Monthly Archives: August 2011

Day 41: Monday, August 15th. Bath, ME to Bucksport, ME – 86 miles


Today was our last long mileage day, and the weather prediction was terrible. I started out in full rain gear, but as the miles went by and the rain didn’t come, I realized that I was too hot and took off my jacket and rain pants.
I didn’t bring my camera out until Camden, where I took this picture for my friend Robin, who used to own a house here.

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This is the beautiful Camden harbor.

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Coming out of Camden on hilly but quiet route 52 we passed a beautiful lake. I was feeling strong and didn’t mind the hills today. We stopped frequently. We got water at this corner store.

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And made a photo stop because we couldn’t resist these flowers.

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When we returned to busy route 1, we were compensated with spectacular water views.

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In Belfast we stopped for lunch and enjoyed chatting with the women who run this cafe.

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They make a mean sandwich. Powered by grilled cheese and tomato, we set out to conquer the remaining hills. As the rain held off, we stopped for more pictures. This one is for any Hitchcock fans who may be reading this blog.

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This one is just because I thought that it was beautiful. When they say “Rest in Peace” this is what I imagine.

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Before too long we came to the dramatic bridge over the Penobscot River.

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We crossed the bridge into Bucksport, feeling grateful to have arrived without getting drenched.
Tonight we had our penultimate dinner together, huddled in the lobby of the hotel because the predicted rain finally did come. There were lots of pictures, and some tears. No doubt there will be more of the same tomorrow. It is very hard to believe that this great adventure is almost over, but we are all looking forward to our arrival in Bar Harbor and our ceremonial dip of our tires in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Day 40: Sunday, August 14th. Bridgton, ME to Bath, ME – 67 miles


Yesterday was our first day in Maine. Usually a state line crossing means Margaritas, but since this is our last state, Michelle declared an open bar.

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The fact that we were scheduled to ride 67 hilly miles today went a long way towards keeping us all in check.
It was a hard day.
For some reason, I have been tired every other day, and this was one of those tired days. The cumulative effects of 4,000 feet of climbing every day for the past week is taking its toll.
The day was overcast and a bit chilly when we posed for this photo after breakfast with our friends Marci and Michael, who came to visit last night and send us off this morning.

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We rode on back roads, up and down, over and over. While I didn’t stop often for pictures, I couldn’t exist this one.

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We went though lots of quaint small towns, including Naples, where I posed in front of the library.

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And took a picture of the harbor.

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But mostly we just climbed. It is a bad sign when most of the cued streets have “Hill” or “Ridge” as part of the name. I usually love to climb, but this was over the top. I must confess to some serious grumbling. It did no good.
But there were compensations, like this field of sunflowers.

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As we got close to Bath, we got to spend 2.5 miles on a beautiful bike path, (essentially flat!)
Approaching town, I took this picture for my brother Will.

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He spent a lot of time in Bath during his time in the Navy.
It is a really neat town, and I would have loved to explore it, but I was just too tired. Instead, Peggy and I treated ourselves to a real lunch of Maine lobster rolls right on the water. This fellow eyed our food with great anticipation.

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In the end though, we managed to eat the whole thing!

Day 39: Saturday, August 13th. Lincoln, NH to Bridgton, ME – 69 miles


We began today with an epic climb up the Kancamagus Highway. The climb is 12 miles long, and is mostly gentle grades no more than 9 percent. But it is inexorable. As luck would have it, my odometer kicked out after a mile and a half, so I didn’t know where I was in the climb. I finally caught up to Carolyn, who had headed out early to get jump on the climb, and she told me that we were at 10.5! From there it was an easy jump to the summit.

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I posed for the obligatory photo at the top.

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From the summit, we had 20 miles of mostly downhill, ending in the town of Conway, which was a great place for breakfast.

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Soon after breakfast, we crossed into our LAST state–Maine!

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The pavement was an issue today. At times we had very rough pavement with no shoulder, and on appropriately named Hardscrabble Road we had a section of road that had been removed for repaving.
At about that time Peggy was stung by a bee, and we had an anxious half hour waiting to see if she would have a reaction. Fortunately, since there was no cell service to call the SAG, she recovered and we continued.
Some of the climbs today were very dramatic, like this one,coming out of Sweden.

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But where you have hills, you have compensating views. They were spectacular.
Our spirits were not dampened by the sneaky two mile climb that we had at the very end of the day between Bridgton and our hotel, the aptly named Pleasant Mountain Inn.
Here is the view from the back of our hotel.

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And here are Jean and Carolyn, feeling right at home in their cozy cabin.

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The total climb today was 4,180. Wow! This is fun!

Day 38: Friday, August 12th. White River Junction, VT to Lincoln, NH – 62 miles


At our map meeting on Thursday night, Michelle said, “It looks like tomorrow you’ll be climbing 660 feet–No, that can’t be right, maybe it is really 1,660 feet.” I had seen the 3D topographic map in the motel office, and knew that we were in the middle of a lot of bumps, so I was prepared to believe the higher number. But after an immediate, and intense climb right out of town, there was considerable speculation about just what that missing number should be.
It was, remarkably, cold today. It was overcast, and even though it probably got into the 70’s I spent much of the day chilled. But it was a spectacularly lovely ride. Just after we crossed the Connecticut River into New Hampshire, we turned onto River Road, which I remember from a bike trip that I took with Peggy when I came up to visit her last year.
Our first covered bridge was not in Vermont, but in NH.

