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Mt. Washington

A second Attempt


Last October, Chris "Holmes" Worth, his buddy Jimmy, Joe "ClueCollector" McGraw, and myself made an attempt at ascending Mt. Washington in Pinkham Notch New Hampshire.  I've not finished documenting this trip as of yet, but suffice to say that we were unsuccessful.  We had a brisk ride and quick ride up to N.H. with temperatures as low as 27 degrees and speeds of up to 137 MPH, but the forest rangers deemed the Auto Road unsafe for motorcycle traffic.

This past Memorial day, Holmes and his lady friend Cheryl, again tried to ascent the mountain on their return trip from Nova Scotia.  Again they were turned back by the forest rangers who determined the road "too greasy" for safe passage.

On June 13, a "Ride To The Sky" day was put on in which the Auto Road would be closed to all vehicular traffic except motorcycles and the Auto Road livery vans.   My brother, Bart, called and let me know of this event in which many hundreds if not thousands of motorcycles would be making the trek up the mountain.  I posted on the New England VRCC board of this event, but unfortunately I could not go because of work and because of the N.H. Scramble ride which I was going to attend on Saturday.  Holmes posted back "OMG!!!!! Hope Springs Eternal!" and pleaded with me to make the ride up with him.

But alas, I could not, because that four letter word "work" was calling.  That is until the N.H. Scramble was put on hold.  And Thursday was going to be the best day of a raining week.  And when I realized that if I worked really late on Wednesday and probably Saturday now that it was free and maybe Sunday to.  You see, I really needed to ride and a long trip was calling and pestering me such that I could not get any work done anyways, so...

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Time to Meet

Holmes and I were to meet at Exit 37 of I-91 north of Hartford at 6 AM.  So this meant that I needed to leave my house no later than 5:10 AM with 5:00 AM being preferable.  So Wednesday night, I had a few drinks and set my alarm for 4:30 AM and headed to bed around 11:30 PM.  I slept pretty good but remember dreaming that the Auto Road was closed because of snow and thinking "what the hell is going on, snow in June?".  This must have been because of Holmes' two failed attempts being on my mind.  I woke about 4:28 AM and got up, showered, shaved, and dressed.  I kissed Trudy goodbye and told her I was leaving.  

I went down and got the Valk out of the garage and took a look to see if the camera was in the trunk.  There was no camera, so I went back up stairs and looked on my computer desk.  No camera there either.  Now I'm beginning to get worried.  What is it with me and this god damn camera and losing it?  Finally I spot it on the living room end table where it was put after our Americade trip.  Now I feeling better.  Down stairs I go and jump on the Valk and head out to meet Chris. 

I head down Rt. 8 and over onto I-84 East toward Hartford.  I'm trying to keep the speed down because its pretty early in the morning and there is not much traffic to mix in with, but unfortunately the Valk had other ideas.  I keep looking down and seeing 80 MPH on the speedometer.  Damn I hope there are no Statey's out this morning.  After a brisk ride, I'm at the Mobil station off Exit 37 at about 5:40 AM. With time available, I park and grab a coffee and wait for Holmes.

I did not have to wait long because about 5:50 in growls the green and cream Valk with Holmes aboard.  Damn that machine sounds sweet with its new stacks, lack of piggies, and baffles drilled out.  I think of how I'm going to be doing this safety enhancement to mine soon.  Holmes needs a cup of coffee as well so he goes in and gets one.

First Harley Encounter

While we are waiting, a guy comes out of the store and looks over the Valks and says "Damn those are big bikes."  We acknowledge this is true and he mentions that the looked about as big as a "VW Bug".  He asks if we are heading up to Laconia for bike week but we say no that we are heading up to Mt. Washington.  He mentions that its good that we are going because its going to rain down here in Connecticut the next couple of days.  You see he is a little confused and thinks that we are going to be taking a couple of days to go up and back.  We correct his error and tell him that no, this is just an up and back day trip.

He mentions that he has a Harley and that there is no way that he could ride it up and back in one day.  He says that probably 200 miles would be his limit.  He could ride it up and back but it would take him a couple of days.  At least he says, "I ride mine".  He then goes off and tells us how his buddies are loading up their trailers with there Harley's and heading up to Laconia for the weekend.  "Why have a bike if your not going to ride it?" he asks.  We concur.  At least this guy has the right idea if not the right ride to do it on.  He wishes us a safe journey and we depart.

