Side of the Road: Profile Lake

Profile Lake

For our three year anniversary my wife and I spent the weekend in North Conway at the Buttonwood Inn on Mount Hurricane. I remember that it was 2003 because it was just before our older son’s first birthday and it was our first time away from him. We went shopping at the outlet stores and we drove up Crawford Notch, and drove down Franconia Notch and the Kancamagus Highway. It was a relaxing weekend and it encouraged my love for the White Mountains.

On our way through Franconia Notch we stopped at Profile Lake to see the Old Man of the Mountain. As far as I could recall I had never seen it, so I was excited to get a glimpse of the rugged profile. Unfortunately clouds were shrouding Cannon Mountain so we couldn’t make out his face. We continued on our merry way not realizing that it had been our last chance to see the Old Man of the Mountain. Less than a month later, on May 3, 2003 between the hours of midnight and 3 am, the Old Man’s face crumbled from Cannon Mountain despite decades of reinforcing the structure again erosion.

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Cycling: Long Haul Trucking

Recently, my wife got a job off the island. This means that both of us need to commute and unfortunately our places of employment are 40 minutes apart by motorized vehicle on the highway. Our options for commuting were: using our one vehicle to transport us to both, buying a second vehicle or for me to buy a bike. I’ve been wanting to buy a bike for quite a while and this was my opportunity.

I did a bunch of online investigating and talking to friends who bike. I was looking for a good commuting bike, but also one that I could take bike camping in the summer and possibly some longer touring in the future. I narrowed it down to a few options: VeloORANGE Campeur, Jamis Auroroa, Kona Sutra, Novara Rondonee, Surly Long Haul Trucker or Surly Cross-Check. I went to Craigslist and Ebay looking for a used bike, but didn’t find much and I was unsure what size frame to get. I wanted to talk to someone about the options and get properly fitted, and only Surly had a dealer in Portland.

So, I went into Gorham Bike and Ski to talk about buying a Long Haul Trucker or a Cross-Check. They were really knowledgeable and reiterated a lot of the information I had found online about comparing the two bikes. You can’t go wrong with either of them. The Cross-Check is lighter and quicker. The Long Haul Trucker rides smooth even with a heavy load. The Long Haul Trucker has more braze-ons for fenders, racks and panniers. This year’s Cross-Check model comes in orange! After visiting I was still unsure which bike I wanted, but I walked away with what I really needed: a rough price including the accessories I wanted.

I thought about it overnight (as well as prowling more cycling forums), and returned to Gorham Bike and Ski the next day to make my purchase. What it came down to was that I wanted a bike with which I could tour and the Long Haul Trucker was better set up for that. Yes, the Cross-Check may have been the better choice for a commuter bike, but trust me, I wasn’t worried about getting to work quickly. It also helped that I saw many comments stating that if they could only own one bike it would be a Long Haul Trucker.

Bike leaning against fence

My new ride: Surly Long Haul Trucker (from Instagram)

The folks at Gorham Bike and Ski fitted me (56cm frame) and we moved on to the purchase and accessories. I had some choices to make, I went with:

  • Cakipants color over Blacktacular as it was more appealing to me
  • Long Haul Trucker over Disc Trucker to save some money on the frame
  • 700c tires over 26″ for less fatigue and better performance over potholes, even though 26″ are more common and sturdier
  • Default saddle, but I will probably upgrade in the future
  • Default drop-bars even though many do not like the bar-end shifters, having not cycled in a very long time I had no preference and didn’t think I’d mind the shifters even though I would occasionally hit them
  • Added fenders for rainy days as I was planning on commuting every day I could regardless of weather
  • Started with just a back rack and one pannier bag, a Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote as it was waterproof
  • Some mid-line blinking LED lights, I didn’t go with the best choice as I was not planning on cycling at night
  • RaceRocket pump
  • Mid-line Specialized bike helmet which was better ventilated than the low-end helmet
  • Bike lock
  • Basic platform pedals
  • A couple of basic water bottles and cages
  • A spare 700c tube

A week later my wife called me at work to let me know that my bike was ready. I left work early to swing by the bike shop once more and pick up my bike. After some small adjustments and purchasing a protection plan the bike was mine. I parked my car and spun around the parking lot a few times to get used to my bike and then walked it down to the boat. I was far too unfamiliar with the bike and unsure of traffic to ride through Portland. Thus began my weekend-long trepidation for my first day of commuting. But, after spending the weekend route planning, researching bicycle safety and signaling and reading my state laws I felt much more confident hitting the street.

