You may, or may not, have noticed that the starting point for today's ride is not the ending point of yesterday's ride. Call me a wimp — even though I've ridden over 3000 miles across the U.S. so far. Shortly after we woke it began raining fairly hard. Some folks might say I just don't like to get wet, but I think it's a safety issue, especially on unfamiliar roads with narrow shoulders. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. So, we waited a while, contemplated the options, then decided to drive a ways to wait out the rain and begin the ride later. I rationalized this in part by the fact that yesterday I rode about 40 miles north to Woodstock, before having to ride about 40 miles south to resume the route. And, I have miles to spare in hitting 2000.
We've come to understand that folks in New England really go all out decorating for Halloween. Many homes have figures in the yards, along with pumpkins and other fall and seasonal decor. We began to notice all along route 4 this morning figures, often fastened to signs or posts, but sometimes free-standing. Here are a couple.
There were a couple dozen of these figures in less than twenty miles. The one we really wished we'd been able to get a picture of was a figure on a bicycle, right next to the road. From a ways back one could swear it was a biker there.
With time to spare, we decided to stop for lunch. I'd tracked down a little brew pub just outside of New London. Here's their logo on a pint of Ragged Mountain Red Ale (I needed the carbs and sugar to fuel the ride).
It was a very tasty, hoppy beer and it helped wash down my PB (yes, peanut butter) and saracha burger. It may not sound great to you, but it was delicious. It came with some of the best sweet potato fries I've ever had. And, after Dee let me taste her corn and black bean chowder, I ordered a bowl of that as well. Now I had to ride, just to be able to still get into my bike clothes.
It was just seven miles to Andover and the beginning of the Northern Railroad Trail and as we drove there we noticed that the farther we got into New Hampshire, the more colorful the trees became. It was as if someone had turned up the color knob on our vision.
75% of today's ride would be on the Northern Railroad Trail, which is likely the best maintained rock rail trail I've been on.
I joined the trail at an old depot where one line of track was still in place. I thought I had waited out the rain, so I rolled up my light bike jacket and stuffed it into my bike bag. Just after I began pedaling I noticed I was feeling rain drops, so a short distance down the trail I pulled out the jacket and put it on. At about that same point I realized that one doesn't have to go far in New England to find a covered bridge. Here was yet another, right along the trail.
Less than five miles on, the sun broke through and I was getting too warm in the jacket, so it went back in the bag. Of course, that wasn't the end of the rain. But I only got a few sprinkles before it stopped.
All along the trail their were old stone mile markers. I took this photo especially for our friend Kris Molesworth, who likes the typography on mile markers. I think this one has likely been painted over in more recent times.
There was also this sign.
"You know how to whistle don't you...?"
Here was one mysterious structure along the trail.
A Druid ritual site? The foundation of a round barn? No, it's apparently part of the structure of an old railroad turntable, but it even has historians a bit baffled, according to this sign.
There was often water along side the elevated trail. Sometimes it was a marshy area with lots of cattails, later in the ride it was the Merrimack River running alongside. This was Webster Lake, viewed through the trees.
I wasn't listening to music or a book again today. Instead I was absorbing the atmosphere of a great fall day in New England (in spite of a little rain). It also gave me time to think about how difficult it must have been to build this railroad, slicing through the wilderness, elevating the track, the immense amount of planning and effort it must have taken.
I also enjoyed seeing more ground squirrels per mile than I've seen in the entire trip. Perhaps more in this 21 miles on the trail than the entire trip total up till now. There were also a fair number of tree squirrels scampering across the trail. Except for some birds, that was the extent of the wildlife seen today. I did find myself wondering what I'd do if I met a moose on the trail. It is, after all, moose country and we've seen moose crossing signs on the roads (how do the moose know where to cross?). Alas, no moose.
I did have one jarring encounter with a dog. Just a few miles from tonight's campground I was riding on the edge of a road with no real shoulder and quite a bit of traffic. I could hear a dog barking very close to me, but couldn't quite place where the sound was coming from. It kept getting nearer and I thought it might be chasing me. Just then I looked to the side and I was nearly face to snout with the culprit, head out of a passing car window. Fortunately I didn't run off the road.
After leaving the trail I had about 9 miles of a rolling, uphill ride to the campground. It was a fairly pleasant ride, except for some heavy traffic. It was nearly 4pm on a Friday, holiday weekend, afternoon, so I imagine there were a lot of folks heading home from work, or already out "leaf peeping."
Ride Day Thirty by the numbers:
32 — miles ridden
803.8 — feet in elevation gained (more than half in the last nine miles)
3145.67 — calories burned
3 — fall-free days
1 — dog (see above)
many — stuffed roadside Halloween figures