Saturday June 8, 2019
Friday June 7, 2019
Day three route, 195 KM
After a fairly quiet night in the campground and a fantastic sleep I woke up to another clear day. I had decided to spend the day on a short ride along the coast and revisit some favourite Downeast Maine places. I didn’t want to get very much farther south along the coast, though, as things can get pretty crowded and congested the further along you go, it was still early in June but it was Friday and I was anticipating higher volumes of weekend traffic would be coming into the area. I also decided to stay put for another night since I could easily accomplish all this without moving my camp. With little to accomplish for the day I took my time getting the day going.
I made coffee but decided to hold off on breakfast. My first planned stop of the day was going to be Congdon’s Donuts an hour or so down the road in Wells, ME and I would be getting something to eat there. Incidentally I’d found out that National Donut Day is celebrated on this date each year so although I’d have been stopping there anyway, visiting Congdon’s Donuts today took on special importance. I usually don’t get donuts when I’m at Congdon’s, opting instead for the “Honeybun” while isn’t strictly a doughnut, but whatever.
Being in no particular rush, though, I took my coffee mug for a walk around the campground eventually making my way over to the front gate and paid the $27.25 fee for another night. Interestingly as a Maine State Park, the fee is $10. cheaper for Maine residents. Being only 7 miles from Freeport I’m still surprised it’s not busier, though glad it wasn’t.
After another mug of coffee it was about 11:00 and I was suitably prepared to hit the road. It only took me 15 minutes to get to Freeport and a cigar shop I know of and in only 15 more minutes I emerged from their large humidor area with a small bundle of new cigars to try.
Following Rte 1 south was a beautiful ride. The air was clear and warm without being hot. There was little traffic for most of the trip and it’s a very scenic drive that’s really enjoyable when you aren’t in a hurry. Things got noticeably busier and more congested at Portland but was still very good, I thought, for a June Friday.
Eventually I got to Congdon’s around noon.
To my disappointment, they were out of Honeybuns. They were also out of Doughnuts, Donut Holes (we call them Timbits) and all other forms of donutry. “we only do donuts in the morning, even on National Donut Day” and I’d missed my chance. Congdon’s owners are true retail rebels – even though they completely sell out every day, they refuse to make a single donut after 12 noon, turning hopeful donut fans away every afternoon – talk about marching to your own drummer. They did have a few muffins and a few mini Whoopie Pies (think two big cookies made from cake batter with icing sandwiched between) so I bought a couple of those and left. Humbug.
I headed down to the Wells Beach area, which was beautiful as always.
While a few of the more “cottag-ey” smaller places still remain, most have been torn down by now to be replaced with outsized “McCottages” that are wedged onto the tiny lots. Some have been set up with multiple suites for holiday rentals and some are just the usual ostentatious display and enjoyment of wealth. It seems like half of them are for sale as later generations cash in on Grandma and Grandpa’s foresight, casting aside the family cottage tradition for what is likely lots of cash – I have to admit, I’d likely do the same if it were me.
Eventually I pointed my wheels north again to head back to camp. I didn’t want to retrace my steps but there are not too many good options for a direct-ish transit other than Rte 1 or the freeway, Rte 295, unfortunately I opted for the freeway.
Portland traffic was busy and just beyond the main city I saw a sign warning that 295 was closed ahead. I had JUST PASSED an exit for Rte. 1 when I saw the sign and it was only seconds more until I came to a stop in a complete gridlock on 295. I happened to be in the “best” lane which was inching ahead slightly faster than the other lane but it still took me an hour to cover the 2.5 KM of gridlock and ensuing circus that Rte. 1 had become with all 295 traffic getting off in the same spot. Ugh. The Maine State Police were there and traffic coming off 295 was getting preference much to the ire of all those already on Rte. 1. Even though I’d spent so long on 295 in gridlock I think I was better off than if I’d taken Rte. 1 as all that 295 traffic would have been funnelling off ahead of me… small blessings. It turned out they were working on repairs to an overpass above the highway but I’m still scratching my head over how dumb it was to CLOSE the highway on a Friday afternoon in June.
Once I shook free of the traffic it was a nice ride on Rte. 1 and even though I was retracing my tracks from the morning I enjoyed it. I reached Freeport about 5:00pm and decided since I hadn’t eaten anything but a couple of whoopie pies and a cookie all day that I’d splurge on dinner and stop a bit early. Buck’s Naked BBQ is at the South end of Freeport and I stop there from time to time. They use a dry rub on their baby back ribs and though I mostly prefer my ribs wet, these are usually pretty good. I ordered a half rack and brisket combo with an ice cold Sam Adams and it was all great. Beans, salad and cornbread rounded things out. The staff there is efficient, flirtatious and attentive, kitchen service quick.
An hour or so later I was back in camp.
