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.

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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