Tour of New England 1993
I was really starting to get depressed. I had a pretty disappointing
May. I did a two day tour on tandem with a new stoker that was
such a disaster, that 30 miles from the end I traded stokers with
another tandem team. I returned home to the news that R&E
Cycles had gone out of business and took my deposit on my dream
tandem with them. Two weeks later, I totaled my beloved vitus,
and suffered a lot of road rash and bruising as I ended my 300
km brevet at 171 km crashing into a blind dog running lose in
Fortunately this weekend was much better. I had three
absolutely wonderful centuries this weekend. The road rash and
brusing are healing very quickly. Special thanks go to my friend,
David Iwatsuki, who provided the first box of Spenco Second Skin
and arranged for a professional massage to help ease the muscle
spasms! The Second Skin is spectacular. I highly recommend it.
Then I got a call from VISA, saying they will credit back the
deposit on the tandem.
Tour of New England is a three day bike ride run through my local
club. It is held every year over Memorial Day weekend and allows
riders to pass through all 6 New England States. The ride starts
in Boston, heads down to Rhode Island, over to Connecticut, back
up across Massachusetts, into New Hampshire, and across the Connecticut
River into Vermont for the first night stay in Barttleboro. The
second day, riders climb across New Hampshire and spend the second
night in Dover, NH. On Day 3, we head into Maine, down the New
Hampshire Coast, and then back to Boston. The ride has been held
for close to 20 years, and each year it seems a small change has
been made as a nicer more scenic route is found.
I was a little worried about being able to participate in the
ride this year,due to my accident the week before. So I asked
Jamie King if he would be willing to try out my tandem on the
trip. Jamie and his wife Lindy had borrowed the bike in April
for a few rides and weren't totally hooked on tandeming yet. They
had borrowed another tandem for a trip to Galilee, R.I. and in
fact Lindy was my replacement stoker on the last 30 miles of that
trip. Lindy is a put-your-head-down-ride-like-hell rider, and
Jamie, while no slow poke himself, does like to socialize a bit
more. Their different riding styles had not meshed well on the
tandem, yet. Jamie had also been witness to my tirades about my
stoker on that trip to Galilee, and was a bit cautious about committing
to such a long ride. But after a 20 mile test ride on Wednesday
night, he decided to risk it.
The ride was scheduled to begin at 5AM Saturday. A sag vehicle
would carry gear to the motel each night, and was to be driven
in shifts by two riders. Linda L planned to ride the first 100
miles, and Linda S would ride the remaining 40. Unfortunately
Linda S was nowhere to be found at 5AM. Remember when setting
your clock radio for ungodly hours to make sure the radio station
does not go off the air overnight.
Lindy and Charlie had planned to do a few extra miles, adding
a corner of New York on day one, so they rolled out. Kenny, Ric,
and John soon followed, while the rest of us waited for Steve
and Linda S. Most TONE veterans knew that Lindy always does extra
miles on day one, but we wondered if Kenny, Ric and John knew...
An unanswered phone at Steve and Linda's led us to believe they
were on thier way, and sure enough they arrived soon afterwards,
with lots of apologies. So we rolled out into the cool morning
air. The delay saved us from the real rain, although we felt a
sprinkle or two. Those eager riders who left earlier suffered
a steadier drizzle.
On the way out, we caught John, who had a flat, and was therefore
saved from a very long day. We asked if Ric knew what he was getting
into, but John wasn't sure.
One of the handy things about tandems is the stoker can easily
navigate, but I was relieved of this duty, since Jamie, as the
ride leader, and knew the route in his sleep. Tandeming with the
ride leader meant we'd also have lots of company on the ride.
People seem to like staying with the ride leader, even when he's
on a tandem, and they have to work like hell to stay with the
bike. Another advantage of stoking is getting to see wildlife
off in the woods, while everyone else is watching the road. I
have to confess though that it was the captain who first spotted
the deer and the heron in fields along the sides of the road.
