Why a big time bike ride on the coast of New Hampshire! Into symmetry, we thought we’d bike 40 miles for 40 years of marriage. With our sister-in-law Becky down for the weekend from Portland, we rode 20 miles on the back country roads from York to and from Kittery on the Saturday afternoon before our anniversary so we had a mere 20 left to do this Sunday anniversary morning.
Hannah and I have always loved to exercise. Since forever. We met on the tennis courts as first year students at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Though somewhat coordinated and athletic, we were definitely not fit. Never ran, never exercised at a gym, just played sports that required a modest amount of hand/eye coordination. Though the Sixties in the public schools were not friendly to female athletes like Hannah (it would be 1972 before Title 9 became the law of the land), she learned to excel at various sports at Moss Lake Camp in New York State: waterskiing, tennis, canoeing, distance swimming, archery, riding, riflery, and dance. Three years into our marriage in the mid-1970s, we weren’t doing much cardio-vascularly so we took up running. Relatively cheap (the price of running shoes) with no need for going to a gym, running on the canals and along railroads of Tempe, AZ was how we knocked off 30-40 miles per week. At Arizona State University, I loved being the one experimented-upon in the Human Performance Lab to determine aerobic capacity as the speed of the treadmill was increased and the incline rose. Call me crazy, but I loved feeling spent after physical activity.
After 30+ years of running, our knees said No Mas. So walking, biking, and hiking became our new physical activities of choice. So I ask you? Given that background, what do I do with the athletic woman of my dreams to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on the first of July?
Setting the alarm for 515A so as to be on the road before the Sunday summer beach traffic gets heavy on this first day of July, we grab a quick banana, hydrate, and set out for Portsmouth, NH. Stuffing Becky’s road bike in her Mom’s SUV, we use our Saris Bones 2 Bike Rack for Hannah’s bike and mine. With no room for sitting in the back, Hannah sits on my lap for the ten mile trip over the I-95 Piscataqua River Bridge to Portsmouth to park by the mill pond just off the center of town.
Leaving the mill pond lot at 615A, we indeed have the road to ourselves as we first pass the Portsmouth City Offices, formerly the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where our son Will was born back in 1983. (His sisters Molly and Robyn were born at Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.) At this early hour, we pedal onto nearly empty Route 1B intoNew Castle, NH.
In typical New England fashion the exact same main road that goes through this town is called Portsmouth Avenue, Cranfield Street, Main Street, and finally Wentworth Road in the space of two miles. The why of such naming escapes me. New Castle is a classic New England sea port community with many 18th and 19th century houses built right to the road with very little place for parking. It is the smallest town in New Hampshire and the only one located entirely on islands. It’s as New England-y as you get.
Passing tidal rivers and marsh lands, we are fortunate to have Becky in our lives; for many reasons. One being that there are few people we know our age, who would eagerly get up at this early hour to ride with us and relish a ride of such distance.
Passing the Wentworth by the Sea Marriot Hotel and Spa we cross an open grate draw bridge on our way to Route 1A and the Atlantic Ocean. Though busier than Route 1B through New Castle, Route 1A at 645A time means there is still very little traffic.
Once past Odiorne State Park and the Seacoast Science Center, we are greeted by the sun already up above the Atlantic Ocean. At this point on Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), the bike path is wide and riding side by side is safe and friendly.
Faster bicyclists roar by us, usually with head down and pedaling vigorously on a mission to maximize their workout. Our mission is a little more modest: to ride 20 miles and catch up on each other’s lives.
It’s summer vacation as we roll past Rye, NH with housekeeping cottages, rentals, and small summer homes on the marshes across from the beaches which can go for under $1000 to over $4000 per week during the summer season. We first pass Wallis Sands State Park, thenRay’s Seafood.
We make Rye Harbor our turn around point.
Shooting for an hour of biking out and an hour back on our morning ride, we spin easily by lobster boats and small yachts. Morning guests in mansions along the ocean wave as we head for home as traffic picks up along the shore road. It’s biking central for serious bicyclists.
Passing Odiorne State Park on the return trip, we are approaching 20 miles with energy still in our legs and a look forward to Hannah’s homemade bread at breakfast. By the time we return to Portsmouth, we’ve biked 25 miles in the early Sunday morning on a day that’s going to 90 degrees.
It’s a memorable 40th morning with the girl of my dreams.