Thursday, May 26, 2011
Ok we get it! We didn't like all that rain drenching us for days, but we are loving the green green greenness of springtime now! It seems like just yesterday we were riding through the barren trees on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and now the scenery is lush with green grass and trees everywhere.
There's even an action shot of Adam!!
Though the scenery has been beautiful, riding has been a toss up. The weather has been so iffy, that we just don't know whether to stay or go. We looked out the window last Saturday and it seemed lighter than usual, so even though the radar predicted a big storm barreling through in only a few hours, we decided to attempt the 21 mile climb up the Kancamagus highway. Only two miles in and we started to see other cyclists. Instead of them carrying big panniers, though, they all had light racing bikes. As we passed a few more(don't get excited, we were passing them going in the opposite direction as us) we realized there must be a race that everyone was prepping for.
Sure enough, around the corner was the start of Crank the Kanc! It was a time trial race 21 miles to the top. Every 10 seconds one of the 200 riders would start their climb. How awesome was this! We'd have people riding with the us the whole way!
We got to the race just as the first racer was off. We let a few go ahead of us, then left just ahead of #10. It wasn't long before racers started to pass us, but we gave them each a shout of encouragement as they flew by. One guy, walking his dog on the side of the road was confused about our race strategy of carrying loaded bikes on the climb. I guess we were pretty confused, too.
The racers were all finishing in under an hour and 1/2 while we started our climb at 9:06 and didn't get to the finish until 11:53. There's quite a difference between bike touring and racing. Though there were a few of these racers who managed to yell some sort of encouragement our way as they flew by, most of them were so focused on going fast that they didn't dare take an extra breath or look around at the amazing scenery.
We were in my favorite part of the country. Green green green mountains, the smell of pine, and hills and rivers everywhere you look. We like to talk to people and experience our surroundings. So we didn't just hop on the bikes and go, we stopped to take pictures, talk with race onlookers, and cheer the racers on.
It might take us double (or triple) the amount of time to get anywhere, but we really do get to experience the places we visit. Adam's dad got a taste of this when he rode with us. The first day was relatively carefree and we were able to get from point A to point B without too many stops in between. Day 2 proved to be very different. We had to get our state line video and picture, we stopped into two places to look for a map of RI, we had to find a quiet place at 12:00 to make a call-in interview to the Jordan Rich show, and we had to somehow finagle our way onto the walkway of the Jamestown Bridge. The time just gets eaten up, but I'd say that 2 hours and 47 minutes for a 2,900 ft climb is pretty awesome!
Close to the very top, we approached a cyclist on a hand-cycle. Though he had full use of his legs, he was riding the hand-cycle with his friend who had apparently left him in the dust. The race filled up too fast for him to get in on a bicycle, but his friend told him the hand-cycle division was still open so they joined together. His friend runs a disabled sports program in NH and does a lot of races with them. It was cool to see a hand-cycle in action. But I'm not surprised that usually hand-cycle races are done with running races as opposed to cycling races because as long as it took us to get up the mountain, it took these guys just under four hours.
When we reached the top, we got offered some left over bagels and pretzels, then saw a cloud come racing in. We debated a bit too long about whether or not we should race down or wait it out at the top under the gazebo and headed out just before the rain. Did you know, when you're flying down 12 miles of 12% grade, the rain stings your face as it hits you? But we didn't let that bother us and enjoyed the decent into Lincoln, NH.
The trees weren't the only things going green, Adam was, too! Ok, not really, but he was starting to get a cold, so we left the day at that and found Chet West who ran an Appalachian Trail hostel out of his house. Chet used to be a big hiker and trail guide in the White Mountains, but 12 years ago, he had an accident with his camping stove. It blew up while he was using it, and burned him inside and out as he breathed in the white gas. After 8 months in a coma, Chet slowly recovered but the accident left him in a wheelchair. When the company settled, he bought his house and converted it into a hostel and has been letting AT hikers, cyclists, and any passer-throughs stay for over four years.
It was a little too early in the season for too many hikers to be using the hostel, so Adam and I stayed alone, but we lived it up and made a superb dinner of pasta, asparagus and prosciutto, courtesy of an article I read on Madison Patch.
