I had signed up for the NH AMC women’s climbing trip for this past sunday. My carpooling plans fell through, and of course, Tyson wasn’t coming, so I had to drive myself. Since I was going to be by myself, I figured I might as well try riding my motorcycle there and back. I knew that if I took the car, my knees would be killing me on the drive back.
The motorcycle poses the problem of navigation. In the car, I could have used my N810 to get there. On the motorcycle, I figured my best bet was to tape some maps to the gas tank in front of me. The night before, while I was packing, I went to google to get maps and directions. I know how to get to Concord where we usually meet up to carpool, so I just asked google for directions from there to maximize the information per square centimeter on my gas tank. It turned out the directions were simple. The hardest part was going to be finding the parking lot, so I ended up taping the N810 in a bag with padding to my gas tank so I could tell when I was almost there. I got the driving time from google and went to bed.
In the morning I had allocated myself 45 spare minutes to load the motorcycle, fill up with gas, and take a couple rest brakes along the drive. Somehow 30 of those minutes went into loading the motorcycle. I could have sworn the motorcycle was mostly loaded the night before. But I was still doing well.
The first part of the ride was foggy, which was a new experience to me. I cruised onto the highway just fine. My trick with holding the E-Z pass as I went through the tolls worked well. And then I started cruising along at 65 mph (well, ok on my speedometer it said 75 mph, but when compared to Tyson’s motorcycle, I believe it is actually 65). After a while of this, I was starting to notice that it was really loud. On the commute to work, we have some highway driving, but usually there is enough traffic that it slows down, and also it isn’t that long. I find an exit with some gas stations and turn off there to buy some ear plugs. The first gas station didn’t have any, and before I got to the second one, I spotted a Wal-Mart. I knew they would have ear plugs, and I didn’t want to spend too much more time looking for them since I’d mostly run out my 45 minute buffer. Also, I didn’t think spending a couple bucks in Wal-Mart would be too much of a sin.
I didn’t trust the caliber of people who might be parking in a Wal-Mart parking lot, so I untaped the N810, fished my cell phone and other valuables out of my side bags and stuffed them into my suit pockets, tucked my suit under my arm, and hoped nobody would bother the big pack full of expensive climbing gear. Since I was trying to be quick, I didn’t spend the time to fish through the saddle bags to find my regular glasses. That was a mistake. Had I been going to my friendly local hardware store, it might have worked out ok, but the service in Wal-Mart is something along the lines of “yeah, we should have ear plugs in some department somewhere.” After a while of squinting and wandering around the store, I found the correct department and some reasonable ear plugs. While paying for them at the checkout counter, my E-Z pass fell out of a pocket in my motorcycle suit. I stuffed it back in and hurried out to the motorcycle all the while wondering what other pockets I might not have zipped up in my haste, and if anything else might have fallen out.
Back at the motorcycle, I pulled all the valuables back out of the pockets and replaced them in the side bags. In the process I glanced at my cell phone and noticed I was already quite late. I then reached into the pockets for the keys, and found them missing. So I pulled all the valuables back out of the side bags, put then back in the pockets, and securely closed all zippers. I also fished out my regular glasses to go back inside and look for where the keys fell out. Luckily I found them without too much hassle.
So there I was back at the motorcycle again ready to go. I checked the time, and it said I had 15 minutes left until the climbing trip was supposed to meet up. I wasn’t entirely clear on how far I had left to go, but I was still on I93, and I needed to turn onto the Kangamagus and ride most of the way across the Whites.
I figured there was nothing to do but get back on the motorcycle and keep heading north. The ear plugs did wonders. As I rode into the Whites, I really failed to enjoy their beauty because I kept hoping at every turn in the road that the next exit would be mine. I finally got to the Kangamagus and pulled off to call Tyson. We had agreed I would call him from there since cell phone reception disappears soon after. By this time it was 30 minutes past the meeting time.
As I rode across the Whites, I tried to figure out why I was so late. I could not have possibly taken that long getting ear plugs. The gas fill up had not taken long either. I did not think I was driving that much slower than google’s estimate. And then it dawned on me. I had gotten my time estimate from the directions from Concord to the climbing spot. It takes an hour to get from home to Concord. And I was around about an hour late.
The problem with being an hour late to a group trip is that the group will likely have given up after about 15 minutes of waiting and gone off to have fun. I had never been to this crag before, so other than knowing where the parking lot was, I was pretty much clueless. When I got to the parking lot, there were two other climbers there. They said they knew where Passaconaway crag was, but they did not know where Lost Horizon was where the AMC trip was headed. I checked the cars of the other ladies I knew, but I didn’t find a note. So I decided to follow them to the crag they knew and see if any other climbers there knew where Lost Horizon was. Since I didn’t have a handy car to put my stuff into, I threw my motorcycle suit on top of my pack which was already heavy from trad leading gear.
We took the trail into that crag, and there was no one else there. The two climbers gave me their best guess as to where Lost Horizon might be — go back down to the hiking trail, follow it for a bit, and then it ought to be some where a ways off to the side. And they said if I never found my group I could climb with them. So, I headed on down the trail. I paused frequently to listen for a group of nine women. I looked for small climbers’ side trails. And I found nothing. I pulled out my N810 and noted on the topographical map that there was a whole band of cliffs along the mountain’s side. From the signage I knew the trail did a 2.6 mile loop around the cliffs to the top of the mountain and back down to where we had started. After a while of hiking, I figured my best bet was to hike up to the top of the mountain where I would probably get cell reception and call one of my guy AMC friends who would know where Lost Horizon was.