The campground host, Dallas was super friendly and helpful. She lives in the park year-round in the Tiny House shown below and she loves it. The park is open in winter so they plow access from the main road but nobody stays in the park in the winter. Dallas told me she likes the peace and quiet of winter but just about the time she’s feeling too isolated spring comes and there are campers and others passing through to talk to.
After 30 years working as a waitress, Dallas lost her larnyx to throat cancer so she talks with an ElectroLarnyx but it doesn’t seem to impede her friendly chattiness. Her cancer returned and after more treatment she’s in remission again remaining very positive and optimistic in her outlook. She made a big impression on me in a short time.
I spotted this overland rig from somewhere in Europe on one of my walks around the campground but never got to meet the owners or find out anything about their travels.
Below is the group kitchen area, usually these things are very spartan but in this case it was fully equipped.
Dallas supplies bottled water, clean towels and other amenities. There’s a coffee machine all primed to go if you feel like it and the place is kept spotless. Awesome.
I’m really happy I found Bradbury Mountain State Park Campground and will definitely be staying there again.
Thursday June 6, 2019
Day two route, 169 KM
It rained through the night but I slept well. In the morning it was still alternating from rain to showers and back and as I was in no hurry I made coffee and thought about where to go today.
I decided to walk a ways into Searsport to see if I could find something for breakfast but didn’t really get far. Searsport seems to be one of those Maine towns that are mostly a collection of houses and random businesses strung along the road without a discernible town centre. There are many more options in nearby Belfast Bay, but that would have been quite a walk. I passed a nearby Irving that I thought would do in a pinch but although it was fully lit up and powered, the pumps were all closed and the buildings were empty. Weird to see the big and well-lit road sign showing all grades of gas at $0.00 and the pump handles all covered. So I walked back to my room, ate a power bar and looked at some route options.
By 10:00 or so I was ready to leave. The weather had settled down and the rain seemed to be finished leaving only occasional showers to deal with. Temps were cool so all my zippers were closed but it was not unpleasant riding.
A few KM down the road I stopped at Belfast Bay and rode through the little town. Stopping at a waterfront park I shot a few photos.
After this I stopped at a Hannaford’s for some groceries. I wanted to try out cooking at my campsite and not relying on freeze dried “Hiker Delight” type meals as I have in the past. I got some dry pasta, tomato sauce and some Italian sausages for supper and bought some sliced turkey breast and 6″ tortillas for a lunch on the road.
I soon carried on along route 1 along the coast and by noon the weather was dry and warming up. It was a really nice day for riding with generally clear skies and some clouds.
Around noon I stopped at a roadside rest stop at Sherman Lake and ate lunch at the nice, covered picnic tables there.
When I pulled into the park there were about a dozen various EMT type vehicles there all sitting with full lights flashing. There were multiple State Troopers, the Sherriff, a firetruck, a couple of ambulances, a SAR vehicle etc. The operators were all just kind of standing around in the parking lot and it was weird idling through between them all. Nobody seemed in a hurry and the one thing missing appeared to be a patient or other emergency.
They were there quite a while and eventually a school bus pulled in and offloaded a dozen or so cheerleaders. The cheerleaders got in several of the vehicles and everybody then hauled a$$ out of the parking lot with lights and sirens. There must be an emergency parade somewhere, I guess. Bizarre.
I hadn’t gone to the bother of ordering cigars in advance as usual and instead had decided to live off the land cigar-wise. I’d picked up some Swisher Sweets Perfectos at a gas station and got 5 for the price I usually pay for 1. They weren’t bad.
I haven’t got reservations anywhere and now it’s after lunch so I started thinking about finding a campground. I had no wifi here but most of my campground apps work offline, just without maps. (I later figured out a way around that).
ioverlander.com was showing a promising State Park campground not too far away and not too far off route one so I decided to head for there.
On my way got back to the bike in the parking lot there was a guy kind of hanging around his nearby car. When I started packing my stuff up he came over and as happens so often, started asking questions about the bike. It turned out he is a long-time BMW rider and has two at the moment – an R1200RT and a R90S. We stood there talking for quite a while about BMWs, other bikes and bike trips. He’s had the R90S for a long time and had lots of stories about mods and restorative work he’s done to it. His wife returned from wherever she’d been part way through the stories and was just sitting in the car like this happens frequently, and it likely does – he was very chatty. Eventually everybody reached a point where it was time to move along and with a wave he drove off.
I have set up a “scenic routes” option on my GPS that will find a route avoiding all highways, toll roads etc. and I used it a lot on this trip. I set the GPS to “meander” mode and off I went soon turning inland and away from Route One.
It was a really nice ride and eventually I arrived at Bradbury Mountain State Park. When I decided to head for here I couldn’t see where it was on the map – my GPS had routed me through a series of country roads and I had not been on route one since lunch time. So I was surprised to find out my campsite was only 7 miles from Freeport, ME. I was even more surprised to find it only about 25% occupied as Freeport is a shopping mecca and usually very crowded and busy.
