Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rural Cycling: Fantasy vs Reality

Though fate has been such that I've spent most of my life in cities and suburbs, I have always been drawn to rural areas. When I first started working after grad school, I finally got my wish and lived in the rural North for two years - but for logistical reasons this could not last, and we subsequently moved to Boston. Still, I continue to dream of long country roads, of creaky farm houses surrounded by unruly gardens, of moody seascapes with not a housing development in sight, and of miles of dense forest stretching as far as the eye can see. This is probably what drives my interest in touring, and I use my bike to get out of the city every chance I get.

On Memorial Day we rode through the hilly country roads of Lexington, Lincoln and Concord. It is so nice there, that my rural fantasies flared up again big-time. Oh to wake up in my farmhouse (modestly sized, white clapboard, mansard roof), get the bike out of the barn, and cycle 20+ miles along a pastoral landscape to the nearest town on errands... I get overwhelmed just thinking about it!

But how realistic is cycling for transportation in a rural area? According to the Co-Habitant, my dreams will be crushed by harsh reality if I actually get what I want. He reminds me how far away everything is from everything else. He reminds me that in Northern New England winter can last from mid-November till April and in many areas it is impossible to get around without an all-wheel drive motor vehicle. He reminds me that cars do not uphold the speed limit on those picturesque winding rural roads, and points out that narrow road + blind turns + trucks speeding along at 60mph = bad news for cyclists. Plus, when it gets dark in the countryside, it gets really dark - pitch black! Will I be able to deal with that?

I agree with all of these points if I stop to think about it. Yet, I continue to depict myself as a rural cyclist in my mental picture of the "ideal future". Is it pure fantasy? Will I be longing for the bike lanes and the urban landscape of Boston when living in my farm house in the middle of nowhere? I do wish there were more websites out there that focused on rural cycling, so that I could form a better idea of its practical aspects. The cows refused to share their honest opinion.

50 comments:

  1. Just a quick note, rural areas usually also mean hills, at least here.

    In the last month or so I've noticed that I am using taller gears in both my road bike and my commuter (Pashley) than I ever recall finding comfortable last year. I feel stronger, and hills are no longer a problem for me, but they certainly make the trip more difficult in other ways: estimating time, arriving sweaty, needing more and more water and so forth.

    Velouria shared that switching the deraileur in traffic (while climbing a hill) becomes more difficult. Looking over her shoulder and making sure she doesn't swerve is also made harder by steep hills. And that kind of stuff is supremely important on the rural road.

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  2. We actually talk from time to time about moving to the countryside and running a small farm with some chickens, goats, maybe a couple of cows.

    I think the reality is that you would have to become much more self-sufficient, and you would simply not go anywhere most of the time (at least personally, I wouldn't be riding the 20 miles to town every day to go shopping).

    I think in some places it probably would be possible to get into a town by bike from the countryside, and you might even have a pretty good time of it sometimes, but I could see crazy drivers on small roads being a major problem.

    My mom grew up on a farm in Canada, and for the winters, they used sleighs with horses to get to town. While that also sounds very romantic, it also means you have to keep horses :)

    So yeah, while I think this kind of life might be possible, it would probably mean a major fundamental shift in the type of life you were leading to make it really feasible.

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  3. I love your blog! Thanks for such lovely photos :)

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  4. ah, what you need is a rural summer home :-). spend the winters in the convenience of the city, and enjoy the bucolic euphoria or the country in summertime.

    i can say from having a summer home in a remote country hillside, that winters are *very* harsh, with 10-foot snow drifts and dirt roads that turn to mud after each snowfall. cycling is impossible. not to mention, there's darkness from 4pm until 8am. but in summer the dreariness transforms into euphoria.

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  5. MDI - I didn't mean derailleur shifting in general, but the bar-end shifters (on drop bars!). Remember that I've only just learned how to use them, plus I've lowered the stem. Until recently I was never able to cycle with my right hand off the bars, let alone on a bicycle with drop bars. The Sam Hillborne is so stable though, that I am getting better and better.

    Portlandize - The life itself I've already led (and enjoyed), so it's only a matter of including cycling into it. I currently ride 25+ miles on a semi-daily basis as a sort of self-designed touring-training regimen, so I am hoping this will prepare me. But that doesn't solve the problem of speeding drivers, snow and darkness...

