Thursday, September 29, 2016

Plymouth Ramble

My birthday was last week, and as much as I hate growing older, I do enjoy getting presents. This year I was given a couple great books highlighting some really cool rides in New England. The other day we decided to check out one of the rides from the book Road Biking Northern New England by Sandy Duling. It is a guide to the greatest bike rides in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. I have to tell you, the rides in Maine look truly exceptional. I'm hoping to get one or two done before the cold weather sets in.

We chose the Plymouth Ramble for our first ride together from the book. My girlfriend did the Enfield Ramble last weekend which is another more local ride from the same book. I still need to go check that one out too. We headed out to Plymouth kind of later in the day than we typically do when taking off on our little adventures. But we had some engagements in the morning and then needed to fuel our bodies for the almost 25 mile bike ride we would be doing. So we arrived at Rhino Bike Works in Plymouth around one-thirty or so.

The book's author describes the ride as having gently rolling terrain. This is mostly true, but there are a couple steep ascents and descents, after all, this is New Hampshire. She also describes the shoulders of the road as ranging from minimal to spacious. This is also mostly true. Luckily the route does take secondary roads and traffic was pretty light. If you are new to road cycling parts of this ride may be a little sketchy, so be careful.

The route is pretty easy to follow. Basically starting at the Rhino Bike Works and heading north on 3 for a little over eleven miles, then making a right over the Pemigewasset River. The river crossing here is really pretty. Make a right onto 175 toward  and through Campton. Remain on 175 southward to Blair Road and make a right. There is a nice little downhill section down Blair Road to what may be the highlight of the ride, the Blair Bridge. This old bridge is the largest covered/wooden bridge I have seen so far. After crossing the river, make a left on 3 and head back to the bike shop to finish the ride. Or keep going its up to you.

Personally, I think I will go knock out the Enfield Ramble. I can't let my girlfriend complete more of these rides than me.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Birthday Bike Ride - Hampton Beach

The day before my birthday we headed out for another gorgeous New Hampshire bike ride. This time we went to the coast and road from Hampton Beach up to Odiorne State Park via the 1A. There and back totals nearly thirty miles making it a good ride for us as we can shoot down to the coast, ride and get back to our part of the state at a reasonable time. The ride along the 1A is pretty amazing as far as the scenery goes. Most of the road offers a pretty good shoulder. There are some spots where it gets a little tight, but the speed limit is usually low and drivers are generally courteous this time of year.

Post-Labor day, and being a weekday I was surprised at the number of people visiting the beach. There was still plenty of parking though, so it was no big deal. The beach here is very wide and the waters are really clear. There was ample room to toss a Frisbee, football, or even fly a drone.

The weather was fabulous, maybe a touch on the warm side, but otherwise great. Most days since I've moved to New Hampshire have been really nice up to this point. I'm sure that will change in the near future, which is why we have been trying to take advantage of what's left of the nice weather. I wonder if my blog will get updated more frequently when old man winter arrives. 

For this ride there is not much climbing, so I broke out the trusty Scrambler fixed gear, which does not see much use where I live in the mountains. It was nice to ride fixed again mostly effortlessly gliding along the scenic coast with my best friend. 

We rode the almost fifteen miles to Odiorne Point State Park. We had a small picnic in this park which has some interesting history. Initially the land was the summer home of native Americans. Later colonists made it their home. Then in 1942 the government bought all the land and used it as a coastal defense in world war two. The evidence of this is all around if you look closely. The park is a great place to stop and refuel and really take in the great views.

We turned around and made our way back along the scenic coast to Hampton Beach. Here we took a nice stroll and looked at all the closed shops and stores. They really close the place down after Labor Day. We did find a restaurant that was open and had a great view of the beach from their rooftop deck seating, the Sea Ketch. Here we enjoyed a well earned and tasty lunch. Of course after our great meals of lobster roll and fried oysters, it was time to head back to the mountains. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Quick Spin on The Rail Trail

It was a little bit chilly this morning in Lebanon for someone who just migrated north from the almost tropical summer weather of North Carolina. So after letting the sun warm things up a little I headed out to a nice cloudless, crisp 47 degree morning. At first I thought it might be too cold for shorts and a long sleeve tee shirt. That first descent was a bit chilly. But once I started spinning the pedals I warmed up nicely.

