Monday, July 25, 2011

Gilford Run Wrap-up

Some days you just can't avoid eating supper after 10 p.m.

In spite of the heat and the work day that preceded the ride, I felt okay heading out on the Gilford run to retrieve my car from the mechanic who is worth the trip. I was nicely wired from the Kenyan coffee Lydia's had served that day. I was also getting fired up to face potential motorist hassles in the known trouble spots.

Okay does not mean great. I did not feel fast and bulletproof, as I once did. However, the motoring public chose this day to be extraordinarily cooperative. For my part, I did not stick much of an elbow into the lane on the long grind from the center of town to the Kingswood Regional High School complex, where the road bends right and tends down. Even on that stretch, where I can maintain 30 miles per hour much of the time, motorists are more than ready to exceed 40 down to the hard 90-degree (or tighter) right turn where King's Highway departs to the left and Route dives down a bit more before slamming into the bottom of the climb the locals call Old Perk. No one has ever explained the name to me. I call it Alpe de Suez as a tribute to the legendary climb in the French Alps and a play on the name of the restaurant East of Suez, situated at the top. It's a restaurant with an undeservedly good reputation, but it has survived decades to be a landmark I will miss if people finally start being underwhelmed by the food and the service. What will I call the hill?

I got a great run through the 90. My size and persistence in the rear-view mirrors of a Nissan that had just passed me caused the driver to punch the gas to gain a gap on me. I appreciated that, since I wanted to hold as much speed as possible going into the beginning of the climb. I knew darn well I was going to head for the low gears and crawl once my momentum ran out. And so it was. Still, I arrived at the crest feeling less sapped than I expected.

The headwind on 28 soon took that out of me. It's a boring slog to Chestnut Cove Road at the best of times. I trudged along to that junction.

It occurred to me as I left Chestnut Cove Road to enter Route 28A that it's the only peaceful little road on the whole route. Route 28A isn't bad for a numbered highway, but it still draws its share of throttle-pushers. Addicted to cornering in whatever vehicle I'm piloting, I understand the lure of 28A's curves. On the bike I can enjoy them without guilt.

I kept thinking about pulling out my camera, but when I have to get somewhere I hate to slow down. Alton Bay bustled with classic summer activity. Smells of fried food hung in the air, reminding me how long I would have to wait for my own supper. Best not to think about it.

The wind seemed to be bent by the hills to a helpful direction I had not expected. I was starting to feel minor twinges from the steady pace, but nothing dire.

Two modern roadies passed me just before the shoulder widened to a full breakdown lane on Route 11. They were courteous, but clearly pulling a pace I had no interest in matching. They didn't really give any hint that I would be welcome, either. I was in the mood to ride alone, so it worked out for all of us.

The first wide bit on 11 gives views of Alton Bay and the lake below. The roadies took 11D, which runs along the shore. I stuck to the high road with its scenic vistas. If they returned from 11D where it rejoins 11 just before the narrows, they were far enough ahead that I never saw them.

Even in the narrows, the motoring public remained eerily courteous. I continued to ride to the right, in no mood to engage in any debate over road rights. I got lucky, because none of the drivers felt like crowding me. In fact, where the narrows end with a fast drop to Ellacoya State Park, I rejoined the flow as my speed approached 40 miles per hour. No one contested my merge. Near the bottom I heard the hiss of truck brakes. I swung to the right as the road widened, which is my normal routine there. After a gracious moment, a tractor trailer that had been waiting politely behind me passed comfortably to the left with a generous margin. Some days humanity seems halfway decent.

The wind shifted gradually against me. The sun angled in. I started to get that out-of-body feeling as fatigue built up and the glare reduced my vision to an approximation, in spite of my polarized sunglasses.

The stretch past Laconia Airport is always a slog. The last bit, on Lily Pond Road drags it out for another mile or so. I was certainly ready to stop by the time I arrived. But once again I had managed to avoid putting more than 40 miles on another car when all I really needed to do was convey a driver to this one.

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