Milford to Calais, Maine, 26 August 2018. Most of the route is on Stud Mill Road. The opening few miles are on County Road in Milford, the last few are on South Princeton Road (dirt) and Route 1 (asphalt) in Princeton and Calais. Note the small boxes, these are the locations where I photographed the bike lying on Stud Mill Road (left) and me with my sunglasses dipped on my nose (right), both images are included in this blog entry.
My route from the Belgrade Lakes Region to Milford (8/25), Maine, then (pink line across the middle of the image) across Stud Mill Road to Calais, Maine (8/26). When the route turns north, I'm almost immediately in New Brunswick, Canada (8/27), starting at the border in Saint Stephen then north to the provincial capital, Fredericton, and eventually (8/28) Stanley at my northern most ascent. I've also included my route from Fredericton to Nova Scotia via a ferry across the Bay of Fundy. As well as a part of my route from 9/22 through Quebec. I'll write about these bonus routes elsewhere, here they are provided only for perspective.
Background: In this blog entry, I pick up the story, from my previous entry, at my departure from Messalonskee Lake in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine where I stayed for three nights at a friends cabin. This is the third in a series of entries, the first a prologue, that will tell the story of my autumn 2018 cycling tour through the Northeastern United States, Canada's Maritime, Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec provinces. I hope to finish the massive writing project before I depart on my next tour, John-O-Groat's, Scotland to Istanbul, Turkey, ca. 20 August 2019.
One half of my genetic story, involving a great grandfather of French descent, the other was a Scottish immigrant that settled in Kansas, may have included the nearby town of Waterville, Maine. Henri Breton, his wife, and two children certainly immigrated from France to Canada then, within a couple of years or less, migrated to and settled somewhere in northern Maine. That much I know from letter correspondence with my grandfather, Joseph Breton, before he died. In those letters, Grandpa Breton, as I knew him, mentioned Waterville as a place where Henri ("on-ree") might have settled, but his confidence was understandably low given that he was orphaned at a very young age (two years old comes to mind). In the opening chapter of his life, he's with his sister on a train bound for a Catholic orphanage in Cambridge, Massachusetts from possibly Waterville. Grandpa Joe spent his youth in that orphanage, he was raised by, apparently, unfriendly nuns, he finally left the system and started his own life when he was 17 years old.
Having all of this in mind and nurturing a curiosity that, even during idle distraction, never seems to be in short supply, I had thoughts about stopping at one or more local government offices in Waterville to ask questions about Henri and my great grandmother. This was on my mind as I departed Tanya's cabin and the forest above Messalonskee Lake in Belgrade heading north on Route 11 towards nearby Waterville but autumn's proximity and curiosity of another form won the day and I instead skirted the largish town and was soon closing in on a bridge over the Kennebec River in Fairfield, Maine, a few miles upstream of Oakland and The Green Spot where days before I was welcomed by Tanya her sister.
On my journeys by boot, boat, motorbike, and bicycle I've always been fascinated by rivers. Not the smallish ones per say, but those that were carved-out as special by early natural history writers, such as Alexander Von Humboldt, and given a significance through their words and hand-drawn sketches that underlie our modern impressions. The mighty Amazon is certainly near the top of this list, and others easily come to mind including the Nile, Rhine, Ganges, Saint Lawrence, Hudson, and Mississippi. Not far below these giants among the worlds waterways are many more rivers, some of them also quite famous, among them the Kennebec, an Abenaki name that means "large body of still water or large bay" referring, I assume, to the large freshwater bay above Bath, Maine where the Kennebec captures the Androscoggin River. Alternatively, the Abenaki might have been referring to the saltwater bay above Popham Beach, the location of the early European settlement (1607) of the same name. Just beyond the dunes at Popham Beach, the Kennebec peacefully relinquishes it's sediment load and remaining energy into the sea, 170 miles downstream of it's headwaters at Moosehead Lake. The French navigator and cartographer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to describe the Kennebec, in writing and maps, from Popham Beach to as far north as current day Bath. Within two centuries of Champlain's visit, Bath would become known as "the city of ships" for it's prolific ship building which has continued, without disruption, up to the present. Now-a-days, Bath Shipyards builds the latest stealth warships for the US Navy.
I saw no evidence of a stealth warship as I crossed the bridge in Fairfield, a middle-sized town, a good thing given the shallowness of the river this far north of Bath. However, as I pedaled my bicycle between the banks of the Kennebec, my mind easily drifted to thoughts about centuries of trade and navigation, by countless forgotten people that lived-out their lives, many of them close by, traveling by paddle, sail, steam, combustion, and most recently, nuclear fission up and down this river. If the Kennebec could speak the sounds of every voice that passed by this juncture, long before there was a town of Fairfield, then I suspect I would be simultaneously overwhelmed by the dullness of the chatter (very little recognition of a bigger picture or conclusion) and the collective realization of so many human stories. Fathers and their children, warriors, slaves, administrators, all of them passed this way. Crossing a historic river like the Kennebec always gives me pause and immediately after many hours of inspired, contemplative, day-dreaming. I rode into farmland on the north bank of the Kennebec, rolling Appalachian hills and valleys supporting fields of mostly grass hay and corn, feed stock for what remains of a dwindling American dairy industry. Here and there, patches of forests, silos, barns, and farm houses, filled the gaps in an otherwise agricultural landscape.
From the east bank of the Kennebec and Fairfield, I briefly headed north before assuming my overall trajectory to Milford, primarily east-northeast. A few miles past interstate 95, still within sight of Fairfield and it's bridge, I overshot a right turn that according to RideWithGPS would take me towards Clinton, Maine. During moments like this one, I typically forge ahead, preferring to freelance until I arrive, by forward versus backward progress, onto my intended route for the day. Nonetheless, in this case, no need for haste in sight, I reversed direction and quickly located what turned-out to be a tractor track signed no trespassing. A quick inspection of the area using my Garmin eTrex20 GPS (zooming in and out) suggested the rough, deeply rutted, dirt two-track ahead would be a short adventure before I transitioned to a marginally more popular route, likely an asphalt surfaced road. That gave me confidence and a moment later I plunged into obscurity, between the lines of corn and sometimes into the mud that was favorable relative to the bike swallowing ruts created by years of tractor use.
A few minutes into a real but hardly noticeable trespassing anxiety a few homes came into view, shabby, run down, the sort of places that celebrate dangerous dog breeds and the absence of a leash. I crept-up on the first, then the second, then onto the anticipated asphalt, picked-up my pace and continued without incident. Along the way, a neighbor picked-up their head and we exchanged hand waves. Despite the long history of navigation and trade on the nearby Kennebec River, I suspect my presence was a rare event and some speculation may have followed, at the dinner table, and perhaps into the next morning. No doubt my skin tight, Lycra, bike kit from Primal Wear contributed to the tale.
I rode on to Clinton without any additional tractor tracks or no trespassing signs to negotiate and then continued without stopping to Burnham where I missed my chance to explore Patterson's General Store and Museum, a classic off the beaten path resource and local favorite. An easy baseball throw from Patterson's, I guided my Niner Bikes RLT 9 Steel through a right turn onto a bridge, onto Troy Road, and crossed-over the middle-sized, slow flowing, and scenic Sebasticook River, a tributary of the Kennebec.
Troy Road was a pleasure to explore for many miles, initially uphill from Burnham before leveling off, paved but always rough from tough winters, pot holes, fractures and other surface non-pleasantries constantly challenged the guy sitting on tubeless, Hutchinson Sector, 28 mm tires. A few miles out of Burnham, I hailed a stranger on his riding lawn mower and asked, kindly, for water. A few minutes later, I was telling stories to his wife and children in their driveway, they were shocked that I was planning (hoping at that time) to ride from their home all the way to Labrador. Not long before the social water stop, I'd stopped to pick a few apples from an abandoned tree, no doubt part of a much larger, now mostly gone and forgotten, orchard,. As I chatted, I did my best to politely nibble on nature's bounty. The same habit, picking stray apples, fueled (in part) many of my autumn cycling rides across Northern Germany when I was living part of the year in Hamburg.
Beyond the familiar American smell of freshly cut grass, I made my way eastward from Burnham and the Sebasticook River to Twitchel Corner, then Dodge Corner, Smarts Corner, Cooks Corner, and Troy Center. Since departing Burnham, I was following, compelled by the road below my tires, the long-axis of a much eroded Appalachian ridge. On either side of the ridge, agriculture and horticulture laid claim to u-shaped valleys, for cows, corn, and grass hay. Between the effects of the plow and grazing animals, a seemingly random patch work of partially forested hills and valleys spread to the horizon, near and far. The view beyond my anonymous ridge was as good as most, despite being in a no-man's land when it comes to the destinations of traveling Americans and visitors.
The Appalachian Mountains are an ancient feature of Planet Earth's crust, the top layer of solid rock that floats on Earth's mantle, a plastic layer, similar in consistency to hot asphalt, that exists above Earth's liquid-iron core. The range rises above the adjacent plains in Alabama and continues, unbroken, for 1500 miles all the way to the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador - technically the range continues, broken by the Atlantic Ocean, even farther, to Scotland, but that story is a bit off course for my North American bike adventure. Curiously, the French territories, not far from Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula, islands known as Saint Pierre and Miquelon are partially submerged summits of the Appalachian Mountains. The width of the range is also impressive, varying from 100 to 300 miles depending on where the cross-section is measured.
