Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Great Memorial Day Bike Ride

The New Boston (N.H.) Town Gazebo.

As this whole blog might indicate, I'm big on ritual. And just this past weekend (a long one, by virtue of the U.S. holiday of Memorial Day, which is celebrated on the last Monday of each May), I realized that I have another one going.

Let's call it "The Great Memorial Day Bike Ride." What happened was two years ago, the Friday of Memorial Day weekend was one of those spectacular spring days we get all too few of in our part of the world — warm, sunny, dry, and just full of promise.

So that afternoon, home early from work, I hopped on my bike, setting off on the first long ride of the season. It took me from my home in Bedford, N.H. on hilly back roads to the town center of New Boston, a small unsuburbanized community to the west. I then took Route 13, following the Piscataquog River downstream to Goffstown, a larger and busier town. From there, I took Wallace Road, which means a long climb up one side of the Uncanoonuc Mountains and then back down into Bedford.

It was long enough to be a memorable adventure, and at the time I thought it was the start to a season full of long bike rides. That was not to be, alas, as a biking accident that July sidelined me for the remainder of 2010. But it was memorable enough to spur me to get on my "new" bike (now more than a year old) this Memorial Day weekend for a repeat.

I hadn't planned on this, as our Memorial Day weekend had been otherwise claimed by houseguests from New York up for a family trip to the Granite State. But this past Monday, after making the rounds of the local cemeteries and putting petunias on the graves of relatives, I found myself back home on a day that was supposed to be the loser of the weekend, weatherwise, but was actually quite nice.

So I got out the bike and off I went, thinking that I had better get in some time if I'm ever going to be able to tackle the Kancamaugus Highway later this summer. (We'll see.) Yes, we had all climbed Mount Monadnock on Saturday, and my knees were still feeling it. So, even though the prior Memorial Day ride was in the back of my mind, my tired self (as well as predicted thundershowers) didn't plan on a repeat.

But who knows? Sometimes, once you're out on the bike, you find energy you didn't know you had. Grinding up a minor slope on Liberty Hill Road (the next street from my home), I felt terrible, like I should just turn back. But I kept going, and soon found I didn't want to stop. (Maybe it was the adrenaline rush from trying to cross Route 101 in Bedford, a busy highway that divides the town.)

And yes, before I knew it, I found myself downshifting to tackle the long steady grades on New Boston Road, then passing the New Boston town line, then making a right at a junction known locally as "Klondike Korner," all the while thinking I might need to turn back if a thunderstorm seemed likely.

But the sun stayed out and the sky stayed blue, spurring me deeper into New Boston, riding past homes sporting patriotic bunting and through the scent of evening cookouts wafting out onto the road. Up and down, and then finally DOWN, a steep grade and a sharp curve, putting me at the New Boston town gazebo.

Route 13 into Goffstown is pretty level, and I felt strong as I settled into this section. I was later surprised to find that I wasn't in the highest gear, but that had actually helped encourage me. After negotiating heavy traffic in Goffstown on Route 114, I peeled off onto Wallace Road and into the teeth of the long steady climb up the side of the mountain.

Home in two hours. Route of 28.1 miles, according to Google Maps. Not bad for a first big ride of 2012, and I hope the first of many. I do hope to do the Kanc later this season, and would also like to try for the seacoast -- perhaps even a round-trip! However, the idea of biking from York, Maine to my home is off for this season because they're replacing the one bridge in Portsmouth, N.H. that makes this ride possible. So maybe in 2013.

However, I find I do like the idea of a long solitary bike ride on Memorial Day weekend. It gives me time to think, and you can't help but think of Memorial Day as you pass all the decorated homes and, yes, smell the cookouts. It's a nice way to start the summer, and I think I'll try to do it again next year, weather willing.

In terms of running, a couple of new towns coming up: Effingham on Sunday, June 3, and Northfield on Saturday, June 23. However, at this rate, I'm not going to reach my goal of completing this quest by May 14, 2016, so I better start arranging for some back-to-back town runs.

Also, in terms of the "Running in All 50 States" quest, it looks like this will be the first month since I started in which I don't add a state to the roster. (Unless I sneak in a nearby one on Wednesday, May 30.) Well, we shall see. I have Maryland scheduled for June, Arkansas and Oklahoma for September, and several east/Midwest possibilities as part of a road trip in October, but it would be nice to keep the "every month" momentum going...

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