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Century #2: Montpelier, VT – Littleton, MA

March 13, 2010

Overnight I heard rain pelting our metal roof, rolled over and hoped that the rain would pass before morning. I had my bike and gear all ready to roll, I just needed to drop off Lexi at school and Linnaea at Turtle Island. I strapped on my front road fender, velcroed on my new MEC shoe covers, and at 8:15 headed out for the 190 mile jaunt to Wellesley, Massachusetts, to help my brother Pete move.

Although it might have been a foolishly large leap, I took my route right from Google’s new map directions for bikes.  I massaged the .gpx file onto my GPS unit and brought no maps.  The route in Vermont was straightforward and obvious.  Route 302 through Barre, where thankfully I didn’t get run over, and onward to Rt 25.  Every route has its rolling hills, but on a route this long, I was crossing from the Winooski watershed to the Connecticut to the Merrimack.  From Barre it was a long mellow climb through Barre Town and Orange to breach the Signal Range.  Then it was an easier roll down along the Waits River to the Connecticut.

The Waits River from along VT-25

Crossing from Fairlee into Orford, New Hampshire

Once in New Hampshire I followed the main drag south to Lyme, and then peeled off eastwards and began climbing up.  Once I reached the Dartmouth Skiway and kept on climbing, I knew that I was in for a challenging ride.  Just after the ski area, the road turned to dirt (soft squashy mud) that was hard to plow through with skinny tires.  This is exactly why my mountain wheels are hanging from hooks in the basement: mud season.

Grafton Turnpike high above the Dartmouth Skiway

Back to pavement at last!

I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached pavement.  Mud is okay, but wider tires would have been nice, and muddy roads are no way to crank through the distance I was trying to ride.  In Canaan I reached a rail trail paralleling Route 4 that was alternated between being gooey and icy.  Clearly the winter’s snow had been packed down by snow machine traffic.  I squirreled along for perhaps a half mile before eagerly bailing for the ordinary road 20 feet away.  Note to Google: rail trails are great for bikes, just not in mud season.  Route 4 wound through a series of small New Hampshire towns notably lacking a good bakery.  Once I stopped to haul out more PB+Js, and once to buy some Fig Newtons and chocolate milk.

In general I’d have to say that Google did a pretty nice job of finding a relatively linear route that was quite pleasant to ride.  Good pavement and low traffic on back roads were just what I wanted.  In the more rural areas, it was easy to find food.  The route went through small villages, so if I was hungry, all I needed to do was go no more than another hour and I’d find a dependable general store.  In the more suburban areas of southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts it was trickier, since the route stayed away from the business areas as much as possible, in favor of much longer stretches of quieter road.

Shortly after crossing the Concord Stage Road, I hung a left at the Sugar Hill Speedway and soon found that the Sewell Hoyt Road turned into a plain ol’ snow machine trail.  It was about a mile and a half of snowy gook forward, or who knows how far back and around to find another route.  The GPS unit is simply dandy to follow, and simply wretched if you have to create a route on the fly.  Zoom out and the map gets unreadable.  I pulled off my shoe covers to keep them in good shape, and walked.  That pretty much screwed my moving average speed, but this was exploration!

Snowmobile trail entering the north side of Clough State Park

PB+J snack...excellent with Manghi's bread


Moist soft sand was unrideable with road tires

Going around a beleaguered gate led from one underused road to another.

Giant ice chunks from the adjacent river, heaved upon the roadway.

It turned out that I had entered the back side of Clough State Park, which was the friendly name for a ridiculously large federal flood control dam.  At some later point in the season, once the glaciers recede and underpaid college kids sweep all the pine cones and branches away,  it will presumably open its gates to picnickers.  As it was I went around a bunch of gates and fences, generally unsure of which side I was supposed to be on.

The route skirted Manchester nicely, and went right through Nashua.  At that point I had gone about 140 miles, it would be getting dark soon, and I hunted around for a pay phone to wish Linnaea a good night’s sleep.  I found quite the collection of empty phone huts before discovering a working phone.  Yep, maybe someday I’ll get a cell phone.  My other concern was that from just outside of Nashua, the Google route had me on a rail trail for most of the remaining distance.  I had to assume that it would be  soft and unrideable, so abandoned the route and started from scratch.  With just a dinky GPS screen to work with, no local knowledge about what roads might be littered with crazy drivers, and a looming dinner date, it was tough.  I took my best guesses and threw a series of blue waypoint flags on the map to guide me.  That worked okay, but it was very time consuming.  I spent a significant portion of my overall stopped time on the side of the road in Massachusetts pushing buttons.

Since I knew that Pete and Joo were waiting to have dinner with me, I took pity on them (if you believe that!) and called them for a pickup.  In the 20 minutes it took for them to arrive I stayed warm in the Mobil station chugging chocolate milk.  It had been in the low 40s and gloomy all day, but I had been plenty comfortable on the bike.  My clothing layers were just fine.  I just need to reconfigure how my Ay-Up light and computer are mounted, and to make a feedbag that isn’t blocked by the aero bar pads.  Eating on the go is how my body keeps ticking.

Mobil station in Littleton, Massachusetts

I put down a large pizza and bottle of root beer at a random pizza joint we found on the way to their new house.  Then I took a quick shower and settled down for sleep as best I could in my state of tiredness.

165 miles
10:51 moving time
1:46 stopped time
moving average 15.2 mph
overall average 13.1 mph

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 9:12 PM

    Nice write up – looks like you founds some good roads. Are you thinking what I’m thinking: XNHMtBT!

    Looking forward to hearing about the ride back!

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