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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our bicentennial! We've surpassed 200 miles.
Today: going from wiscasset to north windham. Tomorrow: day off! Yesterday was sunny, but they're predicting more rain in the northeast. pray for sun!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Camping tonight near lincolnville, Maine. Long and rainy few days. Last night we had some awesome cyclist hosts in Orland, Maine. Cheers to Amanda and Nick!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Making a school zone look like zee autobahn!

Oh. My. Lord.

Maine is full of hills. Not your garden variety hill. These hills are the gnarly spawn of plate tectonics and Satan. Yesterday, we rode through 31.66 miles of the most treacherous hills we've ever ridden. This came as something of a surprise, because we are both in pretty good shape. Vanessa just rode RAGBRAI with no problem, and I am an Olympic caliber athlete (still a free agent). We did some training rides with a full load on the trailers, and had no problem. But, when you combine the forces of 50 degree weather, a constant demoralizing "mist" (read: it rained the whole way), complete lack of sun, and the occasional lack of pavement, the hills were nearly unbearable.

Be that as it may, we kept riding all day. It took from noon (ish) to dusk to ride into Ellsworth, ME, where we happened upon the best hotel in the northeast. To Sunset Motel on highway ME-3: THANK YOU!!!!! Just as our nerves were reaching their ends, we saw the glowing light of your comfortable beds and warm showers. You took us in with hospitality, and offered the sweet warmth of hot cocoa, which we enjoyed while watching a Married With Children episode.

After the first day of discomfort, our respite at the Sunset Motel had us ready for another hilly but short day. We had a quiet ride into Trenton, ME, where we had our first whole steamed Maine lobster (pictures forthcoming). We rode some wide shoulders into Bar Harbor, where our first stop was.......a winery!!! We tasted some wines and bought a bottle of Bar Harbor Winery Bo Jo, which is a delicious Beaujolais blend. We got to our campsite and paired it with pasta drenched in pizza sauce and Cracker Barrel fromage. C'est magnifique!

To top off a relaxing day, we managed to build a campfire from scratch. As a treat, I offer our readership the following step-by-step instructions: 1) get a campsite where the previous campers left some firewood behind 2) collect grass, paper, etc 3) use sticks and small twigs to make a teepee over the grass, paper, etc. 4) try to light the fire in vain for 45 minutes ("the natural way") 5) spray entire structure with bug spray 6) enjoy your raging campfire with a glass of Bar Harbor Bo Jo!

Cheers from Maine!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bangor, ME: The launch pad

So, we survived the drive up from Florida. We're currently in Bangor, ME, where we dropped off the rental car this morning (it was cheaper). We took a day off today to recover from the 33-hour drive (uh, yeah) and to try to do a bit more planning.  Tomorrow we'll start biking and will head to Bar Harbor, ME and Acadia National Park. It's about 60 miles.

Today was great - we took it easy and slept in, then got some fried clams and a lobster roll. Yum! Really looking forward to the cuisine for the next few hundred miles.  We also stopped by the Sea Dog Brewpub, which is just a few miles from where we're staying.   We had a few beers and some dinner -
Ed had some kind of salad with bleu cheese and apples and chicken, and I got some cham chowder (chowda). You might know Sea Dog for their blueberry-flavored Blue Paw Wheat Ale, although I'm not sure whether or not they distribute west of the Mississippi.


The weather up here is ridiculously gorgeous - during the day today it was about 65 or 70 and sunny, and the evenings are around 50. Perfect! (although the forecast for tomorrow is rainy... boo) Here's hoping for great weather for the rest of the trip. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

After a disappointing stop at the (closed) new Hampshire liquor outlet, we made it to Maine! Couple more hours to Bangor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Just got into North Carolina on the drive up to Maine. Thank you, caffeine!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Central Florida Proving Ground: B.O.B. Performance Evaluation


Captain's Log, Stardate 091810.7. Location, St. Petersburg, FL, Milky Way Galaxy

We did our first full test run with the B.O.B. trailers today, and the phrase "unhook the trailer" has gained new meaning! For those who aren't in the "in crowd," a B.O.B. is a one wheeled trailer that hooks up to the rear wheel of your bike. Vanessa and I did a good amount of deliberation on our preferred method of cargo storage. Generally, touring cyclists are broken up into two groups. The first group has super cool and awesome friends that are very generous with their time and money, and help by driving a van loaded up with all of the necessaries. The second lonely and outcast group has to lug all of their clothes, tents, water, food, sleeping bags, etc. along with them on their bikes. I'm not trying to indict my friends by saying this, but: Vanessa and I fall into the second category of cyclists! (Legal disclaimer: we have great friends and family, and have undertaken this self supported ride on our own freewill.)

