Travel & Arrival Oct 12-13, Portland, ME
We flew into Logan Airport and arrived in time to take an 8:30 PM bus to Portland, ME Friday night. That meant Spencer was able to start first thing in the morning to re-build the bike. By afternoon the bike was together including a brief test ride to the grocery store for soy milk for the week. We had an introductory group meeting where we had our bikes and helmets checked and learned about the daily routines. It turns out to be a very small tour. America by Bicycle provided two tour leaders, Pam & Judy. They took turns riding with the group of 5 of us or driving the SAG vehicle with our gear and rest stop sustenance throughout the week. They also took tons of great photos. Any you see below of us riding were taken by one of them. THANKS! The other three riders included Rick & Denise from Colorado and Elanor from the Netherlands. She’s a 42 year old Commanding General of a cyber security team at The Hague. That’s her showing off the watch her daughter gave her to help her relax and remember to be in the NOW! Over the course of the week we enjoyed visits over dinner each night, but rarely saw folks during the ride. They were a fast group and with the very hilly terrain we were not.
Sunday, October 14
Portland to Old Orchard Beach, ME 35 miles, 1190’ gain
Today was to be a short day so we took it very easy. That was good since we both woke up before 4 AM! We didn’t leave the hotel until after 10. It was pretty brisk, so we were bundled up. Our tour leader shepherded us through Portland as a group. It was pretty much the last time we all rode together. The short steep hills slowed us to a crawl while the singles spun merrily away. Our first stop was at the Portland Head lighthouse. It was beautiful and reportedly THE most photographed lighthouse on the coast. The stone cliffs of the shore were striking. And then, hundreds of walkers in pink showed up – a breast cancer walk-a-thon. That was also impressive. The rest of the group left without us since our paces just didn’t mesh. We had the course loaded on our phones using Ride with GPS for the first time, and were getting turn-by-turn directions which were very accurate. We caught the group at Two Lights on Cape Elizabeth where they were sampling seafood at the Lobster Shack. We fell off the back again and caught them at the rest stop at mile 25. We took lots of little trips to see the sea from various capes and viewpoints today. It was warming up nicely. The sun made everything look gorgeous.
We stopped for the night at Old Orchard Beach. The town was fairly deserted since high season was over. After dropping our gear at the hotel, we showered and took a walk on the beach, right out our back door. I built a sandcastle in honor of Bill Wiginton whose body we gave to Ma Pacific exactly one year ago. Later we all had great Indian cuisine, then back home for a good night’s rest.
Monday, October 15
Old Orchard Beach to Portsmouth, NH 59 miles, 2240’ gain
Wow! What a day. We were expecting a storm to blow in around 11, so we got out the door at 7, stopped for pancakes, then headed for Portsmouth, NH. It was in the 30s as we rolled out. Saw a good bit of colorful foliage, although it looked like we missed the peak by about a week. The trees seemed to be mostly green or slightly colored. More ups and downs today. We were consistently about 3-5 miles behind the lead group. That was fine by us. It gave us plenty of room to ride “tandem style” (Woop, woop! Going tandem style!). It did mean relying exclusively on the Ride With GPS navigator, who we eventually named “Dora”. The instructions didn’t always match up with the intersections. The worst problem we had was when we took a left which turned out to be a 2 block long 18% grade. YIPES. But it was also off course. Dora blows us a raspberry when we go the wrong way, but we weren’t about to stop mid-hill to check a map. We returned to the course without further ado.
We got to a viewpoint looking at the Bush Compound at Kennebunkport. Our SAG stop was around mile 30 at a Dunkin Donuts. We pulled on lots of our raingear then because the weather was threatening. At mile 35 in Ogunquit at 11:15 the rain started. Not too heavy, but enough to get us wet. It stopped after about an hour, though then we got heavy-duty winds which held us to 9 mph on the flat. Oy vey! The rain plus the cold wind made riding challenging. It wasn’t as bad as our Port Townsend weekend from the week before the trip. So we knew we could persevere.
