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Journey to the East: 7 August 2012

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

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Bar Harbor

Pushed on by a flowing wind I come out to the sea
 
-Hōsai Ozaki

country
Today I completed my cross country ride from Seattle, around the Olympic Peninsula to Bar Harbor Maine. This last day of riding was a bit mixed: most of it was on highways 1 and 3 and there was a constant flow of traffic on them. I was defintely feeling the effects of the last couple of days (weeks, months) but I mostly took it easy and enjoyed the ride. It was sunny and clear, humid but not excessively so and the wind was light and with me most of the time. There was one respite from the highways on a wooded ridgeline to the town of Surry where I stopped for lunch. Easily my favorite bit of riding on this day. There was some good hills getting back to the highway but then I was riding in serious edge city jammed with traffic. Once through that I rode past the airport, the one bit of the ride against the wind, across a bridge and was on Mount Desert Island. I immediately discovered that the state parks I intended to stay at were full and calling around the other campgrounds were filling up (I couldn’t bring myself to stay at the KOA). So I left the route and road to the Bar Harbor Campground to secure a spot. Having done that I returned to the route which wound around the island, mostly in trees with not much of a view and still tons of traffic everywhere. From the tiny town of Mount Desert (pronounced like the after dinner sweet) there was a good long climb up to the Acadia Park entrance. But then it was descending all the way to Bar Harbor, a classic harbor town with old brick buildings, wooden piers, a green square all of which was jammed with traffic and tourists. I made my way though the throngs to the pier and the end of the tour. Beautiful views of islands, the Atlantic and many boats. I walked down to the beach and placed my hands in the water – been a long time since they were in the pacific, Then I went into town to find a beer.

the Atlantic at last
cupping water,
I wash off 5000 miles

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Journey to the East: 6 August 2012

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

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Sunset at Belfast Bay

the deep clear blue water
shines brightly “”
my sad shadow
 
-Santoka

Long Shadow
Today or tomorrow had to be a longer day due to camping options and I wanted it to be today. But I was slow to get started and took perhaps too many long breaks which led to me riding later than I like. But it was a much better day then yesterday – the wind was much gentler and with me most of the time and equally welcome the shift in wind had brought in dryer air and the humidity dropped. The day was a mix of those familiar hilly backroads, highways and cute little coastal towns. Yes I’m now on the edge of the Atlantic and deep bays cut into the land which necessitated several bridge crossings, usually on more major highways. On one of these more major highways, as the day was waning but I had many more miles to go, my front derailleur cable finally snapped. I’d been antipating this since the rear cable snapped but the timing cold have been better. I pulled over and replaced it and also took the opportunity to,lube the chain. My drivetrain running much smooth I returned to the highway. It was 6pm when I reached Camden which felt like a slice of merry olde England – a beautiful harbor packed with sailboats, narrow streets lined with sweet shops, bookstores and narrow alleys with pubs. I really regretted that I just immediately turned north and rode into the Camden Hills.

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Fields and the Camden Hills

The hill part notwithstanding this was a spectacular section of Maine. Up for a good piece, but then down to Megunicook Lake which looks to be carved right out of the bones of the earth with many small rocky islands. After a nice section wending along the lake the route climbed back into the hills where there was farmland amongst the rolling hills and valleys. Then it was eleven miles of riding, almost always up or down down, until I descended into Belfast; yet another charming coastal town. There was a street fair going on and for the second time this tour I had to just ride on by as it was twilight and I had to get to camp. Always some minor regrets. I crossed Belfast Bay on a nice pedestrian bridge and then it was just a couple of miles on a highway to Mooring’s Oceanside RV Park and Campground. Right on the water and very reasonably priced (for the East Coast) I pitched my tent in a field as night fell.

shadows lengthening
on the hills —
a hint of the ocean

night over the bay;
shooting stars —
I enter my tent

Journey to the East: 5 August 2012

Monday, August 6th, 2012

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Brunswick Cemetary

The image, as in a Hexagram:
 
The hermit locks his door against the blizzard.
He keeps the cabin warm.
 
All winter long he sorts out all he has.
What was well started shall be finished.
What was not, should be thrown away.
 
In spring he emerges with one garment
and a single book.
 
The cabin is very clean.
 
Except for that, you’d never guess
anyone lived there.
 
