My Travel Journal - 2003 Rochester, NY to Bar Harbor, Maine
Day 0: White Plains, NY (Hometown) to Rochester, NY (starting point)
Drove up from White Plains yesterday and enjoyed quality time and food with Jess and Anthony (see "Acknowledgements" page on website for photo and family ties). I had a late night with them but it was a pleasure to stay over at their place (Photo 1-01).
Day 1: Rochester, NY to Mexico Point, NY - 90 miles
I was up early and packed gear and reviewed maps while playing with Jess and Anthony's new kittens. Jess made eggs and I made overflowing oatmeal in the microwave for a hearty breakfast.
I (Photo 1-02) was out by 9 and first rode down and around Irondiquoit bay, then on Lake Road passing the lakeshore mansions on Lake Ontario (which I covet e.g. 1-03) on my way out of town. It's a beautiful day with tolerable winds. My bike works, my legs work, my radio works - who could ask for more? As I cruised along, I stop and take photos (Photo 1-04, Photo 1-05, Photo 1-06). and notice trees laden with apples (Photo 1-07).
I reached Sodus Point (Photo 1-08) just past noon but managed to by-pass the restaurants, so I rode for another hour continuing near the coastline (Photo 1-09). I found a farm-stand and bought zucchini bread, cookies and apples from roadside market stand down the road and ate it all sitting on the owner's pickup truck tailgate. There are lots of geese overhead in formation heading south. I stand still and point camera skyward to take photo of them but they veer away as if questioning my intentions. Further along route 104, I see big woodcarvings out front of a house and a guy is working outside. I pull in. He tells me his story, prices of the pieces (pricy) and invites me in to see more. We exchange stories and he says he will we send me his website link. I forget to take photos of his place and carvings, but I stop a little later and take photos of a bee-farmer's beehives (Photo 1-10).
I take a shortcut from the maps and take 104a/104 to Oswego. There, at 4:30 pm, I stop in a Ponderosa steakhouse. It's so early for dinner that the place is almost empty. After I answer questions about my cycling clothes, I hear a bellow "Hey Debbie, he's riding his bike TO MAINE". The peace of the restaurant is shattered and I get strange looks from the few occupants. After a big feast there, I ride another 18 miles to Mexico Point to a private campground on Lake Ontario. Daylight sets earlier this time of year and I don't want to ride in dusk. I've gone ninety miles total today. The old lady proprietor won't let me sleep at a site on the lake because there is a chance of storms, but on my insistence her son drives me around in his golf cart and we ultimately agree on a site right by the lake. As I erect my little tent (Photo 1-11), the dusky sky is punctuated with sounds of overhead geese and jets. National Public Radio (NPR) sounds good as I write this on my little Blackberry PDA before sleep.
Day 2: Mexico Point, NY to Old Forge, NY - 90 miles
I listened to NPR from 6:15 on, checking the weather forecast as I broke camp. The forecast is windy - not what adventure cyclists want to hear. Otherwise, it's sunny with clouds and unseasonably warm - 70s. I started the day skirting the SE corner of the coast of Lake Ontario, and then stopped for breakfast (Photo 1-12). The wind came from all directions and added to the challenge in the morning. As I left the lake behind, I turned due east and soon thereafter stopped in Pulaski to take photo of dozens of early morning fishermen (Photo 1-13).
After Pulaski, it's almost directly due east for 50+ miles on rural routes through forests approaching the Adirondack Mountains (Photo 1-14). There are still lots of geese heading south, but I now also have to weave around countless wooly caterpillars on the road. I even see an albino one! There are also a number of Monarch butterflies fluttering above me. As I ride through Redfield, Osceola and West Leyden, I take photos of the watercourse and desolate roads (Photo 1-15, Photo 1-16, Photo 1-17). It's a Saturday, so lots of folk are out fixing up their vacation camps and others are barbecuing. I stop for a late pasta lunch in Boonville, then follow windy, remote Moose River road for 18 miles to McKeever (Photo 1-18, Photo 1-19). If you took a wrong turn out here, you'd probably never get found. The last 10 miles to Old Forge is on beautiful route 28, which is even signposted as a bike route (so the car drivers know to look out for you - in theory). The wind has finally turned and blows me home. Since storms are expected tonight, I opt for a hotel room. The town is busy with tourists looking for, and finding, the first leaves changing color. My first hotel choices (on the lake) are full (Photo 2-01, Photo 2-02), but I head back along the main road and find one of the last rooms in town. I unload my gear and ride around exploring. I make a combination dinner of take-out chicken, with pannier-made peanut butter and honey on bagel. I hit the bed early, expecting rain tomorrow.
