Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spam, egg, sausage & spam

With a name such as the SPAM Winter Challenge, I could hardly miss this for the obvious Python connection.

Now that that's out of the way, I may continue with a brief summary of what was clearly the last bike event of 2013 for me (I've managed seven this year, significantly more than any other year since I left NZ). Just over an hour's drive north up on Salisbury Plain, a few of the Combe Raiders were coming across from Somerset for this event that tries to deal with the Christmas excesses. With all the storms & rain that we've had over the last week, it was just as well this was supposed to be a course that deals with all sorts of weather well.

It's been a very mild winter so far, so it was with some surprise that I had to scrape a frost off my car as I set off this morning. This did mean that it was a wonderfully clear day - ideal for a ride. Driving up the A360 it was clear that the event was in the middle of the largest MOD training area in the country - there were signs for tanks crossing & signs warning of unexploded ordnance frequently. Unusually, the race briefing warned us to ensure we didn't ride into any tanks or stray off the trail and do a commendable impression of jumping high into the sky & scattering in thousands of pieces. Eventually the others made it from Somerset - some not quite in the knick of time for the 10 am start.

The first quarter of the fifty kilometre circuit was definitely the best. I really should learn to get a reasonable position mid-field at the start of such events - battling through a surprisingly large field up a long & slow climb is tedious. After that climb there were a few dives down off the ridge & back up again - mostly on rough muddy doubletrack through fields, with a bit of singletrack. The mud was pretty gloopy & horrendous for sticking to everything, but not too difficult to ride through (it did end up taking over an hour to clean my bike properly once home). We then found ourselves on the road for about twenty kilometres as we rode through the army land - boring, but preferable to being blown sky-high. It was a perfect day for riding: extensive views over the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, still, and not too hot or cold (about 5 ÂșC).

The strangest part of the day was riding through the middle of a fake-village.  There were dozens of house-shells - they seem to have walls, roofs, floors, fences and little else.  Clearly these are used for urban warfare training. The only real thing in the village was the church, which had parishioners walking to it; there were a lot of people around.  [A little research shows that this was the village of Imber - it was evacuated in 1943 for the war effort & the villagers have never been allowed to return as the MOD continues to use the land - a lot like Tyneham which I happened across during another biking weekend in May.  The church is no longer in use, but the roads that we were riding along are open occasionally so the public can have a look around.]

As this was the last event of a year of much biking, I was pretty keen to see how quickly I could get around the course.  So I only stopped for forty seconds on the whole ride to get some food out of my pack; also, this meant I didn't even carry my camera - so I only have my memory of how splendid the countryside was.  After passing plenty of birdwatchers, derelict tanks, garrisons & barracks we finally got off the road. More short steep ups & downs later we were back along the ridge looking north for a while - I'm a little disturbed at my ability to recognise a cement works from a long distance.  I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was to ride past a huge hole in the ground shortly after - the limestone had to come from somewhere after all.

We rejoined the two shorter courses for a while before diving off the ridge for one last really steep nasty climb.  With a nice bit of singletrack in some woods, the car park & therefore finish line was tantalisingly close for much too long.  But it was worth getting to the finish line for the cake alone - a local hospice was fundraising and there was a plethora of cakes on offer, there was so much choice it was overwhelming.  So not the most interesting course, but a great day out on the bike to end a pretty big year of riding for me - & a good chance to catch up with mates too.  I was happy with finishing in 2:40, without really pushing myself just not stopping for chats, photos or much food.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 - a lot more biking than the previous year

After reading last year's Christmas letter, I can see just how different 2013 has ended up being.  The main driver for that is that my shoulder is completely normal after last year's surgery & rehab (so much so that when people occasionally ask after it, I'm always slightly taken aback).  That has meant that excessive travelling fell by the wayside as I spent much time biking.  Before much biking, there was last winter to get through - I escaped to Egypt for sun at Christmas last; Christmas morning at the pyramids was certainly unusual. A country still in a state of upheaval & flux, it was a fascinating trip.

I moved into a new role at work about a year ago, which meant quite a few months of learning plenty while still trying to tidy up things in my previous position.  Along with my car comprehensively failing its annual inspection & many problems with the replacement, what turned out to be some of the best concentrated biking I've had was a welcome change.

