Wednesday 24th to Saturday 27th August – Rest Day & Stages 89 to 91.
Wednesday 24th August – Rest Day.
We were staying outside of the town itself, so we were a bit limited on activities today. That was no bad thing, as it gave me an opportunity to catch up on my journal, as well as start preparing my weekly & monthly blog posts. I also needed to update our routes from now until we finish our adventure next Tuesday.
We decided to do our own thing for food & I succumbed to the Micky D’s across the road – sometimes only junk food will do & today was that time! I also decided to go for a bit of a walk to work off the calories & managed to catch a view of yesterday’s descent & got a better understanding of why we plummeted down it so quickly.
Thursday 25th August – Ticonderoga to Pittsfield (Stage 89).
We set off at 9am & after just 3 miles we had a treat ready & waiting for us – a crossing of Lake Champlain by ferry (our 4th & final ferry crossing of the adventure). The crossing from Ticonderoga to Shoreham takes 7 minutes & costs $5 for a bicycle & rider & out of peak hours you use a flag system to hail the ferry.
I took a few photos on the way across the lake to remind us of the ferry & the ticket lady kindly took a shot of Sean & myself with the pirate flag. We also moved from The Empire State of New York, into the Green Mountain State of Vermont during the crossing of the lake.
Our route profile told us it would be rolling the entire day, including a couple of serious climbs. We joined the Lake Champlain Scenic Byway as we left the ferry crossing & began climbing almost immediately as we briefly headed into a wooded area. As we reached the plateau, we rode through the small village of Shoreham, one of a number of English place names we’ve encountered since we entered the New England region.
In spite of there not being a town for miles around, we passed Lakeview Cemetery. It then took us 20 minutes to cycle past the nearest church, so it was an unusual location for a graveyard. We briefly joined the road to Bridport, before taking a right towards Cornwall – as I mentioned previously, there are a few English place names around here!
We stayed on a plateau for about 20 minutes with vast views laid out before us, but it became clear at some point soon we would be heading downhill, with the prospect of a climb up to the next plateau!
As we started climbing, we saw a sign for Lemon Fair Sculpture Garden. The sculptures were laid out in fields & stretched for as far as the eye could see. We spent about half an hour having a walk around some of the closer exhibits & enjoying the views.
While we were taking in the art, a group of horse riders galloped across the field & then stopped, as if they were awaiting instructions on what to do or where to go next. Although there were dogs with the horse riders, they didn’t appear to be hunting.
We left the horses & riders to carry on doing their thing & set off for Cornwall. We continued on quiet two lane roads with our first views of the Green Mountains – our big climb is one of the lumps in the third photo below. Passing through Middlebury, we saw our first cyclists few quite some time, they were out for the day & were attempting to navigate their way across town.
We took another quiet backroad out of town, where we saw another cyclist heading in the opposite direction, we exchanged waves as we passed each other. Just before our planned coffee stop I had to stop to take a photo of a sign to Bristol – over 5,500 miles cycled & finally I see a sign for my home town!
Otter East in East Middlebury was a great little coffee shop – I asked the assistant for advice on what one pastry I should try & quick as a flash she said her favourite was the lemon & poppy otter’s claw. I was sold & picked up a ginger cookie to go with my coffee – we had a big climb lined up after our stop & I didn’t want to be short of energy!! The pastry & the cookie were delicious.
Our big climb today is Green Mountain & it measures 10 miles in length, climbs 1,600 feet & has ramps up to 13% – it qualifies as a mountain in anyone’s language! I was acutely aware that I may experience some pain up this little beast, as Sean had declared this morning he planned to give it full beans & he’s also ditched his tent before today’s ride (which weighed about 4 or 5 pounds) now that we had motels booked until we reach Brunswick.
Since I lost 20 pounds or so, my riding has come on in leaps & bounds & I can now climb reasonably well – the thing is, Sean has always been a better climber than me, by a significant margin. I wanted to test myself, so decided I was also going to give it a full gas effort & deal with the consequences later! I made sure to take photos on the climb – this is an cycling adventure, not a race!
The two long, steep ramps were at the start & end of the climb. At the start, the road was being prepared for new tarmac, so we had to ride on a rough surface too. We both gave it all we had & finished together at the top in just under an hour, so I now know my climbing really has improved!
We stopped briefly at the summit to get our breath back & take a photo – although there wasn’t a proper summit sign, there was a Green Mountain sign of sorts. Now for my favourite part, the descent!
