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Century #3: Wellesley, MA – White River Jct, VT

March 17, 2010

Having wrapped up the bulk of the moving during the crazy rain storm, the weather suddenly became quite nice, and it was time to ride home.  Being away from home and all of my mapping software meant that to create a return route that avoided mud season problems I had to peruse an old fashioned paper map of Northern New England and put a pile of waypoints into the GPS.  It took a while, but after three days of moving furniture, boxes, and unpackable odds and ends, it wasn’t a problem to sit down with my gadget.

When I headed out from Wellesley at 5:10am, it was cool and the crazy commuters hadn’t yet pulled out of their garages.  I followed little blue GPS waypoint flags through the pre-dawn darkness.  Crossroads here and there were coned off and signed “No Thru Traffic”; clearly the water was still high.  About 20 miles into the day, the temperature chilled noticeably, my heavily salted electrolyte drink began to freeze in my Camelbak hose, black ice formed on the road, and I had to be pretty careful.  Skinny slick tires and black ice are not a functional combination, and I had to walk one short hill.  A bad car accident ahead forced me to take a relatively clear one mile detour.

The glow of dawn crept into the sky.  I’ve always found miles skied or ridden at dawn to be particularly easy and peaceful.  Paler light increased, and the sharp golden sting of the rising sun reached me as I skirted the western side of Walden Pond.

I soon retraced Friday’s route, hitting 47.5 miles at the New Hampshire border.  My most significant reroute was in New Hampshire, where I avoided the snowmobile trails and mud roads by taking the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike from Goffstown to Claremont.  Although that road lost any significant practical use with the arrival of the interstate highway system, it was originally the only route between Boston and Vermont.  The folks in Francestown theoretically charged travelers one cent per mile to use their road.  These days its a nicely paved back road, though have been built in the 19th century, its just like old-school hiking trails: straight and climbing over every hill in the way.

By mile 90 I had depleted my 100 ounces of drink and was ready for both a break and some real food.  I rolled into Hillsborough Lower Village looking for something functional to eat and right at the town’s one intersection, what did I find, but German John’s Bakery.  Fresh brats with sauerkraut and horseradish mustard.  Large German salted pretzels.  Oh my, it was a good find.  Although it wasn’t yet open for the season, right next door was a full blown old fashioned ice cream shop, complete with an enormous mirror behind the counter.  As I was putting my refilled Camelbak back in my pack, John asked me if it was filled with beer.  Oh to be in Europe!

German John's Bakery

Even the stuffed animals eat the pretzels!

I grabbed two more pretzels, chucked them on my aero bars, and continued on westward.  It wasn’t a big surprise that there was a climb from Hillsborough Lower Village to Hillsborough Upper Village, but it seemed like all up for the next 30 miles, and plenty of bits were App-Gap steep.  Anyone who lives in Vermont has heard Steve Maleski and the Eye On The Sky guys mention the snowfall stats for Hillsborough Upper Village, and sure enough, there was about a foot on the ground, while the lowlands were completely bare.

The descent to Claremont was nice, but somehow didn’t fairly balance out the numerous climbs.  I guess that’s life at 128 miles.  I crossed the Connecticut River into Weathersfield, Vermont and called home to check in with the ladies.  It turned out that they had been in the backyard sandbox all afternoon, so I settled for downing my gas station V8 and moving on north.  At the turn for Rt 12 I opted to gracefully cut my ride a bit short (if you can call it that) and continue on to White River Junction, where there was some vague hope of getting back home by some other means.

The last few miles of any long ride are really where the truth lies.  Grogginess, pain, and exhaustion clearly point to your weaknesses.  Last year my WTB Silverado ass-hatchet and electrolytes were my two nemeses.  This time my butt was quite content with its Brooks Swift, and my hydration practices were well within reason.  I felt tired, and was less springy on the climbs, but felt reasonably sure I could continue for a while given another solid meal.  The Epic Designs Mountain Feed Bag was my weak link.  Its a nicely designed snack pocket, but the position of my aero bar pads makes it very hard to reach inside for a nibble, especially when wearing mittens.  I need to knock together a snack pocket more like a Bento Box or Gas Tank so that I can stay effectively fed between town stops.

I rolled into White River Junction and stopped at the first gas station for chocolate milk and root beer (with a brief pause between beverages).  I borrowed a pen and made a “MONTPELIER” cardboard sign in the vain hope that I could hitchhike up I-89.  I waited around by the on ramp for ten minutes before realizing that a 6′-7″ guy with an enormous bicycle hardly makes for good hitchhiking material.  I came to my senses and found the Greyhound terminal 100 yards away.  The bus home was leaving in 35 minutes.  The catch was that my bike had to be boxed.  I snagged a pile of boxes from the McDonald’s dumpster, borrowed packing tape from the bus ticket office, and went at it.  I had never had a reason to box my bike before and was a bit nervous, but I really shouldn’t have been.  A half hour later my bike was vaguely contained by a pathetic looking cardboard sculpture.  Fortunately it didn’t really matter, since the driver didn’t care, and my stop was the first one, an hour away.

I purchased my one way ticket home, slid my box underneath the bus, and dropped my pack and helmet on my seat.  I turned around to pick up my cardboard scraps, but there was no escaping the bus, the door was locked.  In the post 9/11 world where terrorists are under every seat cushion, you only get on a bus ONCE.  With shame I saw the very friendly Greyhound lady grumble under her breath and haul my junk around the corner to the recycling dumpster.

Friendly lady, I’m sorry, I tried.  The bus trapped me!

The bus pulled into Montpelier right on time at 6:30 and Linnaea squeaked with delight.

Stats:
146 miles
8704′ gain
9:38 moving time
1:20 stopped time
moving average 15.1 mph
overall average 13.3 mph

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2010 10:03 PM

    What – no picture of the bike box sculpture?

    • March 20, 2010 1:00 PM

      Yeah, I definitely considered that…but it really didn’t hold a candle to your back-from-PBP sculpture.

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