Friday, September 18, 2009
Day 74-75 Hallowell to Rockland to St. George, ME
September 18-19, 2009
3542 total miles
Last day... Woke up to a stellar breakfast hosted by Tom Warner in the B&B. Stellar in every way, as the fruit tray was cuttingly careful cuisine arranged in a six-pointed star (see adjacent picture). Tom left his job with NOAA and the National Hurricane Center in Miami to return to his home state of Maine and has opened the Benjamin Wales B&B in this historic mansion. Reading through a history of the house and its inhabitants over nearly 200 years gives one a sense for the changes in this local economy through the technological changes of the 19th and 20 the centuries. The home was occupied at various stages by merchants and sea captains, ice-cutters and scions of famous Maine families. Among the notables was Algernon Sidney "Sid" Washburn of the famous Livermore, Norlands, Maine clan of Washburns. Sid was one of the successful to stay closer to home as a merchant and financier, founding a local bank. His brothers went on into politics, military and enterprise during the westward expansion of the United States, reading like a "Who's Who" of mid- 19th century statesmanship, with elected members to the US House and Senate, Governor of Maine, Secretaries, ambassadors and founders of companies such as the Soo Railroad and Gold Medal and Pillsbury flour companies. Interesting to spend a night in a place where, if only the walls could talk, the stories they would tell!
Visited Slates bakery for an extra cup of Joe before leaving town on the Kennebec Rail Trail Bike path towards Gardiner. Crossed the great Kennebec River at the Gardiner Bridge and headed on the back road towards Togus, taking the Winthroproad cut-off, which saved me several miles and dropped me onto Route 17 just before Windsor. At that point I rode wide-shouldered Route 17 all the way to Rockland- up and down many hills along the way.
I arrived in Rockland around 4:30, in time to seek out the local synagogue, for tonight is Erev Rosh Hashana, and I wanted to attend services here. It was something of a fluke that my trip ended on this day, auspicious or not, I decided to celebrate the end of my journey and the beginning of the next, whatever it may be. After cleaning up at brother Tom's, I made my way back to Adas Yoshuron Synagogue and was very glad to find it, as the service was truly one of the most moving I have ever attended. Even though I don't know any Hebrew, the prayer book, or Machzor, was a helpful guide to the liturgy and the English translations in it, where available, made the ceremony full of meaning for me. The hauntingly beautiful music, celebrated by the congregation's choir, was wonderfully performed 19th century polyphony and harmony, sung a capella. One of the choir's founding members shared with the congregation the story of how much of this music made it to Rockland via her grandfather and father who were accomplished musicians and cantors practicing these traditions. A program of inclusion is practiced here and all are welcome to attend services. I felt very welcome in this community and would love to visit again some time.
L'Shana tovah everyone!
Tomorrow I spend some time with my parents, friends, and with brother Tom who has a gallery opening at the Carver Hill Gallery tomorrow.
Hanover, to Rumford to Mexico to Hallowell, ME
September 15-17, 2009
3485 total miles
I spent a couple of very enjoyable and restful nights and days with Liseley and Dimitrios Handanos at their camp on Howard Pond and reveled in the cool autumn air and marvelous views of the calm pond. The loons sang their eerie nighttime melodies, as if on cue and the late summer days gave way to cool autumn nights. I left the pond and rode down into the village of Hanover and points beyond- arriving in Rumford Center for a ride down memory lane as I passed through the schoolyard of the former Rumford Center Elementary School, home of many memories and much learning. This is where I learned to trace, but not mind, my P's and Q's, with the help of war-horses like Rosanna Cogley, my kindergarten teacher. If there was a Mr. Cogley, I am sorry for him. The school is only a shell of its former self. Built in 1963, that year after I was born, it was a fully modern facility for the time. The construction was of brick and I-beam roof supports, flat roof and long smooth linoleum hallways that were so proudly kept by our custodian Bruce Ramey. My memories of not-so-crowded classrooms, filled with inquisitive little minds and generous teachers. Today the building is totally derelict, with gaping holes in the roof, water everywhere, the dividing walls knocked out and the water intruding everywhere. Local kids shave had their fun smashing all the available glass and breaking bottles everywhere. At one point the building had served as a manufacturing facility, yet now, not without huge capital influx would it be good for anything. While on site at the school an old, familiar face came riding up-- Tom Hoyt, a local resident, rode up to me on his four-wheeler ATV and wanted to know what I was doing on the restricted site. I