Day 3 - Old Forge to North Hudson, NY - 90 miles
The weather forecast predicted rain and it wasn't wrong - not torrential, but not a sprinkle either - it's just a cold, dreary rain. I suited up for the weather and rode down the street in the dark for an early breakfast at a local diner. I read the paper as I ate my preferred breakfast of oatmeal and eggs. I rode out in the early dawn on the South Shore road along the Fulton Chain lakes, between the towns of Old Forge and Inlet (Photo 2-03, Photo 2-04). The road is more like a stream with the steady rain flowing on it - so I see lots of vacation camps but few campers.
It's rolling terrain from Inlet through Racquette Lake (Photo 2-05, Photo 2-06) to Blue Mountain Lake - where I stop for a mid-morning snack. I take photos (Photo 2-07, Photo 2-08). The evergreens and deciduous trees are interspersed along the road, all fighting for daylight. It's a steep hill north out of Blue Mountain, past the Adirondack Museum, heading for Long Lake. We've done this stretch by car many times as a family taking Amanda to the State University of New York, in Potsdam.
As I approach Long Lake, one of the site-seeing seaplanes flies overhead - but they won't be busy today given the dreary weather (Photo 2-09, Photo 2-10). The "wet evergreen tree" fragrance is one of the benefits on a day like this, though.
It's Sunday and all the campers are heading home - many towing trailers with jet skis, ATVs, etc. For many, the outdoor fun is now finished for the season. I take more photos of local scenery (Photo 2-11, Photo 2-12) before I stop for a late lunch in Newcomb, at the only restaurant open for miles. No pasta, so I eat a burger and soup and candy bar at the counter, while watching NFL football on TV. I forget to ask the proprietor to take a photo of me in my raingear, and a few minutes later I'm somehow feeling even soggier after having dried out a little over lunch. The roads "ups" and "downs" are steeper than before but the scenery along this remote stretch from Newcomb to North Hudson is quite spectacular. I pass the origin of the Hudson River (Photo 2-13), then another shot a bit further down (Photo 2-14). Most of the trees are still green or just starting to turn, but occasionally one of astonishing color peeks through (Photo 2-15, Photo 2-16).
I take a photo at a fancy bison farm (Photo 2-17) in Blue Ridge (which offers Bison Burgers), near North Hudson, pass another raging river (Photo 2-18) and eventually settle in at the Blue Ridge hotel a few miles down the road. The proprietor is friendly and provides me with an oscillating fan to dry my sodden clothes. The good news is that my fancy new panniers are indeed completely waterproof. The bad news is that the lack of restaurants means two sandwiches for dinner - tunafish (ordered at lunchtime) and peanut butter and honey - but at least there's a bathtub for soaking.
Day 4 - North Hudson,NY to Hancock,Vermont (VT) - 60 miles
After a snack breakfast, I continued south a few miles to Schroon Lake (Photo 2-20), then west. The rain has stopped and it's just a cool, cloudy morning. About 2 miles beyond Paradox (the town, that is) (Photo 2-21), on route 74 to Ticonderoga, I stop at an abandoned boathouse for a while to watch the birds fly over Eagle Lake for a while (Photo 2-23). (Photo 2-24) It's very nice here. After the break, I continue on to Ticonderoga, where I first do some grocery shopping then stop for breakfast. At the gas station across the street I attempt to use the air pump to top off the tires. Instead, my front tire valve breaks and the tube no longer holds air. Panniers off, tire off, dredge new tube out of pannier, replace tube/tire, re-inflate with bike pump, but can't get to desired pressure. So it goes. I stop at another gas station for air with marginal success. Oh well, forget about much mileage today.