In the second category, there are two subcategories: a) trailer-haulers, and b) pannier-havers. A trailer is a rather self explanatory item. Panniers are bags that you can mount directly on your bike. Vanessa and I ("us", or, "we") decided to go the trailer route. Panniers would probably end up being just as expensive, and appear to be a bigger hassle than the trailer. Considering that the bike is already supporting my overweight body (source: the Body Mass Index calculator underneath the scale at Publix), adding 70+ pounds of gear directly onto the bike puts unneeded stress on the bike and spokes. The trailer offers a nice middle ground. We aren't putting the additional weight directly on the bike, so the spokes won't be directly burdened. The trailer has its own wheel and a sturdy frame, so I think that it will relieve the bike from the stress of the weight.

Trailers do have their cons, though. They aren't nearly as maneuverable as the "naked" bike. I'd imagine that a bike loaded with panniers is almost as maneuverable as the "naked" bike, which brings me to our first practice ride with the trailers.

First impression- B.O.B. trailers apparently come from the factory with two different weights: Standing weight, and riding weight. When you're stopped, it takes a moderate amount of effort to keep the fully loaded trailer/bike from toppling over. That is a wordy way to say: They were waaaaaay heavier than I thought they'd be! Even getting riding took some adjustment. Because of the added weight, you can't really just push off and start riding. You've got to balance yourself and start pedaling immediately.
Second impression: When you ride with extra weight, your maneuverability suffers. It took a conscious effort to keep going straight, especially with wind. It felt like my front wheel was attached to two rubber bands on either side that made my ride resemble anything but a straight line.
Third impression: Parking mode is a convenient and photogenic way to park your bike. The B.O.B.'s allow you to "park" the bike by jack-knifing the trailer against the bike, which keeps the bike upright. A pretty handy trick, and we took some pictures of everything fully loaded.

RECAP: FOR THOSE WHO DON'T WANT TO READ THE LONG-WINDED POST
It will take a few days to get used to the trailers, but they were a good idea, and they are a blast to ride with.

Two more days until departure date! Four more days until Maine and their tasty lobsters!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moving Day

Today we moved Ed out of his apartment and into a storage unit. Thank God for furniture dollies and elevators! I'm keeping my apartment because I'll be coming back here for school after the bike trip, so that means we don't have to move my 7,000 books and 40 bikes (ok, I'm probably exaggerating).

Last minute preparations are crazy. It seems like I've been working harder/more in the past week since I quit my job than I was before I quit.  There are still a few things we'd like to get done before we go... thankfully we have a few days in Florida to relax and gather our marbles before we set off for Maine.  The to-do list is getting shorter (I hope) which means we're about ready to leave.

We're headed out of Houston tomorrow, probably in the late morning.  Here's hoping for nice traffic. I'll try to post from the road.  In the mean time, I should start packing!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Testing.. Checking to see if I can write a blog post via text message. Technology is awesome, by the way!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Preparations

We've been running around like crazy with last minute preparations. I think we've been to REI at least a dozen times in the past week (a huge thanks to my former co-workers for the gift card, by the way! So useful!) picking up stuff we'll need: spokes, brakes, cables, chains, etc, as well as about 100 blinky lights, handlebar bags, bungie cords, camping stuff, and other necessities. Hopefully the number of necessities we'll remember will far outweigh the necessities we'll forget.

We also got the maps in the mail today from Adventure Cycling, which is a huge relief. We were afraid we'd have to get someone at home to ship them up to Maine for us.

You want to be as sure as you can that you have everything you need on a self-supported tour. You don't have the comfort of a support van to drive you to a bike shop when something breaks, but there's definitely something to be said for carrying everything on your bike and truly supporting yourself. We've been trying to glean as much information as possible from other long-haul cyclists (see links) - advice on what to bring, what to leave at home, what to expect, etc. Luckily, there are quite a few very useful blogs out there in the ether of the internet.

Departure date from Texas looks to be September 16. We'll drive out to Florida and hang out with Ed's family for a few days, then pick up a rental and make the drive up to Maine. It's amazing how we'll take 2 or 2.5 days to drive the route (more or less) and almost 2 months to bike it. Think about how much more we'll get to see at 12 mph instead of 70. I can't wait!