After a couple of days having a look around Chicago, I met Megan, Alex & their son, Finn, in Utah.  We went to mountain-bike mecca Moab and did little except camp, ride bikes (a lot) and eat. As on my last visit, the scenery was stunning and the riding exceptional. STOP PRESS - Megan has just made a rather fun video that makes me yearn for sun, rocky trails, & great riding - much more interesting than me prattling on about Moab.

Biking Moab 2013 from Megan Dunn on Vimeo.

The summer was bookended by two big trips biking - Moab being the first.  That meant that I travelled very little during the summer - but that worked out well as we actually had a cracking summer of weather in the UK & the riding was plentiful.  Preparing for a three-day stage race in September I entered a number of longer-distance events around the south-west UK & Wales.  This being about the only photo of I have me "racing" - on a strangely scorching Shropshire day:

The other bookend event for the summer was the three-day Rift Valley Odyssey in Kenya.  Partly an excuse to get back to Africa & visit Adrian and partly a nice big riding adventure to train for & achieve, I was pleased to return to Africa - it's a fascinating place after all.  The summer of preparation did me well & the only real difficulty in the 5500 metres of climbing over three days and 260 kilometres was a bit of digestive trouble at the top of a huge, hot & humid climb halfway through Day Two - not sure if it was the heat, too much food or the anti-malarial tablets; anyway, I survived the remainder of the day on next to no food and recovered enough that the last day (eighty-odd kilometres) was easy.

I was too busy riding to get many photos, but I quite like these two taken while riding along:

The second week of the trip was spent in Tanzania with Adrian, Carmen & their two children.  As they'd only just moved there, it was a relaxed week as they settled in a bit more and I recovered from the big bike ride.  Adrian & I did grab the chance for an overnight trip to a relatively close national park - there were many more elephants around than I saw on my last safari four years ago; an excellent end to another fantastic trip visiting Adrian & Carm.

Many months before, it seemed a good idea to book a trip to New England in the fall - after a particularly busy return to work, it wasn't seeming so smart.  Nonetheless, I was pretty sure that I'd enjoy a short road trip around the north-east of North America.  With little biking, beautiful autumnal colours, nice cities (Montreal & Boston particular favourites) and absolutely fabulous food it turned out to be a very relaxing trip which was well worth it.  Although the photos don't really compare to Utah and Africa - here's one of Ottawa:

Shortly after my return from Canada, all medium-term plans got thrown to the wind as it was revealed that the plant where I work would close next year.  It was a sudden, but not altogether surprising announcement; things are becoming clearer now & I'm looking forward to a 2014 that will be very different to what I was expecting.  As far as I can tell, I'll have work for about half the year - during which I will frantically save & prepare for extensive time biking in places yet to be decided.  Mum, & probably Adele, plan on visiting for a cousin's wedding in May - so I'm well looking forward to that.

Merry Christmas & may the new year be a great one for you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Rides

It's been a bit quiet on here recently - mainly because me riding pretty much every day for the last four weeks is not all that interesting for anyone but me (& the odd other bike nut).  I've upgraded the wheels on my Surly Ogre to Stans Arch rims & tyres to Nobby Nics - it's a marked improvement in weight, grip, reassurance, acceleration, rolling resistance &, most of all, fun.  The following week there was a rather chilly night spent bikepacking out in the New Forest just north of Burley somewhere.

Then Christmas ride season began - first up with the biggest group of Combe Raiders I've ever seen:

This on the strangely misty Quantocks - & quite damp under wheel as well. Dave got stuck on a stick:

Much to my surprise, I won the hill climb (by getting the furtherest up a rather steep & technical ascent) - I was well pleased with my giant certificate (that's a large & very good paperback on the left).

After not really earning it from a less than twenty kilometre ride, it was off to a nearby pub for the award ceremony & an awful lot of food.  Great time had by all - although I had to go for a harder ride the following day to get the most out of my two hundred mile round-trip.

This weekend past I managed two more Christmas rides - and associated meals of course.  The Vindaloo group of the local MTB club (which I ride with if I'm around every second Sunday - so hardly ever over the past two years) had their Christmas ride & curry planned very local to me on Friday night.  The bikes decorated with Christmas lights and wrapping paper and the costumes made the whole thing seem a lot more festive than the Combe Raiders event.  It was only a short local ride, but it was a nice warm, dry evening & there was plenty of good food.

