Sometimes I think I might just move up to Vermont / Open a bookstore or a vegan restaurant

Song of the day: Fountains of Wayne – Peace and Love

In the bookstore/cafe where Tunes and I dried off for a bit yesterday morning, a very passionate and potentially overcaffeinated woman at a table on the other side of the stacks was loudly talking at someone for the better part of an hour before we heard another voice get a few words in edgewise. A southern New England transplant, she was formulating plans to build her idealized Vermont dream home. “I want it to be all about sustainability and permaculture, you know? And I want it to have some character without having a ton of unnecessary corners that are just there to cost a bunch of money. I want it to last me until my golden years, which are rapidly approaching, so it can be the last beach for me, you know? But it’s important to me to work with someone who values that, who is a green builder, who is into ecofriendly design. I’m talking solar panels, maybe water catchment, and all of that.” 

“So how about a log cabin?” her soft-spoken architect offered.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m thinking!” was the start of her response.  

Petunia and I stopped across the street at the Green Mountain Bike Shop to put some air in the tires, as the previous 20 miles had seemed unusually slow and I’d noticed that the rig below me was flop-flabbing over the cracks in the old mountain roads intsead of crisply popping me right over them. We then started the thousand foot climb over Bread Loaf in the rain. First, we stopped at the Texas Falls at Thatcher’s recommendation. It was a nice spot to listen to the rushing water that had carved different half-domed and circular shapes in the rocks below.  Petunia was wet and not particularly impressed, although happy for a pit stop. 

   

Bread Loaf had one of the harshest-ending peaks/gaps/notches I’d pedaled, and even walk-pushing the last quarter-mile was a demanding workout. To take the pain out, I extemporized dumb little folk ditties to Tunes, who remained curled up inside her covered wagon.

And coming down was almost better than flying. It felt like the unending downhill, including a sharp pitch 15% downgrade that was straight and wide enough that I hit about 40 mph. We passed Middlebury College and stopped to see the Robert Frost dedicated woodsy spot, which made me think of my grandmother and might’ve been a good spot to sit and write or read, but for the bone-soaked chill that I needed to keep moving to escape. My rainjacket, a used ebay super discount on a very fancy brand, was unsurprisingly not very waterproof, or perhaps my body was far from sweat-proof and I’d soaked it from inside out. Either way, it wasn’t a good day for sitting around in wet clothes, and I wanted to hit a town and re-provision soon.  
  
In Middlebury, I ran into a grocery store and picked up some of Tunes’s favorite dog food, a few mini bagels, fruit, and a candy bar, and when I came out, I had a few spectators checking out my gear and my buddy. An employee of the store chatted with me for a while as I had some late lunch/dinner at the store-side picnic table and considered my maps. She said that she’d moved from New Hampshire to Vermont and was delighted with how much nicer the people were here, saying that if you’d stopped on the side of the road here, people would pull over and offer to help you or give you directions, “but in New Hampshire, they’d just as soon shoot you.” She’d suggested I could talk to the local fire department, but the guys there could only offer me camping that was out of the way, charged extra for having a dog, and up another few hills I was not so inclined to ride just then. 

I rolled on a few more miles to Cornwall, where there were actually a lot of cars parked in front of their fire department, and made my humble request. The chief was a bit uncertain at first, asking me twice if I was alone, if it was just me who’d be camping there (yes, and little dog, I promised), but he welcomed me to stay as long as I left no trace, which I assured him was my MO anyway. Some of the volunteers were fully suited up in bunker gear, doing drills with lots of beeping equipment and outer-space-sounding vocals through their heavy masks, so I watched unobtrusively and with interest for a few minutes. The rain had finally stopped, but it was incredibly windy, and if I wasn’t in the tent myself, I think it might’ve blown off its stakes and across the mountain ranges, maybe to the Adirondacks, where I was headed the next day. 

PS: I’ve gotten some cute fan mail from friends in Connecticut 🙂 

 Above: my last campsite in VT  

   

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I just need some place where I can lay my head

Song of the day: The Weight by The Band.

