Vermont Tour de Cheese Day Six, the End.
The Danville Tavern and Inn was a very comfortable spot for the night - especially since at around 4 pm, I was awoken by heavy rain. But the soft pillow under my head reminded me that I didn't need to worry about the tent leaking or the bike getting wet.
Good call, good call.
I was the only resident of the inn for the night, so I was surprised to hear voices downstairs when I went down to investigate breakfast. On the other side of a window, an elderly couple were discussing something local. I couldn't tell exactly, but when I stuck my masked head through the door to find the owner, they were surprised to see me.
The Tavern & Inn seemed to be the only restaurant open in Danville, and was a spot for regulars, who were chatting away about the business of the town. As I sat and had my French Toast with a bottle of Maple syrup, watching the grey skies clear a bit, I could hear an intelligent discussion and analysis of mask wearing, and its denialists. This reassured my feeling of Vermonters as people with just good common sense.
Attaching my bags to the bike, in a slight drizzle, I rolled onto the road, heading towards another rail trail.
There was no cheese makers on the list today - it was just a day to cross from the Green Mountains to the White Mountains in NH, or as the day unfolded, 126 km under overcast skies, the Gray Mountains, VT to the Gray Mountains, NH.
The rail trail carried me from Danville to St Johnsbury was fantastic. Not only were the views typical Vermont, with the Green/Grey hills rolling around the horizon like waves on a gentle sea, but the close up scenery was a stunning contrast.
The trail had been hewn through the rocks for the railways, and now on a bicycle you could see these rock faces leaning in from each side. A passenger on a train, would have missed this detail, but on a bike, you could see every twinkle of moisture as it ran down the nose of the cliffs.
Now the rain had stopped, but the world, including the air, my gloves, my legs and my bags, were wet. These would stay this way until I finished the trip.
From Danville, I passed into St Johnsbury, which looked a nicer town, than when I had previously passed through it. I paused briefly outside the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium, and wondered whether this was the same Fairbanks family which used to own land in Dedham (and their house is the oldest freestanding wooden structure in the USA). Apparently they were prolific in producing offspring so I guessed so.
The last riding to be done in Vermont, was of course, a gravel road, winding uphill to the top of a reservoir, where on a more beautiful day, the view would have been stunning. The gray skies gave the whole vista a slightly depressing look.
Once again crossing the Connecticut River, I entered New Hampshire, which would provide me just a few more minor roads before I hit the US302, which would take me all the way to North Conway and the finish, but even this stretch of road held some pleasant surprises.
My first sighting of a bear happened just over the border, on some quiet, flat road in NH.
I was in cruise mode. A medium sized bear strolled across the road maybe 200 m ahead. A bike is so quiet that, he hadn't heard me coming. I started to slow, he looked and paused, and I paused reaching for my camera. For a split second we both looked at each other - "what you gonna do?" And then in a flash, he turned his head, and galloped off into the woods.
No digital picture, just an analogue memory.
I've ridden the US302 many times heading in both directions, and so knew that a long grind uphill was coming, with the Omni Hotel marking a point almost at the crest. This is followed by a wickedly steep downhill and tantalizingly long run into town. What I didn't realize was that I would actually turn off from US302 for a mile or two, to enjoy my last trail ride along a young spritely river and some angry rapids.
The last time my fat tyres would have a chance to rattle some gravel, slide on some mud, and rip up a little rock garden. The versatility of this bike is phenomenal.
After that fun, it really was back to work on the US 302. The next stretch was where the Omni Hotel controlled the horizon, the entry to the true Crawford Notch and the end of the climb (and the beginning of the downhill).
Whenever I see the red-turreted hotel of the Omni, and the horrid golf course which throttles it all the way around, I wonder what the land looked like before, and why the hotel was plopped right there, like a whale in the Las Vegas desert. Progress? Unsightly it maybe but, this is where the IMF treaty was signed after WWI, and apparently inside it is quite a spectacle.
There was no more rain, just wetness. There were no more major hills to climb, and so it was time to just get on and bring it on home.
Roll up in North Conway, and grab a nice hot cup of tea.