So I toiled up to the top of the mountain with a very heavy pack in sweltering heat. I bewildered a number of hikers by asking them if they knew where Lost Horizon was. When I got to the top, there was cell phone reception, and ripe blue berries. I called up Tyson to ask him for the phone numbers of some of the other guys, but I got no answer. I tried Tony, the only other relevant person in my contacts list, and also got no answer. So then I pulled out my N810 to search the internet. The N810 had been acting as a gps the entire drive up and the hike, so it was getting very low on battery. Luckily the first hit on google provided me with verbal directions. Unfortunately, the battery on the N810 was not going to last until I got back to the bottom where I could use the directions. After thinking for a bit about how to solve this problem, I remembered that in winter school, I learned that a very useful thing to have in a first aid kit is paper and pencil. I quickly rummaged through my pack to find the first aid kit, and jotted down the instructions. I turned off the N810 in case I needed the last little bit of battery for something later.
Heading down the trail, I tried to make sense of the directions. They said to cross the road, follow the trail, don’t turn left at the intersection, instead turn left at the cairn. Well, I had not seen any cairns on my hike up. So I started wondering if the directions referred to some other trail. They also said that across from the cairn was a brown interpretive marker labeled 18. I had not seen any interpretive markers on the way up either. But then, just a short ways down the trail, I saw a marker labeled 8. And a while later, I saw one labeled 5, then 4. I concluded that the interpretive marker might well have fallen down and not been replaced. On re-reading the directions, it also seemed plausible that the left turn I was not supposed to take, was exactly the portion of the trail I was hiking back down on.
Back on the original trail again, I headed out. After not too long, I spotted a cairn. There was no interpretive marker, but I was not too worried about that. And the cairn was about the distance out that I would expect a climber to be willing to hike to get to a crag. The problem was, it was the spot where we had turned up to go to the first crag. I re-read the directions, and the germ of an idea started. The directions sounded like they could match up with hiking to the first crag, and then following the cliff around left for a ways.
By this point, I was quite hungry, and it was past noon, so I figured I might as well hike up and eat lunch with the two climbers I had met earlier. As I approached them, the guy (who was complaining that the 5.11 overhang had seemed like a much easier lead the last time he tried it) called down to me that not too long after I left, some other people had come through whom they knew. And that group had headed for Lost Horizon which they said was around the corner to the left.
So after eating enough lunch to get me back on my feet, I trudged my pack a ways around to the left. And lo and behold, there was everybody. Apparently the one lady I had been considering carpooling with had canceled on the trip entirely, so they had concluded I must not have been coming either.
Somehow the fact that I was exhausted from wandering around the mountain looking, translated into them telling me I had to go try all these awesome climbs they had been doing all morning. So I actually got a decent amount of climbing in. I surprised myself by being able to do a 5.10 crux despite my fatigue.
After climbing, we were all hot and sweaty from the heat, so a bunch of us walked down to the river and jumped in. I had not brought a swimming suit, but I had on quick drying clothes. The river was not even that cold. It was nice to just lounge around in. It sounded like a bunch of them had gone climbing and swimming the previous day too.
They all headed out to eat dinner together. I figured I needed to get home since Tyson was waiting for me. I spent a little while drying out and eating some more snacks and drinking water. Then off I went.
What surprised me was that after not too long, my back started hurting. I have never had that problem before on my motorcycle. It was probably related to be carrying around a heavy backpack that does not quite fit. I had to stop when I got back to I93 and do stretches. From there I set my sites on the rest area a ways north of Concord as my next stop. Even after stretching there, I was still sore. Traffic was also starting to get heavier, which reminded me that this was the end of a summer holiday weekend, so at some point I was going to hit the return to Boston traffic jam. I had intended to make it to the rest stop in Merrimack for my next break, but traffic ceased up north of Concord. I made it to the rt 9 exit in Concord which I know, and stopped in the park and ride lot to stretch my back again. There is a back roads way from there to home which the N810 knows about, and has shown us on various other occasions when the highway got too jammed. But as you will recollect, the N810 was almost out of battery. And I had also determined that I was not really able to see it through the plastic bag.
So, I called up Tyson and asked for directions I could memorize. Luckily the route we had done before with the N810 was not too difficult. I also noticed that I had burned a bit of oil, so I refilled. The bottle of oil was one of the items that slowed down loading the motorcycle in the morning.
It was a good thing we had driven the back roads route before because there were a couple of poorly marked turns. By this time my back was annoying me enough that I was doing the sport motorcycle rider pose with one hand on the throttle and the other back on the hips. In my case, this was allowing me to lean back onto my pack for back support. At a gas station in Weare named Aweare, I stopped to swap my sunglasses for my regular glasses because it was getting late, and to stretch again. A little while after that, once I had driven back out into the middle of nowhere/farm fields, I had to switch to reserve. At that point I really wished I had a map because I knew I was getting somewhere close to home, but I was not sure if I was close enough to just drive to my normal gas station, or if I had to take the earliest gas station I saw.
It ended up I took the first gas station I saw, and then soon thereafter got back to areas I knew. But it was ok because the first gas station was cheap, and then I just had to get home. My knees did fine for the ride home. It was just my back that had problems.
So, in summary, I should have thought more carefully about how long it takes to get to the other side of the Whites. I should have brought my climbing guide since it has a map of how to get to that crag. And my next motorcycle is going to have more touring in it.
On the good side, I got to enjoy a day outside hiking, climbing, and swimming. And I finally got around to trying a road trip with my motorcycle — 6 hours in the saddle total.