Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kearsarge Klassic

The New Hampshire Cycling Club did a great job with their inaugural Kearsarge Klassic, a new event taking in lots of dirt roads around Mt. Kearsarge State Forest Park, an area of NH that we haven't spent a lot of time in before. We found ourselves on lovely lightly traveled scenic roads with some pretty awesome support, as well as a great after ride dinner of homemade chili. The ride was a fund-raiser for the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust to support its work preserving and protecting the natural beauty of New Hampshire. The club donated over $5,000 with proceeds from the ride!

We'd heard about the ride a few weeks ago from friends who know our love for dirt, but we had not seen any publicity about it. I was reminded of the ride when I noticed a link on bikereg.com last week as I was registering us for the Burke race. I mentioned it to John and we decided to give it a go. As you can probably tell from the blog, we've had a very busy year, and when Friday evening rolled around we were having second thoughts about loading up the car yet again to go do yet another event. Frankly, we are worn out! Not so much from riding, but loading and unloading the car, driving and laundry!

The forecast was a bit dreary for Saturday, although it seemed the morning wouldn't be so bad and it was still quite warm, so wet wouldn't be cold wet.

Just after John got home from work on Friday, a very intense thunderstorm rolled through Eastern Massachusetts, so we had dinner at home and delayed our departure a bit longer. But motel reservations had been made and entry fees were already paid, so we stuck with the plan and drove up to New London after dinner.  We stayed in a very nice motel just around the corner from the start, so we didn't have quite the early start that many of our Boston friends who drove up that morning did.

It was quite humid and sticky and foggy at the start. We started about 10 minutes late, but the early parts of the route were fairly tandem friendly with lots of downhill and flat sections and we caught almost everyone by the first water stop. We weren't racing the course and we took at time at all the stops, although the afternoon severe weather forecast was never forgotten!

We settled into an impromptu team of four people on three Seven bicycles, as we joined up with Jake Bridge and Jason DeVarrennes for the remainder of the ride.

Jake Bridge

photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes

The view from the first water stop was well earned and well worthwhile.

photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes
photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes

Some of the descents were quite fast and bumpy. Fat tires and good brakes were appreciated by all.

Three bridges.

Three Sevens

It seems we arrived a bit early at the lunch stop. Despite starting about 10 minutes late, and stopping for a while at the first water stop and then later to take photos, we reached lunch about 45 minutes before they were expecting to open. We hung out for a while and enjoyed some nice pre-made sandwiches and cookies, and then headed out for part two of the ride.

photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes

photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes

photo of Jason DeVarrennes

photo courtesy of Jason DeVarrennes

Shadows made an appearance!

more shadows

The second half of the epic route had a very different character from the first half. While I wouldn't call the first half easy, I would call the second part much tougher - lots more up and down and lots more rough surfaces. This is not a complaint by any means. We were in heaven.

We reached the third refueling spot at the top of the longest climb of the day. The wind had picked up quite a bit and I swear I heard a rumble of thunder - just like at the Gent's race. Despite this we had a long stop and chatted with the volunteers there for a while. It was after this stop that the roads got really special - with some lovely fast bumpy descents, some thigh burning climbs and a few sharp turns.

Impromptu Team Four on Sevens

There was one little climb that was so soft and loose and steep that we all found ourselves hoofing it. Fortunately, we were able to remount for the rest of the climb and the descent was surprisingly nice.

The sun was making a valiant effort to enhance our photos...

And we actually made it back to the barn without getting wet. Once home and dry, I made the fateful statement about how glorious the weather turned out to be, in spite of the forecast. We pigged out for a while on the homemade chili, while the weather gods gathered strength before taking aim on our location. We got the tandem loaded inside the car and managed to change clothes just as it started to spit rain. I felt bad for those still out on the course that I had uttered the comments about the weather. But then as soon as it started, it seemed to stop.

