Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Gail and I had this great idea: We'd get a one-way car rental to Maine and then ride home. The drive to Maine worked OK, and we spent a day hanging around Portland when we returned the car. We got to visit our friend, Dibby, for a few days. She was a friend of Gail's dad when they were in their twenties. She has sold her house in Vassalboro, ME and is moving out this fall so it was good to spend time there with her. Then we had strategically spaced friends along the route so we wouldn't have to camp (and carry all the associated gear and food), and only spend three nights in hotels. For whatever reason, and for the life of me I can't figure out why, it turned out to be more than I could handle, so after riding 420 miles (451 by Gail's standards), and visiting almost everyone we intended to, we rented another car and drove about 200 miles and got home a couple days early.
More reasons to cut a trip short, had we been there a couple weeks later. Hurricane Irene devastated most of the roads we traveled in NH and VT. I think we rode almost all of Rt. 132 which isn't reported to be closed so I don't think the caption on the website I stole this pic from was correct. Our friend Kate joined us along this stretch after we dropped in on her and Bill at their place along the Connecticut River and went for a swim. I think this spot is south of Union Village along the Ompampanoosuc River. The second picture is what's left of a section of a road one of our hosts gave us a ride down to where it meets a paved one. It had rained all night and was pretty wet and muddy, plus it was still raining even though the radar showed it being clear. It would have been hard to imagine it being this bad. How many times does climate change have to beat us over the head before we realize we have to rethink much of our lives? Consider life in Rochester, VT where we stopped for a nice lunch in the shady village park.
A few aspects of Maine reminded me of where I grew up in Chautauqua County along Lake Erie. First of all there's a Portland Harbor, then there's an actual "Westfield." The low-bush blueberries in Westfield were awesome and set the stage for much blueberry picking throughout the trip.
We visited our friend Susan in Effingham, NH, or F'inggreeneggsandham as we began calling it. Susan has moved into her parent's old house and is experiencing the joys of a very old, neglected house with many creatures trying to share it. The dogs were invited, some of the others are unwelcome but persistent.
Gail declared NH Rt. 153 north of Effingham to be the nicest road of the trip. It snaked along water like this for several miles, had little traffic and was very flat. I don't think the fenced in yard we passed that had half a dozen Bean look-alikes influenced her opinion at all.
From the first moment this trip was conceived, Gail started talking about how we could ride over the Kancamagus Highway. No doubt it's spectacular and after driving over it dozens of times I can understand being excited to ride over, but I have two beefs (I have a lot of beefs for a vegetarian). I wanted to stop and look at the views everywhere, but the shoulder was way too small on the sharp curves. Maybe when they rebuild it they'll provide some bump-outs for cyclists. The other was the cigarette butts. For a long stretch we were going about 4 mph and I had time to count butts on the shoulder. You do the math, there were 20 in a tenth of a mile and that density appeared to be the norm.
When we got to N. Woodstock our hosts weren't home but had left the door open for us. I cracked up at several things around the house, particularly Andrew's workbench. He's an eight-year-old mountain climber, carpenter, engineer, jack-of-all trades with a great sense of humor, who is so unorthodox he put side three of The White Album (actual vinyl) without listening to sides one and two first. But I'm not sure how he's going to fix the Whoopee Cushion on his workbench in need of repairs.
It did rain on our days off, but that was no big deal on this hike up Cascade Brook in NH with Jackie and Andrew (sorry Geoff and Hazel, you got left on the cutting room floor). Andrew just wants to go go go, up down and over. Due to wet, slippery conditions Jackie held his hand for most of this hike, but he and I conspired to give him a chance to sprint up the creek while his mom and Gail did the beautiful women pose in front of the beautiful brook.
Seemed like every time we took a day off from biking to visit friends, they wanted to take us up the nearest mountain. We did that with Susan and her dogs in NH when we went up Greene Mountain and had a great view of where we'd ridden in Maine the day before (bottom photo). Our VT friends, Kate, Bill, Dot, and Tii took us back a day to go up Cube Mountain which we'd ridden past as we left NH to visit all of them in VT.
The Historic Middlebury Inn, we had the corner room just above Gail. As we were lounging after a refreshing shower a torrential thunderstorm swept through, we had to get up and close the windows a little. They have a great bike shed, and are frequent stops for organized tours (as opposed to our unorganized one). We had breakfast with fifty women, mostly in their sixties, who were biking from Fargo, ND to Maine. They were about to climb their first real mountain in over 1000 miles.
Outside of Middlebury views are abundant of The Greene Mountains we crossed the day before, and the Adirondacks which we were headed into for a few days. Good luck getting over The Tongue if you're ever traveling on the west side of Lake George. This is an area with lots of orchards on the hills above Lake Champlain.
OK, so I'm a tree-hugger, and photographer. Whenever I see an elm as sweet as this one west of Middlebury (I think) I have to get a picture of it. I just read one of the last ones in NY City fell in Hurricane Irene. The other tree is perhaps no longer hanging above Cascade Brook at the Basin in NH. If you're ever on Interstate 93 take the exit for The Basin and go on a five-minute walk, it's worth your time and effort.
It wasn't the highest mountain, the steepest or longest, and no matter how you count it wasn't the 11th one we'd climbed, but it got our attention. I'm a little embarrassed to say it's really kind of punky for an Adirondack Mountain too. And may I offer some advice? If you're avoiding a wicked climb up a hill at the beginning of a 60 mile ride, make sure you get to the sign with the truck going down hill before you get out and start riding.
Once we got to Summer Solace, The Arend's place on Piseco Lake, we had one objective; to enjoy family time, especially with the newest member of the family, Harper. Kristi and Geoff presented us with our nephew who we just adored. We were cognizant of the fact that Harper is also a new grandchild, and we were guests of the grandparents, so we were willing to share.
Of course many of you know the real reason we changed our plans for the last leg of our trip. Our friend, Brian Scroger, became seriously ill while we were on the road and died as a result of cancer. He and my sister Janet had moved into their house last spring. The house is a duplex and my mother moved into the other half just as Gail and I left. We miss him and are thankful for having the chance to know him, especially his sense of humor, and to see how happy he and Janet were together.