Trees to Keys Chapter 1
And… the next adventure begins… We flew into Quebec City, Canada on Thursday afternoon so we could check on the status of the tandem, which Tour of Nevada City had helped us ship to Velo Roy a few weeks ago. We wanted to be sure it made it to Canada before we did, and it turns out that was a wise choice, as customs had many questions about why it was being shipped, and what we were going to be selling as we pedaled.
Julian and his team at Velos Roy (“Bicycle King”) did a great job getting everything ready, so we had our “extra” day to explore the wonderful Quebec City. The food was amazing, the historic buildings inside the ramparts reminded us so much of Paris, and the people were so friendly – totally patient with Kim’s minimal French vocabulary. It totally held true to what we’d been told… that it’s France, without the jetlag!
After our second night at Le Vincent Hotel – wonderfully comfortable 10-room urban hotel, within walking distance of the bike shop and yummy gelato – with very friendly owner, Antonio, we got everything packed-up, loaded the bike, and started the journey.
Step one was to coast the bike down to the ferry and cruise across the St. Lawrence river, which was only $7.10 Canadian dollars for the two of us and the bike. There were more bikes on the ferry than there were cars… by a multiple of at least 4. This is the most biked town we’ve ridden in so far. We talked with several people who have done amazing, world-wide biking adventures – up the coast of Brazil, Paris to Kamchatka, all around Scotland, etc, etc.
After the quick cruise across the river, accomplished in less than 20 minutes, it was a super-easy departure from the boat, and a great start on the paved bike path – which lasted for about five miles, then turned into a wide shoulder. There were so many lovely homes, family farms, interesting restaurants, and art boutiques, on flat roads, that the 60 miles flew by. We only climbed 1,062 feet for the whole day, instead of in the first 10 miles.
About 40 miles into the ride, we became part of a huge line of traffic headed to the accordion festival in Montmagny. – running for today through September 7th. That made us decide that it was time for lunch, so we pulled into the local McDonalds – which, it’s turned out, we only eat at on bike trips – to “re-fuel”. It became clear that we’d made an excellent choice, as there was an accordion musician playing in the Mickey-D’s, and he was wonderful. He even played a few tunes that the diners joined him by singing.
After lunch, we located yet another paved bike path, were saved from traffic navigation, and made speedy progress through town. In about an hour we were ready for a break, just as we were pulling into L’islet Sur Mer, when we saw a lovely church just a bit down the road. We stopped and took a few photos, which was just long enough for us to hear the bells being rung, by hand, for the top of the hour.
There have been beautiful churches in almost every town, extending the European ambiance. We saw at least three more before arriving at our home for the night, St. Jean Port Joli. We also found a wonderful display of carved wood birds – all for sale – which Kim really wanted to take with us.
After arriving at Motel de La Falaise, and moving into our room with chairs on a lovely porch looking out to the river and the hills on the other side, we took a short walk back into town and had dinner outside at La Libellule. We started with an appetizer that the menu called “fondue with vegetables”, but when it arrived it was, basically, a salad with two breaded cubes of local cheese, which were toasted to the point of becoming fondue-like inside the breading. Quite tasty, even if different from expected. Then, our super thin-crust pizza arrived, with caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach and equally yummy cheese. Andy also tried, at the suggestion of our server, to garnish the pizza with herbed olive oil, which he really liked. For dessert, we shared a blueberry shortcake, with local berries, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. Très délicieux!
After dinner, and walking back to our hotel, we sat on the porch, while our 4 neighbors – Quebec City locals who come here every year – sat on theirs. They helped with some translations, and showed us their photo of the sunset on the same day last year. Then, as we all watched today’s sun sink behind the mountains across the river, they snapped a perfectly matching photo for their album. And, we got one, too! A lovely way to end Day 1, and amazing way to start this Chapter.
This morning got off to a great, unexpected, start. We headed out from the hotel, expecting to find our breakfast spot in about a mile, but we didn’t. So, we kept pedaling, planning to simply snack on trail mix and raisins. Then, Kim felt the urge to stop and photograph yet another lovely church. And…as we turned across the street into the church parking area, we noticed that there was a very cute café, “Le Café du Bon Dieu” (yep, really!), sharing the parking area. Again, a wonderful “detour”. Somebody up above must have determined we needed more than snacks to start our day.