The Ride to NH

I lead the ride up through Mass.  I try keeping the speeds to a reasonable 80 to 90 MPH and for the most part I do.  The morning is quite overcast and in a few areas it is misting a little.  I have on my leathers with a long sleeve shirt and my shorty helmet.  I'm a little chilly but not too bad.  Chris has removed the windshield from his Valk and has his full face Nolan on with various other pieces of warm clothing.  We tool up through Mass with no incident and enter Vermont and stop for gas at Exit 3.  I-91 in Vermont has exits that are pretty far apart and some with no services so we decide to tank up here for the run up through Vermont.

Holmes decides he will lead this part of the ride so off we go.  Were cruising a long and we come to a stretch of the road that is quite familiar.  On our last Mt. Washington trip I saw the speedometer tip 137 MPH at this point.  Holmes twists his wrist and starts pulling away.  I think, "Oh no, here we go again".  This time I can only manage 125 MPH before I shut it down.  I think to myself, "must be losing the top end with the trigger wheel installed" and think about removing it.   I pull along side Holmes and just shake my head but I'm grinning from ear to ear.  He later says that stretch of road is just begging for wide open throttle.  I pretty much agree.

Periodically over the next 100 miles, the process repeats.  Holmes twists the wrist and I follow.  At one point I see a deer in the field off to the right.  Holmes does not see it.  Maybe that's because his eyes are watery at +100 MPH.  I thought we were supposed to get off Exit 14, but it really was Exit 15.  Unfortunately, this too flew by at 100 MPH.  Holmes asked me which exit, and I gave the thumbs back gesture to indicate that we past it.  

Normally I take Exit 17 to Well River VT, so I took the lead and we exited there.  We crossed over to Woodsville NH and stopped at McDonald's for some nurishment.  

We travelled Rt. 302 through Bath and then Lisbon.  I was cruising along in the lead at a respectable pace but not too fast.  I looked in the mirror and there was no Valk to be seen.  My heart sort of stopped and I was thinking that "damn, there were not too many curves... Maybe I got wide on one and cut Chris off...".  I turned around and started back.  I had not gone but a few hundred feet when Holmes came around the last bend.  He pulled over and I did a U-Turn and pulled alone side.  It seems that he had some sort of vapor lock and the Valk acted like it was out of gas.  He opened the gas cap and all was well.  Boy did that sound good to me!

We motored up Rt. 302 and I took a left on to Sugar Hill Road. I've driven on this road before but always in a four wheeler.  I would be thinking that this would be a fine road on a bike.  I was!.  The road was freshly paved within the last year since I remember them working on it last fall.  Long sweeping turns and then those awesome yellow signs that look like a snake.  A few pegs scraped here and there.  We continued up the hill and then down the other side.  On the way down, there is the Pancake House.  There were quite a few bikes here and at least one Valk that I could see.  I started to slow to maybe pull in, but indecision caused me to go past.  We then motored on.

At Twin Mountain, we had a choice.  We could head down Rt. 302 through Crawford Notch and then up Rt. 16 to the Auto Road.  It was about 10:15 AM or so which would put us at the Auto Road around 11:15.  The clouds were still hanging over the mountains.  You could not see the peaks of any of the presidential range.  So I stopped and asked Chris what he wanted to do.  I told him that we could take a ride around northern N.H. and hit the Auto Road around noon and see what it was like then.  I told him that I would show him an excellent hotel that had just reopened after many years of being closed and that I wanted to stop by the cemetery to see my mom.  He said it sounded like a plan and off we went.

Through Northern N.H.

We took Rt. 3 though White Field and on towards Lancaster.  I was looking for the Mountain View road.  You see, my mom used to work at the Mountain View Inn.  In fact during the summers, she used to live there.  The Mountain View Inn was a resort that people from Boston and such used to come up and stay for the whole summer.  If you've seen the movie Dirty Dancing and the places in the Catskills, NY, you know what I mean.  Like others, the way of life changed and people stopped coming to these types of resorts.  The Mountain View closed but I can still remember the stories that my mom used to tell of working there.

