Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hitting the wall

After a long and tiring day yesterday we awoke to a cloudy day. We didn't have a particularly restful night and were still tired. We packed our bags, and as I went to swing the very heavy top box up on the back of the bike it fell open. As everything spilled out I dropped to the ground to try and catch things as best I could. The only thing that broke was a wine glass but, in dropping down to the ground with the box, I managed to scratch the lid quite badly. The bag had to be totally repacked.. (We are carrying so much, the bags have to be packed very methodically and scientifically.) It really wasn't a good start to the day...

By the time we were ready to leave it had started drizzling. Wanda dressed in wet weather gear. I didn't want to because it was going to be a hot day, but the rain was getting heavier, not lighter.

Our GPS was giving me ambiguous instructions and we went down the wrong road a few times, only to have to make a u-turn and head back.

We travelled about 3 miles down the road before the rain stopped, and we began slowly broiling in the plastic bags we call wet weather gear. We stopped and took off that layer on a stone bench in the middle of a busy town. A few pairs of curious eyes looked at us through office windows.We continued to cook as the temperature climbed into the eighties and the humidity felt like it was 100%.

We travelled to the port of Stonington, where we ended up going around in circles. We had set the town as a via point on the GPS, but if you don't actually go to the exact spot that the GPS identifies as being "the town", it will keep trying endlessly to make you return..

A few miles north of Stonington we reached Mystic and a little bit further, Old Mystic. Here the big attraction is the Old Mystic Seaport, where they have a great collection of old boats and ships, and a museum set up as an 18th century sea town with various buildings housing different trades associated with ships and chandlery.

We spent half the day there. It was an interesting place, but with all the heat and humidity we were feeling very uncomfortable in our motorcyle clothing and got to the point where we decided it was just too uncomfortable to keep going.

Riding north we tried to follw a scenic route, but were too exhausted to care if we were on the right road. Besides, every road in this part of Connecticut is scenic. There was no motel where we thought we would stop for the night, so we got the GPS to find the nearest one. This was way beyond our budget, so we started telephoning other motels in the vicinity. We found one a few miles up the road and eventually reached it via the interstate not hwever before being led astray, off onto a ramp, under the underpass and back onto the same interstate where we couldn't get off for another mile or two to turn around.

We eventually returned to where the motel was supposed to be, and found it several hundred yards away,  off a small side road that ran close to the ramp for the interstate. We checked in around 3:30 pm, stripped off our protective gear and crashed. We really felt we had hit a wall and could not go on.

Making up time - at a price

We were about a half a day behind schedule when we left Danvers on the north side of Boston (we had hoped to be in Plymouth, south of Boston last night). Our only option to catch up would be to miss some scenic rides down the coast of Massachusetts. We were resolved to taking highways – even interstates – to make up time.

We didn't want to get onto the Boston roads in peak morning traffic, so we took a side trip to Salem, home of the infamous witch trials in the 1600's. They are trading for all they are worth on that, with every second store in the city mall selling Halloween costumes or offering psychic readings or tours of Salem's witch trail.

This is our second visit as it holds a fascination which is not easily forgotten.

Highlights of Salem include the tall-masted ship Friendship of Salem, and some of the architecture.
Harrisons is a store well worth visiting if you are interested in fantasy figures, Halloween materials, comics and odments. There were also many other stores with tourist trinkets.

We stopped at a restaurant for brunch and were deighted photograph of  a dog drinking and a child playing on the edge of a fountain. Two ladies in the store behaved just like the characters in Roald Dahl's book "The Witches". "Children and dogs should be controlled...." etc. This took us aback. The likeness was too close.

Around 11:30 we finally tore ourselves away and set off on the fastest route to Fall River in Rhode Island. We got there early in the afternoon and after a cold drink headed down to Battleship Cove, home of the USS Massachusetts and other warships. We didn't have the time to wander the park, so we took some photos from outside and rode on.
We rode west into Newport RI. Here we took a very slow ride down the narrow main shopping street - behind a garbage truck that stopped every 10 yards to pick up garbage.

From there we toured around the southern part of  Newport where all the fabulously rich Americans like the Rockefellers had their "summer houses".

Continuing west we rode across the Newport and Jamestown bridges that cross Narragansett Bay.

These bridges are incredibly high (215 ft), and the wind, which was fairly strong at sea level was much stronger and gustier on the bridge, so much so that it was most unpleasant riding and we were pleased to get across in one piece.

Our route then took us south to the pretty town of Narragansett where we stopped for refreshments on the deck of the Coast Guard Restaurant.

I was determined to get closer to Mystic, Connecticut, our nominal destination for that night. Before we reached there we realised just how tired we were. We stopped in Westerly where there are not many motels. A few were booked out, so when we found one with a room we took it. It was incredibly expensive for what little it offered, and their internet didn't work. After settling in we rode of to buy food for dinner and do our laundry. It was 10 pm when we had dinner, and we were thoroughly exhausted.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leaving Maine was hard...

...but not because we didn't want to leave.