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Even the corn was beautiful.

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We passed through many small towns. They inevitably were all located on high ground, and we had to climb into each one. in Piermont we caught up with a father and son riding cross country on recumbent trikes.

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The town of Haverhill is loaded with beautiful historic buildings, many of which are for sale.
Our 40 mile SAG stop was memorable because of the four high school students we met. They we dropped off in Maine and are riding back to Westchester, NY, self supported.

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These little guys came from way down in the pasture up to this rock wall to see what all the commotion was about.

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We rode up and down for the next 20 miles. Towards the end we had a 2 mile climb that I think was a warmup for our trek up the Kancamagus tomorrow. From the summit we had an amazing 12 percent descent.

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In Woodstock we stopped for lunch at the Woodstock Inn. We are staying tonight at the Kancamagus Motor Inn. Here is a picture of one of the prettiest perennial borders I have ever seen.

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Are you curious about that missing fourth number? It turns out that it was a 3. Today’s ride had a total climb of 3,660′. The great thing is that at this point in the ride, that is in our comfort zone!

Day 37: Thursday, August 11th. Middlebury, VT to White River Junction, VT – 68 miles


It was hard to say goodbye to our friend Laurey this morning. She is off to Burlington today, and then will go home to NC tomorrow. I’m sending her tailwinds.
I am afraid that if I keep saying that every day’s ride was the best yet I’ll lose credibility. But I am going to take the risk. I feel vindicated by the fact that Michelle (our guide) said at dinner that today’s ride was one of her top ten rides of all time. It certainly is on my top ten list.
We had been a little nervous about Middlebury Gap. (for those of you not familiar with the Vermont vernacular, “gap” doesn’t actually mean “gap” as in riding in a valley between two mountains. It actually means riding up over the mountains.
Anyway, you get to the gap immediately upon leaving Middlebury, and basically climb for the better part of the next 16 miles. Some of it is quite steep, most of it is more gradual. There are even some flats and downhill sections thrown in for motivation. The road (SR 125) is breathtakingly beautiful.
On the climb we passed the Robert Frost nature walk, part of the Green Mountain State Forest.

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We rode past the bucolic Breadloaf campus, where published writers and aspiring ones get together and make stories in an inspiring environment.
SR 125 bisects the Long Trail. Eleven years ago I hiked that trail, and crossed this same road on foot.

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Middlebury College has its own ski area. Unfortunately, it is not at the top of the climb. In fact, the road gets really steep right after the bowl.

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I was loving the climb, and remarkably, was the first rider to the summit. (Polka dot jersey!) The good road ended exactly at the top, and the steep, two mile descent was on pavement studded with tire eating parallel groves. I might have worn out a set of brake pads going down, and was passed by Karina, who is hands down the strongest rider in our group. And braver than I am.
The hardest climbing of the day was over by the mile 20 SAG stop. I celebrated by adding a library picture to my collection .

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Then we preceded to the picturesque town of Rochester, and i waited for Peggy while drinking a latte on the porch of a charming cafe.

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For most of the rest of the ride we followed the White River. We passed perfect farms.

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And were treated to gorgeous views.

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In the town of West Hartford we stopped for another library picture.

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Tonight we are staying in White River Junction, in a rather uninspiring Super 8 which is undergoing rapid renovation. Much of the exterior has been removed along one side, and an industrious crew was still working after we finished our dinner. Michelle said that one of the men came into her room and took down her curtain rod and replaced it with a new one. They must be on a deadline.
Peggy doesn’t live too far from her, and her husband Jim came for dinner and brought her dog for a visit. Scotty is adorable, and got a little over stimulated from all of the attention lavished upon him by pet-starved women. Jim was a good sport as the only man in our circle of plastic chairs in the parking lot. This picture is from a dinner in Middlebury, but it gives you a sense of what our dinners look like.

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We are on to NH tomorrow, our penultimate state!

Day 35: Tuesday, August 9th. Schroon Lake, NY to Middlebury, VT – 42 miles


A better day of biking than today’s ride is difficult to imagine. We had everything going for us. It was a short mileage day, so we got to “sleep in.” The weather was perfect. We had a short 23 miles to go to the ferry, which featured a spectacular climb, conveniently located about mile 16, when our legs were fully warmed up.
We had frequent, and lovely, water views.

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And we were strong. It is a very good sign when you have a two mile climb and don’t notice the first mile. At the top, we were delighted to see “the wedge” which means a descent is coming.

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Very soon we arrived at Fort Ticonderoga.

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We explored the fort, reading the historical markers.

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From the fort, we had beautiful views of the lake.

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And then it was on to the ferry, which would take us to Vermont across the narrow southern part of the lake. It is a cable ferry, and we all documented the ride..

