We first met Henry in 2011, when he was the only person daft enough to join us on a bitterly cold Christmas eve ride to Mt. Wachusett and back, part of that year's Rapha Festive 500 challenge. That was his longest ride ever at that time, by quite a margin, if I recall correctly. However, he took everything in his stride and brought a spirit of festive cheer with him that made for a fun spin.
It was obvious that we had an affinity for exploring by bike and taking pictures of what we saw - not to mention that he and I had worked in the same building in The Netherlands many years before, albeit not at the same time - and we became fast friends (I'm speaking of Henry there). We have shared many miles on the road and trail since then, although that first ride hasn't been the only one with bad weather. However, those are stories for another time...
Henry was kind enough to invite us up to his holiday home near Waterville Valley last autumn, when Pamela was out of commission, but the timing didn't quite work out. However, when he mentioned his plans to host a cycling weekend in mid-May, dubbed "The Spring 7000" in honour of the 7000' odd of climbing each day, and which featured lots of "scenic" riding, we didn't hesitate to sign up. We were joined by Ride Studio Cafe club members, Eddie, Jutta, Neil, Rob, Tom and Mimi in what turned out to be a weekend of great company, delicious food, excellent beer and amazing rides. Before I run out of superlatives, I'm happy to report that the weather was mixed.
I'm sure Henry won't admit to it, but I think he planned a team-building exercise to start the weekend. The symptoms were that the light in our bedroom could not be switched off - it appeared that the battery in the remote control for the fan/light had died just after the light was switched on. We then tried to answer a variation of the age-old question - how many engineers does it take to disconnect a (blinding and unusual) light bulb?
|Henry vrs. the light bulb.|
Neil manned the circuit breaker, Rob supplied light with his mobile phone, Henry had a head-torch, Pamela supervised, and I did my best to get in the way. While the mission was ultimately successful, Neil and Rob wouldn't claim to be engineers, so the answer to the question is unclear!
Regardless, that allowed us to sleep well - until we were awakened by the sound of thunder and heavy rain. Just what we wanted for a long day in the mountains! While we originally planned to strike out at 07:00 hrs., I shared some of my procrastination secrets. That allowed us to head out into drizzle at 08:30 hrs. instead of heavy rain earlier, but it was still cool.
|Kinsman Notch. Damp conditions but high spirits.|
|Waterfalls were enhanced!|
Pamela has started back to riding this spring, but wasn't quite feeling ready for a 200km day with 9000+ feet of climbing, so she enticed her friend Carrie to join her for an abbreviated version of the loop with a remote start in Lincoln. Thanks to a later start, they only had a short stretch of riding in the rain. Not only that but, thanks to the rain, they had the Franconia Notch bike path all to themselves, which they described as sublime, like a tiny European mountain road through a forest.
Happily, the rain stopped by the time we reached the summit of Franconia Notch. The sun poked out as we climbed gently to Crawford Notch, before speeding down down the far side. It would have been speedier still without the healthy headwind coming up the valley.
|Our fearless leader, Henry.|
We all met up for lunch in Bartlett, at the base of Bear Notch, Pamela and Carrie arriving first and managing to beat the rush at the very friendly Cabin Fever Restaurant.
The question of the day then became, "Do you have sunscreen?" as the cold, wet morning gave way to a sunny, hot afternoon. That and, "What flavours of ice-cream do you have?"
|Eddie enjoying the scenery|
|The top of the Kancamagus Pass, Jutta, Rob, Henry, Tom, Eddie and Mimi, with Fear Rothar at the back|
Descending from the Kancamagus Pass, we bumped into Carrie and Pamela in Lincoln, who offered to divest us of our extra layers. Rehydrated and lightened, we struck out on the final leg back to Henry's house which, as you might hope, and as is only fitting, is reached via a 15% climb. Way to go, Henry!
We somehow had the energy left to prepare a sumptuous feast and enjoy some fine beers. That, along with swapping tyres to prepare bikes for what promised to be a day of adventure on Sunday. That ride featured almost 70 miles miles of mostly dirt roads and 7000ish feet (but who's counting?) of climbing.
Instead of swapping tyres, Pamela and I switched to the tandem, which has plush 42mm wide tyres, something Pamela's back really appreciates.
However, we didn't make it very far from Henry's on Sunday morning before our first (unplanned) stop at Dick's Bacardi ranch. This place had hundreds of empty bottles of Bacardi hanging from all the eaves. Dick came out to greet us as we took photos and invited us in for a tour. Some members of the group seemed worried we might never emerge, but there was nothing to fear from our wonderful tour guide.
Next up was the feature climb of the day up and over Sandwich Notch Road. The dirt road was actually closed to cars due to a small washout on the far side, meaning we had the road all to ourselves.
We had an amazing lunch at Squam Lake, and a fabulous coffee stop at Plymouth, followed by a few thousand feet of climbing to get home.
|Neil and Jutta|
|Henry showing us how it's done on his new EverOrange|
Henry delivered the advertised 7000+ feet of climbing each day. Not only that, but he ushered in spring over the course of the weekend. The weather changed from cold drizzle on Saturday morning, to hot and sunny in the afternoon. That was a prelude to simply perfect conditions on Sunday.
We were rewarded for all that climbing with great food and even better company. Thanks Henry! We look forward to the Summer 8000 and Autumn 9000!