Saturday, August 4 Brattleboro, VT to Manchester, NH 90 miles
The luggage truck was open at 5:45 and by this time I was already finished with the breakfast the hotel served us. We had a carbo loading meal of pasta last night and I ate a hearty amount this morning because I knew today’s near 90 miles were going to be big calorie burners. Mary Ann, Frances, Mike K. and I left about the same time. It was just seven tenths of a mile to the New Hampshire state line. As we went over the river bridge I took a photo of the two states bordering the river. Terrain was UP on both sides. The usual Kodak Moment took place under the “Welcome To. . .” sign. We were very excited to be in New Hampshire – our last state in this cross country trip. We are almost to the finish!! I did not see any road-kill snakes in the state of Vermont!
Today was the very best day yet. I thought yesterday’s ride was everything – but today topped it. It was incredibly hilly and for me difficult. To describe the scenery, it just can not be written here in words to tell you what my eyes saw. I was so beautiful, I must return someday. As challenging as this day was physically, it was at the same time such a thrill to see at every turn in the constantly curving roads, new beauty and more historical places everywhere. Over and over I envisioned what it would look like beginning a month from now and through out the Fall season. I know bus loads of people come here every year to view the spectacular fall colors of the changing of the season. I could only imagine how beautiful it must be. Some of the best bike rides I have been on in Ohio have been in the Fall with colors that leave me both awed at the beauty and a little sad to see the summer time end. So I rolled along thinking how great it would be to come back here at the peak of the colorful season.
The serious groaning began at mile 18 at Old Concord Road and Sullivan Road. This steep terrain lasted until just before the first SAG stop at mile 28. The hills were 10 % to 15 % grades. Some were short, but it just never seemed to end – one after the other. What a sense of accomplishment it was for me every time I made it to the top. The downs were always so fast and short and then it was right back up again. Boy, was I glad fro my “granny gear” of 30-34. I just shifted down into 30-34 and slowly, very slowly, pedaled my way up. I could never have done this steep hill climbing seven weeks ago. By the time I rode into the SAG stop O was sure ready for the break. I wondered how I could go on with the hills that were to come. I looked ahead at my cue sheet and saw at mile 32.3 I had to start an 8 mile climb up Pitchers Mountain. How could I do it I whined to myself. This was another one of these moments on this trip that I had to reach deep within and renew my determination and tell myself: I WILL DO IT! After talking to Doug at the SAG and moaning to him about this Pitchers Mountain, he gave me the boost I needed. He said it wouldn’t be a steep as what we had just come through. He did say Joe English Road at mile 73.3 would be the biggie for the day. I decided to get on my bike and deal with Pitchers Mountain first and not even think about Joe English Rd until much later. The climb up the Mountain wasn’t so difficult. It was long, but again the sights were so interesting it made every mile worth the hard work. There were lakes and many cottages along the way. It was hazy and cloudy today during this segment which I was very thankful for. Made riding much cooler and easier than going through blazing sun. I stopped in Antrim for some lunch. A lot of the group were already there sitting around outside a deli eating. I had a good chicken salad sandwich and a cold drink. It was fun to talk to the local people, answering their usual questions about what we are all about.
Not far down the road I cycled through Bennington and then Greenfield. I spotted a bakery going through Greenfield. I went in and saw an elderly lady was rolling out pastry and baking cookies in her little shop. I couldn’t resist the red raspberry turnover and a raspberry elephant ear. I got outside and of course both of them wouldn’t fit into my small bike bag. So I ate the turnover and said to myself I could enjoy the elephant ear if I made it to the top and end of Joe English Road – with out expiring.
