We divided our last 53 miles of the Grand Gaspé Cycling Tour into two days. Not out of necessity. More for the timing of our grand finale.
I will be the first to say the initial leg was not inspiring. Leaving Concord, traffic was heavy and there was not much in the way of scenery or interesting towns. We passed almost 30 miles that way and I found it rather depressing. The weather was beautiful, but I just could not generate much enthusiasm for the ride. It's hard to say what contributed more, the mundane route, the lack of coffee or the impending finish to our trip. I suspect the latter had the most to do with it.
The day brightened considerably in the second half. Turning off onto smaller roads, we lost all the traffic and wound our way through delightful countryside populated with orchards, farms and pretty towns. The sunshine became warm and the fall colors shimmered in its light. And we mostly coasted downhill. The world became good again, especially when we reached Newmarket in the early afternoon and found a delightful coffeehouse. Re-caffeinating with an excellent latte accompanied by a hummus wrap of equal quality, soaking up the sun and local scene was just what I needed. It's amazing what a salve food and drink can be. And ambiance.
With extra time on our hands before our Warm Showers hosts were home, we meandered around the pretty former mill town. The mill buildings had been converted into condos and eclectic shopping areas, making them an enhancement to the town center.
Our Warm Showers home provided a delightful final night's stay. We were adopted not only by our hosts, Heidi and Cliff, but given a warm welcome by Heidi's mom, Lucy. We shared a birthday dinner for Cliff with their son and long term friends and duplex neighbors. Naturally, they are all avid cyclists and runners, so there was no lack of material for conversation. And as always, we were inspired by their pursuits.
With the dawn of the inevitable last day, we had to face it. The last nine miles of cycling. We set off just like any other morning of our trip, but in contrast to the other days, we completed our journey – and our trip – in under an hour.
Before we knew it, we were in Exeter. Where we started 54 days and 2,354 miles earlier. It was a quiet entrance as we meandered across the Academy campus. But things soon picked up. Rich granted another interview, this time for the Academy newspaper. And we stopped to visit with the wonderful staff members in the Alumni and Security offices who arranged the logistics of leaving our car there for two months. The warm welcome and congratulations extended all along the way boosted our spirits and helped ease the finality of our arrival.
It felt strange to be reunited with our car and load up the bikes. Our daughter left us a voicemail that morning, reminding us just how cars work – in case we'd forgotten. The best part is going up hills, she said. “Just push down on the right pedal – no additional effort required. You just won't have the wind blowing through your hair,” she advised. As appealing as it sounds, I know we'll miss the cycling. We're already contemplating our next cycling trip. Just not right away.