had ignored the prominent "No Trespassing " signs. Tom's brother, Jon, now owns the house I was raised in and happened to be heading over there to help his brother with something. I left the schoolyard and followed him there. John was extremely gracious and gave me a tour of the house and grounds. I had not been in the house for 14 years and he has so improved everything, I am beyond amazed at what he has done for the place. Those of you who knew us as a family with 5 kids crowded into a little house, will remember a compressed lifestyle. John has knocked out a wall to expand the kitchen, installed shed dormer windows on the upstairs, expanded the upstairs bedrooms into the closet areas, put a hot tub on top of the screen porch, winterized the screen porch-- and many other improvements. Outside, the grounds are immaculately kept, with extensive flower gardens , stone walls, cleared underbrush --- the list too long to mention. John is a collector of antique Fords and maintains quite a stable of beautifully preserved T's and A's (no, not that kind!) in the barn where we used to keep our critters. I was so satisfied to see that the home has gone to someone who truly loves and cares for the place. After leaving the family home in Rumford Center I wended my way down the river to Rumford, down past the falls and into the historic Strathglass Park-- the first settlement in the US, built by the industrialist Hugh Chisholm, to house the millworkers for his new paper mil in Rumford. The brick homes have mostly stood the test of time over the past 100 years, and while a few are in disrepair, many are owned by proud homeowners. I visited one of them, owned by Cheryl Puiia-Finlay, an old high school friend who is now a teacher in the local school district. Cheryl is part of the loyal core that has kept the town running despite the depredations of hedge funds and technological progress in the paper industry. The news in Rumford /Mexico isn't very good-- the Lewiston Sun reported this morning that with the mill's shutting down yet another paper machine and laying off 100 more people, the taxable assessment of the mill will drop by about 30% from $300 million to $200 million -- so lost jobs AND lower taxes to pay for necessary services. The overall valuation of real estate in Rumford now is at around $500 million-- a far cry from the heyday. The town is now condemning abandoned buildings and razing them. Town Manager Carlo Puiia has his hands full. Perhaps there was a small effigy of Nero fiddling in the corner of the restaurant, Brian's Bistro, housed in the historic Harris Hotel building. Cheryl and I enjoyed a most-delicious dinner, which was the best I ever ate in a restaurant in Rumford-- sorry chef Zamboni, may you rest in peace! I started my day rising a bit earlier than I am used to doing and riding in a briskly cold (44 degrees) morning over to the Meroby Elementary School in Mexico. The ride up Harlow Hill was an invigorating wake-up as I got my circulation going and prepared for a presentation of my trip to three 3rd grade classes, which assembled promptly at 8:30 to hear my spiel! We started with bicycle safety and the idea of "Share the Road" , helmets (I wore mine for the duration!), moved on to how I spent my time on the road, what was on my bike, places I had been, etc. While nearly every kid had a bike, about 2/3 of them had never seen the ocean, even though they live in a seacoast state, only about 100 miles inland. There were lots of questions about places I had been, people I had seen, whether I had a good time, and so forth. I promised to answer any further questions they might have if they sent any to me in an email. Of all the topics we covered, Boldt Castle was by far the most popular! Leaving Mexico and the parking lot of Wal-Mart Supercenter there I followed the Androscoggin River along the east bank from Mexico, to Dixfield and then along the Canton Point Road, meandering along the calm but strong flowing surface of the broad river chugging up and down little hills, and finally crossing back over to Route 108 at Canton, then passing down to Turner, Livermore, Leeds, Wayne and over the hills to Winthrop, then Manchester past the rock quarries on the old Winthrop Road and down the hill to historic Hallowell where I established myself at the Liberal Cup Public House and Brewery where they pour great craft beer such as Bug Lager, Dummers Lane Brown Ale, and the cask conditioned Cask-Kickin' IPA. At the bar I met one of my father's former colleagues of the Maine state courts, retired District Judge John Benoit, who resides now in nearby Manchester. We enjoyed some conversation together and a few laughs. He is going to send me a book of poetry he has written and used for a fund-raising effort for Alzheimers in Maine. As a treat to my last night on the road, and a way to stay off the cold ground with my recently acquired sniffles, I am staying at a local bed and breakfast, the Benjamin Wales House, ca. 1820. This means that I can walk from the bar to my accommodations a few blocks up the hill and away from here. Its getting to be that time, so soon I will retire...
