Wednesday, August 28, 2013

TBCMtW - Day 2

I woke up cold, put on everything I'd brought and slept intermittently for a few hours until sunrise.  The temp had only climbed to 44 F when I was packed and I was having bad feelings about how cold it would be 6000 feet higher on Mt. Washington.  Sipping my coffee in daylight meant I'd already missed the ADV guys who were going up before sunrise.  I'd later learn that was a slog anyway.
No matter when I wake or what I have to do, I can't seem to get rolling before 8:30-9:00.  With a full tank of gas, I followed 3 to 116 to 2 and was in Gorham so quickly that I regretted not finished the ride last night.  Somewhere along this stretch I saw the first of several "Brake for Moose - it could save your life.  Hundreds of Collisions" signs.
"Brake for moose?"...really?   If someone decides instead to ram a moose with their car, I'm content to let the universe decide how that works out for them.

In Gorham I passed a line of ~20 ADV bikes parked in front of a diner.  This must be the ADV guys - it's after 9:00AM, several hours after sunrise.  Anxious for the mountain, I pressed on: down 16 thru Pinkham Notch.  Finally, I was at the entrance to the auto road, sitting in the mc lane.  A guy took my money, handed me "the sticker" and said, "speed limit 20mph, no passing," and my climb began.

The only warning he the unwary traveler gets is a sign at the bottom (but after you've paid!) warning that the auto road is a steep, narrow road with no guardrails - people with a fear of heights may not find it a "pleasant experience."

The trip up starts via a twisting paved road thru the trees and and the 20mph limit seems unreasonably slow.  Mile markers tick by and I'm enjoying the ride when I notice the trees are getting smaller and smaller.  Eventually the road rises above the krummholz - that's when things got scary.  With no trees to block the view of the cliffs beyond the road's edge and already a few thousand feet up, my fear of heights started kicking in.  My "pleasant experience" turns to terror on the dirt road section at a blind hairpin.  Luckily cars on the outboard side of the road hog into your "lane" wen you're on a mc, because they can.  I very seriously considered not going all the way up, and wondered if there were some accommodations for chickens like me.  Then I remembered how weak my brakes had felt with the bike loaded and pictured my plummet back DOWN this road.  The 20mph speed limit suddenly seemed unreasonably fast.

Blah, blah, blah, it got better, I made it up.

44.269072, -71.302979

My legs were weak from trembling, but I parked at the lower lot and walked up the hill to the next lot.

44.269394, -71.303075

And then up the stairs to the top - the spec in the middle of the pic is my bike.  This is the elevation change just walking around on the top.. the road here is 8 MILES of climbing like this; we're over a mile straight UP.  The mind boggles.

44.269821, -71.303287

The weather was perfect, which is remarkable for this locale.  Visibility was over 100 miles.  As always in this situation, the pictures just don't 'capture' it.  Especially my cell phone's camera's pics.  Lakes, clouds, towns, and ski slopes can all be seen far below.

It's hard to articulate the eerie, other-worldliness of this place.  It's rocky, foreign and treeless.  The views in every direction accentuate that.  It's definitely  a 'place.'

Cairns mark a hiking trail on what could be an alien planet:

I checked out what there was to check out: the cog railway engine was at the top, there are some buildings and an observation deck.  After I'd had enough of taking it all in, I headed back down - which was far less terrifying than I thought it would be.  I let the transmission do most of the braking - hardly touched the brakes all the way down... and before long I was back underway.

I knew Whitehorse Gear was in Conway NH, and my gloves were getting pretty adventure-weary.

Conway, NH is another congested mess which tied me up, but eventually I arrived at the well-hidden WH mc warehouse:

44.004654, -71.082992

I browsed for a while, found some 'meh' gloves, a light balaclava (I planned on sleeping in this if it went back down in the 40's), and determined that a FirstGear Kilimajaro 3x is just a hair too small, a 4x is way to big, and neither is tall enough for me.  I became acutely aware of spending time shopping on a perfect riding day, so paid for my wares and headed for Maine.
I crossed the border and plotted a course for the Sabago Lake SP where I planned to have lunch.  Then I thought it would be cool to go to the coast - maybe get one of those craggy light-house pics - Kennebunkport seemed possible - I wondered what the coast was like this far west.  I ended up riding around eastern Maine aimlessly for a while and finally stopped at the tannin-stained Saco River to re-group.  I decided there was nothing I wanted to do in Maine badly enough to waste much more of the day there.  I wanted to ride the Franconia Notch again whilst not in a hurry to beat nightfall, and I wanted to camp somewhere reasonable east of Maine in order to he get home on Monday.
I pulled over for a goodbye pic.  The sand was too deep to risk a dismount so I back-camera'd a self-portrait:

