Sunday, June 14, 2009

Adventure on Four Wheels-

My bike only has two, I know, but on a 114 mile bike ride through the biggest mountains we have here in New England, one wonders how many times their wheels may go round, and two bikes equals four wheels, that is a lot of pedal revolutions and quite an adventure!

I longed to ride my bike one hundred miles or more last season, but it never happened. Part of my goal this season, is at least two or three of these suffer fests. Today put the first one in the books, yet, I feel like an addict craving more miles of climbing up steep roads. My good friend Todd and I set out from the Kancamagus Highway starting at the Albany covered bridge on Passaconaway Road which takes you into North Conway. We made an unexpected stop in town as Todd discovered his jersey from the local bike shop was too big. As it turns out, they buy American cut jerseys and not the Euro cut. So in the end, Todd failed to buy either the Colorado or California state jerseys at the Pearl Izumi store in town, but he did get one that made him happy and mentally able to sustain the mileage, silly how the little things play in. Also worth noting is, the Louis Garneau store would have got Todd's money, but they don't open until 10 am. You snooze, You loose LG! OK- one more stop for batteries for the GPS and we are onto our first climb of the day, Hurricane Mountain. This one is an absolute beast! I was happy we had accumulated a minimal fifteen miles before launching an attack of this one. The climb is roughly 2.5 miles, it reaches grades of 17 percent, it's narrow and has technically difficult corners that are very steep and difficult to climb! I think the overall average grade is 12 percent.

Arriving at the top of Hurricane Mountain.

That climb up was tough to start the day, equally tough is the descent, with all the indulations and drops on the back side, it's possible to come flying off with some big air. Reserved would describe my trip down. Todd gets the nod on the first climb and what would basically amount to stealing the show overall. We worked our way from Hurricane and headed North aiming to our second climb of the day, Evan's Notch. This one always makes me think I could potentailly be in Europe. The road is narrow and climbs moderately to the top of the Notch at around 1800 feet above sea level.

Todd's rig on their first ascent of Evans Notch.

The ride down the hill on the way to Gilead, Maine is a gentle consistent stretch about 12 miles or so with minimal pedaling effort required. We took a highly recommended route suggestion from North East Cycling's website to ride via North Road into Gorham, New Hampshire instead of the very busy Route 2. This route proved to be one of the best sections of this ride. Beautiful rolling terrain along farm fields and the Androscoggin River. You do eventually ride Route 2 for a section into Gorham, the shoulder is "comfortable" for my head, it could be better though.

We arrived just ahead of the parade in town to celebrate something, and a few people I think thought we were late arrivals with the clown bunch. It was an interesting observation for all parties involved. I asked Todd what he thought, continue with our intended ride, or bail up towards Pinkham Notch? He quickly shut down any negative thoughts by saying we would ride on. I agreed, though half of me would have caved in if he had said, lets bail. We stopped for our first refueling mission of the day at the Irving on the north end of town. They are always pretty sure to have ripe bananas and plenty of salty treats. I made a hasty impulse buy of a half gallon of Lemonade. It was pretty good, but sweeter than my stomach needed. We watered it down and chowed down then got back up on the bikes.

Topping out on the "Big Hill" heading west on Route 2 out of Gorham, NH

This is a route I have wanted to ride for a long time, craving the steep climb up and over the big hill out of Gorham into Randolph, NH. We rode right by the Appalachia parking lot which takes hikers and climbers into the vast and popular area of the Northern Pr
esidential Range, I have never seen so MANY cars in the lot, though this is the basic approach to the AMC's Madison Hut. The Head wind was brutal that whole section and Todd and I continued to mash the pedals taking long pulls and working very well together, it's good to know your riding friends riding posture and Todd is a dependable, strong rider, always willing to work or steal the town line sprint from under you. I think we rode by a few TL signs and played a "no contest" game. All game points were being awarded out on the climbs.


Todd giving the victory salute before even starting the climb!

Jefferson Notch was our big goal for the day and after mashing the head winds all across RT 2, we were ready! This road is the highest "public" road in new Hampshire, reaching the top at three thousand and eight feet above sea level. This crux is, the road is almost entirely on gravel with a very short section that is paved near some bridges and stream crossings. My observation of that is, they must have had a real bad flood in these areas and when they fixed the washouts they tarred either side of the bridges, possibly adding some structural integrity to the road at these water crossings. I barely mustered up the strength to continue, at one point, I dismounted from the bike and walked about 100 feet. It's a brutal 17% grade in this section and I was hurting! All the while, I really wanted to be in front on this climb, I realized my defeat and ground it out to the top. Todd just blew this one apart and I arrived with him waiting at the summit for about five minutes.

With most of the work for the day done, we had big smiles at the top of Jefferson Notch.

I'm definitely going to prop my self on a pedestal now, the descent off the top of Jefferson Notch is a freaking blast! My mountain biking skills certainly played in as I dropped Todd pretty quickly hitting a top speed about 32 MPH on this one. I knew Todd would be a bit more conservative and I took advantage, but that really didn't matter much in the grand scheme. It was pure fun factor. We bottomed out and crossed the road which climbs to the base of the Cog Railway on Mount Washington. We then took the Mount Clinton road which traverses the Southern Presidentials and puts you at the top of Crawford Notch. This was a fun run down and Todd put in quite an attack, adding insult to the injuries he doled out on the three previous climbs of the day. I countered and shot off like a rocket leading to the finish of the Clinton road. We both agreed how fast and crazy fun that was!

Preparing for the Fast and Furious descent into Crawford Notch.

After many miles, we still had some smiles!

We stopped for a good 20 minutes at the AMC Highland Center and had a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. We also topped off our water bottles and enjoyed the scenery. I found out later, my sister in law and her family were there at that very moment spending the weekend hiking in Crawford Notch. I wish I could have seen them. The descent down was, and always is, a fast one. I hit 49 mph and Todd was very far in front of me hitting speeds over 55 mph. At one point, he rocketed forward ahead of a Harley rider like he was nearly standing still! We regrouped at the bottom and set a blistering pace all the way into Bartlett. Our final climb of the day was Bear Notch and I had hoped to put in a good battle thinking Todd was ready to go off the front again. He was not up to the task and I rode mostly alone about 100 yards ahead of him nearly the whole way up. At one point though, he passed me as my left quad cramped pretty severely. I was able to ride it off and back ahead of him the remainder of the climb. Once we arrived at the Kanc after descending the back side of Bear Notch, we made our way gently down to the Albany covered bridge and the car. Thanks to Todd for all the above photos and working hard on this ride, it was an EPIC day!

All said and done, the stats go like this.
White Mountains East-
114 miles
8430ft of climbing
Total saddle time 7:49

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