Friday, August 17, 2012

Day 8 - Camden, ME to Gorham, NH and 51 Bottles of Beer

We spent much of dinner discussing the next destination, and future life plans.  There is something about a trip like this that makes you dissect your life and wonder if you are on track.  Setting aside life goals, we had to figure out our short-term objectives.

We both really, really wanted to visit Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, or all of the above.  Before we left on this trip I had developed multiple routes and options.  It all comes down to the pace of the trip.  We could easily get into Nova Scotia and beyond.  Unfortunately we would have been in for many more long or marathon long days.  Was that what we really wanted?

In the back of Oilburner's mind he kept circling on Mount Washington and the Auto Road.  (OK, this was on my mind as well.)  As much as we wanted to traipse across Eastern Canada, we weren't interested in continuing the long, hard days.  We were more interested in a relaxing journey towards home.  And the weather was cooperating with that idea since predictions for the White Mountains, and Mount Washington, were completely clear.  Destiny decided our route was back towards New Hampshire.

Friday dawns and we are prepared to leave Maine behind.  Sigh.  We had meant to visit Mount Battie right outside of Camden.  Mount Battie is a knob jutting from the South end of the Camden Hills, but its proximity to Camden and sheer rock faces are what sets this aside.  At 800 feet elevation it affords great views of the surrounding area and harbor.  Unfortunately...we forgot our intent and missed it.  Someone didn't want to turn around and go back.  :)
Image Taken from website
The destination was Gorham, New Hampshire, a mere 8 miles from the Auto Road.  We took our time, with advice from some locals took a few back roads, and all was well.  As has been said by Circle Blue it's a good day when you can say "We rode, we ate, nothing happened, and we arrived safe."

We reached Gorham without lodging plans, and just stopped at the big, white lodge on the side of the road that had quite a few bikes parked in front of it.  We snagged the last queen bed room (otherwise it was a two twin bed setup) and set about off-loading the bikes.

Now...when do we make our attack on Mount Washington?  Tonight or tomorrow?  We talked, studied weather reports, analyzed weather patterns and decided to go today.  The humidity and wind seemed a little lower.

Off.    We.    Go.

Temperatures at the beginning of the Auto Road:  87F
Temperatures at the end, the summit: 54F
Length of the road:  7.6 miles
% paved: 87
% gravel: 13
Warning Sign before setting tire on road:


Upper portion of the Auto Road as seen from Google Earth
 We paid our toll: $15.00 per bike.  Received our stickers "This bike climbed Mount Washington" and were on our way.

The first couple miles are great: beautiful trees, horrible drivers that just can't stick to the 20 mph, frost heaves and chewed up tracks from the winter snow coach.  (I haven't said anything about the new Heidenaus...but they follow every damn groove in the road.  The rough paths of the snow coach were particularly hair raising.)  I found that I couldn't do any "sightseeing" due to target fixation.  No guardrails, sheer drops and 12-22% grade do not lend to admiring that view off in the distance.

Snow Coach descending on a clear day
I really want to do this!  Snowcoach image taken from
I'm cool with it though. I'm cool. I'm cool....until that damn dirt, and the hair pin turn at mile 6 that is completely engineered WRONG. (Yeah...take the bad grammar as a hint as to how scary that turn was.)

Oilburner videoed the ascent and descent.  The ascent just doesn't do it justice.  The camera is on the wrong side of the bike, you can't get a feel for how steep everything is.  So I'm showing more video of the descent.  Please take a clue that you are looking down on the surrounding peaks.  That horrid hair pin turn is actually worse going down, not only is the cant of the curve incorrect and steeper in the outside section, you really are looking off into space.  There is NO WAY I was "leaning" into any of these curves.  Minimum crawl to remain upright was going to have to suffice.  The second worst part was the downhill curve on gravel transitioning from inside lane against the mountain, to outside lane next to the drop off.  Luckily I didn't encounter any vehicles on this portion as I was in the middle of the road.  And I can't honestly say that I would have gotten on my side of the road if anyone was coming.  I was considering instituting British or Kiwi road rules and staying on the left if presented with the situation.

