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!

Glacier National Park to East Glacier Village

Thursday 26th & Friday 27th May

Thursday 26th May (pm) – Glacier National Park (Stage 21 – continued)

As we entered Glacier National Park (GNP) via the West Entrance, we stopped & took a quick snap as a permanent reminder of our visit. Crossing the Middle Fork Flathead River, we spotted one of the many rafting boats that are advertised – it had just dropped off its passengers & the guide was on his way back to base camp further down the river. Before our adventure in GNP had begun in earnest, we saw at close quarters our first near death moment, as an adult deer bolted across the road in front of two SUV’s that were travelling in opposite directions. A frightening moment for all concerned.

We arrived at the Ranger Station & each bought an America The Beautiful annual pass which gives us access to all the National Parks we plan to visit on our adventure. The Ranger who served us was a genuinely enthusiastic advocate of GNP & answered all my questions about how far up the Going To The Sun Road (GTTSR) motorists & cyclists could travel at the moment & when the Pass may be open. The answers to both questions appear later!

We took the right fork at Apgar which followed the GTTSR, taking us along the edge of Lake McDonald – we’d been told the scenery & vistas were something to behold, but I was still completely taken aback as we got our first views of the snow-capped mountains. The blue skies with fluffy cloud cover & mirror-like lake added to the spectacle.

At the next viewpoint I had the opportunity to capture the breath-taking view looking up the lake towards Heavens Peak & Bishops Cap. Apologies for the ugly mugs that rather ruin the 2nd & 3rd photos!

The views changed at each of the viewpoints I stopped at – although these next photos were taken less than a mile from those above, the panoramas are quite different. Lake McDonald was created when a slow moving river of ice 2,000 feet thick moved down the valley. It scoured the rock & transported rubble at its edges. When the glacier receded about 10,000 years ago, it left behind rubble & rock that dammed the McDonald Creek – this is the end result, at 472 feet, it’s the deepest lake in GNP.

As we continued along the shoreline, there were lookouts where it was possible to get down to small pebble beaches. This low down, the lake almost acted as a mirror, reflecting the glorious views above it.

There was one beach that provided end to end views of Lake McDonald, as well as the surrounding mountains & burnt forest on the opposite bank. There are wild forest fires on a regular basis & they are left to run their course naturally – the most recent event in 2018 was caused by lightning, burned 14,522 acres of forest & destroyed 13 residences. This is all part of nature’s way of ensuring the ecology of GNP continues to flourish.

We passed one final lookout spot on the way to our motel at Motel McDonald Lake (not to be confused with Lake McDonald Lodge, which was right next door!). This gave a panoramic view down the 10 mile length of the lake. I learned that fish found in the lake are both native (such as the westslope cutthroat & bull trout, as well as the mountain whitefish) & non-native species added between 1912 & 1970 (lake trout, lake whitefish & kokanee).

As we reached our hotel, we checked in & dropped off our panniers – the day’s adventure was nowhere near an end! We had plans to explore as much of the GTTSR as possible on our lightened steeds! From here we would be exploring the McDonald Creek valley rather than the lake. Our first stop was a narrow part of the river at John’s Lake Loop, with views up to the small, but fast flowing waterfall.

Heading up the valley, it broadened out briefly, giving hints of the climb to come & after less than 4 miles of riding we arrived at Avalanche Creek – at this point GTTSR is still closed to motorised traffic, so the road was now exclusively the playground of cyclists & hikers!! Within minutes we spotted a deer going about its business just yards from the road.

As we started climbing, snowbanks soon came into view as the road followed the twisting route of the river valley – some of the banks were slightly larger than others. I checked the snow cave for signs of wildlife before offering them a mouthful (or 2) of my prime rump!!

As we continued climbing we spotted some ramblers gazing intently into the forest. This could only mean one thing – a bear sighting!! It was a black bear cub, possibly a year old. There was no sign of mother bear (& we were looking hard for her, in case we needed to move on), hence my assumption of its age. Without a doubt this is the highlight of the trip so far!

We could just make out the path of the road above. It looked like the lower shelf was clear but the snow crews hadn’t yet made it to the higher shelf, as that looked to be covered in snow. The good news was we still had more road to explore!

Just round the corner the river & road took separate paths. We now started climbing in earnest, but the great thing with GTTSR is that the gradient never exceeds 6% – the original design by George Goodwin in 1918 recommended a steep, 15 hairpin climb up Logan Creek. However, a later adjustment by Tom Vint resulted in a shallower gradient & only required one switchback – thanks Tom!!

As we reached that single switchback, huge views of the climb up to Logan Pass came into view. Our friendly Ranger who sold us our tickets had told us the road would be closed to motorised traffic from Avalanche Creek & that there were avalanche warnings in place just after Lookout Point – we had to stop climbing at this point. We’d had 8 miles of riding on empty roads, so truly appreciated our good fortune.

We turned around & pulled in at Lookout Point to drink in the huge vistas & marvel at Heavens Peak, towering above us at 8,987 feet above sea level. As we did, a cheeky chipmonk photobombed my picture!!

We’d ridden through a tunnel on the way up & it had a couple of windows out across the valley – I’d noticed that water was cascading past the window so stopped for a quick photo – it’s not my greatest ever photo, but it captures the moment.

The descent was a joy, as the shallow gradient, wide corners & traffic free tarmac meant that the brakes weren’t required. Having said that, I chose to stop a couple of times to capture the stunning scenery.

We cycled side by side from McDonald Creek to Avalanche Creek & chatted about our amazing cycling adventure in GNP. We’d also deliberately ridden past a couple of lookout spots on the climb, so we stopped at these on the way down.