Moving from, roughly, the south to the north along the main axis of the range, well known units of the collective Appalachian Mountains include the familiar Great Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Allegheny Mountains, Taconic Mountains, Berkshire Hills, the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively, and many isolated peaks including the impressive, from above and below, Mount Katahdin (5,267 ft, 1,605 m) in north-central Maine, a peak that I was witness to, majestically towering over Maine's North Woods, on many days on this tour. The highest peak in the Appalachians is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina (6,684 ft, 2,037 m). Not far below in elevation, Mount Washington (6,288 ft, 1,917 m), is likely the Appalachians most storied peak, the defining, in legend and profile, summit in New Hampshire's much visited and celebrated White Mountains.
The names "Apalchen or Apalachen" are the original translations of a Native American tribe that was located near present-day Tallahassee, Florida. These translations date back to the Spanish Narváez Expedition that explored the New World from 1527-1528. The word eventually evolved to "Appalachian", early enough to claim its position as "the fourth-oldest surviving European place-name in the US." Like the word to describe them, the bedrock and geologic history of the Appalachian Mountains are deeply embedded in antiquity. The initial uplift of the Appalachians, an event that occurred during the middle Ordovician Period (about 496–440 million years ago) predates all but the earliest forms of our vertebrate cousins, the fishes. During this time, Planet Earth's seas and oceans were dominated by invertebrates, especially molluscs and arthropods including brachiopods and (the now extinct) trilobites.
The orogeny or 'mountain building event' that initially uplifted the Appalachians was the result of plate tectonics, foremost the subduction of the former seafloor of the Iapetus Ocean (Iapetus plate) under North America as Africa approached from the east. As the two continents approached, the saltwater basin that was the Iapetus Ocean shrunk until it was no longer a basin at all, instead a suture between two colliding continents. Fittingly, given humankind's fascination with relations, the legend of Iapetus lives on, in a subtle way at least for those that are interested in the details: Iapetus in Greek mythology was the father of Atlas which is the namesake of the next ocean, the Atlantic, that eventually filled the same gap between North America and Africa when the supercontinent Pangaea began to fracture about 175 million years ago. The Taconic Orogeny was the first of a series of mountain building events that are responsible for our present day Appalachian Mountains, along with the ever patient, ongoing, contribution of erosion caused by, primarily, flowing water but also wind, biological, and chemical processes.
High on a crystalline ridge of the much eroded and much reduced Appalachians, on a foundation of ancient Precambrian (>541 million years ago) and Cambrian-aged (541-485 million years ago) igneous and metamorphic rocks, I approached Troy Center where my GPS silently (my preference) sent me northeast to North Dixmont. In this wee but attractive village of mostly forgotten Maine, I crossed the Moosehead Trail Highway without incident. A few miles farther on and I was pedaling north out of Rollins Mills, past Plymouth Pond and a stream without a name, past Fail Better Farm and Tykenbay Acres. A few miles south, I arrived to the relatively bustling town of Carmel, where I enjoyed a hot lunch and a bit of chit chat with the locals. Next, I passed by Stepping Stone Farm, then under interstate 95, by this point heading north on Cook Road. I could have taken Route 2 east from Carmel, but instead I rode a few miles north of town then took a right, close to Damascus, onto Fuller Road. Heading east again, I rode over Black Stream then through more podunk towns, Leathers and Snow Corners. By this point in my journey, I was convinced that everyone from the sleepy parts of inland Maine must have been born and raised on a "corner."
From Snow Corner, I zig-zagged my way around the western edge of one of Maine's largest population centers, Bangor, including the cities international airport. Part of the bliss of this route was a low(ish) traffic bridge over Kenduskeag Stream, a tributary of the Penobscot River, namesake of Penobscot Bay from which I'd come a few days before. As this implies, somewhere on my day's tour of the "corners" I'd transitioned from the watershed of the Kennebec to the Penobscot River watershed, these regionally significant rivers drain 5,869 (15,200 sq.km) and 8,610 square miles (22,300 sq. km) of the State of Maine, respectively. From the bridge, I eventually made my way northeast to Stillwater Avenue, with many locals that were also avoiding the traffic of alternative routes, and comfortably coasted into the university setting of Old Town, Maine on the west bank of the Penobscot.
After a few photos of the Penobscot and the Milford Dam, I crossed the Milford bridge to the Penobscot's east bank and a moment later I was arriving to the locally owned Milford Motel on the River, my destination for the evening. Not far away, surrounded by the river and well signed as I rode into Milford, I encountered Indian Island, the headquarters of the Penobscot Tribe. The Penobscot Indians have lived in the area for centuries, the first European to visit Indian Island may have been the Portuguese explorer (funded by Spain) Estêvão Gomes in 1524. Samuel de Champlain visited the tribe in 1605.
On my way through Old Town, I'd stopped for groceries at one of America's popular supermarkets, which one I don't recall. Back at the motel, I wasted little time getting into a much anticipated meal which included fresh veggies, sandwich meats uncontaminated with toxic preservatives, and the best bread option I could find in the store, possibly a baguette. My meals varied a lot from day-to-day but these were typically purchased in a grocery store to save money and avoid refined sugar and processed foods, the primary ingredients of the Standard American Diet (SAD). Both food additives have been shown to be, literally, deadly by the ever expanding, and enlightening, science of nutrition.
Since leaving Belgrade in the morning, I'd ridden 90 miles and climbed just under 5000 feet along the way; here's a link to the ride including maps, elevation gain, and more on Strava. Despite the much eroded and worn-down state of the previously grand Appalachian Mountains, as grand as the Rocky Mountains are today, in this part of the range there were, apparently, still a lot of hills remaining to climb!
The next morning I rolled-out at 8:04 AM, according to the record of my ride which I posted to Strava at the end of the day, by then in Calais, Maine; here's the link. At close to 5.5 miles from the Milford Motel, I rolled on to dirt. The initial handful of miles were not reassuring for a mind concerned about the quality of the road between here and Calais. The surface was loose, so-much-so that my tires often dug-in and caused the bike to swerve left and right. I recall about six miles before I arrived to a four-way intersection with Stud Mill Road itself, formerly I was on 'County Road', no other distinction given on Strava maps, that skirted the eastern border of Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. At the four-way, I turned right onto Stud Mill Road and immediately conditions improved. The road widened quit a lot, and although it remained dusty when a handful of cars and recreational trucks passed-by, the dust was much less than what I encountered on County Road where there was much more traffic, certainly not a lot, but more that showed me little mercy as each driver raced past my, occasionally, swerving bike, no doubt late for nothing.
The surface of Stud Mill, at this juncture, was hard-packed without much washer-board or ruts. Small stones were embedded in the matrix but I comfortably rode over or around these obstructions. The road trends due east and the view is generally unobstructed for many miles. From my bike saddle, I could easily see the rolling nature of the road and surrounding forested landscape (broken here and there by clear cuts), a geologic remnant of the formerly much higher and deeper Appalachian mountains and valleys. I settled into a comfortable pace, average speed around 15 mph, my preference on this tour and others. I was anticipating about 60-70 miles of dirt, so a pace of 15 mph would deliver me, baring any major preclusions to forward progress, in under five hours to Route 1 (Houlton Road) on the Calais side, a few miles shy of the Canadian Border.
Not long after a short lunch, a sandwich that I ate sitting on a massive rock perched on road right amidst a pair of curious ravens, the road unexpectedly split about 40 miles from Milford. The wide, hard-packed, road I'd been following turned to the north but my GPS track line directed me to continue straight, which I did with only a little reluctance. In hindsight, it's clear from maps that I never deviated from Stud Mill Road. Nonetheless, I suspect there was, and is, a smoother alternative to what I eventually experienced. The opening mile or two, from the split, was reasonable: some larger stones embedded in the surface and some road damage but I could easily ride around all of it and maintain close to an average 15 mph. So far there was no need to be concerned for either the bike or the rider.
Then fairly quickly, the road narrowed substantially, the deciduous trees on either side encroached over the road, and the surface quality plummeted to what looked more like a dry creek bed than a single lane dirt road. Fairly massive baby heads were everywhere, i.e., the tops of rocks, sizes ranging from baseball to basketball, were embedded, partially exposed, on the road surface. I couldn't avoid them entirely and to avoid most of them I had to cut my speed way down. Between the rocks, the matrix was sometimes loose sand, a nightmare even for my lightly loaded touring bike. And by this point, the sun had warmed the atmosphere around me to the days high. The next ca. eight miles were a real struggle, physically and mentally. So much so that when I returned to what was likely the other end of the alternative left at the split, I expelled a fair amount of anxiety from my mind and body, through many controlled breaths, as my heart rate came back down to normal.
On a surface that, in hindsight, was better suited for a mountain bike, the safety of my touring bike was a big concern over the ca. 8 miles of rough road especially this early in my ambitious tour. Concerns withstanding, days later I discover that I had actually done some damage to the bike, details in a forthcoming blog. Unaware at the time, in blissful ignorance, shortly after exiting the 'river bed trail' I picked-up my pace and enjoyed the ease of a hard-packed dirt road all the way to the junction with Route 1 including, between, a few miles on South Princeton Road, also quality dirt. In total, once I negotiated the eroded transition from dirt to asphalt, about a two foot vertical drop, 63 miles of mixed surface, dirt (aka, gravel) roads were behind me from where I had rolled onto the gravel in Milford earlier in the day. From South Princeton Road, I turned right onto Route 1 towards South Princeton, Maine and then continued, after a photo, towards Calais where I had booked an AirBnB option the night before.
