A New England Tandem Cycling Adventure

June 2006

When we began planning this trip a year ago, we were surprised to find very little information on the web to help us plan a route. We found many loops within states, but only one New England route that was similar to what we had in mind. And so, we decided to put our trip information online, in the hopes that other cyclists will find it useful. Happy cycling!

Joyce & Paul Vyriotes

Tucson, AZ

Shipping the Bike

We borrowed a tandem case from GABA, our local bicycle club, and, after checking out all of our options, found that shipping it via ground with DHL would be the least expensive and most hassle-free choice. We were a little nervous and so we purchased extra insurance in the hopes that they would take extra care... an option no airline will give you.

DHL estimated 7 days to ship via ground from Tucson, AZ to South Hadley, MA – it took 2. When we opened up the case, we were relieved to find the only thing wrong with the bike was a slightly bent small chain ring We could have clobbered it ourselves while packing packing... the bike case was unscathed. We could ride it, but planned to hit a bike shop before the big hills to ensure that we could use all of our gears.

We arranged a pick-up with DHL and shipped the empty case and tools to Joyce’s parents’ house, where we planned to end our ride. Again, ground shipping estimated at 7 days only took 2. Finally, DHL picked it up from the parents and took 3 days to ship it back to Tucson.

We were quite happy with DHL and enjoyed not having to lug the huge case around an airport. We plan to use them in the future... MUCH safer than the airlines!

Biking Around New England

For the most part our route was beautiful, historic, and motorists were fantastic. But VT was by far the most welcoming to cyclists. NH was pretty, but shoulders were narrower and roads rougher. The ME roads (with the exception of the coastal road) were treacherous for bikes - winter frost heaves destroy the shoulders leaving behind big potholes and deep crevaces. Fortunately, ME drivers seem aware of this and give cyclists a WIDE berth. We only rode ~50 miles in MA so can't comment much on it.

Day 1 – South Hadley, MA to Brattleboro, VT

Mileage: 53

Terrain: The shoulder was not great, but traffic was light and motorists very friendly. Rolling hills.

Weather: Clear, low wind and about 80 degrees.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

Around 11:00am, we left Mount Holyoke College where we had spent 4 days at Joyce’s 10-year reunion. We had originally planned to ride up 116 through Amherst. However, we made that ride a few days earlier when we had first received the bike. In addition to the “been there, done that” factor, 116 is heavily traveled. And so we made a last-minute change and took Route 47 instead.

We were happy with this decision as the traffic was fairly light and the scenery nice. There were many historic homes from the 1700 and 1800’s. The drivers were courteous and locals waved from their yards.

We crossed into New Hampshire, and then rode over the Connecticut River into Vermont.

The Brattleboro Experience

Our first stop was the Wheel Good Bike Shop to see about fixing our small chain ring. Being a Sunday, the mechanic was not working, but we were invited to use their shop and tools to try to fix it ourselves. We appreciated the generous offer and Paul had it fixed in no time.

As the next day was Memorial Day, we hoped for come celebratory activities, but nothing was going on and many stores and businesses were closed. We took the ‘history walk’ suggested by the local tourist office to explore the town. Brattleboro was more run-down than we had anticipated, but we did go on a short, but nice trail run up Wantastiquet Mountain (http://www.chesterfieldoutdoors.com/plands/wantas.html).

Lodging & Food

We spent 2 nights in Brattleboro at the Quality Inn and Suites. On the downside, it is about 2.5 miles outside of the downtown area, the staff was not very knowledgeable about what was happening in town, and the breakfast was nothing to brag about. On the upside, they have a coin washer and dryer which we happily used, as well as a fabulous Indian restaurant (Dhaba) where we enjoyed a buffet dinner.

The next day, we ate at Thai Garden, as we love Thai food and it’s generally a safe bet. Not this time. Nothing seemed particularly fresh and it wasn’t very flavorful. We struck out again later than night at the Riverview Café (http://www.riverviewcafe.com/). As the name suggests, the views of the river were nice, but the food was just so-so.

While we did not have any memorable meals downtown, we did enjoy Mocha Joe’s Coffee Shop (http://www.mochajoes.com/cafe.html). Good beans, fresh roast, nice atmosphere, and lots of hippies.

In Hindsight…

---we would have stopped more often to take photos and enjoy the scenery.

…we would not have spent 2 nights in Brattleboro. But this was a last-minute change. We had planned to spend one more night at MHC, but were anxious to hit the road and we were not able to find a good place to stay in between there and Brattleboro.