The weather turned out to be just another perfect New England late summer day. I made my way into Lebanon, and then hit the rail trail. We had a little rain yesterday morning so I was worried it may have been too muddy. Turns out it was really great. I think some rain and then almost 24 hours of drying out makes the trail kind of packed down. The last time I rode on the trail I felt like my tires were constantly sinking in to the sandy, deep gravel parts. Today was different, the ground below my tires felt much more firm and confidence inspiring. I think I even managed four personal records on Strava, woop woop!

The rail trail to me, is the most enjoyable on weekdays when every one else is at work or school. You almost feel like the whole trail is yours for the day. Once you get a few miles out of Enfield, things really thin out and quiet down. My trusty Trek 520 carried me along faithfully again today for 30 miles. I have just over a thousand miles on that bike now. I anticipate I will be putting many more on it. Its a great platform for a day of riding.

I stopped in at the Meadow Lounge thinking I could grab a mid-ride beer; no luck though. They only open at 4pm on Thursdays. But maybe tomorrow I will ride by there and check it out. But more likely I will do a different ride since I just did a good chunk of the rail trail today.

I was able to snap a few photos today too. It will be interesting to get some more to see the progression of the leaves turning color. After turning around at about the fourteen mile mark, I headed back to Lebanon. I stopped in for lunch at the Village Pizza since I burned a few calories out on the trail.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Island Line Rail Trail - You Gotta Do it!

Monday night we were planning our next adventure which would take place on Tuesday, since we both had the day off. Somehow my girlfriend stumbled across this ride on some Island Line Rail Trail. At first I was thinking, "yea sure, another rail trail, cool I guess". Then she showed me the pictures, and I was blown away. After those images, I was pretty stoked to check this ride out. This particular section of rail trail goes several miles out into Lake Champlain, the nations sixth largest lake. During the summer there is a bike ferry that will take you across "the cut" a 200 foot gap in the Colchester Causeway to South Hero and Grand Isle. After Labor Day it only runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until October 10th.

We headed out Tuesday morning and headed to Airport Park. The drive from New Hampshire was really pretty. We found the park pretty easily and headed out to the trail. The weather was pretty much perfect and we were enjoying the start of the trail even if there was some loose gravel and I was sliding along with skinny tires on my fixed gear. After a short ride through some wooded area and gentle hills, the trail suddenly opens up to the lake. It really is a sight to behold as you begin to realize the scope of the monumental effort it must have taken to build this thing way back in 1900.

As we effortlessly tooled down the trail we kept thinking it might have been all downhill, but I kind of knew better. The wind was pretty stiff. I even saw some waves crashing against the causeway that reminded me of ocean waves hitting a rock jetty. I was really surprised with the size and beauty of Lake Champlain. The lake is filled with cool looking islands surrounded by crystal clear waters. When we arrived at the cut, we noticed the ferry was not in service. I halfway thought it may have been due to the wind, but realized it is post-Labor Day and that is the more likely reason. We grabbed a few pics, and headed back. But then I noticed this pretty good sized sailboat headed right to the causeway at a pretty good clip. It looked like he was going around 15-20mph. I stopped to see what might happen. I didn't think he would be approaching the cut with his sails out and moving that fast. But sure enough he shot right through it towing his inflatable dinghy as well.

On the way back toward Airport Park we were confronted by an angry headwind. It was really brutal on my fixed gear too since I have been really accustomed to riding with multiple gears lately. I constantly found myself reaching down for a barend shifter like on my Trek 520 I have been riding usually. I was really mashing the pedals to get through the wind and back into the relative calm in the more woodsy section of the trail. Once there we made pretty good time back to the park.