43.916432, -70.992849

My front was already a few inches deep - I had visions of me and all the gear digging the back straight down when I throttled on, but standing was enough to get out.  I picked a quiet route back to Franconia, which passed a perfect spot for lunch just as I was getting hungry.  I pulled off and cooked up some more of the hot dogs, now many hours completely sans cooling.   There was a beach and some sort of fair going on nearby - I could here mediocre live music.

43.913978, -71.075616

Lunch was only partially spoiled by an endless parade of Harleys - it WAS a nice road.   Off again, 153 to Conway, then 112 to Lincoln.  112 should have been a nice ride, but I was behind a string of fools - not least of which the splay-legged, sneaker-shod pirate in front of me with his tube-topped beyotch on the pillion.  He was running across the double yellow line on every left-hander while still moving a few mph under a conservatively-posted limit.
Huh... tube tops are still available.

I slowed to let them get out in front of me, but to my horror, more cross traffic just poured in in between us... so I passed them all.  This was the first time the power of the Wee surprised me - I never knew it had any.  You just have to go down two gears and pin it.

Back thru Lincoln and to 93, I was determined to see the Old Man, especially after looking at his profile on road signs all day.  I pulled off at the "Indian Head" exit (rt 3) but was foiled and turned around at the "Flume".  I was surprised to see a marker commemorating the "Betty and Barney Hill Incident" on rt 3.  Back on 93 I saw the signs for the "historic Old Man site."  My map labeled it the "site of the old man collapse."  Only then did I vaguely remember: the damned thing doesn't exist any more!  I went to the historic site anyway, and was saddened that what must have been the pinnacle of NH tourism seems now largely abandoned.. just because the thing fell down.

44.167511, -71.682933

It had been a full day, but it was around 4PM and I wanted to get back to southern Vermont to make the Monday trip home bearable - back down to Lincoln to catch 118 et. al. to 91S to 9.  I stopped in Brattleboro to get some milk and bread and made it as far as Molly Stark SP before darkness really started threatening.
It was getting cloudy so I sprung for lean-to again.  I struck camp in the dying light, but had to cook supper in the darkness, with the distinct sounds of wild footsteps in the woods a few feet away from me.  Another bear warning freaked me out and I did my best to bear-proof the campsite.

As I went to bed, the rain started - again, the lean-to saved the day.  That, and it was 20 degrees warmer than the previous night.  What a day:  with Maine, lunch, shopping, and a hours of riding, it was hard to believe that I'd climbed Mt. Washington earlier that same day - it seemed so distant.

42.851444, -72.815752

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"This bike climbed Mt. Washington" - Day 1

The syrup run brought me so close to Mt. Washington - and a few weeks later with another 3-day weekend and a "sunrise drive"...

Kickstand up about 9:30AM Saturday.  A blast up 33 to 80 across the gap and on to Old Mine Road.

As usual, my carefully planned GPS points fall apart early into the trip.  Still, I managed to get guided across a small bridge on a dirt road.  On the other side, I took the road more traveled which quickly devolved into big exposed rocks and standing water/ mud.  Fully loaded an hour into the trip is a bad time to biff; extreme caution exercised.

Very soon I came to another little wooden bridge and then a gate.  Super adventure requires going around the gate, so I squeezed thru and mooshed the right side case on a post.  It popped the case open, but there was no damage evident.  Behold the "gateway to adventure":

On the other side, another 100 yards of gravel put me back out on the main road.  Total dirt excursion: a few minutes.   Realizing I didn't want to jerk around in NJ all day and dump/ break something: trip-saving.

I needed to cover ground so plotted a course directly for 84, then to the TSP.  Having EZ Pass aboard made crossing the Hudson painless.  I was halfway up the TSP before I felt the need to re-plot.

I took the TSP to the exit before 90, ported over to 22, then to 7 into Vermont.  This may be the exact route I took on the syrup run - many landmarks looked familiar.  I wanted to cross Vermont further north than last time, so took 7N slab/ "new" 7.  Approaching 313, I saw a cluster of my waypoints scroll onto the GPS screen - Kelley Stand Rd, a promising route thru the Green Mt. Nat'l Forest - so I exited.  Maybe I'd ride more of my plan after all!  
The road was closed, so I just headed north.  At one point the pavement ended for a while.  Again, I'm surprised at how sandy it is here... in the mountains.