Day 2 –Brattleboro, VT to Springfield, VT

Mileage: 46

Terrain: Lots of steep, rolling hills. On the busier roads, the shoulder was wide and clean. On the quieter roads, the shoulder was much smaller and the road often crumbled at the edges. Once again, the drivers were extremely courteous.

Weather: In the 80’s. Lots of sun with rain in the evening.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

This was one of our favorite days of the trip. We took our time and stopped often to enjoy the moment and take photos. Early in the day, we realized MapQuest had given us wrong directions. We went over a few, ultra hilly, extra miles to get back on track, but it could have been worse.

When we got to the Dummerston Covered Bridge (http://www.crjc.org/heritage/V03-5.htm) (photo), our first of the trip, we walked down to the river’s edge and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the water – something we don’t have much of in Tucson.

Our second stop was at a roadside market to browse their cheese and fresh produce, and buy a few apples to munch on. Later we visited the Grafton Cheese Factory. They didn’t serve meals, and so we purchased apple chutney and 4-year aged cheddar at the factory and made our own. We also tried maple-flavored soda. It tasted like drinking a pancake…which is probably why it hasn’t caught on anywhere else on earth. We sat by a stream and had a fabulous lunch!

Shortly afterward, we hit the town of Grafton, named “one of America’s top 10 most beautiful towns” by USA Today (http://www.usaweekend.com/03_issues/030518/030518springtravel.html). And it was. Grafton is a meticulously preserved 1800-era New England town. The buildings were all historic and the locals were friendly. It turns out that they celebrate Memorial Day on May 30, regardless of the day of the week on which it falls, and so we joined in the BBQ outside the General Store, browsed the town museum and then stayed for the quaint, albeit extremely short, Memorial Day parade.

Today, we saw our first wildlife of the trip – a moose galloping through a field and turtles in a pond on the side of the road. Very cool!

The Springfield Experience

With all of our stops, we had taken a good portion of the day to get to Springfield…which turned out to be a good thing. As far as we could tell, there’s not much to see in this rather industrial town.

Lodging & Food

We stayed the night at the Hartness House (www.hartnesshouse.com/). It’s a nice inn, although the rooms are not all that special. What made it a great stay was the inn’s history (see website). Before we left in the morning, we were given a tour of the underground passageways and the telescope, which was a treat.

The staff seemed a bit leery of us in our grungy bike clothes, but they were nice enough and showed us a few covered spots where we could lock our bike.

We decided to leave the inn and walk to dinner to stretch our legs. Bad move. The only open restaurant we found within walking distance was an awful Chinese restaurant. Joyce was starving and the meal was very unsatisfying.

We walked back to the Hartness House in the rain and headed into the dining room for drinks and dessert, both of which were excellent. The atmosphere was nice and the service was friendly. The full breakfast included in our stay was also fabulous.

In Hindsight…

---we would have stayed at The Hartness House for dinner.

Day 3 –Springfield, VT to Fairlee, VT

Mileage: 65 miles


Weather: Cool and overcast in the morning, with a sunny afternoon.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

This was the least interesting riding day of the trip and our first experience riding in a city – Lebanon, NH. We found that we much prefer the scenic country back roads. We left Vermont after cycling a short distance in the morning and rode in New Hampshire most of the day before crossing back over the border into Fairlee, Vermont for the night.

We stopped in Lebanon for lunch and had excellent salmon risotto at the Salt Hill Pub, then rode through the Dartmouth College area. The latter part of today’s ride became more scenic as we returned to farm country.

Lodging & Food

We stayed the night at the Silver Maple Lodge (www.silvermaplelodge.com) which has a main house and a collection of little cottages. Scott, the owner, was quite friendly and made us feel welcome. We choose to stay in a cottage, which was quaint and came with a small refrigerator and microwave.

We were disappointed in two aspects of our stay. Firstly, we were located about 50 yards from an interstate highway. As you might imagine, this was not advertised on the website and it definitely took something away from the experience. Secondly, they advertised a continental breakfast with home baked breads or rolls. Well, there were cinnamon rolls, but we had a sneaking suspicion that they had been taken out of their packaging that morning and heated in the oven.

None of the nearby restaurants looked particularly appetizing and so we walked to a grocery store and bought sandwich supplies for dinner.

In Hindsight…

---we would have stayed on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River. This part of New Hampshire was a disappointment after the beauty we experienced the day before.

…we would not have stayed at the Silver Maple Lodge.


Day 4 – Fairlee, VT to Littleton, NH

Mileage: 45


Weather: A nice overcast day with rain in the evening.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

We crossed back over the river into New Hampshire and hadn’t gone too far when we stopped to read a sign on a historic home (circa 1851). We were then turning the bike around in the driveway when the owners invited us to stay and chat…and so we did! Bruce and Chris were extremely friendly and told us all about the house, which had been in Chris’ family for many years. The bricks had been made on site! and foundation and headers are cut granite. This place was build to last.