In the past couple of years, new owners bought the Inn and renovated it.  The last time I was up this way, they were putting in the windows.  Now it's completed and opened. We stopped for a few moments and looked around.  What a regal Inn it is.  It is so large that could not get it in the camera frame unless of course I went across the championship golf course across the street.  I did my best however.  Unfortunately I did not take a picture of the view that the front rooms have which is quite impressive of the Presidential Range.

We continued through the Mount View Road back onto Rt. 116 towards Jefferson.  We hit the intersection of Whipple Road and Rt. 116 and turned right onto Whipple Road.  This intersection is where I used to have to switch buses when I was in grades 1 through 4 and brings back memories.  Whipple Road is a dirt road of about 2 miles.  Down the road we went.  Fortunately the road is pretty packed and not too washed out.  Holmes did say that I kicked up a rock that he saw coming at his head but could not get out of the way.  Bonk.  Right off the Nolan. Fortunately none worse for the wear.  All the time I was thinking of the jaunt that he led me own up the the Norfork pub here in CT.  Through Upper Mountain Road.  Dirt road.  Snow.  Yeah, I was glad I came down this road with his freshly washed bike!

Onto 115A we went toward Jefferson village.  I stopped at the cemetery and talked to my mom and my grandmother who recently passed away and was just interned this spring and my grandfather who has been there a while.  Sort of made me melancholy but the sun started shining through the clouds and I knew that they were watching and enjoying me having a good time.

We turned left onto Rt. 2 and headed down through Jefferson.  I turned right onto the North Road before Santa's Village.  We road on down and I stopped at my grandmother's house and told Chris that this is where I spent each summer from grade 1 to 12 of my school life.  The first day of summer to the last day before school I lived with my grandparents on the farm.  Haying.  Working in the garden.  Fishing!  Damn I used to look forward to rainy days since you could not hay in the rain!  My first bike when I was 12.  A Honda CB 175.  I used to bomb up and down the road that my grandfather put in up to the cabin we built on the mountain.  My grandmother nearly had a heart attack when she saw me flying over a jump in the cow pasture.  187 acres now to be sold.  Some stranger is going to have a large part of my life.  The biggest regret that I have is not having a place to take my kids.  It's not like you can just go out in your back yard down hear in CT and take out a rifle and blow away some cans in the pasture.

On we went down through Lancaster onto Rt. 3 and over through Groveton.  We turned onto Rt. 110 and head over to Stark.  Stark is a pretty little village.  There is a nice covered bridge that crosses the river there.  On the way over, we noted that the rivers that we had passed were pretty high and the water was pretty rapid.  We stopped at the covered bridge and noted that the river had flooded right up to the parking lot.  We took a couple of pictures at the bridge and I related that up in the mountains on the other side is Crystal Lake.  It's actually up in between a couple of mountains.  We used to go there as kids to cool off.  A sparkling body of water that's spring fed.  Warm in many spots but then you take as step and you can feel the cool water coming up through the ground. 

We started to take the little road on the other side of the bridge West but after a few hundred yards I called it off as the road was too washed out and marked with frost heaves.  Back across the river and up Rt. 110 we went.  All along the way I was marveling at how flooded the area was.  Areas that I had never seen have water were now covered.  We continued up a ways until West Milan.  I turned left onto Rt. 110A towards Milan.  A couple of places on this road there were signs that indicated that the road was washed out.  Other than those places the road was sweet.  Nice sharp twisties.   Where Rt. 110A intersects with Rt. 110B we had no choice.  Rt. 110A was closed at this point. Rt. 110B was not disappointing, however.  More sharp twisties and hills to conquer.  We finally hit Rt. 16 in Milan and took a right towards Berlin. 

Berlin was where the second part of my childhood occurred.  My parents got divorced after I finished the fourth grade and my mom got remarried and we moved to Berlin.  When I was in the fourth grade, I swore that I would never move to Berlin.  Berlin is a paper mill town.  Experience one sometime.  After a while I got used to the fact and I would not have changed anything.  I had a great childhood there and many fond memories.  Unfortunately, Berlin is dying or at least severely ill as a city.  Using the word city is a generous stretch of the word.  When I was a kid, the population was around 16,000.  Now 8,000 would be good.  The paper mill was taken over by a business that ran it into the ground and then declared bankruptcy owing the city millions of dollars.  Fortunately, just recently a company here in CT has bought the mills and is reopening them so the future for the city looks a little brighter.

