|By Peter Theran
The group meets at the final inn, the Tamworth Inn. Cars are left here, and a van transports you to The Forest. A tip for people looking to up the biking intensity of the trip: Call the Forest Inn and get a map so you can cycle the 50 miles (a guess) to the Forest Inn. They can move your luggage from the Tamworth Inn. The group doesn't meet until the end of the day, so this is a very practical alternative. It might be just enough for those who would be frustrated with the lightweight biking, or if you have a biking partner who is less ambitious and is satisfied with the van ride.
The Forest Inn is a small and very pleasant inn. The proprietors, the Guppy's, are the driving force behind the tour. Dinner at the Forest Inn is simple, and very good home cooking. The Guppy's will greet you warmly, give you water bottles and maps, and discuss route alternatives with you. Dinner is BYOB, and walk next door afterwards to the beautiful New England Inn for a cocktail if you are so inclined. It is a wonderful, low-key start for the tour. A full breakfast allows you to take on the day feeling adequately fortified.
Your route alternatives for the next day are 20, 30, and 50 miles. The 50 mile route (the choice of all but one couple in the group) includes a five mile hill climb up Bear Mountain Road, and of course a similar descent down to the Kancamagus Highway. The views are rewarding, and the climb is steady and very doable for those who are unafraid of using their granny gears. (Hint: provision fully at the general store, including lunch which should be at the Little Falls on the Kancamagus.) The other route options are considerably easier as they do not include the climb. In addition, for those of you who cannot make 50 miles into an all day activity, even with a leisurely lunch stop, detour up to North Conway and outlet shop a little. The benefit of this approach is you cannot buy more than you can carry! Now for the part they don't tell you...the Snowvillage Inn is beautiful, storybook beautiful. But, they don't warn you about the .75-mile long, ski slope steep hill climb up to it. The climb is brutal, you are tired, the language is unprintable. Look for the cooler halfway up filled with cold drinks complements of the innkeeper, it is a lifesaver.
Ahhh, the Snowvillage Inn. Set on top of a hillside with spectacular views of Mount Washington and the valley, it is a marvelous place. The main house is very nice restored red-shingled farmhouse. The tour group stayed in a beautifully restored barn. The rooms were very nice, all with private bath. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the marked, private cross country trails make this look like it would be a great winter destination as well. Dinner at the Snowvillage Inn is wonderful. Their restaurant is a Bavarian style room, with a marvelous menu. The entire menu is open to members of the tour group; there is an outstanding wine list available at additional cost. Full bar is open and can be served throughout the inn. The host family is delightful. The combination of natural beauty, wonderful facilities, and outstanding food makes this a great stop. The breakfast was the equal of dinner, already our tour group was moving more slowly on day 2.
The routes on Day 2 are not nearly as good as Day 1. The options are very limited, and it is difficult to travel more than 25 miles. The route is nice, with several area lakes on the route, and smaller lightly trafficked roads for the most part. Arrival at the Tamworth Inn is generally early. They do have a small pool for sunbathing; the town is little more than a General store. However, what Tamworth is known for is their community theater. Call the Tamworth in advance and see if they do have a play that week, the theater is across the street, and if you can get tickets. It is a great local color option that should not be missed if possible. Dinner at the Tamworth was at least the equal of the Snowvillage Inn. The inn has a wonderful restaurant, be aware that it can be very crowded if there is theater that night. Again, dinner is ordered right off the menu and included in your tour. The wine list is good (have you caught on that wine is critical to my eval of any place?) for an additional charge. The inn is rambling, and being renovated, but is very pleasant. They have a resident St. Bernard for those who value security. Breakfast was not as formal, more of continental breakfast, but was satisfying.
Riding on Day 3 is pretty much your own discretion. Much of our group chose to skip riding and shop/ head on to their next destination. You can ride for many miles down toward Lake Winnepesaukee, or do a quick 20 mile loop. Be advised that all the routes are rolling hills that do take the starch out of your legs pretty quickly. Woods, lakes and farms for the most part, a very pleasant ride.
On the whole I would recommend this trip, you really get a lot for your dollar on this trip. If you know this is not a "Backroads" luxury tour where they baby-sit your every whim, and the cycling is good, but not a hard-core series of rides, you can enjoy this three-day getaway immensely.
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