, I'll be in flatsville. Oh, well. The road pulls me onward to turn and climb and fall like the wind through twisting valleys. I ride along in stunned gratitude and joy at being here in this time. Be well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Deep in it Now

New Hampshire is as wonderful as I expected, and the riding conditions have been excellent. I just crossed Kancamagus Pass at 2,855 ft., the highest I will be until the Rockies--hard to believe. Yesterday I laid low in the North Woods by Red Eagle Pond, my own private Walden--with beaver, loon and all. Mist on the water in the morning and very few mosquitoes. My knee seems to be improving nicely, so it's on into the mountains of Vermont by tomorrow. These little eastern states go quickly.

Had a sad little going away party today for my cycling shoes--my Seven League Booties, they were. The sole was starting to delaminate, so rather than face a catastrophic meltdown in the sticks, I picked up a nice pair of Luis Garneau mtb. shoes--didn't have to alter them for my cleats, either--though I started to before getting smart and just slapping them on. I know own a pair of EIGHT League Booties, yeah, you betcha sweetheart.

I've picked up the habit of naming my camps as the Bushmen in Africa do. The last, was Camp Thoreau. I'd upload some photos, but even here in the Internet cafe ($$), the computer is locked out. Gotta get into those backwoods libraries, which seem to be more open with this sort of thing.

I'm finding this life rather compelling, getting up each day, a new road ahead, places and people never seen before. The effort, too, is clearing my head. I like the simple set of duties each day.

On my next entry, I'm going to start a GearHead's Corner for folks who want to know how my selections have held up on the road--what I like and not, etc. Stay tuned to your monitors for more riveting action from the road.

This is today's Dispatch from the Frontier.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Live Free 'r Die!

I've dispatched my first state. Adios, Maine, you've been a peach--a hot, hard, sweaty peach. My foolishness with macho hill climbing really scared me yesterday. I awoke this morning hoping everything would be on the mend. The weather has been perfect today--most of the over-the-top humidity is gone, at least for now, and temps are in the mid-70's. It's a sweet foretaste of autumn.

I spent the night behind a handball wall next to a tennis court in Lovell--out of sight, shielded from the afternoon sun, places to set my beer. What more does a bloke need? I motored out at about 9am, just eating up this fantastic place. If you haven't been to western Maine/eastern New Hampshire, you gotta go. New Hampshire! New Hempshire? Think of the possibilities with the dope smoking set: New Reefershire, New Spliffshire...

The Conway area is a bit of a tourist trap, but still nice. I celebrated my first state with a fat burrito at Cafe Noche then researched bedding possibilities. Campgrounds and hostels are too expensive. I'm going to load up and head into the woods. Better to take my chances with bears and porcupines than snoring hostelers.

I got off route for a few miles and had to back track. This area is a rat's nest of roads and intersections. Some roads have three numbers in some places. All told, only about 25 miles or so today, but the knee was not any worse that I can feel. A rest day tomorrow spent loafing, reading, writing in the woods should do us both good. I will channel Thoreau and live simply. Then I assault Kancamagus pass at about 2,800 ft., the highest I will be until I hit the Rockies. Hard to imagine all the low land out there. The miles will be quicker, that's for sure. Because of the steepness of the grades, these three states could be the crux of the tour. The 2,400 ft climb for the day after tomorrow is, at least, spread out over 22 miles, so the grade should not be too bad. Still, New Hampshire and Vermont are known for their mountains. Gotta head out. Sorry no photos this time. The library computers won't allow it. I'll try to update later.

Cheers to all!
Some shots of Red Eagle Pond and Camp Thoreau

Monday, August 13, 2007

Maine Lining

I've pedaled as far as Norway--Maine, that is. The adjustment to the climate has been a challenge though I find that when I'm out on the bike, I feel fine, even when its in the 80's and humid. OK, "fine" is a relative term here, but I can knock out the miles. Central Maine has provided challenging conditions with countless steep climbs, many times well over 10%. I call them "granny grinders" after the so-called "granny gear" of my smallest front cog. We've become great friends, she and I, playing long, sweaty games together. Gotta love Granny.

The forest here is a fearsome presence, so deep and dark with promises to keep--forever. I camped last night on a ridge above the Androscoggin River. I saw a rotting shed and an abandoned stock tank and took my chances. A breeze knocked the edge off the heat, and I looked out over fields and classic New England barns to a heavy forested ridge in the distance where a huge thunder storm was spreading dark wings across the horizon. To the north, another anvil cloud muscled its way into the heavens. I set my camp and watch the show. I've rarely seen such a fantastic sunset.

After dinner, I crawled into my tent and worked on getting used to feeling damp ALL THE TIME. I lay on top of my pad in the unmoving humidity. As refuge from the bugs, a tent is essential, but even with the fly off, conditions within are challenging for the "dry-heat" types from out West. This is the biggest annoyance, just the chores of camping. I look forward to the other side of the 100th meridian in this regard.

The night before I camped under a cell tower. I have no idea where I'll be tonight. In that uncertainly is much of the challenge and charm of this kind of travel. From the ridiculous to the sublime, this tour has got it all.

Update: Later today...

I've decided to stop early for the day--although I've still done 51 miles and over 2,800 ft. of climbing. It's not the total miles or gain; it's the pitch of these climbs. Sweden Road took it out of me. Sweden, a flat country, yeah? Fugetaboutit. Should've been called Switzerland Road. I was really a damned fool and should have pushed on the first big steep, which had to be well in excess of 15%. I did push on the second. On a fully loaded bike, these hills are murder, much harder than the long grades of the Sierras near home. I can ride 8% all day, but these buggers, no way. My left leg is a bit strained though I don't think it's anything serious. I've resolved to just stifle the ego and walk when the grades are so severe. The distance is never great--just a few minutes of walking for the most part--and my speeds are not that much slower! I don't have to prove anything. You've really got to see these hills to believe them. Besides, I've got a whole continent to cross. Oh, and on top of the climbs, I've been hosed on three times today by passing thunderstorms. The skies have been beyond wonderful. Just been a day of extremes.

I'll probably camp out in the park behind the library where I type these words in Lovell, Maine. I wanted New Hampshire, but my legs said, "Rest, Dude." There's a market across the street, water and an outhouse in the park. What else do I need? You'll note, of course, that I've been able to post some photos. I'll do my best to do this more often.

A shot of today's sky: