As the name suggests, the Goffstown Rail Trail was constructed on an abandoned rail line. Completed in 2010, it connects Pinardville, Grasmere and Goffstown Village, New Hamshire. It's also largely unpaved and the route Google Maps suggested I take from Manchester to my friend's place 8 miles away in Goffstown.
I woke up from a restless night on the floor of Good Samaritan Jon's shop, packed up my stuff and promptly left my water bottle on the counter of the shop. I left my business card with "Thank You" scrawled on the back and headed out towards Bri and Mike's house where I'd be spending the next few days.
They are friends from Chicago who moved back home to New Hampshire last year and graciously offered to house me on my journey. Skeptical about the number of miles I was attempting to put on my bike, full of questions but ultimately as supportive as ever. I rolled in at 10:30, parked my bike outside and carried my backpack and one of the panniers upstairs to their spacious second floor apartment with a huge covered porch.
I had bought a kickstand, but it's been giving me a lot of trouble when there's weight on the bike. The dirt that got caked onto the spring loaded clasp made getting it off more trouble than it was worth, but unfortunately the uneven weight caused the bike to tip over and the rear tire to get a flat. Was it the weight or the rocky Rail Trail? Should I attempt to fix it myself or take it to the local bike shop? How can I go 70 miles through two rain storms with no problems then go less than 10 miles and come upon my first mechanical failure?
I'm reminded of Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when the narrator criticizes mechanics for having no skin in the game and no benefit from completely or perfectly fixing the problems on other people's bikes. I've been dealing with a lot of self doubt and worry. What if I'm not strong enough? What if something breaks that I can't fix? What if I'm stranded? Then I think of the kind words of a friend, "But you're a cycling expert."
It doesn't take much to become an expert. Experts suffer from just as much imposter syndrome as non-experts as the more you know about a topic the more you know you don't know. Hearing someone tell me I'm an expert reminded me, oh yeah I DO know how to do this. I put 900 miles on my bike in Laos. There were fewer resources there. I was a novice then. I'm an expert now. I know what I don't know. I'm in a country where I speak the language fluently, where locals are bike enthusiasts.
I ate pizza, watched TV and chatted with my friends. I had another restless night of sleep full of self-doubt and worry. It would be easier to do anything else. But I'm not cycling to Maine because it's easy or because I thought it would be smooth sailing. I'm pushing myself mentally and physically. I can do it. I am doing it.