traciwentling

Inspiration Day

Saturday, August 25 — My Last Day into Bar Harbor, Maine

Sue and I dipping our front tires in the Atlantic Ocean

We woke up early even though there was no real need.  There was no coffee in the room so I got out my Jet Boil one more time and made us a cup of instant coffee and I blogged for awhile while John went for his run.  Sue went to the office and Janice had perked us a pot of real coffee and we enjoyed another cup while we went down to the lake and chatted about what this place must have been like in earlier years.  The cabins have fallen into disrepair and although we have never been here, we can picture in our minds children playing and laughing under the trees and on the dock, in the water and around the cove.  It takes me back to a trip to Oklahoma that we took at Easter with John’s family; when our children were very young. 

Here, just outside of East Orland, Maine there are old orange life vests falling from the walls of a lean-to and row boats upside down and covered in forest undergrowth waiting to be used again.  Large pinecones litter the ground and the smell of the forest is intoxicating.  There is a thick fog over the lake and it’s almost eerie walking out onto the dock where every step may be the one that invisibly and unknowingly drops you into the cold water.

It’s very quiet except for the occasional car that passes down the highway in the distance.  Little critters scatter as we walked and a Loon or two can be heard making their calls.  The air is completely still with not a breath of wind stirring even the tiniest of leaves. 

John returns from his run and joins us as the fog starts to lift.  First we can see one home across the lake as it comes into view and within a brief moment, another and then another can be seen across the water.  The sun begins to shine through the trees and it seems warmer.  I am reminded of scripture which says that God reveals Himself through nature.  For, who can look at the beauty of nature and not believe in God?

Back in the room, we shower and start to pack up for one more day of bicycling across these United States.  I feel…surreal…like I should be more excited…like I shouldn’t have a pit in the bottom of my stomach.  This ending is so different from the ending of my 2008 Adventure when John came to get me on the West Coast and we had to drive 48 hours straight home to attend the funeral of one of our very best friends.  The last day of that trip ending in Astoria, Oregon and the wind was blowing and it was raining and it was cold and cloudy…

Today though is much different!  The sun shines…it is warm…and John is already here.  My newest friend and I ride, remembering tough days not so long ago and looking forward to two days in Bar Harbor doing nothing strenuous and the promise of pure joy in spending time together in a new place.

To be continued…

While we were still following the river, we rode by a wood pile that caught my eye.  The wood was stacked by someone who must be a real perfectionist.  I was impressed enough that we turned around and went back to take a picture.  Once we got turned around, then we noticed a man standing in the garage working and so we said hello and told him our story and why we had ridden by and came back.  He was the nicest man and then his wife and daughter joined us in conversation and we must have visited for 20 minutes or more.  I began to wonder if John might worry if we didn’t show up soon to Ellsworth, so we say our goodbyes and head on down the road for another 10 miles to join John for breakfast.  The work began after breakfast as we had to finish our ride on Highway 3 into Bar Harbor with massive traffic and crumbly roads.  We stopped a few times just to take a breather from the stress.  The last five miles into Bar Harbor had some of the toughest climbs of the last few days and I remarked to Sue that…this hill that I was climbing at the moment…was the very last hill that I was going to climb on this trip…that if there is one more hill…that someone was going to have to bring the Atlantic Ocean to ME!  Not two minutes later, another hill loomed before us and I stopped to pout as Sue snapped a picture of me doing just that.  I couldn’t understand why my legs were so darn tired or why this last day had to be so tough?  Why did tears keep welling up in my eyes?

FINALLY 40 miles later, we rolled to the peer of Bar Harbor, Maine to the sight of blue water meeting blue sky as far as my eyes can see.  We waited for John to join us and then Sue and I rolled our bicycles down to the salty Atlantic and dipped our tires into the water.  A wave joined us on the boat ramp and soaked our feet while John took a few pictures with my camera, with Sue’s camera, with his own telephone camera and with onlookers wondering what in the world we were doing.

With the assistance from the prayers of God’s people, with the encouragement of my beloved husband, and with the persistence of the Barlow blood within me, I finished my mission…I finished the task before me…and I am happy that it is complete…

Thank you Lord…

Early morning blogging

Fog starting to lift

Row boats long ago used

Light shinning through the trees

Looking straight up into the trees

Logs neatly stacked

Scenery before we hit the big traffic

More early morning scenery

Flower of the Day

 

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Friday, August 24 — Just a lovely day all around!

I’m just crazy about this guy!

Today was such a much easier day than any I have had.  There were hills, but they seemed minor without the weight of the bags.  I even had to go into granny granny to climb some of them, but I was climbing at 5 and 6 mph rather than 3 and 4.  I know that sounds slooooow to all my racing buddies (and I freely admit that it is) but…oh well.

Camden is a village that has it all:  The Atlantic, a huge beautiful lake, and Camden Hills State Park.  We started the morning on Highway 52 and it was simply a pleasure!  The scenery was fab!  We stopped several times for pictures and continued on that road to Belfast.

