We woke up to a hard frost that did not thaw until after 9am. Riding a bicycle in late October can be just as pleasant as riding one in June, but you only get a few hours a day to enjoy yourself. Tania left to go to work and we set off just before 10 am with 70 miles and the Green Mountains in front of us. We knew the sun would set at 6pm sharp. We would spend the day on Route 11 in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Maybe the months of riding had toughened us, or maybe we had scared ourselves with too much advance information, but the Green Mountains weren’t nearly as challenging as we expected them to be. We climbed for about five miles and the road leveled out and we were soon coasting and climbing, the hills small and manageable. We stopped in Londonderry to talk to John Wright of Taylor Farm (see separate post), then pressed on.
We were hungry by the time we reached the next town, Chester. The big disappointment of the day came when a bakery that we were counting on had closed. In the off-season in tourist areas, people often close on a whim. Just down the road was an old building with an interesting-looking café and two young women behind the counter. We ordered two lunch specials and two hot drinks, sat in two mismatched but interesting chairs, listened to pleasant music featuring a woman singing in a foreign tongue, and wandered around the racks of bulk nuts, vitamin supplements, and stones with words like “imagine” carved into them. Jim got into a conversation with one of the woman, who said that she was from South America, her husband was a shaman, and that every year they went to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota to encourage Native Americans to re-connect their ancient memories with the legends of South American tribes, because they were all the same thousands of years ago. Then we paid up: $28.
“That was a fantastic experience,” said Jim, with no trace of irony. “We’ve been Vermonted.” Earlier he had wondered aloud how all these people made a living. The Moon Dog Café gave us our answer. They sell $14 sandwiches to people like us.
We rode over a ridge and down into Springfield, a congested mill town that fortunately had bike lanes and a bike path. Then we crossed the Connecticut River and entered New Hampshire, and the next thirty miles were a slog along a busy highway and a really long commercial strip that ran from well south of Claremont to well beyond Newport. Fortunately route 11 had a wide shoulder, so we never were in danger, but the noise and anxiety of heavy traffic nearby took their toll. Clouds were thickening and the light was failing when we started up the west shore of Lake Sunapee. Sara had found us a two-bedroom cabin with a kitchen, so we ate in, watched satellite TV, and plotted the last two days of the ride. Rain was predicted.