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Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites, by Marty Basch
 Article List
• My winter vacation
• Phil Gaimon wins 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb
• Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites
• Overendís ready for a Granite State nickname
• Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure
• Quietly cycling Connecticutís northeastís corner
• That "new bike fit"
• Cyclocross - Best way to enjoy it, watch it.
• The next step in personal training?
• What goes up, goes down along Virginiaís Skyline Drive
• Hillclimbs, heaven or hell?
• Acadiaís bikeways beckon
• Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously
• Crusing along Lake Winnipesaukee by bike and boat
• Crank That Kanc
• Wrap, ride and reward
• A Clean Sweep
FRANCONIA NOTCH, N.H. - Sam Damon wanted to show his future brother-in-law around New Hampshireís White Mountains. He figured he could show him the high points like the cliffs and mountain ranges of Franconia Notch State Park, the majesty of a grand hotel with a Presidential backdrop at the top of Crawford Notch and the drama and hills of the winding Kamcamagus Highway along the fast-moving Swift River.

Damon,from Concord, New Hampshire figured out about an 80 mile loop to showcase his home state to Andrew Gardner, of Carbondale, Colorado. It would take the pair of twenty-somethingís about five hours or so to see the sights on their road bikes.

ìKind of the epic factor, I guess,î said Damon before the pair rode off from the Cannon tram parking area in the Franconia Notch State Park. ìThe loop is scenic and you get to see a lot of the hot spots in New Hampshire.î

Okay, so the pair are amateur bicycle racers.

But Damon has also done a challenging 100 mile White Mountain loop in about five hours too. I was figuring on tackling that century in a couple of days when I rolled up to them as they were getting ready to ride on.

The plan was simple. Carry the charge card and nothing but the clothes on my back (in a small backpack) and roll ëround the Whites. My partner Jan Duprey came along too but decided to crochet instead of ride the whole thing, so she played wait-for-Marty with the pickup. Thatís okay. We already had ridden the loop on a tandem a few years ago so she was all set.

Thatís the beauty of the mountainous ride. There are plenty of diversions for those who pedal and those who donít. Motels are plentiful for credit card carrying cyclists with clusters on both sides of the Whites: North Conway and Lincoln. Crawford Notch has the historical grand dame, the Mount Washington Hotel, and the new Appalachian Mountain Club Highland Center. Bartlettís got a few places to stay along Route 302. Manmade entertainment is found from the dancing bears at Clarkís Trading Post in Lincoln to the Conway Scenic Railroad that pulls through Crawford Notch to the alpine slide down Attitash in Bartlett. Pizza, beer and ice cream - cycling favorites - are never far away.
Biking brothers-in-law Sam Damon(left) and Andrew Gardner (r) pose for a grip and grin before heading on their 80 mile ride from New Hampshireís Franconia Notch State Park. Marty Basch photo.
The 34 miles along the sinuous and daunting Kancamagus Highway between Conway (the starting point) and Lincoln - the longest stretch without food and motels - is filled with natural wonder from the swimming holes by Lower Falls and the solid walls of Rocky Gorge. Touring cyclists hauling tents have six campgrounds to choose from and well-placed benches at observation points for rest and plenty of spots to fill water bottles. The Kancís been getting cosmetic surgery of late and shoulders are getting wider, parking areas have more flow.

Two thousand eight hundred and ninety feet. Thatís not even half the way to the summit of Mount Washington. But get to that magic marker at the top of the twisting highway and relish the reward. A white-knuckle drive for the weary motorist, completing a spin along the Kanc (Route 112) is a badge of honor for a bicyclist, complete with the endorphin rush heading down the hairpin turns into Lincoln, past Loon Mountain, and its restaurants, shops and Route 3 motels before entering the land of Cannon cliffs, and the jagged outlines of the Kinsman and Franconia ranges in Franconia Notch State Park. There is a nine-mile multi-use path that rolls through the dark forest with its gnarled trees, ferns, moss and along the rocky Pemigewasset River, passing all sorts of natural wonders. During a cool summer morning after charging it at a Lincoln motel, the canopy breaks and the clouds roll across the top of Cannonís sheer cliffs waiting for climbers jingling with carabeaners and lugging ropes. The comforting smell of camperís fires reaches flaring nostrils as the hum of the parkway comes and goes. The granite faced Old Man of the Mountain is no more, but under where he once stood guard are the chilled waters of Profile Lake and Echo Lake with anglers casting their lines. The tram up Cannon Mountain waits for passengers as the green slopes of the ski area next to the New England Ski Museum waits for another frigid notch winter. Donít be fooled by the description. This is a bike path with a bite. It is steep and hilly in sections. Luckily, there are plenty of places to sit and rest or obey those bike walking sections near some of the more heavily-visited sections.

Bicyclists get a break on the rolling hills of Route 3 heading north to Twin Mountain and its motels, grocery stores and gas stations just before turning east on Route 302 to roll along the flowing Ammonoosuc River. The wide shoulder is a pleasure to pedal by the verdant slopes of Bretton Woods across from the red-roofed Mount Washington Hotel in such a Presidential setting. Be sure to look for the stone Episcopal Church just east of it and across the step are some stone benches. Pause a moment or two and take in Mount Washington and its neighbors. Itís a spot Iíve often missed while pressing down on the accelerator. Wildflowers line the road by sections of Crawford Notch where visitors might see moose but will see the outline of a white elephant on a rock ledge called Elephant Head at the entrance of Crawford Notch State Park with its lodge, train station of start of the Saco River.

Itís going down time as cyclists will see a sign with a truck and 13 percent grade. Sweet it is winding down the notch, passing the leaking waterfalls and marveling at the cliffs on both sides. Even an ice cream stand promising 24 flavors and the sight made famous by the Willey Slide of 1826 which killed nine people isnít enough to keep the wheels from rolling on down the glorious mountain pass. What did put the brakes on was seeing the future biking brothers in law, Sam Damon and Andrew Gardner, just west of Bartlett. They were starting their ascent.

ìThis is pretty spectacular,î said Gardner from Colorado.

ìIt holds itsí own to anything out West.î

Swapping stories, the two had done about 40 miles in the time it took me to do 35. Not bad since theyíve got young lungs and knees.

Then they told me they had stopped for coffee in Lincoln and again in Bartlett.

That inspired Jan and me to have a quick lunch stop at the Bear Notch Deli at the base of Bartlettís Bear Notch Road, another cycling challenge. Route 302 continued past the alpine slide and handed off to the farms and fields of West Side Road (cyclists can also head down 302 and then Route 16 into North Conway). Horses, sheep, cows, a farm stand and covered bridge are all part of the scenery before connecting with the Kanc again to complete the White Mountain circuit.

In two days, itís possible to ride around the Whites. In an e-mail, Damon updated me on the loop he did with Gardner. They did about 80 miles in five hours. And they stopped for coffee once more.
by Marty Basch


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