They told us about their farm and their rare breed of cows (Milking Devons) while they picked fresh asparagus for us to take on our ride. Joyce got her dog fix playing with Harry, their lovable Bernese Mountain Dog. What a neat experience!

We said our goodbyes and only made it a few miles down the road when we ran into bike trouble. We spent about 30 minutes making repairs…okay, Paul did all the repairs, but Joyce did find the washer that had fallen off of the bike!

We hit the road again and enjoyed some beautiful scenery before stopping in Bath, NH for lunch. We were skeptical of the roadside fish ‘n’ chips stand, but the word “fresh” caught our eye. We were dismayed to find that everything was deep-friend, but, after explaining Paul’s gluten allergy to the cook, he generously offered to grill a piece of haddock for us. It was delicious! We sat by a river with views of a covered bridge and waterfall, and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

The Littleton Experience

After checking in at our hotel, we headed straight to the Littleton Bike Shop (http://www.littletonbike.com/) to see about having our chain cleaned and tires pumped. They were short-staffed with a full load of work already, and so they did not have time to help us. However, we were invited to use their pump, as well as their hose and brush, to do the work on our own. Everyone was so friendly and really interested in hearing about our ride.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around this neat little town. They have a working mill and lots of specialty shops, including Chutters, home of the world’s longest candy counter. Yes, they are in the Guinness Book of World Records!

Lodging & Food

We were very happy with our choice of lodging – the historic Thayer’s Inn (www.thayersinn.com), right on Main Street. Unlike the standard rooms at the Hartness House, the décor and furnishings at Thayer’s matched the historic nature of the inn. We spent time walking through the inn, enjoying views from the multiple balconies, as well as the cupola. Some doors had nameplates telling of the historic figures who had slept there. The staff was friendly and helpful, there was a computer in the living room for guests to use, and we had a fridge in our room.

We had dinner at Crustaceans, a seafood restaurant on the lower level of Thayer’s and really enjoyed our meal. They had excellent margaritas and chowder, and the waitress was friendly in a casual way –no stuffiness here!

Another great find was The Healthy Rhino, a natural food store that carries freshly-baked, gluten-free muffins and whoopee pies. We don’t have whoopie pies in Arizona and I was surprised to see them in practically every store we entered in New England. Paul was excited for the chance to try one….but decided that he really isn’t missing much.

Thayer’s does not offer breakfast in the off-season and so we just had cereal and milk in our room.

In Hindsight…

---we would have done it all over again. This was a great ride and a great day!

Day 5 –Littleton, NH to North Conway, NH

Mileage: 47

Terrain: Rolling hills with a long downhill past Crawford Notch.

Weather: Overcast and a bit cool.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

The folks at the Littleton Bike Shop had warned us of the 10 miles of uphill ahead of us before an enjoyable 20 mile descent. We kept waiting for the climb to begin, but found the terrain similar to that which we’d been experiencing for days – lots of rolling hills. We reached our highest point at Crawford Notch and had a fabulous ride down the other side.

It was beautiful riding through the mountains and there were some amazing waterfalls near the Notch. The descent was steep at times and I was thankful it wasn’t raining, which would have made the ride treacherous.

The miles went by quickly and we didn’t stop much as we were meeting family in North Conway.

The North Conway Experience

We are familiar with North Conway as Joyce’s parents own a ski house here, at which we spend a little time each winter. We enjoyed catching up with family, Becky, Jon and Hannah, and then we strolled by the shops in the downtown area.

Lodging & Food

Tonight’s lodging was great and the price was right (thanks Dad & Penny!). If you’re looking to rent a condo anytime other than ski season, you can check it out at http://www.selectrealestate.com/ (click on RENT, then select "Stavro" in the pulldown).

We got dinner to go at Chef’s Market which we highly recommend. You can eat in or take the prepared food home with heating instructions. In addition to the fabulous food, we loved that the owner’s dog, Willoughby, another Bernese Mountain dog, was hanging out next to the counter.

In Hindsight…

---once again, nothing to change here. The route was great!

Day 6 – North Conway, NH to Lewiston, ME

Mileage: 70

Terrain: More hills! Treacherous potholes.

Weather: In the 50’s, heavy relentless rain and headwinds…absolutely miserable!

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

Joyce tried to be upbeat as they waved goodbye to Becky, Jon and Hannah and set out into the cold and rain, but she had a feeling it was going to be a long, unpleasant day. As it turned out, it was so much worse than she ever could have imagined. By the day’s end, even Paul admitted that it was the worst day of riding he had experienced in over 20 years of cycling.

