Denise Goldberg's blog

Red-clad feet on a purple bike
Wandering on two (bicycle) wheels in Downeast Maine

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Set to travel after a long (but unplanned) interval

Looking back... originally published on June 2, 2005

It feels like this trip - or any trip with my bike - has been a long time coming. I had 3 bike trips planned for 2004, but circumstances prevented me from taking the next step past the planning stage. My usual habit is to dream of places to ride over the winter and to start planning one or more trips in the late winter timeframe. I was stopped in my tracks this year by wondering whether I was back in (what I would consider to be) reasonable touring shape. Without getting out on my bike and letting some miles roll by, there just didn't seem to be an answer to that question.

We had a good-weather weekend in early April, and I got in my first two days of 35+ mile rides for the season. And the next day? I was really tired. I was worried too, thinking that being tired after just 2 rides of that length was a bad sign for the upcoming touring season. Of course, those two days represented a pretty big jump in mileage, and looking back I shouldn't have let it mess with my head. In the meantime, April returned to its normal cold self, and my on-the-bike training was pretty much stopped by the weather. I was riding, but all of my rides were in the 15 to 20 mile range. I planned a 3-day weekend at the beginning of May, thinking that I could get a sense about how ready I was for touring by doing 3 days of decent length rides. The weather wizard absolutely canceled that plan for me, delivering a very cold and rainy weekend. I took my planned day off that Monday anyway, thinking that one day of riding was much better than none. The ride? I did an out and back ride along the coast of New Hampshire. I thought about making it a 3-state day, starting in Massachusetts and ending by crossing the bridge into Maine, but somehow keeping it simple seemed to be the right answer for that day. In spite of it being a rather gloomy and chilly day, riding felt good.

One test ride down... At the time I still thought I could use the month of May to prove to myself that I was ready for touring again. That didn't happen. (Actually, it didn't happen until the very end of the month.) The National Weather Service summary published on June 1st finally made me realize that the fact that I hadn't managed a month of decent length rides in preparation for my return to touring didn't have anything to do with my desires or my fitness level. Here's some of what they had to say:
May 2005 was an unusually cool and gloomy month for much of southern New England. Most climatological stations ranked May 2005 within the top 5 coolest in at least 100 years of official records. In addition... (it was)...the second least sunniest May since 1888.

It was the coldest May in Boston since 1967... in addition there were only three days during the month with above average daily mean temperatures. Total precipitation was 3.98 inches, just 0.74 inch above normal ...measurable precipitation occurred during 19 out of 31 days or seven days more than normal. Measurable precipitation was also recorded on every Saturday and Sunday/holiday during the month except Saturday May 14th.
So it wasn't me after all! And Memorial Day weekend supplied me with a reasonable weather window to test my readiness for touring by getting in some good rides. I managed 3 days of good rides, only one of which was totally dry. Sunday was the day I really got wet... The day started with wet roads, so I started my ride a bit later than expected - waiting for the roads to dry out! It was cloudy, but it was still a pretty good riding day. I was rewarded for riding by coming around a corner to see a blue heron standing in the middle of a pond. Later in the afternoon, I saw the sun reflected in a pond. Still a nice day. Not too much later I started to see very gray clouds. And more gray clouds, dark and threatening. At that point a rider passed heading in the opposite direction. He looked up and said "you know we are both going to get very wet, don't you?" He was absolutely right, and when I was about 4 miles from home a steady rain started. Too bad I didn't have my rain gear with me - my bike & I were very wet and in need of a bath when I got home. Oh well, it was still a good ride - 45 miles worth of good.

Monday dawned with clear blue skies. The weather forecast called for a high probability of rain and afternoon thunderstorms. Do you think I listened? Nope. Out we headed (my bike and I), with the target of doing 50 miles... It probably would have been smart to combine some shorter loops near home, just in case - but I didn't do that. I was afraid that if I started on a shorter loop that I would get bored and head home without completing my target mileage. I managed 54 miles, and that included riding through two rainstorms. I was really lucky though, considering the downpour with loud cracks of thunder and visible cloud to ground lightening strikes that greeted me as I pulled up to my house at the end of the ride. Talk about dumb luck and good timing!

It's June now, and hopefully the cool and wet weather that lived here for the entire month of May will give way to more rideable weather so I can continue improving my fitness level. But the biking I was able to do over Memorial Day weekend convinced me that it's time to start touring again.

My feet (well, actually my foot) - riding down the road, and happily clad in my new red Sidi Dom's! Somehow I couldn't make myself buy black shoes...

