38.9 mi / 9.4 mph / 1976 ft. climbing
Home: North Peaks Motor Inn
With the call of loons over the pond at night, sleep was cool and easy in our own WarmShowers bunker, and our hosts were up before us when we joined them in the main house to put together some breakfast. After some more routing discussion, and a tour of our bikes, we were on our way, so grateful for not just the place to stay, but for the connection.
Route 2 wasn’t as bad as it had been previous days, but it still wasn’t great. I’d spent a long time debating and researching the parallel rail trail that Glenn recommended, but I was still too worried about the surface quality, and we’d quickly pass a point of no return if we went that way, so it just wasn’t worth the risk to leave the highway.
It wasn’t long before we hit an unusual multi-mile flat section. It turned out to be the broad Connecticut River valley, and the New Hampshire border. Half a mile before the bridge, the road quality got really nice, presumably to trick westbounders into thinking the Vermont roads won’t be total shit. Well, turns out New Hampshire plays the same game, and it worked, getting out hopes up before soon dashing them again.
But nonetheless, state number 10! One fifth of this country. That created a brief bright point, but Rett was still having a tough time with the weather. Thankfully it was cloudy, which helped with the heat, but there was still enough oppression to kill her appetite, so getting energy was a struggle.
She stopped at one point in the driveway of some abandoned Old West-style shopping mall. I said, rather than standing out here on the shoulder in the newly-appeared and unasked-for sun, let’s go down by the buildings where there are a couple inches of shade to apply sunscreen. All was well until someone came out of the RV parked in the broken concrete parking lot (I had wrongly assumed they were a boondocker also taking advantage of this unowned piece of land), and said “this is private property, you can’t be here.” We apologized, indicated our bikes parked up the hill, and said we’d be gone in a few minutes when we were done with sunscreen. But all he could say was “this is private property” again. So we trudged back up the hill through the weeds growing out of the concrete, and finished up on the hot shoulder of the highway. Yes, we were in the wrong, but the lack of sympathy or human understanding was a shock to our white privilege. Which highlights how lucky we are, that most random strangers (and WarmShowers hosts!) are far more generous to us than they are legally required to be, so that’s what we’ve mistakenly come to expect as a default.
When the final 200 foot, sun-blasted up-and-down hill into Gorham loomed before us, exhausted Rett surprisingly wanted to just tackle it, but I made a strong argument to stick with my plan to finally get on the rail trail at this point. No hill (except a mild downhill), shady, and supposedly the surface was pretty good near Gorham.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the surface was not good. Or at least most of it was not good. The strangest thing was how much the surface would change every 200 yards: sandy, grassy, golf ball sized loose stone, football sized stones embedded in dirt; and endlessly creative list of ways to make us get off our bikes and walk. Rett was right, we should have just taken the hill.
When we finally got back on the pavement in Gorham, Rett surprised me by riding past our motel and on to McDonalds (she would usually want to ride the bike the absolute shortest amount possible). But simple lack of food had finally forced her appetite to return, the smell was wonderful to her, and she snarfed down her meal in no time. I’m not sure why chia seeds soaked in yogurt hadn’t been doing that for her all day?
Later on I walked a couple blocks in the rain to pick up Chinese takeout for dinner. Eat-in all-you-can-eat buffet would have made more financial sense for long distance cyclists, but relaxing on the bed in front of HGTV made more emotional sense.
Gas station breakfast and lunch groceries, McDonald’s dinner, and spending the rest of the day inside was just what the doctor ordered.