The gang wandered in, including the rest of the Wrong Turn/KT entourage. Michael was KT and Snake's son. Snake was KT's first husband, a well loved VROC member who passed away tragically years ago from a heart attack. Michael was riding his dad's Vulcan Mean Streak. We also got to meet KT's brother Ross and sister-in-law Shelly, who had been following the bikes in their GMC Terrain.
Ride Captain U-Turn had been playing with several potential routes for today's ride. The last ride in 2012 was inundated with rain, so only a few hard core riders actually participated. Today, the morning started cool and clear with a promise of unseasonably warm temperatures.
Sandy opted not to ride today. Instead, she decided to hang out with Ross & Shelly. Lost Bob and Lorie also declined to come along. Mark and Wanda, however, fell in behind the nine motorcycles in their Volkswagen. First stop, a local tradition, was the Irving gas station for fuel. Wrong Turn said it was civilized to start a ride by topping up the tanks.
Without Sandy, I would not have any first hand on-the-road photos. Lucky for me, Shannon took a bundle and posted 26 of them on Facebook. I shamelessly stole a few to fill out my story. She is an uncommonly gifted photographer and I have noted which ones shown here were hers.
Leaving the Irving, U-Turn led us northwest on State Road 26 into New Hampshire, skirting Grafton Notch State Park. After passing through the village of Errol, we stopped at a pullout in Dixville Notch which, with a population of a dozen or less, had gained national fame. On presidential primary and election days, all the residents convene in the ballroom of The Balsams Resort at the stroke of midnight, cast their ballots, close the polls and immediately report their vote. This quaint tradition has been going on since 1960 and the results are widely reported in the national media.
Leaving Dixville Notch, we continued on to Colebrook where we turned southwest on US 3. We stopped first at a gas station that had no staff and only took credit cards.
We left Lancaster on US 2, crossing into Vermont. Paul stopped briefly to don his helmet. Shortly after, we left US 2 and crossed the Connecticut River back into New Hampshire on the Mount Orne Covered Bridge. Then we rode parallel to the river on SR 135 until we reached I-93.
A short jog on I-93 brought us to the parking lot next to the Moore Reservoir, a man-made body of water created by the hydroelectric Samuel C Moore Dam across the Connecticut River.
The next section of the trip was south on I-93 through Franconia Notch. There were many bikes heading the other way and, strangely, almost none of them waved at our group. Perhaps they were focused on their own section of road or perhaps they weren't motorcyclists, just people who happened to be riding motorcycles.
Lincoln was busy with the temperature in the mid 90's. There were a lot of touristy things in town, which was also the west end of the Kankamagus Highway (The Kank), and the New Hampshire Highland Games were underway just outside town. We fueled up again and headed east on The Kank.
The Kank wound its way through the trees and up and down some significant changes on its way through the White Mountains to Conway. It was renowned as a place to see the fall colours but, although there were a few pretty colours, most trees had not started to change yet. We followed some slower riders until they pulled off and then we picked up the pace. I was pleased to see that most of the oncoming riders here were waving.
Part way up the Kank, we turned left on Bear Notch Road and followed it to US 302, known as Crawford Notch Road in this area. A short stretch past some ski resorts brought us to an oddity called Hurricane Mountain Road.
Where the Kank was an enjoyable ride, Hurricane Mountain was a challenge. The one time I was on this road before, it was so rough I blew a fork seal. This time, it was freshly repaved with asphalt so thick that a drop off the edge would be catastrophic. Combine that with the narrow width, no centre line and oncoming cars, and it became very interesting. In three kilometers, the road rose 300 meters before dropping back down. The average grade was 10.1% but the maximum was over 16% so, periodically, the bike ahead of you would drop out of sight just as if it had gone off a cliff. I'm almost certain some of us got airborne on a few of the drops. Cousin John, a sledder, thought this would have made a great snowmobile trail.
From Hurricane Mountain Road, we headed north past Chatham as the road weaved back and forth across the New Hampshire/Maine border. Our last stop was at Evans Notch in a pullout in the middle of nowhere.
Continuing north, we joined US 2 at Gilead and turned east towards Bethel. The first four bikes on this last stretch were U-Turn, Cousin John, Southern Draw and me. We held a tight stagger as we roared (OK, the Harley and the Vaquero roared) through the curves, bringing me a feeling of pure joy to be riding so close to some competent riders. People who don't ride (and some who do) don't appreciate what a social activity riding motorcycles in a group can be. Aware of each other, trusting each other, moving in unison, it was music to my soul.
We arrived back in Bethel around 4:00 PM. Many thanks to U-Turn for planning and leading the ride. I found out Sandy had hung out with Ross and Shelly, exploring the town and the festival. I loaded the bike and riding gear in the trailer and then headed inside for a shower and a change of clothes. The unseasonable warm weather had taken its toll.
U-Turn had reserved 18 places in the dining room at 7:00 PM for the traditional Maine Ride Sudbury Inn dinner. Perhaps it should have been earlier because we had forgotten to have lunch on the ride. While waiting, Sandy and I sat at the new bar in The Bistro while she indulged in another Maine Ride tradition. Even though Dee and Laurie weren't here, she got the bartender to mix her a fruity rum drink. OK, two of them. By supper time, she was in a happy mood.
The head count was exactly right and they had three tables of six places each set for us. The menu offered some interesting selections. Sandy and I both chose the blueberry brie chicken. Imagine, if you will, a seared chicken breast topped with brie cheese and baked in a puff pastry. As if this was not enough, it was topped with a blueberry compote. I began with a Caesar salad, while Sandy just had the entree.
After supper, the party adjourned to the street out front where we took advantage of the very pleasant evening to visit. Everyone would be heading out tomorrow except Boomer and Shannon, who were going to hang out in their motor home for a couple of weeks and enjoy the fall foliage. Sandy and I were in bed by 10:00 PM.
This was a great reunion. Although not many of the old NEVROC folks were here, it was great to see the ones who made it. It was also a pleasure to see Wrong Turn, KT and their family. We don't see enough of those people. And it was good to catch the North Carolina contingent even if we had just seen them the week before in Arkansas. Many thanks to U-Turn for putting this together.
Today's Route (233 motorcycle miles):