It was a bit tricky to converse with our waiter, whose English was as limited as Kim’s French, but we ended up with yummy yogurt, fruit, toast and veggie pate, and Andy enjoyed another cup of excellent coffee.
After the re-start, we continued pedaling on highway 132, which is called the “Route of the Navigators”. It was another lovely ride through fields, along the super-wide St. Lawrence river. We managed to skip McDonalds in the little town of St. Denis, then crossed a tiny river – the Ouelle, stopped at local grocery store and helped reduce their banana inventory. Back on the bike, we saw more beautiful farms and started to get into the mountains – lots of granite, lovely conifers and aspen trees. There were also numerous vintage homes, cabins, and barns. Some beautifully refurbished, and others looking their age.
We saw numerous bikes along the road, which is called “Bike Route 1”, and even has signs to designate it as such. We crossed ways with two tandems, and saw two more on cars, bringing the total, in just two days, to 6. The most ever! We’ve also seen hundreds (really) of motorcycles already, with at least half (or more) being the three-wheeled variety. If you know what those are called… probably not tricycles, right?... please, let us know.
Then, we saw a sign that said patisserie… and knew we’d need to stop for a break. “Racoin”, is a new venture, started by a young couple that has a full menu of delicious options and a camping area, too. We loved the blueberry-cinnamon tart, baklava, and coconut macaroons. We got to talk with one of the women who works there, who was creating cannelloni stuffed with kale and sweet potatoes. After all the yumminess, we decided to take a “to go” bag with quinoa porridge, a salmon bagel, fruit salad, and, yes another blueberry-cinnamon tart and baklava, to be our dinner, since there aren’t any restaurants in our town for tonight.
After the bakery, we pedaled a bit more than a mile to the local brewery. There was a great view of the river from the back deck, with a hike-bike path nearby, and plenty of hikers and bikers stopping for beverages. Andy thought his Stout was very well made. We’d thought it would be a good place for lunch, but not so. Andy had a small serving of Mackeral pieces on toothpicks, and Kim could get only a small package of cheese pieces… until, the wonderful server brought her a special/secret treat – kind of a brownie with plums and nuts – which she’d made last night for the staff. Totally delicious and much appreciated.
After all the dining adventures, we arrived at our home for tonight, Auberge de la Fleure. It’s kind of a hostel-like place, where we have our own room, but share bathrooms with the other guests. Our room is very nice, and the owners are, too. They even invited us to sit at their dinner table with our food from the bakery. The husband even cooked a hamburger for Andy, to provide protein in addition to sugar!
Following the early dinner, we took a walk along the river trail, and found Kim’s Quebec rock for her collection. We also found some interesting, tomato-like looking veggies growing on bushes by the river. Once we were back at the Auberge, we asked the owner if he knew what they were. Via photos that Kim took, and translating between French and English via Google, we learned that they’re Rosa Canina or, in English, Dog Rose. They’re native to Europe, northwest Africa, and western Asia, and were brought here by early settlers. We decided to walk back to the river and give them a taste. We found them a bit kumquat like, and filled with seeds. Another exploration…
Tomorrow should be our last day in Canada. After about 74 miles, and adequate US citizenship documentation, we should arrive in Ft. Kent, Maine. Au Revoir!
Well, Labor Day was quite laborious for us. We pedaled 75 miles, with the most single-day climbing so far this trip. Luckily, we had a great breakfast at our B&B – crepes, scrambled eggs, yummy muffins and fruit – served, and cooked, by a couple of high-school age girls who are students of the owner/teacher. Dining along with us were some other bikers who were headed out along the river trail with their cross-bikes, and a few other couples.
Then, we loaded-up the bike and started the day with 3 miles of tailwind, until we started our climb up and out (with the emphasis on “up”) of the St. Lawrence valley. As we climbed, the wind became more of a side/head wind until we made it into the trees – more conifers, aspen, and maples turning Canadian red. There was plenty of granite, and we were definitely out of the farming zone.
