Day 14
I took a short, easy, day today for a bunch of reasons. First was that the day was so beautiful and the riding so good, especially in Vermont, that I simply wanted to enjoy it. The second was that I needed to stop early to service my chain after about 2,000 mi including a 100 or 200 miles in the rain. The third was that I didn't want to get caught in the B+B only cost trap. The forth was that Keene is a pretty neat place to visit and I wanted some time here. I've really enjoyed walking around town. There are a great many folks out walking, bicycling, or rollerblading, sometimes all in the same family group.

Leaving Bennington this morning after a good nights sleep and a good breakfast, I started climbing on route 9 and climbed continuously for the next 1.5 hours. At 9 miles out of Bennington I had climbed about 1500 feet, mostly in the last five miles. A pretty good hill. The climbing continued, somewhat off and on. I stopped for lunch at Wilmington and then climbed again till Hogback Ridge where a NORBA downhill race was just held. The road is a great downhill also. I peaked at 47 mph, and held over 40 for a long time. The rest of the ride into Brattleboro was nice, and very pretty. Southern Vermont is great if you like hills. I do, but my left knee doesn't. It started hurting around the 3000 feet of climbing mark today and is still hurting tonight.

I stopped in Brattleboro for a milkshake and then rode on into New Hampshire, still on route 9. A good bit of climbing in this state as well, but the climbs are shorter; typically half a mile to a mile with 7 - 10 % grade followed by a similar downhill. In Vermont you climb into the mountains (did I mention that it was in the upper 60's in those mountains, about 15 degrees F cooler than in Bennington? I got cold in my sweat soaked jersey) and stay there for quite a while. In New Hampshire you climb ridges. In New Hampshire route 9 also has more traffic (but generally excellent shoulders) and the view, while still nice, is not as nice as in Vermont. Route 9 is truly beautiful in Vermont, much like the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, but with less air pollution haze to spoil the views.

When I got to Keene a little after 4 PM, I stopped for coffee and a bagel and to ask about a bike shop. I was told there were two and that the first one was just down the road a few lights. It is a Giant dealer with lots of bikes (mostly low end mountain bikes) and a very small service area. I asked about getting my chain cleaned, but they didn't clean chains, they just lubed 'em dirty. They also didn't know much about the roads east of Keene. I figured that a city like Keene, with a university, had to have a decent bike shop, so I thanked these folks and rode on into town.

When I got to the center of town, a neat park with shops around it, I asked at a coffee shop and was directed to Bannegans which was diagonally across the park. This shop is a Trek and Cannondale dealer and has a Trek Tandem in one of its display windows. The folks at Bannegans don't clean chains either(!), but were very helpful with both routing info and a suggestion for a good, inexpensive, motel. To be fair, the folks at both shops were very nice. The staff at the first shop simply were ignorant. I'm not sure what Keene's problem is with cleaning chains, but I can handle that part without help.

After I checked into my motel (Valley Green Motel, $40 plus tax, a good value, although I did see a lot of inexpensive motels on Rt 9 in Vermont - the cheapest said $25), and cleaned up, I walked over to a K-Mart and bought a can of WD-40 and a roll of paper towels. Total cost about $3.50. Then I took the bags off the bike and took the bike and my supplies out to a grassy area behind the motel. I spent half an hour cleaning my chain on the bike.

My technique, which I developed while on tour last summer, is to place the paper towels (or newspaper pages) behind the chain, but in front of the wheel and tire. This protects the wheel and tire from most of the WD-40. Then I soak the chain with WD-40 while rotating the pedals backwards. After the initial soaking, I work with paper towels to clean as much junk as possible off the chain. I also clean the derailleur pulleys and the other parts of the chain path as well as possible. After this initial stage, I change the paper protecting the tire and wheel, clean off any WD-40 which has gotten on the tire or wheel, and put on clean paper.

The first stage removes most of the dirt from the outside of the chain. The next stages try to get as much dirt as possible out of the bushings. I use the WD-40 with its 'red tube' to repeatedly flush each bushing. The dirt washes out and ends up on the paper below the chain. I repeat this process, wiping the chain between stages, several times. Ideally I do it till I am no longer getting dirt out of the bushings. As a practical matter I quit when I run out of WD-40 or get bored with the process. The whole cleaning takes about half an hour and seems to get the chain almost as clean as my usual multi stage soaking in mineral spirits. After the chain is clean and dry - I wipe it down again after giving the WD-40 an hour or two to evaporate - I lube it with Tri-Flow. This is not as good a lube as my usual heated 90w oil, but will last a 1000 miles or so on tour. That should be enough to get me to NS!

Tomorrow I continue east and north to Concord on route 9 and then I'll head east on route 4 towards Portsmouth and, possibly, the AC route again.

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