The Kelley Stand route I'd planned led to Jamaica - I was trying to pick routes with camping opportunities along the way in case my timing was way off.  I'll have to check tracks: I took some combination of 11, 30, et. al. to get to 90.  Another high-speed slog north,  then 112 across NH, headed to the Pinkham Notch.  The surface of 112 is bad enough to govern speed and necessitate standing - otherwise it would have been a nice ride.   Somewhere on 112 nature struck - very pretty country.

It was late afternoon, but I started becoming more optimistic about making Gorham before dark - until I hit Lincoln, NH - a gnarly, congested, touristy mess.  I tried to skirt it by getting on 93, but the left turn arrow wouldn't detect me.  After 2 cycles, I got over to the right to go thru, turn around, and come back at it from the other side.  But so doing, I passed a McDonalds, so I stopped for something to eat (I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, and it was 5 or 6 o'clock-ish).  It was too crowded, so I bailed.  I just needed make a left out of the parking lot to get on 93.  Again, no joy: a relentless string of traffic frustrated me after a few minutes of sitting.  I went right, then made the next left to U turn, ending up sitting in the traffic I couldn't turn against since I got here.  After some more sitting, I finally got to enter 93.  It was beyond frustrating to waste 15 - 30 minutes of precious daylight to go 100 yards because the damned traffic lights aren't calibrated for motorcycles.

93 North from Lincoln passes thru the Franconia Notch.  This is a very scenic and historic pass - the location of the "Old Man of the Mountain" - but of course I didn't know that in advance.  The scenery was breath-taking, and there were lots of places to pull off and immerse, but daylight was burning... and I was almost out of gas.  I allowed GPS to direct me (always a mistake) to the nearest gas and it diverted me to a small, closed (out of business) station 6 miles off my course.  Next on the list was Twin Mountain.  A mile or so from the gas station I passed a private campground.  I decided to pack it in - just 30 miles from Gorham, about 450 for the day.

A friendly chat with the proprietor and $29 later I was setting up at site T-6 for the night, having been warned of a bear sighting.  I struck camp, and made some hotdogs.

I think I'm getting the hang of moto-camping: taking the bike sheepskin off to use on the picnic bench; hanging the camelback to create a source of tapwater, setting up quickly and efficiently.  I've been working a lot less hard for a lot more luxury than on earlier trips.  Neighboring campers look more impressed each time a bike rolls up and a few minutes later there's a well-appointed campsite with food cooking.

I settled in for a cold night.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Syrup run, Day 3

Woke up to a steady rain, dry as a bone in the lean-to.  I had the last of the eggs and struggled with the coffee again.  As I was wondering how long the rain would last, it stopped.

I packed up and hit the road east for Bennington.  Skirting the town via the by-pass that leads to rt 7, I again got a view worth stopping for, which again I couldn't capture with the phone camera: the peak southwest of Bennington rising into the clouds behind the Battle of Bennington monument.

A short way up rt7 I ducked over to 7A to see "historic Vermont."  7A winds along the east side of a ridge thru picturesque towns which pay homage to the Green Mountains, outdoorsy activities, and what must be "tradition."  It seemed that each 100 foot stretch contained either a lodge, a B&B, or a campground.  It was like riding through a postcard.  I got as far as Manchester Center before I started feeling panicky about making time, so diverted off on rt30 thru Dorset to 315 to 153 crossing the state line near Salem, New York.

The area reminded me a lot of 309 N thru Heidelburg, except none of the farms seemed to have any livestock.  Lots of farm villages, each with their own low, square, wooden-sided church and general store.  In Salem I picked up 22, then 29 to Greenwich.  I'd fiddled the GPS to avoid tolls, highways, and traffic and take me home.  Garmin decided I should take 113 south and cross the Hudson at Stillwater.  More farmland - a tranquil stretch of road.

The tiny GPS screen is a terrible way to get an overview, so I just trusted it.  It routed me to rt9, and before I knew it, I was in downtown Albany - and I mean downtown.  I vowed to never rely on the GPS again, vaguely remembering coming to the same conclusion on more than one previous trip.  As soon as I was thru Albany, I canceled the GPS nav and took rt32, stopping at the first Stuarts for gas, a cold drink, and cash from the ATM so I could stop avoiding tolls (I'd spent my last cash on the lean-to the prior night).