At Avalanche Creek the road re-opened to motor vehicles, so we followed a couple of GNP Tour cars down the valley, stopping at Sacred Dancing Cascade on the way.

Sean must have the patience of a Saint – I hadn’t realised quite how many photos I’d taken (or how many times I must have stopped) during the afternoon. It would have been easy to get a bit fed up of the countless stops, but he simply let me get on with it – thanks mate, I really do appreciate you giving me the time to capture the moment!!

Once we arrived back at our motel, we had a quick shower & change before heading across to the posher Lake McDonald Lodge to reflect on what has been a monumental day in the saddle – we’re clearly making an impression, as one of the deer popped over to check on the out of towners!

After dinner we went for a stroll around the grounds of Lake McDonald Lodge & took in the last of the daylight, as the sun set behind the towering peaks.

Stage Stats – 27 miles in Glacier National Park, 1,425 feet of climbing. More stunning scenery, jaw-dropping vistas & wildlife than I could count!

Friday 27th May – Glacier National Park to East Glacier Village (Stage 22)

We woke up to slate grey, moody skies – a complete contrast that made us appreciate how fortunate we had been yesterday to see GNP in its fully glory. It was almost as if the curtains had been pulled across the big, snowy peaks today as we made our way back along the lakeside.

I chose to stop at some of the same lookouts, as well as a couple of different ones, just to get some comparisons with yesterday – later in the day I found out that on average, there are 5 days in May where the sun puts its hat on. That really brought home how lucky we were on Thursday.

Even though the mountains were mainly hidden, every now & again one of the peaks would peek out from behind its cotton wool curtain – the lake again played its part by acting as a mirror & inverting the view.

As we reached Apgar we took the campground loop road & then our own cycle path – although it had rained overnight, at this point we were still avoiding the rain! Leaving GNP, we stopped in West Glacier Village for breakfast, as we weren’t quite sure what (if any) our options would be on today’s route & we were still over 50 miles from East Glacier Village.

Heading East, we joined the US 2 & immediately started climbing, nothing severe, but enough to wake the legs up! We reached the summit of the climb just as a huge freight train was heading in the opposite direction – this one was double stacked with containers. The road continued to rise & fall gently, as we occasionally caught views of the Middle Fork Flathead river below.

As we continued through the thick pines of the Flathead National Forest, we finally reached the end of the climbing for a while & descended to the valley floor, where we passed Walton Mountain, its summit wrapped in low-lying cloud. We were also visited by our old friends the inquisitive deer!!! It was about here that we got rained on for the first of several times today – never too heavy, or for too long, but enough to get us damp!

The railroad, river & road converged at a pinch-point in the valley & I was just quick enough to capture it on video. Regardless of the quality of my camerawork & presenting (or otherwise!) I’ve found video to be a great way to be reminded of where we were & how I felt at that time – Tony, thanks for the suggestion.

We crossed over the railroad, as it continued along the left hand side of the valley. We took a different route that saw us climbing the side of the valley & offering up views of the river & railroad below.

As we reached Essex we saw a sign to the Historic Izaak Walton Inn, so decided to take a detour as it also advertised being open all year – after 39 miles we were ready for coffee!

The Great Northern Railway (GNR) built a multi-track yard at Essex to allow “helper engines” to assist heavy Eastbound freight trains overcome the steep gradients of the Marias Pass as they crossed The Continental Divide. In 1939, the GNR authorised the building of the Izaak Walton Inn to accommodate the engine workers & it continues to be a working Inn to this day. There’s also a museum of historic engines & carriages, plus a photo of what looks to be a young Ronald Reagan.

While we were relaxing inside, the heavens opened outside! Luckily by the time we remounted the steel steeds, we only had to deal with light rain & the short, sharp climb as soon as we joined the US 2 soon warmed us up! In no time we had big views over the river & railroad below, but then almost immediately gave all those hard fought for feet back! At Nimrod we left the Flathead river behind us & started following the course of the babbling Bear Creek.

As we passed the Silver Staircase waterfall, it felt like this was where the climb to Marias Pass really began, even though we’d been gently climbing for the last 10 miles. The final 5 miles had a constant 4% gradient & this was made to feel a bit easier by the tailwind we’d picked up. Rounding the final corner, we were treated to the honk of a horn from a passing BNSF freight train.

As we crested the Marias Pass, we crossed The Continental Divide for the first time – we hope to be criss-crossing it again later in the trip! Up until now, every river we’d followed had been depositing its water in the Pacific Ocean. Until we cross the Continental Divide again, water will either be making its way to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean!

The Marias Pass is the lowest crossing point of the Continental Divide in Montana. Slippery Bill Morrison had claimed squatters rights to 160 acres of land atop the Marias Pass, however he donated a portion of his land to enable the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial to be built in 1932 to recognise him making forest conservation a national policy. The monument is a tapering, 60 foot tall obelisk & is made of solid granite.

The 10 mile descent into East Glacier Village took us past a couple of small lakes as we followed Summit Creek into town.

We’d been expecting something along the lines of West Glacier, so East Glacier came as a surprise as it’s an unincorporated town on Blackfeet Nation land. There appeared to be one hotel that was open (the one we were staying in) & there was one restaurant in town (a Mexican) – it certainly made some of our choices easy!! We’d had two incredible days of adventures in Glacier National Park & beyond, so it was time to toast our good fortune once again.

Stage Stats – 68 miles, 3,556 feet of climbing. Lots of small drags early in the ride, culminating in a hors category climb of Marias Pass & our first crossing of the Continental Divide.