This turned out to be a new addition to my “favourite places to camp” list and I ended up staying here two nights. It was primative (though my site happened to have running, potable water) and relatively quiet. Most of the noise came from a bit of traffic on the road out in front of the campground. It didn’t bother me but next time I’d likely choose a spot deeper in the campground and further from the road.
Some of the walk-in sites are very secluded:
Although it was early in the day I decided to stop here and set up. On so many past trips I’d be out droning along on the interstate and swearing at the traffic for hours yet but this felt right for this trip. I enjoyed relaxing around the campsite and talking with the park staff.
I cooked my supper and it all worked out fine, it was nice to be able to put together something for myself that doesn’t cost 12 bucks, doesn’t contain so much salt and isn’t 600 calories. The needs of a backpacking hiker and a guy just sitting on a bike all day are pretty different, convenience seems to be the main point of convergence but now I have lots of time that doesn’t matter as much.
Eventually an R1200RT rider from Petrolia, ON stopped by to say hello and chat. He was on a tour with his truck and trailer rig as his wife won’t ride. His brothers all ride too and we shared some stories. He was kind of focused on the bugs (there were a few but not that many) and talked about how hard it had rained the night before. He complained a lot about the weather, citing the cold and wet not-spring as the reason he wasn’t riding his bike much. He was getting pretty doom-n-gloomy on the topic of climate change – when I finally found out he was a raised on a farm and it all made a lot more sense. He likely grew up with everyone around him cussing on the the weather no matter what kind of weather it was. But yeah, climate change is real and it’s going to be wetter in the East.
Later another rider with a K1600 came by to chat, he is new to BMW coming from the Harley world and so far he is very happy. He “has no idea what most of the buttons do” but knows how to work the GPS and is a seasoned long-haul rider. He’s from Quincy, MA (just outside Boston) and when the bike was five days old rode it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He said it was a cold ride at the beginning of March but he loved the ride. He’s was on his way to Laconia, NH the next morning to join in the for Bike week festivities. It was dark when he came in and unfortunately I was still dark when he rolled out in the morning – I regret not having a chance to add him to my Riders I Meet photo gallery.
I don’t often have a campfire, but felt like one this night. The wood was damp but I got a little fire going and managed to keep it burning through the evening.
Day two had been a complete success and I was thoroughly enjoying the trip.
So I was itching to get away on the first real bike trip of 2019. It had been a long, cold and dark winter and my last trip in 2018 hadn’t been truly satisfying what with the cold, wet weather I had encountered.
The 2019 season would also be a kind of personal turning point where I would actually have to begin living the retired lifestyle I’d been thinking about for for so long. I wanted to change up the style of my trips. Until now most of my multi-day trips could be characterized as long, time-limited trips to specific destinations comprised of long, high mileage days and not many roses getting sniffed along the way. Those rides served a purpose and allowed me to tick off a lot of the boxes on my list of “personal destinations I want to ride to” but were losing their satisfaction quotient and becoming kind of tedious.
Beginning this year I wanted to do a different kind of trips. I still have loads of specific places I want to ride to and some of them are even familiar favourite places, but I no longer want to do so many long days and I want to avoid the interstate, travelling instead on the byways and backroads. I hope to explore places more fully, do a lot more photography and meet more interesting people on my travels. I’m looking forward to stopping earlier in the day and doing a lot more relaxing. Having a more flexible attitude about where I’m headed should also allow me to avoid more bad weather and camp more nights – because that really is one of the things I love about this kind of travel and besides, I’m a pensioner now and I need to economize where I can. Camping is a big part of the fun for me and repeatedly setting up and breaking down my camp rarely gets tedious, especially if I’m not trying to hurry to a specific destination or beat the gridlock on Interstate #whatever.
So this trip is an experiment. I need to see if I can actually do it. I want to see if I enjoy a more “meandering” travel style and if I truly can stop to experience more of a places and the people that live there.
To give me the best shot at early success I chose to travel familiar territory and because later this June I have two graduations and one Senior Prom to play Dad at, I had a maximum of 12 days to spend. I wanted to spend most of my time in the back country and could potentially see myself getting as far west as Vermont. Anyway, here’s what I actually ended up doing: I travelled a total of 1,861 KM over 5 days and camped all but one night.
Wednesday June 5, 2019
I had a loose plan to ride back roads to MacAdam, NB, cross into the US at Vanceboro, ME and ride route Two with a plan to camp at one of the campgrounds I knew about near Gorham, NH. It would make a fairly long first day, but I was prepared to stop early if I needed to. As it turned out my planning flexibility was put to the test early on the first day.
