“Well, that’s a little presumptuous.”
We had pulled the motorcycle up to the booth at the Mount Washington Auto Road and paid the $24 fee (and if that seems expensive consider that being in a car would have made it $36). When the man in the booth handed us our change and receipt, we were also given a bumper sticker that read, “This bike climbed Mount Washington”. Not only had our bike not made it anywhere yet considering we were still at the ticket booth, we were also unaware that it was something of a feat to get a motorcycle up the road. We laughed and made jokes about it while we stopped at the welcome center for snacks, but we really didn’t know what we were in for. When we hopped back on and got underway, it was clear that this wouldn’t be as simple as driving up a hill.
First of all, it is extremely steep in some spots. Plus the road isn’t terribly wide. Two cars can hardly fit side by side, so when another vehicle was coming towards us going the other direction the cars in front of us tended to stop or slow down considerably. Stopping a car is fine, but stopping (and then starting to move again) a motorcycle with two people on it on a very steep incline is very difficult. The other thing is, there aren’t any guardrails. If one tire of a car dips off of the road into the muddy dropoff, a spin of the steering wheel would right it. If a motorcycle slips into the muddy dropoff, well…
Luckily that didn’t happen. Chris worked hard to maintain a safe following distance so that he had room to navigate while keeping the bike in a constant forward motion. I as the passenger made sure I stayed as still and upright as possible so that my movements didn’t sway the balance of the bike in the delicate situation of steep hairpin turns. We saw TONS of other motorcycles, and lots of trikes. I think I actually saw more trikes on this road that I ever have in the entire rest of my life combined! The video just below is a sped up version of the drive to the summit.
Thought it wasn’t a drive through the park, we made it to the top without incident, and it was very crowded on this beautiful day. We parked and started our exploration at the Tip Top House, which the very first hotel on the peak that was reached by horse in the mid-nineteenth century. The bunkroom, dining room, and kitchen were cute to see, but a lot of it had been restored and it would have been more interesting if it was original.
The woman at the welcome center where we paid our toll had said there was a cafeteria at the top, so we headed there next as we were incredibly hungry. Unfortunately “cafeteria” wasn’t exactly what I would use to describe it. Maybe “snack stand”? There was a large selection of candy bars and packaged pastries, but the only hot food was soup and hot dogs. We gave it a pass and continued exploring. A very long line had formed to take a photo with the summit marker, so we also gave that a pass. Hearing a group of hikers suggest they should be able to cut the line because they hiked all the way up rather than drive was very amusing.
There wasn’t very much to do at the summit, it was more of a place to just look at the view- and as you can see, there were gorgeous views at every turn. We also enjoyed checking out the cog railway on its way up and down.
The ride down was more comfortable for me but just as tough for Chris. The car in front of us was constantly braking when there was no need to and as a result we couldn’t coast as smoothly. It also provided a smell that detracted from the views a bit, however on a whole the views were more stunning on the way down than on the way up. Thanks to the GoPro, which was securely tethered to the bike, we can enjoy those views later, minus the smell of burning brakes. A sped up video of the way down is just below.
If you drive the Mount Washington Auto Road in a car, you get an audio CD to listen to on your way up with commentary, which may have been neat to hear. I’m sure there is also a commentary on the cog railway, which looked cute but seemed as packed with passengers as a city bus. If we hadn’t been on the motorcycle, perhaps we would have hiked one way and taken the hiker shuttle back. If none of those options sound right for you, they actually offer guided tours led by professional drivers in large vans. It is truly wonderful to see such a beautiful summit area accessible to so many different people.
I’m pretty confident that the motorcycle was the right form of transport for our journey up the mountain. And now our bumper sticker rings true- this bike DID climb Mount Washington! All of the info can be found at www.MtWashingtonAutoRoad.com. The website is full of interesting information, including some historical and geological background that I wish had been a little more present at the summit.