We stopped at The Met in downtown North Conway, so Paul could have an espresso, and then hit the road. Actual riding time was about 6.5 hours and, except for a 15-minute break, it rained the entire time. Joyce had an excellent rain jacket, but was soaked from the hips down. Paul didn’t fare so well and, before long, was soaked through all over. By the time we reached Lewiston he was a bit hypothermic.

We have no photos from today’s ride as we just wanted to get to our next B&B. We did stop at Rick’s Cafe in Naples to try and warm up and regain some energy with a few bowls of chowder and chili. As we ate, we had a nice view of Long Lake…and the driving rain. Naples looked like it would be a cute town in a nicer weather.

With about 10 miles to go, Joyce’s spirits lifted – the end was in sight! Of course, as we entered the Auburn/Lewiston area, the hills got bigger…and then, at the top of a steep hill, Paul realized our brakes had become loose in the rain and were not working. He put his foot down and we slowly skidded to a halt. He was able to adjust them and we eventually made it to our destination.

The Lewiston Experience

We did not leave our B&B, and so have no idea what Lewiston is like. We here there is some revitalization happening, though!

Lodging & Food

After the most awful day of the trip, we stayed in the best B&B of the trip - Armand’s Orchard Side Inn (www.armandsorchardsideinn.com). This did brighten our mood. Upon arriving, Tim, the owner, greeted us with towels, allowed us to leave the bike in his garage, and informed us that, as we were his only guests that evening, he had upgraded us to his best room. And what a room it was. With a Jacuzzi tub, walk-in shower, and big bed with a warm comforter, it was absolute heaven.

While we stood in a hot shower trying to warm up, Tim made us hot tea and put our wet clothes in the dryer. What a guy! Although we were hungry, there was not a chance in hell that we were going out into the rain again. We ate the snacks we had with us, and then Tim kindly made a fruit and cheese plate for us. We spent the evening hanging out with Tim and his great dog and watching Independence Day.

Tim is a chef, and an excellent one at that. For breakfast the next morning, Paul enjoyed a garden omelet, while Joyce had salmon and poached eggs. Both were delicious.

We cannot say enough good things about our stay at Armand’s Orchard Side Inn. Tim was the ultimate host and the inn was beautiful. Our only regrets are that we didn’t have more time to stay and nicer weather to enjoy the area.

In Hindsight…

---we would have brought more rain gear.

Day 7 – Lewiston, ME to Harpswell, ME

Mileage: 30

Terrain: Will the hills ever end?!?

Weather: A bit more rain and wind, but nothing compared to yesterday.

Click here for map and directions.

The Ride

The rain had stopped by morning…thank goodness. We had planned today as an easy day, so that we could rest and recover a bit from 6 days of riding, and so we had a short 30 miles to our next stop. Since we were heading to the ocean, we assumed there would be a fair bit of downhill. We must have gone down in elevation as we ended up at sea level…and yet today seemed just as hilly as the other days. Other than stopping for a bite to eat at a Hannaford’s grocery store, we rode straight through as we were excited to see the ocean.

Originally planning to stay in Freeport, we changed our plans for the opportunity to stay on a peninsula. We were entranced by the thought of sitting on a porch watching the waves crash in. You can imagine our disappointment when we discovered that the peninsula has lots and lots of trees that obscure any ocean views. We caught a few brief glimpses of the ocean when there were small breaks in the trees.

Lodging & Food

We arrived at The Common Table (www.commontable.com/) feeling rather let down by the views of the trees. Living in the desert, seeing trees would normally be cause for excitement, but we had just ridden through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were done with trees and ready for the ocean. Over the phone, the owner of this B&B had assured us, “You’ll be surrounded by water on three sides – you can’t get much closer to the water!” She turned out to be an extremely kind woman, but, though I’m sure she didn’t mean to, we felt she misled us. Had we known about the lack of an ocean view, we certainly would not have added 20 miles to our route to stay there.

The house was cozy and intimate…but a little too much so for our taste. We had the feeling that we were intruding in someone’s home and sleeping in a little girl’s room. The host could not have been nicer (she dried our wet clothes and gave us a ride to dinner), but there was a level of professionalism that was lacking in the set up.

The host had been nice to put us in touch with a massage therapist who came to the B&B for us. It was magnificent! Joyce went first and then enjoyed tea and home baked oatmeal cookies while Paul enjoyed his massage.

For dinner we visited Este’s Lobster House at the end of the road. This place truly was surrounded by water on three sides! It had begun to rain again which made it a bit dreary and the food was mediocre. Breakfast, however, was quite nice with freshly backed muffins and a frittata.