I took 32 to Cairo, NY, and thought I'd give the GPS an easier task: take me to Phoenecia.  Happily it took me down 32 to 23A, a very scenic, narrow, crowded, twisty rise of about 1500 feet to Tannersville, then 214 to Phoenicia.  From Phoenicia I wanted another route, and found "Camp Willowemac" still in my favs from one of my Catskill trips.   I was routed to 47, much of which turned out to be under construction.  Long stretches of gravel, single-lane, and an armada of dump trucks throwing dust in the air.  Eventually I was spit out of the Catskills via rt 55.   A sign warned of "high crosswinds ahead" where the Neversink Reservoir dam carries 55 across the valley.

Rt 55 to 17E to 42 at Monticello, NY, which appears to be a Hasidic enclave.  Once out of town it moves nicely to 97 just north of Port Jervis.  Just before descending into town, there's a big pull-off with a stone pavillion, a plaque, etc. - a highly advertised and celebrated view.  I pulled over next to an orange HD whose rider completely ignored me.  Turns out the view is crappy.  The town seems to be, too.

It was getting late in the afternoon when I picked up 209 in Port Jervis and I was starting to wonder if I'd get home before dark.  I got stuck behind a slow-moving pickup, so turned off at rt739, thinking I could catch Fivemilemeadow Rd.  I missed it and had to double back, but was rewarded with a brisk ride thru the woods, stopping only to avoid a deer, and a family of wild turkeys.
Fivemilemeadow ends at Silver Lake Rd, which is a fun ride leading over to 402, on which, far ahead of me, was a guy going 20mph over the posted limit who was being tailgated by a VW.  So late in the day, I was happy to be speeding home and kept a good distance behind the cars, matching their pace.  Blah, blah, 33, 512, 329...

At home the trip odo read 975 miles.  The main odo had rolled 10k somewhere in the Catskills - another missed photo op.  Suzuki calculated 50mpg.

Thoughts from the road:
The romance of letting the day and the roads take you where they please ends largely in wasted time, multiple stops to re-nav, and missed opportunities.  It may be fine for an extended trip, but a long weekend requires that specifics be researched, routes planned, and real maps consulted enroute.

This country is big.  For reasons unknown, (making Lincoln Middle School proud), I thought of the Continental Congress assembling.  I can't imagine the trip from upper New England to Philly on horses or pulled in wagons,  on non-existent roads across wild terrain full of wolves and mosquitos.  A swollen stream or river could at best add days or weeks to the trip, at worst be impassable or deadly. And then, winter.  I can understand a bucolic existence where the farmer rarely made it further than the village... but these people traveled, too.

Vermont seems, owing either to sparsity of population or sheer will to maximize tourism dollars, to have retained a "sense of place."  The terrain, the farmland, the woods - it could all be the PA wilds. But there is a conspicuous absence of corporate invasion, at least along the corridors I traveled.  I passed any number of family restaurants, inns, B&B's, even nice, clean, inviting MOTELS with 'no vacancy' signs... but didn't see a single McDonald's (or a single morbidly obese person, for that matter), Appleby's, Chile's, etc., nor even a hotel or grocery chain store.

The state supplies parking areas, but doesn't place trash cans there.  Even the grocery store didn't have trash cans in front.  So, maybe Vermonters just carry their trash home?  Nope - they line the roads with it.  To be fair, out-of-staters could be responsible for this mess, but where are the trash cans?  And why aren't Vermonters cleaning it up?

It all reminded me of "Mad Men"... Vermont in 2013 is SE PA circa 1953.
They could  develop their woods, retaining a few sterile state parks which don't allow camping or dogs, and create clean, congested, highways that rage between bedroom towns past a scrolling background of sandstone malls, McDonald's', TGIFridays, and Marriot Inns.

Oh, an Walmart!  They're gonna need a lot more Walmarts.

I was compelled to look it up:  There are 2 Walmarts in the state of Vermont...  Two.

Stay weird, Vermont!  I hope to see you again soon.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Syrup run, Day 2

Up around 6AM, I ate some hard-boiled eggs and made a cup of coffee by straining grounds thru a paper towel - I have to get a handle on camp coffee.  The cooler was pretty warm and I'd noticed that the little general store a few miles up the road had ice.  The store was opened already at 8AM on a Sunday morning.