But first…while I was typing yesterday’s blog, John went for his morning run and then we packed up and rode into Camden for breakfast.  John met us there and we had some very good blueberry pancakes.  Maine is advertising and pushing wild blueberries heavily and we see road signs saying: pick your own!  Supposedly, wild blueberries have even more antioxidants that the non-wild varieties and supposedly are sweeter and have a better flavor.  I’m sure that’s all a matter of opinion, but it would be fun to give it a taste test.  Sue wants to stop at a farm stand and buy a very small container of them (already picked) and perhaps we’ll find one tomorrow, but so far, we’d have to bicycle off route a couple of miles on dirt roads and pick our own, and we just don’t want to taste them THAT badly.

John met us for lunch in Belfast and we ate at Traci’s Diner downtown.  My grill cheese sandwich was very tasty on homemade (sliced thick) whole wheat bread and some variety of white cheese (definitely not Swiss).  Then John went to find a bicycle shop and Sue and I headed over the pedestrian bridge across Belfast Bay and then had to ride the rest of the way on Highway 1.  We stopped at Moose Point State Park and asked the attendant if we could ride through and at first she told us it would be $3.00 each, but then Sue mentioned we were just finishing up a ride across the U.S. and she decided t let us ride in for free (there are perks when you mention the big ride to people).  I asked if we might see a moose, and she just shook her head and said no.

The rest of the ride was fast, but pretty boring and loud and found our way to this sweet motel called Pine Shore Motel and Cabins just outside of East Orland.  The owner, Janice (who was SUCH a sweetheart) encouraged us to go for a swim in the lake.  I didn’t want to swim because I HATE cold water, but Sue wanted to (of course), and John thought I should swim in a lake at least once on this trip, so under protest….I joined Sue in the very cold, but totally clear and clean lake.  I first put a foot in…then two feet…then waded up to my knees…then dove in and literally screamed at the shock of cold to my body.  I was in for about five minutes and got back out.  When we got back to the room, Janice came out and asked if we enjoyed it and I asked her back if she heard me scream.  She smiled and said “did I say it was warm?”  Everybody laughed.  She then gave us a recommendation for supper at Bucksport and we had to thank her afterwards because it was the best meal in 4,200 miles.

Typical morning scenery

Lovely back roads of Maine

Check out the colorful and uncomfortable bench

Traci makes a mean grilled cheese

Moose Point State Park

A fixer upper

Crossing a unique bridge

First: one foot

Second: two feet

Screaming as I dive in!!!!

Flower of the Day

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Thursday, August 23 — He’s Here!!!

 

Together again

 

This morning before 6:00, I got a text from John wanting to know how far we were from Brunswick.  Why you ask?  Because even though his plane was delayed in Chicago for a couple of hours and that he didn’t even start this way until after 6:00 p.m., he drove all the way from Albany, New York to Brunswick, Maine before stopping about Midnight.  He was only 20 miles west of me!   He rode in about 30 minutes later and there has only been one other time that I was as glad to see him as I was this morning.  John is here and all is well!

I introduced John and Sue formally and they hugged and the beginning of the end began!  The first thing we did was hop in the Yukon and went for breakfast.  Afterwards, we came back to the motel and John did some maintenance on our bikes while Sue and I piled our panniers in the back of the Yukon.  We were so darn excited about riding unencumbered, that we felt like kids!  John took our picture and we were off for only a 35 mile ride to Rockport.  We are starting to see a lot of the ocean and Sue is fascinated in wooden boats and I am fascinated in water in general.

John drove ahead to Rockport and scoped out the town for places we might want to sightsee…like the peers filled with huge boats…shopping…restaurants…  He, of course, found the bike shop 😎

Whenever Sue and I had to ride on Highway 1, the traffic is just horrible and loud (worse than when I was riding the interstate in North Dakota), but at least there is a wide shoulder.  It’s a relief to get off of it when Adventure Cycling moves us again to a back road but then it’s very hilly and the road surface turns bad.  I have decided that the New England governments simply don’t have the money to fix their roads…or perhaps it’s an ongoing problem with the hard winters and salt…or perhaps they have money but their priorities are switched around?  All I can say is the roads are bad and bicyclists and motorcyclists beware.

The signage in New England is very confusing and I have been totally confused sometimes.  For instance, about five miles outside of West Rockport, there was a sign that you’re entering Rockland.  What?  Rockland is southwest of here?  Did we turn the wrong direction on Highway 90?  But then as we continued to ride, about 100 yards later is a sign that says we’re entering Rockport.  What happened to the village of West Rockport that we were supposed to ride through?  My GPS says that we are still five miles away from Rockport, but the waitress at the café says were in Rockport.  We came to an intersection and the map is not clear as to where we are and where we should go so we pull into a little grocery store parking lot and I asked a young woman who is getting in her car, “which way do we go to get to the ocean?”.  She told me that she works here in this grocery store, but she doesn’t know which way to the water because she’s never been there.  I’m just flabbergasted and I think to myself… YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!  How can a person work two miles from the Atlantic Ocean and have not ever gone to the waterfront?  That is just the strangest thing I’ve heard on this whole trip.

We finally just made a guess and turned right and then ran into the motel where we made reservations.  I called John and told him we were there and he met us and the sightseeing began.  Afterwards we went out to eat and then to the cutest most special place to get ice cream (in a close village called Camden).  Actually, all the villages are just a few miles away from each other and they all have their own piers and unique feel.  The air smells like fish, but Sue says, no…the air smells like the ocean.  I say…no, it smells like fish.  It’s my blog and I have the last word…

So now Maine is starting to look and feel like the pictures and what I always imagined Maine would look like.  The trees of New England are showing a little more color and someday we will come back during the Autumn Season to ride (Maybe on the bikes with motors under us) and see it all in its full spender.