The first couple of miles of the descent were lightning quick & I hit 45mph at one point. A shout out to Chris Hancock, we passed through the town of your surname today – ironically it’s where I stopped for the man with big cockerel photo! Bob, fear not, a copy will be on its way to you as soon as I get back into phone coverage!!! 🙂
We have a number of mountains coming up in the last week – this is because we’re heading West to East & the glaciers that formed the valleys moved in a North to South direction. This is a repeat of what happened in Washington State, only the mountains here are at a lower altitude. I’ve come to like the mountains now I can climb them, as they provide some glorious backdrops.
As we were riding through the 3rd Rochester of the adventure (others were in Indiana & New York, now New Hampshire) we stumbled across The Rochester Cafe & Country Store, so decided to stop & see what they had to offer. Delicious ice cream was the answer – I had a double scoop of Maine Black Bear (cherry & chocolate in vanilla) & Black Raspberry!!
We ended up chatting to a lady who was a retired nurse & had worked at the Bristol Royal Infirmary during a 2 year spell of living in the UK. She’s hoping to meet up with some of the people she used to work with on a trip to South Africa – I’m keeping fingers crossed that she & all her friends are able to travel.
As we left town, we followed the White River downstream (we’re following it again tomorrow), which was great news as it meant the final 15 miles into Pittsfield were gravity assisted! It only took us about an hour to reach our hotel for the night.
We’d landed on our feet once again, as the Clear River Inn & Tavern was perfect – we had a room each, that was spacious & everything looked & behaved as if it was new – we had codes to get into the rooms, rather than keys. Breakfast would be provided in the morning & there was a great bar & restaurant on-site.
We toasted a glorious day in the saddle under blue skies & our good fortune with the hotel. There are now only 4 riding days of our adventure left, so I’m beginning to try & work out how I feel about the trip coming to an end, but in the meantime, I’m making the most of the time we have remaining.
Stage Stats – 58 miles, 4,573 feet of climbing. Cycling in the sun with an alpine climb thrown in for good measure.
Friday 26th August – Pittsfield to Fairlee (Stage 90).
We made the most of the Clear River Inn’s breakfast nook, helping ourselves to cereal, fruit & protein bars, as well as enjoying the coffee & juice on offer. A great start to what should be another big climbing day.
We were on our way by 9.30am (a slightly shorter ride today), under leaden grey skies – rain is forecast for late morning / early afternoon, so we’re expecting to get wet at some point today. We re-traced our tyre tracks the 5 miles back to Stockbridge, where we picked up the White River again & warmed up our legs on a couple of steep ramps that took us over some bluffs.
As we were descending one of the bluffs, we saw movement ahead of us, so slowed down – we approached a flock of game birds (partridge or grouse maybe?) that were teaching their chicks how to cross the road safely!!! It was quite a sight watching 20 to 25 birds running across the 2 lane road. They didn’t seem in any way phased by us riding past, they just looked on from the field.
A few locals have been saying that they are need of rain, as the rivers are all running dry – we saw this at first hand today, as we followed the White River valley. Most of the bed was dry, with just a small channel down the middle. The other observation was that the mountains were looking bigger, the further down the river valley we went!
I’m always on the lookout for something interesting, historical or just different & today we passed the birthplace of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their missionaries travel around the world spreading the word of the Mormon Church. I knew a little about them, as when I worked for a bank in a previous life many years ago, a number of their US missionaries used to come into the bank to cash their cheques.
There’s a 38 1/2 foot granite monument commemorating his life, but it was 2 1/2 miles away up a hill, so I settled for just taking a photo of the historical marker!
The sky was becoming darker & it clear that rain was on the way, so we picked up the pace a bit to try & reach Sharon before the rains arrived. We managed to make it the local gas station for coffee & processed cake just before the heavens opened, but only just!
It was bucketing down when we set off after our coffee stop, with thunder & lightning thrown in for good measure. The climb itself began with a couple of 13% ramps which quickly warmed us both up, but then it settled into a steady 5% to 7% gradient for about 4 miles.
There wasn’t a sign at the summit, so we simply rolled over the top, before hitting a 12% descent for 2 miles. In no time I was descending at about 45 mph, so concentration levels were 100% switched on. After a few miles the gradient eased & I was able to get a couple of photos – we were only doing a little of 20 mph, so had plenty of time to enjoy the steam rising off the trees, as well as pay attention to the road.
The British theme continued from yesterday, as we hit an East Anglian stretch today, as we headed through Thetford & close by Norwich.
We enjoyed a couple more short descents & were beginning to think the worst of the climbing was behind us, when Thetford delivered a cheeky little punch to the solar plexus – Thetford Hill had a name for a reason, it was a short, sharp & steep ramp that lasted for less than a mile, but hit 12% for a big chunk of it. We were relieved to reach the summit!
On the outskirts of Thetford we crossed the Ompompanoosuc River on the first Covered Bridge we’ve seen so far on our adventure. It was built in 1839 & measures 127 feet across. The road deck is wooden, although beneath the bridge there are now steel struts to give it some structural integrity.