In keeping with my new, “life in the slow lane” outlook I didn’t get up at dawn, I didn’t skip breakfast and I hadn’t pre-loaded the bike the night before departure. The weather forecast was some showers in the morning and a chance of overnight showers in the area I was headed to but nothing significant. Still, it was likely going to be GoreTex conditions for the first day or two – after that everything looked perfect for at least a week in all directions.
I arrived at my storage garage around 9:30 AM, rolled the bike out and and packed it up with my gear. By 10:20 I was getting into my riding gear and giving the bike a final pre-flight look-over in preparation for departure when I looked at the front tire and thought, geez that looks soft… Sure enough it was flat.
My last ride on this bike was a big NB gravel day trip a few days before and about midway through that trip I had hit a big, pointy rock dead on with the front tire. I stopped at the time and the wheel was fine but it’d been a big hit and I thought a pinch flat was a strong possibility. I’d kept an eye on it throughout the rest of the ride and it held up fine all the way home. I never hit anything big after that one big rock so I guess it just took a little time for all the air to get out.
Nobody wants to start a trip this way. I still wanted to go and I knew I’d need to fix this anyway so I dug my tools out of the cases and got to work. By now the showers have stopped and it’s looking like an awesome day for riding.
In about half an hour I had the wheel off and the tube out. I had the hardest time ever breaking the bead on this tire – I’ve often wondered why there are so many fancy bead-breaking tools out there, it had just never been a problem for me before but this one was a b*tch. Got it done, though with the help of my big rubber mallet. I guess it would have to be a big ugly rock if I was doing this trailside.
I found the hole easy enough and it was, in fact a pinch flat. I was about to patch it when I remembered somewhere in one of these boxes I had at least one unopened 21 inch tube. A new tube is always better than a patch if you have one at hand so I went looking for it. In the end it took a bit of digging in boxes but likely no more time than it would have to patch the tube and things went back together well.
By the time all the unpacking, disassembly, cussing over the bead, digging for the tube, swatting some bugs, cussing some more, reassembly and repacking was done it was about 11:20 and I was about 2 hours behind. It was time to be flexible.
I jettisoned the stop at the car wash on my way out of town idea and determined there would likely be enough rain along the way to clean most of the caked-on muck off the bike automatically. I then deleted most of the back roads portion of the NB leg of the ride – giving in to the simple expedient of taking the TCH to just beyond Fredericton. Still it was looking doubtful I could get to Gorham, NH today as the GPS was suggesting a new best-case arrival there of about 9:30 PM.
I got to MacAdam without incident and it was a fantastic ride. Temps were pretty much ideal at 19 degrees or so and the road was smooth and clear of traffic. It was one of those days that motorcycles were invented for.
I pulled up to the Vanceboro Customs booth at 3:18 and was on my way less than two minutes later. While there the Border Agent and I mostly discussed the cloud of black flies surrounding my head. He didn’t want me to “get chewed up” so didn’t require me to take off my helmet – it’s been years since I haven’t had to de-helmet going into the US.
Down the road a mile or so I stopped for a drink and a snack and the flies swarmed me again. Inside, it’s all anybody was talking about. “Wet spring”, “long winter”, “late hatch”, “warming temps” were some of the reasons they were offering for what was looking like the worst black fly season anybody could remember – and it just started.
Hmmmm, a week of back country travel and camping you say… maybe it will be better further along.
30 minutes later I stopped at a bank I knew of that had an ATM to get some USD. The flies were not better, if anything they might have been a little worse – I literally couldn’t bear to stand at the ATM long enough to get even a single dollar out. In my mind’s eye I’d pictured at least a week of setting up camp early, hanging around, reading, walking in the woods etc – it was definitely time to be flexible again.
The weather on the coast was forecast to be cooler, a bit wetter and windier. The cooler and wetter part had it’s downside for a camping trip but it was only going to be wet the first night. I was betting, though, that the bugs would be a lot less troublesome along the coast. There was more exploring and wandering in the back country and the coast had a lot more of what I didn’t want like traffic, tourism and crowds but in the end the bugs made the call for me and I headed for the coast.
Arriving on the coast I stopped for some coffee and wifi in Searsport where I found two things, that the overnight forecast had worsened to “heavy rain” all night and rain all morning the next day. The other thing I found was a motel for only $20 bucks more than the campsite’s price so I put away my He-Man Card and booked the motel… the Bait’s Motel… ha ha, very clever. I was genuinely disappointed to not be camping but if my new rule was going to be “to be more ready to change my plans” this didn’t seem like a good time to revert to stubbornness.
The wifi didn’t work at the motel so I had to go stand outside the restaurant to get any. But the motel was clean and dry and I was blissfully sleeping as the rain thundered down all night. I would hear about this rainstorm from other campers and riders I’d meet in the days to come. ahhh, my new friend flexibility.