During the hair raising moments of ascent I asked Oilburner to just talk to me so I had something to focus on instead of envisioning my fiery arc of death like an Evil Knievel stunt gone wrong.  The silence in the helmet was so reassuring because "he couldn't think of anything to say."  Ladies and Gentlemen, that is my rock right there...NOT!  So on the path down, not remembering any songs longer than one verse, I began warbling "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."  It too me 51 bottles of beer to get back into treeline, and safety...

At the top, the views were gorgeous.  One of the rare days visibility reaches 80+ miles.  The temperature was nippy.  The wind was steady but not "bull you over" hard.  They close the road to motorcycles when it is.  Yes, I cried and screamed ascending that hair pin curve.  I've only been so scared and frozen one other time in my life when my a$$ was literally hanging over a 30 foot rock ledge and I couldn't find a hand hold. To help you visualize, this is the elevation profile of the points from my GPS track.

X, Y, Z for track points from my GPS.  Represents the slope of the road.
At this time I can happily say "I've ridden the Auto Road, and I don't ever have to do it again."  That may change in the future; never say never.

The rest of the day was blissfully boring eating pizza in our room and going through photos to post on Flickr.  I hope you enjoy the video.  I realize it is a bit long, but I like it.

Mt Washington Auto Road from Love Of A Motorbike on Vimeo.

Oilburner says this is they way we are seeing Mt. Washington next time: Glider.


  1. Lori

    It could almost be a Greek mountain except for the absence of roadside shrines marking the last known position of a "drive over the edge" victim.

    Best thing with those nasty hairpins is to turn your head at 90 degrees and look up/down the road....


    1. Hi Nikos,

      I've wanted to ride in Greece...until that comment! Are Greek roads narrow??

      Can you believe there have one been three deaths on the auto road in the 151 years of operation? Before I say wow, I would like to hear what their definition of 'on' is... ;)

      Yeah. I tried turning my head to follow the road. It was drastically difficult.

  2. Lori:

    Looks like a challenging road if you were afraid of it. Plus, like you I don't like gravel, not enough experience on it.

    The two bed twin setup is better. Use only ONE as it's cozier, and put your stuff on the other one

    I have to view the video when I get home

    glad you made it back unscathed

    Riding the Wet Coast
    My Flickr // My YouTube

    1. Hi Bobskoot!

      Don't take my fear of it as anything. I'm a noob on those roads. My first experience on the Dragon was similar...when I could see sky and 'down' between the trees. I just need more practice. The last dragon run and I was able to follow the road better.

      I was actually quite happy with the new tires on the gravel and dirt. Stuck pretty well. Though I did comment to Oilburner that I was happy I was on the GS and not the R.

      And no...not sharing the bed. He kicks. ;)

  3. Hi Lori. Congratulations on conquering Mt Washington on a motorbike! I love your writing style. I couldn't stop smiling as I read your post and watched the vdo and relived the experience!

    1. Hi Sutira! Thank you for coming back and watching the video. I was even wondering if we were there in the same day! Though if we were, you were there much earlier given how empty the parking lot wa. :)

      Thank you for the kind words! I think you and I have similar writing styles. :) Putting together the video and I saw so many people crowding my side of the road. Did you guys experience that too?

  4. Awesome video and pics Lori. Is it wrong that I think the road looks like fun? Well, except for the hairpin, I've never been overly fond of those.

    I guess I am lucky that by following Brad around I basically cut my motorcycle teeth (so to speak) on back roads through the mountains and hills with no guard rails. They spooked me at first but on our ride through 'pastureland' in eastern Oregon I felt right at home and didn't even notice we were riding at treetop level. Sure trains you to focus on the road and look through the turns.

    I liked their warning sign. I can think of a few roads that need those.

    Good job getting up and down the mountain in one piece. I always feel such a sense of pride after doing that and you should too.

    Oh, and my sing in my helmet song for some reason is "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night. If I had a long up hill bicycle ride back in high school I would sing it over and over to make it up the hill. I guess it has carried over. It must be the beat of the song, but it works for me. I like your idea of bottles of beer though. It has longevity.

    1. Trobairitz, it is very wrong for you to think that road looks fun. But given the crowd we 'hang out' with, I would expect nothing less. ;) I think over time I might conceive of riding that road again...but I'm not committing to anything!! One of our riding groups is doing a there and back run to Michigan. Oilburner was thinking about challenging them with a Mt Washington run.

