Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tour de Dirt

With rain encroaching on southern New Hampshire this morning, I headed north in the hopes of getting at least an hour or two of rainless riding in. A few of us had originally planned to do a hundred miler in the Catskills today, but moisture spun off hurricane Kyle just off the mid-Atlantic coast convinced us otherwise. I assumed I was going to get wet, taking only long layers with me. Recently, I learned of some more dirt climbs to try sometime, so I took the hardtail MTB.

Starting in Campton, I was going to repeat a loop I tried to do a few weeks ago and botched it up. This was the Sandwich Notch/Algonquin Rd loop. I missed Algonquin Rd last time and added something like 25 miles of pavement to my ride. Google Maps doesn't show Algonquin Rd going all the way through. DeLorme Topo 7.0 does. I figured worse case I would have to backtrack 12 miles or so back over Sandwich notch if the road peters out.

Starting out, I immediately got too hot. Temp was in the 60's and 100% humidity. I left the tights in the car, but up top all I had was heavy weight long sleeve jersey. At least it had a full length zipper. I also brought ear band, not simple sweat band. I was so sure it would be cold and rainy. It was anything but starting out.

Sandwich Notch was in much better shape now that we've had a lot of rain. It was probably road bikeable. No loose gravel, but it was a tad soft. I drilled this climb, as I often do starting rides like these so I get at least one high value interval in. After cresting the Notch, I knew where I had to turn right this time. Algonquin Rd is unmarked, but it is clearly a maintained road. A couple miles in, it was gated. The surface went from smooth gravel to slightly bony fireroad. A cross bike would have been fine on it, but risk of pinch flat would have been extreme for road bike. Algonquin Rd is one of those dream roads. It drops hundreds of feet in five miles, following the Beebe River. With little effort, you could cruise 18-20mph along a rushing stream and tunnel-like canopy of fall foliage.

Campton Pond

All good things come to an end though. Algonquin Rd pops out on Eastern Corner Rd, also mostly dirt. I recalled that Google showed Page Rd cutting back to Campton, but DeLorme did not, which is opposite that of Algonquin Rd. Go figure. These things are never consistent. I didn't look at profile info for this road. The sign said dead end, privately maintained. Whatever. It is a public road. It went up. A lot. It petered out to a bush-wacky ATV deal, especially parts of the decent. A MTB was definitely nice to have here. Unfortunately, I was hoping to bomb the remaining vertical I earned back to my car, but instead was riding brakes the whole way and getting messy from the wet vegetation. This popped out not far from my car. I now completed about one and a half major climbs and almost 20 miles on the GPS.

Looking up Sandwich Notch Rd

After scarfing down a Starbucks old fashioned glazed donut (rocket fuel), I headed out northerly this time. When I last rode Sandwich Notch and posted about it, Matt K. responded via email with some more climbs to try. One was Hubbard Brook Rd, which climbs west of Rt 3. The first mile or so on Mirror Lake Rd is paved, but then it turns into well groomed gravel. Not sure how this road is during drier months, but it certainly could have been road biked today. It is never steep, and it has a couple false summits near the top. From Rt 3, it is over 7 miles and 1300ft gain to the top. The descent is sweet. I did not check any of the side roads out in this experimental forest. One of them may reach a higher elevation. I saw two cars for the hour-plus I was on this road.

Algonquin Rd along the Beebe River

Legs were feeling pretty cooked by this point, and I still had the biggest climb to go. This was Tripoli Rd over Thornton Gap, gaining 1600ft mostly on gravel. I have biked this one several times, and I have climbed the Waterville Valley side dozens of times on skate skis. There was just a touch of drizzle in the air now, and I was amazed I made it over three hours and still no rain. There were intermittent cars on this road, as many popular hiking trails are accessed by it. After going 10-15 minutes with no cars, I thought I'd try to get a self portrait shot with the camera in the road. Wouldn't you know it, every time I sat the camera down and ran to hop on my bike, a car came. After 4-5 attempts, I gave up. Then I went the next 20 minutes with no cars again. Near the summit, there was a nice post next to the road to set the camera on, allowing me to successfully capture a shot.

Looking up Hubbard Brook Rd. What's not to like about this?

The paved descent was an opiate for my trashed legs. I didn't pedal this one. It appears many of the open potholes were patched since the last time I was through here. Ought to help for winter ski use too, as sometimes the groomer pulls up loose asphalt with thin cover. Rt 49 below the alpine ski area was dry. The drizzle seemed to be only at the higher elevation. Rt 49 drops another 800ft in 10 miles, and with no wind, it was an easy cruise back to the car.

Climbing Tripoli Rd near Thorton Gap summit

The ride went 67.8 miles in 4:51hrs riding time, with a majority of the time spent on dirt. Topo says the vertical is 7030ft. My Garmin GPS has another bug with latest firmware revision. Others experience this too. It starts at correct elevation, then jumps to 6000ft as soon as I start moving. This makes the profile and accumulated vertical all messed up. I wish Garmin could get their act together. The other thing that really bugs me is my data is held hostage. I have no way to get a GPX track file out of the GPS. I can only upload it to Garmin's new Garmin Connect website, and unlike their Motion Based site, I cannot export a GPX track file from it. DeLorme does not work with the new Garmin GPS's at all. DeLorme wants you to buy their GPS product. DeLorme GPS do not have all the features I need, and Garmin does not have a viable mapping product. Can't you guys play nice with each other? Time to consider an alternative that is not hell bent on making you buy or subscribe only to their products. This alienates customers. End of mini-rant.

While a 6hr ride in the Catskills would have been nice today, I managed to dodge the rain and sample new terrain with negligible traffic. I hear it pretty much rained at home since I left and rained the whole drive back. Life is good sometimes. Can't wait to hear reports of the Vermont 50 taking place on Sunday. It will be S-O-U-P-Y!

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