I must say that I love my Long Haul Trucker and don’t suffer any buyer’s remorse. I have done some calculations and assuming an average price of $3.00 per gallon of gasoline, I will pay off my bike in 288 commutes (or roughly a year) based on the car mileage saved. Assuming I would have have purchased a used Toyota Tacoma from a local dealership I trust and assuming the same $3.00 gas price, it would have taken 2750 commutes (or 10.5 years) for it to pay itself off, not considering registration, parking, and maintenance.

I was very happy with my choice to go to Gorham Bike and Ski (no affiliation). They were knowledgeable and not a bit intimidating (I walked in a total cycling noob). They also offered 10% off all accessories when purchasing a new bike and a free 30-day checkup (where accessories are once again 10% off).

I look forward expanding my wandering possibilities by leveraging my Long Haul Trucker and sharing those experience on this blog. I have already dreamed up plans to bike down The Eastern Trail, bike camp in the White Mountains, bike to Burlington, VT, and a Portland to Portland cross-country trip (in ascending ridiculousness order).

Gorham Bike & Ski.” Gorham Bike & Ski. Web. 11 April 2015.
Long Haul Trucker.” Surly. Web. 11 April 2015.
RaceRocket.” Topeak, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Specialized Bicycled Helmets.” Specialized Bicycle Company. 11 April 2015.
Surly Long Haul Trucker or Cross-Check.” Google, Inc. Web. 11 April 2015.
Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Tote.” Thule Group. Web. 11 April 2015.
Top 100 Touring Bicycles.” Bicycle Touring Pro. Web. 11 April 2015.

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Side of the Road: Limestone, Maine

Before heading up to Limestone, Maine so that my son could attend summer camp at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, all I knew about that part of the state was that they grew potatoes. What no one ever told me was how beautiful of a place it was. Every morning for a week I drove my son 45 minutes from our camp site in the shadow of Quaggy Jo Mountain in Presque Isle to Limestone and then 45 minutes back. I took the same route both ways and never grew tired of the scenery.

I have a thing for dilapidated buildings in beautiful landscapes and kicked myself daily for forgetting to bring my Nikon on the trip. There was a particular shed sitting in a field that caught my eye every day. Halfway through the week I finally pulled over so I could take a photo of it.

Limestone, Maine

Limestone, Maine

It wasn’t much of an adventure, for sure. Just a moment where I stopped the high pace of commuting and rooted myself to my surroundings. Limestone was full of similar moments waiting to be had and a must visit for fans of big sky and tasty potatoes.

The road is a word, conceived elsewhere and laid across the country in the wound prepared for it: a word made concrete and thrust among us.
—Wendell Berry

Limestone Maine Welcomes You.” Limestone Maine. Web. 11 August 2014.
Maine School of Science and Mathematics.” The Maine School of Science and Mathematics. Web. 11 August 2014.

Side of the Road: Chihuahua Desert

I’ve decided to add a new category of post: Side of the Road. These posts will be for those micro-adventures that can often be found right off the beaten path; the interesting structure or a trail you hadn’t noticed before, a sign that points you down a road you would normally bypass. We wanderlusts like to find adventure where ever we can, and when we can’t afford to drive or fly somewhere, we find things to explore right down the road.

Of course, this Side of the Road is a pretty epic one, but there has to be some kind of catalyst for spawning a new category of post.

A couple of my friends and I were attended a conference in Austin, Texas and took a few vacation days after to do some hiking in Texas. We hiked Guadalupe Peak, El Capitan and Devil’s Hall in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. While driving west on route 180 just after the Guadalupe Mountains we crossed the the Chihuahua Desert. We pulled over to the side of the road so we could check out the salt flats and nab some photos of ourselves in the desert. The salt flats are all that remains of a giant lake that once stood at the same location 1.8 billion years ago, it it was definitely worth a stopping to check it out.

Me in the Chihuahua salt flats

Me in the Chihuahua salt flats, Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan in the background

Surprisingly, the flats were mud just under the salt crust and we had to walk gingerly as to not slip. We were just starting to head back to the highway, a few hundred feet away, when we heard the sound of an airplane approaching. I looked to the east and saw a single prop plane that appeared to be coming in for a landing directly at me. I ran to catch up with the others and get out of the plane’s path. When I felt I was a safe distance away I pulled out my phone and caught some video of the plane. Rather than land, it pulled up as it passed us, not 20 feet above the desert, and dipped its wing. I didn’t catch it, but apparently the pilot was smiling and flashing the peace sign as he passed.

video-icon Video of plane

We assumed that the highway was patrolled by police in airplanes and upon seeing us out in the desert they flew close to investigate. My heartbeat raced for a few minutes afterward, but in all it was a fun experience. When I got back to Maine, 22 hours later, I still had mud and salt stuck to my shoes and the cuffs of my pants. I made sure to scrape some off into my yard.

Water, water, water… There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount…
—Edward Abbey

El Paso Salt War.” National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Web. 19 April 2014.