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  6. somervillain - Are you offering your farmhouse? : )) I agree about the snow. The daily conditions in which I drove to work there during the winter would have been considered a "snow emergency" in Boston, with the whole city closed. I wonder how the Surly Pugsley would handle that...

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  7. Think little town. Many of them are walking paradises, but there's lots of country around.

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  8. Bikeaholic Hey write on about the countryside. Love your photos as well. One thing I miss is the great summer, Spring and early Fall rides along country roads in New England.I broke my shoulder twice and so am now an inside biker. On the successful blog question? let me know when someone finds out what that means. I just started doing some kind of blog to stop myself from total insanity and chat with others that like the beauty as well as the fitness stuff. I did one or two triathlons with others which cured me of the competitive racing but the conviviality of the country ride and the scenery is just so great. I'm playing with indoor trainers now. The wind one is just not my idea of fun, rollers are too much for me now, so fluid maybe the ticket. My new hobby ;to shoot some awesome country roads scenic videos I can watch while indoor biking. Thanks for your scenic post please keep doing them! and keep taking pics!

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  9. As far as something that can handle the snow and mud with good grace, may I offer somewhat facetiously the Clelands from the early eighties.

    I say facetiously because it works out to be a better looking Pugsley (in 650b), as well as issues with parts availability, particularly the heavy duty drum brakes (although the designer reccomends the best nexave roller brakes shimano has to offer).

    Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38236150@N06/3515562997/sizes/o/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38236150@N06/3515563159/sizes/o/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38236150@N06/3515603639/

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  10. As a rural cyclist I can't imagine why you would think the grass is greener.

    First, EVERYTHING is a shower away, meaning, if you are going somewhere you need to be presentable, there had better be a shower on the way.

    Second, have you noticed how many squashed turtles, groundhogs, snakes etc. you see... they aren't the victems of what you might call "accidents". The perpetrators like you even less.

    Third, The trash in the ditch? Every third bottle was heaved out a pickup window at someone just like yourself, well, not just exactly like yourself, see, most of the cyclists you see out here are riding what are called "likker sikles". Bikes you steal from someones yard after you get that second D.U.I. People just assume you're one too...and tell their friends.

    And the cows? While all my close nieghbors are cows(and steers and bulls and hieffers)and I love em', don't assume they mean you no harm. They're just like the rest of us, mostly good but not without a few pickpockets, panhandlers,confidence men, fallen lassies, backbiters, toe stompers, horn pokers, juvinile delinquents, etc. In fact, the longhaired Highland lass in the picture looks like she might have just been trying to hold your attention till Brutus could figure a way over the fence.

    For every lovely ride where you end up coming over the last hill on a perfect evening and see the golden glow of the kitchen light through the trees a quarter of a mile away, there is that hot Sunday afternoon ride where the axle breaks 8 miles from home(in a cell phone hole) on a fast, gravel strewn, downhill decreasing radious blind turn with a ditch full of broken bottles and poisen ivy on one side and a 30 foot drop onto the railroad on the other side.

    I love where I live but I get all jealous when I read your posts about popping over to the store or a cafe... I think is mostly a wash...

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  11. anon of florida, if there ever were an "SUB" (sport utility bike), the clelands would be it, hands down! pretty cool, actually!

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  12. I hope this is not too much information - rural 14 here in the Berkshires...I live on a small farm, 8 hilly miles from town. It's an interesting thing to use the bike(s) all year round, especially with a 7 year old child. When I recently took my bike into New York, I was amazed at how fast I covered ground, because it is flat.

    A neighbor from Colorado said to me a few years ago, “there is no bad weather, just bad equipment” – made me bulk up on better clothing to deal with snow and rain (I had already spent some time tracking down enough smartwool base layers for a quartet of octopus). And so cold is not an issue – insulated low arctic boots in the winter on platform pedals – sure a loss in speed, but one rides slower in the winter.

    For winter, I have studded snow tires, but they are an affectation; I don’t use them anymore, instead knobby CX tires, 32 – 35mm. Rural New Hampshire might be different; snow is cleared fast here.The bigger issue in winter is the usual…cars don’t expect to see you so they don’t see you, and you have to be riding out in the middle of the road because the shoulder is snowy.