We had our bike booked in for a serviice today, and dropped it off at the BMW dealer near Falmouth at 9 am.

We then sat around until 2:00 pm when it was ready to go - with two new tyres and new brake pads front and rear. By that time the temperature was in the high eighties and climbing still.

Our plan had been to travel to Plymouth today, but Boston sat directly in our path. With the late start, it was obvious from the outset that getting to Plymouth was not going to be possible, so we reset our expectations and set a course for Salem on the northern outskirts of Boston.

From Falmouth we rode straight into troubles. A few miles south of the dealers, Highway 1 was closed at Portland for repairs. We didn't find out until  we had passed the ramp to the Interstate so we lost that option. Our GPS took us around the back of the city on a tortuous route that had many stop lights and was very busy with traffic. With the heat the slow going was most unpleasant. It was houses, motels, inns, stop-starting at traffic lights and an occasional view of a lake.

It seemed to take forever to pass Portland, and even when we returned back onto Highway 1 we remained pretty much in built up areas all the way. That meant heavy traffic and lots of stoplights continued to frustrate our progress. We diverted briefly onto Highway 1A, but that had very low speed limits because of suburbia, so we returned to Highway 1.

We had not eaten much all day - no breakfast at the motel, and only coffee and pastries available within walking distance of the Bike dealer's. It was around 3:30 pm when we found a diner in Biddeford and stopped for a meal and a break. There was a brick-a-brack nearby. It would have been nice to take one or two unnecessary items home. They were resisted.

We continued on, wishing we could just leave this congested part on the south coast of Maine behind.

We eventually crossed the border into Massachusetts. We continued through seemingly endless built up areas, with the traffic and stoplights as bad as ever. By the time we reached Rowley it was 7 pm and just as hot as ever. We stopped at a seafood diner initially just for drinks and decided to have dinner before continuing. We shared a serve of calimari, fries and cole slaw, and couldn't eat it between us - it was a huge serve and not very tasty. Sadly we have left the delicate eating of north Maine. As we were finishing a young couple sat at the table next to us, each with the same dish as we had. They seemed quite happy. We were refreshed at least and ready to contiue.

By the time we left the diner the sun was low in the west, and a beautiful golden hugh was filtering through the trees and bathing the fields with yellow light. The temperature had dropped 10 degrees and much of the traffic seemed to have gone, making the final leg of our ride towards Salem the most pleasant of the day.

Near Salem we checked the GPS for nearby lodgings, and settled for a motel in Danvers, about 5 miles away.

We're a couple of Maine-iacs!

It dawned a perfect day. We left our motel and backtracked to Waldboro and turned south on 32 towards Pemaquid. The light through the trees dappled the road wih shadows and the sunlight flashed on my visor like a strobe.

We rode into New Harbor, a town so pretty we were ooh-ing and aah-ing.

Turning onto 130 we continued to the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse where we stopped for breakfast at the Sea Gull Restaurant. Sailing boats leaned over heavily in the strong, steady winds.

It was tough dragging ourselves away. We took 130 all the way north through Damariscotta, another town to rave about, and turned south again to explore yet another peninsula. We took a back road through Edgecomb onto 27 that led us into Boothbay Harbor. More ooh-ing and aah-ing!

Highway 27 led us further south across a bridge onto Southport Island and down to Newagen at the far end of the island.

The road turned north and became 238 until it returned to the bridge. Riding back through Boothbay Harbor we turned onto 96 through East Boothbay and down to Ocean Point. On the way back we stopped at the East Boothbay General Store for drinks.

We decided to take a side trip to Barter's Island, but this proved difficult to find, and involved a bit of back-tracking and swearing. It turned out to be a ride through the forest. The home owners had the best views and looked as if they were too busy cray fishing to notice.

Our route north led into Wiscasset, which proclaims itself as the prettiest town in Maine. We stopped for icecream before continuing our journey through Bath and down 209 to the historic Fort Popham site. This was a fortification built during the Civil War to protect the towns of Bath and Augusta, the capital of Maine.

It was getting late, so we made a run back north and turned towards our overnight stop at Falmouth. The GPS started taking us through a built up area (the shortest route), so we cut onto Highway 1 to make more speed over the last 20 or so miles. The GPS took us off 1, and in trying to make sense of our situation, we ended up on I-295. With a speed limit of 65 mph, we were doing 75, and being overtaken by heavy trucks that were weaving, ducking and passing each other and anything else on the road that was slower. It was a terrifying 10 minutes and we were glad to get off it. We found the place where we are having our bike serviced tomorrow, and had the GPS take us to the nearest motel.

It was 7 pm by the time we got there, and were so tired we didn't care it was a bit pricey. We both had a shower and went to eat in the restaurant next door because we were too tired to look for anything else.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Revisiting some places and memories, seeing others for the first time

It poured with rain while we slept. Everything was very wet outside as we decended the flight of stairs from our motel room. A quick check on-line suggested the weather was going to be rainy with thunderstorms today. We decided not to get into wet weather gear despite the clouds. It stayed cool, comfortable and free of precipitation. Great riding conditions.