Our first stop of the day was in Pohénégamook … yes, really. We found a nice grocery store which refilled our supplies – 4 bananas, 2 Gatorades, Pop-Tarts (we knew the ride had officially started since, when we saw the box we looked at each other, smiled, and said, “YEP!”). After the snacks, we stored the extra food and pedaled along the lake with the same name as the town. At the very end of the lake is the very most northern tip of the US. There is a park there with a little bridge with Canadian flags on one side and US on the other. Kim went to have a look at the sign that said “Do Not Cross to the US side”, Andy stayed with the bike a safe distance away from a pre-mature border crossing. After about 12 miles of bumpy road with no shoulder, we reached the town of Rivière-Bleue, where we re-fueled with the other two bananas – which were barely hanging on to the bike bag, due to all the bumps and frost heaves.
Batteries recharged, we climbed over into the Lac Long watershed. It is a very long lake – about 12 miles – with lovely vacation homes, beautiful calm water, and gorgeous rolling hills. At the mid-point of the lake we crossed a bridge and found the Quebec equivalent of a hamburger stand. They made a burger for Andy and a grilled cheese for Kim, accepted US dollars, gave US change, and, most importantly, coached Kim on how to pronounce Pohénégamook. (you can hear it, too, if you click on the word/link to the left)
We also found a sign that gave a description of the lake’s name, which is from the tale of a mythical monster, similar to the Loch Ness Monster, which was affectionately renamed Ponik in 1976. We continued along the (very long) Lac Long for about 5 more miles. Then we made another climb into the Lac Baker (aka Baker Lake) area. It was about ½ as long, twice as wide, and ritzier houses.
Something we’ve meant to mention is the HUGE number of “A Vendre” (For Sale) signs on the properties. We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds in just three days. As we pedaled along Lac Baker, we saw our first combined sign, in both French and English, indicating we were getting closer to our destination for the day.
We enjoyed a brief downhill cruise along the St. John river, through Clair, our last Canadian town, and stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the actual border crossing. Then, as we rolled off of the bridge, we were in the US border-crossing zone. Our new passport cards, that are similar in size to a driver’s license, worked perfectly to grant us access to our home country. FYI, the border patrol is much kinder and understanding than the hypersensitive border crossing guards in say Sumas, WA or Tecate, CA.
About 100 yards past the border area, we stopped at our home for tonight, the Northern Door Inn. It’s located at the very beginning of US Route 1, which continues all the way south to Key West – our ultimate destination. The front desk person recommended The Swamp Buck as our dinner location, and, despite the name, the food and service were very good – although we do already miss the Quebec cuisine (très délicieux!).
Tomorrow we’ll start our north-to-south traverse of Maine.
While today may seem like a much easier day, that’s not the case. We climbed almost the same amount in about half the distance. We started in Ft. Kent, a picturesque town with its own university, after a quiet night and good breakfast at Rock’s Family Diner, just down the hill from our hotel.
We stopped by the mini-mart for supplies and the cashier was a young guy who’d moved there from San Diego, and said it’s the best place to live. We pedaled by lots and lots of slate rocks – Kim looking for one to add to the collection – and along Eagle Lake, St. Froid Lake, and Portage Lake.
The lawns around the houses have been huge – usually multiple acres, beautifully green, and perfectly mowed. We’ve also seen a much reduced number of houses for sale. People, in addition to the cashier, must love living here.
It’s been, according to the local weather reporters, an unseasonably warm time, with temperatures over 80 and high humidity. Tomorrow is forecasted to be similar, but with temperatures dropping into the upper 60’s by Saturday, and some showers possible.
While we’ve seen numerous warning signs about Moose on the road, we’ve not seen any real ones, very disappointing. When we stopped at a small grocery store near Eagle Lake – with Main St still lined with dozens of American Flags from yesterday’s celebration – one of the owners told us about other wildlife to lookout for, including the Maine Lynx – a bobcat-like animal with large pointy ears with tufts of fur at the top, and huge paws (for winter snow travel). They’re apparently quite nasty when provoked, so she advised us not to try to pet one if we see it.
