Song of the day: The Weight by The Band.
The rainy night gave way to a sunny, pristine morning, and I made an unencumbered 5 mile roundtrip to pick up breakfast for me and my host from Peg’s, the local good eats spot. We had breakfast sandwiches on the porch, enjoying a slow morning, and I was given the beautiful gift of a ping-pong-ball sized piece of natural purple crystal to take home with me. I half thought I might take another day to rest there, especially after meeting Chet’s dog named Jack (“I said wait a minute Chester!”), and another named Daisy May, two lovey dogs who were happy to give kisses and receive pats. But before half of the day passed, I moved on and up over a few more steeps, and past Mt. Moosilauke on the eastern side.
Rural New Hampshire had some dreamy riding, routed past an alternating blur of farms and woods, rustic shanties, elaborate log cabins, and homey New England style capes. A woman ensconced in a bright orange hammock on her wrap-around porch indulged in a mid-afternoon nap, her resting mouth ajar, blissfully unconcerned about a potential black fly invasion. The smoky delicious campfire smell of a wood burning stove wafted through the air at various intervals.
By 5PM, the motorcycle traffic had picked up a bit, and I found an unattended fire department that had water (yay!), so I washed up and tucked in early behind the building, feeling content with my day’s sightseer pace and peaceful campsiste for the night. There was’t any ambient light, so I left half of the rainfly off and watched an amazing star-filled sky until my eyelids collapsed and cycling dreams came.
The next morning, my uncovered tent was a bit damp, as the fog had rolled in and covered everything with a milky mist. I packed up, picked off the ticks that had covered everything despite some pre-trip permethrin applications, and put my warm gear on to roll out pretty early on Sunday morning. From my top-of-the-hill vantage point, the valleys looked like bowls of milk, big green mountains with low clouds filling the concave lowlands. Everything was damp and cold and sticky for the first couple of hours, but by mid-day, the sun came out and made it a warmer sticky. We’d leisurely paddled out by eight, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the farm smells, passing lots of small family farms fronted by hand-carved wooden signs advertising raw milk, organic free range eggs, and artisanal cheeses.
We crossed the Connecticut River into Fairlee Vermont, our next state, and had a very overpriced diner breakfast, which was brought outside to me at the picnic table by a multitasking but attentive waitress. An older Vermonter with a fluffy white beard whose basic blue jeans held up by red suspenders came out to shake my hand and wish me luck on my journey. He said he was riding across the country on his motorcycle on route two, and offered to buy me breakfast if he ran into me again along the way.
Hugging the Connecticut River, a layer of cool came off the water and acted as natural air conditioning as the temperature picked up. Along a mile-long stretch of dirt road, a rare group of women cyclists were approaching on the other side of the street, and smiled and waved. In passing, one asked where I was going. My brain hesistated for a moment, recalculating my answer to that. Just a week or so ago, I’d decided to tell people I was going to Maine, but since I’d reached that checkpoint and was now westbound, I needed a new automatic response. But I still doubt I’ll get to Seattle by the end of August at my unhurried pace, and I have the happy attitude of lacking a big end goal or destination. I’m just going. So before they went totally out of earshot, “UmmmmmMMMMARS OR BUST!” and just laughed.
I saw big groups of people merrily floating down the river in inner tubes with coolers and oversized floppy hats, and thought that it looked so good I had a notion to ditch my bike on the riverbank and dogpaddling out to join them.
My bum was feeling the strain of a 50+ mile day in the saddle, and I was probably a little undernourished and sleepy, so I was glad that my early AM shoutout to Warmshowers host Thathcher had been approved. It was going to rain, and I thought it would be nice to have an evening indoors and let Petunia rest up. It was a little 5 mile ride off route to the address he gave me, and when I saw the correct number on the mailbox, I also observed a large black dog bounding down the driveway, barking and coming for me. ACK! Flashback to Kentucky! I pedaled past quickly and considered turning back to rogue camp in town. But Thatcher came over and assured me Stanley was friendly (and happened to be from Kentucky!). A skiier, cyclist, and mountain unicyclist (Vermunis!), Thatcher welcomed me into his home and grilled me the biggest, juciest, tastiest grass-fed-beef burger with a side of potatoes and onions, and pickles to boot! We chatted about some of his adventures and I learned that he’d been a bike tour guide, helping teenagers ride around New England on long self-supported trips, and was a professional polyglot, teaching both French and German at the high school level. The sweet home that he shared with his wife Julie was the perfect spot to watch a dramatic firefly lightshow before finally succumbing to the food coma.
It was a miserable downpour on Monday morning, but as Hallmark says, life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass but learning to pedal uphill in the rain. So we suited up to test out my used and/or borrowed raingear. Petunia insisted on sticking her head ot of the unbuttoned section of rainfly at first, but once her noggin was totally soaked, she gave in and curled up in her carrier to rest and wait out the weather. But in the 25 mile stretch to Rochester, VT, the precipitation had not let up much at all. Clammy and chilled, we stopped into a sweet cafe full of books to write and warm up for a bit. There is still a half of day left to ride, and where we’ll end up is yet to be determined. But we have hope that it will be somewhere dry-ish!