Along Rt. 16 I stopped and showed Holmes a ski jump. This is an 70 or 80 meter ski jump (I forget which) that is made out of wood.  When I was in High School, I used to go up to the top with some friends and drink beer and raise a ruckus.  Now I worry about what my kids are doing.  At least my parents did not know or they did not let on.

Across the street is a park were I also used to go and drink beer.  Actually a lot of the time in my high school years were drinking beer.  Not a lot to do up in the sticks and when you have a doctored license to buy...  The park was complete submerged with about 5 feet of water from the near by river covering it.

As we headed down Rt. 16 towards Berlin and Gorham I was getting to be a little worried.  What with all of the flooding and roads washed out, I was beginning to think that maybe they would not be letting traffic up Mount Washington.   In Gorham we fueled up and then headed up Rt. 16 to Pinkham Notch and the Auto Road.  We passed many motorcycles along the way but I was unsure if they were just cruising or were turned away at the Auto Road.  When we got real close, I saw construction equipment and flashing lights.  I though. "great, the road was washed out and we can't got up".  But I was wrong.  It was just road construction and around the bend we could see the Auto Road with hundreds of bikes and many heading up the mountains.  I smiled inside.  Chris was going to see the top today!

The Ride Up

We first stopped across the street at the Glen House.  We went into the parking lot that had a lot of construction equipment.  At first the state cop did not want us to go into there since there was saw horses in front of the lot, but I explained that my brother was working there and I wanted to see him.  So we went into the parking lot and parked.  I looked around and spotted my brother up on a lift with another guy and a bunch of plywood.  I hollered up "Bartholomew ".  His name is actually "Bart" but I like to give it to him once in a while by calling him this.  He hollered back down, pretty surprised to see me.  I had told him on Sunday that I would not be up on Thursday but maybe Saturday, but there I was.  We bullshitted for a few and he asked if we had been up the mountain yet.  No, I said and then he said to wait a minute and he probably could get us some passes to go up for free.  We did and he did.  A pass that said that two bikes could go up for free.   

We had some brotherly small talk.  He said that it had rained for about 36 hours straight.  He has an older house that he is fixing and he said that he had recently jacked up the roof.  Unfortunately this caused some cracks in the roof shingles and all of the rain sounded like music coming into his house hitting various pots and pans!  We said thanks and goodbye and headed up the mountain. 

I've climbed the mountain when younger and road up a few years ago in my van but nothing compared to taking the Valk up.  If you've never been, the road to the summit is 8 miles long.  Most of it is paved but there are parts that are not and are dirt road.  Once you get above the tree line, on one side the drop off the edge is hundreds of feet.  On he other side is usually a gully between the road and the mountain. Go off the edge and you are done.  Forget it.   Your bike becomes part of the mountain.  Go off the other and you are not going to get out of the gully by yourself.  Maybe three or four strong people but I think more.

Up we road, following many bikes.  Mostly Harleys but a few others.  The dirt parts were what Chris likes to call "greasy".  Tire ruts and loss of traction both to the front and back.  This is a little unsettling when making a mistake could be a few hundred foot drop.  But the bikes handled good and we and the others took it easy and had no problems.  On the way up, the views were pretty spectacular.  We were going through the clouds into a partially cloudy and sunny sky.  The ravines and other peaks remind you that you are in God's country.

We finally hit the top and pulled into the parking lot.    We made it.  Chris had made it. The third time was the charm.  Just when we entered, a guy own a Road King turned hard right and proceeded to drop his bike into the gravel parking lot.  At first I thought he meant to do this since it happened so sudden but then I saw him trying to right the bike.  A few others came over and back up it came.  Holmes and I parked and he found a few stones to put under the kickstands to stop the bikes from sinking and falling over. 

We noticed a few other Valks in the lot.  One from P.A., one from N.Y, and one from M.I. We headed on up to the observatory and the summit.  We climbed onto the pile of rocks that marks the summit and took a few pictures. Other pictures of the majesty of the views followed.  I tried calling Trudy but I could really get through on the cell phone.  The number must have gone through because she called me back.  I answered but we could not hear each other but I hollered that I was on top of Mount Washington and hung up.  I would later call and she said that she had head that much and figured that I would call later.