Our home for tonight is Dean’s Motor Lodge, complete with a restaurant that specializes in steaks and seafood. Since it’s the only dining establishment, we’ll eat here for lunch, dinner and breakfast.
We did a quick trip to the grocery store across the street which opens at 4 AM – to provide breakfast and coffee to the logging truckers driving both ways on Highway 11. We’ve been passed numerous times, always with plenty of room, and a friendly driver. There have been very nice rest-stops along the way, with great views.
Our day began with an early breakfast… yes, at Dean’s Motor Lodge, where we had both lunch and dinner yesterday: perhaps only our second “Trifecta” of the cross country trips. The first was in Tribune, Kansas at a local gas station, so we’re moving up; no gas sold at Dean’s. Then we headed out for a pretty big mileage day (67), which also turned out to be a huge climbing day – over 4,200 feet. It seemed like each time we’d reach the top of a hill, breathe a sigh of relief, and coast downhill, the next climb would appear. Several of the climbs were at least 10% - 12% grades, and a few of them we ended up walking for at least a section.
Fortunately, it was also a lovely road, with beautiful views, although the logging trucks were still very numerous, though generous when passing. After eleven fairly easy miles we reached Ashland, ME and stopped at the local grocery for Gatorade and dental floss since the next town, Patten, was 48 miles away. The checker recommended we stop at the “Clam Shack” when we reached Patten “Sure, they have vegetarian stuff”. We left Ashland well hydrated and began the roller coaster that is Northern Maine. We passed the largest logging operation “campus” we’ve ever seen, near Ashland (of the East Coast, after riding through Ashland, Oregon on our M2C journey). There were acres and acres, and acres of trees – much smaller diameter than those on our side of the country – and they were being turned into 2X4s, and chips, etc.
About half way to Patten we stopped at a rest stop and there we met a couple from Israel. They were on their way to Rochester, NY where the husband was going to ride his folding bike to New Jersey. He was thrilled to meet a couple of fellow cross country bicyclers. We exchanged pictures then headed back to the roller coaster. It would have been a big pain had it not been so beautiful: perfect weather, some cloud cover, smooth roads, and green vistas.
We stumbled into Patten with about 4 ozs of water, (perfect planning!), spent legs, and empty stomachs. Luckily the Clam Shack was closed for the season so we asked a couple in a car what dining options lay ahead. They told us there was more town ahead (one never knows on these trips) and a couple of places to eat. We coasted into town and stopped at Debi’s Deli and Pizza. Oh glorious Root Beer, vegie burger, split pea and ham soup (best ever), chips, and salads. The ride must really be beginning…we are starting to eat a lot of food.
Refueled and bright eyed we headed back on the road to two large and steep hills, ugh. But at the top of the second one we had a beautiful view of Mt. Katahdin to the West and panoramic views of green hills, BLUE sky, and cotton ball clouds to the East. It felt like we were on the top of the world…even though we were only about 800 feet above sea level. Never mind the wind turbines that were off in the distance. Did I mention we had a pretty steady 10 MPH headwind all day today?
After the vista point, we coasted down the next hill and, fortunately, had 6 relatively flat miles to the town of Sherman where we checked into the Katahdin Valley Motel which is a stone’s throw from I-95. The motel owner was very friendly, which seems to be common in Maine, and she told us about the options we had for pedaling to the next town. We opted for the slightly longer but more scenic route that follows the Penobscot River, a river we will follow for a couple days to the Atlantic.
Dinner was at the Shell gas station on the over side of the interstate. Kim had an interesting pizza topped with canned corn, canned carrots, and canned mushrooms; and Andy had a “hamburger steak” with brown gravy that was “horrid”. ‘Nuf said for today.
Today was a much more mellow day than yesterday. Yippee!! We got an early start from the motel in Sherman, in a misty, cool, humid morning that almost looked like it might rain. Fortunately, it didn’t rain all day. Yippee, again!! Then, after about 25 miles of pedaling, we stopped for breakfast at “At the Bridge” which is located at the bridge over the Penobscot River. The blueberry pancakes were delicious, and huge. Between the two of us, we couldn’t even finish 3 of them.