The rainy night gave way to a sunny, pristine morning, and I made an unencumbered 5 mile roundtrip to pick up breakfast for me and my host from Peg’s, the local good eats spot. We had breakfast sandwiches on the porch, enjoying a slow morning, and I was given the beautiful gift of a ping-pong-ball sized piece of natural purple crystal to take home with me. I half thought I might take another day to rest there, especially after meeting Chet’s dog named Jack (“I said wait a minute Chester!”), and another named Daisy May, two lovey dogs who were happy to give kisses and receive pats. But before half of the day passed, I moved on and up over a few more steeps, and past Mt. Moosilauke on the eastern side.

     

Rural New Hampshire had some dreamy riding, routed past an alternating blur of farms and woods, rustic shanties, elaborate log cabins, and homey New England style capes. A woman ensconced in a bright orange hammock on her wrap-around porch indulged in a mid-afternoon nap, her resting mouth ajar, blissfully unconcerned about a potential black fly invasion. The smoky delicious campfire smell of a wood burning stove wafted through the air at various intervals. 

   
   

By 5PM, the motorcycle traffic had picked up a bit, and I found an unattended fire department that had water (yay!), so I washed up and tucked in early behind the building, feeling content with my day’s sightseer pace and peaceful campsiste for the night. There was’t any ambient light, so I left half of the rainfly off and watched an amazing star-filled sky until my eyelids collapsed and cycling dreams came.

The next morning, my uncovered tent was a bit damp, as the fog had rolled in and covered everything with a milky mist. I packed up, picked off the ticks that had covered everything despite some pre-trip permethrin applications, and put my warm gear on to roll out pretty early on Sunday morning. From my top-of-the-hill vantage point, the valleys looked like bowls of milk, big green mountains with low clouds filling the concave lowlands. Everything was damp and cold and sticky for the first couple of hours, but by mid-day, the sun came out and made it a warmer sticky. We’d leisurely paddled out by eight, stopping to take pictures and enjoy the farm smells, passing lots of small family farms fronted by hand-carved wooden signs advertising raw milk, organic free range eggs, and artisanal cheeses. 

   
 We crossed the Connecticut River into Fairlee Vermont, our next state, and had a very overpriced diner breakfast, which was brought outside to me at the picnic table by a multitasking but attentive waitress. An older  Vermonter with a fluffy white beard whose basic blue jeans held up by red suspenders came out to shake my hand and wish me luck on my journey. He said he was riding across the country on his motorcycle on route two, and offered to buy me breakfast if he ran into me again along the way. 

   
     
Hugging the Connecticut River, a layer of cool came off the water and acted as natural air conditioning as the temperature picked up. Along a mile-long stretch of dirt road, a rare group of women cyclists were approaching on the other side of the street, and smiled and waved. In passing, one asked where I was going. My brain hesistated for a moment, recalculating my answer to that. Just a week or so ago, I’d decided to tell people I was going to Maine, but since I’d reached that checkpoint and was now westbound, I needed a new automatic response. But I still doubt I’ll get to Seattle by the end of August at my unhurried pace, and I have the happy attitude of lacking a big end goal or destination. I’m just going. So before they went totally out of earshot, “UmmmmmMMMMARS OR BUST!” and just laughed.

   

  

  

I saw big groups of people merrily floating down the river in inner tubes with coolers and oversized floppy hats, and thought that it looked so good I had a notion to ditch my bike on the riverbank and dogpaddling out to join them.

   
My bum was feeling the strain of a 50+ mile day in the saddle, and I was probably a little undernourished and sleepy, so I was glad that my early AM shoutout to Warmshowers host Thathcher had been approved. It was going to rain, and I thought it would be nice to have an evening indoors and let Petunia rest up. It was a little 5 mile ride off route to the address he gave me, and when I saw the correct number on the mailbox, I also observed a large black dog bounding down the driveway, barking and coming for me. ACK! Flashback to Kentucky! I pedaled past quickly and considered turning back to rogue camp in town. But Thatcher came over and assured me Stanley was friendly (and happened to be from Kentucky!). A skiier, cyclist, and mountain unicyclist (Vermunis!), Thatcher welcomed me into his home and grilled me the biggest, juciest, tastiest grass-fed-beef burger with a side of potatoes and onions, and pickles to boot! We chatted about some of his adventures and I learned that he’d been a bike tour guide, helping teenagers ride around New England on long self-supported trips, and was a professional polyglot, teaching both French and German at the high school level. The sweet home that he shared with his wife Julie was the perfect spot to watch a dramatic firefly lightshow before finally succumbing to the food coma.   

