Day 3: Tuesday, August 11
Route: Lancaster, NH to Lancaster, NH
Distance: 149 miles
The campground café was the venue of choice for Tuesday’s breakfast for most of the attendees. You could order up pretty much whatever you wanted – pancakes, bacon/eggs/potatoes, egg sandwich – but too much steak and beer the night before (and not enough water after a long day’s ride) had left me feeling out of sorts; I opted for a simple bowl of cereal, and tempted fate by including a cup of coffee as well.
Fortunately breakfast sat well, and an hour or so later, Shawn and I hit the road. Most of the time at BMWST events we end up with two or three riders coming along with us, but this time, it was just the two of us. The roads we found ourselves on weren’t obscenely twisty like the stuff you find in the Smoky Mountains, but it was wavy enough to be interesting, and the pastoral scenery and company of an old friend made it a very fine place to be.
After just 25 miles we reached the toll gate for the Mount Washington Auto Road. We paid our toll, then started up the nastiest stretch of paved road I had seen in a long time. Terrible, uneven pavement with frost-heaved boulders pushing up through the tarmac proved a serious obstacle course for the RT’s. After several miles of weaving and dodging, we hit a stretch of un
paved road that was, ironically, far nicer to ride on than the paved stuff. The pavement resumed for the final mile or so before we reached the parking lot at the top.
And now, a short bit of history for context:
It’s been a source of amusement to us and others that, for so many years, Shawn and I have ridden the exact same model/color/year of bike. Hell, for a long time, our gear even looked pretty similar. And then last summer when he bought his new RT, he announced his purchase to me with an email that said simply, “hey guess what, folks won’t be able to call us ‘twins’ anymore.” In case you’re wondering what he’s talking about, here’s what our old bikes looked like in 2007 when we climbed Pikes Peak:
Well, of course I ran out and got me a new RT this spring. So here’s what our bikes looked like at the top of Mount Washington on this trip:
Stop laughing, you, there’s more! Here’s what our gear looked like on that 2007 road trip:
And now, in 2009, at the top of Mount Washington:<sigh>
The twins ride again…
Behind us in that photo was one of the cog-rail
trains. Here’s a better shot:
Interesting to see how the boiler is canted so that it provides best performance when climbing a steeply-graded track. According to Wikipedia, The Waumbek
, built in 1908, is still coal-fired.
A close-up of one of the cog-drive mechanisms that enables these machines to climb grades that would be impossible for ordinary trains:
While we were admiring this old piece of iron, a more modern equivalent arrived at the summit:
This is one of two recently purchased diesel-hydraulic locomotives, operated on a biodiesel blend called B20
. Although many train enthusiasts are nostalgic for the old steam locomotives, many others have been happy to see the diesels in operation, as they produce almost no visible smoke to clog up the vistas; this is not the case for the old coal-fired locomotives, which put out massive clouds of dark black coal smoke as they climb the mountain. Stinky-ass weasels, indeed.
Moving past the train platform, I captured a pretty good panoramic shot of the mountainside:(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)
Mount Washington is the site where the highest directly-measured wind speed was observed: 231 MPH. The buildings have to be built to take that kind of punishment, and in the case of the building which now houses the gift shop, they’ve simply chained the whole thing to the ground:
Elsewhere on the summit we found the Tip Top House
. Built over 150 years ago, it’s the oldest surviving structure on the summit, and originally served as a hostel for summit hikers.
The main dining hall:
The bunk room, which seems even more Spartan than most modern submarines:
In the main dining hall there was a 3-ring binder on the table with numerous photos and sketches related to the history of the Tip Top House. Here’s a photo from about 100 years ago showing the building’s exterior, which hasn’t changed much since then:
And a comical look at the experience of climbing Mount Washington in the 1870’s:
Satisfied that we had seen enough of the summit, we made our descent and headed south on NH16, then west and north on US302. We waited out a brief summer shower under the eave of a country store before continuing on up the road. We stopped for gas just a few miles later, and when we spotted some really bad-ass clouds coming at us from the north, we decided this would be a good time to stop for lunch. For an hour or two.
As we walked into Fabyan’s Station, Rich Edwards and his buddies (sorry, I can’t remember everyone’s names!)
were just walking out; when they saw the clouds coming our way, they decided to wait out the storm, too.
After a good hour of torrential downpours and gale-force winds, the skies cleared completely and we hit the road. With a late morning start, time spent on the summit, and time spent waiting for the storm to clear out, it was already mid-afternoon, so we cut our planned route short. We went west/north on US302/I93 to St. Johnsbury, then turned back east on US2.
