Last week while on vacation I had the opportunity to visit a couple of places on or near the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route. These are places that I didn't ride through on last summer's tour, since at that time I had detoured off the route in New York to get to my tour end point in Boston. Although this was mostly a non-cycling vacation, I took along a bike for some early morning rides before proceeding with the rest of the daily activities.
The bike was a newly acquired used 1999 Bianchi Eros sport touring bike. I bought this bike to keep at my parents' house in Boston so that I don't have to deal with the hassle and cost of flying with one of my bikes for my regular visits. It was a smooth transaction done in advance of the trip, and with the exception of one phone call, done completely via email. Since the seller lived in the next town over from my parents', he was able to deliver the bike to their place for no charge. After some minor modifications on my part (swapping the saddle, stem, and pedals, replacing a slipping seatpost, retaping the handlebars, and changing the gearing from 32/42/52 to 24/39/52) the bike was ready to go.
Thursday we drove up to Conway, New Hampshire, at the base of the White Mountains. Shortly after arriving we did a drive up the 8 mile private toll road up to the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak of the Northeast at over 6200 feet. Unfortunately, for reasons that I do not know, the road - with an average grade of 12% - is closed to cyclists. (With the wind, cold, and fog, I'm not sure I would have wanted to ride it that day anyway.) It is opened to bikes one a year for a race to the top.
The local free travel magazine had a two page article about road cycling in the area. This article described a couple of easy to navigate loop rides in the area, a 40 miler and a 20 miler. It was nice to have a canned, "no-brainer" ride preplanned - usually I end up doing an "out and back" ride when in an unfamiliar place. It would be nice if similar articles were in other tourist brochures around the country.
Friday morning the sunrise woke me at 5:10, allowing me to start the morning ride at 5:30, an all-time personal record best (or worst?) starting time. The temperature at that time was already 65 degrees, unusually warm for this time of year.
I set out on the route for the 40 mile loop. The "Bear Mountain Loop" route goes north on the road on the west side of Conway, then US302 west to Bartlett, then south on the road that climbs to Bear Notch, then east on the infamous Kancamagus Highway (112), and finally a couple of back roads to get back to the road west of Conway.
Starting the ride from my hotel, I missed the turnoff connecting to the west side road, so I ended up taking US302 all the way to Bartlett - no big deal before 6 in the morning.
The road starts climbing after the turn towards Bear Notch. I was glad to have the lower gearing for this section! Meanwhile, the fog that was at the higher elevations (but not in Conway) had started to lift, so there were excellent views of the White Mountains when there were breaks in the trees.
The remainder of the ride was mostly all downhill from the Bear Notch summit. The ride joins the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route at the turn on the Kanc, giving a flavor of the descent down from the Kanc Pass of about 2800 feet.
This time I found the road west of Conway, avoiding the busy 16/302 highways through Conway. All in all, a great loop ride.
After some shopping in the outlet malls in the afternoon (hey, gotta keep the wife happy), we drove over to my brother's family's place by the lake in Naples, Maine.
Although US302 from Conway, New Hampshire to Naples, Maine is certainly a good road with wide shoulders, it's more of a direct through route instead of a wayward scenic back road that most bicycle tourists would prefer. Consequently, the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier Route leaves US302 at the earliest opportunity and goes a little north of the Sebago Lake area on the way to the terminus of the cross USA route in Bar Harbor.
Saturday morning I decided to do a "play it by ear" loop, my name for a ride where I set out with no particular destination, route, or distance in mind. From the cabin I headed along the east shore of Long Lake, going in the general direction to meet up with the Northern Tier route.
After about 15 miles or so of rolling hills along 35/37, I joined the Northern Tier route briefly from S. Waterford to Waterford. These are the really small towns you would expect to see when touring - one of them had only a church, the other only a convenient store - I forget which one was which.
The Adventure Cycling route turns east towards Norway, while I headed north towards the base of the small portion of the White Mountains that are in Maine. Some of the rolling hills here are sustained climbs that are too long to power over by climbing out of the saddle!
I rejoined the Northern Tier Route for the stretch between Lovell and Sweden. There was a nice straight downhill into Sweden where I could top out at 50 mph. Sweden was yet another town that only had a church and a town meeting house.
I would have continued on the road from Sweden to S. Waterford, but I was getting tired and running out of time at that point, so I took a more direct route back to the cabin using part of US302.
A great 60 mile loop, and I can honestly say that the more enjoyable parts of the ride were where it coincided with the Adventure Cycling route.