(Sorry, dude, snapped you with your eyes closed!).  
I’ve had a lot of fun looking at peoples’ impressive libraries, and this one was exceptionally fun!

 Tune played and ran around with Stanley and Fransisco the cat.

It was a miserable downpour on Monday morning, but as Hallmark says, life isn’t about waiting for the storms to pass but learning to pedal uphill in the rain. So we suited up to test out my used and/or borrowed raingear. Petunia insisted on sticking her head ot of the unbuttoned section of rainfly at first, but once her noggin was totally soaked, she gave in and curled up in her carrier to rest and wait out the weather. But in the 25 mile stretch to Rochester, VT, the precipitation had not let up much at all. Clammy and chilled, we stopped into a sweet cafe full of books to write and warm up for a bit. There is still a half of day left to ride, and where we’ll end up is yet to be determined. But we have hope that it will be somewhere dry-ish!

   
   

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I’m goin’ to Jackson (N.H.), and that’s a fact.

Song of the day: Jackson, by Johnny Cash and June Carter. http://youtu.be/U3NJC18Oi04

I knew the Yankee heat and humidity by heart, so I figured that by getting a good early start, I’d be poised to reach Conway, NH by a reasonable hour just shy of sunset. The day was marked by a crescendo of sunshine and humidity, and I stopped more than once to wring the sweat from my red paisley bandana before pushing on. Since it was so much nicer than the long, solemn winter we’d had, there was no sense in denigrating the hot outdoor-feel whenever someone (usually not on a bicycle) quizzed me about the day’s weather or forecast.  

  

     
There were a few big climbs. However, compared to last year, every five hundred or a thousand feet up felt almost like a non-event, so I felt slightly emboldened and yet still  experienced a trace amount of apprehension about scaling the 2,500′ climb to the Kancamagus pass coming up soon.  

  
After 5 PM, I’d reached the small town of Fryburg, ME, a stone’s throw from the New Hampshire line, where I’d be re-entering the state to continue west. My Uncle Mike, unofficial hospitality coordinator, had reached out to his cousin Connie in Jackson, NH, to see if I could crash there that night, but by the time I’d reached Fryburg, I called her to apologize that I couldn’t push the extra 15-20 miles up to their place. Undeterred and exceptionally sweet, Connie and her husband Bob offered to come pick me up and host me for the evening. We loaded the bike and gear into the back of their SUV and I compactly reposed upon the tops of the folded forward seats in the back with Tunes scrunched up next to me as we hurtled over Hurricane Mountain, a local hiker’s dream, an enjoyably scenic and rugged jaunt across the border and to their home.

 

Connie and Bob generously offered me incredible hospitality, and I ate my weight in vegetables at dinner. Both former teachers, they were in equal measure fascinating and entertaining hosts– they shared stories about recent black bear encounters and their attempts to thwart them; skiing trips on Wildcat and other mountains; their own travels and adventures, including stories from other wanderers they’ve hosted; and the history of their current town, population ~800. Connie taught me how to spot a poplar tree, and also pointed out other arboreal interests, including a blight on some of her evergreens. We were joined by their friend Peter, a longtime serious ski and aquatic instructor and cyclist, who offered to pedal behind me to the top of “the Kanc,” in a very kind gesture of solidarity. Peter was a quite fit 60-something, having ridden a bicycle as his primary mode of transportation over the last few decades, and I politely tried to dissuade him from joining me going uphill in the morning. I knew my effort would be a long, sweaty, slow, and probably disappointing day, and I’d been somewhat anxious about my first big ascent since my tour last summer, but undeterred by my light protestations, Peter agreed to meet up around 8 AM in Conway to join the perspiring parade. 

   

 (Peter,Connie, and Bob, below).

My new family of friends fed me a delightful medley of cereals and fresh cantaloupe, let me toss my bike and gear into their trailer, and we took a short ride through the Ellis River valley to the strawberry field meeting spot, where we hugged out our goodbyes and best wishes. I couldn’t believe that I’d been so lucky to have such wonderful people so close to my route, my family circle, and to my heart. I wanted to tarry and hike with them, talk with them, and learn from them, but  I needed to push on. Having been extended a warm welcome to return, I may take them up on it someday, but next time I’ll bring and cook the food and return the hospitality!
   
