Monday, July 27, 2009
Day 51 - Brattleboro, VT to Manchester, NH
1. next to the last: the penultimate scene of the play.
2. of or pertaining to a penult.
We entered New Hampshire today. 51 days ago, this day was so very far away. And now, it is here. Even better, my family was in New Hampshire today. I haven't seen my wife since Pueblo, CO on Day 20 and I haven't seen my kids, Kyle and Bethany, since June 6 when they took me to the airport! I had, in a word, motivation today!
I was the first to leave the hotel this morning. I have never been first to leave the hotel. As I rolled out of the parking lot, Chris called out, "Bob's on a mission today!" Well, in truth, I didn't plan to be out in front very long, but it was fun while it lasted. Within the first mile, we were at the New Hampshire state border. We all piled up taking out turns to get our photo. This one was special. It was our final state we would enter (at least officially, as tomorrow we have the opportunity to ride into Maine once we reach the shore of the Atlantic.) So, the photo required something special. I lifted it up over my head.
It's a good thing I did that early in the ride. Because the next 26 miles would suck the life out of me! New Hampshire is noted for not having the highest mountains, but rather for having the steepest roads. We would suffer on a few of them today. But first, we had some pleasant riding through Keene, NH. At the center of town is a tall, white church steeple. I would discover today that every town in New Hampshire has at its center a white church with a tall steeple. But, this one was particularly stunning.
Shortly after Keene, the suffering began, slowly at first, then building, like the crescendo in a musical score. Only the sounds I was hearing weren't musical by any means. They were the sound of my heart beating through my chest only slightly overcome by the sound of my lungs drawing in as much oxygen as they could find. Old Concord Road was first to beat on us for awhile, then the work was handed over to Sullivan Road. These roads are between 10 and 15% in grade. For you cyclists reading this, you know how steep that is. By the time I reached the end of Sullivan Road, I took a photo of the sign as a gesture to say, "You did not defeat me today!"
At the first SAG stop, it was 10 a.m. I had talked to Susie earlier in the morning when she was about a half hour outside of Manchester, NH. I estimated I would be at the second SAG stop in Francestown by Noon. Now I did the math. That was 35 miles away. I would have to average 17.5 mph for the next two hours to reach her in time. My average speed so far was... 12.0. I had my work cut out for me.
I would like to tell you what I saw over the next 35 miles. I took a few pictures. But primarily, I was hauling butt. I was cycling as fast as I could. The roads out of the SAG were downhill for a long section and I soared down them. We had to climb Pitcher's Mountain for about 6 miles. I stepped on the gas and climbed that silly mountain as fast as I could, sweat pouring down my helmet and onto my handlebars. I raced through the towns of Antrim and Bennington and Greenfield. By the time I pulled into Francestown, it was 12:20. My wife and kids had only been there for 10 minutes. Susie and Bethany were sitting under a tree when I pulled up and ran over to me. Kyle was asleep in the car. I had great joy in waking him up with, "Hey Kyle, wake up. It's your dad!" We kissed, hugged, (despite my sweatiness), and I proudly introduced my family to the other riders. Then we talked and ate while I caught my breath.
Susie and the kids drove to the hotel about an hour later and I resumed the ride, this time at a far more leisurely pace. So many of these towns are quaint, beautiful, they remind me of Port Gamble back on the Puget Sound at home. But whereas in Seattle, we only have a few towns this quaint, here, all of them are! The route was mostly wooded, with lush, green trees towering over our road. A stream followed us on the left for several miles. I could have easily stopped and sat in the middle of it for awhile. It looked that refreshing. As we pulled into Manchester, I looked to Leigh and Chuck who had been riding with me and asked if anyone was up for some ice cream before we reached the hotel. Nods all around.
We found an ice cream shop and gorged ourselves. One last time. Then I looked at the cue sheet and realized our hotel was two tenths of a mile away. We were done for the day. And what a penultimate day it was. Our evening was spent with a celebration barbecue dinner. Awards, humorous remarks, thanks and appreciation, and well wishes rounded out the evening. As I looked around the room, I vaguely recalled seeing these faces for the first time 51 days ago. They were strangers to me. Today, they are all friends. And friends I hope to stay in touch with, and preferably, ride with once again.
Tomorrow is our final day. We ride 61 miles to Portsmouth, NH and dip our front tire into the Atlantic Ocean. By noon on Tuesday, July 28, 2009, I will have completely bicycled across the entire length of the United States of America.
To view more photos from today's ride, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100577
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 3,926 (This ride was advertised as 3,850 miles. Through side-trips and extra miles, I've exceeded that. Now I plan to break 4,000 miles tomorrow!)
Cumulative Flats: 5 (Last one was in Colorado, I think!)
Elev Gain: 5,102 ft.
Max Elev: 1,953 ft.
Avg Climb: 3%
Max Climb: 15%