42.877143, -73.081774

I got 5lb of ice and loaded the camel back, my Nalgene liter bottle, and put the rest of the bag in the cooler.  After re-arranging some gear I made enough space to go back into the store for the money shot:

Syrup secured!!  Now for a day of dicking around in Vermont.  My fake destination for the trip was actually the "Truck Camper Warehouse" in New Hampshire, so I headed east.  I battled my way around some dawdlers, finally at the head of the pack just in time to crest this hill at which I had to pull over.  It was early, and cloudy, cool, and foggy.  I'm sure this added to the other-wordliness of the view, which can't be captured in a cell phone pic.

42.852821, -72.794156

On towards New Hampshire.  Low on gas, I saw the perfect fuel-portunity.  Gas with a DD next door. I fueled us both and chatted with the DD manager having a smoke out back.  I asked about the White Mountains.  She said it was far - about an hour, maybe 50 miles away.

42.865597, -72.615399

I knew the TCW didn't open until 11AM, so I'd been killing time at the store, the lookout, the DD.  Out of options, and way ahead of scheduled, I figured I might as well see it.  Crossed one of the bridges (there are two side-by-side, one in use, one not), missed the "Welcome to New Hampshire" sign photo op, and in minutes was at the TCW.

42.887041, -72.535483

"Closed" is closed, tho.  Just as well - I have to kill a few hours and according to DD lady, I'm 50 miles from the White Mountains.  A lengthy struggle with cell phone map and GPS results in a course to Mt. Washington which appears to be 120 miles - not 50.  Ok, instead of a 2 or 3 hour diversion, it's a 5 or 6 hour diversion.  
GPS takes me up rt 91,  hugging the Connecticut river.  I settle in for a long, high-speed, slog.  Shortly in, I realized I forgot earplugs so pulled off at a "parking area" where - seemingly in the middle of nowhere - there's a black Lab milling around behind the guardrail.  I tried to lure it, but it was skittish, barking at me and retreating into the woods.  It was healthy - overweight, even - and had tags, not looking at all weathered.  Hundreds of miles from home on a m/c, there was little to do.  I checked the cell phone maps and found there WERE some houses fairly close by.  I reasoned the dog came from one of them, and headed off.   As I was leaving, the dog went back to what it was doing: perusing the roadside trash for stuff to eat.

70-ish miles later (38 miles south of St. Johnsbury), I pulled off at a rest stop to manage fluids, have something to eat, and get my bearings.  There I made the horrifying realization that the 120-ish miles wasn't to the destination, it was to the first TURN, beyond which lay another 100 to 150 miles.  The trip to the Mt. Washington was off, and I'd just ridden 70 miles for nothing.  I turned back at rt. 302 planning to head east thru the center of the Green Mountains.

Enroute, I thought I'd plot a course to one of the more northerly campsites in the Green Mountains.  Not having a paper map makes this sort of thing somewhere between inconvenient and stupid.  If I'd had an actual map, I wouldn't have made the Mt. Washington blunder.  I wound up on some back roads, and ultimately 110S.  Near Chelsea, I passed 4 guys on KTMs who gave a big ATV wave.  I turned around and stopped to find out where to go/ what to do.  They told me to go to rt 100 and ride the Appelachian Gap - but that was another huge detour.  I left and decided I came all this way for TCW, so might as well hit it.  I took 110 thru Royalton to 89 to 91 back to TCW.

TCW was open but deserted.  I spent a while looking inside campers and walking around but never saw another human.  When I satisfied my curiosity, I left - again all without ever encountering anyone.

It was getting late and I was over 300 miles for the day.  I'd already fueled twice.  I wanted to hit the 7/7A north on Monday before leaving, so ended my day back at Woodford.  It was obvious that rain was coming, so I opted for the $25 luxury of a lean-to.  The ranger gave me "Balsam", the best one in the park.  It being Sunday, the park was pretty deserted.

I set up and and strung a line under the eve.  Soon I was enjoying supper, which was pretty elaborate by bike-camping standards.  The remaining water in the camelback still had ice in it.  The iced tea it made was amazing.

I cleaned up and got everything done that needed to be done, then went to relax in the tent.  Within minutes, it started raining... a steady, heavy, pour that would last all night.  I rinsed off in the rain a little before bed and enjoyed the sound of the it from inside the lean-to.  I fell asleep feeling like a genius for spending the extra for the lean-to, and happy that the rain gods held back until I was done for the day and sheltered.