Who took the picture? If you have to ask you probably really don't want to know!

Table of Contents

For now, please use Blogger's list of posts in the sidebar to follow my trip in reverse sequence. I plan to flip this blog on its head so that the posts flow from oldest to newest (like the table of contents in a book), adding a real Table of Contents and a Page by Page sidebar entry, and adding (better) next and previous links at the bottom of each post.

I probably won't be able to make these changes for the next several weeks.

...Denise, January 25, 2009

Saturday, August 6, 2005

A short but successful tour spite of the scenic highway designations!

It's really hard to believe that my short tour of (a portion of) Downeast Maine was over a month ago. While it was short, it served its purpose of allowing me to prove to myself that I am really back. I think that touring on my bike is an important part of me - at least for now - and I'm happy to be back!

The tiny portion of Downeast Maine that I used for wandering by bike was a good place for my re-introduction to touring. In fact, I'm sure that I will be visiting there again in the future.

Yes, I did change my plans mid-way through the trip, and no, I have no regrets about doing my trip half as a tour and half as day rides. Of course, looking back on my tours, I seem to have a habit of changing my plans, don't I? I guess that even when I plan a trip out ahead of time I still need to satisfy my partially hidden wanderlust.

And the issue with the scenic highway designation? I found out many years ago that I don't always agree that designated scenic highways are scenic, but somehow I forgot that as I was planning this trip. The day that I rode from Ellsworth to Winter Harbor and then around the Schoodic Penninsula to Prospect Harbor, there were scenic designations on a couple of stretches of road. While I agree that the portion of the road that hugged the coastline of the Schoodic Penninsula was unbelieveably beautiful and scenic, I don't agree that the section of Route 1 along Frenchman's Bay deserved the designation. Of course, that's my bias because to me a scenic road along the coast should provide many views of the coastline, and this one didn't. But in spite of my disagreeing with the scenic highway designation, the ride was still beautiful - just beautiful in a different way than I had expected!

If you're thinking of Maine as a touring destination, I recommend a visit to the section of the state called Downeast Maine. It is beautiful, and welcoming to a touring cyclist. In spite of warnings that (mainly non-cycling) friends had for me about riding on Route 1, I found it to be a reasonable road for riding - at least that far east in the state. I probably wouldn't be happy riding Route 1 in the western side of Maine (too much traffic, too many cars), but there are other options there.

This year isn't over yet, and I'm planning another tour. Or maybe I should say I'll be taking another tour, but I'm going back to not planning each day in advance. Keep an eye out for my next journal!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Yes, there really are more pictures

Interested in more pictures of my week's worth of wandering in Downeast Maine?

If you'd like to see more (oh, and yes, there is some overlap between this journal and the galleries)... there are 4 galleries within the gallery titled Wandering by bike in Downeast Maine - June 2005. You can get to them from the top level gallery, or you can click to each individually using the links below:

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Would you stay there again? Yes!

My lodging for the trip was a combination of 4 nights in basic hotels (Fairfield Inn in Bangor & Bar Harbor, and Comfort Inn in Ellsworth) and 3 nights in B&B-type accommodations.

The hotels were just as I expected, basic accommodations but clean and very acceptable. The Comfort Inn did me the additional favor of allowing me to leave my 4-wheeled vehicle there while I was out touring, suggesting that I leave it right by the front door. Not only was I given permission to leave my car there, the manager remembered our conversation and greeted me on my return to the hotel with questions about how my tour was going.

I would happily return and stay again at both the Oceanside Meadows Inn and Harbor House on Sawyer Cove. They had different feelings - at least partially due to the fact that one was an inn and one a B&B - but both were comfortable and welcoming.

I stayed at the Oceanside Meadows Inn for one night in Prospect Harbor. The inn has 2 buildings containing guest rooms, and in addition both buildings have sitting rooms scattered thoughout for guests to use. One of the buildings contains the dining room used for guest breakfasts, and the other includes a kitchen that is available for guest's use. Restaurants in the vicinity are not in walking distance (although there was a deli about a mile away), so I picked up food for dinner in Winter Harbor before riding to the inn, and made use of the guest kitchen. I was greeted here with a smile, given a tour of the inn, and given information about activities around the inn - including a couple of hikes and oceanfront access. The innkeeper told me that I could keep my bike in my room (and the room was large enough to accommodate it), but there was also a garage in the building that I suspect would be usable for that purpose. My room was on the second floor, and had 4 windows overlooking the water, and included both an easy chair and a rocking chair sitting by the windows. A king-sized bed and a private bath completed my home away from home.

