Could you endure three days of biking from one great inn to the next with only gourmet food and a 12-speed bike to sustain you?
The group of seven that decided to take this test was gathered at the Tamworth Inn. Soon our cares and our luggage were to be transported to the starting point at the Forest Inn in Intervale. Along the way our knowledgeable driver commented on everything New Hampshire. Moose, granite, taxes, politics. He made a brief stop at Cathedral Ledge. From the top we could see Echo Lake and the whole valley surrounding the Conway area. Clinging to the side of the ledge where groups of rock climbers, each making a day’s journey of our five-minute drive to the top. The van group, I am sure, were happy to take-leave via the mechanical advantage of the wheel. Our adventure would come tomorrow.
After dinner, we discovered the real challenge. To bike over the White Mountains, or bike around them. Innkeeper, Lisa Guppy, clearly drew a map of each route, marking every turn for the following day’s journey. I announced that I would do the 20-mile trip, the one over the mountain. Others, obviously skeptical of my endurance, asked if I did much biking, much long- distance biking? Well, not exactly, except for the trip in Iowa. Of course, that 20-mile rail-bed trip was so flat and straight you could see the end before you began. But, I did yoga, and I was confident that would carry me through.
In the morning there were several takers for the long trip. Not I! After a sleepless night I was ready to have the van convey me to the next destination. But the challenge was still on the table and to my surprise, so was a colorful book titled something like “The Complete Non-idiot’s Guide to Mountain Biking.” Yikes, my challengees had written the book on the subject and I just wanted to go back to bed!
After breakfast everyone was fitted with bikes by Innkeeper Bill Guppy, and we were ready to put the rubber to the road. The valley group turned left and the mountain seekers, including my weary self , headed right. Oh dear, would I make the grade?
For real mountain bikers, the experience is all about the right gear. Tight colorful synthetic clothing that minimizes drag and optimizes visibility is key. I didn’t have that key, but I had brought my own hybrid bike similar to those supplied by the inns and it provided comfort and a much needed granny gear.
The climb up Bear Notch Road wasn’t all that steep, it just kept going up. Some young cyclists quickly passed us. Was it really possible to stand and pump the whole way up? Obviously, if you have young pumps. We were content to sit back and watch the scenery go by, ever so slowly. I was beginning to realize I was the reason granny gear was invented, but it worked, and eventually we arrived at a pleasant look-out. Much to our surprise , and delight, two students were picking out blue grass tunes. I even got them to sing my old favorite “Country Roads.”
Back on the road we had just a few more plateaus to reach, and with much jubilation, saw the road ahead, head down. And it was a fabulous descent. I have felt the wind in my face on a motorcycle, but this was extra delicious because I had earned it. Too soon we found ourselves on the Kangamangous Highway. An alternate route took us past a covered bridge and gurgling brooks. There was plenty of time to linger and to get into Conway for a late snack at the Chinook Café and Bobby Sue’s Ice cream.
There was one more leg of the trip to get to the Snowvillage Inn. About an hour later we were making the last climb, up the drive-way to the inn. It’s a real killer and frankly it was too late in the day to prove anything. We walked the bikes up. Frank, owner of the inn say he bikes up once each year to prove to himself that he can still do it. (yah, but he probably didn’t go over Bear Notch first!)
Dinner was incredible. A choice between five or so entrees, each calling with their own special tune. We all indulged with full satisfaction. The other group had enjoyed their day lollying at waterfalls, and peddling past pretty farms. To each their own. Dinner conversation was a pleasant exchange of adventures, past and present, as the group once again meddled into one. Strangers, the day before, where becoming friends.
In the morning after a leisurely breakfast the bikes were tuned as we all welcomed a less challenging route for the second day. Everyone had a good laugh when it was discovered my bike tires had been half-flat for the previous day’s journey. Good grief, I had made the journey twice as difficult.
My aching legs pressed the pedals for another, more quiet day. Clouds threatened but it only rained while we lunched at the Whittier Restaurant. Soon we arrived at the Tamworth Inn. There was plenty of time to rest before another pleasant evening with the group. And another day’s biking tomorrow for those who chose to.
At this point we were back to where our vehicles were parked. A van had portered our luggage from inn to inn while we concentrated on taking in the day at bike-speed. In fact that’s all we had to think about for three days while we dined in elegance, and afterward, tip-toed upstairs for a night’s rest. So that’s eat, bike, eat more, rest, eat, bike more, eat even more, rest, bike, eat and eat. Bike more if you wish. Sounds like a vacation to me, and its still only Wednesday!
This article appears in the April 2006 issue of New Hampshire Magazine