Day 3 | White Mountains Bike Tour
Loading all your gear onto your bike, via headlamp at 4:00AM, isn’t exactly what I’d call a “good morning”. But we had fallen asleep so early the night before (probably due to the beers), that it was only logical to start riding as soon as we awoke. Not to mention, the forecast was predicting a small window of no rain from 4-8AM. So that meant we could potentially finish the last 30 miles of the ride fully dry! And that would be a miracle since every bit of clothing I had brought, including my sleeping bag, was already soaked. And starting a morning ride by throwing on some cold, wet clothes is never good. Ahead of us, on our last day of the bike tour, was a the strenuous climb out of Crawford Notch. But once we completed that, it’d be smooth sailing. But that’s only in comparison to the previous two days where we knocked off 130 miles of riding and well over 6,000 feet of vertical climbing on the bikes alone.
With our headlamps and headlights illuminating the road in front of us, we pedaled out of the campground and onto Crawford Notch Road. Before the ride, I knew the elevation map and route like the back of my hand. But now, on day 3, 131 miles in; it all blended together leaving room for me to forget the last major climb on the trip. An 8.4% grade climb up through Crawford Notch at the base of Mt. Jackson. And like the first night, when riding in the dark, its impossible to see the hills ahead of you let alone when it will end.
With every stroke of the pedals, the morning sky got brighter and brighter. When we started riding, we could just barely make out the silhouette of the peaks that towered overhead. But when it got light enough out to see the grey definition in the clouds, it only appeared to get worse. Just like everything else on the trip, the weather didn’t go according to plan either. That dry weather window we thought we were going to get had other plans. Buckets of rain came pouring down on us as we crested the climb and rode into the notch. The rain didn’t take away the feat of this climb tho. Looking behind us on the road gave way to a beautiful valley covered in orange leaves and tall mountain peaks above. Since we were on the road so early, we were able to zig-zag our way up the steep sections on the climb, which were pretty much the whole thing.
The landscape opened up at the top, and we were once again riding among the mountains at 1,900ft. By this point, even though we were soaked, the stoke levels were at an all time high. To the right of us, the entire Presidential Range covered the horizon. Only three months prior, my girlfriend and I completed the entire 23-mile traverse across all 7 of the mountains in that range. A crowning achievement in my life. And at that point, the most difficult and incredible accomplishment I’ve ever had in the outdoors. But this bike tour was bound to take that top spot.
After descending into the town of Twin Mountain, at mile 147, a feeling began to hit me. Trucks kept whizzing by us on the narrow shoulder, spraying us with more and more water, and my left knee was still in excruciating pain. Yet, all of that sh!t, began to fade away. I began to feel a sense of sadness about what lay ahead of us. This ride wasn’t going to last forever, and it was going to end in a dozen miles. I’d just spent the last three days in the saddle of my bike, surrounded by incredible mountains, pedaling and climbing all day long; yet, I couldn’t think of a time I felt more alive. Riding a bike that weighed as much as mine did inevitably pushed me to my absolute limits, especially on every climb. But the rush I would get after cresting each hill, both large and small, made every pound I carried worth it.
Eddie waited up from me as we rolled past mile 158, at the Franconia Notch, since he rode way faster than me on the entire ride. He stopped on a bridge where we’d snap a few pictures together to commemorate the near end of our ride. Behind us, was another incredible pallet warm, red colored leaves. Of course, the selfies we captured didn’t capture the richness of the color due to the rain on the lens. Which pretty much goes without saying, the exact theme of the trip. Even though I couldn’t capture it, doesn’t mean I don’t remember each and every color. And as we passed by Echo Lake, at the foot of Cannon Mountain, more memories came through my head. The White Mountains seem to had been solely responsible for all of my favorite sufferfests over the past 3 years. Cannon Mountain was home of the Top Notch Triathlon that had beaten me down year after year. But that event, and my friends, kept me coming back year after year.
Like every other ride, backpacking trip, and hike, this bike tour would end the exact same way. Back at the car we where we started from. We rode down the bike trail, alongside the Pemigewasset River, and pedaled back into the parking lot. Our ride had finally come to an end, at mile 162. There wasn’t anyone there to congratulate Eddie and I, or have champagne to pop in celebration. The only thing that was there for us was the rain. Every foot of elevation we climbed, descended us back to the start. And like our bikes, the rain was with us on every mile along the way. Without any celebration, we quickly dismantled the bikes, stuffed them into Eddie’s SUV, and were driving home. I honestly didn’t know how I should have felt. Sure, I was beyond stoked to be out of the rain, but for those three days I was free on that bike. It was nothing but me and the road. No work, no responsibilities, just riding and the mountains. And the end of the tour meant it was back to reality for me. But I’ll always remember this bike tour, every mile ridden, every color of the leaves, every drop of rain, every ounce of pain and suffering, and every bit of fun that came along with it all!