For some reason I thought it a good idea to ride my single speed twenty-odd kilometres to the Christmas ride & dinner for the whole club - this after seeing a rather dismal looking weather forecast.  Anyway, it rained pretty much all day - but it wasn't cold.  Annoyingly, my front brakes failed about thirty kilometres in - so I rode most of the day with rear brakes of dubious usefulness (just as well the Forest is almost entirely flat).  Somewhere out near Burley & Picket Post our fearless leaders started to get a little vague in our route - just as we got out of the trees onto the heathland in the driving rain.  Oh well - we made it back to the pub eventually for another huge meal.  It probably was just as well I had to ride all the way home - wasn't really intending to do close on eighty singlespeed kilometres for the day, but I survived & really quite enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Overnight ride - trying out a lot of gear for the first time

Friday past I finally got around to trying out almost all the new kit I'd acquired over the summer on a rather easy overnight bikepacking trip with a couple of guys from the local club. For those not really interested in bikes, I didn't even take any photos as it was pretty much all in the dark - so sorry about that.  I'll cover the ride first & then give some initial impressions of the new gear.

All week I'd kept an eye on the forecast for Friday night - as the weekend approached, the expected temperature kept dropping.  So my bike was a bit more loaded than I initially thought it would be as I met Mike & James at Chilworth Arms for a quick pint before heading out into the winter's night.  It's been about a year since I've been on a night ride, my single handlebar light set-up is adequate but nothing fancy.  I'd forgotten how much fun night-riding is when it's not raining or ridiculously muddy.  We mostly rode bridleways & farm tracks due north - connected by the odd country road.  Being Hampshire, there weren't really any climbs of note, although the Beacon Hill downhill was enjoyable & comparatively long.  The pace was nothing too strenuous, which I was happy to go along with as I got used to riding a much heavier bike than usual.

With an almost-full moon out I was loving riding through the countryside that could have only been English - reminded by the silhouettes of very cute villages; in the daylight it all looked very expensive, but in the dark the detail was lost & it just looked nice.  By nine o'clock it was time to stop at our northern-most point, Crawley, and head for dinner at the lovely Fox & Hounds.  For some reason the other two weren't content with a few pints and dinner - I wasn't prepared to try & keep up as the Jack Daniels & Coke and brandies flowed.  It was all very enjoyable and I haven't been quizzed on so many details of New Zealand for a long time.  Those drunker than me were quite surprised by the size of the bill, but that was eventually settled and as the bar staff declared we were quite mad, we rolled away at one o'clock - some in straighter lines than others.

The chosen camp area was about an hour back south (on a more easterly route - closer to Winchester) and somehow I (the only one who wasn't familiar with the area) ended up navigating.  I'm not sure what the villagers of Sparsholt must have thought about much laughter when Mike managed to ride into quite a large & obvious hedge & then fall on the ground.  We made camp at two o'clock and settled in for the night - I was declared soft for having a tent, the other two happy to sleep with no cover on a fine frosty night.  Not surprisingly, we didn't stir until nine-thirty on a cracking Saturday morning.  After a light breakfast & decamping we were riding shortly after the hour back to my car.

So a very manageable introduction to bikepacking that I thoroughly enjoyed - helped by some superb weather & good company.

Now for some quick thoughts on those items I was using for the first time on a bikepacking trip. Below is a photo of the set-up that is almost as I used on the weekend - the main difference being the dry bags were fully loaded due to the clear, cold night.

The thirteen litre dry-bag on the handlebars is secured to a Wildcat Mountain Lion harness. The dry-bag was packed to the gunwales with my tent & poles and winter sleeping bag. The harness held it securely, although on the return trip I had to tighten the straps as I must've repacked it differently. I did find that with the dry-bag so full, I had to lock the front fork out as the bag would rub on the front tyre if the fork compressed too far - I don't expect this to be a problem for most of my bikepacking in summer as the bag won't be so heavily loaded.

On the back of the saddle, the eight litre dry-bag is held in a Wildcat Tiger. In the picture, it isn't loaded very much - but it definitely was for this trip. At first I thought that I wouldn't be able to fit the full bag in, & even if I could it would rub on the rear tyre. But some careful adjustment of the straps had the bag in the harness & securely held. I was very impressed by how stable the bag was - it didn't swing around at all; in fact, I occasionally had to turn around to check the dry-bag was still in the harness - so oblivious was I to its presence.