On the outskirts of Calais, I found a desperate grocery store, more junk food than health food, but I made the best of it as I've had to do many times before. About 20 minutes after shopping, I arrived to a palatial, furnished, basement apartment at about 5:30 pm, plenty of time to eat, clean-up, check-in with Tanya back in Belgrade, and come down from a day that was filled with adventure. Stud Mill Road delivered on all of my expectations and more, including a chance encounter with a goshawk and two ruffed grouse. It was then and would remain a highlight of the tour. My advice is go there, pack light, consider using a mountain bike, and be sure to go straight (not left) at the split. Everything in life is better when you earn it, even the rests between feel better when you've dug deep, persevered, and overcome a difficult challenge.
In my next blog entry, I'll pick up the story from Calais: the next morning I crossed the border, less than a mile from my bed as the crow flies, into Saint Stephen, New Brunswick and then made my way, at a fairly easy pace, to the provincial capital, Fredericton and the river that embraces it, the St. John.
Tanya, my friend and host back in Belgrade, kindly offered to monitor my progress on the tour and I was grateful to have a virtual friend close-by throughout the journey. Here's an excerpt of our text messages from shortly after I resurfaced on the opposite side of Stud Mill Road, in Calais, Maine:
Andre: 90 miles [from the Milford Motel], 63 miles of dirt, rocks, sand, and mix, another adventure is in the bag. Wowza, that was a lot of hours and a tough route for all the weight on my bike. But still the very best option [for crossing this part of Maine to New Brunswick, Canada], less than five vehicles.
Andre: When I rolled back onto the black-top [over 6 hours after leaving Milford], I was relieved and smiling.
Tanya: You made it and that's what counts and no traffic. Black top is not overrated .... where are you spending the night?
Andre: In Calais, for 40$, one of the nicest Airbnbs that I've stayed in. Really nice for the cost.
Andre: [Two beds], a full bath, and an outdoor patio with a view [of forested Appalachian hills and valleys].
Andre: I've already booked into what looks like another nice Airbnb for tomorrow night, Fredericton, 36$.
Tanya: Bargains galore!
Andre: More like Europe than the majority of the US. Nice for a shoestring traveler with ambitious goals.
Tanya: Any good food around?
Andre: I stopped at a [desperate] grocery store, I'm wiped out, bought breakfast too.
Light and chance are always playing with us on a long tour. When I arrived to the Penobscot River in Old Town, Maine the light was not so good, which gave me an excuse to have some fun with Snapseed, a photo editing tool, from Google. That's the Milford Dam in the center of the image. 26 August 2018.
(left) Navigating my smart phone for a photo somewhere on Stud Mill Road, my Garmin eTrex 20 GPS and Garmin 520 are attached to my stem and handlebar, respectively; (right) The welcome sign in South Princeton, apparently the home of Moses Bonney, my first encounter with civilization after exiting Stud Mill Road.
Bremen Township, Washington, Two Havens, and the Belgrade Lakes: a social tour of the mid-Maine coast.
Mid-coast Maine, from Boothbay Harbor to Mount Desert Island, the foundation of Acadia National Park. Colored lines are GPS tracks from my autumn, 2018, tour including exploratory rides on and off the Pemaquid Peninsula, around the Belgrade Lakes, and on "two havens" (see text for details) in Penobscot Bay. Arrows provide direction of travel and dates the day that I completed each section.
Background: This blog entry is the first of several parts, currently being written, that follow a prologue to my autumn 2018 bicycle tour. In the prologue, I provide important background info for this entry and subsequent entries. Scroll down to read the prologue which I coined Going Full Tilt to Newfoundland and Labrador.
From the enviable vantage of the Nash House at the end of Keene Neck Road, I sipped coffee, absorbed sunshine on the front deck overlooking the narrows, and contemplated my commitment. It was the morning of August 20th, 2018, departure day from Bremen township on the Pemaquid Peninsula, part of the middle-coastal region of Maine. What lay ahead I could not say with certainty but my experience on previous adventures suggested that there would be much to overcome over many weeks of touring by bicycle through the United States and Canada including remote areas that, despite their distance from the Arctic Circle, were Arctic in reputation and character. That reputation was of particular significance to a guy riding a bicycle, wearing Lycra, and carrying limited wet and cold weather gear. And worse, I anticipated that I would approach, through the sub-Arctic extremes of Newfoundland, and arrive to Labrador, when the Northern Hemisphere was well into its transition from autumn into winter.
My ambition for this tour, like all of my tours that preceded it by boot, boat, motorcycle, and much later, by bicycle, would be "a search for serendipity", a string of words that I scribbled down in one of my travel journals years ago, inside a one-man Moss tent, somewhere, after dark, in North America. Not far away from my ground pad my old friend and sole travel companion in those days, a 1982, Honda, CX 500, leaned silently on her kickstand slowly cooling-off from a day of adventure. In my twenties and thirties, Ms. Culpeper and I explored all of the lower forty-eight states and provinces east of Manitoba, over 80,000 miles, before her abrupt retirement following a collision in Quebec when I was in graduate school. Years before that crash, when I was twenty-five years old (November 1996), hands frozen, body wet to the core and approaching hypothermia or beyond, that motorcycle somehow carried me safely to a motel in Culpeper, Virginia. I nicknamed the machine Ms. Culpeper sometime that evening, or the next day, to remember my good fortune and to express my gratitude to the motorcycle, by then a trusted friend, that made that outcome possible.
On this tour, as in the past, I would allow each day to unfold with as little input from me, the controller, as possible. With few exceptions, I'd avoid the highlights, those paths and destinations most trodden. Under these circumstances, some might argue, and have, that my path would take me mostly to nowhere, But experience has shown me, including evenings spent alone in many National Forests (after riding Ms. Culpeper as if she was a dirt bike, off trail, bushwhacking, standing on the pegs to get well off the road), that the path less trodden takes a curious adventurer to everywhere worth going in a short lifetime.
Perhaps, in my defense and to my credit, I'm going to where the quantum beckons, with a sound that we cannot hear but our unconscious mind can feel, generated by the symphony orchestra of the Cosmos. I'm going to places and people that in their own way share my values and have something to add to my short story here on Planet Earth. An insight, large or small, a lesson to process even if I didn't understand or even notice right away. The how or why questions, like the highlights and the road most trodden, don't matter. What matters is being in harmony with yourself, our neighbors, large or small, respecting and nurturing the resonance of our probable home, the only one we'll ever have, Planet Earth.
I want to descend back down now, from a view high above the Milky Way Galaxy, to its proximate, to you and I, Orion-Cygnus Arm, to an average star with it's eight or nine Planets, to a porch, a bike, and a bike rider. Momentarily, I would depart friends, Sue and Paula, in the company of my Niner Bikes RLT 9 Steel, By this point in its life, a bike ridden, mostly on long bike tours and without complaint, for close to 7000 miles. Thanks to Sue, known primarily as "Schubel" among her friends, it appeared that I'd be departing, much to my surprise, with a ukulele strapped to my Blackburn Outpost Rear Rack. Or so she wished anyway, no doubt in cahoots, an alliance or partnership, with her local community, farther out on the Pemaquid Peninsula in Bristol, Maine, of forest pixies. Out of respect for her, the pixies and their good intentions, I cooperated whilst packing my bike, barefoot, under partly clear skies, by hanging the instrument from my handlebar until the moment of departure when I deviously slipped the merry maker safely into the Nash House.
In the days before my departure, I'd explored, by bicycle, primarily the Pemaquid Peninsula, west of Muscongus Bay, on which the town of Bremen was incorporated in 1828, the same year President J. Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson for the second time in four years. Most of the colored GPS tracks shown on the map, above, west of Hog Island (look for a bold red rectangle) record this prologue.
Viewed from a hot air balloon, the Maine coastline appears jagged, toothy, due to many, parallel, peninsulas, including the Pemaquid Peninsula on which Bremen rests. Appropriately, translated from the original Abenaki language, Pemaquid means "situated far out". All of Maine's peninsulas jut southward many miles into the Gulf of Maine thanks to the glaciers, now vanished, that shaped them. On either side of each peninsula, deep bays, such as Muscongus Bay, offer their own, unique, mini-universe of islands, some of which are forested, others are blanketed by flowering asters and other perennials, some islands are bare stone, no soil or vegetation cover whatsoever because they are washed-over each winter by storms. The bays and islands between Maine's much visited peninsulas have become a haven for curious travelers, a place to get away from the pace of a democracy, including paddlers following the Maine Island Trail.
Despite their absence today, glaciers were recently in Maine, all of Maine in fact, and they played a pivotal role in the formation of Maine's jagged coastline. The ice that was present on what is today Maine's coastline was in the form of finger-like extensions, connected upstream, part of the leading edge of a gargantuan continental glacier that originated and flowed ca. south from Canada. So massive that the ice measured over a mile deep, a mile thick, in some places in New England including the Maine coast. That's a lot of weight, water being lighter than lead of course but certainly heavy, in the strict sense of the word, as anyone can recall that's tried to carry any quantity even a short distance.
All that water, in it's icy state, actually depressed the Maine coastline, a part of the Earth's crust, hundreds of feet down into the mantle from which it has, ever since the ice retreated about 10,000 years ago, been rebounding. As this implies, the Maine coast rises a tiny fraction each year, imperceptible to all but the most sensitive of mankind's instruments. These factors, recent ice and rebound, have kept the Maine coastline in a rocky, you might say "young", state. There hasn't been time to wear down the granite and metamorphic, primarily, bedrock into softer impressions, such as the sandy coastline of North Carolina. The effect of Maine's rugged, rocky, coastline on the eyes is remarkable, memorable, and the source, no doubt, of many inspired relations from one human to the next following a trip to Maine's bays, peninsulas, and islands.
