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White Mountains' Majesty
A Review of the Bike the Whites Tour
Mt. Washington Valley, New Hampshire
By Theresa Russell
Note: The author is a seasoned cycling travel writer and frequent contributor to The Bicycle Exchange, is the author of the recently-published guidebook, Bed, Breakfast & Bike Midwest (reviewed in our Spring '01 Feature Articles). She is currently working on a cycling guide to the Yucatan Peninsula.
Planning a bicycle tour brings me great satisfaction. Poring over maps and searching for diversions and lodging along the way provides a certain sense of satisfaction almost as exciting as the trip itself. I admit that I have planned many trips that never came to fruition. But they offer such an insight into my preferred destination of the moment, that sometimes, I almost feel that I really was there. A true armchair cyclist.
One day I came to realize that what I would really enjoy was a trip planned and arranged by somebody else for a change. This does mean giving up a bit of control and a few bucks - not an easy task for a control freak and a frugal queen.
What a delightful surprise awaited me! I signed on for the Bike the Whites tour in the Mt. Washington Valley of New Hampshire. Part of the reason for this was that I had a friend in the area so at worst I could enjoy time spent with her. Another reason was the low cost of the trip. Three nights lodging at three different inns, with daily breakfast, dinner and luggage transfer will cost between $249 in May and $310 from June to September (prices are per person, double occupancy and include all taxes and service).
When I arrived at the Tamworth Inn, I was greeted with a cool beverage and waited there for the other participants to arrive. This is where your car will remain for the duration of the tour, since this inn is the last night of lodging on the tour. If you arrive early enough in the day, you have the option of cycling from here to the Forest Inn, your first night's lodging. If you choose, you may also take the shuttle with your cycle instead. If you don't have your own bicycle with you, you may arrange a rental at an additional charge. If you go this route, bring toe clips and a handlebar bag for your snacks and camera. Also, since this is not a supported tour, be sure to pack a repair kit, pump and basic tools for simple repairs.
The Forest Inn backs up to a lovely woods with many trails and mosquitoes. The outdoor pool was inviting, but remember that the temperatures here are relatively moderate. The hosts offer a home-cooked dinner and individually advise on the route options for the next days ride: the multi-mile climb over Bear Notch Road or a shorter and less hilly, but equally scenic route to the next inn on the schedule,
Snow Village Inn. If you think you have used all of your energy climbing up Bear Notch, you wont be thrilled by the steep incline just outside of the entry to the inn. But, you will be justly rewarded for the day's work with the outstanding dinner served at this secluded inn, perched high atop a hill. The view of the mountains dissolve the burn from the quads and bring a general sense of euphoria at the end of a scenic, but demanding day.
The innkeepers insist that the next day's ride is flat, but for those of us who live in places where a hill is a highway overpass, flat takes on new meaning. If you live in the area, perhaps this is flat, but for the rest of us, take this assessment with a grain of salt. The ride goes through fragrant pine forests and quiet back roads, eventually reaching the Tamworth Inn. This little village has a theatre, so if you have the energy, you may enjoy a play in the evening. It is essential to make reservations at this inn because the restaurant is open to the public and very popular on nights when something is happening at the playhouse. On the final day, the innkeepers will give you maps for some loop rides, if you so desire or you may just want to drive up to Mt. Washington or explore the many attractions in the surrounding area.
I wished that the trip could have lasted longer. Our group meshed very well and we all left with new friendships. The outstanding food more than compensated for the calories burned during the day, and the scenery and the fragrant, fresh mountain air couldn't have been better. To see what the inns look like and for more information on Bike the Whites, check out the Forest Inn's website. Tell them I sent you.
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