Choices of times for breakfast were every half hour between 7:30 and 9 (or 9:30 - sorry, I wasn't interested in the later times so I guess I didn't pay that much attention to the time of the last breakfast slot). Breakfast was a multi-course affair (mango-lime soup, followed by zucchini bread, followed by blueberry waffles - with a choice of juices and coffee or tea), accompanied by good conversation from both our server and other guests (amazing that I wasn't the only one who chose the 7:30 breakfast slot!).

Oceanside Meadows Inn - My room was on the second floor, the 4 windows on the right as you look at the photo.

Harbor House on Sawyer Cove in Jonesport was my home away from home for two nights. What a wonderful B&B! I was greeted by Maureen who then proceeded to show me my room, the back porch - which was the location of my very nice breakfasts (and could also be used by guests just for sitting & relaxing), the yard, and the shortcut over to the area where I would board the boat for my puffin cruise. And my bike was welcome to stay on the enclosed (back) porch). The first floor of the building housed a cafe (used for cooking guest breakfasts but didn't appear to be open other than that - might be seasonal, I didn't ask!). Maureen & Gene - the owners and my hosts - live on the 2nd floor. And the 2 guest rooms are on the 3rd floor. My room was lovely, and had a king-sized bed, a sitting area, and a table and chairs by the bay window looking out over the harbor. And again, the room included a private bath. Coffee & tea were available at all times, and there was a refrigerator on the 2nd floor that guests are welcome to use.

I thought since the puffin tour had a meeting time of 6:30 AM that my breakfast would have to consist of the energy bars that I was carrying with me. Not so! Enough guests take the tour that Maureen offers breakfast at any time between 6 AM and 9 AM. And a nice breakfast, at that! My first morning, I had fresh fruit (melon, papaya, kiwi, and berries) and blueberry waffles. The second day the fruit accompanied eggs and English muffins. Cereal (both cold & hot) was also available, as were breakfast meats if you so desired. And of course there was the usual juice and coffee or tea...

Harbor House on Sawyer Cove - a view of the sitting area in my room, the wonderfully comfortable bed, the enclosed porch (breakfast area), and a couple of residents who happily welcomed me to the house.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Driving home

...with a stop for a mid-day mystery ride

Much as I would like to spend some more time with my bike in Downeast Maine, today was the day that I needed to head home again. I woke once again to a very foggy and somewhat cool morning. The pavement was dry, but the air was full of that gray stuff.

My hopes for the morning included a wander once again (with my bike, of course) around Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park. After breakfast, I started to drive south from Ellsworth. Within a couple of miles the fog got even thicker, and I needed to use the windshield wipers to maintain visibility. Somehow that didn't seem like ideal riding conditions to me, so I switched directions and started to head towards home. I still hoped to get in a short ride somewhere today; I just didn't know where that would be.

Instead of driving back to Bangor to pick up I-95, I started west and south on route 1. I figured that some set of towns or one of the spits (or penninsulas) of land jutting out into the Atlantic would appeal to me for a short ride. Then I saw a sign warning of road construction and probable delays in the Camden area. That really didn't appeal, so I consulted my road map and changed my heading once again. (See, I change plans in a car too - it's not just a bike touring habit of mine!) I saw that route 173 eventually intersected with route 3, which would take me to I-95 in Augusta, so I turned onto 173. It turned out to be a beautiful and rather hilly road. In fact, it could provide some interesting riding. I can't say that it was a straight route since it did a bit of twisting around. It didn't seem to be alone in that habit (the twisting and turning, that is) because at one point I was on a road that was labeled as 173 North / 131 South. Tell me, how can I be heading both north and south at the same time?

Tell me, how can I be heading north and south at the same time?

