|All packed up, waiting for the train at Boston North Station.|
Few days before the planned trip, everything seemed like it was going to work out. Although my original plan was to take Amtrak to Saco or Old Orchard Beach in Maine, I eventually had to re-adjust my plans due to some remarkably stupid Amtrak policies about bike transportation. Before I vent, let me say that traveling by train is my preferred form of transportation. Every summer, when we travel to Slovakia we can rely on trains to us take where we need to go without ridiculous restrictions and asinine policies. Not in the US though, and certainly not on Amtrak. You see, Amtrak only allows onboard bicycles on several trains, some of which are mentioned on their website. Onboard bicycle means, that once you unload it at your destination, you can clip in and ride away. The Downeaster service, between Boston North Station and Portland, ME is fortunately one of them. But unfortunately, Amtrak only allows you to unload your bicycle at manned stations, which in the case of the Downeaster are Wells, ME and Portland, ME. That's it. So there went my plans to get off at Old Orchard Beach or Saco - which both happened to be unmanned stations. Thus I had to get off at Wells, ME and change my bike route accordingly. Now, I assumed that some special unloading procedure must be in effect, because otherwise this Amtrak policy would be just magnificently idiotic. But no. The train stopped, me, and everyone else just rolled their bikes from the train onto the platform and that was it. The Amtrak personnel, very pleasant and helpful otherwise, did not assist or oversee the procedure in any way shape or form. I do not see how this could not have been done at an unmanned station.
Anyway, my plan was to take the 11:05AM train from Boston North Station to Wells, ME, ride the bike a few miles to Kennebunkport on the coast, lollygag and enjoy the scenery, geocache a little and eventually make it to Kennebunk, check into a motel, carboload, and the next morning at sunrise, start pedaling for Lunenburg, MA. About 25 miles the first day, and 110 or so miles the next. The GPS trace is below, kml file for Google Earth viewing can be downloaded from here.
View Larger Map
|Elevation profile of the ride|
As far as packing was concerned, it was pretty simple:
- 2 spare tubes with 2 CO2 cartridges with an adapter
- Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster Bike Pump. Can the name get any more ridiculous? Probably not. The pump is redundant but I do not trust those cartridge doohickeys fully yet - not for a 100 mile ride anyway.
- Patch kit, multi tool, tire levers, bike lock
- Camelbak, water bottle
- 2 pairs of socks (1 pair old to be discarded)
- old toothbrush, pretty much empty toothpaste (both to be left behind), small tube of sunscreen
- cycling jersey, bib shorts, cycling gloves, sunglasses, helmet
- performance short sleeve shirt, swim trunks
- trusty LG armwarmers, legwarmers
- credit card, debit card, driver's license, health insurance cards, cash
- power gels, cliff bars, powdered sports drinks
- phone, camera, Cateye Cycling Computer, Garmin eTrex Legend GPS
|Bike storage onboard the Downeaster.|
|Wells, ME Amtrak station.|
After Dover, NH I changed in the bathroom to into my cycling gear. After I emerged from the bathroom in my spandex attire one of the passengers asked me if I am going biking. I was tempted to answer that this is how I normally dress for work but opted for a simple "yes" instead. Disembarking in Wells was easy, the conductor announced the station, we pushed the bikes out of the train onto the platform and that was it. The first thing I noticed was that the temperature was significantly lower compared to Boston. It was sunny and a bit chilly because of the breeze but enough to take the leg and armwarmers out. I clipped in, turned right on Route 9 and followed it towards Kennebunkport. The shoulder was pretty beat up, but there was still hope it would get better. My first stop was at the Mousam River. The view towards the Atlantic was fantastic and it reminded me of the last trip to Maine several years ago with Andi, my mom, Francis and Lisa. After snapping a few pictures I very leisurely proceeded forward, enjoying the scenery, and killing time as I only had maybe 15 miles left to get to the hotel. The beaches were empty, virtually no one was around. I can only image how madly busy this place must get in the summer - hopefully I will never find out. One place I particularly enjoyed was the Sea Cave Earth Cache. The other name for this plalce is Spouting Rock. I suppose if the sea was really rough, there would be spouting but today .... the spouting looked more like a toilet refilling and flushing, refilling and flushing .... well, you get the idea. If not, look at the video.