In Hindsight…

---we would have skipped Harpswell and stuck with the original plan to stay in Freeport.

Day 8 –Harpswell, ME to Old Orchard Beach, ME

Mileage: 55

Terrain: Finally flattening out.

Weather: A nice, overcast day with a few brief showers.

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

I made the mistake of showing our map to the host in the morning and asking if we were taking the best route. She wrote down a “much better way” for us…which added 6 miles to our route and put us on a busier road. Lesson learned? Don’t ask for cycling directions from people who only ride in cars.

Although we are not shoppers, we were told that we simply had to stop at the LL Bean Factory Outlet Store. Because so many people insisted, we were quite excited when we arrived in Freeport…and we were sorely disappointed. The Outlet Store is nothing more than a big department store. Sure, it’s all outdoorsy and sporty merchandise, but it’s nothing that you can’t get in a regular store or online. So, our stop in Freeport was brief and we hit the road again.

The ride was fast and scenic and our legs felt good. We had not planned our route as well as we had for previous days, rather our plan was to stay near the water. We tried to stay on the East Coast Greenway Bicycle Path, but it was hard to follow as there weren’t many signs. We had heard it was well-marked from Portland south, but we still managed to get lost and decided to just get on route 1. This was not a great road as the shoulder came and went and there was heavy traffic.

In Scarborough, we stopped at Len Libby Candies, home of Lenny, the world's only life-size chocolate moose. We purchased some chocolate and salt water taffy, a New England staple which Paul had never tried. Shortly after, we got off of route 1 and onto route 9 which took us along the ocean for a much nicer ride.

The Old Orchard Beach Experience

We were excited to arrive as family was once again waiting for us. Becky and Hannah, along with Joyce’s parents, met us in Old Orchard Beach and spent the night. We strolled by the shops on “the strip” and spent some time on the beach. Judging by the amusement park, stores and run down rental properties, it appears that this is a hot spot for partying college kids during the summer. We were there a bit early in the season and so not much was open, but it was nice to walk on the beach and see the ocean.

We were shocked at the number of people actually in the water. Some were in bathing suits, others in jeans and t-shirts. It was probably in the high 50’s and the water must have been freezing!

Lodging & Food

The Atlantic Birches Inn (www.atlanticbirches.com) was charming. We had reserved a 2-room suite to share with Becky and Hannah and it was perfect. It had a porch with a nice swing and was just a few minutes walk to the beach. The owner greeted us and allowed us to use his hose to clean the bike and then store it in the garage.

For dinner, we drove to the Cascade Restaurant where we had lobster (another first for Paul!). Overall, dinner was pretty average. Later in the evening, we walked down the strip for gelato.

There was a nice continental breakfast at the inn with fruit salad, cereal and freshly baked muffins.

In Hindsight…

…we would have planned our route in advance to keep us off of route1 and on the less-traveled, more scenic back roads.

…we would have skipped LL Bean.

…we would have stayed someplace less touristy – maybe Kennebunkport?

Day 9 – Old Orchard Beach, ME to Stratham, NH

Mileage: 80

Terrain: Flat

Weather: Mostly sunny

Click here for map and directions.

The Views

The Ride

We thought this, our final day, would be 50 miles, but, in our attempts to stay close to the ocean, we added 30 miles to the trip. This was the farthest Joyce had ever biked in one day, but she felt great at the end when we arrived at her parents’ house.

We took some time to walk around Kennebunkport – a cute little town which has become famous as the home of George and Barbara Bush. No, we didn’t see them. We stopped again in York Beach for lunch. We ate clam chowder and lobster bisque while sitting on a bench looking at the ocean and Nubble Light. What more can you ask for?

We took a small detour in Kittery to see the house Joyce lived in from birth to age 5. It looks a lot smaller than she remembers…

It took us a while to get back on track. We were looking for the route 1A bridge to take us into New Hampshire, but we ended up on the route 1 bridge…on which bicycles are not allowed...for good reason. It was a frightening few minutes, but we were able to get off of the freeway fairly quickly and, soon after, found our way back to beautiful 1A.

We followed the ocean all the way down to Rye Beach and it was just gorgeous – the ocean, the beaches, the multi-million dollar homes. This is exactly what we were looking for from the Maine portion of our trip!

In Hindsight…

---we would have taken route 5 from Old Orchard Beach to Saco instead of route 9. We chose 9 to stay next to the ocean, but this added about 8 miles and, for most of it, we could not see the ocean through the trees.

…we would have had a better route planned for visiting the old house and getting through Portsmouth.