Friday, September 18, 2009

Days 72-73 Hanover, to Rumford to Mexico to Hallowell, ME September 15-17, 2009

Days 72-73
Hanover, to Rumford to Mexico to Hallowell, ME
September 15-17, 2009
54 miles
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...

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