As a cyclist, the hills have not always been my friends. Near mortal enemies possibly as they have tried to kill me on many occasions. But mostly we maintain an uneasy truce if I don’t ignore them for too long.
I had a beautiful ride planned for my just completed vacation, but circumstance would not allow me to do it. No complaint, just the facts. But there was one section I wanted to do anyway, down through Crawford Notch to the site of the Willey House and back up through the notch, which was not far from where we were staying. It’s a signature bit of climbing through the history of the place, with beautiful views and cascades along the way. I felt I owed it to myself.
A little ways down the road from where we stayed is a short climb, 7% or so, and after climbing that bit you come to the sign below. You can see the drop off in the picture:
But note the sign warning truckers. Okay thinks I, no worries about that. What’s ¾ of a mile anyway even at a decently steep grade? As you come to the end of that ¾ of a mile section you continue to fall into the Notch (as they refer to these steep, glacially carved valleys in New Hampshire) at ever increasing speed you see this:
That’s right. 4 miles of 13%. And my only thought other than a McEnroesque “You cannot be serious!” was “How like my friend Jenni. Not that all my cycling friends haven’t told me the same thing at one point or another… namely “No worries, we’ll go this way, it’s flat.” when flat is the last thing it is. But Jenni especially, either because we’ve done a ton of riding together over the years, or because she has little sense of direction, or something, is the king of “No worries, we’ll go this way, it’s flat.” when it sooo isn’t.
In the past I would have grabbed two fists full of brake and reduced the damage to a minimum. But I live in hilly area, and I now ride those hills all the time. And the hills and I are no longer mortal enemies although they still wear me out. So down I plunged enjoying the crisp air, the beautiful views, and the sunshine. Turned around down the road, as I intended, and rode back up the Notch.
As I climbed I got a fist pump from some nice woman in a car. I had a brief conversation with a vacationing family that runs a bike shop somewhere. Joked, for a few short yards, with a construction manager who was working on the road (and walking up the side of it as he got his day started) and all in all had the most lovely ride.
Sadly it was my last ride of the vacation as I got a slow leak in the front tubbie I had with me. So six hours after I got back, the front tire was flat and further I had messed up my plans for a spare. But no worries. I’ll be back. And the mountains will still be there. And maybe Jenni and my other cycling friends can join me next time… (Gerry, Barbara, Seth, Jill, Mark etc. etc. you know who you are…)
That lake you see in the distance, down the road on the left, is where I turned around.