My purple bicycle finally decided to stop riding along silently - she started asking when and where we were going to ride. (What? Your bikes don't talk to you?) I guess she figured I had forgotten about riding today, but I didn't. I stopped in Freeport and headed out with my bike on somewhat of a mystery ride. It was only a mystery because I only had a state road map, and not a detailed map of the Freeport area. I had parked near the town's information kiosk, and there was a very detailed map of where all the stores in Freeport were located - but there was nothing showing the roads in the area. I really didn't want to ride on route 1, so I found a numbered but narrow road and headed out on an out-and-back ride. It was a rolling road, a nice setting for a ride. The sky was gray when I started, but a light gray that didn't appear to be threatening at all. And the winds were fairly calm. Neither of those conditions lasted though. A short while after I turned around the sky started to get very dark. No thunder this time, just dark clouds. And a little bit after that the wind really whipped up. Of course it was a headwind, so I was a little worried that my attempt to get back to the car while the bike and I were still clean and dry was not going to succeed. The wind was pretty strong, the temperature felt like it was dropping, and my speed was dropping too. I did stop for a second to put my camera in my waterproof pannier (and yes, I really was riding with a single pannier so I could carry things like my rain jacket with me). I was lucky today; the rain held off and I was able to finish my ride while I was still dry.

Of course since I was in Freeport I had to wander into LLBean. I didn't need anything, it was a "just because" type of stop. It still amazes me that the store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. And there aren't any locks on the front doors to the store!

One of my goals as I drove home today was to watch the Maine license plates to see if there were any that I was missing. It seems that most states have a single plate design, but there are sometimes special designs for special purposes. Most of the cars I saw had the standard picture of a chickadee and a pine cone along the left side of the plate. I occasionally saw two other designs though - a loon, and a lobster. The lobster really surprised me because that was an old license plate design, and I thought I remembered there being a controversy over that particular plate relative to lobster being a pricey item. When I mentioned seeing the lobster plates to Maureen (my hostess at the B&B in Jonesport), she said that there was another argument against the lobster plate - and that was that Maine was the only state that had a picture of a dead animal on their license plate, one that was not only dead but was also cooked! I never would have thought of that! It appears that the three designs that I saw are the current set of plates.

Most of the cars I saw were sporting the chickadee & pinecone plate, but occasionally a loon or a lobster would pop up.

Home again... It's good to be home again - even though I could have happily stayed out on the road with my bicycle for a while longer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Communing with our fine-feathered friends

Puffins, terns, razorbills, and...

I woke to find another gray and foggy morning. I figured there was a good chance that I'd have the entire day to wander on my bike, but I quickly dressed for a chilly boat ride, loaded up the car, and headed down to breakfast. I wanted to be ready just in case.

And just in case turned into a yes, the boat is heading to Machias Seal Island this morning. And even better, it turns out that the number of people who can visit the island from each boat is 13. I was number 14, and with one over, they just look the other way - so I was able to take the tour that I was hoping for. Time to commune with the birds...

It turns out that Machias Seal Island - the summer home of some amazing birds - is disputed territory, claimed by both the United States and Canada. The Canadian Wildlife Service and park rangers maintain a presence on the island, but apparently a few years back there was a real to do over the ownership of the island. At one point, Barna Norton (the father of the captain of our boat today) was told he could no longer land there. He got the government involved, and now both countries are claiming the island. At least the confrontation is at a government level and not a people level. Everyone was friendly, so it appears that the conflict is not (currently) at a human level. We had a chance to talk with some of the people staffing this island. It turns out that they work on the island for 28 days and then have 28 days off. Of course the crew we spoke with this morning had been there for 32 days. Their transportation to and from the island is a helicopter that requires visual contact with the land. It's been a foggy week, and it looks like the fog will be continuing.

Back to my day... The boat left promptly at 7am, heading through the protected Jonesport harbor area and then moving out into open ocean waters. It was cool, gray, and very foggy. The waves were a bit rough on the way out, and even rougher on the way back. It turns out that the cancellation of yesterday's tour was only partially due to the fog. It sounds like today's rough water was calm in comparison with yesterday's. The fog prevented us from seeing much on the way out, but as we got close to the island (which was 21 nautical miles from Jonesport) we started seeing swarms of birds.

When we landed on the island, we were given "tern sticks". They were slats of wood that were probably between 3 and 4 feet long. We were told to hold the sticks over our heads, holding them still and not waving them around. Why? Rather than building a nest in a safe spot, the terns drop their eggs wherever they happen to be - so there were tern eggs sitting all over. The ones we could see were on the (cut) grass, but there may have been some hidden in the taller grass too. The wildlife folks had marked most of the locations with bright colored (but small) flags. Anytime those of the human species started walking, the terns took to the air, dive bombing to protect their yet-to-hatch babies. And along the way they also left their precious bird poop on some of the visitors. I believe the purpose of the sticks was to keep the angry birds away from our heads.

The terns were definitely aware of our arrival, although these had calmed down and landed.