Back on the road, we spent the next 10 miles riding along the river, on a very smooth, quiet road, with little traffic. The area around the river – trees, fields, cute cabins – made for a wonderful trip. We took a break at a rest stop with excellent river access and views.
This was also the journey of Big Barns. The largest we’ve ever seen… including this one. Many have been three or four floors tall, some with ramps that lead to the second floor… we’re thinking it’s so they can get inside during the winter.
We cruised into Lincoln and found our home for the night, The Whitetail Inn, conveniently located close to a pizza joint that happened to make a very good BBQ chicken pizza, much better dinner than last night.
Tomorrow’s goal is to reach Bucksport, 65 miles away, and meet up with friends Dave and Jeannet.
After a comfortable stay in the White Tail Inn last night, we were awake early, dined on protein bars and Odwalla protein drinks, and then put on our still-soaking-wet bicycle gear. Yes, still soaking after hanging on hangers for almost 12 hours on a rack we wheeled directly in front of the A/C machine. Maine has proved to be much more humid than anticipated.
The "benefit" is that we weren't worried about getting rained on while we rode, which looked highly possible given the total cloud-cover and damp roads as we started pedaling. The nice benefit was that the clouds helped us stay quite a bit cooler, which we realized after they cleared and we were, essentially, doing a Bikram/CrossFit/bicycling workout.
We decided to try another off-Main-Street ride, and trade a few more hills for less traffic, and were glad that Caribou Road turned out to be paved (Google Map wasn't quite sure). It turned out to be a great decision by Andy, The Map Man. The road was excellent, very little traffic, with lovely, and interesting, cabins.
The strangest part of this ride is the soooo limited amount of wildlife we've seen. Basically none – other than a couple of turkeys and a few crows. Not even any deer, let alone moose. We see much more when we ride around Grass Valley.
After Caribou Road, we turned back onto Highway 2, following the Penobscot River, yes again. It was another excellent road, with a large, smooth, paved shoulder, which was completely free of debris...and hills. We had about 12 miles of flatness along the big wide river which looked like an ideal place to launch a canoe. We were on this all the way to Bangor, but we had a few miles to pedal. We did stop for lunch at a town named Old Town, where the canoes are made. It was another Shell station, but the food was much better – great sandwich for Andy, a salad for Kim – and very comfortable seating for Andy...Boston Beer is on top!
With just a bit more pedaling, we arrived in Bucksport, and stopped at Dunkin Donuts to wait for our friends, Dave and Jeannet, to pick us up. Little did we know, we'd see at least 8 more Dunkin Donuts in the next couple of days – even more in number than McDonalds! When the friends arrived, we successfully loaded the bike into their pick-up, our bags into the back seat, and started our drive to their family cabin near Blue Hill. It was wonderful to spend time with them, and to have a real dinner at a nearby restaurant. An excellent ending to a long work-day.
After a relaxing, quiet night, we enjoyed a yummy breakfast with Dave and Jeannet – which included blueberry muffins, with blueberries from their property. They offered to take us on a cruise around the bay before we got back on the bike, and we thought that would be a perfect start to the day. Their boat is moored in the same area as a number of lobster fishing boats are, and the exterior design of theirs is very similar, although the inside is much different. It has a sleeping area, bathroom, and mini kitchen. This may be their retirement RV!
The water was amazingly smooth, very little wind, and just a few other boats cruising around. We cruised past the lighthouse on our way to some granite boulders – ok, islands – that were further out in the bay, and got to see sea lions and harbor porpoises. Finally, we’ve got some critters to add to our list!
After our cruise back to the mooring, and drive back to the house, we got packed-up, loaded back in the pick-up, and were deposited back at Dunkin Donuts, so we didn’t “cheat” on any of the distance. Another great way to start the day, with wonderful hospitality.
It was a bit odd to start the real pedaling at 2:00 in the afternoon, rather than before 8:00 in the morning! So we felt a little like we must have been traveling at a very slow speed. And, although it was only a 40 mile day, we climbed over 2,000 feet, almost as much as we climbed yesterday, in 64 miles. There are lots of short-ish, but very steep hills in this neck of the woods.
