Another day begins with me waking up well in advance of the alarm clock, but fortunately this time not 4 hours before, just the one… Still, that close to get-up time it’s hardly worth going back to sleep, so I got up and showered, then caught up with events at home whilst packing my bags and getting ready for the off. But today is a late start, with a meet in the hotel lobby at 8am, followed by a short walk to the “Topic of the town” café for breakfast. Which took a while, as this is an old-school “mom and pop” place, with a great, cheap, menu and home-cooked food. The “two eggs over easy on toast with sausage links and an English breakfast tea” was very good, although as is often the case in the US, I couldn’t get my order in without being asked a question (in this case, I asked for the sausage but forget to mention links as they also do patties!). It was therefore quite late by the time we got on the bikes and started rolling, but with only 259 miles to do today that wasn’t a problem.
The ride out of town was beautiful, the old white wooden church building resplendent in the weak sunshine from the overcast sky. Once clear of town we had a nice gentle winding ride on roads bordered by trees that changed from deep greens to bright orange and made our way up towards the mist-covered hillsides in the distance. Gradually we gained altitude and the temperature dropped from a reasonable high-60’s (Fahrenheit, I’ve still not fathomed out how to change the bike’s external temperature display to Celsius!), to mid-50’s. Enveloped by mist it looked like the ride up Mount Washington would be in poor visibility, but that didn’t prove to be the case. Once we’d paid at the entrance ($17 and I had to copper-up and use all my loose change or break another $100 bill) we started the ascent, up the steep, narrow and very twisty road that leads to the summit. With Aaron leading, and the pace set to ‘very slow’ to ensure we all made it, we rose up into the clouds and then after a short section of dirt road emerged into bright sunshine the other side, with the clouds below surrounding the mountain like a blanket of cotton wool. At the summit we parked the bikes and took lots of pictures then walked up the wooden staircase to the very summit where there is a gift shop (another fridge magnet!), a sign proclaiming this is the spot with the highest wind-speed ever recorded at a manned weather station – a staggering 213 miles per hour! – and a museum with the story of the weather station that’s been manned here since 1932. It must be very bleak, especially in Winter when the temperature drops well below freezing and the scientists have to venture out in 90mph winds to break the rim ice from their instruments with crow-bars!
After the obligatory group photo (which I’ll steal once it’s been posted to FaceBook) we got back on our bikes and headed back down, surrounded by fantastic views up until we descended into the clouds. Eventually we emerged below the clouds, now under an overcast sky and continued on our merry way riding in formation on roads that weaved gently through the trees interrupted only by the occasional town. The road signs provided some entertainment, particularly the one that read “Peru 5 Mexico 1” – at first I thought maybe this was a football score, then realized it was simply the distance to small towns with big names!
After a stop for fuel and to grab a snack for lunch, we continued on, the ride totally relaxed and the passing scenery sufficiently interesting to make the ride very enjoyable. The downside was that riding in a group meant that when we caught up with a slightly slower moving vehicle we ended up following it for mile after mile, the pace slower than ideal, interrupting the rhythm of the ride. A section of interstate for 70 miles just before the town of Milford and our motel for the night meant the ride didn’t end as well as it had begun, the monotony of the interstate dulling the senses sufficiently for me to notice the odd ache and pain from another long day in the saddle. But the motel is nice, next to the river and only a short 30-minute walk from the BoomHouse pub, which has a trivia quiz every Wednesday. This was planned, as last time Aaron led a group on this trip they came second in the quiz, and with Jeremy the current 3-time trivia quiz champion at home, and a team of 10 including an architect, a doctor and several other highly intelligent professionals (plus me!) we were in with a good chance of taking the top prize! Only that proved not to be the case at all, as the questions were ridiculously obscure (and very American-culture focused, ruling me out even more than usual!), meaning we actually finished joint last. Hey-ho, at least the local beer (Wolf Pup IPA) and the chicken salad were excellent!