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September 4 through September 5

Belfast, Maine; Bar Harbor, Maine

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Total miles: 4,693

Northern Tier (coast to coast) Data:  4,533 miles; 79 days riding; 9 days off (two for medical reasons)

We rode into Bar Harbor on Monday afternoon, September 5th.  Each day we routinely go through a discussion about directions as we conclude our day that involves locating the particular camping spot for the evening.  Sallie usually has the information about our campground and I have the daily maps and routes, so it becomes a collaborative effort to get us to our final stop for the day.

This time was different.

The maps take us right to the wharf where the ride officially ends and as we wound our way into Bar Harbor I was headed directly for our end point at the water’s edge.  There was a moment when Sallie became confused and started asking about why we were not going to our hotel.  I responded, “If you want to do ‘high-fives’ in the parking lot of some hotel maybe we can find a someone to take our picture, but I have another idea.”  On to the water’s edge we went.

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My map case on the handle bar bag of my bike

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First smells of tidal salt water ... getting close!

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Penobscot River Bridge

We stopped for lunch on Monday in Ellsworth, Maine at the Flexit Cafe & Bakery.  As we were looking over the menu and waiting in line to place our order, a gentleman was wrapping silverware in napkins and asked us about our cycling.  Once he heard about our adventure, he wrote our order down saying one of the cash registers was out of order.  This was a ruse.  He was actually Paul Markosian, the owner of the restaurant and he was buying our lunch in celebration of our soon-to-be accomplishment.

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Thank you Paul!

A few folks are beginning to ask about future ride plans.  Although it is way too early to have anything definitive, I’ve been hinting at a European journey for some time.  As luck would have it, we met these two cyclists (below) in Conway, New Hampshire.

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Meet Hermann and Christiane.  They are from Germany and were riding from Niagara to Portland, Maine.  They were very encouraging about a ride in Germany and promised to send some information our way to help us determine if that is something we’d like to do.  Bucket list that?  Maybe…

I’ll have another post or two as a wrap-up to this trip, but my time has been consumed by cleaning and packing bikes and gear along with getting all the preparations completed to fly back to Florida.  In the meantime, thank you for following and check back soon for final thoughts.

Beauty Break:

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Waves at Thunder Hole, Mount Desert Island

September 1 through September 3

Freyburg, Maine; West Poland, Maine; Wiscasset, Maine

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We made into our final state on September 1st, conquering our last and final mountain pass.  Here’s what the map elevation chart shows for what we’ve been doing:

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The actual climb up Kancamagus was not that difficult as the steepest grade was 9% and for New England, that’s very mild.  Elevation is certainly not an issue either as there is plenty of oxygen at these levels.  The pass had a number of false-summits as well so it was not much of a grinder.  Heck, we were in Conway in time for lunch, and across the border into Maine before the afternoon got too long.  That’s not a pass!

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This sign is in the above photo

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The White Mountains of New Hampshire

Maine continues the New England way of having roads that have nearly impossible grades, but unlike New Hampshire (steep grades) and Connecticut (really steep grades), Maine doesn’t place a grade indicator on their road signs for the really bad ones, so we get no bragging points. 
You can probably guess what’s going on here:

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A few years ago we asked some locals in Connecticut why the grades were so steep in an area of the country where ice and snow is not some minor issue.  We were told that first the oxen used to take a direct line from field to field, then the cows, then the buggies, and pretty soon the roads followed the same path.

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Beauty break:

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Androscoggin River

We have but two more days of riding left before we get to Bar Harbor.  Sunset is now pretty close to 7:00pm here.  The days grow short, and so does this journey.

August 29th through 31st

Rochester, Vermont; Orford, New Hampshire; Lincoln, New Hampshire

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Cyclists sometimes refer to Vermont as 'Vermonster' due to the steep grades found there

We left Upstate New York at Ticonderoga and took a ferry across Lake Champlain and entered Vermont. We were not intimidated by steep grades however and we crossed into New Hampshire in short order the next day.

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Lake Champlain

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(Note the Canadian flag is still displayed)

Meet Bob Kingsley from Seattle.  He’s been leapfrogging with us the last several days as he finishes up his Northern Tier ride as well.  It’s been interesting comparing notes on our experiences, as Bob has taken some different routes than we did.

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Vermont was, well … just beautiful as always.  I have two distinct recollections of Vermont from a visit to the state a long time ago:  The Green Mountains are aptly named as everything here was very green and the roads were some of the best I’d seen anywhere.  I was pleased to see that pretty much the same holds true today and that’s saying something because few states have the funding necessary for road upkeep these days.

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I caught the above picture in the afternoon looking west as the sun was angled just right above this slope to highlight the green in the forest.  Please forgive the angle of the camera as I was riding at the time.

