Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cyclostravaganza 2007, Day 3: Island Pond VT to Twin Mountain NH

View of the White Mountains, as coming into Twin Mountain NH.

Another late start, but not for failure to get up early; this time,
I blame the weather and mechanical problems.

I arose around 6am, installed myself at my campsite's picnic table overlooking the lake, and enjoyed the quite beauty while I ate breakfast (bought in town at the grocery store yesterday) of muffins, cherries galore, cheese, and espresso. Espresso? Yes, I travel with a portable espresso maker, source of heat, stainless-steel demitasse, and my own ground coffee. Who wouldn't?

I watched a squirrel amuse itself greatly at a neighbouring campsite, where the occupants had left all sorts of foodstuffs out on their picnic table overnight. I guess that wherever you go, squirrels will be squirrels.

As I was packing up, it started to rain. Grr. It's much harder and slower for me to pack up when cramped inside the confines of a tent. Eventually I was ready to load everything onto my bike....

...when I discovered that two of the four bolts that hold my rear bike rack in place were missing, and the third was quite loose. Although vandalism was my first thought, I quickly ruled that one out. I can only suppose that the bolts had rattled themselves loose, and am grateful that the rack (and my bags) stayed put. I was pretty distraught over the question of how to transport my bags without a functional rack, and with nary a bike shop in the vicinity. I left my bags at the campground reception, biked back into town to the hardware store, and came across a very helpful clerk in the store. How lucky am I! I could have spent hours trying to figure out what size bolt I needed, but she eyeballed it and soon I was re-fitted of rack, back to the campground to retrieve my bags, and on my way.

I was hoping for a bike shop to check my rack, but there was very little of anything other than forest as I passed through East Brighton, Bloomfield, and Maidstone (where I'd hoped to camp). Past Bloomfield, I edged along the Connecticut River valley, which was very beautiful. Alas, there was plenty of rain along this stretch, and a surprising (given that I was shadowing a rail-line) abundance of hills. The combination of hilly terrain, heavy loads, and wetness meant I ate through my brake pads front and rear... making finding a bike shop even more important, but not much less elusive.

I left Vermont and crossed into New Hampshire at Stratford. The rain stopped (for a while at least) and the terrain seemed less hilly. In Groveton aka Northumberland I discovered that muncipal mergers and correspondingly confusing roadsign are not just a Canadian phenomenon. More importantly, I stopped at an outdoor (hunting) store, and found out that the nearest bike shops were not so near - one in Lancaster, the next in Littleton - far and farther, respectively.

I arrived in Lancaster around 2pm, anxious to replace my brakes, only to find out from a shopkeeper that the bike shop's owner had died just three weeks before. He suggested I look into taking the tourist-trolley-service to Littleton, and referred me to the tourism office down the street for more information... where I discovered that I had just missed the last trolley of the day by a few minutes. Grrr!

When in doubt, or in foul spirits, eat; so I headed to Lancaster's local American/Chinese restaurant. The sign indicated "no Chinese food today" so I had non-Chinese eggs, toast, ham, and surprisingly good coffee. I called the bike shop in Littleton, got directions , and discovered that they would be closing at 5:30pm. It was now about 3:00pm, and Littleton was about 30 hilly kilometres away, and I wanted them to have time to fix my bike before closing... so off I sprinted.

To get to Littleton, I had the choice of a route that went inland (routes 3, 142, and 116), or a route that hugged the Connecticut River (route 135), so I chose the latter expecting fewer hills. It's hard to imagine that the other route could have been hillier! There was a very long climb into Dalton, where I decided not to take a detour up "Mount Misery Road", followed by a long descent (which could have been more enjoyable if I weren't so worried about my brakes) followed by more up-down-up-down.

Around 4:45pm, I arrived in Littleton, a very very pretty town, and after stopping at a garage to ask the outrageously attractive cashier for directions, I soon found the bike shop. The mechanics were very friendly and helpful, and they checked my wheel alignments, replaced my brake pads, and such. When they lifted my bike and bags and realised how heavy it was, they weren't at all surprised I'd gone through my brake pads so quickly, so I bought spare pads to take with me.

I contemplated staying in Littleton, but decided I had some daylight ahead of me and a long day tomorrow, so I pushed on. In Bethlehem NH I saw a surprising number of Jewish signs, many in Hebrew. On my way out of Bethlehem, I had a magnificent view of the White Mountains, probably Mount Washington.

My happily repaired bike soon carried me into Twin Mountain NH, my destination, on the north-western edge of White Mountain National Forest. I was a bit concerned at first, because although the scenery was stunning, the town along route 302 looked like it had been abandoned 40 years ago - then I turned onto Route 3 and found the real town. I decided to spring for a hotel so I could let my tent dry, and so I would be able to get an earlier start the next morning. Istopped at the general store (in a grand old building that looked like an erstwhile hotel or railway station or railway hotel) to ask advice on where to stay, and got a recommendation for Lyons Hospitality (I think that's what it was called) which turned out to be a hostel. Since there was no one else there that night, for $20US, which was cheaper than any campsite I'd stayed at, I had the room to myself. I walked across the street to the appealingly-named Shakespeare Inn. The proprietor, one Mr Shakespeare, is a man of Caribbean origin, and for supper, I had Jamaican chicken soup, bread, roast jerk pork, rice, mashed potatoes, orange juice, and apple pie. (Hello, carb-loading!) The pie was okay, but everything else was wonderful. I retired to my hostel room, happy to have a private shower and a real bed to sleep upon.

MXS 47.4
AVS 21.0
DST 127.00

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