Maine's bedrock, underlying, e.g., it's ca. 5000 islands, is ancient. Not as old as the Canadian Shield, aka the Laurentian Plateau, portions of which date back to 4.2 billion years before the present, but still ancient by any reasonable assessment, the oldest dating to roughly 647 million years: a pegmatite (type of granite) near the island of Islesboro in Penobscot Bay that, interestingly for the geologically inclined, cuts through an older (rock) formation that has not been dated. To appreciate these dates, it's helpful to recall the current scientific consensus for the age of the Earth, roughly 4.5 billion or 4,500 million years. So Maine's coastline dates back about one-sixth into Earth's history. And the Canadian Shield, from which the Laurentide Ice Sheet (continental glacier) originated and eventually flowed, it's fingers and mass, into Maine then retreated about 10,000 years ago, includes granite formations that solidified when Planet Earth was in its infancy. At the top of my tour, on the road-less coastline (accessible only by boat or bush plane) of the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, if I arrived, I would have the chance to view some of the Canadian Shield from the rails of a cargo ship and up close, by foot, especially when we were in port at Harrington Harbour.
Before returning to my story, I would be deeply saddened, from guilt as thick and sticky as wet soils containing the mineral betonite, if I didn't say something about suspect or exotic terranes, the description given by geologists to rock formations that, despite their connection to a continent today, such as North America, originated elsewhere such as a nearshore island or volcanic arc caught, quite smashed actually, between two colliding landmasses. Recall the concept of plate tectonics originally proposed by Alfred Wegener. This was the case, the presence of probably both types of arcs, with implications for Maine's bedrock foundation, when North America and Africa formed a union, part of the coming together of the supercontinent Pangaea about 335 million years ago, not long after "the fishes" had their naughty heyday. One of those formations, now known as Avalonia, a former island arc, smashed and simultaneously intruded by molten rock from the Earth's mantle, then sutured to North America, would become part of Maine's present day coastline.
In the midst of Avalonia, I made my way to one more view of the narrows from the dock overlooking Hog Island for a photo opp then turned back, past the Nash House, and on to the junction of Keene Neck Road with Maine's Route 32 (Waldoboro Road). I made a right turn, pedaled for about fifteen minutes, then wisely took a left onto a much more civilized, country lane, Nobleboro Road, free of yahoos and their high-speed experiments. I was on my way under favorable skies and grinning with all the anticipation of a curious traveler, the same grin that initially surfaced when I was in my twenties, exploring from the backside of Ms. Culpeper, a motorcycle that, thanks to my mother, I acquired for just 250$. Over my left shoulder, between the trees, I occasionally caught a glimpse of Pemaquid Lake. I had been a camper on the shores of that lake in my youth. The cunning and playful universe must have taken great pleasure in bringing me so close to a place that in my adult life would come to mean so much.
Beyond the lake, I maneuvered a chicane and then crossed Maine's most trodden highway, Route 1. Soon I was in the company of Damariscotta Lake which I rode along for a few miles into the town of Jefferson, established in 1807 during its namesake's presidency, before turning north towards the Washington General Store. I was ahead of schedule for lunch at the store, and so I took the scenic, indirect, route, past Jones Corner, Sandhill Corner, through Hibbert's Corner, over the top of Washington Pond, and then south to Washington and its General Store which was recently transformed from a degrading 1930s-era lumber barn by the owner, a friend that I shared an internship whilst both in our youth on Matinicus Rock.
Maine is the most forested state in the union, and all of that despite its long history with logging going back to kings that desired the states once prolific, massive, tall, and straight, white pine for their ship's masts. Thanks to that long history and the subsequent ecological shift in tree species prominence in Maine, the former dominance of the white pine never, so far anyway, recovered. Above the shorelines of Pemaquid and Damariscotta Lakes the forests, beautiful in color, energized by bird song, peppered with rounded stone, some arranged in walls built by settlers, from a glacial past, including massive glacial erratics, drew my gaze and filled my eyes with nature's wonderful geometry. Among the easily recognizable trees, at bike speed, were the hardwoods, maple and birch, and a softwood that is much more dominant on Maine's forested islands and adjacent coastline, the red spruce. Soft, in appearance and reality, mats formed by mosses, their glowing green vitality a product of a pigment, chlorophyll, and reflected light, formed inviting beds above the moist soils below the trees. Here and there, a variety of delicate lichens, in shades of green, pink, and gold, held tight to bark and stone. Eyes closed, to focus for a moment, on the soundscape above the lakes, I could easily identify amidst the symphony of bird song the striking red-eyed vireo, the patient eastern phoebe, and the (sounds like) "teacher, teacher, teacher" of the ground-sleuthing ovenbird. Larger forms also made themselves noticed, here and there, including a group of wild turkeys and numerous white-tailed deer, sadly, to no fault of their own, the harbingers of a tick and the dreaded Lyme's disease.
To arrive to Matinicus Rock, under any circumstance, is a rare event no matter what the comparison. But just as certain as the statement 'life exists elsewhere in the universe' given the numbers, a minimum of 200 billion observable galaxies each with ca. 100 billion stars and many of those, as we now know, orbited by planets, it is also certain that a few fortunate hominids would arrive to this outpost at the edge of Penobscot Bay. Two among them, Sean Donaghy and I, arrived as Project Puffin interns in the spring of 1995, naive and full of wanderlust, to this isolated island oasis composed of mostly granite with some prominent, grey in color, basaltic intrusions (dykes) surrounded by water contaminated by salt, other minerals, millions of life forms, and sadly a lot of mankind's trash. Trash aside, the oasis, its setting and historical significance as a light station, inspires even the most introverted minds, which described neither Sean, owner of the Washington General Store, nor the author of this circuitous blog entry.
By the time I reached the intersection of Razorville and Old Union Roads in Washington, Maine, an area first settled by Euro-immigrants, the Nelson's, in 1797, I was well into the full expression of a smile born from reflection of many shared and cherished, youthful, memories. Sean isn't a short fella by any means, somewhere between above average and basketball. He's always kept a beard or a minimum of scruff, at least from the images and impression that I've otherwise collected over the years. Picture a lumberjack, fitting given his history with competitive axe throwing, a carpenter, father, and friend to strangers, vagrants, vagabonds, etc. When he gives you a hug, ask him to "bring it in" and he'll oblige I assure you, it'll reach under your rib cage. When he speaks, or sings, his voice has a deep resonance. That too will touch your soul. He seems to prefer bright colors, plaid patterns. And plaid aside or withstanding, no doubt Carhartt is a theme, on his hooks and in his dresser, preferably bought used or otherwise in Maine's eclectic shops, from the famous LL Bean Store in Freeport to the 2nd To None Thrift Shop in Ellsworth.
Sean was busy enough the day I arrived, and most days no doubt, nurturing with his family the store that they invented a few years ago, that I was able to settle-in to my second favorite thing, after cycling, eating (!) before we had a chance to embrace in bear-like fashion. Lunch was served-up by his kitchen staff, pizza then a sandwich then perhaps a bit more, can't recall for sure. And I eventually departed with more yummy snacks, bought from his shop, in my Blackburn rear panniers. We found harmony over coffee, enough to satisfy someone traveling by boot or vehicle vs. a cyclist, the latter being famous for their predilection for the dark brew. It was as if we had never departed, years ago, from a shared experience on Matinicus Rock. It's always this way with friends, as it should be with strangers too, color, beliefs, and other superficial etceteras withstanding. For my part in this brief adventure we often refer to as "life", I try to do my best to live as if strangers were friends in waiting, at a country store or otherwise, for a reunion that will give back more than any purchased object ever will.
Favorable skies, blue with spectacular, an odd one here and there, puffy clouds, concerned me not one iota as I said my goodbyes to Sean and his family, including their youngsters between bites of a childhood favorite among Americans, no exception noted, pizza. I backtracked a few yards, meters, fathoms, whichever you prefer, to Old Union Road and turned right towards the Maine State Ferry Service that would carry me to my destination on the first day of the tour, the home of Mr. Goodhue. I did my best to remain on the road-less-traveled, which took me past Union and its namesake fair, past Round, Seven Tree, and Crawford Ponds, past Quiggle Creek, and around the south side of Spruce Mountain before dropping due south a few miles to a backdoor entrance, a fun, fast decent into the picturesque and historic coastal town of Rockland, Maine. I'd been here many times before, the coastal going and coming location for all of my trips to Seal Island and Matinicus Rock as a supervisor and intern for Project Puffin. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the place was, to me, familiar as home, which made my approach from the northwest on Talbot Avenue even better. I had never been through the Talbot gate, the impression of the new in advance of an impression of the familiar was as delicious as locally baked strawberry-rhubarb pie after a lobster roll made the same way.
The Rockland ferry provides daily service to Vinalhaven and (fewer trips) North Haven, two island communities celebrated by tourists and locals. The islands are about centrally located in Penobscot Bay and are favorite destinations among pleasure boaters. Both islands have been havens for fisherman for some time, to nearly the beginning of Euro time in the New World. Today's fleet focuses mainly on lobster fishing during months when the lobsters are near shore and the weather is favorable (summer); exceptions are a few hardy souls that follow lobster far out to sea, beyond Seal Island and Matinicus Rock, to their deep-water winter residence. Between the port in Rockland and the ferry terminal on either island is a wide open expanse of salt water. A no-man's-land where birds, including a variety of gulls, shags, and alcids, go about their daily priorities with few distractions. Critters, large and small, below the surface do the same including crowd pleasing harbor porpoise, minke whale, grey and harbor seals, all resident (non-migratory) species in the Gulf of Maine. A lucky passer-by might also get a glimpse of a right or humpback whale when these species visit the area.