Jamie had said one of his concerns was that I would crack the
whip, and try to push really hard (like Lindy), but I certainly
don't have a reputation as a hammerhead. He said he wanted to
take it easy and relax. But there we were out front effortlessly
speeding along as the singles killed themselves to stay with us.
(The 20 mph NW winds may have had a little to do with it.) I've
heard a description of tandem syndrome, where each rider,
worrying about contributing enough pushes harder, and makes the
bike go faster, but I think it has more to do with enjoying watching
single riders run over their own tongues trying to hang on. BTW,
if you ever want to see a tandem fly up a hill, just pull up next
to one (if you can) and say, "Tandems go slow up hills."
With no further verbal communication, the tandem will suddenly
lurch forward and speed up the hill.
We picked up a few more riders in Uxbridge, and headed south
to get our corners of RI and CT. There were no large "Welcome
to the State" signs. Our only indications of geography
came from the license plates of cars in driveways, and prior knowledge
of the route. Shortly after we entered Rhode Island, and were
screaming down a long hill, my biggest fear materialized as a
dog headed out in the road in front of us. Fortunately Jamie had
added a new accessory to the tandem, in the form of an air horn,
that quickly placed that dog back in the woods. I think it woke
the whole state, but I breathed a great sigh of relief. He offered
to leave it on the tandem for me, and now I just need to find
another one for my single!
After a while we broke up into smaller groups, with Jean, Rick,
Bob, John, and Gerry staying with us. The group from Worcester
and Larry, having started in Uxbridge, continued on as we stopped
for a snack just after passing through Webster. For some reason
Jamie goes to this store every year, despite the minimal amounts
of cycling friendly food. I think we finally convinced him to
continue on for homemade muffins in Paxton next year.
Our next goal was Barre. Long time readers may recognize the
name of this town. I was long ago convinced that Barre must be
the center of the universe, or have some strange gravitational
pull, because despite the really bad roads, and really steep hills,
and lack of bathrooms, most long rides in Massachusetts end up
going through Barre. So we had no choice. We had to go there.
There is a friendly bike shop and a pizza joint, whose bathroom
has been "Out of Order" for 10 years. Experienced
folks ignore the sign! Hot Turkey Club sandwiches filled the bellies
of most of our group before we headed out of town on our first
new section of route. Apparently, 122 is being rebuilt, and is
mostly dirt (probably an improvement), so a local rider suggested
a beautiful, hilly alternative. We decided the scenic vistas and
lack of traffic were worth the hills and extra miles, and it will
be added to the official route next year.
We then headed into Orange, as we prepared for the biggest climb
of the day, the one over Mt. Grace. The winds were really starting
to wear on the single riders. I hadn't noticed a thing! Tandems
have a great advantage in a headwind, since you have twice the
power but the wind resistance of only one rider. I was hoping
that the wind would remain as strong and in the same direction
on Sunday, since we would be heading east, and it would blow us
across NH. The climb up Mt. Grace would give us a little break
from the wind, but what a price to pay. Jamie and I had been climbing
well all day. We stood very well together. We alternated standing
and sitting on long climbs, and Jamie's style was very compatible
with mine. I knew we would not have a very difficult time with
Grace. We were still riding with Bob, John, Jean, and Rick. Grace
is a three step climb with the steepest part at the bottom. I
had remembered this section from last years BMB, because it's
where David stood with the video camera waiting for me and Steve
to round the corner while I was off in the woods, uh making a
phone call. He left the tape rolling for some time, before giving
up. When he did spot us, he forgot to take the lens cap off, and
the running commentary is really cute, culminating with a gentle
reminder from Steve that the tape might be better without the
Well there was no one taping this climb, but it would have been
a great video, as we headed up the mountain. We did use the granny
on the lower parts, but we easily made it to the top in the middle
of the group. We then said goodbye, and headed down leaning hard
into the S curves, and enjoying our well deserved reward of a
spectacular descent into New Hampshire. We then had 15 miles of
steady, persistent, grinding headwind, as we made our way west
to the Vermont border. We could see Brattleboro from some distance,
but the headwind made the ride seem a little longer than normal.
