The best commute on the planet

Cycling
The best commute on the planet

If you’re one of the millions of people who absolutely hate their daily ride to and from work, I understand. I’ve worked in Boston and lived on the north shore, so I know what it’s like to go from 70mph to zero in seconds because somebody tapped their brakes. For the past five years, I’ve absolutely loved my commute and I know how lucky I am to say that.

Not a typical commute day, but there's no shortage of adventure to be had in the Monadnock Region.

My house in Keene, NH is 28.4 miles from the Eastern Mountain Sports corporate office in Peterborough, NH. On a really busy day, I’ll see a grand total of 50 cars on my way to or from work. I know because I’ve counted. I’ve counted because I can – no traffic jams, no sudden stops, no idiots cutting me off – just 28.4 miles of some of the prettiest scenery in southern New Hampshire. Until this year, I’d enjoyed my 40 minute ride to work from the comfort of my car. This year, I’ve made the trip several times on the road bike I bought back in April.

My 2011 Masi Partenza which I have affectionately named Mario.

It’s such a beautiful ride, I decided to make the trip on a recent day off so I could snap a few photos along the way and share them in the hopes of inspiring you to give bike commuting a try or to visit the Monadnock region to enjoy the awesome riding we have out here. If you’ve never been to this part of New Hampshire, it’s name is a predictable tribute to Mount Monadnock, one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world. In addition to freakishly unpredictable weather that can feature pouring rain in Dublin and brilliant sunshine five miles away in Peterborough; the Mondadnock region is loaded with a regular array of elevation changes of varying intensity that make for spectacular riding. It’s as if Mount Monadnock is the large, single drop in a pool of water and the rest of the area is the ripple effect.

You’ll experience this ripple effect pretty much the moment you ride out of Keene from Washington Avenue and turn right onto Route  9 heading towards Concord.

The climb to 9 is followed by another climb and then a steady descent past the Granite Gorge Ski Area and Sullivan General Store. As you begin the next uphill section, you’ll see one of the signs that always brings a smile to my face:

To illustrate the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the Monadnock region, The Apple Valley Center for Chamber Music is located just a few miles up the road from Herb’s Taxidermy Service. Visitors to this part of New Hampshire can find a motorcycle poker run or classic car show just as easily as they can take in world-class theatre at the Peterborough Players or see Bill Cosby at the Colonial Theatre in Keene. There’s something for everyone in this area but if you hike or ride here in October, be sure to wear orange so Herb’s customers see you coming.

This long climb winds above Granite Lake. To save yourself some effort, take the exit on the right, turn left at the stop sign and follow the bumpy road past Granite Lake before reconnecting with Route 9.

As you continue along Route 9, you’ll climb and descend a total of four significant hills before you reach the most picturesque portion of the ride to Peterborough which has the potential to see a lot more than just beautiful scenery.

I have not been fortunate enough to have seen a moose on any of my rides to work but several of my co-workers have. Moose, no. Black bear, wild turkeys, deer, fox, rabbits, and coyotes, yes. The wildlife in this area can turn any ride into a story you’ll tell for years.

If you don’t see any moose to your left, shift your eyes right as you crest the next short incline and sneak a glance at the most captivating manmade structure you’ll see on Route 9.

I’m fascinated by old, abandoned houses so I love driving by this long forgotten Sugar House each day. I have no idea what the story is behind this weathered old structure but now that I’ve posted this photo, I feel obligated to do some research for a future post. All I know is that I’ve spent the last five winters wondering if this is the year the bowing roof finally caves in. The ’08 Ice Storm couldn’t take the Sugar House down so I have a feeling it will be defying the laws of physics for at least another decade.

The right turn for 123 East is located a few miles past the Sugar House and takes you down the smoothest and most enjoyable stretch of road on the ride to Peterborough.

You'll pass this sweet pond about 2 miles after you turn onto 123 – note the beaver lodge on the left and be on the lookout for the snapping turtle that likes to sun himself on the side of the road. He's big enough to be seen from a safe distance which I recommend maintaining.

The winding road is largely flat at the beginning with only a few small hills that can be fairly easily climbed without shifting to your baby gear. As you approach Hancock, the road becomes a gradual decline where you can coast along at 30mph for well over a mile before you reach “downtown” Hancock.

I snapped this photo from the parking lot of the Hancock Market where I also refilled my water bottle and crushed a pack of Clif Shot Blocks which I absolutely love whenever I need a boost of quick energy. Gummy Bears are one of my favorite candies and that’s what these Shot Blocks remind me of. They’re pretty tasty and are a much more enjoyable (if slightly less portable) alternative to gels in my opinion.

From Hancock, you continue on Route 123 past historic homes of all shapes and sizes and a small sheep farm that is always fun to drive by while listening to the Boston traffic reporter babble about the Mass Pike being backed up to the Newton tolls.

A right turn onto 202 takes you into the home stretch and in three miles’ time, you’re at the corporate “base camp” of Eastern Mountain Sports.

If you’re here on a weekday, pop into reception and tell Lisa that “Jim sent you.” Lisa will have a little something you’re sure to appreciate on the ride back to Keene or wherever you decide to go next. If I’m in the office, I’ll be happy to stop down and give you a few more tips and must-ride loops to hit while you’re in town. The same goes for the staff of our Peterborough store who love riding in this area every bit as much as I do. Have fun out there!

 

Jim Darroch


Jim's love for the outdoors began with family camping trips in "Brady Bunch" style canvas tents and progressed to backpacking adventures with the Boy Scouts. In 2007, he fulfilled his teenage dream by joining Eastern Mountain Sports as Brand Communications Manager. When he's not in the office, you'll find Jim kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout New England with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski.

4 Comments

  1. Jim Darroch
    September 4, 2012, 8:45 am

    Thanks, Kyle. Yes, bike commuting is a lot less stressful without traffic. Believe me when I say that I know how lucky I am!

  2. Kyle O'Sullivan
    August 31, 2012, 10:39 am

    Jim,

    I’m envious of your commute! I work in Boston and live southwest of the city. I’ve been bike commuting into the city a couple times a month this summer. While I enjoy the ride, its nothing like the scenery in the Monadnock region. You live and work in a great area.

  3. Jim Darroch
    August 23, 2012, 2:54 pm

    Thanks, Aaron. That DC traffic is some of the worst I’ve seen so I feel for you. While winter always kicks the stress level up a few notches, I really do love driving to and from work every day. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

  4. Aaron Rudolf
    August 22, 2012, 7:59 pm

    Jim,

    I enjoyed reading the story of your commute. I spent my childhood in Keene (Swanzey actually) and lived in NH most of my life, so I agree that the Monadnock region is a great place to be for the reasons you’ve described. Your commute definately beats the city commute, especially Washington D.C. which I find myself in about once a month. I may need to look at putting “upgrade commute” on my to do list.

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