My Route

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Day 5: Friday, 6th July. Destination: Red Sleigh Inn, Lincoln, New Hampshire

The day started with crossing our first state line into New Hampshire, and commemorative photos were taken. Our route took us to Conway, at the foot of the Kankamagus Pass. At 2,855ft this mountain has loomed over our map’s elevation profile, hurtling straight into the sky till yesterday’s climb looked like a foothill. We gauged the day accordingly, keeping it short. I was cycling a bit ahead, and waited for E&E outside a cafĂ© in Conway (true to our unspoken rule never to pass a food-serving establishment without consultation). 20 minutes passed and they didn’t arrive, so I stepped out of the shade into the hot sunshine and stood at the crossroad for a further 20 minutes (true to our other unspoken rule that whoever was ahead should wait for the others at any major junction). By this time I was starting to worry. I flagged down a car but the driver, who had driven up from Fryeburg, had seen no other cyclists on the road that morning. The guy at the gas station wouldn’t let me go till he’d tried to contact Edward using his international phonecard, but without any luck. Eventually – as time was getting on – I decided to head off up the pass. It seemed to me that if E&E had got into any kind of trouble I’d have heard about it by now, so most likely they were already ahead of me, somehow having missed each other at the turn-off.

The pass turned out to be beautiful. The sun was shining, and the road followed the sparkling Swift River up a wide, forested valley. Families were out enjoying the day, swimming and picnicking. The incline was a long but pleasant grade and my bike just seemed to love it, urging me to pick up the tempo by responding enthusiastically to any increase in cadence. The climb seemed to go on and on, but apart from concerns about the whereabouts of E&E I was having a good day’s cycling. Nearing the summit, however, the weather changed dramatically - grey clouds rolled up the valley bringing with them the sound of thunder. It started to rain heavily. A break in the clouds – and the trees - showed me that I’d gained quite an altitude, with pine forests of the White Mountains all around. I plodded up the final ascent, and took a self-timer photo at the summit, clad in raingear.

The descent was pretty scary: the rain had stopped, but visibility was low and the road was wet and shiny. I seemed to spend a long time hurtling down the mountainside through a series of unprotected hairpins. Most of the time my hands were hovering over my brakes and for the rest were on them. And then, just as I reached the bottom and was heading into Lincoln, there was E&E, consulting Edward’s sat nav. I think it was a relief just to meet up again, so we didn’t really try to figure out what’d happened. We cycled into Lincoln together, and checked in to the lovely Red Sleigh B&B.

I'm writing this from an internet cafe bookshop in the Marketplace Mall while Edward & Ewa catch the new Die Hard movie (“Live Free Or Die” – as it happens, New Hampshire’s state motto) at the cinema next door. This is the closest we've come to a rest day so far, arriving in town at 3pm. We've crossed Maine already, and passed through some beautiful countryside dotted with picturesque hamlets, New England farmhouses and clear lakes bordered with pine forests. The cycling's been fine, bar Edward's brake problems. We're up in the mountains now, starting the day in bright sunshine and ending with thunderstorms. No sign of moose, though plenty of signs warning us of what to do if we meet them. Lots of colourful birds and chipmunks is about the extent of wildlife. Everyone has been super-friendly, and I think we're eating so much food we're actually putting on weight. But right now I really need to get some sleep...