A couple of miles later, I pull into Fort Ticonderoga and arrive just in time to hear the daily history recitation about the fort by a couple of guys in period costume. The fort, once termed "the key to the continent", had a major role in early US history defending Lake Champlain. I'm glad I stopped here, and take lots of photos (Photo 3-01, Photo 3-02, Photo 3-03, Photo 3-04, Photo 3-05, Photo 3-06). Just down the road, I wait in line with others for the ferry to take us across the lake to Vermont. It's only a few hundred yards across, and it takes only about 10 minutes, but we all chat about our lives (Photo 3-07, Photo 3-08, Photo 3-09)
At first glance, there seems to be no flat roads in Vermont, only rolling hills (Photo 3-10) with dairy cows almost everywhere (Photo 3-11). You can even smell the farms and the cows almost everywhere, which I happen to like because of my agricultural education. With under-inflated tires, the hills are not easy, but at least the sun comes out (Photo 3-12).
In Middlebury, I visit a bike shop, buy a new bike pump and a couple of spare tubes, re-inflate my problematic tube, and celebrate with a bowl of pasta. I'm now aiming for a B&B in Ripton about 10 miles away. The 4 miles from E Middlebury to Ripton are uphill, but I reach Ripton at 5 pm and the legs feel good so I continue uphill - and it got very steep very fast.
Here's a relevant comment. Why do many towns in rural places have signs saying "Welcome to -insert town name-" at the township boundary which is typically many miles before the town itself? It's demoralizing when your riding your bike and you think you're getting close to town (because you just past a town sign) - and you've still got miles to go! And there is a correlation between the difficulty of the roads and the number of miles to go.
Just past Ripton, it starts to rain. I continue to wind my way uphill past the Middlebury Bowl (where Middlebury college students play). I finally reach the top and begin the fast descent down. I coast for almost 10 miles until I reach the town of Hancock, VT. The inn and restaurant in town are both full, but there is a vegan B&B across the street. Fortunately, they have a room but no space at the dinner table (a bunch of vegan German tourists are enjoying supper). So it's another night of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, but I go back to the restaurant for a take-away dessert. I enjoy an evening of radio and reading.
Day 5 - Hancock,VT to Lincoln, New Hampshire (NH) - 100 miles
The day dawned cloudy and I was on the road just after dawn after a light breakfast. It's also very cold - something between 30 and 40F. The route from Hancock to Bethel was fairly flat, and without the hard pedaling, I was shivering. It's amazing the difference when the sun peeks through the clouds on these chilly mornings.
Typical of these cycling maps, the route follows watercourses whenever possible and this section tracks me along the White River. I take photos and admire the many vacation homes along this stretch (Photo 3-13, Photo 3-14, Photo 3-15, Photo 3-16, Photo 3-17, Photo 3-18, Photo 3-19, Photo 3-20). These photos really convey the pleasure of adventure cycling in beautiful countryside. In the town of Sharon, I stop by the post office to mail disposable cameras home. I chat with the postmaster for a while and learn the only restaurant in the area burned down. The postmaster is Greek, proudly so, and lets me know about all the restaurants on my trek where the proprietor is Greek. Fortunately, I don't have too far to go before I find the first one.
The road from Sharon is steep for a mile (Photo 3-21) and in fact the rest of the day is punctuated with random steep hills. I ride a bit too far by missing my turnoff, but ultimately find a restaurant in East Thetford for an early lunch of haddock and pasta. I tell the proprietor about the Greek postmaster sending me, and he gives me a free roll.
The rest of the ride, through Orford, Piermont, Haverhill and finally North Woodstock is like riding through a postcard (Photo 3-22), albeit one that wears my legs out. My layers of shirts come on or off depending on my exertion and the cloud cover, but my sunblock finds a purpose for about an hour.