-Lew Welch

Frost Heave
One thing that has become clear to me on this tour is that riding all day into a strong headwind is pretty much soul crushing. Worse than hills or bad roads or traffic; it just takes a constant toll and turns the ride into a grind. Well today had said strong headwind for most of the ride and that plus the fatigue from a week of riding in mountains made this day into a slog. Plus the route turned once again to the back roads and avoided towns all day, thus it was again up and down for e duration with some short hills having exceedingly high grades. Only in these winding valleys would I at times escape the wind – oh and sometimes the hills themselves would block it. Once again these roads were in variable quality but most of them just terrible and yet no matter how off track, or how bad the roads the traffic was pretty constant. The humidity had reached a peak and while clouds often blocked the sun it did seem to mange to burn down whenever one was on a particularly onerous climb. I moved pretty slowly and once again I was somewhat constrained by the camping options but by five pm or so I’d reached the town of Brunswick – the only decent sized town I saw all day. From there I went off route, even off the maps suggested off-route route to the Thomas Beach Campground. A big private ‘ground, it was sparsely occupied on this Sunday evening. My weekend camping, always in question, are done with for this tour and it should be straightforward to camp for the remaking days.

nights eerily quiet
without the cicadas whirr —
the white birch

Journey to the East: 4 August 2012

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

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Summit of Kancamagus Pass

over the mountain’s silence
silent rain
 
-Santoka

Last pass to cross past (perhaps)
Today I crossed the seventh (eighth if you count the Middlebury Gap) pass of the tour and crossed into Maine the 14th and final state of the tour (plus one Canadian Provence). The day was again hot and humid and the wind out of the south didn’t help much as the route on this day would oft head south. Right out of my campground there was an ~750′ climb past a beaver pond, waterfalls and pools of water in carved out stone. I’d left early (for me) and this initial climb was pretty nice. Even nicer was the long descent into the town of North Woodstock where I paused for a good hour and a half to charge the iPad and take care of some business (plus a second breakfast). Then it was onto the main climb. This climb all this considered was easy, it had none of the crazy steep sections of Middlebury Pass. I was able to stay in the middle chainring for the duration. But the heat, the humidity, the headwind and the nearly continuous traffic made it a challenge. Nice views of the green covered White Mountains receding in every direction and again followed streams most of the way. Mostly though I heard the sounds of motorcycles as there seemed to be a endless stream of them. Near the summit the road quality deteriorated which didn’t help things. All in all though an easy crossing and I was done before lunch. It was then a long, long descent all the way to the town of Conway. During this descent it was clear blue in three quarters of the sky but with clouds streaming in from one direction began to rain on me. A truly strange sight but the big drops of rain were refreshing.

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Maine, the 14th and final state

After lunch in Conway it was only a few miles until I crossed into Maine – the last state of the tour. This area is extremely popular for tourism and the packed campgrounds, streams of traffic and No Vacancy signs everywhere attested to that. I began calling campgrounds to look for a place to stay but the two upcoming ones on the route were both closed. I ended up heading to one about twenty miles further along than I’d planned for this day. At first the ride was pretty easy; gentle rolling hills and with the wind. But after nearly twenty miles it turned east and then south into the wind and short, sharp hills appeared. These were just brutal and the road quality was horrific- nearly Iowa bad. Not to mention I was at seventy miles for the day and had crossed a pass in the heat… But I finally slogged through those backroad hills and arrived in the very charming town of Bridgton where I turned off route and rode a couple miles to the Lakeside Pines Campground. This is a pretty large, family recreation park and well packed with people. Also the most expensive campground I’ve ever stayed at. But everything has been more expensive back east. This long days ride also pushed me past another milestone: 5000 miles.

out of the clear blue sky —
a burl of grey,
big drops of rain

Journey to the East: 3 August 2012

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

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Covered bridge in Vermont

alone
crossing the mountain””
another mountain
 
-Santoka

Green to White Mountains
Today I rode from the dwindling Green Mountains in Vermont to the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. No passes today but I have to say this was among the toughest riding I’ve done. The 25 miles or so I rode in Vermont were just all up and down with one hill being a 1000′ climb and that was just one of many. The humidity too was so high that I just felt sticky all day and my clothes were persistently damp. The scenery was top notch though as I mostly was riding along rocky brooks and cascading creeks. Crossing into New Hampshire (no “welcome” sign on my crossing) I spent a long time riding along the Connecticut River which while not hill free was cake compared to those deep Vermont hills and valleys. It was though sunnier and hotter as the days persistent clouds had finally, allowed the sun to burn through. Once the route turned eastwards toward the White Mountains the hills were back with another nearly 1000′ climb. Happily I was back in the trees and a big black cloud had appeared that actually sprinkled on me a bit so it was a much cooler climb. As I officially entered the White Mountain National Forest I came to the Wildwood Campground where I decided to stay for the night. A very nice, deeply wooded USFS campground – been – a long time since I’ve been in one of these.

so easy for the traveller
to become stuck
in the past and future

Journey to the East: 2 August 2012

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

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New England!

