Taylor Ho Bynum

*Photo by Peter Gannushkin

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ABT Diaries 4

Day 6 – 9/15: 50.8 miles, Brattleboro VT to Peterborough NH
New Hampshire is hilly. Very very hilly. Very very steep. Google bike maps had me going ten miles out of the way to find a non-existent rail trail, so after that failure I ended up taking Rt 119 across the southern part of the state, and it was a lovely but HARD ride. After the fact, I checked out the elevation of my route on mapmyride.com, and I climbed 1300 feet in about 3 miles. I gotta remember to research these kind of details in advance. (But doesn’t that take the fun and surprise out of it?)

Pulled into Peterborough around 4:30pm at the Toadstool book store (support independent book stores!!), and promptly accidentally locked my bike into a backroom closet that no one had the key to. After the locksmith was called in, and a delicious home-cooked vegan meal of chickpea curry soup and some kind of savory bread-onion-apple concoction, we got to the music. After a opening set of wonderfully jagged skronk by the improvising free jazz/noise/punk collective Sisters and Brothers (Ian Durling – sax, flutes, etc; Andy Kivela – drums; Matt Robidoux – guitar; Dave Seidel – bass, electronics), I traded solo pieces with Forbes Graham, my pocket cornet alternating with Forbes’ trumpet and laptop. (And man, Forbes is sounding fantastic these days. He’s always been one of my favorites, but this is as good as I’ve heard him. Sensitive and fascinating electronics, and total creativity and facility on the horn.) Then we played a duo, and finished up with the fine folks of Sisters and Brothers joining us for close-out jam. A highly enjoyable night of improv in the Granite State, thanks to Eric Gagne for hooking it up.

I did a spot on New Hampshire public radio earlier in the week talking about the tour, and as a result of that, was invited by the wonderfully hospitable folks of the Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm, a co-housing cooperative in Peterborough, to spend the night at their place. A very cool set-up: environmentally efficient and attractive units, community-oriented with an extremely friendly vibe, with their own working organic farm. Fresh eggs and homemade bread for a 6am breakfast while discussing the joys of Taj Mahal’s tuba band. A great example of the cool kind of people I get to meet doing this kind of trip; special thanks to Richard, Jim, and Barbara for making me feel so at home.

Day 7 – 9/16: 117.7 miles, Peterborough NH to Kennebunkport ME
The day started out great, I got 35 miles in before 10am, the intense climbs of the previous day paying off in gentler and mostly descending slopes. I passed through Goffstown, the only place in New Hampshire I’ve named a tune after. (Some best friends got married there, and I wrote a piece for their wedding.)

I broke another spoke about ten miles into the ride, my second in three days! (Thinking to myself “My spokes are poppin’ like Philly Joe rimshots” for the requisite jazz analogy of the day.) So I took a detour in Manchester to Jake’s Bike Shop to get it fixed up. Ryan the repair guy offered a prophetic warning: when one spoke breaks and you have to ride on it, often it weakens two others. So I bought a spare, thinking the existence of a spare ensures nothing else will happen, while the lack of one guarantees calamity.

I then proceeded to get totally lost in Manchester, wasting over an hour. Once again, google bike maps did me wrong (c’mon…do no evil, right guys!?!), sending me in circles trying to find a rail trail that was supposed to stretch to the coast. Instead I ended up riding up to Rt. 27, the old highway stretching into Maine, which was a highly pleasant ride, though I was starting to stress about making it to Maine in time for the gig.

I’ve also finally resolved to completely abandon my trust in google bike maps, a decision probably overdue. All the technological shortcuts assume you have other technological backup; if you get confused your smartphone GPS will bail you out. It’s easier (lazier) to just trust what the computer tells me rather than do more complete research, or actually study a map, or ask human beings, or be aware of one’s environment and sense of direction. I should have known this from the beginning (wasn’t that kind of the point?), but even my luddite nature was taking too much for granted.

Things were going well after escaping Manchester, until around miles 75 when I broke ANOTHER spoke. (Maybe Philly Joe is laying it on a bit thick.) I had the spare spoke, but without the proper tools just couldn’t get the wheel true. I had seen a bike store a few miles back, so backtracked for repair. (Always nice to tag on a few extra miles on a 100-mile day.) The extremely nice guys at DG Cycle Sports jumped right on it, and they dug the tour idea so were kind enough to do it gratis; the owner had even heard the NPR story a few days before.

So now I just had to bust tail to get to Maine. I had budgeted plenty of extra time in the day, planning to have leisurely breaks for pleasant meals in scenic spots along the road, but all that had been eaten away by broke spokes and Manchester mazes. Stopping only for a desperation (but delicious) burrito in Dover, I hauled the last forty miles, pulling into Kennebunkport minutes before downbeat. I knew this day would be a challenge: the longest ride and the middle humpday of the tour, I just didn’t expect the extra degree of difficulty.

But it was a delightfully soft landing. The wonderful people at the Maine Stay Inn welcomed me with open arms, and a great band of Mainers (Tim O’Dell – saxophones; Richard Nelson – guitar; Sam Sherry – bass; Mark Barnette – drums) was ready to hit, and we dived right in (starting with a blues, of course…I needed that…). A fun set of music in the front parlor of a classic New England inn (jazz as true chamber music), closing out with a heartfelt St. James’ Infirmary (cause that’s where I felt ready to go). Then a wonderfully hot shower, a comfortable bed, and double serving of breakfast this morning. One more thanks: to the Hauer family and Anthony at the Inn for being such gracious hosts.

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