I really regret that I didn't have my camera in hand when we set foot on the island. We were told to pick up a stick (looked like a long paint stirrer) from the bucket at the dock and to hold it up in the air. The idea was that the terns would dive bomb the sticks and not our heads - and it did seem to work (although some of the group did get hit with some tern (bird) shit).

Next we headed down to the blinds, small wood shacks with small square windows that basically were holes in the walls with a piece of wood that slides over the opening. Up to 4 people can fit in a blind. I shared mine with a couple from Kingston, NY. We were warned not to open windows on two sides of the blind at the same time. With opposite windows open, sometimes the birds decide they can and should fly through the blinds.When we first arrived, some of the birds made a quick exit, but once all human presence was hidden, they returned. There were two kinds of birds that were outside of our blind - puffins, and razorbills. The razorbills reminded me of penguins. And the puffins? They are truly amazing looking. Not only were they sitting, and walking, and flying, and wandering outside of our blind, they were also scrambling around on the roof of the blind. Their feet were bright orange, and their beaks were multi-colored. Beautiful. I'm hoping that some of the pictures I took with my baby camera (a Canon S40) are reasonable images. This would have been the right trip to be carrying a camera with a significant telesphoto lens.

A glimpse of the puffins from the blind. The birds moved away from the blinds (really little shacks) when we arrived, but as you'll see from the later pictures they came back. They even came back to prance across the tin roof of the blind while we were in it.

The sounds the birds made were amazing too, although I'm not sure which birds made which noises. If you want to hear what I heard, go to the (Norton of Jonesport, Maine) Puffin Tours of Machias Seal Island page. There is an audio clip that you can click on, and I can tell you that the sounds you'll hear there definitely match the sounds we heard on the island.

The sun finally made an appearance on the trip back. Most of us were inside the boat by that time after being warned that it was likely to get pretty wet in the back of the boat as we sped through the waves. There were two more visual treats as we got closer to Jonesport - a bald eagle, and a seal. What a nice addition to our bird viewing day.

It was low tide when we returned, and what was a shallow ramp from the top of the dock down to the boat was now at a very steep angle. Our captain told us that in the Jonesport harbor area (of the Bay of Fundy) that there is a 14-foot difference in water level between low and high tide. Amazing.

It was warmer under a blue sky when we got back. I had considered driving back to the eastern edge of the state to do a loop ride out of Pembroke that I found in the Maine cycle tours puublication. I didn't really want to spend that much time in the car though, and it was already one in the afternoon, so I just randomly chose a road on the map for an out and back ride. I drove a short way to the east, and left my car in Machias. I then headed down the road leading to Jasper Beach. Funny thing about flat paper maps - they unfortunately give ne no clues as to the riding conditions. The road I chose was hilly but beautiful. I passed some folks working in a yard, and they told me (in what I think of as an old Maine accent) that the road up ahead was very beautiful but very hilly. They went on to say that if I didn't come back out in two hours that they would come and get me! They were just kidding, but I really believe that they would have been happy to drive down the road in thieir pickup to give me a ride back.And they were right about the hills. They had an interesting difference of opinion of the road up ahead. The woman in the group told me that I should ride as far as Fort Henry, that it was hilly after that. One of her companions said "what are you, crazy? There's a steep hill leading down to Fort Henry, and she'll have to ride back up the hill.". I chose to ignore their well-meaning description of the road up ahead, and I kept on riding. And I'm glad I did...

It was a very pleaant road for riding. Unfortunately soon after I turned back I noticed a dark, dark section of sky, and I started hearing thunder. I was hoping that I'd make it back without getting wet, but it just wasn't to be. I rode through sprinkles, and then as I pulled into the center of Machias the skies just opened up. Luckily, I was right next to a gas station, so I pulled in and stood under the canopy over the pumps until the deluge let up. There was still water streaming down the sides of the road and there was still light rain falling when I got back on my bike to finish the remaining mile back to my car. All things considered I was very, very lucky. I could have easily been a lot wetter than I was.

Tomorrow it's time to head home. Before I head home I'm planning to ride in the morning, but that will depend on whether the rain has moved on by then. Where? I honestly don't know. I'm in Ellsworth tonight, and right now I'm considering heading back to Acadia and doing the Park Loop Road once more. Or I might decide to ride a bit further to the south and west, maybe in the Camden / Rockport / Rockland area. I know it probably makes more sense to ride somewhere new tomorrow, but my riding decision for the day doesn't need to make sense - it only needs to make me happy!

Look closer - the rocks in the background are totally covered with birds!