Begin the 10-10-10 – Day 1

Southeast MA to Rome NY
(~613 miles)

One of the big bonus combos in the Love & Merci grand tour is the “10-10-10”, meaning you visit and document 10 Merci train cars, thus 10 different states, within 10 days – for a whopping 250 points! Being in a part of the country where state borders are relatively close together, I decided early on to work out a plan to bag this combo.

Three of the northeast states (MA, CT and NJ) no longer have their Merci cars, so it would be necessary to venture a bit further afield to get it done. Knowing I would be able to visit some of the mid-Atlantic state Merci cars on my trip south to and from the the 2017 Rock N Ride endurance rally in April, I planned for a three day trip the weekend prior to the rally to collect the cars in the northeast states, and to start the 10 day clock ticking. From what I could find online, the Maine Merci car would be unavailable until its museum opens for the season in May, so I’d planned my route around the cars in NH, VT, NY and RI.

I got an early start Friday morning at 05:30 to beat the rush hour traffic around the I-495 belt and made it up to Manchester NH in good time on the highways. My first stop was my first Merci car, encased in a little building at the end of a dead end street.

Apparently, the building is only opened up to the public a couple times a year and not today, so I grabbed my photos and plugged back in to my heated gear. I found a Dunkin Donuts a few blocks away to warm up and to get a receipt to prove my visit to the Merci car on this date. The 10-10-10 clock was now ticking and I had nine cars more to visit within the next 10 days.

My next stops were in the Concord area for a couple Americana bonuses. First the snowmobile museum in Bear Brook State Park, which was closed with no signage. I found a maintenance worker on duty in a nearby shed, who confirmed which building it was. I was able to walk around and peek in the windows to see some of the vehicles and displays inside.

Then I stopped off at a community college in Concord to see the Mercury Redstone rocket there. I didn’t realize these early manned rockets were so small and could not imagine that astronaut willingly shoehorning himself into the tiny capsule at the top with all that rocket fuel stacked beneath him. Takes some special kind of person to do that.

I hit the highway again up to the White Mountains, stopping in Lincoln (an “L” town for Love & Merci) and noting that the ski slopes of Cannon Mountain were still snow covered, even if nowhere else was.

Stopped in at Polly’s for a much-anticipated late breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon. Delicious as usual, especially the maple spread.


After breakfast, I continued northwest, up to Glover VT to bag a special “LOVE Actually” bonus for the L&M tour – a town name containing the full word “love” for a cool 20 points.

Pulled over to snag the Busy Bee diner for my VT diner Americana bonus, just down the road. Good memory of stopping in for hot chocolate here with my wife during the Stowe NER trip in 2014 – a cold and wet few days of riding. Friendly little place.

I am starting to get the hang of managing multiple rally flags for the bonuses on the different tours I am doing, but I did have to stop and think each time.

I rode through Stowe and stopped briefly to shoot my Americana fire station bonus for VT.

Next stop was for my second Merci car – the Vermont boxcar now housed inside the National Guard museum in Colchester.

I was greeted warmly by the staff and they took me right to the Merci car after finding out what my interest was. The gentleman seemed to know a bit of the history and was happy to snap my photo holding my rally flag in front of the car (a requirement when your bike can’t be in the photo).

This particular boxcar still had the brakeman’s house attached – pretty cramped quarters to sit in for long train journeys!

They had put additional exhibits inside the Merci car, though none of them appeared to be actual artifacts from the French people. Still, it was interesting to see the inside to get a sense of size and imagine putting 40 men (or 8 horses) inside these cars for transport around the European countryside.

I enjoyed walking around the museum for a few minutes and would love to go back when I have more time to take a tour and examine all the exhibits. The first photo below shows the before/after craftsmanship of some of our wounded soldiers waiting around the hospitals in Europe who would apparently craft spent artillery shells into decorative cylinders and even lamps. I left a modest donation to help with the museum upkeep on my way out.

I never watched MASH, but I was treated to tales of “a real-life Hawkeye” a Vermonter who served in a MASH unit and surgical research team, then returned stateside after the war and eventually settled in Burlington to a very successful career – all according to the docent who was still tagging along with me.

Outside the museum was just as interesting, with quite an assortment of military land and air vehicles.

 

I stopped for a quick pic of the University of VT sign for my Vermont school Americana bonus, and then made my way through the frustrating Burlington traffic to the shoreline, which is stunning with the mountainous backdrop across Lake Champlain. There are two small lighthouses at the north and south ends of a breakwater structure that apparently sits out protecting the city’s shore.

Headed south out of Burlington to the Shelburne Museum for two unusually land-locked bonuses: the Colchester Reef Lighthouse and a large steamship that is a specific Americana bonus.

Captured another “V” town for Love & Merci in the small town of Vergennes VT en route to my crossing of Lake Champlain into New York at Crown Point. I picked up a deli sandwich while fueling up at a local general store to eat down the road.

The Crown Point Lighthouse is a unique looking structure, having been re-modeled in the early 1900s to be a combination memorial to exploration and functional lighthouse. Eventually the keeper’s house was removed after the light became inactive, leaving only the striking-looking tower, with a huge bronze sculpture of Samuel Champlain facing the lake side over a nice pier.  With a nice view of the bridge and virtually nobody around but me, it was a perfect spot for a late lunch (at suppertime!) and a stretch off the bike.

I still had a couple hours of daylight left and a ways to go to my hotel in Rome. Going north on NY 9N, I chose to forgo one of the two lighthouses I’d planned on Lake Champlain and only stopped to get the Barber’s Point Light because it was just off-route. Another nice old lighthouse converted to private residence down a gravel road:

I followed the familiar routes 9N and 73 into the Adirondacks now, up to Lake Placid – which of course is an “L” town, and I’m all about spelling LOVE at the moment so why not stop:

My northern turning point is the hamlet (and “V” town) of Vermontville NY, up in the heart of the ‘dacks. Towns starting with V seem to be fairly scarce in the northeast, so I’d plotted as many as I could in Basecamp and decided to pick this one off while I was “in the area”.

I was tantalizingly close to CR-26 (a BONE road and heaven on two wheels) but this was turning out to be a long-ass day and shadows were getting long. My hotel was calling, so I snapped the photo and wheeled around to head back south to the barn.

I enjoyed the remainder of the twilight and evening hours riding south through the forested roads of the Adirondacks, NY routes 3, 30, then 28, passing many beautiful lakes and small resort towns and my heated gear back on high power. Including a turkey I’d seen crossing the road earlier in the day, I added one deer and a fox to my wildlife count for the day (but no close calls). My LX5 LED aux lights did a great job on 100% illuminating the dark rural roads, lending me comfort with my otherwise limited line-of-sight. I made better time after exiting the Adirondack Park, and pulled in to the hotel at 22:00.

White Lake in Forestport NY

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