For now…John is here and life is good and I am happy…and all is well with the world.

Bad service…bad food…GREAT company!

Riding unencumbered

Now this is Maine!

Now this is Maine! (2)

Marina sights

Store built on the water

Flower of the Day

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Wednesday, August 22 — The Accident

This morning Sue and I had a wonderful breakfast at the Royalsborough Inn at the Bagley House B & B.  I asked Jim quite a bit about the history of his home and the Inn and we talked about how nice and smooth the highway was since it was recently repaved.  He told us that it’s a very dangerous highway and so I was glad that we wouldn’t be riding on it much longer. 

After breakfast we packed up and then walked around the farm taking pictures of the animals and the buildings.  I went back in one more time and got some last minute advice from Jim on the best way to get back on route.  We were finally outside and literally ready to pull onto the highway when we heard a terrible crash.   I saw the accident about 100 yards up the road and sprinted to see if there was anything I could do.  There were already five or six people stopped and everyone was on their cells calling 911.  The two vehicles involved were both in the ditch and horribly crumpled.  I don’t know how it happened or whose fault it was, but there were people unconscious in one of them.  Someone on the scene may have been a nurse or doctor as she was dressed in scrubs.  I didn’t know how to help other than to pray over the situation.  Sue was up at the Inn slowing traffic down from that end and Jim arrived and started directing traffic.  It was a good 15 minutes before any emergency people arrived and that seemed like an endless time to those of us who were waiting at the scene.  I finally walked back to the Inn and Sue and I had to pass the scene of the accident again in order to leave the area.  We walked our bikes and I prayed some more for God to intervene and to please save those people in the car.

It took a long time for Sue and I to shake off the horrible feeling it gave us to see such a thing.  We were grateful that we had lingered at the Inn and missed being in the middle of it.  I have thought about calling Jim to see if he could give us an update on everyone’s condition, but for now I’ve decided not to for fear of bad news.  I will finish this mission with a renewed sense of safety and thank God for every single moment He gives me on this Earth.   Love God and love those around you.  Thank you for your prayers.

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Tuesday, August 21 — Maine and its Hills or…Tired Legs…

Rain in the wee morning hours held us up for awhile, but we were finally on the road about 8:30.  We were anticipating an easier day of no major mountains to climb, but the day was far from easy.  It was actually a very hard day for me due to the relentless steep climbs.  I can only describe it as 200 yards straight up and 200 yards down; 200 yards straight up and 200 yards down just nearly all day.  The descents are difficult because the roads are in such bad shape.  We have to constantly vigilant to keep the front tires out of any cracks or hitting pot holes.  Here in Maine, we have discovered the additional danger of sand washed up onto the roads.  Wow, it’s such an incredible hazard for my bike especially because I’m riding on skinny road tires.  Sue has fatter touring tires so her bike handles these dangers better.  I’m having to brake on every descent and cannot use the descending momentum to get me up part of the next hill.  It’s just the pits and I had lost all sense of humor by the time we finally got to our destination.  My legs were just simply shot and I was exhausted and the Royalsborough Inn at the Bagley House B & B could not have come any sooner.

This place is wonderful!  First of all, it sets out in the country and they raise unusual farm animals.  There are Silky Chickens and a Polish rooster and his Polish wife; Merino sheep and several Alpacas.  The home is 175 years old and so beautiful.  The buildings are painted a colonial yellow.  The front door of the house opens to the woods rather than the road (which Jim said was common in those days).   We are in the barn.  I say that with a grin, because it’s another suite actually similar to the one we stayed at a couple of weeks ago.  The bedroom is set up with twin beds and a private bath and then a living room/kitchenette with a Keurig Coffee Pot and a wonderful selection of delicious coffees.   Jim, the owner, went to town for us and brought us back a pizza for supper so we are all set for the night and I can already say that it’s going to be hard to leave here in the morning.  He asked what time we wanted breakfast and I told him 7:00, but now I’m wishing I had said 8:00.

He let us bring the bikes into the living room area and as I was rolling the bike in, I noticed my back tire had a slash and the outer layer was laid open exposing the thin layer that protects the tube.  It is a miracle that I did not have a blow out during the day.  I had one last extra tire and I spent the next two hours switching it out.  It was very difficult for me to get the brand new tire onto the wheel, but also, just because I was so tired I think…I had trouble getting the wheel back onto the bike.  I spent quite a bit of time cleaning the cassette while I was at it.  After I got it all back together, I took it out for a spin to make sure it was shifting correctly and something seems not quite right but I don’t have the skills to determine what is wrong.  My “wrench”…my beloved husband will be here day after tomorrow and he will fix my shifting problem, my brakes, and me….

Long Lake (at the campground)

Another pretty shot of Long Lake

Campground flower bed

Ready for the rain

It’s beginning to look like what I think Maine should look like…

Boat parking garage

 

Barn attached to the house…seen a lot of these

Only a mother could love this face

Only a mother and me could love this face…

Flower of the Day

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Monday, August 20 — Maine!