Encounters with Planet Earth's biodiversity aside, I first became aware of the peaceful, relaxing, pleasure provided by ferry crossings, even the short pulls, by chain, across river channels when I was touring North America on Ms. Culpeper. For example, I still have fond memories, crisp, of crossing the Mississippi (east to west) on a small car ferry from Moduc, Illinois to Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. Not long after exiting the ramp on the Missouri side, I rolled into the small community of Sainte Genevieve, and not long after that into the Ozark's, a thickly forested, mountainous wonderland that I was excited to visit for the first time. Contrast this with a trip that might begin with an ascent of a massive steel and concrete bridge over the Mississippi, past the famous arch in St. Louis where I've been told local gangs enjoy spraying bullets from their uzis into the river, followed by a lengthy drive through an urban jungle, before exiting into that more desirable space, the Ozark Mountains. Although there would be no sweet gum blossoms and singing Kentucky and cerulean warblers above sheltered creek beds, the satisfaction of traveling by boat to Vinalhaven, a moment to reflect, to be grateful, delivered all of the satisfaction of my previous ferry crossings. Once the ferry departed Rockland, I found a place where I could observe the World through my, quite dated and beat-up, Bausch and Lomb Elite binoculars and settled-in to a rest from pedaling.
The island of Vinalhaven is an unusual space, quite connected, often open among its residence to a degree not typically found elsewhere in the United States where deception of fear is too often a primary motivator. Years ago, when I was a supervisor on Seal Island on a return trip to the mainland, I began driving away in a car that I thought was my friends only to discover, picture a man running up alongside me, that I had absconded with the wrong vehicle. Such is the risk islanders take when they leave their keys in or close to the ignition, such as the ash tray, as they often do on the island. By the way, he was not offended at all, he just wondered who I was. After a moment, we had the whole thing clarified and I was on my way, in the correct car the second time around, to shuttle gear from a boat operated by John Drury, a legend equivalent to the great naturalists of previous centuries, to the soon-to-depart ferry to Rockland.
Mr. Goodhue, aka, Terry Goodhue, my host for the next two days, met me at the dock, a kind gesture. And then, equally kind, patiently waited for the cycling addict to ride to his place, about five miles away, as he followed me in his "island" car. Terry is a master of all mediums, an extra-ordinary artist, he is a humanitarian and an educator, a lover of all warm hearts and living phloem, he is all things that humanity celebrates: his friends and any curious stranger that reaches out to him among them. And because of his exceptional ability to nourish any one, or thing, in his care, including a juvenile kestrel that he taught to catch mice in his bathtub, his home, the second that he's now built using hand tools and post and beam construction off of Poor Farm Road, when viewed from the plastic duck pool, adjacent to the driveway, is partially occluded by gardens that spill-over a rough, leaning this way and that way, pieced-together fence built to keep-out the deer. His peach trees, equally vivacious, which he planted a few years before construction of his second home, foresight withstanding, produce more fruit than a man can eat, a fact that I suspect his neighbors have never complained about. Just outside the fence, when I arrived, a coterie of quacking ducks, fattened on grain, food scraps, and local bugs, patrolled the spaces between the garden, Terry's modest home, and the area reserved for coming and going, where his aged automobile rests most of the time.
The following morning, fattened on peaches and Terry's exceptional cooking, I took some time, many hours, to explore beyond Poor Farm Road by bicycle. Places that, despite my long tenure in the area, were outside of my experiential universe. A right onto dirt-surfaced Poor Farm Road led me to asphalt, first Round Island Road, a right turn, then right again onto North Haven Road, a cul-de-sac that leads to a dock where, for a few dollars, foot and bicycle traffic can hail a water taxi to North Haven which is by now in full view just across the Fox Island Thoroughfare. At this juncture, charm is everywhere, it is pure Maine, a beautiful menagerie of fishing boats floating peacefully below structures elevated above the water on pilings, sheathed by natural wood or typically stained red, and homes, often white washed and fenced in Victorian-style, rising above the waterfront, built one above the other and in rows following the natural contours of the island. Per Terry's instructions, I hailed the water taxi using the juxtaposed phone that is attached to a pole not far from the aforementioned dock. Soon thereafter I was wiping tears as the wind from the boat speed, casual but enough to get my eyes watering nonetheless, found its way into my eyes but only for a minute or two, the time to cross the thoroughfare. On the opposite shore I thanked my captain and then eagerly departed onto the hard and dry bits of a "life island" as my friend Schubel would call it, an island that up until this moment I had not visited.
Navigation is not a significant challenge on a relatively small island surrounded by the sea. I passed through a quaint village, the village of North Haven, then turned north before making a left onto Crabtree Point Road. Eventually the road turned to dirt, after about eight or ten lovely miles up and down gentle hills, past hay fields and vacation homes, all the while the activities of coastal living in view beyond the terrestrial. Crabtree requires an about-face, another cul-de-sac, I obliged and following a brief chat with a young woman that warmed my heart, I was on my way, with confidence, towards Pulpit Harbor. I visited the latter, a charming village, briefly before continuing my bicycle tour on North Haven. I approached Salt Point on North Shore Road with intentions to visit that part of the island but a near flat changed my itinerary. Instead, I stayed on North Shore then South Shore, well above the waterline, all the way back to Main Street and the water taxi service that would, for a few dollars, take me back to Vinalhaven.
My exploration of North Haven was a great success, no matter how insignificant among conversations of popular tourist destinations, stunning weather heaped on fond memories that to fully appreciate you must explore by bike, foot, or paddle. The natural sounds, smells, and other feelings that our minds translate for our consciousness are at their very best, mature you might say, when taken in their raw form - that is, fully in the face, minus a windshield and the dreadful noises and pollutants produced by our fossil fuel-propelled machinery. These machines have their place in life, hopefully a lot less moving forward, but that place lay far away from experiences that will nourish our souls.
Two evenings with Mr. Goodhue, a friend that I met whilst in the company of a migrant bobolink on Matinicus Rock (May 1995), was nowhere near enough to satisfy my craving to spend time with one of my beloved mentors. We talked into the night, but not much past ten post-meridian I suspect, both of us being quite susceptible to a pumpkin transformation after about nine if our minds are not already producing the spindles of deep sleep. Terry managed to convince me to rest my legs and ride with him the following morning back to the ferry terminal. By late morning, I was climbing Talbot Avenue, at a pace much slower than my exhilarating descent into Rockland a few days before. But the pace suited me on this particular morning, I reflected and smiled to the top of the hill overlooking Rockland Harbor, a glorious view any time of year, as I thought about the last two days and looked forward to the next visit on my itinerary, two nights that transformed into three, unexpectedly, in the company of a good friend, adjacent to Messalonskee Lake, in the Belgrade Lakes Region of central Maine.
Gravel roads are encouraged on my bicycling tours, they are always scenic, secluded, obviously an inspiration for the traveler in search of serendipity. In the vertically-oriented image below, you'll find a digitally-captured (Android MotoX4) moment from a gravel rendezvous that I navigated not long after departing the Rockland ferry. Rain was heavy at times as I made my way to Belgrade via the Washington General Store, one more opportunity to sip coffee with Sean, and the Green Spot in Oakland, Maine, where the Athanus sisters were generously anticipating my arrival. My route from the General Store sampled three counties, Knox, Lincoln, and Kennebec. Some of the roads that nourished me today, in part because of the near absence of mankind's fascination with extreme noise, included Young's Hill, Patrick Town, and Windsor Neck. Along these routes, I passed by Three-mile Pond, China Lake, and Tabor Hill before crossing the mighty Kennebec River into Waterville, Maine. Not far, a few miles from the bridge and fewer from the Interstate 95 underpass on State Route 11 (Kennedy Memorial Drive), the yellow and green signature of the Green Spot came into view.
The Green Spot is a haven first and foremost for the celebration of flavors, genuine French cooking and always fresh, from baguettes to a variety of warm salads to famous lobster rolls to the highest quality produce available from local, green farms; and a close second, a social opportunity that is reminiscent of the passionate and unforgiving debate of the Enlightenment, an exceptional period in our species social evolution, including ideas about government and governing, popularized by the words and reputations of famous characters, Hobbes, Lock, and Montesquieu among them. The Green Spot is a gathering ground for prophets and gypsies, an oasis for both the introvert and the extrovert, an unanticipated melting pot that's been collecting and sharing ideas and experience for over forty years, going back to a naive decision made by two college-aged sisters, Tanya and Brenda Athanus, in 1976.
I first met the sisters though a mutual friend, Mr Goodhue, when Terry and I stopped for lunch during a motorcycle tour of Maine, years ago, that included Acadia National Park and the auto-road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, a modest 1,530 foot (466 meters) summit overlooking Penobscot Bay that nonetheless claims victory to 'the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard'. I suspect that I was initially shy in the midst of three minds to which I eventually recognized a kinship even though I wasn't ready to move much beyond observation, absorption, and reflection, the primary activities of an apprentice. But childhood shyness withstanding, I eventually developed a strong bond with Tanya, as well as a friendship that I value with Brenda. Their kindness, love, and ability to challenge my thoughts, add to them, etc, ensures my palate will be enhanced with many more visits to their store, and homes, not far away, in the town of Belgrade above Messalonskee Lake.