In the middle of frame is the custom-made (you trace your frame on to a piece of cardboard & send it to them) Alpkit Stingray frame bag.  I've had this for a few months, so know that it performs just as it should - for this ride I'd stuffed it full of all sorts of little things, I'll have to get a bit more organised for longer tours.

My water carrying for this little trip was courtesy of two bottles attached to each leg of my front fork - not shown in the picture (the bottles, that is).  For this I've got two monkii cages mounted on monkii clips - as I've swapped out the rigid fork for a suspension fork there are no longer any cage mounts.  The clips are secure and I don't have a problem carrying a full 750 mL bottle.  However, while it is possible to carry a one litre Nalgene bottle on the cage, if it does get bumpy the bottle can escape - so it's worth securing it to the fork.  I need to rethink this a bit.  Also, while having bottles mounted on the forks is good for carrying water - it's no good for hydration while riding as it's a faff to have to stop to drink.  So I need to get a bottle holder on the handlebars somewhere.  I found on this trip I didn't drink at all while riding - that was OK as it was pretty cool, so dehydration wasn't a problem (the pub stops helped too). But in warmer conditions, this would be a problem.

I've also got a tiny meths stove - it's only good for heating up enough water to make a cup of porridge or a hot drink.  It's suitable for such a small trip, but I'll have to get around to making some sort of penny stove out of a beer can for larger cooking requirements.

I'd been eyeing up various lightweight single-person tents that I could easily carry on my handlebars for some time when Megan mentioned that she was keen on the Six Moon Designs - Skyscape Trekker.  It ticked all the boxes I needed it too, so I rather hurriedly bought it (much to Megan's chagrin) and arranged to have it shipped to Boston during my recent visit - craftily avoiding high shipping costs & twenty percent VAT. It definitely is lightweight & the material is subsequently very thin - but I haven't torn it yet; most importantly, it's very easy to carry on the bike.  I had one practice run a couple of weeks ago pitching it in a gale out in the New Forest - I managed that OK, so five pegs & two poles at two o'clock in the morning was a cinch.  I did notice that my thermarest Neoair does tend to slide around a fair bit on the floor of the tent when I moved in my sleeping bag - possibly not helped by the slight incline I was on.  It seems good so far, more nights sleeping in it will show if that's correct.

That's probably enough initial gear reviews for one post.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Through New York to Niagara

Time constraints dictated that I get back to Toronto in only two days, so the Friday was very boring driving much too far on I-90 (which I hadn't been on since Montana, Wyoming & South Dakota two years ago).  The west of Massachusetts was much more heavily wooded & hilly than I was expecting.  Still, state highways would have been preferred.

I stayed with a very lovely almost-retired airbnb couple in northern Rochester for the night.  Just to stretch the legs I took the short walk down to Lake Ontario.  I wasn't expecting to see deer roaming the suburbs.
 There were still plenty of red trees around in the fading daylight.
I got down to the lake & this storm rolled in, so I retreated back to the house & had a big Skype chat with Mum - which after a week of meeting strangers was nice.

Once again, I managed to get fed not just breakfast (a delicious [goes without saying] bacon & egg roll from a food-van decades in business at the local Farmers Market), but dinner too from my hosts.  But hoping to get to Toronto mid-afternoon via the Falls, I left pretty early & took the gentle drive around the lake to Niagara on a miserable-weather morning.

I managed to view the Falls pretty well from both the American & Canadian side - you definitely get the best wide-angle view from Ontario.  On this particular day, the American side was good for feeling the Falls blowing in your face.  Not much to say really as they're so well know - there's a lot of water falling a fair way & it's all very spectacular.  I opted out of the Maid of the Mist boat trip for time reasons, plus I was getting plenty wet standing above plummeting water.

Looking down at all those that are about to get soaked through their matching ponchos.

The sideshow American & Bridal Veil Falls.

I swapped photos with a couple of other tourists - it's a rubbish one of the falls & only slightly better of me. But oh well, I was there.

The Horseshoe Falls

Watching a fair current of water plummet into much peril.

There I am again - perhaps I'm trying to smile, it's a little hard to tell.

The drive to Toronto started out in dire conditions & was much shorter than I thought.  By the time I arrived the sun was out & I was back where I had been nine days before picking up Jane.  What a completely enjoyable trip, I do so enjoy travelling in North America; although after the last two big trips (Moab & Kenya) had been MTBing focused, it was a little odd to have a less strenuous trip.  At least I managed a fair bit of city-biking & walking - that helped to counter all the fantastic food, I suppose.

