This past weekend we got set up by Mother Nature with a Friday snowstorm. What was supposed to be a couple of inches turned into nearly a foot of snow from a storm that spanned two full days. This left a mess on the local roadways especially given that some of the local towns chose to basically ignore it all together and leave the roads au-natural.
We were left trying to decide what to do on Saturday. There was actually enough snow to XC ski locally, though the weather was supposed to be sunny and the warmest of the season thus far, not exactly great for XC skiing. Braving the wet, nasty and in some cases, ice and slush covered local roadways wasn't very appealing at all and never really got much of any consideration. We did consider heading north for a notch ride as all of the intel was saying that the conditions and weather would be perfect for it.
Another option, one that had been present for some time but which we had not exercised yet, was to join the Chaingang rides, comprised mainly of Cathy's team mates from the Blue Steel Cyclery team, running from Milford, NH. Although we only live a couple dozen miles from NH, our riding experience there is primarily limited to the Northern part of the state with a few small ventures into the very southern part on local loops that dip into the Granite State. Part of the issue is that I hate driving to a road ride. It just seems wrong to me but what that means is that I am often limited in how far afield my ventures take me. This ride starts a mere 35 miles from home, an easy ride to get to, but when you add the ride to the ride to the ride and ride home, the scale quickly gets out of hand.
The weather was supposed to be nicer in NH than in eastern MA and they received less snow than we did here so the choice wasn't all that hard. We packed up the rig the for the first time since Worlds and headed north on RT3 to RT101. RT101 is a nightmare of endless strip malls and traffic lights, requiring far too much time to navigate. Alas, eventually we came to the destinations, the Shaws parking lot of RT101 in Milford. A good group had amassed with Eric taking on the organizational and leadership duties. That one fact in and of itself, the fact that I wasn't driving, was novel. It seems that I tend to be the organizer and guide on most rides. Man, if only there was an actual job to be had there. I've certainly got years of experience.
Because the group was mixed ability a moderate fifty something mile hilly loop was planned with the option for some bail points or more distance if desired. With that we were off at a brisk but reasonable pace, a pace that was actually more substantial that I had been expecting from the feedback I'd received regarding the ride. Some nice winding country road mixed into some rolling terrain that eventually started to tip upwards slightly. This slight rise lasted forever it seemed as I was on the front setting tempo and trying to get over the top so I could peel off. Literally a couple miles later we hit the top of the ridge and stopped to regroup. A little more down, a little more up and a whole bunch of roads that I'd never seen before let alone ridden a hundred time. Fresh, novel and excellent.
Though the pace was good at times the ride was kept in check and sane such that everyone could mostly hang with only minor regroups. There were a few sections of mayhem but we all stayed together. Just about mid way into the ride I heard a pop from the rear of my bike. Soon I heard another and could feel some extra drag. A quick stop revealed not one but two broken rear non-drive side spokes of my little used Stan's 340 disc wheelset. The wheel was sufficiently out of true that it was rubbing badly on the fender. I wrapped the broken spokes around some intact spokes to keep them from flopping around or getting stuck in the disc brake rotor resulting in, death. I tried to back off a couple of opposing spokes but the crappy spoke wrench I had couldn't turn the alloy nipples and would just round them off. I did manage to move the fender enough that the tire would only barely rub. All of this took a whole lot of the fight out of me and I settled into survival mode, trying to nurse the wheel back in without further incident.
Soon after that, some additional Reindeer games ensued. Not wanting to be left out I partook, completely ignoring the wounded wheel. From that point people started to break up into groups and a few decided to take a more direct route back to the start. The rest of us were pretty much hammer down from there. In fact, there was a long stretch of RT114 from Goffstown just outside of Manchester where we were absolutely ballistic at well over 30 mph, thanks to a tail wind, wide shoulders and lots of traffic heading in the same direction. Eventually we turned off onto RT122 and continued to hammer, though the road was much more rolling. By the end, it became a death march of head down hard on the flats and searing legs on the ups. We finished back in the parking lot with a great ride on what was an incredibly nice day. The temperature was well into the 50's and the sun was blazing and bright. It felt like summer, it felt really good.
On tap for Sunday, Cathy was slated for the Blue Steel Bikes and Beer Indoor TT at Milly's Tavern on the riverfront in Manchester, NH. I was torn all week between racing it and just doing a big ride. I'd even considered just riding to the event but frankly, Manchester has always seemed like a really long ways away from home. That all changed Saturday when we basically rode from Southern NH to Manchester and back. That gave me some perspective. Southern NH isn't that far from home and Manchester isn't that far from Southern NH so therefore, Manchester isn't that far from home, right? When you don't have to plan a loop or an out an back, the reality is that there isn't all that much in New England that really is all that far away. Within reason of course, but when you assume a 100 mile ride is acceptable that opens up a whole lot of terrain if you don't have to ride back as well.
In normal fashion I dragged my feet on Sunday trying to decide what to do. Looking through maps and routes I finally, at the every last minute, decided to go for it. After monkeying with my old road bike I set off for Manchester via the scary unknown with a printed Lougle map that I couldn't really read, a few notes and a cell phone. I decided to take a longer less direct route that went north and hit some climbs, eventually connecting with one of the roads we did on Saturday for the stretch back through Goffstown toward Manchester. The whole way through MA and into NH I felt pretty good and was going at a solid pace. The roads were great and most all of them were new to me. Scenic, rolling ups and downs mixed with some steady climbs and fast descents keeping the average speed respectable.
All of that changed as I turned off RT101 in Milford and onto RT13 heading up to Mont Vernon. The first few miles were a gentle rolling couple of percent grade upward. Then it all changed as I could see in the distance the roadway which was not all that far afield was situated much higher than my present elevation. Sure enough I hit a wall. My legs shrieked in terror when confronted with the thought of the effort required given the steady punishment they had already endured to that point. I stopped to make sure the wheels were not rubbing. They were not and when that happens, they never are. It's just a mind game that your lazy legs are playing trying to convince you they really are working as hard as you need them to work. Busted legs, now get off your fat ass and push. No dice. I was dying, I melted down and removed my beanie on the way up, no easy feat as it was under my helmet of course, then removed my gloves. Finally I got to the top and I was happy again, and suddenly tired.
From there I wasn't sure where I was going and things I was assuming would look familiar from the previous day, didn't. I stayed on RT13 and enjoyed the endless rolling downhill all the way to New Boston where I finally recognized where I was. Then the wheels started to come off the bus as I hit a steady frontal crosswind coupled with broken and frost heaved pavement along River Road. This is actually a nice twisty scenic road but I wanted no part of the splendor. Finally I made it to Goffstown and passed the NH ladies pen and started looking for RT114A and the bright lights of the big city of Manchester. What I found was a mass of strip mall hell in Pinardville and no clearly labeled route across the river to the downtown. In hindsight I should have stayed on RT13 way back and taken a parallel back route that would have crossed the river north on Amoskeag Street. Instead I went south to Granite Street to cross. After some looping around on Canal Street and an eventual call to Cathy for the street address of the Tavern, since it didn't print on my PoS directions thanks to our worthless Lexmark printer, I finally arrived, with 10 minutes to spare before the start of Cathy's team time trial.
Great ride and a great adventure of sorts exploring a new location. Oh, Cathy's team won their event in commanding fashion. Way to go Blue Steel ladies!