      I think I will need to follow you and troubadour to get my teeth ground down. My first real experience was on the Dragon when I could see sky and ravines way down between the trees. Really messed me up. Though with more practice I am getting better. I just so love the White Mtns!! And I wanted to look around! :)

      Oilburner laughed at the song you had chosen. Very good one with a good beat. I might have to switch. The great thing about the beer bottles is that you have to think a little to keep track of what number you are on. Hehe

  5. Very nice video! The text commentary along the way was a nice addition to the video. The road surface and width of the road looks like a lot of roads around here. I haven't noticed that the Heidenau's followed grooves in the road. Do yours have a center longitudinal strip running down them?

    1. Hi Richard! I'm glad that you are able to relate to the video. I've been wondering about the roads in Alaska. I guess you can't escape frost heaves. :) I had to remind myself that I am spoiled down here, and that there isn't enough money to repair every road every couple of years. I still love to relive the ride on the terribly upheaved, potholed road when we first entered Maine. I loved that road! Just have to ride slower.

      My tires do not have a longitudinal strip down the center. But I did have some hair raising moments at the beginning of the trip before they started breaking in. They took me into a couple adventures following grooves from flat tired rims. They were so bad once they broke in. And I really liked them on the gravel!

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  6. Cool video and pictures! 14 miles to ascend 5000 ft or so....sounds like a nice ride. You're ready for Mount Evans and Pikes Peak now! Did you get to experience the idiot cagers who were so afraid of the edge of the road that they crowded into yours?


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

    1. Oh Dom, you and Road King make it look so easy. I warned Oilburner that if he wanted photos at any overlooks, it had better be on the way up, because I wasn't stopping on the way down. All I could remember was one of your images with Valencia on the edge of the Million Dollar highway..with barely any foot room. I still cringe. Maybe if I watch your videos some more I can become immune to the feel and hit your colorado peaks soon.

      Mine was a 14 mile round trip. I wonder if I could do the time for that when it is only half the distance. ;)

      Yes, watching all the footage I can see how many cager were on our 'side' of the road when they were on the outside by the drop off. I was wondering how they would have driven if I were in my big pickup taking up the road. ;)

  7. That looks like an epic ride! Love the scenery and the expansive views. I like high places, so I guess I'd do okay with the road. :)

    1. Hi bluekat! Thanks. It is at least something that I can check off a list. I wasn't thrilled with the auto road at the time, but I'm feeling better about it as time passes. Otherwise...I just love the Northeast and the trip was wonderful.

      I like high places, but not on rolling wheels that can spin out of control. A bicycle would have been doable. M/C, when all I can think of is mixing up throttle and accidentally goosing it at the wrong time, not so much. ;). I think that is why downhill skiing and I don't get along.

  8. I was just watching your photo stream. There are some really beautiful photos there, I especially like close-ups of vegetation. And I HAD to watch the video again.

    1. Thank you! It was wonderful that the flowers were still blooming up there. And how was the video the second time around?? ;)

  9. Dear Steel Cupcake:

    I loved this video. I used to live in upstate New York and have visited Mount Washington a few times. I never drove to the top. I took the other most exciting way to get there. I took the steam train cog railway: two coaches pulled by a coal-fired locomotive, built at the end of the Civil war. I wonder if I would have had the balls to muscle a street bike up that gravel road.

    The little towns and communities in New Hampshire are just so New Englandish. And each has its monument in the center of town to fallen heroes. What an adventure you had! Did you see the great Mount Washington Hotel? I plan to stay there, in style, on my next visit.

    I plan to be riding in 9 months.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

    1. Dear Jack,

      I've never lived there, but I agree that the area is beautiful. I'm surprised that you never drove up the auto road. So accessible, and you aren't limited in your time on the summit. I loved the Cog and would do it again in a heartbeat. But the prices this year are up to $62. Ouch!

      In addition, the only coal/steam train now runs at 8:30 am. The rest of the schedule is running on the biodiesel. I understand the environment impact, but the coal was so cool!!

      We had to do a double take when we saw the hotel/castle. The location is great, and I am sure the amenities are first rate. I look forward to hearing of your experience when you stay.