Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting there on a bike

Ready to roll 7:30am

The new bag I made

Crossing the Third Branch White River where the flood took out the bridge

I had just crossed the tracks moments before

Coffee, a muffin, wifi, and warmth in Randolph

Lunch spot in Sharon

Last Sunday I awoke just before 7:00am, had a quick cup of coffee and little breakfast, got myself together and pedaled up the driveway headed for White River Junction.

Nancy was at a conference over the weekend and since the weather seemed favorable I decided to ride down and meet her so we could drive back up together. The temps we predicted to be in the 50's but starting out I think they were in the mid 30's. Since I've been riding lately in chilly weather I knew what to expect and was pretty well prepared.

My ride through the Valley took me south to the Roxbury Mountain Road. I took off some layers before ascending up the hill. It was fine and felt good to get warmed up although I took a short-cut up the Old Roxbury Mountain Road and payed with some steep terrain, but it got me up there and it felt good to get the hardest part of my ride over early in the day.

I had checked out my route the night before and determined that the bridge on 12A in Roxbury was still out as a result of the ravages of Hurricane Irene, but I figured I'd enjoy the adventure of figuring out how to cross the river, even if it meant some shallow water wading with my bike overhead. It turned out that there was a bridge out on Carrie Howe Road as well. Luckily it was a Sunday, so there were no work crews about to mind my scrambling through their work site, and I was able to cross over the stream with little trouble. Coming out on to Rt. 12A I was surprised by how chilly it felt for what was supposed to be a warm day, although at this point it was still before 9am.

The anticipated washed out bridge a few miles south of Roxbury was a little more of a challenge, but I managed to get across completely dry on some temporary steel beams running just a foot or two over the clear turquoise water. It would have been bitter to fall in.

I was particularly pleased with my new handlebar bag arrangement when I had to make these crossings because I was able to simply lift the bag off the decaleur and carry it separately from the bike, insuring my stuff was secure as I moved it, and eliminating the weight and balance issues I would have had to manage if the bag were still on the bike.

My ride down through the valley along 12A was spectacular; since the bridge was closed there were virtually no cars to be seen and I had the road to myself for the better part of 9 or 10 miles. I even rode on the wrong side of the road for a minute pretending I was riding in England, although it felt weird and I quickly moved back to the proper side despite there being no cars anywhere nearby.

The cool of the morning persisted and when I reached Randolph about 27 miles into the ride, I was grateful for a cup of hot coffee and a blueberry muffin at the little cafe at the train station.

Unfortunately I was not as careful in studying my route I should have been and I missed a couple of opportunities to take some interesting back roads and instead stuck to the main route the whole way. I'll know next time to examine the choices more carefully and make some proper notes. In any event, I was able to keep to a reasonably good schedule and begin to feel the day warm up as I traveled towards Bethel, roughly half way through my journey.

I became a bit uncertain of which way to go as I passed through Bethel and tried to decipher the Google Maps bike route that I'd printed out. I followed my intuition and made the right choice, but for a few miles was sort of unclear where I was headed. At this point I was traveling along Rt. 14 south and closely following the path of the White River. The endless destruction left by the flooding from Hurricane Irene was everywhere to be seen in these lowlands. Villages emptied out, roads washed away, bridges closed, mud and silt spread high above the river's edge.

I ate one of the sandwiches I'd brought with me as I sat in the gazebo in the village of Sharon and nibbled on some other snacks, but I didn't linger as the day was turning slightly overcast and I was hoping to reach White River by 2pm, or thereabouts. I had agreed that I would call Nancy by 2:00 and my timing was looking good that I might actually get there by then, but I wanted to call anyways just to let her know where I was. I set out from Sharon and decided I'd call from West Hartford. When I eventually reached the village all I saw were flooded out buildings and the general store where there likely would have been a phone was boarded up. Concerned about not calling, I rolled on and committed to calling at the next opportunity.

Despite not knowing the spread of the towns in this area I knew I was getting close to White River, but I wasn't sure how close. It was with a bit of dogged hope that I saw the town sign coming up for Hartford and below it the miles to White River Junction. I was prepared for another 6 or 7 miles, but to my delight my approach revealed it was only 1 mile to town, and a flat mile at that.

I rolled into the parking lot of the Coolidge Hotel right at 2:00pm and Nancy had just walked out the door of the hotel. Our mutual timing was perfect.

So, in all it was about a 63 mile ride. I was glad to travel over new territory and enjoy an unlikely extended late fall ride.


meade said...

washed out bridges can lead to some great low traffic biking...

meade said...

PS, great handle bar bag!

Dave said...

Hi Meade,
Thanks for the compliment. I made the bag myself and am still working out the finer details of how I want it to work. This was my first traditional-style front bag and I'm really happy with it and planning on making more.

ekr said...

I really like the shape of your bag, not too wide, but tall and deep. It looks simple, but detailed and elegant. Very balanced. I like that.
Thanks for the nice write up and images.
I've subscribed to your blog, so I'll keep up with you.

meade said...

I belive in having plenty of spare room in a bag, otherwise its way to hard to pick up something from the hardware store, grocery, a 'er beverage, or whatever...looks like you haven't got some to spare there...

Dave said...

My "extra space" solution is to carry a cape roll affixed to my saddle that can expand to carry whatever I might want to haul if I find myself unexpectedly in need extra capacity.