Day 36 - Just a Little Goldwing Mountain Climbing In the Rain

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June 29th 2017
Published: June 30th 2017
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Day 36 - Meredith to Kancamagus Highway to Mt Washington Auto Road to Gorham

This morning it was a little sad to say goodbye to Paulette & Kevin, it was great to spend a few days with them. Chef Paulette made her final delicious breakfast and we loaded up the bike and waved farewell. She and Kevin were very gracious hosts and we had such a good time while we were there. This morning, the weather report was not so good, it called for rain for an 2 hours starting at noon followed by rain all night starting at 6. When we left, the skies were cloudy, but no sign of rain yet. The plan for today was to head east on the Kancamagus Highway to Conway and then turn north to the Mt Washington Auto Road and ride to the top of Mt Washington on the bike. We had been to the top of Mt Washington before, but last time we used the Cog Railway, this time we wanted to ride!

Since we had already ridden most of the backroads to Lincoln, NH during the last couple of days and since we were trying to beat the rain, we just to the Interstate from Paulette's to Lincoln and the start of the Kancamagus Highway. I had driven the Kancamagus many times in a car in the past, but it was another of those roads that I always wanted to ride on the motorcycle. It is a 35 mile long designated American Scenic Byway, and there are no commercial businesses along the road, just a few scenic lookouts as we reached the top of Mt Kancamagus. We stopped at each of these lookouts and took pictures. There were very few other people on the road, so the motorcycle ride was awesome! This is the kind of road that starts at a few hundred feet of altitude and quickly climbs to over 2800 ft with switchbacks and hairpins and just a wonderful ride. At one of the scenic outlooks, I was just getting ready to pull back out and was looking up the road when someone from down road blew their horn as they passed by, I guess they were worried I was going to pull out. The horn startled me, and I hit the front brake, and the bike went over on its side. Second drop this trip! This time Jody and I had no trouble getting the bike back upright, so we just got back on, a little embarrassed and continued on our was as if nothing ever happened.

Toward the end of the Kancamagus, there is a small gorge where we could walk out on the rocks and take some pictures around the waterfall. It's pretty there in the summer, and you can get your feet wet in the water among the rocks, though they won't actually let you swim in the gorge. No one else was there as it was just too cold to be messing around in the water. All too soon, the ride across the Kancamagus Highway was over as we reached the town of Conway. Conway is just a quaint little ski town, that is also the home of the Conway Scenic Railway. Normally we would jump at the chance to ride a train, but we had already ridden this one before, so we pressed on north until we reached the Mt Washington Auto Road.

I have driven the Mt Washington Auto Road in a car before, and it is a pretty terrifying ride. It is 8 miles long and ascends to about 6400 ft. At the 4 mile mark, the paved road becomes gravel/ dirt for a mile and then resumed a paved road to the top. I had forgotten about the gravel/ dirt part, but we were here and committed so there was no backing out now. Fortunately my recent experiences around Kevin & Paulette's house had bolstered my confidence in Goldwing offroading on dirt roads, so we were ready to tackle the job. The road was very steep, with a maximum speed of 20-25 mph. The entire ascent was done in second gear with a couple of downshifts to first on some of the sharper turns.

As long as we were below the treeline, it was a lot like any mountain road, unless you looked close to the edge where you would notice that most of the dropoff was very steep and only about half of the tree was above the roadway. The road was also very narrow, but fortunately there was very little traffic, so I was able to spend most of my time hugging the centerline and only venturing to the edge when another car was coming downhill. The biggest problem was not the cars coming downhill, but the slowpokes ahead of me heading up. There were a few times when a timid driver or one who was just a gawker would slow down to 5-10 mph. It is difficult to keep a 2-wheel motorcycle upright at 5 mph, so I would drop back and try to leave some space. Most of the slowpokes would recognize my predicament and would pull over and let me pass.