We stopped to use the restrooms there and refill top off our water bottles. We did this because it was only like three and a half miles out to the cut and we still had a lot of gas in our tanks, so decided to continue on to Burlington. Across from the park, the trail does indeed continue on to Burlington which is only a few miles away. In between the park and Burlington is an amazing little beach too. Actually I think there were a couple of them. But we stopped at a really nice one.

We made it into Burlington and stopped in at Foam Brewers. This place is a pretty cool little brewery with good beers and a cool atmosphere. We also had a killer cheese and salami plate. After indulging ourselves a little we hit the waterfront, to check out the views and grab a couple more photos. Burlington seems like a really cool place. I think we will definitely be doing the rail trail again and checking out more of Burlington in the future. The islands in Lake Champlain will be neat to check out too.

If you go maybe these links below will be helpful:
Bike ferry info
Island Info

Friday, September 9, 2016

NBD Part Deux - Lebanon to Lyme

Today was another glorious day for cycling through the New Hampshire countryside. So far all the riding I have been able to do has been absolutely amazing. But today was even more amazing as I had the rare treat of the company of an amazing woman. Last night and this morning we were thinking about where to head off for a nice ride today. We considered a couple options, the Northern Rail Trail, the Upper Valley Trails Loop, etc, but then we decided on Lebanon to Lyme. I did most of the same ride a few days ago and was blown away by the fun I had on some of the climbs and descents in between Hanover and Lyme on NH route 10. So we decided on that route with the only real plan being to ride to Lyme. I missed the turn off on E Thetford Rd the last time I came through and was looking forward to at least identifying it for future rides.

Man my girl can really fly on her new bike. I'm so used to being waaaay ahead, it is really great to turn back and see her right on my wheel sometimes even when I've been mashing it pretty good. At one point I saw someone gaining on us just outside of Hanover. I don't think either of us particularly enjoys getting smoked by some senior citizen (and there's plenty of badass ones around these parts) so I hammered down. Just as sure as ice cream melts in the sun, there's my beautiful lady right behind me at the bottom of a pretty fast descent. The pursuing cyclist was not in sight.

After making it to Lyme we stopped at the church/old cemetery for a quick drink of water and then turned back toward E Thetford Rd. I wasn't really planning on exploring it, but while we were stopped we looked at google maps and decided we could take E Thetford Rd to River Rd and then take that back out to route 10 to return to Hanover and finally to Lebanon. So we mounted up and we were off once again with nothing but new roads and new adventures ahead.

Sometimes I like not having a solid plan or at least being flexible with my plans and in doing so, often times the unexpected detours are a real treat. Today was one such unexpected detour that just couldn't have been any better. Route 10 between Hanover and Lyme is not bad riding whatsoever, but there are sometimes a lot of cars moving pretty quick. So when we detoured down E Thetford Rd things started getting quieter real quick. We even saw the cows we had been smelling since we rolled into Lyme. there was some light traffic on E Thetford Road, but we quickly made our way to River Rd and hung the sharp left at the bottom of a hill to access it.

I was a little worried when we did turn left onto River Rd because there was a sign saying "Road Closed .10 mile" I thought to myself though, "Heck, it's only a tenth of a mile and I'm on a bike that has been through closed roads before." Sure enough about a tenth of a mile into the road it is indeed closed to vehicular traffic by some large concrete barricades. I'm not really sure why it is closed, because the road actually seemed fine. There was ample space between the barricades to fit a bike through, so we continued right along. River Rd is almost a cycling utopia due to the very light traffic, the rolling hills, the great scenery, and well, you get the idea.

There were some hills but they seemed much more rolling than the ones we either toiled up or screamed down on route 10 on the way to Lyme. Some of the houses along the river are just amazing. There are some frequent great views of the river and the mountains surrounding it during the ride along River Rd. Some places are very peaceful and quiet. We even stopped for a few minutes right on the side of the road for a quick Rip Van Waffle and photos of the river. A few miles later we even saw a deer. It was as though it wasn't even afraid of us. I stopped and tried to get my camera out, but as soon as I did it fled away into the cover of the woods.