    But winter is not the issue…it’s leading an integrated life…making sure that I get everything I need on my one daily trip into town, so I can come back, get my work done etc etc, and then get back to town with the tandem to pick up my son from the school bus stop. We live up a short 19% grade…sometimes I do go the long way around. If I make an extra trip into town, and then back to get the boy after school…that’s all day on the bike going back and forth, and it’s ridiculous (I have done it)

    So the daily route stuff…requires planning. But I do pass sheep and cow farms within 2 miles of my house.

    So again, it’s a whole integrated life thing. We heat with wood, raise our own chickens and vegetables, use solar for electricity, etc etc (and it can be a pain in the neck! It gives you a lot of apprecation for propane) So like with biking, it’s requires a lot of planning to get things done, ie things take longer; and coupled with 2 full time careers…it can be daunting IF one feels obligated to always take the bike out of principle/or not to use the furnace . If it’s the long day at school for my boy, I think carefully about his energy level before organizing it so that he has to ride the 8 miles back mostly uphill with me (we have a car too).

    Interestingly enough it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been able to go for “fun rides”, ie 40 – 70 miles at a clip, a bit further afield from home. The days and days of 20 hilly “errand miles” have helped enormously though, as has carrying weight on the bikes in the form of either a tandem loaded with kid and groceries, or a single bike with tool boxes, around town errand stuff (seems like always the hardware store…always 15 lbs ++). But it is an amazing thing to go for rides way deep into the country through old logging roads / past big working farms etc etc.

    And that said…we love going into the city with our bikes, and exploring. But the city vs country thing I think is less about bikes and more about how one likes to live. We’ve always gone on vacation to cities, as we live in the country.

    So this is a lot of off the cuff commenting in this little box, not terribly well organized; but the main point is…yes! one can happily live on a bike in the country, try to pick a point that is FLAT in relation to getting to the town center (here are some photos of a few of my ride routes)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/14427499@N04/sets/72157623554717192/

    and please feel free to moderate this post by deleting it…perhaps it’s not the most useful of comments.

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  13. Find a village!!!
    Ooops Steve A. said that already. Ha - I always write my comment before I stop and read what everyone else has written :)

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  14. Spindizzy - I know, the grass does always look greener on the other side of the fence! As much as I appreciate the cafe culture, the book stores, the galleries, and so on that cities have to offer -I am the kind of person who really can live in, say, Northern Maine and not get bored or lonely; in fact I find more to do there than in urban areas. In cities I often overwhelmed by the impossibility of being alone once you step out of your apartment - and even inside the apartment, of being distinctly aware that you are surrounded by people within feet on top and below and to the side of you. I know that these things are some of the very reasons that some love the city - a sense of community, lots of things happening, always people to look at or talk to. But I need privacy and a lot of time on my own in order to feel sane. I do see your point about drunks in trucks and safety. That and winters are my greatest concerns.

    rural 14 - Thanks for your descriptions of rural life! Especially impressive that you cycle in the snow. I've lived in north-western rural NH near the VT border. Snow did *not* get cleared there, at least not according to most people's definition of "cleared". They must have removed the top layer of newly fallen snow now and again, but from November till April there was always a hardened "base layer" of packed snow on the roads, and cars just rode right over it. My place of work was 30+ miles from my house (which was a totally normal commute for the area), but everyone took the local roads rather than the highways in the winter, because the latter were covered with black ice and quite dangerous. Ah, memories!

    Steve & Riding Pretty - I'd prefer to live *near* a town/village, but not in it. I need at least several acres of land around my farmhouse!

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  15. Unfortunately in too many cases the country doesn't remain country for too long. We live on the last 40 acres of an old family farm. Twelve years ago we got 1200 cars a day on the road past the house, now it exceeds 7,000 and the road hasn't gotten any wider nor have the speeds decreased. In fact the golf club that went in down the road is petitioning the DOT to "do something" about the number of accidents and deaths that are occurring along the road. I went to one of the meetings and suggested that people driving the road might consider slowing down and obeying the speed limits...that went over well! I enjoy where I live but me thinks that living a smaller town where everything is readily available would be a better choice.

