Kancamagus and Dixville Notch: To Ride, or to Vote

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Flag of United States  , New Hampshire
Monday, October 1, 2012

Yesterday was especially grinding and difficult, as we rode in constant rain and darkness on very rough, slippery rides. Then, an additional complication arose about 30 minutes before we arrived at our destination -- Lincoln, New Hampshire.

Somewhere west of Lincoln on VT-118, I looked down at the speedometer and noticed something odd: the reading was zero, which seemed unlikely, since we were not stopped. I kept riding toward Lincoln, and continued looking at the speedometer and odometer; both were frozen. So I rode the rest of the way on instinct, hoping for a miraculous mechanical reset, and getting none.

We arrange to stop at a New Hampshire Harley dealer Tuesday morning to see if they can fix the Harley's speedless condition. So I'll ride Monday without any speed indications. I'm that good.


For the fifth day in a row, we wake up to rainy, gloomy skies. This is getting a bit weary.

So we decide to rearrange today's route, for two reasons: who wants to spend six hours riding on rain-slickened roads? And, who wants to ride 250 miles without a working speedometer/odometer?

Today's ride will now focus on what is often described as the best leaf-peeping road in New England, and we'll deal with the speed thing tomorrow.

From Lincoln, New Hampshire, we head east on NH-112, the famed "Kancamagus Highway," through a mountainous area of the White Mountain National Forest. The Kancamagus (pronounced "Kank-ah-maw-gus") is a 26.5-mile long (about 100 yards longer than a marathon), two-lane road that winds along the Swift River and is designated a National Scenic Byway.

My PGA West golf pal, Dan Zeising, claims he rode (or drove, or hitchhiked) the Kancamagus ("Kanc," for short) many times in his younger days, and recommends it highly. The Kancamagus is often referred to as the best fall foliage trip in the US, and today it lives up to its billing. The colors are the most vivid we've seen so far on our trip. Busloads of tourists pull off at scenic overlooks, snapping photos of everything that isn't green.

After reaching Kancamagus Pass (elevation 2,855 feet), the Kancamagus ends in Conway, New Hampshire, where we turn north on US-302. Now we're pointed in the direction of Crawford Notch State Park. What up with all these "notches" anyway? For you geography fans, in northern New England, a notch is a mountain pass. (In the South, stretches between mountains or hills are called "hollows.")

There seems to be a ski resort around every corner here in the White Mountains. If I ever decide to ski again, this would be a good place to go. We're not far from Mount Washington.

The next resort we plan to visit is the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH. Click here to learn more about this historic hotel. About five miles east of this resort is Mount Washington.

While we're in the vicinity of Mount Washington, we're tempted to ride up the famed Mount Washington Auto Road. It rises from a 1,527-foot elevation at the base to 6,145 feet at the top of the road. Mount Washington is known for having the most extreme weather on the planet (Siberia-like bone-chilling temperatures and 100 MPH winds) -- and the road itself can be quite daunting. So Ray and I decide to skip the 7.6-mile journey up the mountain.

Perhaps the next best thing is to experience Mount Washington in a car. To save you the trip to New Hampshire, click here to view an awesome video of one car's ride to the top in 6 minutes 21.47 seconds. That's an average speed of nearly 72 MPH. And, click here to see the secret to driving your car up the mountain so quickly. View these videos and you'll understand why Ray and I think this road is best left to the hot-shot drivers. Another message subtly embedded in these videos: don't buy your grandson a Subaru for graduation.


We had planned to ride north on NH-26 in northern New Hampshire, and zip through a small town that, until now, has been mostly known for its influence in national elections. That town is Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, a tiny unincorporated village, whose tradition of midnight voting allows it to have the first election results in the US. Eligible voters gather in the ballroom of The Balsams Resort, cast their ballots at midnight, and the polls close one minute later. It's a tradition that began in 1960. In the 2008 general election, 21 citizens cast their votes: 15 for Barack Obama, 7 for John McCain. Small numbers, huge significance. The 2012 election is five weeks from tomorrow. Go Obama!

Because of today's rain-and-speedometer-shortened route, we skip Dixville Notch, and will check in with happenings there on election night instead, when I hope you'll all exercise your franchise and vote.


