House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
New England, 1997
Friday dawned early as one can always count on being up with the sun when tenting it in a campground. I headed up for the showers and was amazed to find the bathroom/shower spotless, odorless, and it even had fresh cut flowers in a can above the sinks. This place gets my vote of best facilities yet this year. The one negative, that the shower cost $.25, was quickly forgotten as the water was hot and through the opposite of the low flow showerhead. When I got back Bob was up and as he took off for the showers I went over the bike. While it was still eating oil, that was the only thing even remotely bothering me - I was really starting to like this ride! We quickly broke camp, though water from the lake had drenched everything and the nice dry sand from the night before was now all over and stuck to the bikes and the bottom of the tents. After shaking them off we quickly packed and were on the road as the sun broke the horizon.
We decided to follow Rt. 105 to Rt. 3 to Rt. 26 through Dixville Notch and down to Mt. Washington, and what a GREAT decision it was. We stopped in Colebrooke, New Hampshire at the Wilderness Cafe for breakfast. As we entered town I was starved, and this place, with lots of pickup trucks parked out front, looked like the town favorite. As we walked up to the front door, Bob and I both noticed the fellow sitting in the front window table who had a major arm cast, one of the open ones with pins poking out of the tattooed skin. Bob muttered "Rough Place" and we almost left till we saw as we walked in that he was sitting with his family and that the place was full of your normal New England, Steven King type townspeople :) We grabbed a booth and ordered yet another huge, and hugely delicious breakfast. We got more paper placemats but the center was just a map of the town...guess they need something interesting to put there.
After leaving Colebrooke, we found ourselves running alongside the Androscoggin River on a wonderfully paved sweeper road. The river was so clear it literally looked like one long mirror reflecting the deep blue of the sky and the thousands of hues of green from the trees and bushes that lined the river - it was something I can see vividly even right now as I write this and hope to always remember. As we approached Berlin we could see huge smoke towers far off in the horizon nestled among the mountains. Berlin is a big lumber processing town, and had a truly distinct odor, much like Front Royal Virginia before the pulp factory shut down. The haze was clearly visible from a ways off, and as we approached town there was a big historical marker telling us that those odd, regularly spaced stone islands were in fact Boom Piers of old used in the processing of logs from upstream.
Rt. 16 just got better as we shot through Dixville Notch, and we soon had reached the Mt. Washington Auto Road. As we pulled in the fellow walked out of the gatehouse, took our money, and handed us each a pamphlet again warning us that if we were at all scared of heights to take one of the vans, and a sticker that said "This Bike Climbed Mt. Washington." Personally I thought they ought to wait till you get back down to give that out :) There is a big chalkboard next to the toll booth with the temperature and wind speed at the bottom of the mountain and at the top. It read 92 degrees/5mph bottom and 42degrees/45mph at the top.
"Tourist gimmick" I thought.
After passing the third "If you are scared of heights...." sign we finally got onto the road that wound up into the forested approaches to the mountain. The road however suddenly turned to dirt and narrowed significantly, then back to pavement (with huge frost heave "nubs".) It unfortunately alternated between the two all the way to the top, and got no wider.
Now they are not kidding about this road. At times there are precipitous drops, and there are no guardrails anywhere on the 8 mile road. Over 8 miles you climb to an altitude of over 6,200 feet and the temperature literally drops 50 degrees. The road at times seemed to climb at more then a 45 degree angle, especially at switchbacks, and there are signs all the way along the road warning those on the way down to frequently pull off and let brakes cool or they could be permanently damaged. Also, there are signs for radiator water and troughs full of water about every third of a mile the whole way up. This was one serious road! I tried not to look off at the amazing views but couldn't help myself...I caught myself wandering ever so slightly more then once and it was quite unsettling.