At East Thetford we crossed the Connecticut River, taking us briefly into New Hampshire, although neither of us spotted a Welcome to New Hampshire sign. We followed the deserted River View Road along the edge of the river, spending about a mile on a good quality gravel road.
As we continued along the banks of the Connecticut towards Orford, we crossed our second covered bridge of the day & I stopped to get an action shot – yes, it was still raining & we were properly soaked through! As we reached Orford, we took a left turn, crossing the river back into Vermont & then making our way into Fairlee, where we’re staying at the Silver Maple Lodge this evening.
There was a laundry right next to the hotel, so we took the chance to do our last batch of washing before we reach the end of our cycling adventure. There was also a restaurant nearby too – for some reason I was starving this afternoon, so I went to dinner on my own at 5pm, about 2 hours earlier than normal.
I still toasted another adventurous day in the saddle – it’s a Friday & Beer Club traditions need to be maintained!!! Tonight’s offering was a Little Devil IPA. Here’s to a drier day tomorrow.
Stage Stats – 54 miles, 3,261 feet of climbing. The rains return!
Saturday 27th August – Fairlee to North Woodstock (Stage 91).
We had a late start today, as we only had a 40 mile ride to North Woodstock planned. We met for a continental breakfast at 9am, having already chatted about heading into town if we needed a more substantial meal. We met Linda & Brian, who were in town to see family – they come from just outside Boston. They were both really interested in our adventure, how we came up with the idea & our stand-out moments.
Linda has family from Salisbury & they had both visited the UK pre-covid & had been to Bristol & Bath during their trip. Linda said if we find ourselves in Boston we should look them up & they’ll put us up – another example of the incredible generosity of the people we’ve met on our adventure.
As we were saying goodbye to Scott (who owns the motel) he told us that he’d ridden Coast to Coast 50 years ag0, as a 22 year old. He then got out a large scale map with the route he’d taken – it was a real privilege to hear about his adventure! We’ve used modern technology all the way round, whereas Scott picked up a paper map of each State as he crossed the State Line. I was in awe of what he did.
It was about 11am by the time we left Scott & the Silver Maple Lodge, & after stopping for a breakfast of eggs, sausage & toast we were on our way under sunny, blue skies. Our first task was to get a photo in front of the Welcome to New Hampshire sign which instructed us to Live Free or Die just before we crossed the Connecticut River!
We rode close to the Connecticut River as we made our way along the side of the valley. Initially it was like being back in Wisconsin again, as we passed maize fields. Although the route didn’t show any climbing in the early stages, the reality was somewhat different, as we regularly found ourselves heading up & down undulations in the road.
Just before our final view of the river, I spotted a sign that reminded me of my friends Train Driver Jake & Helen Warren – it’s been fun looking out for signs that remind me of home
We were riding on Dartmouth College Highway – Dartmouth was chartered in 1769 & is one of only 9 colonial colleges which remain from before the American Revolution. It’s also the inspiration for the film National Lampoon’s Animal House, as one of the writers Chris Miller) was a member of Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house during his time there.
We saw a couple of touring cyclists as we reached Haverhill (which made me thing of The Proclaimers – I was havering myself at this point!). There was also what looked to be a Trump Evacuation Route towards Canada (zoom in on the image above the writing……).
We took a right towards The White Mountains & the climbing started in earnest – there was a steep ramp at the start of the climb, then it settled into a steady 4% to 5% gradient for the remaining 8 miles, as we climbed up to 1,300 feet above sea level. I’d popped off the front, so managed to get an action shot of Sean, just as he summitted the first of our 2 proper climbs of the day.
After a brief descent, we crossed the Ammonoosuc River & started the final climb of the day. It was a 5 mile climb, but it would only gain 800 feet of altitude.
We entered the White Mountains National Forest on the lower slopes, so had some protection from the sun as we headed past Wildwood Campground & State Park. The final drag took us up to Beaver Pond, where we stopped briefly to enjoy the view across the lake to the even taller peaks.
The descent was awesome. The long, sweeping bends didn’t require any braking, as the road was wide open, always offering big views all around. In next to no time we were on the lower slopes, freewheeling towards the small town of North Woodstock.
As we rolled into town we saw the Woodstock Pie & Coffee Company, which claimed the title of “Best Pie in New Hampshire”, so we had to try it out! I decided to go all in, so added some soft ice cream, to complete the taste test – it was a great piece of mixed berry pie & the ice cream was delicious too!
This is our last two night stop before we finish our big adventure, so we headed our for dinner, then stayed out a bit longer for a few beers too.
Stage Stats – 39 miles, 2,805 feet of climbing. Crossing into New Hampshire & finding some mighty fine pie!