    Aaron

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  16. I say if that's the lifestyle that most appeals to you then you should do it! You've got an excellent arsenal of bicycles for just about any type of weather and roads, you are getting more confident about cycling long distances, and you LOVE cycling, so why not? Sure, there are challenges to cycling in the county, but city cycling also has it's challenges. Just DIFFERENT challenges. So why not live in the environment that makes you most happy? I also live in the country, and just started cycling to work about 3 months ago, so I'm still learning things about cycle commuting in general, but also how to get about by bicycle in an area that does not cater to cyclists at all. Honestly, I love riding through the country, in the hills of southern Appalachia, and couldn't imagine giving this up for city life.

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  17. I hope I didn't come across as patronizing,your bike utopia actually looks alot like mine... I think your practical, realistic approach to integrating a bike into ones life wherever you are is really about the ideal and works just as well in town as out'yonder.

    I just can't seem to get over my jealousy of your being able to ride a bike to an ACTUAL bookstore without having to ride 13 miles of 55 mph 2 lane then cross a 60 acre parking lot and lock my bike to a trashcan...Of course I also get the exquisite joy of riding 3 miles to my favorite raspberry patch(a ditch under a powerline in the Allegheny foothills near my house) on an early August morning and eating a quart of perfect berries while I fill 4 or 5 gallon ziplock bags, just me and the skunks... I love raspberries, I'd break into houses for them if I had to...

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  18. Amy - That is so very cool that you ride through the hills of southern Appalachia. How long is your commute and how do drivers behave toward you on the roads?

    Spindizzy - Shhhh! My utopia has a lower speed limit and lovely meadows instead of 60-acre parking lots : )
    But berries: Yes

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  19. I grew up in a town of 1,200 people and we spent many weekends and much of our summers at our family farm - completely idyllic with orchards and huge gardens and chicken dressing days and huge family picnics and swimmin' holes, etc.

    I went to college in a town of 5,000 people + another five in university students so the first 24 years of my life were spent in tinytown USA.

    Rural America is a great place to be from!!

    In the sixteen years that I've lived in the city I occassionally romanticize about moving back home, especially lately as we just sold the farm and my childhood home is next...then I wake up to reality.

    I love the idea of my kids having the same amazing small town childhood that I had - but it wouldn't be the same. That was a different time. I love the idea of having an even smaller bubble than I've created for us in the city - but the reality is that the small bubble comes with a lot of baggage that I'm not interested in taking on, although I truly wish I could.

    Some of my childhood friends have moved back home. They're buying up the old amazing houses and settling in. Part of me really admires them. My hometown NEEDS them. It needs youth and life and I'm so thankful for the dedication they have. But I'm afraid I can't be one of the those saviors. While I'll always be a small town girl at heart, I'm a city girl now and I love everything about it!

    Once my mother moves here to the city in a few months we've planned to start an annual trip back home. We'll stay at the lake and make the rounds to visit relatives. We'll hike the trails, visit the farm, bike the old haunts and eat loads of soft serve ice cream from the Frosty Treat. It will be a fantastic way to keep that small town grounding without actually making a move - I hope.

    But if you really want to try a small town, I have a house I'll sell you! ;-) The decorating is very retro (heh) and it's on a triple lot with dozens of mature trees. And you can see the courthouse from the screened in front porch and hear the bell on the hour. And the spring bloom festival is amazing and the lake is only a three mile ride and the county fair is *the* event each summer.....

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  20. I think the Co-H is right in his assessment. Sometimes I daydream about the country, too, but I'm a city girl at heart. Plus, Spindizzy just burst the bubble of the fantasy :)

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  21. I think in many rural areas the key answer is: use different modes of transport. Go by bike to the next train/bus station and take the train/bus from there, etc. It's not necessary nor possible to just stick to one mode of transport for everything. The good news is that cycling can be included most of the times somewhere :-).

    What I don't like is the attitude of some people that choose to live, e.g., 30km outside of Vienna and then claim that they _have to use the car to get into town for work. Well, they could as well just use a bike/car to get to the next train station (maybe only 5km away). Usually that's not hard, and also not dangerous.

    Btw, my hometown has currently 5000 inhabitants, and had about 3500 when I grew up there. I never _needed a car for my daily trips (school/work/shopping), but sometimes it was more convenient for leasure trips. You just don't wanna go out and cycle back 20+ km in the middle of the night (it doesn't even have to be winter for that).