At some point on US2, oncoming drivers began flashing their high-beams and waving at us. We expected to encounter a cop, but were instead surprised to see a moose (a friend of mine calls them “swamp donkeys”)
by the side of the road:
It/He/She didn’t seem particularly bothered by all of the cars – some stopped, and some speeding on through. After most of the stopped vehicles had departed, some other guy dismounted his bike and walked over to the moose. I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but it soon became obvious that he was trying to scare the moose away from the road for everyone’s safety:
It was a very civic-minded action on his part (or maybe he just feared for the animal’s safety)
, but up until the moose actually started fleeing it was a real uh-oh moment in my mind, because I know that moose are quite fond of the Mexican hat dance
(see at 0:30).
A few miles later, we arrived back at the hotel where we cleaned up and, um, relaxed:
Down the hill near the big picnic shelter, preparations were already well under way for the evening’s clambake, catered by a company from Maine:
In this photo a wood fire is burning underneath a large steel tray holding a few inches of water. In racks above the water – inside the plywood enclosure – is about 450,000 pounds of soon-to-be-delicious seafood. When the plastic top bows upward and puffs of steam start coming out, the staff knows that things are starting to cook:
While the food slowly became delicious, we amused ourselves with beer, conversation, and of course the obligatory motorcycle maintenance. In this shot, Richard (Benicia_GT) was in the middle of a throttle body synch:
A short distance away, a Harbor Freight tire-changing stand was present, and it pleased me greatly to see that it had been fitted with my world-famous Mojoblocks:
A little while later, the food was done cooking, and the mysterious plywood enclosure was opened up to reveal a great big pile of Delicious:
Bags of mussels, clams, corn-on-the-cob, and of course, scores of lobsters:
The hungry mob stared and salivated, but somehow managed to maintain order and stay out of the caterer’s way while they unloaded the treasure chest.
While the catering staff prepped the serving line, the rest of us had one last thing to do. We gathered at the foot of the hill for a group photo. Here’s a photo of Shawn’s carefully groomed ear, with Jamie and Roy visible in the distance:
Shawn’s carefully groomed ear is seen here in profile, while Jamie barks directions at the hungry, salivating mob from up on high:
Jamie is seen here asking if anyone knows where Shawn’s carefully groomed ear went:
Roy did an excellent job with the group photos and the many others he took during the event
. Here’s one of the group shots he took:
Once the photo shoot was done, the hungry mob perambulated over to the shelter, where the serving line was ready to dish out some really amazing food:
I was somewhere in the middle of the line, and it was getting difficult to be patient as I saw tray after tray of magnificent seafood float by, and more and more people sat down and started devouring the goods:(click on image to open a full-sized panoramic photo in a new window)
Eventually I reached the serving tables, where an enthusiastic catering staff loaded my tray with so much food that it almost folded in half:
Each person got a lobster, an ear of corn, some potatos/onions and a roll. Stop drooling, you, there’s more! Note also the top-heavy bucket of clams and mussels, with a big ol’ cup of clam chowder sealed in a cup right behind it, flanked by a small cup of melted butter.
OH, it was good. Damn good. I had vague, distant memories of not enjoying clams and mussels from the shell some time in the past, but I dug in anyway, and they turned out to be fantastic. And the lobster? Hey, is there any way lobster could not
be delicious? It was awesome.
But the biggest surprise for me was the corn. I love corn on the cob, always good stuff. But this was something special. See, somehow during the steaming process, the “seafood” essence from all the other stuff in the box had seeped into the corn, and it brought the experience up to a new plane of delicious. A chorus of angels sung in my ears with every bite, and I cried a little when it was all gone.
After dinner the conversation and beer both resumed full flow. At one point I left the noise of the picnic shelter to talk to Masako on the phone. Eventually I needed a place to sit down, but with no chairs nearby, the ground seemed like the best choice. As it happened, I found a new perspective on Raaaaaan’s GS:
The UnRally brings together people who don’t normally see each other at “local” events like Torrey or BRR. No matter where the Un is, several people invariably come from the far side of the country to attend. Jamie (KMG_365) and Leslie (Les_is_More, AKA “Mama Hoon”) rode all the way from San Diego to get here; I hadn’t seen them since spring Torrey 2007, and I spent a good part of my evening talking with them about all sorts of things.
Later on in the evening, a special event took place. Some time ago a bottle of Very Impressive Whiskey (valued at $175) had been donated to BMWST by Gary (Carrotnc):
This evening, the Very Impressive Whiskey was being raffled off, with the proceeds to fund the discussion board’s hosting fees.
A lot of people entered, but as Conner McCleod
once said (actually he said it several times)
, “there can be only one.” The winner was Lester V (in the white shirt), here flanked by Armando and Mama Hoon while Paul (SAMSAR) looks on:
Actually, BMWST.com won pretty handily, too: the raffle generated approximately $400 in funds, enough to defray site hosting costs for the better part of a year.