From Bucksport we rode down US 1. Our journey began with a crossing of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, completed since we were last here. This is arguably both a work of art and a remarkable piece of engineering. All the supports run from the centre of the road to two huge, slender towers.


First stop was Belfast, a town I remembered well from our earlier trip to Maine. There is a high level bridge as you approach from the north that offers great views over the harbour, and it is very pretty down at the waterfront. The clouds had all but disappeared. A perfect day for riding and sightseeing. The reflections on the glassy water were an opportunity for photographers.

We stopped for brunch at a diner in the main street before walking around the downtown area taking in all the art galleries and trendy shops.       Dancers by Susan Tobey White.

The waitress is flat out in Darby's Diner.
 Parent Gallery
There were a number of bicycle-based sculptures around the area that you could climb onto and pedal to make propellors spin, wings and fins flap and so on.

Further down US 1 as we approached Camden. I kept an eye out for the place we stayed at 4 years ago. I recognised it as we rode past, and memories came flooding back. We shared a parking space with a Harley  and went off walking. The main street was very busy, so we were lucky to get a park. We walked down to the waterfront where we found the restaurant at which we had sat on the verandah eating lobster in 2006. The town of Camden is a a tourist Mecca, too pretty not to enjoy. The whole N-E coast is lovely.

A little further south we turned off US ! to ride out to Port Clyde where we visited the Lighthouse at Marshall Point.

We had to return briefly to US 1 before we could again take a detour out to a another peninsula with more pretty towns and farms and scenery. By the time we started riding north it was getting quite hot, and after a while we found a small tavern where we stopped for a well-earned beer. There were two other customers: one started talking to us and the other soon joined in, and suddenly Wanda was chatting with one and I the other. The time passed quickly. The beer was refreshing.

The card sharp.
Back on US 1, we started looking for a motel. It was located quite a few miles down the road. Another 6 miles and we found a supermarket where we purchased the makings of our dinner which we ate in the shade outside the room. The weather is so pleasant we make every effort to sit outside.
It was a grey morning when we woke. By the time we had breakfast it was drizzling with rain. By the time we were ready to leave, it was raining lightly, so it was into the wet weather gear again.
We are still hugging the far north east corner of the USA, going in and out of the inlets. There is some influence from French Canada, across the border, as you occasionally realise you are not listening to English.  The food is a little more delicate in flavour, and some of the fishing villages have French architecture. 

We rode south through Trenton Bridge across to Mt Desert Island/Acadia National Park. We were here in 2006 and drove around the eastern loop road, so this time we chose the western loop. Since we were last here the Seal Cove Auto Museum has opened, and this is on the western loop - another reason to go that way.

By the time we arrived at Somesville it had stopped raining. We continued south through Southwest Harbor and Seawall  and took a short detour to visit the Bass Harbour Head Lighthouse.

More wild flowers below. There is an invasive and very prickly rose bush along this shore.

On to Bass Harbor, then Seal Cove, about 5 miles further on. We found the auto museum. This was a private collection for many years, but when its owner, Richard Paine, died two years ago some of the collection was sold off to create an endowment and establish the museum. It is a collection of mainly "brass era" cars and motorcycles - ie from the late 1800's to 1917. For more information see:

Roberto Rodriges was able to expand on the individual histories of the cars. The old money till was still in use.

Star of the collection is a 1913 Peugeot that was once owned by the famous tenor James Melton. It took out second prize at the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance in 2005.

At the northern end of Mt Desert Island we turned east and rode up Cadillac Mountain. About halfway up we encountered cloud. There was absolutely nothing to be seen from the top, but who cares? - the road is a great motorcycle ride.

We agreed to head into Bar Harbor for lunch. This is a very glamorous town that exixts entirely for the tourist trade. Plenty of lobster here, even the wooden kind.

We drove around the eastern loop on the island in 2006, so rather than repeat this, we headed back to the mainland. I remembered that there was a place in Trenton that made and sold weathervanes - the flying pigs were my favourite. We stopped there again to check their range. Nothing really grabbed our eyeballs, which is just as well because the sales lady confirmed it would cost more to ship one to Australia than to buy it.

From Ellsworth (where we started earlier today) we took 175 south through Surry and Blue Hill to Sargentville where we rode across to Deer Isle for a loop down to Stonington at the very southern tip. The route took us past homes, farms, lakes, bays, inlets and through fishing ports and quiet towns. Every where we turned there were vistas of mountains, sea,  tidal mud flats and forest. Maine has something like 3,500 miles of coast, which allows for a lot of waterfront properties.

Returning north through Stonington we took 175 north through Penobscot where we stopped for coffee. Briefly turning south we discovered the town of Castine - so beautiful and definitely out of the way of mainstream tourism.

Our day finished in Bucksport, where we found a motel and set off to get a bottle of wine and Chinese take-out for dinner. A lady at the supermarket told us there was a festival in town this weekend, and that there would be fireworks tonight. After dinner we rode into town and watched the fireworks while our laundry was washing.