We decided to head into New London to check out the local craft shops and look for coffee. We found a great coffee shop and met some very nice people just as the heavens really opened and dumped bucketloads of rain with great fury. We heard later tha some of our friends who'd been taking lots of photos and enjoying a more leisurely ride paid the price by doing the final climb in this downpour. But they were still all smiles in the after-ride photos.

It was a wonderful ride and will definitely be on our list for next year. The club and volunteers did a great job with all the organizing and hopefully will be ready when word gets out and 1000 people show up next year!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting Dirty in the Northeast Kingdom

The Burke Bike Barn is quite spacious, so we had a few friends to join us for the weekend. The potluck cookouts on Saturday and Sunday nights were fabulous. Odd took over the grill and did an excellent job with the steaks, chicken and sausages, as well as drinking some beer.

Sunday morning, we scattered in different directions. Dominique and Cristine headed out for a paved road ride. Odd, Sally, Margaret and Phil hit the trails. Erik, Regina, Gabby and Alex did some less technical trails. And John and I headed out for more dirt climbing on the tandem.

We took in a slightly shorter version of our DROVES-Day 1 route. We basically cut out the middle part that took in a store in Wells River and the southern part of the Bayley-Hazen Road. John was a bit disappointed to miss more chances to take his photo in front of signs bearing his name spelled correctly, but he still stopped at plenty of other places to take out the camera. It also seems I only cut out distance, not climbing or views. Cutting out Wells River did mean we wouldn't see a store until about 2/3 of the way thru, Be warned if you do this loop, take some food. The store in Danville is actually a wine shop, but it does also have soft drinks, cheese and snacks. We managed to make a nice lunch of cheese, crackers and packaged prosciutto. The quiet roads and great views make up for lack of services.

Margaret and Sally got creative with their camelbaks to bring home ice cream and wine after their ride around the Burke trails. We had another great potluck barbeque and enjoyed roasting marshmallows by the fire, under the still brilliant moon. 

On Monday, brilliant sunshine and crystal clear blue skies greeted us for a third day, and we were all eager to do some more riding. Odd and John traded bikes, so John could try out some trails using Odd's mountain bike, while Odd and I took in the dirt roads out to Victory and over Kirby Mountain. After a couple of days of tandeming I had to relearn steering and shifting as I got back on the Redline. Odd enjoyed John's Seven, but I believe he missed his suspension on the bumpy descent off Kirby Mountain.

Cristine and Dominique joined Sally and John on the Kingdom trails, while Margaret and Phil sought out paved roads.

It was another great weekend in East Burke. I hated to leave.

We have reserved the bike barn for Memorial Day for DROVES 2013. We will be riding the two 90ish mile dirt road routes from this year, but will also have a few shorter (60ish mile) options for those who want a bit less. And of course there is also mountain biking on the Kingdom trails, as well as Burke Mountain hill-repeats. The barn will fill quickly, so email me soon if you want a spot in the barn. There is lots of other lodging in the area, so don't fret if you can't commit right away.

Laboring Up Burke Mountain

After discovering the Burke Bike Barn last summer, we tried to reserve it for every Labor Day and every Memorial Day forever. Fortunately Doug accepted our reservations for Labor Day this year. Hopefully he has us penciled in for the next 20 years. We love it here! It is a magical place.

It was made even more magical this year by the presence of a rare blue moon Friday night.

Followed the next morning by some brilliant sunshine and crisp blue skies.

Before we could get on with the real reason for being in East Burke all weekend, taking in all the lovely views from the dirt roads and trails, we had to first race up Burke Mountain, but we managed to get that over with in just a bit over 30 minutes!

We then climbed the tower at the top while waiting for the all clear to ride down.

Next up was lunch and the awards ceremony, where being the only tandem entered, we took home gold medals. To our credit, we did manage to take off over two minutes from our previous record, and finish in front of all the gals!

With all that out of the way, we could head out on a proper ride. Cristine borrowed my Redline to join us for a loop up toward Lake Willoughby. We had the clearest blue skies we've ever experienced at the lake. It seems it's usually cloudy and dreary when we ride up there, but this day was glorious.