We made a quick stop for bagels before riding through town to
the Motel 6 and a hot bath.
There we found Ric, who discovered 50 miles out that he was headed
to New York, and decided to take the standard route, despite having
to fight the winds alone. He did join the Worcester group for
a while near Barre, but was none too pleased that no one had warned
him of his potentially long day!
We also found a message from Lindy, Charlie and Kenny that they
were 17 miles out and headed in. They had called earlier in search
of the sag, a result of headwinds, town line sprints, and achilles
problems, but the headwinds had also slowed the sag driver/rider,
and they found no one in, so they decided to tough it out. When
they arrived an hour later, Kenny, who is 17 looked fresh, but
Charlie and Lindy seemed a bit fatigued.
One of the highlights of the trip awaited us in the form of dinner
at the Steak Out. This restaurant has a great salad bar with a
centerpiece bowl of peel and eat shrimp, and an incredible dessert
bar, with various pies and cakes. We made reservations for 30,
and headed over to graze. Lots of war stories about hills and
headwinds were exchanged over beer and shrimp and steak and coffee
and cake. Eventually the party broke up and we waddled back to
our rooms for a few hours of sleep before we had to get up and
ride another 120 miles.
After a great night's sleep, the alarm sounded at 6AM. I rose
and began my new ritual of applying sunscreen and second skin
to protect my freshly healing skin from the sun. It's always cool
in Brattleboro and Sunday was no exception, so I put on legwarmers,
a light jacket, and light gloves. I put some bagels in the trunk
bag and rolled the bike out into the parking lot to meet Jamie
and the others for the start of day 2. The route across New Hampshire
begins with a 12 mile climb after we cross the Connecticut River
and then a speedy descent into Keene. Last year, Steve R. and
Al had found a homestyle breakfast somewhere on the climb. Steve's
description made our mouth's water. It sounded much more appealing
than McDonald's in Keene, so we decided to try to find the place.
Steve was a little confused about the distance and thought it
was three miles out, but it turned out to be about 7 miles further.
Sixteen year old Kenny, despite having ridden 180 miles on Saturday,
was outclimbing us all. Kids! We did sneak up on him, and
try out the air horn to see how high he would jump, and we all
began plotting adjusting his brakes a bit to even the playing
field, but we always seemed to have food on our minds when we
stopped, and we never gave him a proper handicap.
I believe this was the first time I ever climbed out of the CT
River Valley without fog, and the views were great. We took a
little scenic detour off of Route 9, around a lake/resort area,
and shortly after returning to Route 9 found the breakfast spot.
We had almost given up hope, and some of the riders were too far
ahead to call back, when Steve called out that The Country
Bazaar was the place. Those who were lucky enough to stop
were treated to pancakes, pastries, muffins, and fresh coffee.
Kenny was too far ahead. He'd just have to have an Egg McMuffin!
The screaming 55 mph descent into Keene, helped keep breakfast
down, and then we began another long steady gradual climb. The
group split up as we began to warm up, and stopped to peel layers
of clothing. Sunday's weather was quite an improvement over last
years, when it started at 55, got colder and rainier as the day
went on. The winds that wore us down on Saturday were now helping
us on our way toward the east. The skies were cloudless, and the
views were typical beautiful New England vistas. There is one
memorable climb on this section into the town of Hancock, and
it became even more so this year, as Jamie discovered that we
can't get into the granny under load. We toughed it out, and made
it to the top in our 38-26, but next time, I believe we'll try
to go to the granny a little sooner!
We stopped for a snack and recovery here, and regrouped with
John, Lindy, and Kenny. We continued on along some rolling hills,
where we caught the Worcester crowd riding along at a touring
pace. There's nothing like having a tandem blow by to wake up
a group of riders, and soon we were back in train mode, with a
tandem engine followed by every single that could stay attached.
