Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bagging two Connecticut River valley towns:
Orford (#141) and Lyme (#142), plus a flat tire

A swing through the Connecticut River Valley this past weekend led to the latest trophies in my quest to run at least 5K in every New Hampshire city, town, or unincorporated place.

On Saturday, Oct. 17, I bagged the small rural communities of Orford and Lyme, making them #141 and #142, respectively.

It's a beautiful part of the state, and the run took place along a lonely stretch of Route 10 that saw very little traffic.

To get there, I came up I-91 from White River Junction, Vt., crossing back over to New Hampshire via the Samuel Morey Memorial Bridge. It's a classic green steel arch span built in 1937-38 after the great floods of 1936 washed away its wooden predecessor.

The bridge was recently rehabbed and looks brand new. Here's a photo from the Valley News, a daily paper that circulates in the area:

I assume unicycles aren't commonly seen around here.

My aim was the Orford/Lyme town line, from which I'd measure off 1.6 miles in either direction. Conveniently, the spot is served by a school bus turn-around, allowing for easy parking.

Here's a view north on Route 10 into Orford.

And here's a view showing the other direction, south into Lyme.

A cold front was pushing its way in from the west, making for cool and changeable conditions. Temps were in the mid-40s, with occasional breaks of sun balancing off chilly winds. Still shorts weather, but just barely.

I started at 1:20 p.m., heading north into Orford, where the highway runs through the relatively rich farmland (for New Hampshire, anyway) of the Upper Connecticut River Valley. My route took me right past a large and active dairying operation, which on the wind smelled like wet leaves being rubbed in my face.

Looking south from the Orford turn-around point.

One big up-and-down took me to my first turn-around point: Tree Farm Road, exactly 1.6 miles from the town line. I touched it and then headed back, ready to smell more "wet leaves."

Traffic was so light, and the shoulder was often so crumbled, that I found myself gravitating into the travel lanes along the long straight-aways, which offered a better surface. Yes, Route 10 is a major state highway, but often the only sound I could hear was of my shoes scuffing the pavement.

While passing into Lyme, I checked the car's dashboard clock: 2 p.m. exactly, or 40 minutes to do maybe 3.4 miles. Pretty slow!

The route into Lyme consisted of a pretty significant downhill stretch followed by a flat road, then a pronounced up-and-down dip as the highway negotiated a swale.

It was this spot where I encountered a deer leaping across the highway in broad daylight as I was measuring off the distance. But all was now quiet as I ran through this area.

Turn-around point was this "Bear Left" sign, which I touched and then turned around.

Facing north, you can see the dip in Route 10 in the distance.

The way back included a nice slog back upthe grade I'd descended earlier. But everything held together as I reached the starting point at 2:40 p.m.—so 40 minutes for the Lyme leg, exactly the same as Orford.

So that allows me to color in two good-sized adjacent communities on my big New Hampshire map: Orford as #141 and Lyme as #142. Even though the weather is changing, I hope to keep the momentum going and bag a few more before the oncoming winter buries us.

Alas, I returned to find my rear driver's side tire nearly flat. The car was still driveable, though, so I rolled slowly until the first air pump, which I found across the river in Fairlee, Vt.

That was enough to get me to Rutland, Vt., where the tire went completely flat. Swapping it out for the "donut" spare required me to unload all my musical gear into the parking lot of a Days Inn, leading to the discovery that my Subaru Forester is missing its jack!

But I was able to borrow one from some leaf-peepers from New Jersey, which allowed me to complete the swap and make it to my silent film gig that night in Brandon, Vt.

The car has All Wheel Drive, so I really didn't want to drive any real distance without matching tires. Luckily, I had arranged to stay in Rutland that might because of a show the next day in Charlestown, N.H.

So on Sunday morning, I was relieved to find that a Tire Warehouse place in Rutland was open. And it took them just a few minutes to find a nice piece of heavy gauge metal wire than had somehow pierced the tire. It was easily patched for $25, saving me the unplanned cost of a full set of new tires.

Alas, this adventure got in the way of plans to run 10K in Rutland that morning, which would have added Vermont to the list of states that I've run in.

But Vermont is close by, and also it was actually snowing on Sunday morning. So both factors figured into the decision to hold off.

On the upside, the morning overcast blew out to reveal an autumn riot of vivid colors in the landscape: blazing foliage on surrounding slopes, topped with brilliant white snow on a few higher peaks, all under a bright blue sky. It was like one of those idealized postcards of New England, but it was real.

The brilliant sun also lit up Jones' Bakery, a place I'd always wondered about. I'd never been in Rutland when it was open, but that's because it's only open on mornings.

A visit found a real throw-back: a local bakery in operation for 93 years, I was told, with everything made from scratch.

So I celebrated my new tire patch with a couple of real donuts: a plain and their version of a Boston Creme. Both were just fantastic, prompting me to get a dozen to bring to work the next day.

Next big adventure: the Manchester (N.H.) Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 1. I'm running the half-sized version. Lots of ups and downs in this one, but still hoping to beat my time of 2:39:38 earlier this month.

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