One last dinner out, this time in the old Distillery district - which Cat was keen to visit for the first time & with the largest collection of Victorian industrial buildings in North America, I was hardly about to say no.  There was too much choice as far as cafes & restaurants went; we briefly contemplating skipping dinner altogether and just camping in the divinely-smelling chocolate shop.  But we did find a very good brew-pub & an even-better-than-the-last pumpkin ale. I dropped Cat off at work and packed before spending a sleepless night lying on the lounge floor (I was determined to not have carried my sleeping bag & thermarest all the way for no reason) listening to the traffic outside.

I snuck out at awful-o'clock, returned the car & started the trip home - crossing pretty much the last thing off my food-to-eat-once-for-old-times'-sake list by grabbing some timbits for the flight home.  They proved invaluable when I discovered them in my hand-luggage before setting off on the nasty storm strewn drive home from Heathrow.


Boston also, like Montreal, is a city of charming neighbourhoods - so I made sure I found one on airbnb to stay in.  As usual, my plan to see the city was to get downtown & walk a lot.  The four kilometre Freedom Trail is very well marked (follow the red line on the ground) & starts at the large Boston Common & the Massachusetts State House. 

I got a little distracted & wandered around the Beacon Hill neighbourhood for a while first.  Even out in the suburbs in the dark of the previous night I'd noticed these odd fire call points dotted around - I suppose they're a bit like the police call boxes that were once more common in London.  At over a hundred & sixty years old, it was the first system of the kind in the world - originally linking the various call points to the central Fire Alarm Office by telegraph signals.  Quite ingenious, but I'm surprised it's still going as the call points were far enough apart to not really give any advantage over a phone.

I zigged and zagged a bit at the start of the Freedom Trail (which links sites that are connected to Boston's large role in American independence) as I stumbled across the shorter Walk to the Sea - which provided interesting titbits of Boston maritime history & also took me down to the water's edge. I wandered, soaked in the history & found a jalepeno & cheddar bagel - which I was most pleased with as that was my favourite when I made bagels, although I think I put more peppers in.

Old State House
Old Customs Building
Paul Revere's House
No building in particular
There seemed to be this small baseball event called the World Series in town & Boston was pretty excited about it - with Paul Revere below getting the Red Sox treatment.

The trail ends at the Bunker Hill monument, which was the site of an early battle in the War of Independence. From what I could work out, it's a big monument to what was supposed to a strategically useful, but still big, defeat - the colonials held off the British a lot longer than they were expected to & therefore delayed them reaching some other objective.

Anyway, there are two hundred & ninety-four steps to the top, so I charged up them too quickly & then admired the cloudy view while I caught my breath - there are a lot of roof-top patios in the surrounding area that look fantastic for summer.

It looked like there were sufficient parks & paths to walk most of the way along the north bank of the Charles River to MIT - it also looked a lot shorter distance than it really was. 

I then ended up on the other side of the river in amongst the crowds heading to Fenway Park for the first match of the series against the St Louis Cardinals.  Having the city's Trip Advisor app loaded on your phone is always helpful for finding excellent places to eat - in this case a cafe in a large independent bookshop, the momos (dumplings) were superb.  Dark & a little chilly by now I continued the walking alongside the fens (a type of wetland & that for which Fenway Park is named).  I was rather tired when I got home after walking well over twenty kilometres in all sorts of different parts of Boston.

At breakfast that morning, my host told me that the Samuel Adams brewery tour was not that far away.  Jamaica Plain (where I was staying) used have twenty-odd breweries - few remain.  For some reason, I'd always thought Samuel Adams was brewed by a huge company - but the Boston Brewing Company had quite humble beginnings in the 1980s & might still claim to be a craft brewer, although when you're the (joint) largest American owned brewery it's a little hard to believe.  The Boston site is now mostly R&D, but they do good little free tours.  As far as manufacturing equipment goes, there isn't much to see - but the tasting of barley & hops was interesting to see how different flavours get into beer.  And the last twenty minutes or so is tasting pitcher after pitcher of beer.  Possibly, I should have gone on the tour after lunch - needless to say the rest of the day was quite enjoyable.