There were some beautiful benefits, however, like getting to pedal back from Verona Island across this amazing bridge, which even had a wide enough shoulder for comfortable biking and viewing. We did the usual mini-mart stops for dining pleasure, and had an interesting conversation in one of them, with a guy who was very interested in our biking, and telling us many, many, many things we needed to know. The folks in Maine are very friendly, and very talkative it seems.
At one of the mini-marts we asked for recommendations for dinner, and were told about Fresh in Camden. We were able to navigate through the really-cute harbor town, and find our way to the restaurant – arriving at 4:59 for its 5:00 opening. The food was wonderfully delicious – Andy had lobster ravioli, and Kim had another deluxe veggie burger. After dinner, it was only a short, but steep, couple of miles to our lodging, 7 Mountains Motel, in Rockport.
The motel was shaped like an L and our room was the one in the corner. It was a nice, but very full with a lot of extraneous furniture, and kinda quirky-shaped, room. We were able to get the bike up the few stairs and carry it to its parking place under the windows, and we did have a nice view of trees and grass. Another day of progress.
After a good sleep in our corner of the L, we were ready to head out early for a pretty long journey. The motel did have some good options at its breakfast buffet – including Greek yogurt and granola (feeling at home!). By about 8:00 we were on the road and had started our first hill.
It was a very humid, misty, morning. After about 5 miles we were fully damp, then it cleared and the sun came out. We were still working against the headwind we’ve had pretty much ever since we turned south from the St. Lawrence River, but glad to be not so soggy. After about 18 more miles, we stopped at, yet another, Dunkin Donuts, although this one also sold gas and mini-mart stuff. We split our standard Boston Crème and Old Fashioned donuts, had some orange juice and coffee, and then headed back on the road.
We climbed through quaint towns, saw lots of restored homes, and were passed by many friendly drivers, except for one mini-van with a 10-ish year old boy in the front passenger seat who flipped us off as they drove by. Wish we could have caught that on film. We did laugh.
We took our next break at a feed-garden supply store, which also had house-pet supplies. Kim went in to ask for directions back to Highway 1, and found the store person feeding a pretty huge “pet” lizard. Back on the road, it was twists and turns and climbs on narrow, but lovely roads. This took us to Wiscasset, which was going to be a great stop for lunch. As we entered town, the clouds started looking darker and darker, and the traffic became heavier and heavier. Around one corner there was a bridge with a huge line of vehicles, so we were able to re-pass most of the cars that had passed us earlier.
As we crossed the bridge, which was approaching a mile long, black clouds moved in fast, the rain started to sprinkle down, then become heavier and heavier. Just on the other side of the bridge, we hopped off the bike and were able to jog it across the road through the traffic, and barely hide under a little two foot overhang of the deck of Sarah’s Cafe. It turned out to be perfect timing, since just as we got under the deck, which had a bit of “under-roofing”, the sky unloaded. As we were wondering what to do, Andy found a tarp around the corner and was able to protect the bike and bags from any rain blown under the deck. Kim noticed that there was a lower back door to the restaurant, which actually was the kitchen area, and convinced the chef to let us enter there and go up the wait-staff stairs into the dining area.
We, again, had good food, and watched the rain pour and pour and pour for almost an hour. How grateful we were to have arrived when we did! When the clouds began to break and the rain became sprinkles again, and then stopped, we got ready to pedal the last 30 miles for today. All the bike gear was dry and ready to go. Yippee!!
It was another round of challenging hills. We went through Bath and saw the biggest crane ever – which is used there to build Navy ships. Signs were in the area that no photography was allowed due to the firm being a defense contractor, so no photos there. You’d think as a tax payer they would give us a look at what we’re paying for.
A couple miles out of Bath, on the way to Brunswick, we saw an ice cream stand with “wicked good ice cream”, we are getting close to Boston! We split a Root Beer Freeze which might have been the “best ever”. Yes, it was that kind of day. While Andy may pedal for the love of beer, Kim certainly pedals for the love of ice cream! By now the day was absolutely beautiful, the sky was scrubbed squeaky clean as only a good storm can do, and the temperature was perfect. We again toasted our good luck of being able to dodge into the café overhang with seconds to spare.
