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by Pamela Blalock with photos by Steve Frechette


Bullard Farm

The first normal control was at a B&B in North New Salem. We saw many other riders there, who were enjoying the abundant food set out by the BMB staff, taking the opportunity to dry out a bit, change clothes, etc. Terry Zmrhal, a friend of ours from Seattle, who had volunteered to work a control after doing the event last year, was working this checkpoint. We chatted with him briefly, as well as many folks from our club, the Charles River Wheelman, who were also doing the ride. A break in the rain convinced me to pack away my rainpants and go with legwarmers, and light jacket for a while.


We managed to climb and descend Grace Mountain, crossing into the state of New Hampshire before the drizzle started back up. We passed our first covered bridge on route 119, just before taking the very sharp and steep right hand turn that signals the beginning of the first major climb of the ride, up Mt. Pisgah. We rode with Woody, a rider we had met on the 600K, along this section. The rain resumed, but chatting away, we soon reached Route 9, and the descent down to the Connecticut River, which serves as a border between NH and Vermont. Just across the river, we pulled into the second checkpoint in Brattleboro, just as the rain stopped again.


We had sag bags here, so we restocked our liquid nutrition, Ensure Plus, and I changed into a dry pair of shorts. The absence of rain probably wouldn't last long, but I had packed lots of extra clothes, so I took advantage of the chance to change.

The route to the next checkpoint is said to include two major climbs, but BMB veterans know that there are really 4, and that this is the toughest segment of the route. We left Brattleboro under dry skies, but within 10 miles, the heavens opened and the rains came down hard. As stoker, on a bike with fenders, I really don't mind riding in the rain. In fact, I usually enjoy it. I don't have to worry about seeing where I'm going, and John blocks a lot of the rain from the front. Of course, John may have a different opinion about the matter. We continued on, climbing to Westminster West, climbing a long series of rollers on route 35, climbing past the switchback to Andover Ridge, and finally climbing Terrible Mountain. We also did some descending, and managed to comfortably hit 57.5 mph coming off both Andover and Terrible. The tandem is incredibly stable at speed, and while the wet roads had us a bit more cautious (we normally would break 60 easily), we were able to just let the bike go. While the climbs may make this a tandem unfriendly route, the descents definitely make up for it. For every climb, we were rewarded fabulously with a thrilling descent.

Noting exactly where the switchback is on Andover can be very important for the return trip. Since we might return in the dark, we wanted a good idea of where we could let the bike fly, and where we needed to exercise more caution. I took note of various landmarks and mileage here. Switchbacks are pretty rare in New England. There is one in Massachusetts, that is simply referred to a the switchback. Most of the climbs in this area are straight up, straight down, with a few curves thrown in. This makes for great fast tandem descents, and long slow tandem ascents.