Of course Vermont has that New England flavor in their architecture and I caught this as the view one has as they enter a small town.

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On the 30th we crossed the Connecticut River into New Hampshire.  There wasn’t a state sign there on U.S. 5 to greet us, but our next turn put us on a dirt road for about a mile, so that was a way of greeting us sufficient to say we were no longer in Vermont.

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A few miles down the same road however, we crossed an excellent covered bridge, so all is forgiven.

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That night at our campground they permitted us to use one of the pavilions.  Sallie’s has developed a fondness for pavilion camping where the tents are under the protection of an open roof.  I will confess that despite my needling her about this new preference, it rained the next morning.  Thank you Sallie for another day when we are not packing up wet tents!

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In fairly short order we’ve ridden the Adirondack Mountains of New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

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I believe Sallie is getting quite fond of mountain grades and as we crossed the Appalachian Trail today near Lost River in New Hampshire, I suspect maybe the Appalachian may be in her plans as an encore to the Northern Tier?

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This photo shows two things:

This particular New Hampshire road was recently paved and therefore earns the benefit of recording this rare and unusual fact.
Based on the color of this leaf we are not long for this country and time grows short to complete our journey and get ourselves south where we belong.

Bear With Us

August 24 through August 28

Fair Haven, NY; Redfield, NY; Old Forge, NY; Newcomb, NY; Ticonderoga, NY

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The morning of August 27th, we had a black bear walk out of the woods and make a slow stroll through our camp not 25 feet from us as we were trying to drink our morning coffee and eat a litle oatmeal.

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This was our camp this morning.  We were standing by the picnic table as he walked from the picture’s right to the left before moving along.

I have no pictures of the bear.  I was a little too busy making myself look “large” (or is that for mountain lions?) and making a lot of noise to get him to move on.  I was also giving him “the look” but try as I might, I’m pretty sure I didn’t succeed in intimidating him.  Sallie was standing on her tiptoes waiting to bolt.  She couldn’t outrun the bear of course, but she didn’t have to.  She just needed to be able to outrun me.

I cannot recommend staying at the Old Forge Camping Resort.  The day before  I saw a sow and her two cubs cross the main parking lot, and speaking to a state official today, he said they have more bear problems there than at any place in the Adirondacks. 

We had other animal encounters of more cheerful nature this week as well however.  Meet Peggy the swan.

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Peggy lives on the property of the Drift Inn Lodge in Redfield and is the pet of Phil and Donna.  Peggy loves Phil and nuzzles up to him at all times.

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However, Peggy has very little love for Donna and will snap at her.

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Phil and Donna also have pet ducks and grass catfish that keep the weeds down in their pond.  We were given some duck eggs and bacon and made quick use of these very rich foods.

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During this week, we completed our travel on the Erie Canal, and moved on to follow the south shore of Lake Ontario.

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We rode east from Lake Ontario into rolling farm country where apple orchards were sprinkled between the corn fields.

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And still pushing east we rode right into the heart of the Adirondack Mountains.

The air here is cooler, drier, and filled with the scent of pine.  It’s August and the high season was in full swing for tourists, but we managed well in securing camping spots and handling the extra traffic.  Cycling through the area is taxing as it is mountainous country and try as I might, I had difficulty getting photos as the ride was most heavily forested and dense.

On the 28th our route took us on Blue Ridge Road between Newcomb and Ticonderoga and I finally was able to get some photos that show the terrain.  As you can see, there are more mountains ahead. 

On the 29th we cross into Vermont.  Three states remain –  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  We are somewhere close to 400 miles from the finish in Bar Harbor.  We are in the ironic position of avoiding a finish too early as we are trying our best not to arrive at Bar Harbor before the Labor Day weekend crowd leaves. 

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They Let Us Back In

August 22 through 23

Middleport, New York and Rochester, NY

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We got through the border check just fine on the 22nd, and made it through Niagara without too terrible of a crowd on the trail or parkway.  It turns out Monday mornings are a little slow at the Falls.

Of course I have the obligatory pictures obscured by mist from Niagara for proof I was even there…

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And then there was this helpful fellow who endured a grilling by Sallie and me asking a million questions all the while he was supposed to keep and eye on the maintenance co-worker below him tethered to the truck cutting grass off the cliff with a weed wacker. She survived.

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Above the falls, this is the Niagara River.  I think you are supposed to put the barrel in here.

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After Niagara, we started our 90 miles or so on the Erie Canalway Trail (spell-check loves “Canalway”). 

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The trail is mostly composed of crushed stone “fines” that makes for a very rideable surface. 

We camped at Middleport where tents are permitted right on the canal edge, power and picnic tables are supplied along with bathrooms and showers maintained by the city.  These sites appear in several places along the canal system for cyclists, hikers and boaters, who can moor up to the edge and park there for the night.