We rolled into our hotel before 2 and set to drying out our clothes. We did discover that one of our bolts holding on the bike rack was missing. Pam, one of our leaders, took me to Papa Wheelies to get a replacement. They were very helpful and not surprisingly, gave me the part for free.
Dinner was an eclectic affair and I ended up having bibimbap! Grace (who cooks bibimbap for our community regularly) would be so impressed.
Today was Left Turn Monday. Why? It seemed Dora kept telling us to turn left today. The most common phrase she uttered was, “In a quarter mile, turn left.” How could we not be going in circles? We took 23 left turns compared to 13 right turns. It seemed we must be going in circles especially during the stretch of 6 lefts in a row. But we were just hugging the coastline. Go figure.
Tuesday, October 16
Portsmouth to Amesbury, MA 49, 1469 gain
It was a beautiful day for riding today. Except for the steady 19 mph wind which mostly was in our faces. There were sunny skies and it warmed up nicely. We’ve decided we are “pre-peak” as there are still many green trees. Today we had to walk over 2 bridges and ride a scary sidewalk a third. They all had steel bridge decks, plus the hairy side winds required caution.
The first bridge was near a hotel straight out of the age of grand hotels, now called Wentworth by the Sea. It hosted Teddy Roosevelt’s negotiations to end the Sino/Russo war. We had gotten out earlier than the rest of the crew, so we ended up arriving at SAG just after Judy got it set up. The winds remained strong as we crossed the second bridge, this time riding the sidewalk. Shortly thereafter we crossed into Massachusetts having completed our journey down the entire NH coastline. (It is only 23 miles long.) We were momentarily connected to the other riders in our tour as they caught us on the last walking bridge. They stopped for lunch in town while we continued on. We traveled delicious back roads. On one long descent we rolled past a raptor of some sort standing on its prey. It was rather perturbed by our bike flying past but after stretching its wings at us, it allowed us to continue to the drop at Coffin St. hill. That didn’t sound or look good, especially with wet leaves still piled around, so we took it pretty easy. We ended with 6 miles of riverside riding which was pretty sweet. But before we could got to our hotel we had to climb a 14% grade. What a nasty surprise! We still made it in before the rest of the group, the only time during the tour.
Sheila arranged to meet up with a high school friend who now lives in Amesbury. Pam came to get Sheila at the hotel, with laundry in hand, and delivered her a couple of hours later to the restaurant where we all ate together. Pam’s got a sweet little cottage on a lake with kayaks, many rescued cats and signet swans flying overhead. They had a lovely visit about mutual friends, and the joys of doing service in retirement.
Wednesday, October 17
Amesbury to Salem, NH 39, 1627’ gain
Today was day 4 of our tour. We rode just 39 miles from Amesbury, Mass to Salem, NH. We didn’t take many photos but it was a good day. We had plenty of sunshine. There were also plenty of short/steep hills. The folks in New England seem to be quite into Halloween as there were elaborate displays including pumpkins, scarecrow, witches, and more everywhere we looked.
As Spencer noted yesterday, we seem to be pre-peak color. We’re seeing a few lovely trees but so far not really significant color. It’s been a bit confusing as many trees are still green while many are also completely bare.
At the end of the ride we went off route hoping to pick up some things that were not to be found. We ended up on a “bike rail trail” that was undeveloped, just large stones and grass. Surprised Google or NH called it a bike trail. We got off and found a different route the last 2 miles to the hotel.
Thursday, October 18
Salem to Manchester, NH 48, 2930’ gain
Day 5 dawned cold and clear. And windy. 37 degrees when we started riding and only got up to 43 by 2 pm. Sheila saw a cute chipmunk shivering on a branch with its tail wrapped around itself trying to get warm. The sun shone, but the wind was 15+ all day and often from the front. This day was all about hills. Steep, steep hills. I couldn’t count the number of grades higher than 9% we negotiated. We’d crawl up them at 3 miles per hour. It was taking us a long time to get anywhere. After SAG we got to the monster. It was a mile long at more than 14% according to our “misery meter”. The next mile was less steep but gave us no break. Whew! Fortunately from there on it was pretty much downhill. We saw patches of snow or frost on the side of the road on the last downhill before entering the town. Still, we’re in our “happy place” – on the bike, in new territory, and enjoying the ride and each other.
