Boys just wanna have fun [too]. Well at least that’s what Brent Roy (hereinafter referred to as “brentroy”) and I were thinking back in February when we started to put together what was then to be nothing more than an excuse to get out and beat on our cars in the twisties for a weekend somewhere other than the rural roads of New Brunswick. What we didn’t know at that point, was that after spending a weekend in the breathtaking White Mountain National Forest region of beautiful New Hampshire, it was sure to become an annual season ending event.
Fast-forward to early September, and the crunch is on. Some need to fix broken (read: boosted) cars, while others try every excuse in the book to tie down that mystical hall pass away from their better half or avoid their boss so that they may enjoy a long weekend out of the country. As it turned out, there would be 6 of us making the trip from various places throughout New Brunswick, southward through Maine and into New Hampshire. The journey begins.
We [myself, Alex Green, & Joseph McEachern] decide that brentroy’s home, just outside Fredericton would be a good spot to congregate, so twelve o’clock sharp is the time. Naturally, by about quarter after one, everyone arrives, Alex sporting his boosted Mazda Miata, Joe as passenger and designated photographer in Brent’s Mitsubishi Evolution MR IX and myself in my AP1 S2000. We set out and shortly thereafter make out first stop; the gas station. Fueled up and ready to hit the open road, we set a leisurely pace and after about an hour-long drive, we arrive in St. Stephen where we meet up with Mr. Dave Creamer in his 2011 Subaru WRX.
Similarly to meeting a girl’s father for the first time, we carefully explain our intentions with his country to the naive Customs Agent, and soon enough we venture into new territory. After stopping for some light snacks and eyeing some cheap refreshments [read: beer] we decide it’s best if we continue on towards New Hampshire as it was getting late and we want to make the hotel by night fall. In what can be best described as a sprint, we make our way down the I95 stopping periodically for fuel for both man and machine and shortly after dark we land at our destination the Golden Gables Inn in North Conway, NH.
Once unpacked and freshened up it was time for food. Having been in North Conway on vacation a year prior, I was able to recommend a local watering hole, Hillbilly’s Southern BBQ. After thoroughly confusing the novice server with our order, we are each presented with a generous helping of some fine BBQ and maybe more importantly, a 24 ounce beer of our choice. After the long day of travel, and with a now full stomach, we decide to retire to our rooms for a good night’s rest.
The next morning, we discover that our sixth, Adam Jurczak has arrived in his Subaru STi, making the trip from New Brunswick solo late that evening. Fully refreshed, and ready to take in some fresh mountain air, we stop at McDonald’s for a thoroughly disappointing breakfast and hit the trail. Our route as planned has us essentially making a figure-eight through the White Mountain National Forest with a final destination of Mount Washington Auto Road. Heading away from North Conway west along the Kancamagus Highway we immediately begin to take notice of the ever evolving scenery, starting with the gentle rolling foot hills of the White Mountains. The brilliant colours of the changing Autumn leaves and winding mountain streams catch your eye and soon after, mountains are springing up from the landscape in all directions. Stopping for pictures along the way, we pause for a moment from the quick pace of spirited drive through the twisty highway to take in some of its natural beauty. Nearing the end of the “Kanc” we encounter a series of very tight, switchbacks which we of course take full advantage, pushing the limits of what is acceptable on public roads.
Upon leaving the Kancamagus Highway we enter into the small mountain town of Lincoln, NH and take advantage of a quick rest stop. We snap a few pictures of the surroundings and we are on our way again north through Franconia Notch State Park (I93). Passing the former site of “The Old Man of the Mountain” you sort of feel saddened that he no longer stands watch over this beautiful countryside. Continuing North into Twin Mountain we now head east on Highway 302 into the Crawford Notch State Park. Heading into the Notch, right away you notice huge rock faces looming out at you from above. Winding through the narrow pass, mountain run-off forming elegant waterfalls carve their way through rock cuts and into shimmering lakes. We pass by the Mount Washington Hotel and stop to snap a picture of the car with the spectacular backdrop of the mountain we soon be atop.
