Set it to Eleven

I'm no musician but I can appreciate the collective effort of each member of a symphony coming together to produce something breathtaking. Given my astute lack of musical knowhow and verbiage, I'll suffice it to say that something ethereal is elevated, let's say to eleven on a scale of one to ten, and it becomes exquisite. When it's good, it's truly great.That's precisely what's happened this past week with #tourXnewengland. The very crude format was 6 days, 600 miles. Spearheaded chiefly by the ever-forward thinking Bruce, each day of this journey featured the input and insight of someone new. Moreover, even though each day had comprehensive detail in its planning, even down to literally how many steps it would take to venture from the finish hotel to dinner that evening, there were daily audibles called that changed the flavor of each day, always for the better, always elevating the ride one more notch. Set it to eleven, dude.Turns out that I once met Bruce before I remember meeting Bruce. He was picking my brain about adventuresome rides throughout New England and we got on the topic of Maine. For those of you who aren't aware, New England features a lot of small states. Except Maine. Maine is ENORMOUS. You can literally touch five of the six New England states in about a three hour drive. Or you could drive into Maine for three straight hours and be a small fraction of the way across it. If you could also stretch Maine's coastline into a single straight line, it would be wider than the United States is wide.My point being, I told Bruce that most northeastern bike adventures will indubitably dip into Maine, however only a very small few will head all the way up to Acadia and Bar Harbor. I may have even used colorful vocabulary to threaten how poor his choice would be if he didn't go to Acadia. Thankfully that message stuck with him when it came back to designing the route. Ergo, our prologue was a long long drive deep into Maine and to Acadia, broken up by a trip to Primo.Prologue/Day 0imageI was a teenager the only other time I've been to Primo. I was with my parents and this restaurant does farm-to-fork like few others. Of note, this was also 15+ years ago before farm-to-fork was a thing. It was the first time in my life I discovered what an exquisite meal is. Food is food is food... until you discover something elevated.imageStage 1, Bar Harbor Circuit RaceYou know you're in for a good day when you wake up to the slight crash of waves on the beach and the deep hum of lobster boats.imageBruce launching the first attack of the day.imageWith KOM points at the top of Cadillac Mountain, it promised a stunning view.imageThere were few things I liked more in my race career than to have a hotel with a porch and a view of the terrain through which I had just raced. Mountains in Austria and the towering Italian Dolomites are particularly memorable. No, I didn't race through these small islands off Mount Desert Island, but the view is very calming at day's end.imageStage 2, Mid-Coast to PortlandYou can study maps and plan routes all day, but it's not until you're in the thick of it that you know what the terrain holds. This particular section is a Jeep road that hasn't seen maintenance in years. This was also the first time that our swashbuckling peloton would be subject to new and unknown terrain -- namely, the first time we tackled some wicked gnarly dirt and gravel sections. Based on Tim's grimace and my ear to ear smile, it was a popular decision. Billy, driving the van white-knuckled at 4mph so as to not bottom out, probably thinks differently.imageAudible! Travis was invited for the final ten or twenty miles. A veteran of the 200 Not On 100 adventures, Travis is a worthy addition to our crew. Insightful, always smiling and offering positive feedback, we thought we would bring him along for an hour or so (...he rode the subsequent 400 miles with us).imageI've been incredibly lucky when it comes to opportunities to eating fine meals. Michelin stars, billings of "Best Restaurants in the World" or "Best in America", I'm the first to recognize that I'm extremely lucky to have eaten the meals that I have. My favorite restaurant is a place in foodie loving Portland, ME, Fore Street. This was definitely my choice to make a stop on the tourX.imageAhh Billy, where to begin. Billy is a long time friend, was an ad hoc mechanic for Cannondale at Tour of Utah, is extremely sincere, and of course a fantastic mechanic. Billy was our right hand man all week and wrenched where/when/how he needed to. In ProTour format, that often