At the end of River Rd there is a pretty good climb back up to route 10. We hooked a right and climbed and cruised our way back to Hanover. Then was the part both of us weren't too keen on...the climb back to Lebanon. It wasn't too bad though and we dispatched the climb without too much difficulty. It was a little warm out, but I'm not complaining because I have an idea we're in for the coldest winter of both of our lives this year. So we better enjoy the warmth while its here. But I have no doubt we're truly going to enjoy and make the most of what New Hampshire has to offer.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NBD for the Lovely Lady

Yesterday my girlfriend decided it was high time for a new bike. The old Trek mountain bike she has been riding since we met over a year ago has served her well, but it is in need of some help at this point. When we first came to New Hampshire we rented some Trek 7.2 fitness bikes for a ride on the rail trail. We both enjoyed riding them and now that it was time to score a new ride she went with what she knows. Its a really sweeet aluminum frame bike with more racy geometry than her old mountain bike. Needless to say its a little tougher to leave her in the dust now.

After we picked it up, we headed out on the Northern Rail Trail for a little cruise to test drive her new whip. She was gliding effortlessly down the trail on her new ride all the way to Mascoma Lake. It was here that we decided a break and Rip Van waffle were in order so we stopped at one of the benches on the side of the lake. At this point, mother nature decided to throw us a curve ball and it started drizzling. No big deal we thought. It loooked like it might pass right by and the radar said there wasn't even anything in the area. As we sat there chatting and enjoying each others company the rain started to pick up. It was really starting to rain at this point. We had talked about diverging from the rail trail and going over the bridge to look at houses, but we also thought about heading back to Lebanon due to the rain. For some reason when we did get going I started heading back to Lebanon. As the rain started to let up, I asked where the turn off for the bridge was because we were almost at the end of the lake. My girlfriend politely pointed out that if I wanted to go across the bridge we would need to turn around.

So we turned around and made a right by the Shaker Village Sailing Club and then a left on Main St to cross the lake. It was my first time diverting off the rail trail and the ride across the bridge was pretty nice. There's actually a bike lane going across. After crossing the bridge and going by the beach we made a right on 4A and rode by the cool lakeside homes. We followed 4A to the end of the lake and made a right on Payne Rd where we had to take a little goat path to get back on the rail trail. No big deal though. It was a great ride with a lovely lady and even the rain couldn't dampen the spirit of it.

I've found several other great road routes in the last weeek or so that I will be sharing soon so stay tuned. New Hampshire still has a lot of great cycling to offer me and my girlfriend it seems.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New Hampshire - Great Place for Biking

A couple of weeks ago I relocated to the granite state - New Hampshire. While I will certainly miss the great riding I did while living in North Carolina, I'm finding New Hampshire to be very accommodating to the avid cyclist. There are some great country roads out here and even a really long rail trail. So far the weather has been perfect, but I realize that will change. It is much more hilly here in the mountains than where I was in North Carolina.

I have only rode my fixed gear one time since moving here, and that was at the beach. I will miss riding my fixed gear around Raleigh with the great friends I have there. But my trusty Trek 520 is getting the job done without any trouble so far. I've already done a century on the rail trail, a shorter ride on the trail, a beach ride with my lovely gal, and completed the upper valley trails loop.

It's exciting to find yourself in a brand new place with new rides and routes to enjoy. The scenic mountains, rivers, and lakes don't hurt either. I'll try to document the best rides and routes I find here in future posts, so check back soon.

Grafton Rail Trail - Mascoma Lake Fog
Another cool thing about the northeast is that several states can be reached in a relatively short drive. So it will be nice to check a few more states off the list of states I've rode in. I typically work on weekends so I get to go for rides when no one else is out. It is kind of nice because you have less traffic on the roads, less cyclists on trails, and parks tend to be empty.

Kilowatt Park - Hartford, VT
Check back later for more posts detailing some great rides in New Hampshire and other places.