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Day 71 Lancaster, NH to Hanover, ME
September 14, 2005
Topped off my tires with some compressor air and spent an enjoyable morning riding out of Lancaster to Jefferson, NH on the back roads guided by Dave Haas, my WarmShowers host. The net result of the ups and downs was high ground-- the views to the east of Mt. Washington and the rest of the Presidential Range were spectacular and the rides down the hills before the climb up Gorham hill and the last big descent into Gorham were thrilling.
Crossed the Appalachian Trail in a couple of places and noted significant hiker's cars parked by the roadside. The return to the Androscoggin River Valley, nestled between the mountains was a sure sign of homecoming. As I crossed the state line into Maine, I noted that there were no welcome signs, only prohibitions and warnings: no fireworks, no weeds on your propellers, tough drunk-driving laws. The only sign missing was: "You're in Maine. No fun. Turn around now." Whatever happened to the WELCOME sign? C'mon Maine!
The first 6 miles or so into Maine on Route 2 were taken over by construction crews re-configuring the road, which has been badly needed for many years now. That section of road has claimed many lives over the years so this will be a big improvement, including smooth, wide shoulders for bikes. Had I known about the construction, I would have taken the North road to bethel on the other side of the river, as not long after the construction zone, when I reached Bethel and 3,400 miles, I had a tire blow-out. It was the biggest bang and fastest deflation I have ever experienced on a bike, so I was very glad I was travelling on a safe, wide, and flat section of road when it happened, as opposed to one of the fast downhills I passed earlier in the day.
Stopped at the Bethel Bike Store to get a replacement tube, and when I exited the shop and climbed back on to my bicycle, my friend Dimitrios pulled up in his car, as casually as if he had last seen me just yesterday, not last year. We went down the road just a few hundred yards to celebrate with a couple of pints at "The Jolly Draman", where I met the proprietor, Richard, to whom I passed on the regards of Scotty Hubbard of the Prescott, Ontario pub "The Red George". After a couple of rounds, it was getting late, so I threw my panniers in Dimitri's car and started spinning my way to Hanover and the inevitable Howard Pond Hill, a steep climb of 700 feet or so over the course of 2 miles up from the Androscoggin valley floor below. Returning to the child-hood playground of Howard Pond is always a rejuvenating experience for me. So many memories stir in this magical place where I learned to swim and spent long summer days chasing frogs, hiking woods and peaks, sailing and canoeing and reading books all summer long. Always a cool refreshing swim awaited after a steamy day in the hayfields of the valley below.
Day 70 Morrisville, VT to Lancaster, NH
September 13, 2009
3357 total miles
Left Morrisville in a drizzle, but not before another constitutional cup of coffee and in impossible to resist blueberry muffin, which consisted of at least as much blueberry as it did muffin! Route 15 going east was a steady climb up to and a little past Walden, afterwards a great descent on route 2 down into St. Johnsbury. I gathered some more provisions at the local health food store, and by this time the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Glimpses of the departing Green Mountains and the approaching White Mountains triggered many good memories of times spent in some of these mountains and a bit of nostalgia mixed with the excitement of the upcoming reunions with friends and family so near, and yet on the other side of the mountains. Another big climb and then another descent into the Connecticut River Valley on the Vermont side at the end of the day with radiant gold light playing across the pastures and corn fields and illuminating the valley and mountains on the east, New Hampshire, side.