     
Smartly, we’d started with a 3-mile mostly flat warmup spin, which warmed up my joints and cardiovascular system, and I felt light and limber by the time we started our gradual uphill endeavor. I apologized in advance for my usual frequent stopping, as Tunes took her breakfast at one of the first stopping points before the covered bridge just a couple of miles in, but Peter was very patient and understanding. Best of all, his encyclopedic intellect meant that I was treated to an historical, geological, geographical, and otherwise interesting tour of the area. We spotted pink and white lady’s slipper flowers (I leaned that the rarer yellow ones would not grow alongside the road, but might be found if hunted deeper into the woods), observed gorges, and he kindly obliged to take a few tourist-pullover-spot photos of me and Tunes along the way. 

Peter was carrying one bag of Tunes’s food to help reduce the weight on my bike by a couple of pounds, and I’d emptied most of my water bottles to ease the load going up over two thousand feet. On the way up, a svelte road-biking-cyclist guy around my age passed us, sized up my tank in a near double-take, and cheered, “You are a warrior! That is unbelievable!”  This bolstered my sweaty spirits, and I broke 6mph for a little while, riding on the high (and the less severe gradient). I needed to stop a couple of times before the top and catch my breath, once fending off a moment of hot wooziness, but Peter never faltered in his chipper support, offering me a Cliff bar for energy and some reassurance that the top wasn’t too far away. 

  

At half past noon, I finally reached the summit, and we took lunch together. Peter shared his carrots and grapes, and I made a PBJ while Tunes had a little chewy treat. After several days of worry that I would hurt myself trying to climb this thing, burdened by the weight of my self-supported mobile home, it was nothing short of life-affirming that is done it without too much pain or suffering, and that I felt pretty good overall at the top. I was thirsty, however, and I’d totally run out of water, but when we were looking around for a well pump, a vacationing couple noticed my predicament and furnished three bottles of water, so that Tunes and I both had plenty. He was celebrating a 30+ years anniversary (35, maybe? I forgot) with his wife, enjoying the mountains and staying at the Wentworth, a fancy and well-known hotel in the area. I was grateful that they’d come to my rescue, just in time, with just what I needed. It was a lovely lunch, and then Peter and I went our separate ways just before I made the plunge downhill, speeding the remainder of the 35 mile total route, from Conway to Lincoln, over the Kancamagus highway. 

Flying downhill past the great White Mountains of New Hampshire was an incredible thrill, and even though motorcycle weekend was just kicking off in this area of the state, bringing in thousands of rumbling two-wheeling tourists, I had the downhill coast almost entirely to myself. When the road finally leveled out in the city of Lincoln, I was feeling pretty euphoric and ready to make the next and immediately impending thousand-foot climb into the following big city, North Haverhill. But first, I stopped at an outdoors/sporting equipment store, thinking that I could get some advice on camping, or just to get off the saddle and peruse water treatment tablet options for a few minutes. On a tiny sign in the corner of their door, I noticed the words “Hiker Hostel: Lincoln, Chet’s Place” with a phone number listed. Suddenly, I recalled the advice of a frind of mine (shoutout: Pedestrian) who’d hiked the Appalachian Trail and told me that if I found myself in Lincoln, NH, I should stop by this “secret hostel” and meet the incredibly inspiring man who ran it. Intrigured, stinky, and a few days behind on my blog, I decided to take a short 35/40 mile day and investigate this free or donation-based lodging option, which was mostly intended to serve AT hikers whose route also intersected with this funky town. 

 (Note: Rainbow House is not the hostel, but nearby).

    
          

Chet strikes a pose.    

Covered in hiker graffiti, the six-bunk, multi-couched communal dorm had once held over 30 hikers one night during a very busy, rainy week, Chet told me upon my arrival. He was an incredibly warm spirit, and my friend was not incorrect when he’d mentioned that the hostel owner was one of the bravest, most inspirational trail angels ever to exist. As far as the hostel itself, which was an addition to Chet’s own home, amenities included a warm shower, laundry room, and shelves of take somethinhg/leave something clothes and accessories awaited any long-distance travelers who sought refuge there. Then, of course, were the many stories of other admirable hiker heroes and heroines, artists and trailblazing strangers, wayward partiers and unscrupulous hobo types boasting trail names like “Zero” who spent multiple days freeloading on the reclining chair in the main house’s living room. The trail had taken all kinds of people at all abilities and body configurations, and the hostel owner had taken in most of them, including the odd skiier, traveler, or in my case, cyclist and dog. 
   
