Yesterday I needed to retrieve a car from the Gilford Guru, the mechanic so good I've been traveling more than 40 miles each way to take my cars to him for the past 21 years.
Whenever possible I use a bike for part of the drop-off or pickup procedure. Rich's shop isn't on the way to any place the cellist or I normally go.
The trip presents a number of possibilities. I've driven over and ridden home. I've ridden over and driven home. The route over the top of the lake is shorter, but uses really nasty sections of Route 25. Note to anyone who wants to ride around Lake Winnipesaukee: The section from the Weirs through Moultonboro has many areas of narrow highway filled with cars, trucks, SUVs, boat trailers, you name it. Route 25 is the principal route across the state from the I-93 corridor to Route 16 above The Big Lake.
New Hampshire is full of interesting geographical features. You're always bending around a big wet spot or a big lump. On the route north of the lake you have to decide which way to go past the Ossipee Mountains, a circular range of volcanic rock. The roads have been widened where geology and funding have coincided to make it possible. Where they haven't, it's Live Free or Die driving or cycling.
The route from home is roughly 44 miles. From Wolfe City it's about 27. So, for instance, I've driven down at 6 in the morning, left the car with a note and ridden to work. Then I might ride the rest of the way home or hitch a lift with the cellist if she's headed that way at the right time. Spending time with her is more important than cycling purity or overall mileage accumulation.
As I rode along Chestnut Cove Road in Alton yesterday, I had plenty of time to observe how little spring has really touched the forest here. In what used to be a normal year, we might still have quite a bit of snow. I would not have several hundred miles on me already.
I always loved the early season. I loved getting back out onto the training roads after a winter of only commuting when I lived and raced in Maryland. Later, up here in New Hampshire, I often started the season with a goal, like a big ride or a series of them.
Training rides can be epic, but I never fooled myself that they were necessary. I had chosen to race. Sometimes a necessary epic would combine conveniently with the training schedule, like the time I went down one early April weekend in my girlfriend's car to meet her parents in southern Maryland. She wasn't going to make me stay longer than overnight, but I had to make my own way home. I needed long mileage for my training program, so I took off happily on the 75-mile trek back to Naptown. The only hitch was that I had forgotten my bike shorts. I had to ride several hours through redneck country with only my wool tights between me and...whatever.
When I worked for the newspaper in Wolfeboro, I would sometimes ride into Center Ossipee to pick up the payroll checks to deliver to Wolfeboro. That detour made my 29-mile day a 48-mile day. It was all for a good cause, though. If only the little (in all respects) paychecks needed to be transferred to Wolfe City, it wasted time and fuel for someone from either office to drive the route. Send the bike messenger! He's a useful idiot!
Yesterday, gray clouds and showers emphasized the bare trees over brown ground and gray rock. Light showers had darkened the roads to a dull sheen as I left Wolfeboro. It wasn't quite enough to raise a ridge of water on the tires. I hoped it wouldn't get to that point, because I had not fitted the front fender.
On South Main Street I herded traffic up the gradual but relentless grade. At one point as I moved to shut the gate because a big truck was coming the other way, I heard the driver behind me stomp down on the gas pedal to push into the gap. I kept my responding middle digit down over the handlebars as the dilapidated mini van wedged its way past me.
The ride from Wolfeboro starts with climbs. After the grade up past the high school the road drops down to a 90-degree bend in South Wolfeboro, goes down a little further and then tackles the wall up to where the highway widens with a lane-width shoulder. The shoulder has no rumble strip. It functions very well for cycling. The climbs to get there are a harsh warmup.
Twenty-seven miles hardly constitutes an epic ride. What gave this its epic quality was the time of year and the way it fit into a day more scheduled than my average work day. I have more respect for 27 hilly miles than I used to have. I also did it on minimal food. I'm trying to burn through some winter blubber, so I brought the lightest of snacks. Hunger creates a timeless feeling. This was also the longest continuous ride I've managed so far this season. It felt good to stop.
It can be hard to explain to someone who has not experienced it how it feels better to do something strenuous and finish it than it does to go without it at all.
The drive home isn't short. I was hungry and a little sore, though not tired. I went to the grocery store on the way home. Even shopping hungry I bought only what was on the list. When I got home the momentum carried me into household chores and dinner preparation. Despite my best intentions to make a late lunch, I drank a lot of water and ate little food until supper. I'm as surprised by that as anyone.
Using the bike meant that I didn't need to inconvenience anyone else to do what I had to do. Transit might have taken me longer, but it cost less and gained more in all respects.