Today's the day. The start of the Grand Gaspé Cycling Tour! As planned, we started from Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and ceremoniously cycled away from our car through campus. Naturally, we stopped for the obligatory group photo, pressing a passing student into service as photographer. Suddenly, a loud shot rang out – BANG! – startling everyone. It was Rich's front inner tube, which spontaneously blew out! The first road repair of the trip was staring us in the face. Just .6 miles into our ride. At least it was an aesthetically pleasing place to do the work.
Fortunately, the remainder of the day's ride proceeded without further incident. We covered a mere 19 miles due to the complexity of scheduling everyone's arrival at the start, but that gave the day a relaxed feel. Taking back roads we traveled through beautiful neighborhoods and pretty towns, admiring the gardens and extensive landscaping which was at its summer peak. Conversation flowed easily up and back the column of four riders, as we cycled the quiet roads. It was hard to believe that this was the real thing. Despite breaking out the official trip jerseys, and and putting the panniers on our bikes, it all felt a bit surreal. Perhaps reality will sink in tomorrow when we have some serious miles to cover.
We did manage to do a little sightseeing. Reaching Portsmouth, we found it bustling with activity, and walked our bicycles through the busy downtown area on the water taking it all in. Restaurants, shops and plenty of tourists thronged the streets. The Eagle, the Coast Guard Tall Ship was in town, so we took time to check it out as well.
Having traveled over the bridge to Kittery, we're barely into Maine, but it's a start. A good start – big bang and all.