Having made it to North Conway in a day, ‘arris pushes the DN-01 further west through the States of Vermont and New York, destination Ontario.
Missed part one of this trek across New England? Fear thee not, you can get to it here.
Day 2 – North Conway to Gananoque
There’s an element to travelling solo that you only get … well, travelling solo, and that is meeting interesting people.
When you’re with someone else or part of a larger crowd you may say a token hi to a fellow motorcyclist but there’s no real need to push beyond because you already have company.
In North Conway I happened to meet a certain fellah by the name of Tom Crank. Tom rides a Goldwing and originated from Connecticut where he works with abused kids – managing to keep this side of sane by grabbing any opportunity he has to go for a good long motorcycle ride.
I can relate to the motorcycles = sanity thing but thankfully not the abused kids, though without people like Tom in this world we’d be a lot worse off. The least I thought I could do was to buy him breakfast but even that he would not allow, buying breakfast for me instead.
We parted ways right after (he was heading north to Mount Washington whereas I was heading west with Ontario as my goal) and I was once again blessed by the gods of all things meteorological with a fine sunny September day.
I chose to avoid the chaos of North Conway by heading north, then the 302 to Bartlett, before joining the Kancamangus Highway via Bear Notch.
For those of you who don’t know what a ‘notch’ is, they’re small roads that wind their way over a mountain ridge usually following a river and crossing at a saddle point on the ridge. Basically if you see the word ‘notch’ on a map, then change your plans and do it.
TAKING IT UP A NOTCH
Bear Notch is a great example of this and, unlike Hurricane Mountain Road, it’s wide enough for two so you can open it up a bit for shits and giggles.
Unfortunately for me, last September was just when the New Hampshire authorities decided to repave it which broke up the fun a bit but the short sections of fresh black-as-soot and smooth-as-a-baby’s-bum asphalt means that right now it must be heavenly.
Twenty minutes of slightly interrupted fun leads you to the best part of the Kancamangus, which takes you through the White Mountains. The fun dies down a bit once you join the 302, though it’s not exactly boring, until Barre where I opted to save time navigating through this more populous area and took the main highway 89 to the 100.
Highway 100 seems to be relatively well-known to Quebec motorcyclists as it starts very close to the Quebec border in the north and meanders all the way down south to Massachusetts.
I’ve ridden it once before and although it’s quite a scenic and pleasant route it is popular and therefore somewhat slow going with ample opportunities for speed traps.
I find the 100 to still be traffic-heavy and am relieved to be able to get off it again at Irasville where I’d been told to not miss the 17, and since this takes me westerly again, why not?
Oh, I remember this road. How could I have forgotten? That twisty climb, the lookout at the top and then the rollercoaster drop down the other side with more hairpins than a ’60s beehive.
It eventually runs out of steam and flattens out where it joins the 116 for a short stretch, but this provides a lovely juxtaposition – gently winding through lush Vermont farmland.
I stumble across the town of Bristol with its vibrant main street boasting a host of interesting restaurants and hometown shops. Sadly I’d already eaten a rather disappointing and greasy lunch so I didn’t pause to check it out in more detail.
I’m almost done with Vermont and it’s not long before I hit the mighty Lake Champlain at Chimney Point and the bridge to New York State.
NOTE – apparently they demolished this bridge shortly after I crossed and are in the process of putting up a new one but it won’t be functional till 2011!
The wealth of Vermont almost immediately drops off once across but every time I hit upper New York State it always feels like it’s doing just a little bit better than the last time.
The route gets a little messy here and you can thank another CMG reader who responded to my pleas for route assistance when originally planning this trip and this is “the must do” Tracy Road.
I find myself stopping often to consult the Google Map print outs that I’ve taped to the tank of the DN-01, stopping in Moriah Center for a coffee and consultation, and leaving with further convoluted directions.
I find it more by luck than strategy, and am treated to sweeping corner after sweeping corner of smooth asphalt. There’s nothing particularly technical about it, no decreasing radii, just left, right, left, right bends than work best at a steady 100 km/h. Love it.
Our love affair ends at the I87, but my route ducks under it and the fun fires up again on the 73 which cuts some goodly sized hills until giving up the ghost at Lake Placid.
This is where all the traffic in the area seems to converge and although it’s still somewhat pretty and generally swoopy, by the time I hit Tupper Lake the charm had gone.
Now I’ve never understood why so many motorcyclists seem to like the Adirondacks and especially this stretch of road. To me it’s just too much of the same old rocks and trees, trees and rocks that Canada has in abundance.
The decline continues all the way to the edge of the Adirondack Park when, just when you thought there was nothing between here and the hell of Ontario’s 401, something happens as I peel off the 3 and onto the 58 to Gouverneur.
Free from the park, there’s nothing to stop the trees from being cut away and the landscape around me is now free of the choking tree cover and quite beautiful in its nakedness.
By now I’m getting tired and I get lost trying to find the road out of Gouverneur only to notice that the fuel gauge is below the ‘E’ on the DN-01, meaning a return to town to gas up.
I finally give up trying to navigate by map and just take any road that points to the setting sun in the west until inevitably I stumble upon I81 which takes me north to the Thousand Islands border crossing.
Here I’m treated to a last gasp of beauty crossing the bridge over the splotches of green islands stubbornly holding their own in the mighty St Lawrence River. The 401 greets me with chaos – four lanes of heavy traffic as Canadians return home on the Labour Day weekend. It’s an odd welcome home, especially after a two-day trip of minimal traffic.
The route from Moncton to Gananoque works out to be about 1300 kms, which (according to Google Maps) is actually 60 kms longer than the highway through Quebec and over Maine.
I’m guessing this is due to all the twisties that my route encompasses, but I’m suggesting this for motorcyclists, so this is what we want, isn’t it?
The route is designed to avoid the interstates/major highways (unless it’s just to skip by some tedium or urbania) and experience as many hills/twisties as possible. Still there are some stretches that grind a tad (some of Maine, the last bit of the Adirondacks and any of the 401) but there seem to no alternatives that I can find.
It took me two long days and about 22 hours in the saddle, at a
relatively good pace with a few stops for gas, food and note-taking but
no real sightseeing per se.
However, I’d recommend taking at least
three days and grab some time to stop and smell the roses or have
breakfast with the Tom Cranks of this world.
Got a ‘must do’ section of road, eatery or stopover along this route? Please add your input into the comments section as we’ll be putting the story, maps and GPS touring into a special travel section for easy reference and we want to make sure that we have all the best info and options included.
In the meantime, here’s the link to the Google Map of the route which we’ll be updating once we set this up in the new travel section (as well as including a GPS file of the route).