|Mousam River Estuary near Kennebunkport, ME|
|Maine coastline around Kennebunkport, ME.|
|Maine coast in Kennebunkport, ME.|
|It was a beautiful day ...|
|Love the coastline change from sandy Long Island.|
There was no one around, but still, I found a bit more secluded spot, leaned against the sun-warmed rock and chilled out for about an hour. Eventually I continued on Ocean Avenue, past the Bush Compound towards Route 9. Just about then I noticed a creaking sound appear out of nowhere while I was turning the pedals. Especially on hills when I was standing up. Fortunately, there was a bike shop in Arundel so I headed towards it with a few hours to spare before closing time. I talked to Brandon (sp?) of Cape Able Bike Shop who fiddled with the crankset and voila ... the creaking stopped. It was a free repair so at least I bought a patch kit ... which I keep buying on pretty much every long bikeride and then I lose it almost instantly. We chatted for about 15 minutes, before I moved on. What a nice guy. If you are riding in the area, you should stop by the store. On my way back to Route 1 I passed the Seashore Trolley Museum on Log Cabin Road. I popped in for a little ride-by wishing I had spent less time spacing out at the ocean because then would have had more time to visit what looked like a pretty awesome museum. Maybe next time. By the way, Log Cabin Road was a very nice introduction into this whole "soft shoulder" thing. Certainly fine for cars, not so much for my tires. But the drivers were courteous so it was all good.
|My place for the night.|
|Postride snack at Perfecto's Cafe in Kennebunk, ME.|
|I-95 (Maine Turnpike) at 5:30AM.|
|First graded road of the ride, Maguire road.|
|Fortunately, I am riding west, away from the light.|
Shortly after this faux-pas came the first graded road (Maguire Road). It was not too bad, although I had to keep the speed below 10 mph. The sun was still too low and I was still a bit cold, in spite of the exercise. Eventually the sun appeared here and there through the trees, and man, was I glad I was riding west, away from the sun and not right into it. After passing the Sanford Regional Airport I turned left onto a local road to bypass Sanford. I am not sure why I planned it this way but holy shit, this short cut turned out to be a road leading to the top of Mount Hope. Attempting to save some energy I got off the bike and pushed the last quarter mile or so. It sucked, but the ride down was well worth it. In retrospect, I should have stayed on Route 109 and then turned left onto Route 202 (11) in Sanford. I stayed on Highway 202 all the way into New Hampshire which snuck upon me due to the lack of proper signage. I only realized I left Maine when I was trying to find my route through Rochester. I was riding through a prime moose territory, it even was early in the morning, but alas no moose sighting. I did almost run over a porcupine, although I think I would not come out of that without a few bruises. I am coming down a hill mild hill, doing around 25-27 mph when this spiny critter ran out of the bushes right in front of me. I missed it by a foot or so, and even that was dumb luck. I was too preoccupied pushing the pedals and enjoying the gears that normally do not get a lot of workout. One thing I have to say about most of New Hampshire state highways .... and that is ... wow. That wide shoulder you guys have going on there ... fantastic. And the roads are in very good shape, at least as far as I have ridden (on this and other trips). Why can't Maine and Massachusetts learn from you? So far, New Hampshire has the most bike friendly roads I have seen. And that is not even it. Take a look at New Hampshire Department of Transportation website. The maps have suitable bike routes clearly identified, can be downloaded and printed as high resolution pdfs. My biggest compliments to you.
|Got to love the New Hampshire state highways with their super wide shoulders.|
|Promises, promises ....|
After I bypassed Barrington, NH on highway 125 I was distracted by the smell of freshly fried dough. It smelled so insanely good but I had no idea where it was coming from. Few seconds later, I was passing Stonehouse Baking Company that was the source of the fabulous smell. As much as I craved a freshly baked donut, I decided to pass. My resolve was weak though, because while I mustered enough will (combined with inertia of a moving bicycle) to pass the first entrance into the parking lot, I completely caved in hundred yards later and used the second parking lot entrance. I made the right choice because once I entered the shop, it was a near complete sensory overload. I got two donuts, Maple Cream and Honey dipped .... and I will say, without a shred of exaggeration, that they both exquisite. I sat outside, eating the donuts and enjoying early morning sun and ... at the risk of sounding corny ... life in general.
|The donut heaven at Stonehouse Baking Company in Barrington, NH.|
|Maple cream donut ....|
|Aspahlt ran out on Shirkin Road ...|
|Shirkin Road turned into Lint Road and then promptly to shit.|
|Just when I thought the road couldn't get any worse ...|
|Farmland south of Nashua, NH.|
|... where the they hate shoulders.|