Northern Tier 2010

September 8, 2010

Lewis and Clark I’m Not, But I Made It

Filed under: Maine, Section 11 — Henry Scott @ 3:00 pm

With good and safe roads, Adventure Cycling’s carefully plotted route through interesting and beautiful country, excellent gear, frequent opportunities to consume large quantities of food, and such incredible support from friends, family and strangers that I have literally been moved to tears, I’ve completed my coast-to-coast tour from Anacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, ME. It wasn’t the risk-your-life adventure that early explorers experienced, but rather an extremely enjoyable way to meet new people, learn some history — both natural and cultural — and see the country.

I awoke this morning to thick fog, strong winds, and the threat of rain. I was pleased by this because I’ve had such good weather and wind recently that I feared other cyclists would accuse me of receiving special treatment. The rain started within the first couple of miles, and although I was content to keep going, I came across a laundromat, which I needed to visit at some point today anyway, after only 3.5 miles in Searsport. I stopped, and by the time my clothes were clean, the rain clouds were ready to take a rest.

The sun came out occasionally, but much of the day was foggy with poor visibility. Notable breaks came as I crossed the Penobscot Bridge into Bucksport and later when I arrived in Bar Harbor, but in between I rode in a lot of rain and against the wind. I reached Bar Harbor around 2:00 and had plenty of time to visit the bike shop, eat, and learn where to camp in Acadia. Bar Harbor is cute, but the post Labor Day weekend lull for which I was hoping did not materialize: the streets were totally congested with traffic, and I wasn’t ready for such crowds.

I’m glad I have another day or two on Mount Desert Island, with my parents joining me tomorrow afternoon, because at this point I haven’t had a chance to really see and appreciate the Acadian landscape. I’m spending tonight in the Blackwoods Campground and planning an early morning trip up to Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the island.

This has truly been a wonderful experience, and I can’t thank those who have supported me enough. Final numbers: 4,631 miles in 56 days of riding, averaging 82.7 miles per day, at an average speed of 12.5 miles per hour. The average daily mileage does not reflect my seven rest days: five in South Bend and two in North East.

Brief update because I’m posting this late the next day (Thursday): the weather is perfect today. I got up at 4:30 a.m. this morning to get packed up and head for Cadillac Mountain. I didn’t quite reach the summit for sunrise, but I got great views of the rising sun on the way up and an awe-inspiring panoramic vista at the top. Subsequently I went to the Visitor Center, spoke with an extremely helpful ranger, and am now using the Loop Bus to see some sights in the park; the geology is spectacular, and the lighting is perfect for illustrative photos for my class.


September 7, 2010

Seagulls and Salt Air

Filed under: Maine, Section 11 — Henry Scott @ 12:00 pm

It rained late last night and into early this morning, which helped facilitate a light fog hovering over the Androscoggin River, and on the fields, in the early daylight hours. My intention was to ride straight through to Bath before stopping for breakfast, but due to a wrong turn, I made a brief excursion off route to Lisbon Falls. It was worth it, however, to see defiant outcroppings of granite poking up through the water flowing beneath the falls.

Along the bike path between Brunswick and Bath, I asked for directions from a walking couple. I didn’t get their names, unfortunately, but they are avid hikers, having completed most of the Appalachian and Pacific Coast Trails; they are currently taking a break form the Discovery Trail. Whereas I’ve been out for less than two months, these two take trips for five to six months at a time.

From there I felt destined to describe the day as a disappointing grind: Highway 1 was congested, and the sky was overcast. But, by Damariscotta I started to get my first glimpses of ocean inlets, the smells of salt air, and the sounds of crying seagulls. I had reached the ocean! But, my destination is Bar Harbor and Acadia, so I have a little ways yet to go.

As I continued north through coastal towns such as Rockport, Camden, Northport and ultimately Belfast, the traffic progressively lessened, the road improved, and the sun came out.

I love rocky, rugged coastlines, and the coastal outpouring of the Appalachians through Maine and into the Pacific is amazing. Even at the coast, the terrain continues to be quite hilly. It is almost hard to notice, though, because the scenery is so beautiful and constantly cycling between forests, meadows, pastures and coastal towns, and such dynamic, breathtaking scenery makes the miles go by quickly.

The small towns, by the way, are very fun. They are historic, many with charters dating back hundreds of years, and they continue to be vibrant. I stopped for dinner in Belfast, and was amazed by the packed streets and myriad restaurants and shops. With a population exceeding 6,000, I wonder if it is less dependent on seasonal tourism than the smaller towns through which I passed earlier, where many businesses had already closed for the season.

I’m camped at the Moorings Campground just a few miles outside of Belfast. It is right on the coast, and the view is so gorgeous I was pleasantly surprised to only be charged $15: a great deal given the location… and how badly I needed a shower.

At 103 miles, today should go down as my last century ride for this tour — I only have about 60 miles left before reaching Bar Harbor. Unless something goes very wrong, I should be there for a late lunch.

September 6, 2010

The Maine Route

Filed under: Maine, New Hampshire, Section 11 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

Last night almost got too cold, but not quite, and I slept very well. It was great to start the day with about fifteen miles of mostly downhill riding — I was still coming down from yesterday’s high point at the Kancamagus Pass.

I made oatmeal at my campsite, but I stopped at the Conway Cafe for a second breakfast, access the Internet, and warm up. I stayed for longer than planned talking with the waitress and some customers, and by the time I left, it was much warmer. I shed my jacket and long pants and enjoyed what turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.

I entered Maine just a few miles east of Conway and was taken aback by the sign at the border: “State Line” on one line and “Maine” on the other. Not much of a welcome, but I suppose they let the landscape and coastal access speak for themselves.

So far I’ve experienced very little level ground in New England: it’s always either up or down. But, with my low gearing and patient (i.e., slow) approach to hills, I haven’t had any problems. Today was no different, but I think the excitement of being so close to the end makes the climbing even easier. The tailwinds and relatively cool weather I’ve been getting haven’t hurt, either.

I didn’t stop again until Naples, but that also turned out to be a longer than expected break: lunch at one place, desert at another, and then some grocery shopping. It was 3:00 before I knew it, and I started to worry about how far I’d get for the day and, more importantly, where I’d camp for the night.

Southwest of Lewiston I encountered a roadblock and an associated detour which would have taken me ten miles out of my way. I decided to chance getting past the obstacle, which turned out to be a collapsed roadway due to a sinkhole and river undercutting.

Getting by wouldn’t have been difficult, but the only path around goes straight through the now-cordoned off front yard of an elderly couple, who due to continued slope failures toward their home have become very nervous. Plus, with such a long detour, they’ve faced steady pressure from motorists trying to cut through their property. There are now security guards at both ends.

Normally I wouldn’t press such a situation, but with nightfall approaching, I didn’t want to risk going far off route on a detour. It took some finesse, luck, and the help of a neighbor, but I managed to coordinate permission to cross with both security guards and the elderly couple.

After showing me a path around the blockades, through the thick trees lining the elderly couple’s property, and back onto the main route, the neighbor asked where I was going to stay for the night. When I explained that I was still looking, he offered his front yard, which I gladly accepted — he lives just a few houses down from the elderly couple. The blockade has now become a benefit, because with no traffic, I’m sure to get another good night’s sleep. That said, I’m past due for a shower, and tomorrow I’m definitely going to stop at a real campground!

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