In N Woodstock, I find that most hotel rooms are pre-booked with folks from all over looking for autumn color. I ultimately find a room in an Inn and do my laundry. I ride into town (using my bike lights) and find a good restaurant with seafood pasta. Coming home, I have my routine "check in - I'm OK" phone call with wife Pat. I also call Stan Olejczak (brother of a friend) who lives in New Hampshire, but with whom I've had no contact in dozens of years. We have a good chat and catch up. He asks me if I need anything (perhaps looking for an excuse to go for a drive) but I tell him everything is OK.
While I like camping, there is something to be said for reading newspapers at the end of a day listening to music in front of a fireplace.
Day 6 - Lincoln, NH to S. Paris, Maine (ME) - 80 miles
Here's a question. "Where is Norway south of S Paris? In Maine, today's destination."
I awaken to another cold, cloudy day that develops into drizzle in the afternoon. And even better, my front tire is flat with no good reason. Being hopeful, I just re-inflate and head to a diner in town for breakfast. I chat with a tourist couple over eggs and oatmeal, and discover my front tire is again flat - probably a valve problem. Beyond logic, I just re-inflate and then ride a few miles and check. Amazingly, the tire stays inflated. I'm guessing the rarely seen biketube fairies sprinkled fairy dust on the valve when I wasn't looking. I feel like the goat just down the road, king of all I survey (Photo 4-01).
Today I ride the Kancamagus highway with the 2000' climb up through Kancamagus pass - at 2855 ft, the highest of this trek. After a few miles of nice scenery (Photo 4-02, Photo 4-03), the climb begins and my extra layers on top and fleece leggings come off. The climb is a long but reasonable 7 percent grade. Near the top, I'm stopped by construction and get my photograph taken (Photo 4-04, Photo 4-05). There are great views enroute to the top (Photo 4-06, Photo 4-07, Photo 4-08, Photo 4-09, Photo 4-10, Photo 4-11, Photo 4-12, Photo 4-13), and the cruise down the mountain. I take a few photos before I pull into the town of Conway (Photo 4-14, Photo 4-15). I'm shivering when I pull into the Chinook cafe for a great second breakfast. There are courteous (and gorgeous) wait staff with lots of organic and healthy granola concoctions.
I soon cross into Maine (Photo 4-16) and the town of Fryeburg is having it's annual fair, which has attracted thousands. Near the fairground, every homeowner's front lawn becomes a parking lot - 5$/car and 15$/camper. And many homeowners' are making a lot of money this way! The roads and shoulders are not good, and I'm not able to take any photos because I'm forced to muscle my part of the road with the huge 35' family mega cruiser Recreational Vehicles (RVs).
I found a good music station on the radio, which somehow helps with the frequent steep little hills (Photo 4-17). I stop for photos and chat with a couple of local fisherman (Photo 4-18)
I find a little motel in S Paris on a main street and check in. I ride around for a bit and discover the local diner is pretty busy, but I tell them I'll see them tomorrow at breakfast. Instead, I find a takeout pasta shop as part of a gas station and ride the pasta home - stored in boxes hanging from a takeout bag on my handlebars.
The bike shop in S Paris closed down, so I do bike maintenance in my hotel room, checking the tires for any lingering weirdness. As anticipated, the bike tube fairy dust wears off, so I use my last spare tube and hope for the best. I'm watching a great documentary on TV about modern day composers and enjoying takeout pasta while messing with my bike, so I'm pretty content.
Day 7 - S. Paris, ME to Warren, ME- 90 miles
Enjoyed an early diner breakfast after leaving the hotel and was on the road before 7.
No mountains today, just the persistent 50 to 200 ft hills that pepper the landscape.
It was a cold, cloudy and foggy morning - bad combination for cyclists - but the day ultimately brightened and the sunblock came in handy.
Among the notable towns en route today were Buckfield, Turner, Greene, Sabattus, Richmond - for lunch, Damariscotta and Waldoboro. What did I see today? Logging trucks, lots of churchs and cemeteries, more wooly caterpillars, town libraries (all named for someone significant), both good and bad roads, many ponds/lakes and countless trees. I also passed over a couple of interstate highways (495, 95), and I was pleased not to be riding on them. A few photos were taken during the day (Photo 4-19, Photo 4-20, Photo 4-21, Photo 4-22).