Leaving the Notch, we set our course northward along Pinkham Notch Road (Highway 16) toward the Mount Washington Auto Road. Blasting through the rolling hills we arrive upon the entrance to the site and begin to realize the sheer magnitude of this mountain. Built in 1861, the Auto Road snakes you all the way to the summit of 6288′ above sea level at an average grade of near 12%. The summit is above the vegetation line, and is also the “The Home of the World’s Worst Weather” with the highest wind ever recorded on Earth at 231 miles per hour back in 1934. No big deal, right?
Right! We begin our climb, working our way up the steep incline, rounding tight turns on the narrow trail, which in spots is just barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass safely. As we climb, the vegetation changes, becoming more sparse with elevation. About half way up the road, we break out of the tree line and all at once realize that we are a long way up. Did I mention there are no guard rails? Continuing onwards and upwards, gnarled bushes and small shrubs give way to rocky outcrops and soon disappear altogether giving you full view of what lies beyond the edge of the road; 5000 feet of rocky vertical mountain face. Nearing the summit, you feel the car begin to struggle slightly as the air thins, and the engine gasps for oxygen. There is snow and ice on the ground and anything that remains standing in the harsh environment is covered in a thick sheet of ice that has been windswept over the barren terrain.
Arriving at the summit we find a gravel parking lot, overlooking the most spectacular view I have ever seen. With visibility of 100 miles in any direction, one can only begin to appreciate the immense vastness of the surrounding areas. With bluish-grey mountains and green forest for as far as the eye can see, you realize just how small you really are in the grand scheme of things. After trying to take it all in for a little while, we decide it is time to start our descent. Slowly, we make our way off the mountain, retracing our previous line and arrive at the base nearly two hours after we left it.
On our way back to North Conway, we stop for dinner at the Hill’s Top BBQ Restaurant for yet another glorious helping of succulent BBQ, but this time, with a twist. The host informs us of the infamous “Face Melter Wing Challenge” which employs the notorious Ghost Pepper. Reluctant to try, another patron who is sitting across the room, advises us that he had completed the challenge three times previous. The Challenge is to eat ten wings, in five minutes, with nothing to drink, and upon completion wait another 55 seconds before putting the fire out with a cool beverage. Sounds easy enough, eh? Not one to see an opportunity wasted, I challenge him to do it again, and if successful I would cover the meal. With the challenge issued, the cook gets to work and appears soon thereafter, complete with gas-mask and gloves and sets the plate before the challenger. The timer starts and off he goes. Tearing through the first few wings, he nears the four-minute mark with eight wings completed. Showing signs of stress, he struggles to finish the last two, but with lots of cheering and a little taunting at the 4:45 mark he completes the final wing. With the Ghost Pepper working it’s magic, the heat is intense, but somehow he manages to fight it off for 55 seconds and is victorious yet again. After signing the victor’s shirt and giving our congratulations, we part ways and return to North Conway for a night of celebration on the town to bring to an end what was an extraordinary day in the White Mountains.
The next morning, some feeling better than others, we manage an early start and check out of the Inn. Before leaving New Hampshire we stop at the New Hampshire State Liquor Store for some ridiculously cheap alcohol and then set our sites for home (with the booze in the trunk of course). Taking a slightly different route, we make a pit stop in Portland, ME, and then continue north along the I95 to Bangor. From Bangor, we travel north toward Calais, and cross the border without issue into St. Stephen, NB. In St. Stephen we stop to gather one last time, and say our farewells before we part ways, some heading towards Fredericton, some to Saint John and myself to Moncton.
Looking back at what was originally intended for this trip it turned to be so much more than just an excuse to get away from real life for a weekend and tear ass through the mountains. Sure, we were still able to do those things, but it brought together a group of friends, some of whom had never met before, and allowed us to take in some of the finest natural beauty this country and the country of our neighbors to south have to offer. Don’t forget what this sport is all about, be outgoing, enjoy you vehicle to its fullest whatever it may be, and get out there and see something or meet someone who is new to you!
Here are the rest of the photos from the trip, all rights are reserved by photographer Joseph McEachern.