If you woke up this morning and won an award, how would you feel? Coffee, blueberry muffins and an award is a pretty good start to the day. Add a scrambled egg, sausage and cantaloupe and you have the beginning of my day today. The breakfast was provided by Jim and Gerie, whose farmhouse in Royalton, VT I stayed in for the night. They are former dairy farmers and have quite the modern home with many antiques throughout. Oh, the award? Quietest guest they have ever had. That was the greeting and acknowledgement that I received this morning as I entered the kitchen for breakfast. I like it. We talked quite a while over breakfast on a variety of topics and I had them laughing over a few of my escapades, even when I was not trying to be funny, unfortunately.
A light fog was resting over their farm, but it was clear on the roads, as they said it would be. Within 6 miles of my start, the Vermont Law School emerges from the trees. The corner that occupies many of the buildings and supporting shops is bustling with students apparently heading toward class with a cross between confidence and concern that can dictate the first days of school. The campus, especially being a law school, seemed a bit out of place, remote perhaps. But that is probably unfair simply because I happen upon if from a backroad.
There are three big climbs today and the first starts just as I pass Sharon, VT, then Thetford Hill, and finally the last climb was in the White mountains just past North Haverhill, NH. I don't have the stats on them, as I have no service while I am typing this and cannot pull up Strava. They are all a workout for sure. I take them incredibly slow and just find a gear and grind. True to my previous Intel, they are not as steep as the first climb. I actually enjoy these climbs, the challenge, the views and the easier descents. I am definitely tired tonight, but it was a good ride.
Beyond the morning encouragement of my award, (Yes, I choose to look at it as an achievement to have been the quietest) today was filled with more. On my initial ascent, a silver-bearded gentleman in a jeep slows to my turtle pace and ask me if I am headed to Maine. I affirm that is my destination. He ask if I started in Oregon or Washington and I reply Astoria, Oregon was the beginning of the trek. As a car pulls up behind him, he gives a fist pump and shouts encouragement and something about his butt hurting just thinking about it. I notice his yellow flashing light on top of the jeep and realize he is a rural route mail carrier. He passes me several times in the road, each time with me simply plodding along. Some time later, I turn left past a general store and he is out front talking to someone as he spots me and yells, "there he is." They both shout encouragement as I pass and wave back.
I stop for lunch at a general store and deli in Piermont, NH. (Pop. 709). There I meet Rob Elder. I have taken my cranberry chicken salad sandwich with jalapeños and banana peppers to a picnic bench behind the store. Rob walks up and introduces himself and we talk about my journey and other adventures his family has been on. As I explain about creating awareness and raising money for AFI, he generously reaches into his pocket and hands me cash as a donation. (Adding it to the road donations I will total at the end). He grew up in the area and moved back after living in New York for many decades. His son passed away six years ago and he said he dedicated Friday's to waving and encouraging people in town every Friday. He goes on to say that he gave that up and does it everyday. Today he was out delivering food to some of the elders in the community. I finish my lunch after he leaves and set out on my way. Shortly up the hill we meet again and he pulls over to share two thoughts that will give me a slice of New Hampshire. One is that there are two 80+ year old men who grew up in the area and now live up the road together in one of only two brick houses in Piermont. He gives me a brief version of their varied and colorful history and encourages me to stop by for a minute or wave if I don't have the time. The other was that he volunteered to come get me some 20 miles up the road at my campsite and take me to dinner, since it was predicting rain for the night. I politely decline the latter generosity, but find my way to the old brick house where I spend a several minutes taking to Ron and Albert, colorful indeed. Ron is "an old 'Sailah'" who served in Korea. He does not drive, but still rides his bike around the area. He tells me he put over 1800 miles on his bike one 'summah'. Albert is dairy farmer that "all the kids used to work for", but had watered down his milk back in '87 and could not dairy farm since then. As I speak to some of you, I will tell you more about them. They got in their dented and hard worn old Chevy truck, that seemed to fit right in with the rest of the residence, to head to town. As I peddle off, Ron yells, "see ya in the funny 'papahs'". Cool.
After a bit, I pedal forth and am drawn in by a farm stand, as I often am. The Indian Corn Mill farm stand specializes in Apples and Apple cider. I inquire if I could buy just two apples, one for now and one for my camp tonight. The proprietor says no, but that she will give me two. She selects of her finest and throws in a glass of apple cider since I had to cycle in the heat. She explains that they are known for their cider and that it get better in October with the different varieties of apples she uses. I must admit, with zero exaggeration that it was the finest apple cider I have ever tasted, even if it was just September. I agree to take her gift, but explain that I will add the value of it to the donations I have received on road. She bids me safe travel and I am off again.
Ultimately, I settle into the Wildwood National Forest campsite and prep my tent and tarps for the pending rain, cooking a quick dinner before it gets here. Behind the rain is supposed to be cooler weather to offset this recent heatwave they have had here. I will gladly welcome its arrival.
Oh yeah. Did I mention I made it to New Hampshire, the penultimate state on the tour.
Moose sighting: wait for it ---- 0. But the road side moose crossing signs are increasing.
Song in my head: Stevie Wonder; Higher Ground.