Rain on our Pancake Parade

Local loop
Saturday Oct 2, 2021
(~450 miles)

As September drew to a close, we knew the fall color was starting to pop up north and wanted to get a taste before heading south the following week on Columbus Day weekend.

“Let’s do another all-day ride…where do you want to go?” Char asked me.

“Well, you haven’t been to Polly’s yet, and that is something we shall have to remedy,” says I, and put the word out with a few of our riding friends to join us if able. We watched the forecast throughout the week, and the weather wasn’t looking great, with 100% chance of rain predicted in the White Mountains for Saturday. We decided to just roll with the conditions, just to get out of the house. I had some gear to test that had leaked on me during the IBR this year, plus the colors often look nicer under overcast skies, and maybe the roads might be less crowded with leaf-peepers.

riders at Hooksett Travel PlazaI decided to re-use the same route that Ed had created for our ride up to Sugar Hill last spring, to maximize miles off the interstate. Char and I left home at 06:15, with cold temperatures in the 40s and heated gear cranking. We were surprised how busy the interstates were so early on a weekend – there were a lot of cars on the road! At least it moved quickly.

Our friends Jeff, Erin, and Bob met us at the Hooksett Service Plaza on I-93 at 08:00, where we warmed up with some coffee and pastry, and kicked tires for a little bit.

When everyone was ready, we headed up the highway for a few mile to get through Concord, then exited to NH 132. The ride north on 132 when traffic is light, is like a magic carpet ride – smooth curves, quick pace, low enforcement – and all within a stone’s throw of the super-slab. It was nice to drop into the zone for so many miles first thing in the morning, and we only got a spattering of raindrops on the way up.

132 ends in Ashland, where we picked up US 3 for a few miles. We pulled over at the scenic view by Little Squam Lake in Holderness for a couple photos.

Little Squam Lake

Little Squam Lake

We turned on NH 175 to continue paralleling the freeway up into Franconia Notch, before finally having to merge onto it to go over the notch itself. There had only been the occasional splash of color along the roads so far, but now at last we were treated to some swaths of yellows and orange on the flanks of the White Mountains all around us, muted in the mists.

Franconia Notch

It started to rain more steadily as we ran into the weather system coming in from the northwest. In short order we were pulling into the very crowded lot at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, dodging raindrops and tourists alike. Despite the number of cars, there didn’t seem to be a huge line at the door.

pulling in to Pollys
Bob at Pollys

After parking the bikes, we headed directly inside to put our names in, and discovered there was a 2 – 2.5 hour wait! What the hell! Upon further questioning by the others, it seems Polly’s has been taking call-ahead seating reservations due to Covid. It didn’t occur to me until later that evening that Ed had actually called ahead to Polly’s during our ride last spring, for this very reason. I’d hoped the bad weather would keep people off the roads, which it had, but apparently it had driven them all to stay inside for breakfast at Polly’s!

waiting at Pollys

Sad riders with a long wait…

After some conferring amongst our group, the others decided they didn’t want to hang out to wait for a table and would split off at this point. We had nowhere to be, and I really wanted Char to experience Polly’s at last, after hearing me rave about it these past few years, so we elected to stay and wait things out.

After the farewells, I went back in to adjust our reservation to two people, and yes we’d be happy to sit at the counter. Less than 10 minutes later, our buzzer was going off.

Pollys dining room
Char at Pollys

OK, we’re here…what’s all the fuss about?

pancakes in the making

Here’s the fuss – heaven on a skillet

We settled in on our stools and ordered some nice hot coffee and our food, watching the rain get heavier outside while we were tucked cozily away in this buzzing wood-paneled lodge of delicious smells and happy diners. I opted for the Kathy’s Special (my usual), with gingerbread-blueberry and cornmeal-coconut pancakes, delicious bacon, and eggs cooked perfectly over-medium. Char opted for a plain-pecan short stack with a side of home fries. I’d never tried the potatoes here, but they were delicious!

breakfast

pecan pancakes

home fries

We had a nice meal, after which I picked up a few maple supplies/gifts from the store on our way out to the bike. It was still raining,  light but steady, so we geared up in the foyer before heading back outside.
Char on Trot Trot

She’s now had the full Pollys experience

The views were mostly obscured by the low clouds and mist, and we took it slowly up and over Sugar Hill and down to US 302 by the Ammonoosuc River. In a few miles, we turned south on NH 112, enjoying the woods and curves around us, albeit at a slightly slower pace with all the water on the roadway. So far, our gear was holding out the water and keeping us warm, so we were enjoying ourselves immensely. We pulled in at Beaver Pond to snap a few shots of the color, though the mist was still engulfing the nearby peaks.

Pollys in the Rain

We continued our delightful cruise south on NH 118, then those great back roads through the Groton and Newfound Lake area, where the rain petered out and we began to see dry pavement again.

Newfound Lake

There was some sort of charity marathon going on in the area, and we passed by lots of folks running/walking/trudging their way towards the finish in Bristol. It seemed a well-supported event, with many volunteer stations for snacks/water, and bystanders cheering the participants on. Didn’t slow us down too badly.

We fueled up and stretched our legs at a station in Bristol, before turning onto River Road from New Hampton. This was a nice narrow road with some curves that got us a few miles back north to where we could pick up the Winona/Waukewan Roads BONE segment over towards Winnipesaukee. After coming through the Weir’s Beach area without much hassle, we stopped for a quick nature break in Gifford before picking up NH 107 southbound.

Lake Winni by Weirs Beach

Lake Winni

Everything was turning out fine and dandy as we neared the end of our off-highway portion of the trip, until we got just past the Deerfield, when we were forced to a stop, with a long line of brake lights stretched out ahead of us on 107. What the heck, must be a bad accident? Nope, from the signs Char had noticed, apparently the Deerfield Fair was happening right now. Bugger!

I’d noticed a gravel road that a few cars had taken just back up the hill, so I zoomed on my GPS to try to see where it might go. Seeing a possible path south around the trouble, I pulled a uey in the halted traffic and zoomed back up to turn on Candia Road. It wasn’t terrible as gravel roads go, but there were several other cars on it, so I had to keep moving fairly steadily and maintain some distance from the car ahead to avoid the dust cloud. Shortly after, we turned on a paved road leading back out to 107 about a mile further than we’d been, but quickly saw that the road was still blocked.

Another uey and back to the gravel for another half mile…and came to a stop with a long line of cars ahead of us. Are you f’ing kidding me? Are we really in a traffic jam on a gravel road in the New Hampshire woods?

traffic jam in Deerfield NH

Traffic jam in Deerfield NH

traffic jam

All roads here apparently lead to the Deerfield Fair

As we inched forward bit by bit, we could eventually see that our road ended at a T with another gravel road and everyone was trying to go left, back towards 107. It seems that all the Waze apps and GPSes were trying to take people to the fair by any means possible, based on the traffic.

After some rubbernecking to see up ahead, I figured out that we could take a right at the intersection, away from the jam, and from there find our way out to more uncluttered roadways. As there were very few oncoming cars, we pulled over into the left lane and quickly zipped up past the idling cages to the intersection, where we threaded between some cars to take our right turn. Ahh, open road again, even if it was still gravel!

We found pavement again in short order, riding through a small neighborhood to get back out to a main road, with another short wait due to jammed traffic. After one more short detour on randomly chosen local roads to avoid the traffic on route 43, we emerged free and clear for the rest of the ride home. And the sun finally came out!

two-up shadow

map of todays ride

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