Despite consumption of a meal, a second lunch, that was far too significant for a cyclist with about ten additional miles to pedal between the Green Spot and Tanya's guest cabin, I still managed to make my way, without gastrointestinal incident, to my next home-away-from-home. When I arrived, I literally plunged in to Messalonskee Lake, head first, to encourage the cooling effect of autumn water on the skin and to wash the salt from, in part, the pizza I annihilated earlier in the day at the Washington General Store. The forest and bird song above Messalonskee Lake, and Tanya's company, would prove easy to settle-into and subsequently, difficult to depart from; its comforts, explorations, and other privileges, its known-knowns versus the many unknown-unknowns of the road ahead.
Between social mornings and evenings spent chatting with Tanya, I took advantage of being centrally located in the scenic Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine to explore, by bicycle of course. The map at the top of this blog entry includes GPS tracks that weave between the lakes from this bit of local inquiry. Other than Route 225, known locally as Rome Road (namesake nearby Rome, Maine) which was a nightmare on a bicycle, no shoulder, high speed wackos, the very worst-case scenario, I would encourage readers to plan a similar tour of the area where there is no doubt, much more to witness from the (ad)vantage of a thinly cushioned saddle than my brief sojourn provided. Brevity, by the way, had no effect on my satisfaction. Two days without panniers or other preclusions added significantly to my cycling efficiency and enjoyment.
The Belgrade Lakes are connected one to the next, like a string of pearls, the last in line and the second deepest is Messalonskee Lake which gives life and water to Messalonskee Stream, a tributary of the Kennebec River. Like many of the streams and rivers in New England, Messalonskee Stream once provided water power for its small part of industrial America, specifically a woolen mill and several factories that produced axe heads, so many that nearby Oakland was once known as the "axe head capital of the world." The bed of Messalonskee Lake was excavated during the last glacial advance in North America, by the Laurentide Ice Sheet. The lake's surface was subsequently raised by the town of Oakland in 1905 with the construction of a dam above Messalonskee Stream. Above the shoreline of nearby Great Pond, I found some dirt tracks that led to stands of impressive, tall, white pines. The forest floor below was thick with needles and the smell of pitch. Elsewhere, between the lakes, the hardwoods maple and birch and their bird fauna dominated, as elsewhere on my short tour to date.
I hadn't anticipated that I would feel a pause in my momentum only a few days after departing Bremen, but as I settled into a cabin that recalled my minds vision of the scene above Walden Pond, a cabin and setting that inspired unfiltered reflection, I nonetheless slipped into a comfortable, natural space for my modus operandi, a place that my mind wasn't immediately willing to give up. Underlying my minds pause was primarily one of the most unknown among the unknowns on my tour, crossing Stud Mill Road. A minimum of 60 miles, through Maine's North Woods, all on gravel roads and no doubt of varying quality. Fortunately, necessarily in my view, I'd be attempting the route on a Sunday, the only day that logging trucks are not active on the road this time of year. Otherwise, the logging roads of the North Woods are no place for a bicycle, as I learned years ago when I looked south down a dirt stretch from a remote border crossing, Canada-US, whilst traveling by motorcycle through Quebec with Mr. Goodhue. What I saw coming my way remains, even in memory, frightening to this day: one massive, high speeding, fully loaded, logging truck and several behind that were completely encased in flying dirt and dust. The road literally vanished amidst this onslaught of earth and turbulence. How the drivers behind a lead truck manage to stay on the road, at close to US highway speeds, I have no idea. Cyclists of any variety beware, these gravel roads are owned by the logging companies and they make the rules.
During the second morning of my visit with Tanya, in an attempt to soften concern for my arrival to Stud Mill Road, I opened Google and started searching for anyone associated with bicycles or recreation close to the communities of Old Town and Milford, Maine, the latter on the east side of the Penobscot River where I'd enter the North Woods. That search was successful and bore lots of comforting fruit. I spoke with a fellow that lived in the area and had spent considerable time exploring Stud Mill on a gravel bike. In fact, a group of his buddies were intending to ride half the road, half-way to the Canadian border, the same day that I would be on the route. Without making a note of his name and I've since forgotten the name of the shop as well, sadly because I'd love to share their website, I hung-up the phone and immediately felt better. In the meantime, I had extended my stay, above Messalonskee Lake, from two to three nights. Departure day for the locally owned 'Milford Motel On the River' was set for 25 August. The next morning, 26 August, the trip would get very real as I ventured forth onto Stud Mill Road.
In my next blog entry, I'll recall my bicycle explorations from the Belgrade Lakes to Milford, Maine, across Stud Mill Road to Calais, a remote town in Maine that is adjacent, on the opposite bank of the St. Croix River, to Saint Stephen, New Brunswick.
(left) Enjoying the preferred fuel of a touring cyclist, coffee, on the deck of Tanya's cabin above Messalonskee Lake, Belgrade, Maine (23 August 2018). (right) Anticipating my first bite of a lobster roll from the Green Spot, Oakland, Maine (24 August 2018).
After my longest and most successful season of training and racing to date, I made my way from Denver International Airport, on August 10th, 2018, to a faraway island, many miles from the mainland, to Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Penobscot Bay, Maine, where I spent a few days with old and new friends, including many Atlantic Puffins. My idea for this autumn adventure was to reunite with old friends from my days working as an education intern (1993-1994), a seabird conservation biologist (1995-2001), and graduate student (2000-2005) in the Gulf of Maine and also to add a bit of my latest passion to the trip: some sort of bicycle tour, length and exactly where I would go to be negotiated and perhaps finalized as I sipped coffee, socialized, scanned the land and sea for birds, and otherwise decelerated on Seal Island for a delicious week of living at a casual pace. I want to thank my friend Christina Maranto for encouraging me, inviting me actually, to join her on Seal Island for a week with her 5-yr old son, Chase. Part of the season's research crew, to our surprise, stayed on the island and overlapped with us, it was a pleasure to meet both of them and to exist for a week on far flung Seal Island in their company.
During the summer of 1992, I was not only attending, I graduated in 1994 with a Bachelors degree in Biology, but also working for North Adams State College (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) as a laborer, cutting grass, spreading paint, and otherwise getting first-hand knowledge of how some (not all of course) state workers maximized their pay and benefits without doing much as far as work. My co-workers literally had places that they knew they could hide from view and sleep away hours on the clock. And when it came to the real sweaty work, the work that had to be done because it was in full-view of the higher-ups, such as cutting grass all day under a hot sun, my supervisors were quick to allocate those tasks to me. Eventually I would develop a strong disapproval of the fairness and honesty of the environment that I was working in. But in hindsight, I can easily see that my lowered emotional state actually provided a critical motivation that would inspire me to raise my voice and in doing so launch my adult life, a life apart from the loving, supervision of one or both of my parents, a life that continues to unfold today.
During the same summer, I signed-up for a one-credit course, Hiking in the Berkshires. As a child, I was very fond of the outdoors, curious, adventurous, often wandering wide-eyed into swamps and marshes by foot or a combination of foot and bicycle. Behind the department of public works in my hometown of Franklin, Massachusetts, I can easily recall a friend, Charlie Bean, and I innocently swiping nearby scaffolding planks and dropping these, long axis, one board at a time farther and farther out into the cattails of what was, in our universe, a massive marsh. At one point during the construction of our bridge into Wonderland, I slipped off the plank where I was standing and immediately plunged completely underwater.
I was not a large kid, actually the smallest in my class until my sophomore year in High School when I graduated to second smallest. Fortunately, Charlie was robust relative to most kids, for this reason he was able to pull me out of the water with one hand and place me back onto our, clearly, unreliable foundation. Another time, in a "swamp", our term in those days for any wetland, across from Charlie's childhood home on the corner of McCarthy and Fisher Streets, I stepped onto a grassy hummock that, turned-out, had a hollow middle that was full of yellow jackets. The hive was not impressed, but I was, once it was all over, because I nearly skimmed the surface of the water as I bolted with childhood energy away from the swarming hornets. Adventures abounded in those days, some, like the last one, left a bit of a sting which was no doubt the source of the flash point that allowed me to never forget.
Return to the summer of 1992, I was somewhere on a class hike in the Berkshire Hills, where exactly, minus any hornets, I have no flash point to help me recall. However, because of nervous energy, a feeling that I might describe now as a symptom of going outside of ones comfort zone, I vividly recall a conversation, my response to it, and the outcome many months later. Walking along, single file, surrounded by forest and bird song, between peaks that were formerly, at their maximum thrust, possibly as impressive as the Himalayan's, I recall one of my instructors relaying her experience at the National Audubon Ecology Camp on Hog Island, Maine.
My classmate, a senior, was clearly uninterested and no intervention she attempted, within interludes of a vocalizing hermit thrush, seemed to make any difference. This built to a crescendo in my mind, my guess is he was thinking about what he would do later that day, far from the dull recollections of an aged contemporary. During a moment of silence and no doubt depleted of oxygen because I'd stopped breathing in anticipation of creating a different sort of bridge, I spoke. What I said was simple, "I'm interested in knowing more about this place that you visited". Paraphrased here, of course. I'd always been exceptionally shy, and that didn't change when I reached second tallest my sophomore year in high school. Shyness would continue to be a limiting factor in my life, affecting interactions, education, and more, for many more years with a few notable exceptions, this moment whilst hiking in the Berkshire Hills among them.