Into Brunswick we passed Bowdoin College and headed out on Mt. Pleasant road for the final 8 miles to our day’s destination of Freeport, ME. Mt Pleasant road turned out to just be a clever name as it was a bit of a workout to get through its rolling hills to Freeport. When we saw our first outlet store we knew we had come near the end of an amazing day. We navigated through the shoppers and arrived at the Hampton Inn. The manager let us check in early and even gave us a couple Cokes on the house since the vending machine didn’t work. She also gave us some old towels to clean up the bike and chain and encouraged us to wheel the bike right through the lobby. Though she may not keep her job she still gets MVP for the day.
Great Wi-Fi at the Hampton, good pizza across the street at Antonia’s, and we’re ready to wrap up this day.
We rolled out of the Hampton into a beautiful autumn-like day: cool, crisp, zero wind, and a blue bird sky. We followed our old friend, Route 1, for about 5 miles through an unremarkable industrial area that paralleled I-295. We peeled off at Route 88 and entered some of the most scenic views of the bays and definitely some of the fancier houses we’ve seen. It reminded both of us of cruising on Lakeshore North in Incline Village.
We rode through this neighborhood for about 10 miles. Great scenery, very light traffic, no wind, and a pristine shoulder on which to ride. We passed several walkers and joggers and saw quite a few bikers too. We followed that most of the way to Portland, ME where the road turned into a highway, with no bikes allowed. There happened to be a deli at the corner and Kim went inside for provisions while Andy talked (more like listened) to a Mainer that explained how to get around the highway, rejoin the road, and take a bike path along the bay in Portland. Except for the first 200 yards of the bike path, which went right along the sewage treatment plant, it was gorgeous. Perfect day, and we were on a real bike path with actual locals, how odd!
We zigged and zagged our way through Portland and made our way into the suburbs where we picked up “The Eastern Trail”, a walk and bike path with a decomposed granite surface. It looked like a Rails to Trails project as it was completely flat and straight. We followed it for about 8 miles, and what a nice change of pace it was from all the traffic we’ve dealt with, plus it had great tree coverage to protect us from the 10 MPH headwind we’ve had since Canada. At one point the trail opened up into some huge marshland. Lots of big white birds (cranes?) and the birders that follow them with their huge cameras.
The trail abruptly ended at Route 1, and it was time to grab some lunch at the local Mickey D’s just off the trail. Not quite the best Mickey D’s ever but pretty close.
We followed Route 1 all the way to The Seahorse Motel in Wells, ME our stop for the night. On the way here we passed through Kennebunk but didn't see any former presidents. Cute town but narrow streets and lots of traffic. We had to dismount the bike several times or ride on the sidewalk (New York style) in order to weave our way through the traffic.
All in all one of the most enjoyable days of riding: perfect weather, great scenery, good shoulders, great bike paths, and even some off-roading.
The Seahorse Inn was a comfortable place to stay, and we were awake early to try to beat the wind. Continuing on Route 1 we pedaled past lots of motel-resorts, some that had been around for quite some time. It turned out to be a lovely, calm, sunny, and flat-road day. We never even had to go into the little ring – Hurray!
Our first stop for the day, and last stop in Maine, we stopped, yes, again, at McDonald’s, for breakfast. Sure enough the same four guys were there that have been at every McD’s – from West-to-East, and North-to-South – drinking coffee and talking about community issues. There was also a Dunkin Donuts, but we did skip/avoid that one today.
After our classy dining, we pedaled across the bridge over the Piscatagua River and arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, completing our full traverse of Maine. Then, we promptly missed our first turn, but were able to ask a local police officer who was guiding traffic around a construction site, and he helped us get back on track.
Out of Portsmouth, we wandered through some neighborhoods and arrived at the Atlantic Ocean. Then we journeyed through beach communities, and then Kim stopped to locate her New Hampshire rock. Along the coast there were some cottages and homes with beautiful views… and then, we made it to the amazingly ritzy neighborhood, and found our new cottage, vacation home!
