North Woodstock to Brunswick

Monday 29th to Tuesday 30th August – Stages 92 & 93.

Monday 29th August – North Woodstock to Bridgton (Stage 92)

We only have two days of our Coast to Coast adventure remaining, but that doesn’t mean we can take it easy, as today we plan to ride 69 miles & climb the Kancamagus Pass (pronounced Cank-a-Magus I’m reliably informed!). At 15 miles in length & 2,200 feet of vertical, it’s almost Alpine & the first BIG climb since Powder River Pass on Stage 46, way back on 26th June.

We continue to see reminders that Moose do exist, although this feels a little that we’re being taunted. as it’s one of the few animals that has eluded us on our travels! We’ve seen a whole load of animals I didn’t expect to see (like a black bear cub & a golden eagle), so I shouldn’t complain.

The towns of North Woodstock & Lincoln are ski resorts in winter, but they have also harvested the forest since the late 1800’s – between 1893 & 1947, 2 billion feet of logs were hauled out of the Loon Mountain forest on the railroad!

We’re riding the Kancamagus Highway, which is a scenic byway that links Lincoln with Conway, 37 miles to the East (it’s also our planned coffee stop in a few hours time). The early slopes of the climb followed the course of the Swift River & that resulted in the gradient being more friendly than either of us had expected – we were climbing at a fairly consistent 4% to 5%.

This was our last chance to get some action photos on a climb, so we took a few shots of each other – the best are included in the next two sets of photos. At this point we were about half way to the summit & were grateful it hadn’t been as bad as we had initially feared, although we knew it ramped up in the last half mile or so of the climb.

As we climbed higher, the views became more dramatic, as the road cut a way through the forest. We only had about 3 miles to the summit from here & we began to relax a little, as we climbed ever higher.

There was one final hairpin, where the gradient increased slightly, but then we passed a sign for the Pemigewasset Overlook & we knew the big climb of the day was almost over. Just before the summit I passed Paul, who was on a 5 day tour & he was towing his dog in his trailer! Sean was moments behind & we stopped at the overlook to compare stories.

The summit itself is about 1/10th mile beyond the overlook, so after taking in the view, we said our goodbyes to Paul & headed off to get a shot at the Kancamagus Pass sign. We also stopped briefly at Beaver Brook Overlook to take in the views on the other side of the mountain.

The White Mountain National Forest is very carefully managed & incredible as it may seem, all you can see in the photo below Sean & myself has been harvested at least once & some sections have been cut 2 or 3 times. The National Forest are responsible for ensuring that the environment remains pristine, while balancing our requirements for timber & recreational space – they appear to be doing a great job in this particular instance.

The descent was fun, so I’ve included some video, as well as the usual photos. There were a few large logging lorries doing the descent too, but they gave me plenty of room.

Lower Falls had parking for about 200 cars & about half of them must have been in use. There were families sat sun bathing & enjoying the glorious sunny weather. I had a couple of attempts at capturing the scene, but neither of them worked at all – it just looked like people sat on rocks!!!

Covered Bridges are an integral part of New England landscape & the White Mountains have more than their fair share. The majority were toll bridges, built in the late 19th Century. One bridge in nearby Lebanon made a 70% annual return on investment in 1870!!!

The examples below are the Albany Town Covered Bridge in the first photo & the Conway Covered Bridge in the final photo. We had the road to ourselves for the 5 miles between the two bridges.

We stopped in Conway for a portion of strawberry shortbread – we’d completed 38 miles & also seen off the big pass of the day, so were in a good place! Within a few miles of setting off again, we arrived at our last State Line & crossed from New Hampshire into the Pine Tree State of Maine. The end of our adventure really is close!

We also took a small Adventure Cycling Association detour onto our last piece of cycle track – we were on the Mountain Division Trail for less than a mile of the 6 mile track, but it felt like a symbolic moment. At some point I’ll work out how many miles we did off-road, but it feels like the answer will be at least a few hundred miles!

In Fryeburg we found more quiet roads as we gradually made our way towards our overnight stop.

We were following the Saco River upstream, so were gradually climbing. The long views across to the White Mountains in the distance help take our mind off the drag uphill. The few houses we saw were what I would call up-market with plenty of land too. We’d both checked the route last night & commented that it looked like there was a hilly end to the route – we were just about to find out how hilly!

The answer quickly became clear – quite hilly & quite steep at times! The forest protected us from the heat of the sun, although the ambient heat was plenty warm enough. The road rose in ramps, so we also had a few nice descents where we could recover before the next ascent – at times the climbs hit 11% & 12%, which is more than enough in the later stages of a ride!

Real moose had avoided us again today, but we did at least see a life-size representation of one in a front garden! This was at the top of the final climb, so all that remained was to freewheel the final mile or so to our overnight accommodation in Bridgton.