Because of her exceptional kindness, patience, and generosity, not because of my ultimate success, it makes me sad that I cannot recall the instructors name to whom I stated "I'm interested ... " on that exceptional day from my brief sojourn here on Planet Earth. In the meantime, I'll focus on what transpired next. She immediately and without prejudice or doubt took me on as her project, her apprentice, and to my credit I made no objection to full acceptance of her as my mentor. Our task, guided by this lovely person, was to convince the director of the National Audubon Society's outdoor education facility on Hog Island to give me a chance.
I was, after all, a middle class kid attending the lowest ranked state college in Massachusetts. Consistent with this reality, my undergraduate SAT scores were abysmal, and no surprise my writing and communication skills were also well below average. Add exceptional shyness to the mix and you see the challenges my mentor was willing, excited in fact, to take on. We began with a letter to Dr. Don Burgess, camp director, followed by an official application and then a phone interview. Again, likely because when we are super nervous we remember, I vividly recall one part of that interview, the moment when I stated, likely with far too much enthusiasm, that "I happily would dig holes in his back yard for an entire summer for a chance to work for the National Audubon Society." I remain embarrassed to this day for that well intended, lengthy bit, of naivety. Evolution of the mind and related acquisition of experience is replete with sub-optimal decisions.
My naivete, poor writing and communication skills withstanding, I was nonetheless successful; or perhaps it's more accurate to say my mentor and instructor did an exceptional job of convincing the director to give an ambitious kid, without much more to offer, a chance. Fast forwarding, I would later learn that my three kitchen equivalents, each of us pot scrubbers, dishwashers, food servers, etc, were attending schools of exceptional quality and reputation relative to North Adams State College. And worse, they were advanced, in leaps and bounds, relative to my experience and education. To my credit, I settled into the space with inspired motivation, my curiosity reached a new pinnacle, above my swamp exploration days, amidst a multitude of outdoor educators, from geologists to ecologists to ornithologists, that taught at the "camp", where people actually slept in beds and ate in a dining hall (still do) despite the popular name for the facility then and now, the Audubon Ecology Camp on Hog Island.
My world expanded and with it the first hints of a personal library. When I wasn't exploring the ecology of Maine's coastline and islands, I was often devouring books on related topics such as Glaciers and Granite, Islands of the Mid-Maine Coast, and Silent Spring. The latter was significant for an inspired kitchen boy on Hog Island for more than one reason. Of particular spatial relevance, it turns-out that the famous author, Rachel Carson, visited the island in 1960. Rachel was friends with Millicent Todd Bingham, daughter of Mabel Loomis (Emily Dickinson's first editor) and David Peck Todd (Amherst College Astronomer) whom gifted the island to the Audubon Society to be preserved in perpetuity as the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary. In fact, the camp was a gathering ground for many famous natural historians, writers, etc, including Roger Tory Petersen, illustrator, ornithologist, and educator extraordinaire.
I want to take a small step back now, in time, to the moment when I arrived to initiate my first summer, of two, as a kitchen boy (aka, an education intern) on Hog Island. Sometime in the opening two weeks of May, 1993, I turned right off of Waldoboro Road (Route 32) on to Keene Neck Road with my father. We'd driven together that morning from my childhood home in Massachusetts, a 3.5 hour journey, in his red, 1984, ford, F-150 pick-up truck. Keene Neck Road ends at a dock overlooking some of the islands found within Muscongus Bay, including the "Hog Island", of which there are many on the Maine coast, that's hosted the Audubon camp since 1936. Close the end of the road is the former residence, including a barn and two houses, one never winterized, of Charlie Nash. Below the homes is a field of less than four acres dissected by a dirt track that leads to a boat house and a dock. Part way down the hill, on the left side, is a small pond, a universe only for Yurtle and other turtles that live modest lives (humans should take note). The field is cut once annually, otherwise it's part of the wildlife sanctuary that includes Hog Island itself. Song sparrows and their kin can, within or along the shrubby edges of the field, safely raise their young amidst the golden rod and other native perennials. Each evening, in the summer, fire flies turn the few meters of ether above the field into a biochemical extravaganza of on and off again points of light.
Everyone's first arrival, my father and I not being exceptions, to the view just beyond the Nash House is special beyond words, a moment forever burned into their memory with such meticulous care and clarity that even Gustave Courbet, one of the founders of the art movement known as Realism, would be impressed. There are many views on the Maine coast, named for it's association with the "main" land versus the 5000 or so islands peppered along Maine's coastline, and so it makes no sense that this one in particular would have such an impact relative to so many others, equally scenic. For this reason and without compelling scientific evidence, I can only speculate that there is something more here, more than an intertwined land- and sea-scape, more than the boreal forest that wraps the island and the field on the adjacent mainland, across the narrows, more than the old Nash house and barn, cedar shingles stained red for decades, there must be more to this picturesque scene at the end of Keene Neck.
My guess is that there is something deeply emotional about the experience, something about how the lines intersect and the mind interprets. I was not a pilgrim when I arrived that day with my father, concluding a pilgrimage to an anticipated Holy site such as the Camino de Santiago across Spain to Santiago de Compostela. However, the emotional conclusion of my arrival must have been similar, and ever since I've been looking forward to my next opportunity to come back to the view above the narrows, a part of Muscongus Bay, to pay homage to my deity, whomever or whatever that deity is.
Getting back to my experience on Hog Island, for the next two summers, as a kitchen boy then a maintenance assistant, I evolved. That evolution wasn't always smooth, or pleasant, but change I did. To my credit via intensive, dedicated, inspired study, I learned in leaps and bounds, I began to understand and embed into the adult, awake, dreamscape, including responsibility, career, planning, relationships and much more. At the conclusion of those two summers, with another year of university, my third, between them, I transitioned my professional obligations from the island to the mainland, back across the narrows from which I'd come, back up the hill to the Nash compound, where I started the second chapter of my life on Keene Neck, seven (mostly) summers with National Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program, aka, Project Puffin.
The idea of the Project was visualized in the earliest years of the 1970s by Steve Kress whilst an instructor at the Audubon Ecology Camp. His visualization of a project followed his realization that seabirds were missing from former nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine, esp. former colonies of a noteworthy component of Planet Earth's charismatic mini-fauna, the Atlantic Puffin. These seabirds, including puffins, had literally been "eaten off" their former nesting islands, both adults and eggs were collected to feed growing coastal and some (larger) island communities such as the community on nearby Vinalhaven. Steve launched the project in 1973 with a goal to return puffins to former nesting islands in Maine, including Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay. It was a modest beginning, involving puffin eggs collected on Great Island, Witless Bay, Newfoundland that were incubated on Hog Island and attacked by raccoons along the way; a few hatched and were released when they were a few weeks old on Eastern Egg Rock and never heard from again. Eventually, eggs were replaced by young chicks, less than two weeks old, also collected and flown to Maine from Newfoundland. Hundreds of chicks were raised and released on Eastern Egg Rock, and later on Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge. Eventually, after a decade of patient waiting, both translocation projects were successful and there are now hundreds of puffins nesting on both islands. Eventually the Project expanded to other species and became known as the Seabird Restoration Program which has had great success aiding seabirds in both hemispheres working with many collaborators.
My time commitment as a field biologist with Project Puffin encapsulates seven summers (primarily) as an intern, 1995, then an island supervisor, 1996-2001, intertwined with graduate school, which I entered in 2000 when I was 28 years old, a late start that has been and remains my normal. As with other challenges in my professional development, I entered the University of New Brunswick with considerable naivete. By now, I'd lived and learned in the adult dreamscape for many years but those lessons would only provide a preliminary, superficial, preparedness for graduate school. Yet, through primarily an inexhaustible curiosity and an unwillingness to quit, skills I began to recognize and refine as an education intern on Hog Island, I persisted. A master's degree began in 2000 transformed within two years into a PhD in Biology, with a focus on ecology and statistics. I successfully defended my these in the summer of 2005, with my parents and a favorite aunt in attendance, each of them within hearing distance when my supervisor, Antony Diamond, reached out to shake my hand and said "congratulations Dr Breton". A fabulous memory that my mother recently described as the best memory from her life, a generous observation but that's not unusual for my mother, her heart is available to everyone, openly, to a fault, but no more so than to her three sons.
Those celebrations and bonds aside, throughout my graduate school education I commuted south to north and back again, north to south, across the long axis of the State of Maine many times to reach my graduate school location in Fredericton, New Brunswick, or commitments in Maine, Massachusetts, and nearby New England states such as New Hampshire. During this time, my friends and experiences in Maine expanded not quite exponentially but quite a lot, Concurrently, I established and expanded on a new network of friendships and experiences in the Canadian Maritimes, Quebec, Newfoundland, and elsewhere in Canada.
So when I was invited by my friend, Chirstina Maranto, to return to Maine, to the coast, to Keene Neck and the islands, for reasons now revealed, above, to any reader, my heart warmed with desire to go there: to see my friends, to touch places from beloved, youthful, memories; to relive that beautiful part of my personal dream. Shortly after Christina made her offer, I saw the opportunity in my schedule to say "yes" and began making plans.