I rode along just thoroughly enjoying the challenge of all the hills. It seems we haven’t really been challenged with all day climbing since way back in the West with the Rockies and the Cascade mountains. I am stronger and I notice that it is easier to breathe because we aren’t in such high altitudes like out West. Also it isn’t five degrees hotter than hell as it was back there. The weather has been wonderful – cool and over cast at just the right times to shade us. It started to rain again today but not much. As I pedaled on it was obvious that it had just rained heard because of the wet roads and some rain puddles here and there. But I again only felt a sprinkle. After going through yet another neat New England small town, New Boston, I was an rte 13 south and then on Meadow Road, at 73.3 mile mark I made a left turn on to Joe English Road. Oh My! I looked up a road that slopped I bet a 16 % grade. Joe English heard a mouthful of dirty French from me. I don’t know any dirty French but I made it sound like I did! :-) I have been riding for 49 days with a group of mountain goats, I swear. Everyone passes me like they are riding on flat ground! It just irks me when they pass with smiles and say, “Hi, Sara, how ya doing?” Couldn’t they at least be breathing hard? I slipped into my lowest gear and screamed with pain as the lactic acid in my legs built up to the point I thought my legs would not move the pedals around one more time. I grinded away 3/4 of a mile and braked to a halt. I waited for my heart rate to get back to a reasonable rate and started to walk the bike a little way to the place where it “flattened” out to about 6%. I got back on the bike and kept on working my way up the ungodly pitch in this road. While I am in agony and concentrating with all I have to move forward an inch at a time, a car pulled up and slowed beside me. The passenger ask me a question, “Can you tell me how to get to New Boston?” The pain on my face told him I couldn’t speak. A little later a car with a man and woman comes down the hill approaching me on the other side of the road. Driver rolls down the window and asks me, “Where is Joe English Road?” I spit out, “You’re on it!” “Well where is the park entrance?”, they asked. I shrugged my shoulders, they got the message that I sure didn’t know. I wondered when the third quest for directions came why I was being picked on. Two bicyclists screaming down the opposite side yell out, “This the way to Francestown?” I yelled, “Yes!” Only later I realized it wasn’t the way they were headed. I hope they found out when they got to the bottom of Joe English Rd and had to climb back up! Ha-ha. Well, Joe English Road is history in this journey. I ate the raspberry elephant ear and that got me over more up and down terrain into Manchester, New Hampshire city limits – and LOTS of traffic on busy streets.
What a ride! Thrills, chills and no spills. I was so thankful for this whole day. Coming on through town I was so happy to see up ahead the entrance to the Comfort Inn. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I whipped into the parking lot and two maintenance workers looked up and gave me a thumbs-up congratulations and said, “You did it, you made it!” Hearing that I was so emotional, I burst into tears. Over and over I cried, “Lord, just ONE MORE DAY!” The enormity of what we had come through in 49 days was hitting me with a ocean of tears and joy. What will it be like tomorrow when I finally put my bike in the water of the Atlantic Ocean? This is pretty overwhelming.
Our dinner this evening was a special time together. After the meal Doug invited each one of us to take some time to express what this bike ride has meant. It took an hour and a half before we had finished. This was a very special time, with lots of sentiment, and lots of laughs too, recalling the fun we have had. We will all remember something different about the routes we traveled and the towns we stayed in. More than that, nearly everyone mentioned it is each of us being together every single day - it will be the people we will remember so fondly. We have been this little family of sorts. We have encouraged and been encouraged by each other. Over and over there were thank you’s expressed to the staff of America by Bicycle. I have been so impressed with their friendliness, always upbeat, always there to help or assist us. They each were so perceptive in knowing just what would be the thing to do or the words to say to cheer us on. They worked extremely hard behind the scenes so that all we had to think about was getting up and out to enjoy our daily adventure riding our bicycles from point A to B.
Please Lord, clear all obstacles that would hinder any one of us from arriving safely tomorrow. We are so close now. The dream is within reach, a mere half a day ride away from touching the waves of the Atlantic ocean at Wallis Sands State Beach.
Just one more day of putting on sun screen at dawn.
Just one more day of buffet food.
Just one more day of eating bananas at SAG stops.
Just one more day of hearing Mark’s recumbent bike rattle.
Just one more day of checking the Weather Channel.
Just one more day of bagels at the hotel continental breakfast bar.
Just one more day of showing up in spandex and lycra
Just one more day of everyone passing by me and slipping out of sight.
Just one more day of taking turns sleeping on a roll-a-way bed.
Just one more day of waking up in the night and wondering what direction the bathroom is.
Just one more day of trying to remember what town we stayed in yesterday.
Just one more day of the hills in New Hampshire – the Berkshires.
Just one more day of loading luggage in to the yellow Ryder truck.
Just one more day of trying to catch Frances or Anthony.
Just one more day of hearing Ed break into nice little songs as he bikes along.
Just one more day of being out on the road with the best bunch of cyclists ever.
Just one more day of finding just the right spot for a ‘pit stop’.
Just one more day of praying that I MAKE IT!