My camera has been trying to give up the ghost for a week now.   The metal band that holds the back and front together has come loose on three sides. I just superglued it AGAIN so we’ll see how long that lasts. I would just go buy another one, but I don’t want to deal with the learning curve associated with a new camera. KnowwhatImeanVern? On the other hand, Sue’s camera takes SUCH better pictures than mine and I think…why didn’t I just get a new camera before I started this trip? I’m also wishing I had spent the money for an IPad and I wouldn’t be dealing with the issues of this laptop and also it would have been less than half the weight. Oh well, no use crying over spilt milk at this point in the game.

The campground we spent the night in last night was just huge! It may have been the largest one of the trip. It wasn’t full, but there were still a lot of people around. One family just next to us seemed to have it all going on. The family consisted of a dad and mom, a teenage daughter and two younger boys. They played catch together, they sat around the campfire together talking and laughing. When the young boys wanted to play away from the camper as it was approaching dark, the big sister offered to go with them and it all just warmed my heart. Then…there was the dad across the way who yelled at his kids relentlessly about how he had spent $1,000 on this and that and they have broken everything that he has ever bought them. They were very young kids and were crying as dad was yelling at the top of his lungs for everyone in the CG to hear. It was just so sad… Earlier in the evening the youngest, about four, was riding her little purple bike in her little pink bathing suit with a long ponytail flying out underneath her helmet and she was so SO cute. Now she was crying her eyes out… Now my heart was broken… I shut out all the noise and went to sleep.

We went to the same restaurant for breakfast that we ate a late lunch/early dinner at yesterday. The french toast was puny. The menu said the syrup was real New Hampshire syrup and served warm, but our surly waitress brought us Aunt Jamima in little packets and it was definitely not heated. I discovered an electrical outlet under the table and plugged the computer in and posted three days worth of blogs. I hate to get behind like that and was so relieved to have it all caught up. Two hours and fifteen minutes later (11:00) we were finally leaving town. In just seven miles we left New Hampshire and entered Maine. It was on a very busy highway and the Maine sign was nothing special, but we stopped anyway and took our pictures. Then we crossed the highway and took pictures at the New Hampshire sign since there was not one as we crossed the Connecticut River a couple of days ago. As we were taking our own pictures, there was a man at a convenience store about 100 yards away taking pictures of us with his high powered camera. I have no idea what that was about.

We were on that same highway through the town of Fryeburg and then finally got onto a road that was much less traveled and we were much happier. We stopped for a snack at a grassy spot off the road and then rode into Sweden. When we made a right-hand turn, the road surface turned from bad to horrible and the hills were murder, but we had the road mostly to ourselves and there was a thick forest of small trees on either side of the road. I saw three different homes with the barns attached to the houses. I thought that was kind of strange and have never seen that before (must be a Maine thing?). As I was climbing one very steep short hill, I exerted so much effort that I got an instant headache. I’m pretty sure that has never happened before and probably should have gotten off and walked it up. The headache was short lived so no permanent damage done. A bit later I hit a patch of sand and ‘ol Silver Sal didn’t like it one bit and went squirrelly on me and I came dangerously close to crashing but I was able to clip out very quickly and the only damage was an instant cramp in my hamstring that lasted about fifteen minutes.

At one point we saw about a dozen wild turkeys. They didn’t seem as big as the wild turkeys back home, but they weren’t as wild either and didn’t seem to be too scared as we came to them as they were crossing the road. We stopped again for a short time in Bridgton and then finished up the day riding on “Kansas Road”. I thought…I wonder if they call it Kansas Road because it’s flat? Nope…not flat. One of the side roads was named “Wichita”. I had made up my mind if we come to one that says Dodge City; I’m stopping for a picture. But no…no more Kansas towns were represented.

Tonight we’re at a very nice campground by Long Lake. I about croaked when the lady told me it was $50 for the site. I told her that was the most I have paid for a CG across the whole U.S. and she said it was the going rate in Maine. Oh well, I bit the bullet and paid the $50 and we are happy to be off the bikes for now. They gave us a choice of five empty spaces and we picked the flattest one and then Sue went to see the lake and I started setting up camp. There is no grass in any of the sites, so we’re setting up on dirt/sand…and I sure hope it doesn’t rain tonight…. There is ambiance and a real feel of camping in the woods here. The bathrooms are even decorated with “woodsy stuff” like bears and pinecones. It’s tastefully done and everything is nice and clean. They have the showers that you have to pay to get clean. This one ran plenty long on only one quarter so I too, am clean. When I got out of the shower I looked down to put on my flipflops and ran my head into the coin machine. Ouch! But no blood so I guess I’ll live. I think maybe it’s a good thing this trip is about over before I give myself brain damage.

When we finally got around to looking at the map for tomorrow, we had the dilemma of no campgrounds on an entire section of the map and only one motel. What to do…what to do? I finally made a reservation 38 miles away in the town of Durham and again hate to pay the going rate. Whatever happened to staying in city parks for free? It’s getting dark so early now (8:00) and there is just not much time to accomplish much before crawling into the tents to keep from getting bit by the various and numerous bugs and critters. There was not much cool or remarkable to take pictures of today so you won’t see much of a selection. We’re hoping for some truly great pix tomorrow. Good night friends.