I arrived to the Portland, Maine, Jetport on 10 August 2018. Christina very generously sent a car service to pick-me-up. Within two hours, I was turning right, with my chauffeur, on to Keene Neck Road where so many fond memories, my friends, and my Niner Bikes RLT 9 Steel bicycle, shipped using Bike Flights, were awaiting my arrival. The next morning, there would be more time to visit on the mainland a few days later, I was on a boat at a dock in Rockland, Maine. A few hours later, I was on a much smaller boat, pulled by an oarsman, powered by Norwegian steam if your ancestry allows the metaphor. A moment later, I was within the sanctuary, land and mind, of Seal Island, which lay about 28 miles east of Rockland at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, namesake stemming from Atlas, son of Iapetus in Greek mythology. To get a sense of just how far flung Seal Island is relative to most places people live, due east of my location, weeks later, a sailor would make landfall somewhere in Portugal with no land between to replenish their stores.
Following introductions to two Project Puffin interns that would be staying with us, we unpacked our grocery bags, each one a perfect, dry bag envelope for a banana box, the preferred method for moving food and other gear to the islands (the Project oversees seabird management on about seven islands in the Gulf of Maine). The following morning, whilst sipping coffee amidst those boxes which we'd not yet burned, feet comfortably enclosed in Jonesport sneakers (despite the local name, mine were purchased in Fairbanks, Alaska), I captured a moment, on digital media, of my transition back to normal speed. I can easily visualize that moment now, where I was sitting on the deck of the 12 ft x 12 ft research cabin built in 1983, amidst the ancient granite bedrock, sounds of a tern colony nearby, a few human voices, the sea gently washing the greased bowling balls (slippery stones covered in algae) where I'd come ashore the day before.
For the next few days, four in total, I relived my Seal Island experience (four summers, 1998-2001) with patience and gratitude, before returning by boat(s) then car back to the project's base camp, aka, the Nash compound. More fellowship followed, meals, walks, etc, my friends from long-ago that live or have returned to this part of Maine came out of their little part of the forest that sustains them to celebrate my return. It was a fabulous four days or so. During which time, despite the quality and quantity of coffee sipped and, in other ways, worshiped on Seal Island the days before, I was still trying to conclude on the details of my next, a forthcoming, imminent, autumn bicycle tour, to somewhere.
My motivation to ride-on, to somewhere, was inspired by the success of my previous bicycle tours, in 2016 and 2017, in Europe and North America. Many details, including images, are available on my blog page - scroll down the page or use the Archives option on the right to jump around. Each of these tours ranged from ca. 1100 to 1400 miles. For example, in the autumn of 2017, I rode from Hamburg, Germany to Edinburgh, Scotland in thirteen days, a distance of 1300 miles; and then hopped a train to the Isle of Skye where I continued the tour from there and south to Glasgow International Airport, for another week. From Glasgow, I flew to Boston, Massachusetts, where I rode-on for two more weeks, a distance of about 1300 miles through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire visiting friends and family along the way. Although these relationships have always been my primary inspiration to crisscross New England, the region's beautiful, historic, and surprisingly remote country roads, such as the network of gravel roads found throughout Southern New Hampshire, offer an exceptional environment to explore by bicycle.
As I prepared my gear and bicycle at Project Puffin's Base Camp and continued to visit a multitude of friends along the mid-Maine coast, I was contemplating all of the following possibilities for my autumn 2018 tour: (1) a shortish tour in the State of Maine; (2) a tour through Maine heading north and east, eventually over the border into New Brunswick to Fredericton, then back to Portland, Maine; (3) the same but add Nova Scotia, including Halifax and perhaps a dip (up, north) into Cape Breton then back to Portland; (4) all of that, but then roll on to an overnight ferry in North Sydney, Cape Breton to Argentia, Newfoundland, a journey that would cross the Cabot Straits, then back to Portland of course to catch a flight / return to Colorado; (5) once in Argentia, the province of Labrador would be in reach though still many hundreds of miles away across a remote, seemingly Arctic, wilderness (despite being below the Arctic Circle); nonetheless I contemplated this as a possibility; (6) if I could make it to Labrador, then why not, clearly no response from my "swamp" inspired mind, make the journey a loop instead of an out-n-back (options 1-5)?
Among other challenges, logistic and otherwise, for the ambitious idea #6, I'd have to book onto a cargo ship that would carry me from a remote point on the Quebec / Labrador border to Rimouski, Quebec, an over-water journey of four days with occasional stops in isolated villages, accessible only by boat or bush plane. From Rimouski, I could add to ambitious #6 by making a loop through New England. Then again, alternatively, I could ride south from the port in Rimouski, back into Maine, and eventually to Portland. Six options, each one a bigger commitment, miles and time. The last, a massive loop, would more than double the physical challenges, distance and climbing, of any of my bicycle tours to date.
Among it's numerous influences, the universe can be recognized as a clever adversary, always, it seems, negotiating with you with it's infinite repertoire of options to keep you guessing, as if your fate is intertwined with something like an Oz operating his buttons and levers, manufactured by Willy Wonka, behind a golden curtain. And sometimes the message, it's influence, is so subtle that it only caresses the surface, a gentle touch that takes your conscious mind (about 5% of the whole by the way) some time to notice that a decision, an outcome, a transition, has been manipulated, directed by the whim of the absurd, by the mysterious and quirky realm of quantum physics. This was the case when the answer to my, by now, pressing questions - how far, how long, and where to go - began to take form, during a moment that seemed insignificant at the time, other than how will I transfer this kind gift back to Colorado when my friend Sue Schubel handed me a book: Full Tilt, Ireland to India with a Bicycle, by Dervla Murphy.
Susan is a wild character, perhaps a portal into an adjacent universe; she would be thrilled to discover, and maybe it's true, that a worm hole resides in her gaze. Despite her preference for quantum and other unanticipated conclusions, she is patient with most observers, extraordinarily, famously perhaps, and full of knowledge. Her kin are all around her, in this world and others. She is cared for, I believe, by a community of forest pixies where she lives with her beloved pug, Pipsi Ruby Rhubarb, and her husband, Anthony Liss, equally clever, creative, and colorful - more on Anthony elsewhere in this story, a forthcoming blog. On the same property, above Poorhouse Cove on Maine's Pemaquid Peninsula, she built her first home with sticks, a one room (not so) palatial palace with a wood stove. The woods around her are wet, a haven for mosses, liverworts, and lichens, a canopy of spruce, fur, and birch provide ample perches for birds to sing without much competition from the otherwise status quo, these days, man's obsessions with some form of extreme noise most notable. How Susan came across Full Tilt, first published in 1965, is just part of her inevitable, but nonetheless complicated, story. She is a tinkerer, a curiosity among the same, you'll find her almost anywhere, you'll smile when your eyes meet for the first time and on each subsequent reunion.
By the age of ten, Dervla Murphy was gifted, by her family, a bicycle and an atlas. Naturally, for her anyway, she assembled both into a dream, which she, because of family obligations, nurtured in her heart for twenty years. The whole, fascinating story is recalled by Dervla in her autobiography, Wheels Within Wheels: The Making of a Traveler. On the eave of her departure, twenty years later, the worst winter to visit Europe in many decades was beginning to make itself known in the form of cold, wet, and snowy conditions, especially in Europe's mountainous regions. Undeterred and riding alone, Dervla nonetheless set-off from her childhood home, by this point both of her parents had passed, in Linsmore, County Waterford, Ireland with her goal, her dream, to ride to Delhi, India on her Armstrong Cadet, single speed, bicycle which she nicknamed "Roz." Before she reached Turkey, she had already fired her gun, a pistol always carried in her right pocket, in self-defense, three times! Twice for fools, otherwise known as men, and once for what was either an attacking pack of wolves or stray dogs. And the weather was a constant terror, her recollection of, eg, crossing many mountain passes found within the Balkan peninsula is nothing less than frightening. Yet, somehow, others are not so fortunate, she survived and what an adventure she collected as a prize for her courage to dream and then set that dream in motion.
A few nights passed before I opened the cover of Full Tilt, I read through each opening page, publisher, etc, with care, my habit ever since I met Jason Demers in the dorms at North Adams State College (1990), and then began to read into the main body of the text. By the thirteenth page, my heart, mind, and body were filled with the sort of emotion that follows the realization of a great accomplishment. The same emotion that brings us together, in anticipation, to watch NASA astronauts land on the moon; to witness, if we could, Shackleton and his men board their life boats and days later arrive to the modest security of Elephant Island; to be with Sir Edmund Hillary when he stepped, just ahead of Tenzing Norgay, onto the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. At page thirteen, I carefully closed the book, picked up my head and immediately thought to myself, I'm going to Labrador.
At the same time, I committed, mentally to boarding a cargo ship to Rimouski, Quebec. All that remained to decide was whether, from Rimouski, I'd ride into Vermont, etc, or turn south to Portland, Maine. With Rimouski so far away and so many possibilities in between, I easily set this last decision aside, favoring instead. and sensibly. checking-in with my body and desire when I approached the dock in Rimouski many weeks later.
By this circuitous route, involving chance - imagine, e.g., the journey of that copy of Full Tilt, published in 1965, how it came to land in my library - and many people, my adventures by bicycle to and from Labrador began on August 20th. In the final analysis, I think it's fair to say, given the northward extent of the trip and the proximity of winter (fitting given Dervla's experiences in the Balkans) that on this trip I'd be going full tilt to Newfoundland and Labrador!
In my next blog entry, I'll pick-up the story of my journey as it unfolded. Part 1 will cover the section of the trip in Maine. Followed by Part 2, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; Part 3, Newfoundland and Labrador; Part 4, Quebec including a 4-day journey via cargo ship to Rimouski; Part 5, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and back to Maine where I closed the most ambitious tour, a loop, of my cycling history to date.