       

I had the whole place to myself, and was sound asleep before 8 PM, exhausted from the day’s efforts. Earlier in the evening, Chet had recieved a local call from someone suggesting that they’d potentially spotted the two murderers who had recently escaped from a NY prison. Between that message and the bear-intrusion anecdotes, I was quite happy to be safe and indoors. Plus it absolutely poured rain in the middle of the night, so I was very lucky to have missed all of that, indeed.

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Across the Universe

A crowing rooster summoned me from a short slumber on my host family’s lawn in Brunswick, and I managed to stumble sleepily out of my tent in time to say goodbye to Henry and his two children as they made their way to work and school. I shook the night’s rain off of my tent, laced and velcroed the cycling shoes on my slightly aching feet, and headed north into the morning’s ocean fog. A short 30 mile spin to Daramascotta, ME would give me a chance to dry off, do some bike maintenance, figure out what route I would take next. As my previous night’s hosts pointed out, Brunswick was where 3 major cycling routes converged (East Coast Greenway, Atlantic Coast route, and the Northern Tier), so if I decided not to travel to Bar Harbor and see Acadia National Park, I would only have to come back a little ways on busy Route 1 to get onto my westbound path. 

We rode through the Brunswick Naval Air Station and took a few photos while I put my raincoat on, and then we rolled through the woods near Bath and Wiscasset. It felt cold, clammy, and a constant mist covered everything until it was either sticky or totally damp. 

  

The drizzle and indeciscion were muting my good spirits slightly, so I tapped on my go-to happy place to amuse myself. TouringTunes has sort of a double meaning– Tunes is one of Petunia’s many nicknames, but I’m also crazy about music and enjoy the company of the tunes playing on my little radio, or sometimes I just sing loudly while rolling down the street, unashamed of my pinched and scrawny voice. I saw an abandoned VW bus on a hill, and was inspured to serenade the woods with my rendition of “Goin up the Country” in my best Kermit the Frog-esque voice.


A set of signs on telephone post kicked off a little 2000’s R&B medly of forgettable pop chart hits and booty anthems.  (I’ll spare you if you didn’t catch the reference, you lucky person).


There were wide shoulders on the bridges over the Kennebec River, then the Sheepscot River, and finally the Daramiscotta River, but the wind made my rig a little unsteady. I never felt unsafe, though, and most cars gave me plenty of room.

       

My Uncle Mike had arranged for me to stay with his brother and sister in law, Joel and Nancy, in Daramiscotta, another of the beautiful Maine coastal penninsulas. I was happy for the short and easy day, but I was also looking forward to meeting these distant relatives. My Uncle told  me in advance that they had bred standard poodles for 40-50 years, and I knew I’d arrived at the right house when I saw their poodle-decal mailbox, and all doubt was eliminated when I saw this car in the garage.


Before any humans came to greet me, three tall, poofy showdogs came to the door, barking and jumping, startling Tunes. Nancy came to the door a minute later, and put the dogs in a back room and apologized that she hadn’t been able to socialize them as well as her dogs in the past, as she said it was getting harder for her to do things as she was getting older. Consequently, she wasn’t sure how they’d react to Petunia, so she kept them apart and graciously let Tunes have the run of the house while the poodles were in a separate in-house doggie salon. 

Joel, a former Navy pilot, and Nancy, a retired nurse, both in their eighties, were as sweet as can be. Even though we’d never met, they made me feel totally comfortable and welcome, and we talked with an ease of familiarity like we’d known each other forever. Even though our genetic link was limited, my father’s sister’s husband’s brother and his wife were already becoming very dear to me. Sadly, however, I had arrived during a time of grieving. Just that morning, they discovered that the puppy that they had hoped to nurse back to health after being delivered by emergency C-section had not survived through the night. Petunia and I watched as Joel buried the little box in the yard with great care. It was a hard day, but they were happy to see Petunia, I think, despite their sorrows. Poodles were obviously were obviously at the epicenter of Nancy’s life, and there wasn’t a surface that lacked some  image of the curly-haired, poof-ball tail breed. From the prancing poole coth napkins, to the wall decor with illustrations and fancy-breed magazine covers, the fuzz-domed crocheted wine-bottle cozy, to the many framed American Kennel Club awards, there were poodles everywhere. At one time they’d had seven dogs, but now there were just the three, after the sad absence of the lost puppy. 