When we got to the top we found a choice unmarked parking area and promptly dubbed it the motorcycle parking area. I told Bob that his was the first K12 to the top of Mt. Washington and that we needed a photo to mark the occasion. We climbed up the short set of stairs to the top and let me tell you it was COLD and the wind was really going. After a few minutes I got used to it, but I did worry more then once about the bikes and in fact had taken off the Aeroflow and stowed it under the bike for fear it would fly off. The view from the top was amazing, and the visibility was like 110 miles. There is a neat cog train that lets loose huge plumes of black smoke and steam as it fights its way to the top. Apparently it has been ferrying people to the top for over 100 years from the nearby and clearly visible Mt. Washington Hotel in Bretton-Woods (yes, the site of the money conference :)
Once of the coolest things was to see a cloud far off quickly approaching, then be enveloped by it as it passes over/through you, then it is gone, past you on its way to another peak. There were many who had climbed to the top and they certainly had my respect as I got a little winded on the stairs (too many 3-egg breakfasts!) There is a plaque on the wall in the Visitors center next to many old photos with the name of everyone who had died on the mountain. Perhaps they should have it at the bottom because it is quite long and may make some of the idiots that hiked to the top in shorts and T-shirts and were now huddled in the cafe shivering, think twice. There is also a US post office at the top, and I took the opportunity to mail a few post cards, complete with Mt. Washington Cog Railroad stamps.
When Bob and I got back to the bikes after the requisite "summit" photographs, there was another K1100RS and a Goldwing next to our bikes. Here was the first ever K12 to the top of Mt. Washington and all passersby could comment on was how comfortable the Goldwing looked. Yup, but I would have gone down backwards on a Vespa rather then pilot that behemoth down that road! The way down was a bit more frightening as I quickly came to realize that one has much less control going down then up. We were behind a Miata that would stop for no seeming reason, especially to let oncoming cars past. On the dirt roads this was really tough as stopping a 600 pound motorcycle on a 45 degree down angle on dirt with a wicked crosswind is a real challenge! We finally got to the bottom and gave that same look of cautionary enthusiasm to an arriving Beemer that a departing rider had given us as we entered the toll road.
On down Rt. 16 it began to get a little more crowded and when we hit Rt. 302 it was bumper to bumper. I went into the Irving gas station to ask about available motels and the fellow fairly laughed and mentioned that there may be a few rooms in Lincoln, off to the west at the Rt. 302/Rt.3 intersection. As we passed the Mt. Washington in Bretton-Woods the stream was full of fly fisherman pulling out trout and for a brief moment I wanted to trade places, that was until a moment later when the road opened to a 90mph+ sweeper framed in by mountains on the left and a waterfall-laden stream on the right. See ya!
We pulled into the first "nice" motel without a NO in front of the VACANCY we saw, i.e. it passed the big three motel tests. First, it was freshly painted. Second it had matching chairs out in front of all of the units. Lastly, there were flowers in pots in front of the rooms. Unfortunately, this fellow only had a single but he did have a friend a few motels down that might have a double. After a quick phone call we backtracked all of 100 yards to the "Four Seasons Motel." Now this place was run like all motels should be. As if to justify the $65 room price the Innkeeper gave us a lecture on motels and how they should be properly run. (He didn't think much of my system though...) First, he said all motels should have ALL beds replaced EVERY year. Second, all rooms should have state of the art TV's. Lastly, all rooms should be treated as if they were the ONLY room. Well I liked this guys philosophy but something tells me it wouldn't work flying by at 80mph while the sun is setting trying to pick a good one. Anyway, this motel had passed all three of my tests with plenty left over, it was quite a nice place and it was readily apparent the guy took a great deal of pride in it. Then the family from Maine pulled in with the two screaming children and got the room next to ours, but I'll let Bob tell you about that :))
We threw our stuff into the room then lit out for the "Old Man In The Mountain" which we had both previously seen but what seemed like a good first destination. Well folks, this particular destination is pretty anticlimactic, though do see it at least once in your life. Next was the Flume, but we didn't think we would have time to walk the entire 2+ miles of the park and still have time to do the Kancamangus Highway so we nosed around a little then took off (I had been there before and Bob seemed to want to ride more then walk :))
The Kancamangus would be an incredible road were it not: Friday afternoon on one of the hottest weekends of the year when everyone was on vacation, not under perpetual construction, and not one of the only east-west connectors for miles around. In other words, run this awesome highway but do it at dawn on a Tuesday morning :)
After we got back from the loop we wandered down to the deli and picked up a so-so sub (there is that damn resort exclusion again :) and went back for a good set of porch sitting, bourbon drinking, cigar smoking, watching the sun disappear behind the mountains relaxing. After a little CNN to catch up on world events I was soon asleep.
Addendum...In the middle of the night I woke to a howling right out of a movie, the wind was blowing fiercely! I went out in the maelstrom and put the K11 on the side stand and made sure I had taken off the Aeroflow (I had...phew!)
All Photos and Text Copyrightę1996-9, Ted