We got up bright and early the next morning, hoping to get in a good 50 or 60 miles, but after only 40, Adam was wiped. We found a little inn just over the boarder into Vermont where the owner had actually done a bike trip across the country in the 70's.
He gave us a great deal and as soon as we got into the room, Adam crashed on the bed for a two hour nap. I got him some Airborne to give him a boost of vitamin C, but he was less than thrilled at the "hippi medicine" as he calls it. At least the soup made his throat feel a little better.
After a new-found dinner of Pasta Alfredo with tuna fish, we fell asleep hoping to kick the cold that night. Unfortunately, it didn't work and Adam was still not feeling so hot the next morning, but he insisted he felt good enough to ride the 30 miles to our little Vermont cabin where we got engaged.
Along the way, we ran into Wally and Barbara, two warm showers hosts and pretty regular touring cyclists. They were doing some gardening in their front lawn and we stopped to chat for a bit before they invited us into their home for lunch. Ham sandwiches never tasted so good. Wally and Barbara lived on a hill and designed their own passive-solar house. They had a bunch of windows facing the south, a wood stove, and tile floors, all reminders of my house growing up in Madison that my dad had designed and built. One day, Adam and I really will want to settle down and we always take notice of what we like about houses. This one was pretty awesome!
Vermont in general is pretty into this aspect of going green, and buying local and organic food. To the extent that when we reached our destination town of South Royalton, we went into the grocery store and couldn't find anything other than organic, locally grown anything. It's a pretty awesome idea, but killer on the touring cyclist budget. After we stocked up on some organic strawberries and all-natural chicken noodle soup for Adam, we made the last push to our cabins.
I keep saying our cabins, but they really aren't at all. The Vermont Twin Cabins are owned by Keith and Lisa Hirtle. When Adam was looking for a place to take me to propose to me a year and a half ago, he found these cabins. We came back for a couple nights for our mini-moon trip in October, and couldn't resist stopping in again since the Adventure Cycling route goes right past it. Keith and Lisa have always gone above and beyond to make our stays special, and this time was no different. They offered to buy us pizza for dinner and then Lisa cooked us Baked Apple Pancakes for breakfast the next morning.
When I went to bring the dish back to their house and ask to stay another night because of Adam being sick, they told us that they had watched all of our videos on Facebook that night and loved seeing their cabins in our mini-moon video.
After a day of napping, Airborne, and tea, Adam felt good enough to move on out the next day. We said our goodbyes and braced ourselves for the climb we knew we were about to encounter. Last year, when biking up to the cabins, we had gone the opposite way and so we knew there was going to be quite a few miles of uphill over Mt. Killington. So after riding for a few hours, a break for lunch and another mile uphill, we made it to the top. I guess I had imagined something much worse and I asked, "Is that it?"
To which a man working at the hotel at the top of the hill replie, "That's it! You can coast for 8 miles!" And we did. It was the type of downhill where you never had to break, but you never really had to pedal either, you just kept going. The rest of the day seemed mostly downhill and towards the end of the day, we crossed into New York with our eyes peeled for a place to stay.
Only a mile into NY and we found Fairview Orchard. We asked Carol, who was sweeping the porch outside, if she knew of a place to camp or if she wouldn't mind us camping out there. She had to ask her son, Tim, since he owned the orchard, and she told us he'd be home soon. A few minutes later, Tim showed up in a John Deer tractor! He eyed us suspiciously at first, as anyone probably would, but once we introduced ourselves, he opened right up and told us we could camp anywhere, but the best views were up around the bend. So we pushed our bikes around the curve and we were amazed by the sight. Miles and miles of Vermont Green Mountains was all we could see.
Tim and his wife Bonnie let us set up camp, then brought us into their new log cabin home. The house itself was impressive, something that Adam and I dream about, and it had the best view on the property. Everywhere you looked there was more green. It's hard to even explain in words the view they had. There was nothing to obstruct their view. No telephone wires or roads. Nothing but miles away, one tiny dot of a house.
We thanked them for giving us a place to camp and with that sight in the background, we ate a hearty meal of macaroni and cheese and hotdogs(couldn't find any spinach), and went to bed.
Hopefully this is the end of days like this...
...and we'll keep getting more days like this...
...which makes us look like this!