Things started to look familiar as we were riding on some of my
regular routes, and I recognized my favorite water stop, a spring
just outside of New Boston. Half the group stopped to top off
bottles, while the rest continued on toward lunch at DiAngelo's
After lunch, we made our way through downtown. As we passed over
the Merrimac River, one lane on the bridge was closed off and
covered with fireworks in preparation for the evenings festivities.
We either got through town just before the parade, or people in
Manchester gave us an incredible welcome as they lined the streets
to see us go through!
The weather and winds stayed great throughout the day, making
the ride into Dover quite pleasant, where we took over a small
Italian Restaurant for pizza, spaghetti and calzones for dinner.
Larry had not arrived when we left for dinner, but left a strange
message at the motel saying that he was tied up and would be in
around dark. We made a few bondage jokes, along with our regular
dinner conversation and gossip. Just after dinner, Jamie got a
call from a medical center in Derry, asking someone to come get
Larry. He was ok, but apparently, he had ridden way off course
and fell and suffered some road rash. Unfortunately, he had really,
really gotten off course, and the three hour round trip to get
him cut into my captain's sleep time.
Memorial Day weather predictions were not very optimistic for
most of the East Coast, but it looked like we would be
riding under partly cloudy skies, and the rain might hold off
until evening. We headed over to Jake's for a hearty breakfast.
The servings were enormous. Charlie and Kenny finished their meals,
but most plates were left with half a stack of pancakes on them.
My omlet was delicious. I later learned that I should have tried
the baked beans, like Jack. Jack had some suggestions for a better
route home, and we planned to ride with him and check out this
new route. But he had these baked beans for breakfast and his
bike seemed turbo charged. He was really flying. I'm definitely
going to try those on my next tour!
Jack, Janet, Jamie and I headed out and finally added the 6th
New England State of Maine, before heading south to the New Hampshire
Coast. We lucked out again and actually had a tailwind going down
the coast. This is a very, very rare event. But our timimg wasn't
so good, as we had to wait for two drawbridges in the morning,
but it gave me the chance to remove my jacket and leg warmers.
We regrouped just south of Hampton Beach, where we were joined
by Kenny, Gerry, Bob and Ron. Since we were riding on unmapped
territory, we kept the group together, and took things a little
easier than the previous two days, although the flatter coastal
route and tailwinds bumped our average speed up a bit.
We attempted to stop at a country store in Boxford at about 11:50.
We headed back to the lunch counter, sat on the stools and pulled
out wads of money, but apparently the clerk didn't understand
a major rule of business, and said the grill was closed since
they were closing in a few minutes. Jack told us about an ice
cream stand just around the corner, but they only had ice cream
and I couldn't convince anyone else that ice cream was a good
lunch, so we continued on. Jamie decide to mark this store on
the cue sheet in the future as a place not to stop!
Unfortunately it was another hour of so before we found food.
The lack of traffic and nice scenery were much, much better than
the old route through Haverhill, but riders will be warned next
year of the distance between food stops. We finally got back into
civilization, where we stopped for Greek Pizza, before the final
20 miles back to the start.
When we got back to the King's house, we found more pizzas and
a couple of lasagnas waiting. We beat the rain by several hours
and everyone seemed have have really enjoyed the trip. I know
it will be on my calendar for next year. Jamie and I had such
a good time on the tandem that we've decided to do TOSRV-East
together (with Lindy's blessing:) She'll be doing an extended
hillier version of the ride, since back-to-back centuries in Vermont
just isn't enough of a challenge for her!
I can't say enough about how well the second skin has worked
on my road rash. It really is amazing how quickly I have healed.
Of course now, I'll have to use lots of sunscreen to prevent burning
and scarring of the young skin, but I really should do that anyway!
Despite saying that I was going to park the tandem this year
in favor of my single, I've been getting in lots of tandem miles.
And loving it. I'm leaving for Seattle Friday morning with
the big bike to attempt the 600K in Vancouver with Terry Zmrhal.
(I have to work out there Monday-Wednesday). It's going to be
a very hectic week. Then I'll get back just in time to try and
piece together a single for the Boston 400K.