My hosts in Lancaster for the evening were Carol and Dave Haas who were extremely easygoing and seasoned bike tourists in their own right. Dave is now retired and taking full advantage of the time afforded by his new situation--he recently completed a spring tour coming across the southern tier from Houston, to Mobile and then back up to New York and Vermont. Keep riding , Dave! We watched some baseball and Sunday night football together, but honestly I couldn't keep my eyes open, the day's ride had taken its toll on me, so I retired in the 3rd quarter!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Day 69 St. Albans to Morrisville, VT
September 12, 2009
3291 total miles
Left the wonderfully warm and hospitable home of Angela and Stephen Bernard and their two daughters, Lindsay and Molly who were bundles of energy and inquisitiveness. Stephen is a bike commuter extraordinaire, logging miles in every month of the year, riding the snowmobile trails of northern Vermont in the middle of the winter nights on his Surly Pugsley, monster snow bike with cartoon 26 rim/29 diameter tires!
Today's ride was mostly casual, apart from the increasing frequency and slope of the hills. I meandered along route 104 out of St. Albans and was pleased to find a smooth stretch of new pavement for almost 10 miles, which made rolling very enjoyable. Spent some time at the waterfalls at Fairfax Falls on the Lamoille river and continued on to the villages of Jeffersonsville, Cambridge, Johnson on my way to Morrisville, where I was met at the edge of town on bike by my next hosts, Marci Young and Zachary, who escorted me the rest of the way to their home. We spent a delightful evening at Morrisville's civic happening place, The Bee's Knees, an establishment where all ages meet to partake of organic dining, good beer, wine , coffee and live entertainment. We ended the evening meeting some of Marci's friends and singing and dancing along with the guitar and piano. Thanks for a great evening!
Friday, September 11, 2009
Day 67-68 Hogansburg to Mooer's Fork, NY to St. Albans, VT
September 10-11, 2009
3252 total miles
I didn't realize how fatigued I was until I woke this morning, 10 1/2 hours later. Last thing I remember was turning out the headlamp. Rip Van Winkle slept in New York, too. I rode the first day into a headwind, the edge of a system moving in from the Atlantic over the middle Atlantic states. Then camped out in Mooer's Fork at a campground that was all but closed for the season. One of the highlights of Thursday's ride was a visit to Dick's Country Store, Music Oasis and Gun City, where there is an amazing selection of guitars of every make and every musician's desire. Leave out the guns. Prominent in the photo of Dick's are a couple of windmills-- the stretch of high ground above the St. Lawrence Seaway between Chateaugay and Churubasco is filled with windmills turning above the tree canopy. Dozens of windmills, if not a hundred? I lost sight and count of them all!
Today, September 11, 2009 is the eighth anniversary of the tragedy that befell the world. Flags at half mast, sober reminders of our sorrows, flew across border stations, post offices and other public buildings. Perhaps my border experience is tempered a bit by my recognition of the very necessary job the border agents perform every day in helping assure our security. Recent convictions in Canada and UK of planned attacks on the CN Tower in Toronto, the Canadian parliament in Ottawa and the "Pop-Bottle" terrorists, give pause for thought. What is the destructive force behind these minds? What are the bridges we must rebuild to understanding the balance of the world that has been so poisoned to want to perform such terrible acts?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Day 66 Johnstown, ON to Hogansburg, NY
September 9, 2009
3156 total miles
If any of you are feeling old and weary, telling yourselves that you "can't do it, whatever 'it' is , anymore" then here's some inspiration for you: a couple from Summerstown, ON, Jean and Bob Hill, who just concluded their own Trans-Canadian tour!
This was my last day in Canada with a fair weather ride along the Waterfront Trail which is a remarkable connection of park paths, side-roads, and bike lanes on routes parallelling the St. Lawrence. This had to have been one of the best days yet on my tour, passing through historic places such as the Crysler Farm Battlefield of the War of 1812, where the British and Canadians routed a far superior force of Americans on November 11, 1813. Past the heritage museum of Upper Canada Village, where many buildings of historic significance were relocated during the great inundation of the making of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, then out along the islands in the seaway and through provincial parks winding up finally in Cornwall. I cruised through sylvan glades of birch, sweet, late-summer goldenrod meadows, past marshes teeming with geese feeding for their fall migrations, and glittering sun off of these enchanting waters where fisherman cast out for that last big one of the summer. Speaking of summer: while still here, the people aren't>> overnigth, the parks, public places and roadways have become very deserted, much to my delight. All the kids are now back to school, and the rare tourists I encounter are almost all retirees who are past the rush and bustle stage in life. A much nicer pace.