Snacking on Skippy

It appears it was also a turkey crossing

There was an Elvis sighting!

You just never know what I might find charming…or interesting…or…

Yes, there are hills in Maine

Kansas in Maine

Flower Bud of the Day

 

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Sunday, August 19 — The Kanc

We woke up and as quietly as possible (to not wake the other tenters) broke camp and rode two blocks to the nearest café to have breakfast.  I was hoping to be able to post a blog or two, but the fancy little café did not offer wi-fi.  I could hardly believe it when some of the very smallest community cafes did offered it.  So I just tried to write a little in Word about the events of yesterday before my elusive memory loses some of the interesting activity of the day.

My tent was still wet, so I draped it over railings at the Thai restaurant next door (it was closed at breakfast time).  By the time we came out, it was all dry and I put it away in my right pannier where it has lived for almost three months.

We have been worrying about the day we have to climb Mt. Kancamagus for quite some time.  The riders we have met…as well as Adventure Cycling has warned that the White Mountains and this mountain in particular was tough and steep.  I’m here to tell you that Sue and I climbed it like pros…not one iota of hoofing the whole 12 miles!  We stopped at the top to admire the view and take pictures, and oh…also to rest.  We visited with quite a few people about my bike and told our story to many including other bicyclists, motorcyclists, and people in cars.  Motorcycles were the bomb today as it felt like the equivalent of “Sturgis” was sharing Mt. Kancamagus with us.  Women riders (driving their own) have multiplied exponentially since 2008 when I rode across the U.S. the first time.

It was Sunday nearing Labor Day, so the traffic or horrendous.  The only time I felt I didn’t have enough room though was when motor homes and big pickups (with their big mirrors) pulling campers would come up behind us.  There were never any close calls, but it was a little nervy trying to hold my line climbing a 9% grade (I’m guessing) at 4mph on bad surface roads.  And…holding my line was absolutely necessary because there was no shoulder the last two miles to the top when it got the steepest.  There was a road sign just as the climb started that said “Drive Courteously – It’s the New Hampshire Way”.  I must say, everyone did the best they could for us given the nature of the mountain.   One young man on a mountain bike was held up behind me for quite some time until he could pass.  I said to him that I was sorry to hold him up and he said “no worries”.  We visited for a bit once we both made it to the top.  He was from Australia.

Sue and I have discussed how much fun it is to hear all the different accents while being on this trip.  There are the foreign accents (I’ve heard the gambit) and then there are the different regions of the U.S. accents which are quite diverse.  Years ago, my brother Mitch, had a girlfriend from Georgia and I spent the day with her.  At the end of the day when John came home from work, he claimed that I had developed a southern accent after spending just a few hours with her.  Yep…I guess in that regard I’m a chameleon.  One of the funny and distinctive things that these New Englanders say is when they are agreeing with you on something, they say “ya ya ya” rapidly.   The first time I heard it, was when I was visiting with Flavia (a bicyclist heading west) and I thought it was perhaps a young person thing…but since getting up here, I’m hearing it more and more.  It’s really quite endearing, but I have a feeling John won’t think so, so…I had better not pick up the habit 😎

I have been asked many times in the past week if I am excited for the trip to be over.  I am mostly excited about seeing John in a few days.  Home is where John is, and once he is here, we are going to spend just a little time up here enjoying the area (and each other) before heading home.  He has done a lot of work around the house and I am anxious to see that.  I miss my church family…I also have a circle of great girl-friends that I’m anxious to see.  I am very excited to hug my godchildren and I am especially ready to hold my newest one!  In a few weekends, Angie and Cody’s family will be home for a reunion and I can hardly wait for that!  But for now…I am going to ride and blog and take pictures and experience New England from the seat of my bike.  We have six more days and 225 miles.  The big mountains are over and just have the steep short ones to deal with daily now.  The weather has turned very cool  especially in the mornings, so there is no hurry to get up and around every day.  We have learned our lesson and are calling ahead to reserve our space in the campgrounds since we are now in high populated areas during peak summer vacation week.  We will be even more vigilant with the traffic and will stop and smell the roses and not pass any sights that greet us.  We will visit with anyone who is interested and we are just happy to be here.

Colorful home in Lincoln (not Chet’s)

Wild blueberries

Climbing “The Kanc”

Scenery from the top of The Kanc

Bicyclists heading up and we’re heading down

Covered bridge on the Swift River

That’s Sue on the bridge

Older couple people watching at the bridge

Sue practicing being a tour director

Yet another covered bridge

Flower of the Day and Marla the Monarch

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Saturday, August 18 — Hikers Hikers Everywhere!

Typical scenery 😎

Ho hum…more New Hampshire

One last glimpse of The Connecticut River

More New Hampshire

Very low creek

Flower of the Day

 Last night I washed all my biking clothes but they didn’t get dry so this morning I put on soaking wet shorts.  It was not pleasant.  The remainder of wet clothes I put on my seat pack with plans to take them out every time we stopped to dry a bit.  Believe it or not that actually worked and by the time we got into camp tonight, everything was dry.

We should have walked down to the Connecticut  River this morning before leaving the campground, but we did not and we regretted it right away because even though we were riding right beside it, we could only see glimpses and then the river bent away from the road about six miles down the road.