Where there were not poodles, there were flowers. When Nancy and Joel were first married she recalled that he’d been taken aback by her omnipresent  floral arrangements, exclaiming, “I feel like I”m living in a funeral parlor!” Dainty and fragrant grape-jelly colored lilacs, soft honeysuckle, and towering lupins were artfully arranged on nearly every table in every room of the house, including the large screened-in patio. It was really remarkable. And Nancy was readying more bouquets in preparation for a visit from her sister and brother in law, Mary Beth and David, who were hailing from Utah/Alaska (they have a home in each state, but I can’t remember which one they flew in from!), after driving up from their college reunions in CT.

   

We shared a lovely dinner all together, with many topics covered from the obvious bike trip, to the dullness of the Middle Ages, and David, an orthopedic surgeon, even volunteered a quick consult about my foot pain in my bike shoes.  But most importantly, Joel and Nancy shared a lot about their children, and in particular, their son Jonathan, who had passed away in the last year of a rare form of thyroid cancer at only 57. “Jonathan had no bucket list,” Nancy said lovingly of her late son. “He was just a happy individual, and if there was somewhere he wanted to travel or something he wanted to do, once he set his mind to it, he did it. He had everything to live for– his wife, his daughters, his family, his business, his passion for life. And he fought tooth and nail until the end. He would’ve loved what you’re doing,” she said, and looking at Petunia, added, “and he’d be getting her to play from the moment he walked in the house.”

I was sad that I had not gotten to meet Jonathan in this lifetime, but felt the love his family had for him and was glad that such a kindred spirit had touched their lives so profoundly and had lived with such passion and joy. It was inspirational to hear about such a life well lived.

      
After a big dish of coffee ice cream and more late-night conversation, I slept on a comfy bed outdoors on the porch, contentedly watching the first fireflies I’ve seen all season flashing through the grass below. I suddenly knew that I didn’t want to make the trek up to Bar Harbor just yet, but that I felt like heading west, and taking on the of the first major climb through New Hampshire. It didn’t matter that I’d have to backtrack 30 miles. Nothing is a wasted trip, there are no wrong turns, and I’d enjoyed the company of new friends and previously unknown family.  

  
I got up at 5:30 the next morning, and quietly as I could, used the time to grease my chain, put away the clean clothes that my hosts had kindly let me wash, inflate my air-horn to maximum honkitude, check my tire pressure, clean the cushy inside of Tunes’s carrier, prep my water bottles, trim my pup’s face hair a bit (this seemed like an appropriate venue), unpack my tent to clean and dry it, check maps, charge electronics, and read a silly book of New Yorker cartoons about dogs. 
  
When the rest of the household came to at about 9, we assembled a fruit, toast, and sausage breakfast with coffee, and enjoyed the warm summery weather on the patio. 

   
 By noon, after luxuriating over a hearty breakfast, it was finally time to move on. Before I left, Mary Beth and David made a very generous donation to my fundraiser for Gearing Up (which, if you’ve missed it before, is here: Give to Gearing Up for women in need). I was really moved by their thoughtfulness, and on top of that, David’s brilliantly simple suggestion to take an X-Acto knife to my cycling shoes to strategically relieve some pressure was really seeming to work out right away. It was good fortune on top of great. I wish I’d had the right words to thank them and my fabulous family-host-family, but I hope they knew how grateful I was despite my lack of adequate language. 

The weather was really fantastic today, and the route was virtually unrecognizable without the thick coat of fog graying everything out on a nearsighted horizon. Petunia and I stopped at the Lighthouse Lobster Shack to see if they could give her a sample. I didn’t want her to leave the state without at least a little taste of Maine’s favorite crustacean. (Turns out, she was not much of a fan, but thanks to our new pals for letting her try some!)

