New Hampshire Hills & Hospitality

NH_HospitalityBicycling the Kanc was one of the high points of our trip. We talked about the road for months prior. It took mental and physical preparation, as well as constant motivation throughout the trek to accomplish this goal. Upon completing it, we were riding very high. If we could make it through the pass, we could do anything! What could be harder than the Kanc, right?

It is difficult to describe what it is like to being taken, unknowingly, on a five mile vertical climb on a bicycle… the day after we biked the Kancamagus Highway. I remember sitting down with Clint a couple times and expressing my concern that Warren, where his friend owned a cabin, was ONLY about 15-20 miles from Lincoln. That wouldn’t be a very long day for us. Somehow he managed to skirt around my concerns without giving me the slightest idea of why this “short” day wouldn’t be an issue. I believe he said, “Well Jo, you have to realize that New Hampshire isn’t a great plain now that the Kanc is over.” I think it would be most accurate to say that The emotions that ran through my head throughout the duration of our time on route 118 South into Warren were very similar to the five they say you experience when accepting death. Beginning with denial (This couldn’t be happening again, the last hill must be right around this corner), anger (I bet Clint knew about this all along!), bargaining (paul, if we survive will you bake me a pie when we get there), depression (no need to explain), acceptance (i believe this day alone burned off the five pounds of Paul’s fudge that I ate this summer). Plus, the ride downhill was exhilarating. Imagine riding a really, really fast roller coaster without a seatbelt for as long as your heart desires. I think Clint and I both reached personal speed records.

We couldn’t find the key to the cabin in Warren after a little criss-cross in communication, but we camped out in the yard and having a picnic table, flat surface to tent, and a fire ring for our use is just as good as anything. I snuggled up on the porch in my sleeping bag with a book, while the boys played easter egg hunt for the house key. The day cooled down fast after the sun set behind the mountains and the full moon rose up into a exceptionally clear night sky. We sat around the fire for awhile and Paul wrapped up a nearby hot stone with a newspaper and towel for the bottom of my sleeping bag. This was much appreciated as we woke up the next morning to our first serious frost of the trip. It was bitter cold and the sun stayed hidden behind the mountaintops long into the morning. Our fingertips stung while packing up camp and prepared for the final few miles of descent on Route 118. It was required for us that we wore all our warmest gear. It was during that morning that Paul mentioned his sister in Haverhill, Mass. had a hottub. This became a priority destination and driving force for us from that point forward.

That evening we entered the city of Danbury, NH just as the sun was going down. We decided to start looking for a camp and I eyed a community center with a few cars out front. I decided to go investigate assuming the people inside might be good-hearted volunteers for the community and might give us a yard to camp in. A nice gentleman greeted us when we arrived and said he would be happy to help us out, but first he had to control the herd of 30 elementary schoolers who were about to stampede through the door. As if on que, a school bus pulled up and in came a rucus of kids, ecstatic to be done with a day of school. We were asked to give the students a little presentation about what we were doing. They were fascinated by the concept of our trip, and expressed their interest in doing something similar… once they were allowed to ride their bikes past the end of the driveway. I stepped into the kitchen to help a woman, who introduced herself as Judith Brewer, with preparing snacks and pouring juice. Amidst our work we began talking and Judith said she had a yard we could stay in. As I continued with the snack distribution, she gave Paul and Clint directions to her house. What I gathered from the boys following this was that every direction from JUdith contained the word “uphill” and it was concluded that Judith lived at the summit of a mountain, not an ideal way to end the day, plus we had not bought an adequate amount of food for dinner. Our spirits were somewhat dwindling as we pedaled up the cliff face to Judith’s house.

Since Judith was still working at the community center, her husband Thomas met us at their house. Judith had called him to give warning of our arrival and he presented us with a very friendly greeting immediately followed by an invitation to sit by their new wood stove and enjoy a hot pot of tea (the ascent to the home was already worth it). Thomas insisted we not worry about setting our tent and showed us to his warm workshop where we would sleep that night. We had mentioned Paul’s position as cook on the Bowditch and Thomas struck up a deal that he would provide the food if he cooked it. We welcomed the idea. Their garden vegetables and pounds of tender chicken breast looked much heartier than the sole box of pasta and can of tomato soup we had to our name. So team bowditch reverted back to our summer together as Paul eyed the spice rack, I began prep work, and Clint set up the dining room table. The meal was splendid, as was the company.

I wanted to mention in this post that I will be leaving the team soon. This is a planned exit, but hasn’t really been talked about anywhere on the site. This winter I am moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and will be leaving on this journey just after Thanksgiving. I will be following Team Bowditch closely though and I hope I can be of assistance to them along the way. This has been an amazing experience for me. In the past, I can remember some nights when I have gone to sleep anticipating the next day, perhaps this is because of getting to see someone special, or maybe a swim meet in the morning, or a holiday, but the excitement I felt for each new day on this trip existed steadily throughout. The guarantee of being outdoors, seeing somewhere new, exercising, and meeting new people is a combonation of things that I believe configure a perfect day. Therefore, I was given the opportunity to live my perfect day, every day for almost a month straight. Thank you to Paul, Clint, and all the other generous people who have made this excursion unforgetable!

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