More walking that afternoon - more local this time as close by is the Arnold Arboretum (managed by Harvard).  There were lots of trees to see & many nice streets to stroll down to get there.  Although I did cheat a bit & get a Hubway bike (the Boston version of Bixi).  There were a few streets near where I was staying that are still gravelled - very odd in the middle of a big city to find gravel streets.

Lunch was spent in Doyle's Cafe, which has a close association with Samuel Adams (being the first to sell the company's lager).  It's all very old & a favourite haunt of Boston politicians apparently, the Kennedy family used to frequent the place. The kale soup was very good indeed, with a nice kick to it.  So far I haven't mentioned all the Halloween decorations that I'd been seeing almost everywhere, as well the huge stalls selling pumpkins - mostly because I'm not really interested.  But in what may be the best thing as far as I can see about the holiday, craft brewers like to put out a seasonal drink - & pumpkin ale is ridiculously good.

I rode down to the river, crossed it & was wandering through Harvard in the twilight.  Lots of people around & plenty of impressive buildings, but not much to keep me from finding another bike & heading back towards Fenway. 

I wasn't really intending going to see what all the fuss was about at Fenway, rather hoping to spend whatever excess USD funds I had on outdoor gear at REI.  But they were so close to each other, it was worth a look.  Plus there was a Chipotle - always useful.

That was about my time in Boston - I'm glad I finally made it to what is a great city to walk & eat your way around.

A province & five states

I could have easily driven from Montreal to Boston in a day, but where's the fun in sitting on the freeway all day when there hills & different New England states to explore?

I watched the sun rise across fields of wheat as I left Quebec & then wished I'd cleaned the lens.
Getting off the Interstate to cross the border makes it all very easy & quick - in no time & six dollars later I was in New York.  My stay was short lived as I quickly moved into the north-west of Vermont driving down a series of islands that sit in Lake Champlain.  Vermont has the second smallest population of any of the states (only Wyoming has less than its 625000 people) and I was fast approaching the largest city in the state - Burlington, booming with just over forty thousand people.  So there wasn't a lot of traffic around and the morning drive continued in its pleasantness.

There was, an odd round church:

A capitol building in Montpelier, a town not really much bigger than the one I grew up in in New Zealand.  At less than eight thousand people its claim to fame is being the smallest state capital & the only one without a McDonald's.

Big old houses:

Covered bridges galore:

Whitewashed churches

A little covered bridge:

I was at my airbnb stay before lunch - my hosts were lovely & had a big old house & an almost-bigger attached barn.  Even though I was only paying for the bed & possibly breakfast, somehow I ended up being fed lunch, dinner & breakfast.  Jim was quite the chef, so the food & local amber ale was excellent for sharing many travel stories over.  Generally I find that those that host airbnb have travelled quite a bit themselves and always enjoy talking about far off places - this trip in the north-east USA consolidated that thought.

After a bit of a nap to sleep off the early start & large lunch, it was time to wander around the village.  In the next village I found the oldest military college, Norwich, in the country - which seemed a little out of the way.  But as they have a lot of winter training, it made sense as one could tell as fall progressed the whole area was preparing for another huge winter of snowfall.  I walked up a big hill on walking & biking trails that the college had built - the whole time views were promised by sneaking glances of an extraordinary vista; but as the light faded, they never really eventuated.  Apparently I had a few more miles to go back into the hills before reaching the fire tower.

All rather serene looking to be a military college.

Within an hour of driving the next morning I was in New Hampshire.  A state whose motto is Live Free or Die they are all for minimal interference from government.  As such there is no state sales or income tax & incredibly, if you are over eighteen years old, there is no legal requirement to wear a seatbelt.  That just seems a bit nuts, but I suppose it helps natural selection.
I continued to take poor photos while driving slowly through villages
My rather loose route of day was to avoid major highways again & aim towards an interesting-looking group of lakes in central New Hampshire.  The largest of which is Lake Winnipesaukee - I got out to stretch my legs & walked up & back down a hill for the best part of an hour.  I'm getting a tired of saying everything was pretty, even in the gloom, but it was and a good break from the rather easy driving.

Maine wasn't far away - so why not? Although I definitely got the feeling pretty much everything on the south coast had closed for the season. Shock, horror I stopped & bought some new clothes because I had the spare time & they were much needed - after a summer of riding, having to remove my belt for security screening now brings with it a much increased risk of finding jeans at my ankles. Soon I was following plenty of Massachusetts number plates & the spelling of the state was ingrained in my head.