I noticed my front derailleur was not shifting down to the smallest cog, which made some of the longer hills unnecessarily difficult. Knowing that it would be prudent to get this resolved before tackling the Kancamagus Pass, I stopped in at the Bath Ski & Cycle shop, where the staffers were quite amused to see me touring with Tunes. Jessie taught me how to make a little adjustment to change the limits of the derailleur movement and he also adjusted the cable tension a bit, and I was back in business with my granny gears, at no cost. Thanks guys! He tried to help me find a replacement for the one Arkel rain cover that I lost a couple of days ago, but the ones in stock did not fit the oversized bag with the tent. In the meantime, a cost-effective large black trashbag with a drawstring will hopefully do the trick. If I’ve really only lost that one thing in over 600 miles of riding around, I think that’s a pretty good ratio for me. Might even be my personal best!


The late start and a few stops meant that it was another low-mile day, but who’s counting? It was an awsome day. I made myself supper in Durham, enjoying a fancy espesso-bean and vanilla peanut butter and banana sandwich on an English muffin, with some dried fruits and a chocolate-covered graham cracker. YUM. Having missed out on the lawbstah, Tunes had her usual wet food mixed with dry kibble, eagerly chowing down. She ran a couple of miles on a bike path earlier, which seemed to be the highlight of her day.

   
  


A firefighter named Sam enthusiastically gave me permission to set up camp next to the Durham Fire and Rescue station. While there were no running water or outlets here, I had just filled my bottles in case of rogue camping sscarcity, so I still got a good-enough water-bottle-shower with enough left to chug tonight in preparation for the coming heat, sun, and sweat. Back to New Hampshah tomorrow! 

Song of the day: Across the Universe, the Bill Frisell version. http://youtu.be/kXE0Jxn9tmo

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Quero a amizade de um cachorro manso (I want the friendship of a little dog)

Song of the day: Meu Mar (My Ocean) by Erasmo Carlos. http://youtu.be/BQLcqB_xqko

Despite some occasionally ominous and heavy clouds, the threat of rain never materialized. It was another day of flat coastal riding, and I decided to skip off the ACA route in favor of a seaside ride along my ocean, my sea. An especially lovely and unexpected part of that detour was along the Eastern Trail, part of the East Coast Greenway route. We had it to ourselves, so Tunes did what she does best and ran alongside merrily. Along the way, we met a few llamas, cows, and horses at a farm adjacent to the trail. 

   
  

It wasn’t all coastline and lawbstah rolls– the best seaside riding happened already in York and Kittery, but the calm of marshes with the gray morning light had its own melancholic beauty, and I was glad for some peace and quiet away from the cars and the tourists.

 

A big departure from the stillness of the trail, I entered Portland around mid-day by crossing on a pedestrian bath over a huge, high-up bridge. It was very windy, and the panniers caught the wind like I was one of the little sailboats down below me. An old, weathered Mainer wearing a bright orange beanie cap who looked like he’d spent most of his life fishing in the mid-day sun smiled at me and stopped his bike, making room for me to pass him on the narrow bridge.  “That wind is really somethin, ha? Keep them wheels rollin!” 

   

 

Through Freeport with the world’s largest LL Bean, I moved on towards Brunswick, where my WarmShowers hosts Alicia and Henry welcomed me to camp out and enjoy their outdoor, solar-heated shower. Both were deeply involved in cycling advocacy work, ensuring that Brunswick was one of two designated bicycle friendly cities in the state of Maine, and worked hard to get increased signage and route for bikes. Also long-distance bicycle tourists, their enthusiasm for nature and the great outdoors extended to sea kayaking, skiing, youth camp coordination, lifeguarding, sustainibility, CSAs, solar energy, language, and travel. Alicia generously shared a delicious vegetarian dinner with salad greens from her work-share at the local community farm, and a fantastic pumpkin pie that featured coconut milk. After dessert, she opened her mail to find a map had arrived for her upcoming solo bike tour through Europe in her quest to learn more about the intersectionality of European cycling, transportation, agriculture, and sustainability. Their sweet husky mix, Shep, hung out with Tunes a little bit while the peoples chatted indoors. I think we’ve both had fun making new friends and seeing a few old friends along the way… and it’s only a few weeks into our summer travels. I feel so inspired by so many people that I’ve met, and so grateful to be able to do any of this at all. Alecia asked me what the vision for my trip was, what my story was, and I stammered out some broken and banal phrases, but truthfully, that’s a hard thing for me to put together an elevator speech about.  And in part, I guess the answer to that question is still revealing itself to me in every act of kindness that humbles me, in each seaside moment spent in wonder.

    

  
    

 

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