We started the day with another great breakfast by Charlotte at the Ardmore Inn - this on top of the late night blueberry pie snack. That sealed her reputation as our best B&B chef. Sarah left us in Woodstock and headed back home; we continued cycling - back to carrying all our own stuff which at this point in our trip dwindled down to just the bare necessities.
Route 106 was recommended by our next B&B host - great route thru many small towns to Springfield VT. One thing we noticed, is that except for Middlebury up on the hill, we screamed downhill into every town and crawled back up and out the next day. Woodstock was no exception. Patty tried to find routes along rivers to avoid the extreme climbing; we had a gradual 4 mile climb along the creek out of Woodstock.
Our choice in Springfield was more uphill or we could cross into NH and ride along the Connecticut - a futile effort to convince Derna there was some flat riding in this neck of the woods. We chose to cross into NH and left behind the nice shoulders and low traffic of Vermont. We headed back over the Connecticut into Bellows Falls VT to Saxons River which was a quiet little town with a B&B, two restaurants and a grocery store - perfect bike tour-sized town. The B&B was in a old, rambling Victorian farm house - once a rooming house, now a B&B without the second "B" - no breakfast served. This meant the next day we could get up and out early and eat breakfast on the road; Jim's favorite routine.
Day 14 - Saxtons River to Ashburnham MA - 68.6 miles
Ron and Jim, with a combined total of over a dozen long distance bicycle trips, both agree that today's journey was in the top five hardest. Combination of hills and heat and distance made this a long day - almost 4000 ft of climbing and no flat riding for almost the whole way. The only thing that kept Jim going was thinking "this can't continue, it has got to get easier". The low point mentally and the high point physically was climbing Richmond Hill, about 20 miles out of Brattleboro on Rte 119. Jim was followed by a truck that probably had to gear down 6 times to make it up that hill and was only going about 10 mph at the top.
The ride from hell culminated when we finally turned on the last road of the day - Old Ashburnham Rd. We were fooled into thinking the worst was over with the freshly paved shady NH road, only 6 miles from the B&B. Our illusions were shattered when we hit Massachusetts - Jim described the road as "chucks of asphalt surrounded by sand" and the final straw was the "bridge out detour" which added another mile to an already long day.
This was not the scheduled ride; we were advised in Saxtons River to avoid Rte 12 to Keene due to construction. We had already been on Rte 12 the day before and the heavy trucks and non-existent shoulder led us to follow the advice. The amazing thing is that Derna and Ron had travelled much of this route on Day 1, when Patty was waiting for Jim to fly in. If we had done it once before there is no way we would have ever agreed to cycle it again. This says much about the sanity of Canadians.
We arrived at our last B&B, the Maguire House, with greetings of cold beer, a view of Mt Monadnock and Lake ? and much needed showers. We headed out to dinner in the "courtesy car" of the B&B and ate a huge meal at Little Anthony's. The waitress told us Little Anthony wasn't that little and based on those portions, it has to be true.
Day 15 - the last ride, Ashburnham to Lexington MA - 53 miles
After filling up on a nice B&B breakfast, we were off by 9am. We had a 15 mile downhill to and out of Fitchburg. Luckily it was early Saturday and there wasn't much traffic and it only took an hour to ride 15 miles - our fastest hour of the whole ride.
Second breakfast was at Tiny's in Ayer - Jim had his last fried egg sandwich for the year. After Ayer, we got off the main route and took back roads from Patty's training rides thru Harvard, Littleton and Acton to arrive at our lunch stop in Concord. It was our hottest day so far but we didn't feel that heat with the shady roads. There were even some sections that could actually be described as "flat" much to Derna's delight.
We arrived in Lexington by mid-afternoon and were greeted by Sarah with champagne, snacks and cookies. Nice to be home again!
Total miles by Jim and Patty - 634, Ron and Derna 689. We're not even going to think about how many feet we climbed!