Didn't get much time in Cornwall, only long enough to "squat and gobble" and then hit the bridge for USA. It turned out to be 2 long, high span bridges with an island in the middle of the river which is owned by the Akwesasne Indians who have recently asserted some national rights with respect to Canadian border patrol carrying guns on their land. Upon reaching the US side, after a lengthy interrogation from the border agent, I reached a dark and forbidding Roosevelt Town, NY, and found the motel there, which wasn't a motel at all. fortunately, I found the motel which had been earlier recommended to me. It was a little more pricey than I had hoped and all they had left was a smoking double, but I jumped at the chance to have a big clean bed, Internet access, laundry facilities and a breakfast!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Day 64-65 Kingston to Johnstown, ON September 7-8, 2009
3095 total miles
Don't know how long this run will last, but we have just had another 2 days of brilliant weather. A streak of nine in all. I spent such a full day in Kingston that I didn't leave until mid-afternoon. I rolled down the shore to a campground just outside of Gananoque, looking out at the 1000 Islands and woke up to a foggy morning down by the river. It didn't last long and as the fog lifted I was treated to expansive views of the myriad of islands and of the cottages to castles upon them. I splurged and took the tour boat out to the islands, including Heart Island, home of the Boldt Castle, heritage of the Waldorf-Astoria fortune and ostentatious reminder of another age of excess. For whatever reason, this part of the country has never before been prominent in my imagination, but is gaining in appreciation. Perhaps it is in part due to the neglected chapters in my 11th grade American history book! Vague recollections of a French and Indian War and Arnold's march on Quebec are about the extent of my memory banks. The 5 nations of the Haudenosaunee, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the flooding of historic towns to make it, the Loyalists who fled the American colonies and resettled here in historic villages and towns built of limestone, the logging and fur trades, maritime activities, canals, etc., all become matter for musing as I rolled through the towns of Gananoque, Brockfield, Maitland, and Prescott. In many places, old colonial limestone homes, surrounded by stone walls and shade trees, open expansively down sloping hills with St. Lawrence overlooks, which also afford the passerby to catch glimpses of the sparkling waters below.
Upon reaching the town of Prescott, I pulled into the Red George Public House which is a true community fixture, with 50 local owners participating in the equity of the place. The owner of the building in which it is housed, Scotty Hubbard, is also the manager of the place. In another strange turn of events Scotty was born in the same place and same era as my older brother Christopher. Scotty came into this world at Thayer Hospital in Waterville, ME in February 1954. His father Cal Hubbard went to Colby College as did my father, but they weren't contemporaries-- Cal matriculated before the war and returned to finish at Colby afterwards. He was a DKE and my dad was an ATO.
This next part goes out to all the mothers out there reading this and in counterpart to their children: Dear moms, I would like to thank you for standing by your children no matter how old or young, happy or sad, healthy or sick, famous or infamous. While I was at the pub I was witness to a sad, dysfunctional man who had obvious drinking problems which were becoming a public matter to everyone's discomfort. His mother came to help him out and he was less than kind to her, despite her patient and caring manner in dealing with him. He obviously needed help, but I couldn't help but think that there comes a time in life, when despite the unconditional love of a mother directed at a troubled 40 year old son, it needs to give way to a caring loving child returning the sentiment. There ought to come a time when we as children in this world stop demanding things of our parents and turn in their direction to help them as they become older and more frail. Thanks to all you moms (and dads!) out there who give life and love to their children. May we, the children, someday be able to return that love in whatever ways we can.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Day 63 Tweed to Kingston, ON
Sunday September 6, 2009
3024 total miles