Cold Mountain Road’s a joke,
no cart track, no horse trail.
Creeks like veins, but still it’s hard to mark
the twists. Fields and fields of crags for crops,
it’s hard to say how many.
Tears of dew upon a thousand kinds of grasses;
the wind sings best in one kind of pine.
And now I’ve lost my way again:
Body asking shadow,
“Which way from here?”

-Han Shan

Can’t find my way home
A damp morning, everything wet from yesterday’s downpour. The humidity wasn’t helping – none of the dampness evaporating. I rode back to the route and through the historic town of Ticonderoga. An interesting looking town with the Fort just outside but I pretty much just rode through and down to the ferry on Lake Champlain. There you take a tiny ferry, operational since the 1750s, that is pulled by cable across the lake. There was only a couple cars on there besides myself and I talked to both drivers about the tour – there seems to be an increasing curiosity the further east I get. After the ferry I was in Vermont – New England and the true NE. Vermont was just how I always imagined: farms in valleys between hills and mountains. Very scenic though definitely hilly riding. The road quality at first was terrible as which was quite unwelcome as I was really babying that rear wheel. But finally I made it to Middlebury where I went to the The Bike Center and they fixed the spoke. Once again a great shop, super nice and competent wrenches with quick and reasonably priced service. I spent some time in Middlebury which is just a classic New England town with old bridges, towering churches, historical monuments dating back to the 18th century and so on. Also numerous coffees shops, bakeries and pubs – my kind of town.

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White River

Back on the road I now did one of two remaining major climbs, this one in the Green Mountains. Not major by Washington State pass standards but Middlebury Gap which I was riding up to, is nearly 2000′. The road just outside of East Middlebury began to climb and it was steep: greater than 12%. After that section though it was pretty easy, generally trending upward but with some flat spots. It was along a river the whole way with which it’s low water level and exposed rocks was quite scenic and musical. One last super steep section which climbed for about a mile and I’d reached the Gap. No sign to mark it but the notice for the grade of the descent. So down I went on terrible roads (which the Bike Center wrenches had warned me about) into the valley along the White River. This river had flooded from Hurricane Irene last year and had cut of villages and destroyed much property. Including it turned out the campground I’d been planning to stay at. Well this was a problem, there wasn’t another campground for a while and I’d hoped for a normal days ride. Well that wasn’t to be and I rode first to Bethel where I was resigned to stay at the Inn but it turned out to be a B&B and of course no service on my cell to call them. So in the twilight I rode another 10 miles or so to just past South Royalton where I finally found a campground again along the White River: Hendersons Hide-Away. Not much here but a strip of land and seasonal RVs parked here with no-one in them. But any place to pitch my tent at this point.

the sun sets earlier each day now —
rings around the waning moon

Journey to the East: 1 August 2012

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

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Falling water in the Adirondacks

Since I came to dwell up on Cold Mountain
how many ten thousands of years have gone by . . .
Accepting chance and change, I hid away by a spring in a grove;
perched there, just watching, I was satisfied.
Not many come, out among these cliffs,
but white clouds sometimes touch, and pass . . .
Soft grass to lie down on,
blue sky for covers.
Pillowed on a rock. Happy, alive.
I’ll let Heaven and Earth take care of the changes.
 
-Han Shan

Paradox and beyond
It’s been three months now since I began this tour; have I lived any other life? Leaving Lake Eaton rode back to the route which immediately began to climb again before returning to rolling holls along another lake. The road quality seriously deteriorated, especially on the (rather good sized) shoulder sometimes with ripples of asphalt. I was quite happy to turn off of 28N and onto Blue Ridge Road. However this road steadily climbed culminating in a mile plus long ascent. At the top I had pulled over to answer the call of nature and on returning to the road I hit a patch of sand, my wheel twisted and a spoke popped. Not again. This was especially disconcerting as the route now descended for miles at a time – I was beginning to depart the Adriondacks. Every time I’d descend it became noticeably warmer and with the extreme humidity this made for sticky riding. A section along a river, on dirt no less, was quite scenic but I was stressing a bit about the wheel. Returning to a more major road there was one last long, long climb followed by a two or three mile descent. Very warm in this valley where I reached the town of Ticonderoga, which concludes section 10 of the Northern Tier maps. However I was not to precede to the next section, no instead I went 5 miles off route in the exact opposite direction to Rogers Rock State Park. There, as I checked in, a pair of girls on a tandem pulled up. They were doing Adventure Cycling’s Adirondack route. They were going to swing by my campsite later on so we could compare notes w/r/t our respective tours, but as I set up a massive thunderstorm rolled in. With it came seriously driving rain and I retreated into my tent to wait it out. It passed right over the campground; the lightning and thunder nearly simultaneous. After the storm had passed and I cooked dinner it was dark and I never did see those tandem tourons again.

huddling in my tent,
lightning and driving rain –
now, frogs

the full moon wanes,
as does my travels —
drops of water

Journey to the East: 31 July 2012

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

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Adriondacks across the lake

25:1:68
 
Sadly unroll sleepingbag:
The missing lid for teapot!
 
