Sunday, May 20, 2012

Post 005 - Shakedown Run

I picked up my bike from Hale's Garage in Enfield, New Hampshire on Friday. A new front tire and transmission rollers were installed. Before I pulled away, Jim Hale gave me some new tire break-in advice: "Go slow, go easy in the corners for the first 100 miles. If it's wet, be very careful." A new tire is very slick. It needs to rub off that factory sheen. I followed his advice and took it easy the next day on a 200 mile ride.

Whitehorse Gear in Center Conway, New Hampshire held its Annual Spring Rally on Saturday, May 19. A more perfectly beautiful day could not have been arranged. I drove there from my home on the western side of the state to Whitehorse near the Maine border on the east.

New Hampshire's White Mountains lie in between. The White's are the newest mountain formation on the east coast. They are tall, rugged, and sharp. They are also tree covered and ideal on an ideal day. I crossed over their spine by way of the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountain National Forest. About 10,000 of my closest motorcycle and bicycle friends crossed too. It was a day to be out riding.

I left home at about 7am and rolled up along the Connecticut River to Fairlee, Vermont, just across the river from Orford, New Hampshire and Route 25A, which would take me into the White's proper. The reason for being in Vermont this morning is the Fairlee Diner. It's one of the good ones. I had my usual breakfast of two eggs over medium, homefries, whole wheat toast, and coffee. Sadly, the potatoes had been over cooked before going on the griddle and were mushy. However, mushy homemade potatoes are superior to uniform institutional potatoes any day. My spirits were not dampened, besides, the coffee mug acted as a hand warmer and I had time to sit in a booth and type out notes. It was a lovely breakfast. (I may use the words lovely and ideal a great deal today as everything was just that.)

Route 25A goes up and over Mt. Cube. It is called the Meldrim Thompson Scenic Highway. It is named after former New Hampshire Governor Meldrim Thompson, whose family has owned a farm up there for generations. Governor Thompson may be remembered for many things, but the only one I remember is that he requested the New Hampshire National Guard be equipped with nuclear weapons. Imagine that. It would stop infiltration by Canadians, eh? More likely it would keep the Maniacs at bay. 

On the eastern side of Mt. Cube is the village of Warren with large Ron Paul signs, Uncle Jeff's Redneck Miniature Golf, and Fat Bob's Ice Cream. Also, every house seen from the road sports exactly the same type of mail box, a dark green moulded plastic model. It's an amazing show of uniformity for this staunchly independent and conservative region or the government supplied new mail boxes after ripping up and replacing the road. (Note irony.)

However, the most interesting feature in town resides in the village square. It is a Redstone Rocket. This is the type of rocket that launched Allan Shepard, America's first astronaut, into space. Despite the fact that we have been living in the space age for over 50 years, you just don't see rockets on display. Given America's penchant for all things military and the recent distribution of retired Space Shuttles to large cities for tourist promotion, you'd think rockets would be a common motif. Warren, New Hampshire is a leader in civic display.

North of the Rocket you turn onto Sawyer Highway, Route 118, which takes you along streams and over foothills to the base of the Kancamagus in Lincoln. This section would be bucolic if it were not for the very poor condition of the road. It is broken, somewhat patched, and very bumpy. This must be attributed to extreme freezing and thawing. I had to actively slow way down to maintain a comfortable and safe ride. By way down I mean under 20mph.

In the town of Lincoln I paused for coffee, journal writing, and gasoline. As gateway to the western end of the Kancamagus, the town is very active in the summer. It is even more so in the winter with its ski areas and resorts. It's a very convenient Interstate drive north from Boston to get here.

The Kancamagus Highway. It's only 35 miles long, rises to 2,800 feet in elevation from about 600. The incline, along with the wide lanes and good shoulder, make it popular with bicyclists. It has only one hairpin turn and no twisties to talk about. It is like a pleasant walk in a well landscaped garden or fresh ice tea on a hot afternoon, just right for the soul. If you are in the region, it is one of America's "must ride" roads.

I drove along at 40-45mph often riding to the right and signaling other motorists to pass me. It's a safe and decent thing to do. Occasionally, something like a jet fighter would fly past. I wouldn't see it coming and when it was upon me, then oh so rapidly past, the sound would make me jump. The sound plus the blurry streak indicated it was a BMW, Yamaha or Kawasaki. The fright generates anger, but I have to let that go. They can't help themselves. Speed is in the DNA of the bikes and for some reason it ignites testosterone. That's why I do not ride a big engine motorcycle. I would be the blur passing by. That is, until my road ran out. It seems out of character for my personality, but it's true. Motorcyclist, know thyself.

In Conway traffic backed up and nearly came to a standstill as it always does in Conway. While inching along I waved a group of riders into the lane ahead of me. I fell in with them. It's easy at 5 miles per hour for a scooter to keep up with a Harley.

The bike and rider directly in front of me were mesmerizing. It was a large Harley with wide handlebars and a deep maroon color. The man was huge. His large muscled arms spread out from a massive torso like steel girders clutching sides of a geologic rift. At a traffic light I pulled up along side ostensibly to ask if he and the group were going to Whitehorse, but really wanting to check him out from a different angle. 

He smiled and leaned his head over when I spoke. He had a soft round face and a large inviting smile. Yes, they were going to Whitehorse and by the way, your turn signal is on. A rookie mistake. On bikes the turn signals are turned on and off. It is so easy for me to neither see or hear my turn signal indicator. I told him it was the hardest part of riding a bike, remembering to turn off the signal. He smiled and laughingly agreed. Connection.

At the next light I pulled up again and this time said I thought he had the right build to handle a big bike like his. The smile again. He said it was the easiest bike he had ever ridden. He had the seat lowered he said. I took note that he had short legs and might be the same height as me. He then told me Harley did not make this particular model any longer. The engine displacement was 2,056cc! My bike is 150cc. The light turned green. My acceleration could never match his. 

I planned to park with this fellow, getting my camera out and documenting both him and the bike, but as we came to the Whitehorse entrance, parking attendants directed us to different locations and I lost him.

This is very long winded. It’s the luxury of writing early on a Sunday morning at home. I’ll pause here and write later about the Whitehorse event and the ride home. 

Oh yes, my bike was handling great.

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