The Noble House Inn was located right across the road from a gorgeous lake – I captured the sunset as we were heading out to dinner. This is our last night of the cycling adventure, so we enjoyed a couple of drinks with our meal & chatted about what an absolutely amazing adventure this has been.

Stage Stats – 70 miles, 4,308 feet of climbing. Our final Mountain Pass of the adventure!

Tuesday 30th August – Bridgton to Brunswick (Stage 93)

Our final day of our cycling adventure is here already – I can still remember our first day in Seattle like it was yesterday, when we struggled to get our kit on the bikes! Matt & Lynn were the perfect hosts & served up a treat of a breakfast, fresh fruit & a cooked breakfast, washed down with fresh orange juice & coffee!

I have many competing emotions this morning. On the one hand, we’re a mere 58 miles from achieving our shared dream of cycling across the USA, Coast to Coast from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand, I feel a sense of loss, as our adventure is drawing to a close. We’ve had the most incredible 4 months since we started in Seattle & I’ve made some memories that will keep me smiling for the rest of my days, so please don’t feel sorry for me!

I took a final photo of the idyllic lake opposite our hotel, then we made our way across town & headed into the forest as the road carved through the trees & followed the rising & falling contours of the land.

As we reached Long Lake, we stopped to enjoy the view at Naples & that was the moment that a seaplane came in to land. Once more we’d arrived at just the right moment!

The road through Naples was a slightly busier State Road, but we were only on it for about 10 minutes before joining another deserted County Road (the US equivalent of a lane in the UK, only wider). We’d identified that the remainder of the ride was either uphill or down dale, so we were expecting things to become a little bit tougher. The early climbs were quite comfortable & the scenery made it easy to forget about the gradient & simply enjoy the view.

Having said that, Sean looks to be putting in a lot of effort in the last photo!!

Our trip round Europe continued as we arrived in Poland – this is where Poland Spring bottled water is sourced. Waterford, Paris & Norway were all sign-posted as being within 10 miles of Poland, as was Wales, Monmouth, Yarmouth & New Gloucester!

As the temperature rose during the morning, we began to appreciate the shadow that the trees provided, especially on the climbs.

I wasn’t quite sure how many downhill sections were remaining, so I decided I’d get a final video of me descending quite early in the day. As the day continued, I found out there were still plenty of climbs & descents left!

The descent took us past a pretty lake & then straight into a brute of a climb – 15% for 400 yards was enough to make the eyes water & the legs sting! The next descent took us past Shaker Village & along the shoreline of Sabbathday Lake, where we found a great ice cream & soda stop on a sandy beach. The perfect stop for our final stop of the adventure! A scoop each of black raspberry & choc chip ice cream washed down with a black cherry soda – delicious!

As we left the lake behind, we hit our steepest climb of the entire adventure – a 16% section that went on for about 5 minutes & was at the very limit of what I can climb on a fully loaded steel bike! I was doing about 3 mph up this ramp & was close to having to weave across the road to keep going.

You might be able to see the look of relief of mine & Sean’s faces at having survived the climb! We spent quite a bit of time today talking about the whole adventure & how neither of us had really prepared for how we might feel at the end of it. It’s almost as if living in the moment every day enabled the end to creep up on me. A combination of planning the daily routes, riding & keeping my blog up to date took up most of my day – I’m pleased it did, as it means I’ve focussed on the adventure itself until the very end.

I had one final opportunity to capture birds on the water, as well as demonstrate how much the body loses flexibility over an 18 week cycling adventure! My legs were still in shock after the steep climb earlier & they were shaking as Sean took the photo for me!

As we reached Brunswick, we cycled past our motel for the next 3 nights & headed for Maquoit Bay on the Atlantic Ocean. It was an emotional moment (in a very British ‘stiff upper lip’ type way) – it took us 93 riding days to ride from the Pacific Ocean in Seattle to the Atlantic Ocean in Brunswick. In that time we cycled 5,689 miles & climbed 207,143 feet!

Ivan kindly took the photos for us – he had completed a supported Coast to Coast crossing in July, which added a nice touch to our finish. We exchanged a few stories, before heading back to the hotel, where we captured a photo at the finish point of what has been an epic cycling adventure.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way – I plan to do an August update, where I’ll take time to say a proper thank you.

I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us on our adventure of a lifetime – I’ve been humbled & delighted in equal measure that so many friends, family & strangers have chosen to engage in the adventure with us! If you have an opportunity, don’t be frightened to chase your dream, whatever that may be.

I’m off to The Big Apple for a few days of Rest & Relaxation. Once I get home, I’ll post an update on my time there too.

Thank you, once again for coming with us as we across the USA, Coast to Coast!

Stage Stats – 61 miles, 4,049 feet of climbing. The final day of what has been the most incredible adventure!

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