Week 1: Bicycling Kennebunk, ME to Paradox, NY

Total distance: 276.5 miles

Day 1 – 51.5 miles – Kennebunk, ME to Province Lake

Biking was a success! We made it to Province Lake on the Maine / New Hampshire border. Somehow a tick leapt up and bit Jess in the thigh while she was biking, but she noticed right away and pulled it off. This was our first indication that this tick season was bad since we hadn’t even been in long grass.

View of Province Lake

Theme: Escaping mosquitos which chased us away from our lunch and our rest spot and into our tent where we hid for the night.

Highlight: Stopping at Thurston and Peters Sugarhouse for a rest and meeting one of the owners who gave us frozen soft-serve ice cream and let us enjoy the beautiful garden even though the sugar house was closed.

Resting outside Thurston and Peters Sugarhouse

Overnight: We struck out at two campgrounds, one of which was actually a private vacation resort and the other of which was a full RV park, so we found a patch of unoccupied ground on the side of a rather deserted road and pitched our tent. There were so many mosquitoes we hid in the tent and ate peanut butter with lettuce and cheese for dinner.

Day 2 – 35 miles – Province Lake to North Conway, NH

We got up early and packed up quickly to avoid the mosquitoes and went down to the beach to make breakfast. After a pretty ride, we made it to Conway, NH to join the Northern Tier bike route. We’ll be following a few different Adventure Cycling routes but we’re starting with the Northern Tier which will get us to Buffalo, NY.

Breakfast by Province Lake

Theme: Lots of pretty ponds.

Highlight: Entering the White Mountain National Forest. Eric particularly enjoyed biking on the roads surrounded by forest.

Overnight: We stayed at Blackberry Crossings Campground in the White Mountain National Forest. The campground was quiet but had too many mosquitoes to really enjoy being outside. We made a fire to keep the bugs at bay and cook dinner.

Day 3 – 33.58 miles – North Conway, NH to North Woodstock, NH

We survived the Kancamagus Pass! We’re really glad this hill came early in the trip. We didn’t do any real training before we started, but we can’t imagine making it up that hill if our legs had been any more tired.

Victory!

Theme: One very long hill! (16 miles up and 15 miles down).

Highlight: Our campsite had hardly any mosquitoes so we enjoyed a pleasant evening around camp.

Hanging out by the fire

Overnight: We stayed at the Lost River Valley Campground. We had a lovely evening around the campfire cooking, doing yoga, meditation, and push-ups.

Day 4 – 20.1 miles – North Woodstock, NH to Pike, NH

We had an easy day of biking because we had set up a place to stay through Warm Showers. Warm Showers is a loose organization of people willing to host touring cyclists. The minimum offer is a warm shower and a place to pitch your tent, but some offer more.

We were glad for the light day after the Kancamagus pass, especially since this route has two smaller but still significant hills. Jess has been struggling to unclip her feet from her pedals so she usually does it a mile before she needs to. On this particular day she hit a hill in a high gear, couldn’t pedal, and couldn’t extract her feet. Luckily there was a guardrail nearby so she was able to catch her fall, but then she was laying on her right side with a bicycle on top of her and her left foot still clipped in which meant she couldn’t get up. She took her foot out of the shoe to get up and right the bike. Then she couldn’t get the shoe off the pedal without putting the shoe back on which she couldn’t do on her own while balancing the bike so Eric had to walk back down the hill to help. We haven’t decided yet whether the clips are too tight or it’s user error.

We were targeting arriving at Dave and Julie’s at 4pm, so we had a lazy start in the morning and then spent some time hanging out in the shade at Windy Ridge Orchards which was unfortunately closed.

Rest stop

Theme: rolling hills and tired legs

Highlight: Our first Warm Showers experience and meeting Julie and Dave. They were lovely people who fed us pork roast, strawberry rhubarb pie and blueberry pancakes, let us take showers and do our laundry, gave us a bed, and drove us back to the trail the next day.

Overnight: Warm Showers with Julie and Dave

Our first Warm Showers hosts

Day 5 – 53.5 miles – Haverhill, NH to Bethel, VT

We made it to Vermont! Shortly after crossing into Vermont, we stopped at a deli in Thetford for lunch. We met a guy who told us about a detour to avoid two hills. We stopped for a rest at a gas station in Sharon and met Rob in the parking lot who offered us a place to stay for the night in Bethel which was, conveniently, our destination anyway. Along the way we saw a snake (!) in the road and a beautiful deer crossed in front of us.

Sharon, VT

Theme: So many nice people!

Highlight: meeting Rob and Cath at the Sharon Trading Post who let us camp on their lawn and gave us fresh asparagus from their garden

Fresh asparagus!

Overnight: It was our first rainy night. Rob and Cath were concerned about us in the tent in the rain and offered we could set up our tent on the concrete under a covered section of their barn. We opted for the softer grass and stayed warm and dry in the tent despite the rain.

Camping on the lawn

Day 6 – 33.8 miles – Bethel, VT to Bread Loaf, VT

There was another big hill in our future. We started out the day thinking we would save the hill for the next morning when we were fresh, but when we got to the base of the hill, we decided there was enough gas left. In the small town of Hancock, we stopped to get supplies for dinner and asked for recommendations for a place to pitch our tent. The owner recommended a fire road just over the hill at Bread Loaf that would lead us to some trails in the Green Mountain National Forest.

Theme: Biking along rivers

One of many rivers

Highlight: Sleeping in Green Mountain National Forest just after tackling the hill at Bread Loaf near Middlebury, VT.

Overnight: We found a beautiful spot in the middle of the trees in the Green Mountain National Forest and slept very well. Jess found another tick, this time in her hair.

Sleeping between the trees

Day 7 – 49.5 miles – Bread Loaf, VT to Paradox, NY

We made it to New York! We’ve been in four states in seven days on bicycles which feels like a pretty awesome accomplishment. We stopped in Middlebury, VT, to stock up on supplies and then rode to Shoreham, VT, to catch the ferry to Ticonderoga, NY. The ferry cost $2 per person for cyclists and reminded us of the ferry we took from Argentina to Paraguay. We thought it would be cool to visit Fort Ticonderoga but balked at the $26 entry fee since we didn’t have much time. We thought the fact that our New York map didn’t have an elevation chart meant New York would mostly be flat, but we were definitely wrong! We tackled the big hill to Paradox before finding a campground. Unfortunately, we were introduced to black flies on this ride, and they are annoying!

Getting to the top of the hill!

Theme: getting to New York!

Highlight: Ferry across Lake Champlain from Vermont to New York.

Ferry ride

Overnight: We entered Paradox Pond Campground and it was totally empty! We couldn’t find anyone to pay or anywhere to buy firewood, so we chose a site on high ground (away from mosquito swamps) and scrounged up some wood to make a fire and cook dinner – cans of chili and instant mashed potatoes. We sprayed our clothes with permethrin to try to keep the mosquitoes and black flies more at bay. The next morning we paid for our site when we left and discovered firewood cost $9! We were glad we hadn’t had the option to purchase it the night before.

Empty campground

Week 1 is over. Our legs are tired, but we are loving the freedom of biking as far as we can/want each day. The weather has been gorgeous all week and we are feeling very accomplished. The Adventure Cycling routes are great. They generally have little vehicular traffic, often have decent shoulders, and are nicely paved. Average cost of week 1: $45 per day.

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