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  22. One of my grandmother's brothers stayed back in County Sligo all his life. He was a rural postman, and rode his bicycle to deliver the mail each day. Sometimes that sounds like the perfect life. Sometimes not.

    iron fish

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  23. Well, there is always Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. You could have it all there. Lots of cyclists, so drivers are used to them. Lots of hills, oh yes, lots of hills, but fun. I love hills, I am demented according to everyone I know. Also, for fun winter cycling, check out all those Alaska cycling blogs. I read them last winter and was inspired.

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  24. I think the most valuable thing that is coming out of this discussion is that no matter where you live, riding your bike can make it better(if you like bikes). I never saw that berry patch driving around this area for 25 years but the first time I rode my bike past it I smelled them and started looking... thats not going to happen in a pickup.

    My friend Dave likes to show me all the little art pieces he finds in D.C. that people draw, stencil and glue to the tiny little hidden spots on his commute. He never saw ANY of this stuff when he rode the bus to work. My favorite is the battle between the plastic army guys and the toy dinosaurs that raged for a couple weeks under the shrubs in front of a chinese takeout place. He saw it when he was looking for a place to lock his bike.

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  25. My commute is 10 miles round trip, with a hill on both sides of the commute that is steep enough that I have to walk the bike up. I'm pondering another way out to the farm that is a bit longer, but might not have such steep hills, which will be nice come winter. I can see myself now trying to push my bike uphill in the snow. :/ People here are for the most part really good about slowing down and giving me plenty of room when they pass. Some even wave! Every once in a while you get a jack*** or somebody who really just seems to not know what to do when encountering a cyclist. This is why I keep a good sized rear view mirror on the handlebars. Got to keep an eye on these people!

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  26. Rural 14, my mother-in-law's country house is close to you -- I recognize your roads. I appreciated reading your comment as we sometimes fantasize full-time in the Berkshires but are not quite there yet with our work and I always worry that I would have to do everything by car, which I hate.

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  27. Well, we're certainly not the first to think of this, but living in the countryside in California avoids many of the challenges described here. In CA I grew up in a house walking distance to a small town with a cafe and a gallery and a performing arts complex, there was a larger city about 15 miles away, and a major US metropolis about 70 miles away.
    Perfection.
    I dream of attaining something like that again.

    I spent the weekend cycling in New Hampshire and we were reminded of how wonderful it is there. I thought the drivers were extremely courteous and while the shoulder left a lot to be desired the roads themselves were better maintained than those in MA. My husband went to school where Veloria was in NH and commented about the quality of his rides at that time - if you have two hours you can have a beautiful loop and then get on with your day. In the city you can toodle around in two hours but actually getting out of the city to the good riding will take all that time leaving no time to enjoy so there are no two hour rides in our current life.
    I guess I'm a small-town girl at heart.

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  28. Maybe consider moving into the country outside a small town in the Netherlands? Beautiful countryside, temperate weather, and a government that actually favors cyclists :)

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  29. Neighbourtease, the next time you visit yr mutha in law, email me, and and we'll go for a ride.

    The "post a comment" box ate the rest of my comment, I will put it up on a page somewhere and link to it when I rewrite it (mostly about how to figure out making the switch to rural life from the city....I made the switch 15 years++ ago, and have been the go to source for a lot of people contemplating it)

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  30. I struggle with this conundrum everyday. I lived in Somerville for 15 years and loved it [urban area in Boston]and rode my bike or walked 365 days a year, however I did spend a lot of time riding out to the country to get away from the city. For the last 5 years I have been living in a rural area, that is 25 miles from Boston. I love it as well [for all the reasons you listed], but find that I now only ride my bicycle about a 1/3 of the time and never walk to a store [just walk for fun]. I really miss the livable aspects of the city, as well as all of my liberal friends, good food, art & music etc... I am not sure if I will ever be able to make up my mind on which is better, but today I say "Live in the city, ride to the country" A small town could have it all, but only if I could convince about 10,000 of my favorite people to move there ;) people that don't act violent, throw trash on the road etc...

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  31. Charlotte - You mean those parts of California are real? : ) I sort of just assumed it was something the people at Rivendell made up! Admittedly, I have never been West of upstate New York. I would love to know what roads you took in NH.