Friday, October 19
Manchester to Sanford, ME 65, 3892’ gain
Today was our biggest day of the tour by distance (64.6 miles), time in saddle (5 hours, 24 minutes), top speed (47.8), and elevation gain (3892’). These were also the highest of any ride this year. It started off as cold as yesterday, but warmed much more quickly. By the end of the day we were up to 58 degrees and had to strip off lots of layers. But before we could get there, we had a lot of pedaling to do. We took off earlier than our speed squad and stayed ahead of them until the 8 mile point when we stopped for a blue room, known here as Porta-Johns. As Spencer visited with the policeman blocking a driveway to a school, Sheila used the facility. That’s when the 4 singles showed up. Seeing me with a patrolman and his flashing lights and no Sheila got them very worried. I just was smiling and waving at them as they tried to stop. When she stepped out of the sanican a few seconds later, they understood and with great feelings of relief they rode on. We didn’t understand what had happened until the end of the day.
Lots of short, STEEP hills today. The misery meter stopped working on at least 2 of them, so we figure they were over 18%. But since most were short, it wasn’t oppressive. It is terribly hard to pedal at 3 miles per hour.
Saturday, October 20
Sanford to Portland, ME 43, 1723 gain
Fifteen degrees warmer when we got out at 7:30. Went to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and would you believe it? I’m maxed out on donuts! More descent today than climbing, so we got right to it. Nice rolling hills with the occasional double digit steep one. The sun battled the clouds all day. When it was out, we were aware of how blissful it was. When it hid, we were aware how nice it was that it was dry. Our legs were mostly good, but at times I think we each felt a little leaden. It’s been a long week of riding. (Not a week of long riding.) We were on our own for one last day, following “Dora” as she led us along little backroads. Saw some nice swaths of color, but also saw a lot of leafless trees. We had a few wide-open runs down some of the hills. We got to the sag stop just as the other part of our group was pulling out. No matter. We weren’t racing them, just enjoying being out together in places unknown. Ended the day with our highest average pace of the week. It’s amazing what you can do if you aren’t climbing all day long!
When we got to the hotel, Ric and Denise were finishing packing their bikes. The leaders had spread out all the perishable food they wanted us to claim. We got some snacks for the next few days, then I started tearing down our bike. Only took a little over 2 hours this time even with a crank arm which I couldn’t remove. One more thing to take care of when we get home.
Now we’re both clean and rested. We’ll go to dinner with Elanor, the last remaining member of our group. She’ll fly back to the Netherlands tomorrow. We’ll explore Portland for one more day before heading to Boston for Sheila’s Parkinson’s study.
Sunday October 21
It was a great week of riding. We covered 337 miles with a total elevation gain of 15000+. And unbelievably we had ZERO flats on the tour including all riders! Sunday we enjoyed a day off the bike. And we’re glad. It’s very cold and windy (a theme for this week). We took a bus to downtown Portland and walked around in Old Port. We found a place with build-your-own salads Daily Greens, which made our day as we haven’t had nearly enough greens this week of riding.
Sheila talked to a couple playing cards in the lobby and later we ended up joining them and learning a new card game called Hand & Foot. We ran across this article that talks about how to talk to strangers…Sheila’s got that one: https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-talk-to-strangers/
Monday – Wednesday in Boston
We took the bus back to Boston Monday afternoon so Sheila could do her second PPMI (Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative) visit on Tuesday before flying home Wednesday. In case you missed it elsewhere she has volunteered to be a control in a study for the Michael J Fox Parkinson’s Foundation. They are paying travel expenses for both of us to come to Boston twice a year for 5 years. They’re trying to find a genetic marker to predict the disease. Sheila qualified because her Mom had Gaucher’s Disease and they think there’s a connection with Parkinson’s. We’re gradually learning our way around the town, have a senior “Charley Card” for the T, and have found our favorite vegan haunts. Oh, and check out this article in the Washington Post. We are not the only ones confused about whether the peak season has come or gone.