I am currently in the St Louis, Missouri area visiting with friends and family after having ridden 1775 miles. This is the first in a series of posts intended to document the daily experience of touring.
April 21, Bar Harbor, ME to Moose Point State Park, ME
With it being the first day of the trip, I am, of course, really excited. With the sun shining, I leave the motel where I spent the night. My bike is really packed down and I am still trying to become accustomed to having so much weight tied to it. I zigzag down the main street of town like Foster Brooks on two wheels.
The Maine coast is rocky with bluffs coming up out of bays and inlets of the Atlantic. My first challenge is to find a place where I can get down to the water so that I can dip my tires into the sea to complete my starting ceremony. On the Bar Harbor waterfront, I find a beach of loose pebbles and cobbles where I can.
A women walking with a small girl of maybe four years agrees to snap a photo of my bike and me at the edge of the water. In preparing for the trip, I imagined a video-documented grand ceremony with musical accompaniment to thank the gods or the universe or whatever or whoever we owe to this mysterious, joyous, sorrowful, and terrifying existence. But like so many grand intentions I have had in my life, it only happens in my mind. But, may this trip not be one of them.
With that, I am off. I drag the bike across the rocks and struggle to peddle it up the paved access walk. After a few stops at each corner to futz with various bags, panniers, and my jacket, I make it a few blocks to the village green. It is 10:15 AM. I check my map once more to figure out which road to take out of town and I begin peddling east, through Acadia National Park. I make it over the first big hills with all of my encumberments on Highway 233 to Highway 3 toward Ellsworth. I think I can do this.
The sky clouds up as I get away from the coast. It drizzles a couple of times but never really rains. The Maine coast seems to have the same kitschy tourist attractions and shops as the Oregon coast. I notice that all the trees are still bare here. My expectation was that they might be starting to sprout leaves by now.
Though I am riding along the coast of Maine, I soon find it is a jagged line of inlets from the ocean. There is no riding for miles with views of the Atlantic, only crossings of bridges over the bays and river estuaries. The terrain is hilly but so far not that challenging.
One problem I have right off-the-bat, being a big coffee drinker and trying to stay hydrated, is that with all of the trees being brown and bare, it is hard to find a place to pee where nobody will see. I’ve always been modest about these things. Fortunately, I find that the Adventure Cycling tour maps lead you down lots of roads with little or no traffic. What a relief.
At about 45 miles in, I stop a few blocks off the route on Main Street in Verona Island to get lunch at a sandwich shop-convenience store combo. Being afraid of someone stealing my bike and all my gear, I find a place to park my rig close to where I’ll be able to see it from where I will sit.
The attractive woman at the counter was very friendly and cheerful. I ordered a sandwich and bought a big bag of potato chips and a large bottle of juice. After a few minutes, an older couple sits down at the table next to me. They notice my loaded-for-the-long-haul bike out the window and ask me where I am going. As I have been doing to people for weeks leading up to the trip, I tell them my story with excitement, maybe overwhelming them with too much info, as can be my habit. And then I get to learn a little bit about them. She is a successful artist with a pretty Native American sounding name that she had given herself. He was a retired technician who had worked for years for a university science and engineering department. They told me they were moving to a new smaller place as part of a decision to downsize. The smaller place still included chickens and livestock and sounded to me like something way larger than anything I would ever want to manage. As I left, they wished me luck and safety on my trip and I wished the same to them with their move. I enjoyed talking with them a lot.
I cross the bridge going south over to Verona Island proper. I still have no idea where to camp but am comforted that the clouds have rolled away and the sun is shining. The private campgrounds that are shown on my tour map, where I thought I might stay, seem a little bit out-of-the-way. In fact, the first one I encounter is closed. Then I notice Moose Point State Park on the map. There is no indication that there is camping there but when I get there I ride in to check it out anyway.
The gate is closed. It looks like the park is shut for the season. There is no campground. The sun is getting low. There is a car parked outside the gate. I hope it belongs to no one official because I decide I am going to need to find an inconspicuous place to set up camp here, closed for the season or not, campground or no.
I find a clump of trees at the corner of the park, close to the water overlooking Penobscot Bay. There are still fallen limbs from the late-season Noreasters everywhere. As I pitch my tent, I notice a couple of people walking up the drive toward the park entrance. They don’t seem to notice me or don’t seem interested in hassling me if they do.
As the sun sets, I watch a ship way across the bay heading north. I feast on a couple of bagels with cheddar cheese and a 25-ounce can of Mexican beer. It’s not the rich Oregon brew I love but it will do. It was all I could find at the convenience store where I bought it. After that many miles of riding, almost anything qualifies as gourmet.
It is dark and getting cold. I climb into my sleeping bag and pull out a book to read. My thoughts are mixed with anticipation of the trip ahead and the friends and love that I have left at home. A sense of sad loneliness sets in. But, day one is done. I had an amazing first day I tell myself and fall into a deep dreamless sleep.
Start mileage: 0
End mileage: 58.6
[During this trip, I am trying to raise funds for two organizations. One is the Civil Liberties Defense Center, an organization providing legal support for citizens who challenge the corrupt system under which we live through acts of civil disobedience. The other is the Poor Peoples Campaign, which seeks to reinvigorate the movement started 50 years ago by Martin Luther King, Jr to establish economic justice for all in the United States. If you have donated to one them already, thank you. If not, please consider hitting either or both of the links below to learn more about each organization and make a donation. Also, if you like this blog, please share it with others.]