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  32. Three words: South West Scotland. Having made the move from central London two years ago, I can tell you that the cycling is fab, and it's just about practical to run errands by bike. I'm five miles from the nearest shop, eight miles to town, all of it on rolling hills and narrow (too narrow for speeding) empty roads. I've done a few posts about it (including cycling on the snow) but on the whole the cycling is too uneventful to make for much blogging material, and there's a limit to how many gloating pictures of empty roads and glorious countryside my readership will stand

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  33. while I am a city girl-I often have rural fantasies as well.

    I say a summer farmhouse is a nice idea! :-) also the live in city ride in country that mike mentioned. Or be in concord and really live in town- but you really don't want that...

    I think it would be a wonderful thing- maybe an electric cargo trike to keep ya stable in the snow and to help with hills on ice etc. But I can try to sell anyone a cargo bike anytime....

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  34. I think you should move across the pond to the South Lakes area of North West Engand, we have two national parks and two area of outstanding natural beauty on the doorstep plus benefits living close two towns Lancaster or Kendal. In the village where I live its only 500 yards up the road you in the countryside and network of quite country lanes.

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  35. Oh yes, it's very real! :)

    This last weekend we did two lovely rides based out of North Conway.

    Day 1 was West Side Road to 153 to Eaton where there is a General Store with cookies I dream about. Then we tried Brownfield Rd into Maine and looped back to 113 (which was the least enjoyable of the roads) back to West Side Road.

    Day 2 was Route 16/Pinkham Notch Rd. up to the Mt. Washington Visitor's Center, where we learned that our plan for the day wasn't really feasible so we turned around for a screaming, beautiful descent as far as the 302 junction where we went West and finally found Bear Notch Road/Albany Road. That pass was much gentler than anticipated so we were surprised by how far up we were on the Kancamagus Highway. That is one of my favorite descents in New England but I generally have to save the pass itself for Labor Day when I'm in better shape. Anyway, at the bottom we picked the West Side Road back up to get 'home'. This day was characterized by a strong headwind from the North, Day 1 was much gentler.

    The roads there are lovely, the drivers generally courteous, and this West Side Road I keep mentioning even has a marked bike lane!

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  36. rural 14 - It would be absolutely wonderful to read about your experiences, looking forward to it!

    Re England & Scotland - I lived in East Anglia for several years in my 20s and nearly stayed there after university. I lived in a wonderful area, with lots of meadows and country roads and an eccentric university town in the center of it. I loved it, but going back at this point in my life is not an option, unless something unexpected happens.

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  37. Charlotte - !!! (wow). I realise that you'd built up to that sort of cycling, but it's nonetheless jawdroppingly impressive. I hope in 2-3 years to be able to do some of that. This year my goal is a less strenuous ride in the same general area, but we are still trying to figure out the best routes out of Boston to go North without taking the train.

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  38. I moved last year from a rural hilly community in Virginia to a moderately-sized city (with its own mountainous terrain). All I can tell you is that I love what little infrastructure is present, even in Roanoke. I would have never dared to begin cycling in my hometown, where the roads are narrow and winding and the drivers oblivious to the speed limit. (The epic porportions of road kill in the summer are a testament to the attitude of drivers). There were only one or two fool cyclist there, in contrast to my current city, in which I have found a whole cycling community, advocay groups, multiple bike shops, etc. The best part is that I don't have to go very far to find windy country roads, if I desire them. The Blue Ridge Parkway is also a cyclist's playground. Now, I only wish that the city would add bike lanes to its main arteries so that running errands by bike would be less intimidating.

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  39. Velouria,

    I can attest that the parts of CA that Charlotte writes of are real, but you may get sticker-shock upon finding out what the real estate prices are!

    And the area in which Grant Peterson lives is beautiful and fairly cyclist-friendly, but is quite hilly and gets *hot* in summer - three straight weeks of 101°F + temps are not unknown. We lived there for five years; I went cycling there about 10 times in those five years. Mt. Diablo has some spectacular views, if you can do the climb.

    I found Western WA State to be really pleasant, too, as I don't mind the mist for seven months of the year.
    Summers in the Pacific Northwest are among the most pleasant ones I've spent anywhere.