North Conway, New Hampshire, is as far north as we go today. We meet my good friend, Judy Hirsch for lunch there.

It's nice to see a friendly face -- not that Ray's isn't friendly. Judy and her sisters (Lori, Pat, and Joan) are relaxing for the week at the Inn at Thorn Hill & Spa in Jackson, New Hampshire, near North Conway. Very, very nice digs. Click here to see how Judy rolls. For comparison purposes, Ray and I will be at the Comfort Inn in Ashland, New Hampshire, which is five-star accommodations when you've been on two wheels all day. But it does not have the word "spa" in its title. That says it all.

This is the first time the four sisters have vacationed together since they were children. They're celebrating Joan's birthday. When she's not vacationing with her sisters, Judy and husband Fred Hirsch, a retired radiologist, are in La Quinta (in season) and Rocklin, California (during the summer), near Sacramento. Judy serves on the PGA West Advisory Board of Governors with me.

Judy and her sisters join me and Ray for lunch at the Muddy Moose Restaurant in North Conway. To see this touristy restaurant and pub, and the food choices we had, click here.


From North Conway, we head south on NH-113, and as we turn west toward Ashland, New Hampshire, our destination for the day, we're not far from Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's largest lake. Lake Winnipesaukee is a tourist destination for Bostonians and New Yorkers seeking respite from the summer heat. It has more than 250 islands. Lake Winnipesaukee has been featured in several well-known plays and films. Some boating scenes from "On Golden Pond" were shot here; and the 1991 comedy "What About Bob?" was set at Lake Winnipesaukee. Trivia question from "What About Bob?" -- what was the name of the goldfish that obsessive-compulsive Bill Murray carried around his neck in a plastic bag? You guessed it: "Gil."

On our way to Ashland, we stop at Laconia Harley Davidson in Meredith, New Hampshire -- on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. It's a huge Harley dealership in the middle of nowhere. They aren't able to look at the in-op speedometer, so we continue on toward Ashland on VT-3.

We arrive in Ashland in the late afternoon, and call it a day. By the way, Ashland gets its name from the Kentucky estate of Henry Clay -- click here to read about the Lexington, Kentucky, version of Ashland. If you want to read about the latest news in the Conway NH area, your best bets are the Conway Daily Sun, The Carroll County Independent and The Mountain Ear.


Day Eleven Summary: Riding the Kancamagus, passing on the Mount Washington Auto Road, voting in Dixville Notch, eating at the Muddy Moose. Today's ride miles: unknown (but probably less than 100).

Tonight is another budget-busting lodging experience: the Comfort inn in Ashland, New Hampshire ($97.25 tax).

To view today's entire route from Lincoln, New Hampshire, to Ashland, New Hampshire, click here.

What will tomorrow bring?
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Jim & Barb on

Great colors!! Ridin in the rain - awful!
Also, it doesn't matter who we vote for - it is the elecoral college of 527 or 528 votes who decides is president? Why are so many people duped by this?? Also, if we all remember the popular vote didn't count, it was a lady judge(?) in Florida who decided the winner between Bush and Gore. If we would have had the popular vote count Gore would have won. Will now get off our soapbox.
Still our words of wisdon - travel safe - it looks as if you are!!

Jim Lambert on

Earlier you referred to your past as a ski instructor in Utah, in this and past missives you allude to possibly trying Eastern Skiing. As a former Easterner who has visited many of the places you have waxed poetic about, picture them covered in white, except for the ski runs which are uaually covered in BLUE ICE. Ski edges must be sharper than skate blades and the predomioant sound on the mountain is the skreeeeeching of edges shaving the ice. That is why Barb & I spent many winter ski vacations in the west skiing Colorado, Utha, Montana, California, New Mexico British Columbia and Nevada. The worst conditions in Utah approach the best conditions in the Northeast.

Judy Hirsch on

Hey Gary, It was great seeing you and Ray and thank you for lunch! Now that I'm home I can really enjoy your blogs. BTW we saw a moose up close and personal right after we left you guys at the Muddy Moose! Have a safe ride home.

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