Week ending May 31, 2009
Damariscotta is famous for its fish ladder, which had literally thousands of Alewives running when we arrived, during a particularly hot and sunny afternoon. The fish energetically swim up 12″ steps - for 150ft in height - until they reach the huge pool at the top before spawning and returning to the ocean.
We carried on up the hills, sweating substantially more than is dignified, until we arrived at a tiny one horse town (or two bike town) called Dresden. We stopped for a drink at the gas station when a lady in a car on the other side of the road leant out of her window and said that she had done what we were doing, but that she had ridden all the way to Argentina. Joy responded that we were also intending going to Argentina and immediately Joan offered for us to stay the night. She had to run her three kids, Justine, Emily and Eric to T-ball (Kids’ baseball) matches first but gave us directions to her house. Her Husband, Benoit, may or may not be there, but make yourself at home, have a shower and she would see us shortly.
We cycled up another set of hills, astounded by her kindness. Benoit arrived in the car, said hello and went off to buy some beer. We arrived, introduced ourselves, showered and ate a fabulous dinner.
Their kindness epitomises, to date, the generosity of the people that we have met. We stayed two nights. During the intervening day, when it was agreed that Joy really did need brakes on her bike, we took it into a bike shop in Brunswick - and walked out with a brand new cycle….
The Marin that Joy had ridden until that date was reasonable but it was never going to be a proper tourer. But the fact that it’s brakes were rather dodgy was an ongoing concern. A second mecahnic agreed with us that the design was at fault, and so after a rather frenetic 2 hours, we decided on a new, steel framed, road bike. The Surly is an American tourer, with excellent gears, strong frame and a couple of brakes that appear to work. The part exchange was a rather painful affair, but we grinned and bore it.
Joan drove us home with our new purchase. Joff fitted the old mudguard, and rear rack, plus a new Surly rack that we bought because we clearly hadn’t spent enough for one day…
After another lovely dinner and great conversation with Joan and Benoit, plus a slide show of their trip across the Americas, we were ready to go. We left the following morning and headed into the western pat of Maine.
Pedalling along carefree on another lovely hot day, we stopped off at a small cafe and bought ice cream. We only handed over enough dollars for ice cream for two, but it appeared the lady serving us didn’t hear our request: we were handed ice cream enough for 7. It took us over an hour to fight our way through it, but it would have been rude to leave it, wouldn’t it..?
Later, as we wobbled on, two chaps past us on racing bikes. We said hi. Two minutes later they returned with an offer of a place to camp, plus dinner, at a cabin on the lake. The cabin was a beautiful old place right on the shores of a small lake in the village of Monmouth, north of the town of Sabattus, in western Maine. The chaps we met were Tommy and Ross. We met the other party members on arrival, had a quick shower and grabbed a beer. The bbq and salad were extremely welcome, and the company was lovely. George cooked the dinner, and the next morning, after a good evening chatting and relaxing in the house, we were treated to Eggs Benedict; something neither of us had ever had before. What a marvellous way to start a day… It should be made compulsory.
Their kindness was also remarkable, and after saying goodbye we pedalled on, rather over-filled, to New Hampshire.
We cycled up several big hills and because there’s always a downside, we whizzed down them too. We cycled through Paris in 10 minutes, and arrived in Norway, at a motel. My assumption about these places was challenged when we discovered that the lights worked, the rooms were clean and there was no-one holed up, un-shaven and on the run from the law.
We ate at a ‘Tim Hortons’, a bit of an establishment in the States and Canada. Cheap chili and bread plus ‘a side’ (cake) for less money than a sarny. Marvellous. A State sheriff sat next to us, with a hat that Yogi Bear would have been proud of.
The following morning, Memorial Day sunday, we cycled through the end of Norway and came across a ceremony for those who fought and died in service of the country. we stood and listened, with everyone else in the town, and took in the importance of the event, before cycling up another enormous hill.
Kancamagus Pass is at 2895ft, and we cycled all 2895 them. Half way up however, it got dark, so we camped in the White Mountains National Forest camp site. Entirely wooded, we could see nothing but the shadows of black bears and moose (in my imagination, at least). Still, I did hear coyote.
At the top of ‘The Kanc’ we zoomed down the other side. 12 miles has never gone so quickly. The views back over the White Mountains were stunning and the hard work was certainly worth the effort.
As we cycled, I wondered whether the State flag for Maine or New Hampshire might consist of two straight, horizontal stripes of blue and green and a third, wobbly stripe in between of pale grey, to represent the three most continuous colours en route. The blue would obviously represent the clear blue shy (except that it hammered down several times, which was entirely uncalled for and upset my cerebral musings). The green would represent the forest which cloaked everything we saw in both; and the grey would represent the wobbly, poorly maintained tarmac over which we bounced and crunched.
The day was short. We stayed in another Motor Lodge, where we used the computer and generally tried to avoid the rain. It poured for 48 hours. The town of Lincoln is a real winter mecca, but in the cold light of May, it appeared to be awaiting the onset of the snow. We were mildly surprised that it hadn’t already come. We met Brian and Jackie, a couple who were also cycling the Northern Tier the wrong way round. We wished them luck and expected to see them again. They were travelling light, so we would only catch them if the stopped for a week to let us catch up.
We left Lincoln the next morning at 11am, in the pouring rain (have I mentioned that it was raining..?) We cycled for 9 hours. As we were trying to dry out in a small cafe, Bob walked in. Bob and Joy had been mailing each other over the least few weeks, because he had offered a place to stay overnight, but it was just a bit too far off route. He had been following our blog and expected to see us some stage soon. He sat sown with us, had lunch and insisted on paying. What a decent chap. We hope to meet up with him again later on in the trip.
That evening, after a very long day of 65 miles, we arrived at Bonna’s place,in the woods between Thetford Centre and Strafford, in Vermont. A Warmshowers contact, we were offered a cuppa, a warm shower and a place to dry out. Bonna was very welcoming and the next day we were offered a rest; so we did. We read, wrote a bit and ate. A good day all round.
The next morning (in the pouring rain) we left. As we had given ourselves 73 miles to do, we had to leave at the break of day (oh alright, 8am). Another Warmshowers contact awaited us in Vermont. The route took in two large hills, called ‘Gaps’ around here, and some abfab scenery. The conifers had slowly given way to deciduoud trees as we headed west, and both had slowly throughout the day subsided to make way for dairy farming and some arable. The view that greeted us at Judy and Dan’s was magical: to the east we saw the Green Mountains over which we had just pedalled, and to the west, and the setting sun (it had finally stopped raining), the Adirondacks of upstate New York. The western view offered at least 10 miles of rolling hill and dale and was truly a lovely sight. We said our hellos, had a lovely dinner and promptly fell asleep.
We were offered a place for two nights, which was very welcome, considering the pain in our legs and the weight of our eyelids. The house in which Judy and Dan live is a 200 year old barn conversion, with a deck overlooking the Adirondacks, a bbq and three pet sheep. They are also keen cyclists, and have been all round France and Central America; and we hope they will join us for a day trip to New York State, across the Hudson River tomorrow.