290 Miles of Awesome: NH to CT by Bike
It started off with a passion for cycling, my rides were becoming farther and longer. I always had dream at the back of my mind to not only go all day on my bike but to go for days and days. Then a bad bike accident left my body broken and set the dream far away. After healing, my urge to ride for multiple days grew even stronger. My thoughts went to:
Where will I go?
For how long?
Where will I stay?
Can I do it alone?
How far can I go?
You can let these thoughts linger in your head for only so long until eventually I just had to do it and figure it out along the way. And that’s what I did.
I planned the trip 2 weeks out (ok so I’m a little spontaneous). I knew I had a ride up to Gorham, NH for an awesome company-wide 3 day camping/gear testing training event and then I thought to myself: “Here’s a great opportunity, I could ride my bike home!” It seemed to all come together at once, as soon as it was spoken, I had to make it happen. It was a stressful week leading up to it, not only did I have to pack for the training but I also had to pack for 5 days on my bike. I had close to a 300 mile ride home. With no prior bike touring experience 60 miles a day seemed realistic.
The training event was awesome! Set at the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road in Pinkham Notch with trail hikes/runs, paddle boarding, biking for free time. What an amazing company to work for, let me just say ALOT of time and effort are put into training events. Vendors, creators, engineers, owners, product developers, company reps come for all over the country to show you their outdoor gear. We get hands on testing and have access to full usage of the gear. This could be a whole separate story but let me add how lucky, proud and honored to work for the best company in the outdoor industry! What a one of a kind group of co workers, all like minded, enthusiastic and passionate about the outdoors and love helping outfit and educate our customers. We are real and authentic, you have to be to work here! At the end of training it was time. It started to set in, what have I gotten myself into? I was going to be riding my bike all day alone for 5 days! No turning back now!
1 cyclecross touring bike, 4 panniers (front and back)
lightweight solo tent
2 teckwick shirts (1 short sleeve 1 long)
2 pair riding spandex shorts (1 capri, 1 short)
2 pair socks (1 darn tough cycling, 1 smart wool phd cycling)
3 water bottles in cages on the bike
rain wear (marmot precip jacket and pants)
2 pair pearlizumi riding gloves (1 waterproof 1 fingerless)
1 skyla Giro helmet
Native sport sunglasses (clear lenses and amber)
toothbrush, quarters for showers at campgrounds, small shampoo and soap, sunblock, body glide
MSR pack light towel
petzel gizmo headlamp
bike light (front and red back light)
multi tool, 2 tubes, patch kit, 1 pump, lock, chain link
goal zero solar panel for charging electronics
cell phone, ipod, ipad
cliff shot blocks, bars and shots (favorite is mocha)
cash, credit card, photo ID
Left camp around 9am. As I rode away I became overwhelmed/emotional/anxious. I had waited so long for this experience and now that it was finally here I realized that maybe the reality of this would be much harder than the fantasy! I am on my own, steering my own ship, it’s all me! My story would be, I would be OK, I am strong, I will do the best I can, I will be safe, I can accomplish anything, people are good. My route had to be all back roads (yes, it was somewhat pre planned that morning) it took me through Jackson falls and into North Conway to my first stop for lunch at the Chef’s Market. Local favorite all house made super delicious food. I guess when you pull up on a touring bike all loading up people wanna know what you’re up to and where you’re headed. They give you all sorts of support and in this case owner Bryant set me off with a spinach pastry and fresh chocolate chip cookie for later, this was all right! Headed further down route 16 for a quick final tune up/adjusting at the best outdoor store ever, (thanks EMS North Conway!) Had a loose game plan for campgrounds, was surprised to find out there weren’t as many as I though there would be which I guess forced me to go a little further that I would have wanted on most days. I shot for Wolfeborro (by lake Winnapasakee) and rolled in around 5. Exhausted and surprised at how much slower moving riding is on a weighed down bike, I had gone 70 miles but it felt like double that! I was ready for bed already! Upon checking in I was told to leave my food at the front desk due to bears being spotted there that morning! My story was, I would be ok, I was safe, people were good. With no food at he campground I made up my instant oatmeal with cold water (left behind the stove to save weight) I was nice and cozy and went right out!
I was woken by the sound of rain on my tent. The 5 day forecast called for mostly sunny day with occasional rain but it was pouring! Thank goodness I had brought my rain gear. Broke down camp, my body physically felt ok and the bears didn’t get me! Another long day, was slow moving but again I took my time, I had all day. Stopped when I wanted, got lost a few times. I was at first against bringing any electronics , brought my ipad last minute and at these times I was sure grateful I had. The gps would show me right where I was, where the next campground was and how much further away it was. But it DID NOT show me where the hills were!!! With another 75 miles under me I pulled into Calef Campground in Chester NH around 5. They were full (ok, forgot it was a holiday weekend)! Luckily they made up a spot for me. Not even sure I was in an actual spot, kinda by the road in at a slant but hey, I had a place to sleep. Warm shower again, thanks to getting wiser on my ride I stopped ahead of time to buy my dinner for the campsite. Roast beef sandwich, pasta salad, chocolate dipped rice crispy bar and a nice cold Sam Summer!!!! Life was good!
Woke up actually feeling stronger, maybe mentally I knew I had to be because I knew I was in for a long day. I started heading southwest through Nashua (busy city but a nice paved rails to trails to the side). It was HOT and Humid! Crossed the boarder into MA! I was getting tired. Nice back country roads with farm after farm but the heat and hills were taking a toll on me. Cars were flying by with me sometimes having no shoulder at all. I got to a point where I started feeling dizzy. I pulled my bike off the road and broke down in tears. I cannot do this, what was I thinking? I don’t even know where I’m sleeping tonight. I need more water. I had started to cool off then before I knew it I picked up my bike and got back on it and started pedaling. My second wind had kicked in and so did major endorphins! My mood went from helpless to pure gratefulness to be where I was doing exactly what I was doing! I was approaching the outskirts of Worcester and was tempted for only about 10 seconds to pull into a Marriott staring me in the face. But I just couldn’t. I could do this without hotels, I had all the proper gear. That would have been too easy! It was a hard 26 more miles to Sutton Falls Campground, making my daily total on my hardest day 86 miles! Arrival time- 7pm!
Another full campground but 1 “no show” spot right by the lake waiting for me and a cup of homemade seafood chowder handed to me! The moon was full over the lake, sounds of a waterfall, a cool breeze, kids laughing, a game of bingo going on at the pavilion, friendly curious fellow campers, birds, crickets, showers, coffee, all was right in the world……..
With only 70 miles to go, and with my average, I was a day ahead of schedule! I could be in my own bed tonight! I was still feeling pretty good (aside from a few saddle soars). I packed up and before I knew it I was across the border in good ‘ol CT!!!! I took the nice scenic route 169 all the way into Norwich. I don’t know how but my legs kept moving! I had 12 miles to go. It all started to hit me the last 5 miles towards my house, I did it! I made it! I turned down my road, and into my driveway and broke down in joyful tears soooo happy to be home and that I had accomplished something big! So much bigger than me. I realized that it’s good to push yourself harder than you ever have before. How else are you going to feel those super highs (and lows?) You will and can find the strength if you dig deep enough. Any adventure out of your comfort zone is AWESOME and can be such an incredible experience! I hope my experience inspires you to truly LIVE your life, do what makes you happy.
The world is full of beautiful things. Be safe and live well!