meals in the parking lot.imageStage 3, Going UPRacing out of Portland, yes, with Travis now in our group, we retraced many of the roads from our 200 Not On 100, Brewery to Brewery Tour. Three noteworthy climbs for the day, the first was the fierce Hurricane Mountain Road.imageOh hey, if I haven't mentioned it lately, I'm racing Leadville with World Bicycle Relief. And in doing so, we're part of a fantastic team and we're now selling these super awesome jerseys as part of the fun. Interested? Let me know, heisTedKing@gmail.comimageAlso a long slog directly into the ferocious headwind that added insult to injury up Kancamagus Highway. It says feet, but those feel like 2855 meters.imageAnd with another transfer, we arrived on 4th of July eve to the Northeast Kingdom. NEK, as its known, is a sliver of heaven. Mid-summer, on a perfect day of weather, honestly I don't know a single place better.imageStage 4, Sinuous Burke RouteAhh, another panoramic. This day was meant to be something of an easy day, but with a course resembling an electrocardiogram, it was up and down all day. Better yet, the keyword for the day was dirt. So much dirt.imageI often take on the bike selfies from the front backwards, but Craig Lewis taught me the backwards looking forwards shot. This is my first attempt at that.imageSomewhere along this route, we made our way to the Number One Brewery in the World, Hill Farmstead. I knew it was Monday. I knew it was a holiday, 4th of July. I still held out hope that they were hosting a secret party for customers brave enough to make their way to the Farmstead in hopes of a BBQ and hoppy beverages. Alas, I only got this picture of the sign.imageHowever, we ended up at Parker Pie, which is a total hole in the wall pizza joint where you can sit outside and dine, plus sip Hill Farmstead on tap. Better yet, you can make your way 100 meters down the road and jump into the lake. When it's 89 degrees and the humidity gives even straightest hair an afro motif, it's time to jump into the lake.imageStage 5, Another "Transfer" dayWhat could be classified as a long drag to the south, in eager anticipation of tomorrow's Gap Ride, this was meant to be a transfer stage from the Northeast Kingdom to Woodstock. That was the case, only it took nearly 7 hours of riding and well over 100 miles. Furthermore, the "few miles" of dirt was probably a lot closer to 30 miles than three. Thankfully, regardless of those stats, it was ear to ear smiles from start to finish.imageCovered bridges: very much a thing in Vermont.imageSee? See?! Told you that it was smiles from start to finish. We ended at my friend Jon's house, who was unfortunately out of town, but his family is extremely gracious and welcomed six sweaty, dusty, weary dudes onto their porch. Watermelon and cold drinks awaited our arrival with minimal warning, and then it was once again into the local river for a natural first shower before a real shower actually cleaned us off. Yes, I'm wearing my helmet; it's a dangerous world out there! Be careful kids.imageStage 6, the Crown Jewel of VermontSix gaps. All week we talked about six gaps. Six days, 600 miles, with six gaps as the icing on the cake. Turns out we are also sane human beings, and with 500 miles in our legs already and road construction forcing us to call more audibles -- plus recognizing that it took me nearly 7.5 hours the only time I ever attempted the six gaps ride, we decided that discretion is the better part of valor and we oped for four.But even that turned out to be tough with even more road construction, so we did actually take on four, but it was far from the standard LAMB: Lincoln, App, Middlebury, Brandon. We first attacked Brandon, then part of Middlebury, then audibled and road tons of sweet loamy dirt across to Lincoln, went up and down the same west-headed-east direction, then up to Baby Gap, next over Appalachian. Then what should be a direct shot back down Rte 100 turned into another detour up German Flats and into Warren.If you know what I mean in that previous paragraph, super. If not, it was a hard hard day.imageThat DOT sign reads, "CYCLES NOT ADVISED". Point taken... sort of.imageOn a hot day, there's nothing I want more than I-E-C.imageAnd that's a wrap. Another dip into a stream, another transfer back to the homeland, it was an amazing week.Moral of the story: Plan an adventure. Throw in dirt. Make it multi-day. Add good food -- not super fancy or super boutique, just really good food. Make sure your bikes are tuned up and have big tires worthy of such a trip. Then make it happen. You won't regret it.