I enjoyed haddock, salad, pasta and pumpkin pie for lunch and shopped at a supermarket for dinner. For a break, I stopped at a "Nuthouse" on route 1 on the coast of Maine - a place that probably began by just selling nuts but now was huge and had every type of touristy knick-knack imaginable. I walked in & looked around. I eventually had to ask if/where they had nuts, and found them hidden away in barrels in the corner. I bought a few bags, then passed all of the other shoppers buying who knows what.
Overall, the ride was fine today, but these frequent steep little hills are hard on my legs. I hate to admit it, but I actually had to pull over once for a break so I would not have to walk my bike up a very steep hill. [My ego does not permit me to walk my bike up hills - they are just a test of my fortitude].
I stop just before the town of Warren at the Loons Cry campground with every intention of camping. But the revised weather forecast of 30+ temps plus periodic rain encourages me to opt for a lakeside heated cabin. It was a smart move - the rain was torrential and I was snug in my bed. Very nice.
Day 8 - Warren, ME to Ellsworth, ME - 75 miles
I slept late till 6:15 and it felt great. Today is the first bright sunny day in a week, but the temps start in the low 30s (Photo 4-23). More problematic is the icy wind that predominates and slows progress.
About 10 miles after starting, I stop near Rockport for breakfast. There are about 10 men over 60 having breakfast and taking about life - and their camaraderie is evident. It's some kind of a senior men's "breakfast club". The lone cyclist enjoys watching and listening to them while eating and reading the paper.
While riding through Rockport/Camden, I stop at a steep hillside park which ends at a beach on the bay. The park is empty, the sun is beckoning and I sensibly decide it's a great place to stop for awhile. The route follows a rural road - 52 - inland to Lincolnville center then back to coastal Belfast (Photo 4-24).
Lots of people doing yard work or fixing up their house on this nice day. I took a couple of postcard-like photos of coastal scenes then head north on route 1. [Photos for the balance of this trip have been mis-placed, but will ultimately be found and posted].
Just past Searsport, I stop at Birgfeld's bike shop and talk about bicycle touring with the owner, Doug. He sees a lot of bicycle tourists on this popular route. I buy a couple of tubes and replacements to the great, but worn, tires I've used since Minot, North Dakota, last year. He will ship the tires to my house, so I give him some other small stuff to send. He admires and is fascinated with my new Vaude panniers. He decides he will try to distribute them, but I warn him that they are not cheap.
Near Bucksport, I stop for lunch and watch construction on the cable bridge that has brought traffic to a standstill. After lunch, I'm delayed by the construction since I'm not allowed to pass until all the vehicles have passed. Oh well, I really didn't need to make it all the way to Bar Harbor today.
I soon take rural route 176 to Surry and aim for a campground that my map indicates is just north by the bay. But the campground has disappeared, so I stay at a motel in Ellsworth which is also filling up with tourists. I'm in the last room available, which is over the lobby, and means carrying my bike and panniers up a couple of flights of stairs.
I walk around a bit, buy some nice warm socks at an EMS store and my dinner at a Subway restaurant. It's a little loud here on the main street, but with a full belly and hot bath, I'm so tired that it doesn't matter.
Day 9 - Ellsworth, ME to Bar Harbor, ME - 30 miles
This will be a good day, since Pat will drive up and meet me in Bar Harbor later. Pat is on the road before me for a change, but she's got a 9 hour drive and I've only got a 3 hour ride. It's another cold, but clear day and I'm soon passing camps and cabins that folks use for weekends. I take the less-trafficked route into Bar Harbor, which takes me past the national park (that I will end up hiking and taking horse carriage rides in the next couple of days). I arrive just past 10, so I can't even check into our room yet. But the proprietor lets me store my bike out back so I can wander around. I stop in another health food breakfast place next door, then wander around town for a couple of hours. I then stop in an Internet café with great hot chocolate and brownies and spend some time writing postcards. I then check into the hotel, and hang out until Pat arrives - a couple of hours late due to traffic problems. We then head out for the first of a few fine lobster meals and enjoy our long weekend together.
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