Once we cleared the treeline, we pulled over at one of the scenic overlooks so we could get some pictures. The skies were still clear, and the views were excellent! While there we met another couple with a trike from Florida and they said they had pulled over as the bike was beginning to overheat. I never thought to look at my temperature gauge as I had never seen it above the center for as long as I have owned the bike. So we climbed back on and continued on our way. At the 4 mile mark, we encountered the gravel/ dirt road and it was even narrower than the paved sections, but it was very hard packed and was easy to ride across. The 5 mile mark came quickly, and I was glad to be on pavement again.

I looked down at the temperature gauge, and sure enough it was a couple of lines above the center, but never went any higher and would drop back down when the road leveled off a little. The outside air temperature was now getting much colder, down into the 40's and the wind was picking up also. As usual in these kinds of rides, Jody got a great view over the side of the mountain, but most of my time was spent concentrating on the road ahead that I had little time to enjoy the view, As we reached the top, the winds were a lot stronger and the temperature had dropped to 42 degrees. Luckily, we had anticipated the cold, so we had on multiple layers of clothing, rainsuits, gloves, and had the seat heaters and grip warmers turned up to maximum. It was cold and windy, but we made it!

We went inside to the Visitors Center, checked out the t-shirts and bought some coffee. The Cog Railway was just arriving, so I was able to get a couple of pictures. A few minutes later, the clouds came in, the rain began to fall, and visibility dropped to zero. We figured we had better get out of here quickly, and started to head to the bike, but quickly realized what "visibility dropped to zero" means. We could not see ahead of us far enough to make our way to the bike, never mind down the mountain. So we decided we might be stuck here for a while, so we may as well make the best of it. Unfortunately, there was no cell phone reception, and the Visitors Center did not have WiFi. So we got another cup of coffee, visited the little museum up there and took another look in the gift shop.

We ended up waiting for about an hour, and the visibility started to look like it was improving a little. The rain had slowed to just a drizzle, and we thought we would make a break for it. We couldn't see very far down the mountain, but we could find our way to the bike. As we climbed down the stairs to the parking lot, we seemed to come out of most of the cloud, and the visibility got a little bit better. So we climbed on the bike and began to head downhill. It was raining a little, but not enough to prevent me from seeing clearly. I just put the bike in second gear and pointed it downhill, trying only to use the brakes when absolutely necessary. The roads were wet, it didn't really affect anything. There were a couple of sharp turns that I even needed to downshift to first gear! It wasn't as terrifying as I thought it might be as the clouds tended to obscure my view over the edge.

But then we hit Mile 5 and we had to drive the mile long gravel/ dirt road again, except this time it was wet! Luckily, we only met a couple of cars coming up as we were heading down, so most of the time I could stick to the center. I just kept it coasting in second gear and before I knew it we were back on pavement. This was the only part of the ride that scared Jody a little, as she was able to see over the edge maybe a little too well. I was so busy concentrating on the road, I didn't see anything else but the dirt road surface. Once we were back below the treeline, it was really just a steep descent on a tree lined road. There were a few instances o the way down of slowpokes also but most pulled right over and let us by. There was only one jerk in a jeep that kept riding his brakes all the way down in front of us, but eventually he realized we were behind him and let us pass.

After we reached the bottom, it was only a little past 2:00, too early to check in, and it was still raining, so we really couldn't do anymore sightseeing. We found a cafe across the street and holed up there drinking coffee until the rains let up a little and it was late enough to check in. The hotel is is a little Mom & Pop in Gorham, NH just 8 miles up the road called the Top Notch Inn. We are always wary of non-chain hotels, but it had a good TripAdvisor rating and the room turned out to be great. And right next door was a really good restaurant, so dinner was excellent!

Tomorrow, the plan is to head over to Maine and the Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor. We are staying in little Bed & Breakfast for a couple of nights in the town just before the bridge to Acadia. From there, we are turning south, for a ride down the coast of Maine to Lowell for a couple of days through the 4th of July. Hopefully the weather holds out!

133.8 Miles Today

5529.6 Miles Total

3.585 Gallons Today

139.216 Gallons Total

Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 27


Tot: 0.387s; Tpl: 0.091s; cc: 10; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0544s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb