It seemed like a good idea - an early season notch ride, covering about 107 miles. Easily doable, and something we had done before (although not this exact route). We planned to set out from the Lincoln Visitor's Center at 9:30, and figured we would be back by 3:30, at the latest.
Little did we know...
We chose to head north to ride given that the forecast for MA was for rain. When we set out, and for most of the day, we were blessed with sunny skies and temps in the low to mid 40s. Excellent riding weather - we thought ;).
The first hurdle on our route was the climb up Kinsman Notch, which comes just 5 miles into the overall ride. Mike and Wayne went ahead, while I set a steady pace for me, and knocked off the first climb. Thirty minutes in, and we had already climbed 1000 feet! As we started on the descent, we experienced the first hint of wind. The gusts were strong enough to blow you off a particular line, and at speed, a bit scary. We chalked that up to where we were, and rolled on along our route.
The next challenge came in a climb in Franconia. Someone might have taken a wrong turn that caused us to climb 1000 feet... I won't say who that was ;).
As we headed towards Rte 93 and then onto Rte 3 and then 302, the wind was a HUGE factor! There was no "free ride" sitting in the draft today - everyone worked. We estimate that we rode a LOT of miles into a sustained 15-20 mph headwind, as well as enduring 35-40 mph gusts that would almost take you off the bike. Sections of the road that we KNOW are fast sections we were struggling to maintain 13 mph... It was tough work and slow going. I felt bad for making Mike and Wayne do the lion's share of the work, but it was EVERYTHING that I could do just to not lose the wheel in front of me.
As we approached Crawford Notch, the wind continued. The descent here is normally a 50+ mph speed-fest. On this ride, we were pedalling the entire way down trying to maintain 16 mph. The wind was tunneling up from the valley directly into the notch. At one point, a gust hit so hard I envisioned all three of us getting tossed into the gully below, or into the traffic. It was the scariest descent I have ever made on a bicycle!
The headwind continued all along Rte 302, into Bartlett and beyond. We turned onto West Side Rd in North Conway, and it seemed as if the wind, in a cruel fashion, moved again to force us into a headwind.
Finally, we found ourselves on Passaconaway Rd - the final stretch before the Kanc. At this point, I was exhausted, and just trying to keep pedaling for the remaining 30 or so miles. Imagine my surprise when I rode down a hill to find a gate, and the road beyond covered in SNOW! Too tired to even THINK about turning back (this would have easily added 25 miles to our journey), we decided to walk, pushing our bikes. It couldn't be too far, right?
A mile and a half later, Wayne and I emerged, finally, from the snowy road onto dry pavement. But where was Mike? Had had gone ahead and we didn't see him. Looking at my watch, and seeing that it was already after 4 pm (remember we thought we would be back by 3:30?), I figured that he had booked back to get the car. So, off Wayne and I went, headed UP the Kanc.
And up, and up, and up. It wasn't until we finally got near the top of the climb that the I felt the tailwind. FINALLY! Wayne was waiting for me at the top, we donned all the clothes we had (at that point, it had clouded over and the temp had dropped to about 37) and started the descent. The funniest part of that was the two cars who passed by us video-taping us! They must have thought we were nuts ;).
Partway down the descent, I saw Mike approaching with the car. After 7:43 in the saddle, and 101 miles of riding, I got in, with no shame. Wayne descended another 2 miles before also giving in to the biting cold, and the fatigue.
It was certainly an adventure that went beyond epic, one we will talk about for a long time to come.