We were planning on having breakfast in North Haverhill and also to visit the bike store.  It turns out the only restaurant was closed and the bike shop was actually five miles out of the way on a different highway.  So…we went to a convenience store and walked the isles for 10 minutes trying to figure out something to eat.  I finally bought a little milk and Frosted Raspberry Pop Tarts.  I used the milk to eat the remainder of the maple granola that we bought several days earlier at Vermont’s Trade Winds Farm.  There was a covered picnic table across the street so we took the bikes over and had our breakfast while waiting for a storm to pass.  Meanwhile, a young man named Paul saw us ride into town earlier and went home and brought a watermelon to share with us.  We had such a nice conversation and he told us about the climb we had in store for us.  I gave him my blog address and Paul, if you are reading this…thank you for being the welcoming committee for North Haverhill!

The climb of the day began then and lasted for another 25 miles.  It was slow…  Three men from Boston riding road bikes came up from behind us and visited for a couple of miles until they couldn’t stand our pace any longer.  They were interested in our story, but were very happy to be on light road bikes for that moment in time.  The Appalachian Trail crossed over the highway at one point and we used taking pictures as an excuse to stop and rest.  It turns out that was the summit and we dropped like lead into Lincoln arriving about 4:30.  The Forest Service had an office so I stopped in to find out about campground openings.  All CG’s on our route were full tonight.  Lincoln was like Disney World busy; the traffic was horrible…so we rode on the sidewalk.  Thankfully, there was not much walking traffic at that moment.

The Forest Service ladies knew of a guy in town “Chet” that allows Appalachian Trail hikers to stay at his house and they even called him for us and asked if he would put up two bikers crossing the U.S.A.  Yes, he would be happy to and we headed over to his house.  Wow, what an experience that turned out to be!  Chet was in a wheelchair and we overheard a conversation that he was a first responder at a fire and got horribly burned.  We could not see his burns, but he had told us later that he must go in to take his evening meds.  His house was neat as a pin on the front of the outside.  In the backyard, he wanted us to tent up next to the house and we figured the reason why is a B&B was next door and our tents would be out of view.  There were already two tents set up and when we woke up this morning there were two additional.  He also had bunks and mattresses on the floor for hikers to use.  One tent setting out by itself had a small black lab sitting beside it.  He was so well-behaved and didn’t even bark at us as we were breaking camp.  I was more than a little surprised to find that all the hikers…every one of them and all the residents of the home all smoked cigarettes.  I guess hiking doesn’t require lungs?

We also found out that hikers come out of the forest several miles from town and then hitchhike to Chet’s house.  Evidently he is well-known in the hiking community.  Chet had three dogs and he let them out when we were getting ready to go into the tents for the night.  They were running around in and around our tents and sniffing the tents and bags.  I was just a little afraid that one would lift a leg, but thank heavens that didn’t happen.   One put his nose right up on my door and I had to tell him to go away.

It’s getting dark earlier and earlier.  I’m sitting in my tent with my headlight on… studying the maps and trying to determine where we will meet up with John on Wednesday night.  I am so so excited to see him I can’t stand it!

 

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Friday, August 17 — New Hampshire and the Connecticut River

Last night I dreamt of my wonderful in-laws, Henry and Flora Lee Walton.  I can’t imagine what prompted the dream, but I have to tell you they were the most generous, caring, and fun-loving people you could of ever met.  Flora Lee (I always called her Mom) is the reason John has such a wonderful sense of humor.  They met at a dance hall and got married just a few months after John and I did.  They were awesome grandparents to our kids!!!  They have been gone a couple of years and I miss them very much. 

Today was truly a great day.  The hills were steep and I even had to push the bike some, but nothing came along to spoil the day in any way, shape or form.   We started the day off in some fog.  I put on my flasher and Sue wore her orange vest so we were pretty visible.  Besides that, the road the first six miles or so had a nice wide shoulder.  We crossed the White River into South Royalton and stopped for coffee and rolls.  There was no phone service, but the café had wi-fi so I checked emails and the weather.

We followed a river road called “River Road” for several miles before we started climbing a very steep hill.  The scenery was pretty and green but the rivers are awfully shallow and slow running.  It’s been awhile since we’ve seen any big water.  After reaching the summit of the mountain and down the other side, we came to South Strafford with a cute café and stopped for lunch even though we were not hungry.  Eat Eat Eat…that’s all we do.  I had an egg salad sandwich and Sue had a grilled cheese with tomato.  I’m sorry, but she eats some weird stuff!

Off again for some more tough riding.  We came across two covered bridges today.  The first one was in the middle of the ride and the other was near the end.  Both were very cool.  After crossing the first one, it was very steep and so I decided to just walk the short distance to some level ground and came upon a lovely house with wild flowers lining the driveway.  I stopped to take a picture and then got on my bike and rode away.  Later on down the road, we met the lady who owned that house (Nikki).  She was riding her bike and testing out some new tires.  We had a nice visit and she gave us some warning of upcoming hills.  Thanks Nikki…it was sure a pleasure meeting you!