After reality returned, we continued pedaling, and got back to normal…stopping at On The Border minimart. We got some snacks, and sat on upside-down milk crates in the parking area next to the gas pumps… yep, reality. Pedaling out of the lot, sure enough we crossed the border from New Hampshire to Massachusetts. This was our first three-states-in-one-day achievement!
The houses weren’t as fancy, although there seemed to be more active people – walking along the beach and riding bikes. Clearly the “official” season is over, since the young-guy parking-attendant was passing his shift doing bicep curls with the sign for the parking lot, rather than accepting money from parking patrons.
Continuing on Route 1 we arrived in Newburyport and enjoyed some great pizza at Stone Crust Pizza – with shirts that said “In Pizza We Crust”. We snapped this picture of the team.
About 8 miles later, after pedaling through some salt-water marshland, we arrived in Rowley, a town with history starting back in the mid-1600s. The classic home, which is the office and hotel portion of tonight’s lodging was built in the 1800’s and still had the original stamped tin ceilings – although they’ve been painted white.
For dinner, we walked about a mile to Bradford Tavern, which we’d expected to be, pretty much, a shack. Instead, it was a lovely place, with excellent service and yummy food – all made there. Kim had a terrific veggie quiche, Andy had clam chowder and lobster roll, and for dessert, we shared a crème brûlée. A perfect way to get ready for tomorrow!
Today was the last “official” day of Chapter 1, and it turned out to be lovely! Despite forecasts of expected thundershowers over the last few days, we awoke to a clear, sunny morning, and got an early start. It was great that the hotel owner let us “raid” the kitchen last night to gather some bananas and bagels, since the breakfast buffet wasn’t scheduled to open until 9:00.
We started pedaling just after 7:00, through the suburbs of Boston – we even caught a distant view of the downtown skyline, and had planes, destined for Logan airport, flying overhead. We went through small towns, many of which were established in the 1600’s, including Salem (home of the witch trials, which we pedaled quickly through).
We followed a busy 4-lane road, with much rush-hour traffic, until we arrived at a large rotary which deposited us at, yep, you guessed it, Dunkin Donuts. We’ve seen at least 15, and maybe 20 of them on this trip. They’re the east coast Starbucks, and, perhaps even more plentiful. After our usual breakfast, back on the busy road – with lots of outlet stores and delivery trucks – we reached another large rotary. The friendly drivers helped us navigate it, and then we were back on a two-lane road that took us through numerous small towns.
We had to dodge many potholes, navigate school and worker traffic, and road maintenance crews, while, at the same time, enjoying the lovely towns and views in between. The sunny weather continued, for which we were so grateful!
As we pedaled into Waltham, we stopped for lunch at 99, a local burger joint. Andy had the cheese burger special (for $5), and Kim had a black-bean burger (for a little more…). Our server was a student at Brandeis University, which we pedaled through after lunch, towards our last stop of the day – Commonwealth HQ.
Arriving at their office on Sawyer Road, we were greeted by the friendly team who’s helped us with organizing and posting all of the photos and journal entries. Sooooooo grateful for all their help!
After achieving Andy’s goal of dinner at Legal Sea Foods, we had a wonderfully relaxing overnight at friend Christina’s house, not too far from Waltham. This morning, we had a yummy breakfast and then did 30 miles of pedaling to pick-up a box of “real” clothes we’d shipped out before we left Grass Valley, and deliver the bike to Landry’s Bicycles, in the town of Natick, where it will have maintenance and be ready for Chapter 2. Andy also (finally) retired his very should-have-been-retired-earlier bike gloves, with an official “delivery” to Jeremy.
Christina is going to keep our paniers and other bike bags – in a spiffy storage tub; and friend Dave is going to retrieve the bike when it’s ready, and store it over the winter. Totally awesome!
After all the admin activities were wrapped-up, Christina drove us to downtown Boston, where we had lunch, yes, again, at Legal Sea Foods. Then we met-up with daughter, Jordan, who’s in town to visit a friend and have a couple of play-days with Mom. It was a totally beautiful, sunny, cool day to walk around town. A terrific way to wrap-up Chapter 1.