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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Through the Mountains, one day left.

Now it really is all downhill. We climbed over the last pass this morning. We are in Conway looking up our route back to Portland. We could get home today, but instead we'll hang out and relax for the afternoon and then spend tomorrow getting back to Portland.

Vermont was beautiful, of course. We spent a leisurely afternoon in Middlebury and left, of course, as the clouds were gathering. The possibility of a storm chased us to East Middlebury where we set up camp in a corner of a park. It pretty much rained all night. In the morning the sky still seemed dark and heavy. We left around 6.30 and began to climb Breadloaf, or the Middlebury Gap (I'm not sure what it officially called). At first it was really steep and I hoped that the next several miles wouldn't be. The route over the hill alternated between going up steeply and more level sections and a bit of gradual downhill. Overall, it wasn't a bad climb although it was quite steep at the end. On our way up we passed the Breadloaf Campus of Middlebury College where they have that famous writer's conference started by Robert Frost. The campus is a collection of huge old inn-type buildings of varying shapes and sizes.

Going down the hills were covered in mist that gradually began to lift as the sun shone through the clouds and more and more blue sky began to appear. Unfortunately, our camera is not in great shape (probably due to a long and bumpy ride) but in a way its good because it kept me from stopping every mile to take a picture. I did take some, though. We coasted down the other side of the gap past farms and streams, fields and hillsides to Rochester where we saw three familiar touring bicycles leaned up against the porch of the Rochester Cafe. It was the three guys from Wisconsin, Pat, Dave and Bill. We stopped in to say hello and had a delicious breakfast, as well. They were headed to Orford, New Hampshire that evening. We had planned to go as far as East Thetford, Vermont but decided that we would aim for Orford as well and maybe share a campsite with them again.

From Rochester we rode along the White River which started out as a perfectly clear brook and gradually got wider and deeper. There were a few hills but mostly we were riding along at a good pace through beautiful scenery, winding around the mountains rather than over them. It had turned into a perfectly beautiful day. We had two more big climbs for the day, which were pretty steep but by this time I had gotten back into climbing mode so it wasn't too bad. By the time we got to East Thetford we needed to get groceries and there were no stores that could help us with that. So we rode north to Fairlee, Vt which was right across the Connecticut River from Orford and got what we needed there. We found the Pastures Campground after we crossed into our 12th state, New Hampshire, and found the three travelers who were happy to share a site and even happier when Ray shared his beer.

The next morning we left Orford knowing that there were a couple of climbs to do before we got to Lincoln. We went through a few small towns along a ridge with wonderful views of the Connecticut River Valley (?) and then turned east toward the White Mountains. The first section had some steep hills but then it was quite level. Once we got onto a larger road it was a gradual hill until about 2 miles before the top when it became somewhat steeper and definitely slower to ride up. It was also getting hot out so we were covered in sweat once we got to the top, near where our Norther Tier Route crossed the Appalachain Trail. We stopped there so Ray could do a dance and such and then coasted down into Lincoln, NH.

Unfortunately just before we got to Lincoln I fell when I stupidly failed to angle my bike enough as I went over the railroad tracks. While that's not really a noteworthy event it is worth mentioning because somehow when I fell it bent the crank on my bike so now my right foot wobbles a little when I pedal. We tried to get it fixed but now we only have one more day until we are home and after riding today I don't really notice it anymore. Lincoln seemed kind of busy and crowded. We ate our lunch and got food for dinner and rode up to the first National Forest Campsite outside of town.

This morning we left by 7 to begin riding over the Kancamangus Highway. I have driven over this road a few times and definitely remembered it as steep and winding. I wasn't really looking forward to the climb but it turned out to be not bad at all. Most of the way was steadily up hill but not at a strenuous grade. When we were a couple of miles from the top it was steeper but still not that bad. The views of the mountains and sky were really nice. This was the last of the passes and compared to the ones out west it was just a big hill. The rest of the way down was mostly through the White Mountain National Forest until we hit the busy main street of Conway.

Even though we have been looking forward to our arrival in Portland (and such delights as sleeping in a bed and of course seeing everyone again) it seems a bit strange that our trip is almost over. It has been great, though, I've really loved traveling this way. I'll miss covering miles and miles on my bicycle every day, but fortunately I'll be able to do it again even if its just for a day or a few. I'm sure there's a lot that I have meant to write or describe but I've left it out. We saw so much, some of it up close, some of it just passing by. Thanks for reading and following along. We'll probably put the rest of our pictures on line soon so you can fill in some of the details I left out!

1 comment:

kaptain said...

Congratulations guys, what a great achievement !!! Enjoy your last day & I look forward to seeing all your photos & hearing some more stories.......or....... yo yo !