We finally got to see some big water as we crossed the Connecticut River and therefore crossed into New Hampshire.  That’s right…we’re in New Hampshire!   After crossing over, we were to turn onto River Road and follow it right into Orford, but we ran into signs that said “no bikes”.   We already were leery of the road because at least one mile of it was supposed to be gravel, but the alternative was an additional eight miles.  I told Sue, let’s go on and take our chances and we agreed that I would do all the talking.  I was going to use my begging voice to say we were not just locals wanting to take a shortcut…we were bicycling across the U.S. and this was the route we were supposed to take…couldn’t they let us  through?   We met all kinds of pickups and heavy equipment coming the other way, but we ignored them and just concentrated on riding through the gravel.  When we approached where the construction had been going on, the gate was open and everybody had big smiles and told us “Congratulations, you’re the first bikes through the new road!”  They had just literally opened it up and the folks who lived right there were all smiles and wanted to chat.  Turns out the river bank had been under reconstruction for seventeen months.  The bank had been caving in and they completely restructured it and also had to rebuilt and pave the road going by.  So for seventeen months, all traffic had to take an eight mile detour.  We told the folks our stories and the woman who was about our age guessed our age to be much younger and made a comment about how you need to do these things when you’re young.  I told her that Sue and I were both in our 50’s and her eyes got big and the man said…”guess we had better buy some bikes”.

The farm has a ton of history and the man really wanted to share.  This road, at one time, was the major road from Boston to Monteral.  Their farm house is over 200 years old and it was a stopping point for horses to be exchanged.  They would be pulling tall wagons carrying people from city to city.  I took pictures for you to see what we were seeing.  So so interesting! And so so beautiful!   The road as it went further north was amazingly beautiful with large homes, farms, ranches, and even a blueberry farm.  And don’t forget, we’re following the Connecticut River on our left side.  Just about a half mile from town, we came to the second covered bridge of the day…crossed the creek…and made it to our final destination of Pastures Campground in Orford, New Hampshire.

This place is one of the best CG’s I’ve stayed in this whole trip.  It’s so nicely laid out with the tenting area surrounded by trees and bushes on three sides, very near a huge pavilion and on the other side of that, the bathrooms/showers.  The mobile homes and campers are not real close and the grass is like a green blanket.  There is a sink under the pavilion and plenty of electrical outlets.  The floor of the pavilion is wood rather than concrete and there are upholstered comfortable chairs and lots of tables for spreading out.  The wonderful woman who owns the place told us we could camp under the pavilion if we wanted to since a storm was imminent.  Sue had never done that before, but she took my cue and we set our tents up under the protection of the roof.  Sue went swimming in the pool while I showered and looked around.  A little later we made supper in camp and then here came the storm.  It was a pretty violent storm for about 15 minutes and we grabbed our rain fly’s to drape over the tents because of the rain coming in sideways.  It was short lived, but we felt very blessed to have found this wonderful CG on a stormy night.

Just about as we were ready to crawl into the tents for the night, two men came over and advised that they always play poker under this pavilion on Friday nights and would we mind if they used this particular table like they always do.  Sue told them we were sorry, but we were just getting ready for bed and the woman had given us permission to camp here.  The men were not happy, but they walked away and then one of them came back a little bit later to say they had found an alternate place to play poker.  Whew!  We really didn’t want the locals mad at us but we really didn’t want to hear men playing poker all night either.  It all worked out.

This morning I woke up early and am finishing this blog while Sue sleeps in a bit longer.  I’m about ready to fire up the Jet Boil though because a cup of coffee sounds very good right about now….  I just checked the weather and rain is supposed to move through here again in about an hour.  Looks like we’ll be staying put for awhile.

Fog leaving Bethel

Pay phone in the land of limited cell phone coverage

White River near South Royalton

River Road outside of South Royalton

Tall trees!

At least it’s not raining

That’s Sue in the bridge

Nikki’s lovely home and yard

Oh…great…

Farm on the Connecticut

The farm house

The Connecticut River

Blueberry Farm

Blueberry bushes

Second covered bridge of the day

Wild berries

Flower of the Day

 

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Thursday, August 16 — The Nestled Inn

My blueberry pancakes yesterday at the hotel restaurant were so very good that I ordered them again this morning.  They were equally good and served with Cabot Butter and pure Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup.  They did not serve it warmed, but they did give me plenty.  Of course, I have to explain at the time of ordering, that I am a big syrup fan and will require a substantial amount.  Usually, I get a smile with this request. 

Today’s Vermont was not the Norman Rockwell  Vermont of yesterday due to highline wires, bad roads and other evidence of Hurricane Irene.  Have I ever mentioned that I think utility companies should be required to bury all cables?  A dozen or more pictures would have been taken if it were not for ugly highline wires blocking the path of a perfect photo.  The surface of our roads today was just awful.  I feel jarred, battered and abused after trying to dodge pot holes and crumbling asphalt all day.  Then…there was the remains of the damage brought on by the hurricane (especially around the river we followed for several hours).  Trees down, severely damaged abandoned buildings, etc.  In spite of the water damage, the crops are growing and I saw some of the tallest corn I’ve seen on this whole trip (and that’s saying something considering I rode through Iowa).

On the advice on the locals at Middlebury we rode an extra five miles to avoid Middlebury Gap and rode Brandon Gap instead.  The summit was pretty anticlimactic as there was no fanfare or big signs marking the spot like you will find in the Colorado Rockies.  One small sign showing the elevation (2,170’) and then another sign showing 12% grade for four miles.  I do believe that the last mile was 12%, but not four miles.  We were able to ride all but the last mile.  Can I just say…it was tough getting there?