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These folks are from Buffalo and moored one site over from us during the night.  This boat was recently aquired and a year was spent updating and re-working the wood trim.

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As we approached Rochester and the associated on-going construction detours and resulting confusion, this gentleman appeared out of nowhere and identified himself as a trail ambassador.  He’s a Dave Valvo, a retired engineer from Eastman Kodak and after getting some information from us about our travels, volunteered to take us several miles down the trail through the most confusing part so we could find our way.  In the meantime, we’d cycle a few hundred yards and he’d stop and tell us details about the trail, some of the interesting parts of the canal, and point out a few details he thought we’d like to know about the area.  He spent over an hour with us and couldn’t have come along at a better time or place.  Thank you Mr. Valvo, trail ambassador deluxe!

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(More information about the Erie Canal can be obtained at http://www.cycletheeriecanal.com)

(Mr. Valvo has a web site for his photography at http://www.davevalvo.com)

 

August 17 through 21

Yale, MI; Sambra, Ontario; Port Glasgow, Ontario; Houghton Centre, Ontario; South Cayuga, Ontario;  and just south of Niagara Falls, Ontario

On the 16th we stayed in the Yale Hotel in Yale, Michigan.  It was built in the very early 1900’s.  Our third-floor room was across the hall from a shared bathroom.  The rate was $50, but cyclists get a rate of $35 so spread the word.

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Yes it had one of these staircases:

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Down the street, CJ’s Restaurant opens daily at 7:00am and we were on the doorstep at 6:59.  We had a great breakfast and very much enjoyed the company of the owner, cook, and chief bottle-washer, Sandra.  We finished our very large and generous breakfast only to find the following written on our check:

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After over 900 miles, we finally made it out of Michigan and crossed the St. Clair River into Canada. 

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This afternoon we were setting up our tents at the St. Clair Township Campground in Sombra, Ontario when the caretaker came roaring over on her tractor and told us there was a bad storm coming and it was moving across the river fast.  She offered to throw our tents onto a Gator and get them to a pavilion where we would have some protection. We barely got the rest of our gear under cover and that storm hit fast and hard.  Gosh those Canadians are polite people! 

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We'll just move this for ya!

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Sallie is getting quite fond of pavilion tenting.  There’s no need for a rain fly, the tents fold up nice and dry in the morning, and there’s never a problem with rocks or roots under your bed at night!

As to the politeness of Canadians, here’s some observations:

When there are rumble strips on the shoulder of the road, they strip both sides of the strips so no one is taken by surprise if they drift over and hit the rumbles.  In the U.S., those strips are never identified, so if one drifts and runs over them, they run the risk of overcorrecting and having to deal with that.

Speaking of rumbles, you know those pavement rumbles they put down in the U.S. as one approaches a dangerous intersection or a “T” with a stop sign?  You know, the ones that cause a driver to think the front end of their car just collapsed and they ran over it?  You CANNOT ride a bicycle over these without having your filling fall out.  In Canada, those pavement etchings are very faint.  A car driving over them causes a musical tone that alerts the driver to pay attention.  You can ride a bike over them with no-hands if you want to (do not try that at home please).

Just like in Alberta, we saw no broken glass on the shoulder of the roads.  Are you kidding me?

On the 21st we stopped for second brreakfast at a small cafe in Dunnville that had a sign out front featuring “Chili Toast”.  I couldn’t resist going in as I’ve never had chili toast.  Seeing we were cyclists, the owner/cook insisted he’d fix a proper breakfast for a cyclist – we each were treated to 3 eggs, home fries, bacon, sausage, and a pile of toast that was at least eight slices. The charge for all that? $20 (Canadian).  Cheapest eats of the entire time in Ontario.

The coffe shop talk with the customers and the cook resulted in some speculative answers we had about the controversy over wind energy in Ontario.  We witnessed a lot of yard signs and other indicators that many folks were opposed to wind turbines, meanwhile we saw hundreds of the things up and operating. 

As described by the folks in the cafe, the proliferation of wind turbines is the result of offers to farmers of $50,000 a year for 20 years for each turbine on their property.  Their neighbor may not have enough acreage to support a turbine, and therefore unable to cash in like that.  As a result the neighbor’s property values decrease significantly due to proximity to the turbines and that has caused a significant split in the community.

In such a polite society, this cannot be easy.

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Old meets new

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Lake Erie

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Ontario...elk??

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Look out Canada

Special Note…

August 8

We will be entering Canada tomorrow and re-enter the U.S. in about five or six days.  We’ll be in Ontario and re-enter in Niagara.  This will mean I’ll likely not be able to post during this time, but if I get the opportunity, I will try.

In the meantime, remember Greenbriar?  His travels are completed and he has a particular statement about riding the Northern Tier:

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