We moseyed around the summit and We looked through the gift shop.  We got a snack and something to drink and then decided to head back down.  The ride down was uneventful, but near the bottom I saw that the bike in front of Chris had a guy riding in the passenger seat backwards taking pictures.  Chris said that he was taking pictures all the way down.  I bet those come out awesome.

We stopped back over to the Glen House and saw my brother and then my sister-in-law's sister who works in the travel department and then we headed back to Gorham to see my sister-in-law who works at WallMart.  We then headed back down Rt.16 but I stopped at the N.H. Liquour store to get some Drambui, my down fall.  N.H. Liquor is much cheaper than here in CT so I need to get a couple of bottles for home.  $24 in N.H. verses $35 here in CT.  I'm not that smart but it seemed like a pretty good deal.

Starting For Home

Now we needed to decide on how we were going to get back home.  Holmes said that he was up for anything.  Canada and Key West were options as long as he was back by 7:00 AM on Friday.  I mentioned heading down to North Conway and then down through Wolfborough and down to the Weare's beach area but I really did not want to get involved with a large crowed.  Chris mentioned that he and Cheryl had taken the Kankamangus over to Rt. 118 and down some roads to Keene.  I had not been on the Kankamangus from Bear Notch Road to Conway so we decided to go to Conway and do this route.

Conway was jammed packed and it took us quite a while to get through town and then onto the Kank.  Once we did, there were quite a few bikes in front of us going fairly slow.  Mostly Harleys but some others.  Up a few bikes was a Valk from Georgia.  We followed these for quite a while but gradually the others dropped off to scenic views and parking area.  Then we made some time.  Around one hair pin, I had my feet on the highway pegs and these dragged going around the corner.  I took the corner a little wide.  So much for the MSF course that I just completed.  I sort of froze when I need to lean some more.  More practice on twisties is called for!. Damn!

We took Rt. 118 down though some towns that I've never head of before.  An awesome road through another National Forest.  The road was a little frost heaved but at speed you did not really feel it.  I think we say maybe 3 other vehicles in about 20 miles.  Most ended up in the mirror and then became very small.

We continued on down this road for quite a ways.  At some point I headed a "beep" that startled me.  I looked in the mirror and there were two florescent yellow sport bikes right behind me.  I did not notice them coming up behind so they must have really been moving.  Once proceeded around the right and I was feeling a little perturbed so I hit it and started to keep up but this was not really the time nor place so I pulled to the right and waved the other one by me.  They got up behind Holmes who was leading and then proceeded to blow by him plus a couple of cars.  We were crusing so they must have been doing triple digits.  

They passed on the double yellow.  Coming the other way was N.H.'s finest.  I though for sure that he would turn around and chase them sense they were just able to get back into the lane without colliding with him, but he did not even put on his brakes for a second.  I thought to my self that he probably figured that he would not be able to catch them and he was probably right.  The sport bikes then made a couple other illegal and daring moves and disappeared down the road.  

We cruised along for few more miles and what do we see but two florescent yellow sport bikes on side of the road with the drivers doing the "license and registration" routine with another of N.H.'s finest.   It seems that the sport bikes were not faster than the radio!

We continued on down the road and took some others to I-89 which we got on for a few exits until we hit Rt. 10.  We got off and stopped for some fuel.  The bikes needed it and so did we.  Some liquids and a pastry were in order.  I mentioned to Holmes that my backside was a little sore.  He said "your no supposed to be done yet".  I was not done, just a little sore.  The weather was causing me to sweat and I had a little "monkey butt" as Chris calls it.   After standing for a few, we headed out on Rt. 10 south for Keene which was about an hour away. 

After we pulled out of the gas station but before we went too far a town cop came up the road heading the other way.  He nearly came to a stop as we went by.  I was reading the road sign trying to figure out if Rt.114 went near where my sister lives in Hillsborough so I was unaware what happened.  Come to find out we were traveling a little more than the speed limit.  40-45 in a 30 MHP zone.  The cop lit up his blues when he saw Chris and motioned for him to slow down and shook his finger at him.  I looked up and saw the cop right beside me and hit the brakes.  Chris figures that that's what he was looking for: us to slow down and hit the brakes.  He continued on and so did we.