    Perhaps you and MDI need to do a Western Tour?


    Corey K

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  40. I think we shared ours on another post? Concord, then Lowell... You might consider an overnight trip to Portsmouth. That was my Memorial Day last year as I worked to build distance and endurance.

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  41. I live in a rural area, but I'm extremely lucky to have a recreational bike trail that runs along one side of our property. Without this trail, I could not commute to work. I am not comfortable riding along the highway, which has no paved shoulder and many steep, long hills.
    Unfortunately (for me) the trail is groomed for cross-country skiers in the winter. Still, even in Minnesota, that's only a few months out of the year where I can't ride.
    So don't give up on your rural dreams! Just find a lovely little spot near a trail, in a place with short winters. :)

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  42. Thanks Charlotte! (In another post you shared your North Shore route.) That's actually much easier than I thought, since we go to Concord all the time now already. Okay then, looks like the next baby step is Lowell.

    Corey - Seeing pictures of Mt. Diablo is quite enough for me : ) And the 101°F+ temps would probably do me in.

    The American part of me is pretty much a New Englander for good (I grew up in a neighboring state), so I can't really see myself in other parts of the country for more than a visit. Our favourite place is coastal Maine, and we will hopefully buy a house there eventually. But I would love to visit the Pacific Northwest some day.

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  43. Velouria - my dream is to do a PhD in the eccentric East Anglian university town of which you speak.

    townmouse - yay for cycling in South West Scotland! I need to visit your blog to read more.

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  44. Jennifer - I did my Master's and PhD there, and it is without a doubt my favourite institution of all the ones I have been affiliated with. Good luck and it is well worth the effort.

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  45. Velouria,

    Thats the problem with some university towns in the UK is folk staying on to the live in the area, there two universites base in Lancaster but there good cycle track network to get you out of the city.

    Also the South Lakes area is nice area for cycling holiday.

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  46. Oh, that is our North Shore route! Always Concord-Lowell-onward, there's no nice way to go due north from Boston. I think I even suggested (and it's true) that there is a nascent artist community blossoming in Lowell. Some interesting galleries trying to get started.

    Just keep going a little further each time you're ready. It gets easier and easier.

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  47. Wait... Sorry if I'm being thick, but Lowell is nowhere near the North Shore and if anything seems quite out of the way. How do you get to the coast from Lowell then? I've looked at the map, but there is no obvious quiet road.

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  48. I've done rural in Maine, Wisconsin, Upstate NY and Iowa. Over-rated. Or perhaps I'm a city mouse. Who hates driving. Need milk at 7 am? I'd rather be able to walk around the corner than have to climb into the car and drive fifteen minutes. Like the poet Frank O'Hara, I can't look at a blade of grass without wondering how far I am from the subway. The country is a very nice place to locate B&B's and picturesque colleges. And a lovely backdrop for your beautiful bikes & photographic skill. Sorry to sound cranky. I don't mean nothin' by it, as a hayseed might say.

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  49. I live in a touristy pacific northwest rural area and it's doable, but challenging. I can't do too much or go too far in a day because of the distances and the hills are mountainous. It also rains most of the year so I spend much time in gortex and miserable. There are a few bike lanes in the villages but not well planned out or made well so you end up riding on the road anyway. I do love riding on the back roads, going to the farm gates to buy stuff, say hello to horses and all that. I definitely had country riding fantasies...but I used to ride in real prairie farm land and every farm would have a mean dog that would chase me and I'd have to ride as fast as possible. I almost prefer riding in cities because of all the bike lanes and routes one can take. I mainly ride on a two lane rural highway with terrible shoulders and it is kind of scary.
    I also learned how to winter ride and it isn't that bad, so if the country is calling you go for it-but be prepared for a different kind of riding.
    Many people who claim to have been full time commuter cyclists in the city complain to me that since moving to the country they haven't ridden much at all because they can't/won't bike the distances required to get to work or wherever and are afraid of the highway.
    You may find that you bike more for fun/fitness but have to use the car to run errands or get to work.

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  50. I know what you mean about rural settling. Its beautiful waking up to open fields everyday. I lo vd the countryside . And dream of it everyday. The pace of life so slow. But yet you got a point about lack of transport.lol

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