One more fabulous day of riding in this ever-so-sweet tail-end of a Canadian summer. Greg and Stacey gave me a wonderful send-off and pointed me down the road with guidance as to better choices for a safe and enjoyable ride towards Kingston. They both put on many kilometers a year on these local roads and know every bump and pothole! To my pleasant surprise, after about an hour and a half I was overtaken by Greg and Stacey on the road between Marlbank and Tamworth. They paced me into Tamworth and we stopped briefly at the bakery there for some excellent refreshments (thanks guys!) and another push off-- this time they headed for the remainder of their loop and points homeward and I along the remainder of my ride. I decided to take County 4 instead of County 6 and it turned out to be a good decision, and projected me straight towards Lake Ontario at Millhaven. The road conditions were for the most part smooth and had good shoulders for much of he way along 4. Once at the lake I followed Route 33 into Kingston along what is known as the Loyalist Trail. The views out towards Amherst Island and along the beginnings of the St. Lawrence were sunny and sailboat filled. It made me want to park the bike and get out on the water. Perhaps tomorrow for the 1000 Islands boat tour... In one respect I did fulfill that wish and booked a night on the Canadian Coast Guard Ice-breaker/museum/Bed&Breakfast Alexander Henry, named after colonial fur trader, militia man, merchant and author Alexander Henry, which offers fairly affordable rooms in the historic district of Kingston during the summer months. In addition it is a floating museum and an extension of the maritime museum next door. Tomorrow will involve some sightseeing and I will avoid riding too much, as it will be "crazy labor-return-home-at-all-costs-regardless-of-the-bike-in-front of-me-day." Spent dinner out at the Kingston Brewing Company where I met a fellow traveller and blogger, Jen, who is on the road in a return tour of her native Canada after teaching English Lit. abroad for the past 13 years. Awesome journey so far-- great conversation, pictures and insights to all things and people Canadian! Happy Trails in "Jamboree!"
Day 62 Peterborough to Tweed, ON Saturday September 5, 2009
2965 total miles
Rode out of Peterborough with Sue and Ian guiding the way on the back roads. We stopped at the world famous Peterborough lift locks built in 1904 on the Trent-Severn waterway and witnessed a couple of tour boats being lowered 50 or more feet in a big tub of water! I never knew there was such an invention, but the physical principle is simple and the same as that involved for any hydraulic lift jack-- but size of the lift pistons required to lift the mass of boats and water-- now that's a different story! The Trent-Severn canal goes from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron and is a popular trip for boaters. On my way to Tweed, I looked for the Trans Canada trail where it was indicated on the maps, and found, instead, depending on the locale, old rail tracks or rough ATV rutted rail grade, but none of the promised limestone screenings. The map set I am using published by a consortium of various trails councils have been somewhat misleading, whether I'm looking for a paved road, a road with a shoulder or a cycling trail in good condition. Much of the overall trails plan here in Ontario is still " a good notion" awaiting a budget, zoning or use permits or some other reason. The result is a discontinuous system of trails, which is hit-or-miss. When they are good, though, they are very good and getting off the road is a great way to relax a bit and see some scenery instead of the white-knuckle alternative on the provincial highways. My Warm Showers hosts in Tweed, Stacey Berdan and Greg Kerr, tri-athletes in their own right, were very accommodating. Greg also had a great uncle, Sylva Biron, and an uncle, Gerald Kerr, who lived in my hometown of Rumford , Maine! I have more great information about the route ahead and have been convinced to spend a little more time in Ontario, to visit the historic port town of Kingston, the former capital of Canada, and the Thousand Islands boat tour near Gananoque. I should make it to the states in about 2 days.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Day 60-61 Barrie to Sharon to Peterborough, ON
Thursday-Friday September 3-4, 2009
2840/2902 total miles
Compressing two postings into 1 as I work my way across Ontario. the weather has been so kind to me that I have decided to take a more leisurely pace across this section, enjoying some of the sights and lounging in the sun a bit. My tent was so wet from the dew at the campground yesterday, it took some extra time to dry out-- besides, there was a great saltwater pool at the Bare Oaks resort and I couldn't resist getting some sun and vitamin D on parts of me that don't normally see the sun ;)
The ride into Peterborough was enhanced by an end of the day ride in the oncoming moonlight along the Omemee section of the Trans Canada trail, where I arrived at the home of Susan Sauve who works in transportation planning in Peterborough and Ian Attridge who is founder and director of the Kawartha Heritage Conservancy, a public land trust, were magnanimous hosts in the Warm Showers network. Enjoyed a relaxing evening and morning brunch with them and their friends Richard and Renee and set my sights on my next stop in Tweed.