-Philip Whalen

Into green hills mountains
While the route was, if anything, even more hilly than yesterday and the heat and humidity about the same this was a much more enjoyable day of riding. It was mostly in the woods which blocked the wind and sun and the scenery has been marvelous. First I was riding along the Moose River (or Moose Baby River as I can’t help but think of it) which after two steep climbs flattened out to rolling hills and then a short stretch on hwy 28 which had very gentle climbs all the way to Old Forge. This is an old mountain tourist town filled with shops and places to eat. I spent a decent amount of time here and even managed to find an Anchor Summer Beer on draught. Refreshing! From there the riding was around lakes and though it was often up and down it was generally short rollers. This day was in the Central Adirondacks but I have to say that these seem mostly like the foothills of the Cascades back home: nothing much above 4000′, all below the tree line, no snowcapped peaks and not even really passes through these. Still love this type of country and while tiring always rewarding riding. There was one super long and steep climb on the shoulders of Blue Mountain which since I hit near the end of my day was definitely a slog. But then back to the lakeside rollers along Long Lake where I ended my day on route. Then it was a good three miles off route, with hills of course, to Lake Eaton State Park where I camped for the night. Nice state campground and my site was right on the lake. Pretty full for a Tuesday – the Adriondaks, as all the traffic this day evinced is clearly a major summer destination for the NE.

full moon
glimmering in the lake —
unexpectedly silent

Journey to the East: 30 July 2012

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

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Camp under the oak

Awake a moment
Mind dreams again
Red roses black-edged petals

 
-Philip Whalen

Lakeside to foothills
There was only a couple of miles along Lake Ontario before my route turned eastwards again. Thus we bid a fond adieu to the Great Lakes – I won’t see such large bodies of water until the Atlantic. Turning eastwards alas meant turning into the wind, which while it seemed somewhat variable on this day, was primarily out of the east. There was a bit of gentle rolling hills for a spell, primarily through farmland. I’d reached Amish territory and saw a couple of horse drawn buggies as I rode out of Richland. Big genuine grins on those bearded faces as they waved at me. Now the hills started more in earnest; the route was almost always going up or down. There was some steep hills too – you can tell these are older roads as they’d try to keep those grades down in modern road making. I was riding into the foothills of the Adirondacks and it was mostly in the woods and along lakes and rivers. It’s nice to be back in this sort of land even if the hills and the wind combined with the heat and humidity made for an exhausting day. When I passed the Brown Barn Campground I initially intended to ride on and actually did. But decided after just a little bit the I should stop for the day. I’m glad I did as the Brown Barn is another one of those gems on the Northern Tier – only $6 for tourons and there is the titular barn with a full kitchens, showers, cheap laundry and rec room. A good opportunity to take care of some the necessities.

nearly full moon –
when did I last see fireflies?

Journey to the East: 11 July 2012

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

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Land o' Lincoln

As if it told a lie, the day moon, there it is
 
-Hōsai Ozaki

A long, hot slog to Illinois
The day dawned with perfectly clear skies and it would become as hot as its been in a while. That plus rills pretty much all day and a light headwind most of the day made for a bit of a slog. There was no camping near Muscatine, where the map section ended so I ended up riding about 7 miles into Illinois. This led to me exceeding the daily distance record once again – 92 miles on this day. Too long.

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Iowa Fields

This last day in Iowa was again along the ridge line with cornfields winding through the hills and valleys. Up and down a lot, but seemed more up and down, even at the end where unexpected a bug descent into the Mississippi River valley it only gently descended for a bit. There was a detour on the route but I decided to press my luck and see if I could ride through it, or if they’d quit for the day. Well they hadn’t and it was a multiple mile long section of new cement. So I walked and rode along the edge of the cornfield becoming completely covered in cement dust. Should have done the detour. Back on the road it wasn’t to far before I did that short descent into Muscatine where I wandered around, looking for a grocery store which I never found. So I just ate dinner in town and set off. Crossed the Mississippi for the last time on a huge bridge and then rode for a bit on Illinois country roads and then a gravel road to the Blanchard Island Recreation area. This was a nice Corp of Engineers site right on there river. There was an East to West touron there and an hour or so later S__ arrived so a bicycle tourist summit of sorts.

Along the broken roadway
purple, white and blue
flowering weeds