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On the ferry, Peggy said to me, That woman waiting on the other side looks like Laurey. Our dear friend, Laurey Masterton, lives in NC. She had planned to be on the trip with us, but the demands of her small business combined with some personal issues forced her to cancel. I agreed that she looked like Laurey, but supposed that we were just hallucinating Laurey because we had been thinking about her. After all, I frequently have looked ahead on this ride and been convinced that there was a rider just ahead of me, only to discover that it was actually a mailbox.
But in fact, it was Laurey! In the emotional highlight of the entire trip, she had kept her plans secret. I don’t have any pictures of our joyous reunion, since we were all just hugging.
We were so excited that we almost forgot out traditional border crossing pictures. But not quite. That’s Laurey with us in the orange t-shirt.

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This picture was taken by some other cyclists who happened by. One of the delights of a trip like this is getting to know other long distance cyclists. Because we are riding the Adventure Cycling mapped route, we frequently see “self supported” cyclists. Recently we leapfrogged with a tandem couple, two young British guys in full rain garb, a man and wife in completely matching bike wear (down to the socks) and “the naked guy” who was riding a recumbent. He was apparently wearing something, but it wasn’t visible as he streaked by.
It was wonderful to be in Vermont. I have done a lot of riding in VT, so it felt and looked like home. I know the state well enough to know that the motto “Vermont ain’t flat!” is not an exaggeration. We rode on hilly route 74, which unfortunately was in serious disrepair. At one point we passed a sign cautioning “This road is not maintained in the winter” and I wondered if anyone knew that it was August!
But is it beautiful.

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And studded with the classic white churches that are ubiquitous in New England.

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We are staying at the historic Middlebury Inn.

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Tomorrow is a day for laundry, exploration of the town, and rest.
And Laurey is here!

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Day 34: Monday, August 8th. Old Forge, NY to Schroon Lake, NY – 86 miles


I was so tired last night that I fell asleep while the bluegrass concert was still going on. I listen to audiobooks for awhile before I sleep, but tonight I am going to have to back my book up to where I started yesterday. (I am reading The Tiger’s Wife, and it is too good to miss even a paragraph.)
I felt surprisingly good when my alarm went off at 5:15. The prospect of an 86 mile day in the heart of the Adirondacks was much less intimidating than I had expected it to be.
The Forge Motel didn’t provide us with breakfast. We really like it when that happens, because it means that Linda makes our favorite steel cut oatmeal and scrambled eggs with a lot of surprises.

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After we ate, we packed our snacks for the day.

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And the we got on the road. The first 11 or 12 miles wound around the lake on South Shore Drive. Then we had some gentle climbs, but after yesterday it was easy going.
A few miles in I noticed that my bike computer was displaying the dreaded “low battery” signal, and had shut itself off. I was riding with Peggy, and our route today featured long stretches on few roads, so the lack of a computer wasn’t really a problem. But it meant that I missed the MILESTONE of the 2,000 mile mark on our trip. We have been watching the miles accumulate,and waiting for the big 2,000 for days. Today was the day. Oh well.
Nancy drove SAG today, so we looked forward to the stops to hear what playlist she had chosen. This morning it was Leonard Cohen, a perfect choice.
I do not want to suggest that we didn’t climb today, for we surely did. But after yesterday, the climbs felt easier. There were fewer of the short steep stretches that are very challenging for me, and more long, slow climbs. (The total climb today was 4,500 feet, less than yesterday and with 10 more miles to cover it.)
But the real challenge today was the rain. We have been very lucky at avoiding rain on this trip, but our luck ran out today. It was overcast from the start, and by the time we came to the little town of Inlet it was really coming down. The roads quickly went from wet to flooded, making for difficult riding conditions. Peggy stopped to put on her rain gear, and I borrowed the sleeves from her windbreaker to keep a little warmer. The rain was coming down as tiny hail, and it stung when it hit you. It was pretty unpleasant trying to keep my sunglasses unfogged.
But then the sun came out.
Actually, the sun kept coming in and out, alternating with the rain. The weather changed incredibly quickly. Just when I was getting really discouraged, a patch of blue would appear from thin air.
Our ride today took us up Blue Mountain,and past the excellent Adirondack Center. It was tempting to go there until the rain stopped, but alas, we had too far to travel.
By the time we turned onto Blue Ridge Road, the sun was out to stay.
Like its Southern namesake, this Blue Ridge Road featured a series of long climbs and long descents. It is a spectacular, treelined road with beautiful views which remained unphotographed because of the “no pictures on climbs or downhills” rule. We crossed the northernmost part of the Hudson River, which up here is not at all impressive.
The Blue Ridge Motel is not actually in the village of Schroon Lake. In fact, it is not near anything. Linda took pity on us and put out some lunch fixings so that we could stave off starvation until dinner.
Tonight is our last night in NY, and we are the only guests at the motel.

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Here are a few more pictures that I managed to take at stops when it wasn’t raining. .

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It really is spectacularly beautiful here, but we can’t stay. Tomorrow, we head to Vermont!