The ride down the other side was supposedly 9% for four miles (according to the sign), but I don’t believe that is accurate either.  The descent was just not that fast and I’m happy that it was not because it was pretty chilly coming down.  We rolled into Rochester pretty tired, but the weather was beautiful and we came across a bakery/book store and stopped for an Izzy and a cookie.  There is a pretty famous bike shop (Green Mountain Bikes) in town and we went inside to ask the locals if they knew of any camp spots.  They recommended just finding a spot by the river somewhere anytime we felt like stopping.  If I had been by myself that is exactly what I would have done, but Sue didn’t like the idea.  We did stop at a campground that was closed since the hurricane, but there was no good place to get to the river (because of downed trees).  We rode another six and landed in Bethel.  Road construction on a bridge and heavy traffic combined with tired legs made it stressful to get through town.

We found the Nestled Inn B&B and it deserves a few paragraphs in this blog.  One of the few times I had phone service yesterday, I called here (the absolutely only place to stay in this town) to see if they had a room.  The man who answered was just plain STRANGE and a tad creepy and hesitated in even answering my question.  I thought…perhaps they’ve had bad experiences with bicyclists before?  When we got here, we stood outside in disbelief that this was a B&B.  The house is in ill repair (to say the least) and the lawn had not been mowed in weeks.  We heard the voice before we saw the man as he ordered “go to the garage” in a deep gruff voice.  I’m thinking…huh?  Where did that voice come from?  Do I really want to even stay here?  Sue and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows but did as we were told.  The man opened the garage and told us to pull in quick because he didn’t want critters to get in.  We maneuvered our bikes in over wood piles and other junk and I finally found an old table saw to lean my bike up against.  It was dark in the garage and the man hovered; waiting for us to unload the panniers and offering no help of any kind.  He seemed inpatient and just simply angry that we were even bothering him.  Sue asked if she would be able to get to her bike later for maintenance and he told her “no”.

We finally get into the house where there is natural light and had to carry our bags through two small cluttered rooms.  We made our way to the hallway and he said in his gruff voice “$75 cash each”.  I told him we only needed one room and I think perhaps that because I spoke up he softened a bit and then said he’d show us another room that’s bigger for $100 and led us up to the attic where it was hot and stifling.  I told him no thanks and that we’d take the $75 room on the second floor.  He wasn’t finished negotiating because he wanted us to take both rooms so then he said “I’ll let you have both rooms for $50 each, but you’ll have to share a bathroom”.  I told him we’d take that and he said, “$100 cash”.  We found the cash and handed it to him (no receipt was offered) and we were so happy when he left us alone to get settled in.   But…he was back in a few minutes and had softened up a bit to tell us there was a pizza place down the street where we could have dinner and he asked what we wanted for breakfast and what time.  My goodness, I was floored…not only because of his earlier gruffness, but because breakfast menu and time has never been flexible at any other B&B that I’ve stayed over the years.

The room was worth the $50 I decided, but I wondered about it again as I stepped into the bathroom that had yet to be cleaned from the last guests.  But you know…I’ve taken a shower this trip in some pretty cruddy places (of course I didn’t spend $50 for the privilege), so again…I shut up and accepted the situation.  Sue wasn’t quite ready to let it go though and even said this morning, that she was worried about him separating us for fear of what he had planned in the middle of the night.  She was half-kidding I’m sure….

I asked him his name and he told me “Rick” but he didn’t look like a “Rick”; he looked more like a “Willard” to me.  Willard kept referring to “her” and “she” whom we never saw or heard.  I’m guessing it was his mother.  I wonder now…was she sitting in a rocking chair somewhere giving orders?

This morning he cooked us up some french toast and bacon and country potatoes (in the dark) and in his bare feet with his ball cap on backwards.  We choked it down and packed up to leave.  He stood at the garage door watching our every move and raised the door just enough for us to duck under and get out.  He might have told us to have a safe trip, I’m not sure what he mumbled actually…  We finished getting ready outside and breathed a sigh of relief as we left town heading east.

I have forgotten to mention that earlier in the day, we crossed a bridge before coming into Rochester and there was a man standing on a post with a high powered camera and snapped our picture.  As we rode by him I asked, “did you just take our picture?”  He said yes and asked us to stop.  Turns out he is a reporter for the Rutland Herald and he is doing a story on that particular bridge.  The original was destroyed in the hurricane and this one is a temporary.  They are working on a story about how the town was completely cut off during the storm and the history of the rebuilding of the bridge.  He got our names and told us the story will print on September 1st and we’ll be mentioned because of our picture.  But, he never asked our story or what brought us to this bridge for this exact moment in time, so…perhaps he was just a photographer and not the writer at all.  I’ll be anxious to see the story after September 1st and will google my name to find it.

Enjoy the pix.

Just pretty scenery

Just some more pretty scenery

Love this barn!

Another view

Cool rock fence

Taken on Brandon Gap

I’ll believe it when I see it…

12% grade

This is the sign we turned around and saw after climbing up. I knew that was tough!

Damage caused by Hurricane Irene last fall

Maples are showing a little color at higher elevations

Flower of the Day

 

 

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