We traveled down Rt. 10 through Newport, Goshen, Malow and others.  I reminisced on playing high school football against Newport and remembered how cold and wet it was.  We continued on and hit Gilsum.  There was a sign that said that they were having a "Rock Swap" on Saturday.  Chris wanted to know what a "Rock Swap" was.  I have not friggen idea.   We joined Rt. 9 and traveled down into Keene.

We stopped along the main drag in Keene.  Chris wanted to get something to eat and new of a Mexican restaurant there.  I was all for the idea so we parked the Valks, feed the meter, and headed over to the restaurant.  It was about 6:50 PM at this point and we had done about 500 miles so far.

Second Harley Encounter

We got seated and a waitress came over to our table.  She was quite young, probably 18 to very early 20's.  She wanted to know if we just came from bike week.  I said no, Chris said yes, we both said sort of.  We explained that we just came from Mount Washington and were heading back home to CT.  She asked how long we were up and we explained that we left in the morning   She asked if we had Harleys. We said no, we have Honda's.  She seemed disappointed but then we said that we were heading back to CT this evening after we ate.  Another 130 miles.  She was pretty flabbergasted at that and said that she had to get a Harley.  Some kind of marketing machine that Harley has, that's for sure.

While this conversation was going on, a family at table adjacent to us were listening.  When we mentioned to the waitress that we had already been  500 miles, the husband said to us that that's nothing for those machines.  He saw the VRCC and the Valkyrie on the shirt I was wearing.  He mentioned that he has a couple of Harleys, I forget which model, but he knew those Valk's were smooth can could cruise.  We chit chatted until they left and we ate our meal.

Third Harley Encounter

We left the restaurant and headed back to the bikes.  When we got there, an older gentleman was looking the Valks over.  He was looking at mine, but I have no badges left on the bike since I removed them for easier cleaning.  I mentioned that they were Honda's.  His next words were "You've got to have a Harley".  Damn.  So I said, "You go get your Harley and come for a ride and after 500 miles we'll park here and then we'll see.". More marketing brainwashing.   He then talked a little about how he company he worked or got stiffed for some work by some motorcycle company out in the mid west.  He could not remember the brand but it was not Harley and was not the Victory by Polaris.  We had a few more pleasantries  and headed on our way.

The Ride Home

Holmes led the ride home.  He said that he did not plan on going that fast but he may not be able to help himself.  I said that as long as Springfield was interesting that was all I asked for.  Springfield is much more fun at a greater rate of speed than the rest of traffic.  We cruised down through Mass and Springfield and Chris did make it interesting.  We hit Connecticut and were making good time.  Then the signs for road construction appeared and 3 out of 4 lanes were closed.  The first stretch like this went okay but the second took about 15 to 20 minutes of walking the Valks to get through.  I asked Holmes if he was taking the Merrit Parkway home and he said yes and then said that he could take Rt. 8 as well which is near where I head for home.

We cruised down I-91 and then took I-84 west back towards Waterbury.  I was looking at my gas gauge on the I/S and was down to about 2 bars.  I was pretty amazed that Holmes had gone this far without hitting reserve with the smaller tank on the Tourer.  We hit Waterbury and Chris motioned that he had hit reserve and needed fuel.  I routed us off to a station near the mall and we made our last fuels stop for the day.    Getting back on the highway I told Chris that this was cool and that I had an awesome time and that I would be blasting up Rt. 8 North.  He would be heading down Rt. 8 South.  We parted ways at this point.


On the way up Rt. 8 North I twisted the wrist.  Damn after over 670 miles, the Valk still wanted to cruise.  What an awesome machine.  Up Rt. 262 and to home.  !0:30 PM.  17 and a half hours and 686 miles later.  A little tired but not for a minute regretting taking this journey.  

I thank Chris in a humorous sort of fashion for not being able to get up to Mount Washington in the previous 2 attempts   This made this journey possible and fantastic to do.  Now I know that the Rabbai has not been up Mount Washington, so I can foresee another journey soon...

The dalai