Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Visit To Maine

If the blog has seemed quiet for a little while, it's because I've spent the past week on a family vacation in Maine with little/no internet and fairly limited cell-phone coverage. That can be relaxing, but also a little frustrating at times. We've come to rely on our digitized world so much that it can be really hard sometimes to let go. It's funny that it wasn't really that long ago that the internet was little more than an interesting curiosity, and a phone was nothing more than a means to talk to someone - just talk - while tethered to a cord on the wall. My kids have never known the world to be different than it is today, but for me (and most people reading this blog), it's probably a bit staggering to think how much technology has come to run our lives.

A quiet spot beside Sebago Lake at sunrise.
My family and I have been staying in a cabin by a nice lake in the southern part of Maine. Actually, there are a lot of lakes in the vicinity - large and small - enough that apparently the area is known as the Lake Region. I brought my Rivendell along on the trip so I could do some riding.

Though I keep my bikes computer-free, technology or the lack thereof did enter into the riding experience a little - at least at first. Being totally unfamiliar with the area, getting out for a ride without knowing where I was or where I was going seemed a bit daunting. I tried using my phone's map functions to figure out some routes, but poor signal coverage made that sporadic and a little frustrating. I did locate a bike shop in the area so I paid them a visit and asked if they had any maps of the lakes and the roads surrounding them. That seems to me like one of those things a good bike shop should keep around, right? Well, no, they didn't have any maps. "Why don't you just use Strava like everyone else?" Ummm - because my phone barely works out here. I did eventually get to a café where I could get some internet access, find some maps, and copy them down onto paper for some riding routes/maps that would get me around even without technology.

One route I found was a loop around Sebago Lake, which was the lake on which our cabin was located. The loop around the lake was a little over 40 miles. I also worked out a shorter loop around one of the smaller lakes nearby, and there was a decent out-and-back ride to a neighboring town and a quiet road through the nearby state park. All told, I put in a lot of miles during the week and found some good photo-opportunities.
Boulders are a major part of Maine's landscape.
I found this old Grange hall tucked away on one of the rural routes.
On the roads along the lake, one finds lots of little markets that cater to the campers and boaters visiting the area. Groceries, beverages, dry firewood bundles, and bait. This one had fish trophies hanging everywhere so I had to get a picture.
I'd been looking for this my whole life.
I spotted this old Ford in a field not far from the state park. Notice that it has tracks in place of wheels on the back. I couldn't say for certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was once used for winter mail delivery in this area known for its harsh winters.
On one of my rides I found a little roadside stand selling just-picked blueberries. I stopped and bought a pint for a nice treat. Only $3 a pint, and worth it. Plenty for a snack on my ride, and lots left for breakfast the next morning.

The drive out to Maine took us through Vermont and New Hampshire. I have to say that I'd love to come back out with my bike for an extended riding tour through those states. The roads through the Green Mountains in Vermont were absolutely gorgeous. Throughout our New England drive, we chose to stay off the interstates and instead drove the two lane highways that took us through all manner of little towns - some quaint, some forgotten, some just barely hanging on. Though it takes a little extra traveling time, it makes for a much more interesting drive.

A classic little rail car diner on Hwy 9 near Brattleboro, Vermont.
Brattleboro is one of those picturesque little towns tucked in among the hills. Lots of cool shops, cafés, brew pubs, and not one but two bike shops. While there, I had to get a picture of this:

As I stood there getting a photo, I was getting weird looks from some people standing nearby. Actual conversation:
"I want to get a picture because that's my name up there."
"What - Brooks? or Hotel?"
"Both - my parents had a weird sense of humor."
In the little town of Bennington, Vermont, we entered the town's oldest cemetery - and found Robert Frost's grave. The English teacher in me had to document that.
"I had a lover's quarrel with the world."
I love these old New England headstones. This one dates to 1787 - but it isn't even the oldest one in the cemetery.
While in Bennington getting coffee at a homey little café I met a fellow with a fully loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker who was on his way north to Montreal. Kind of sorry I didn't get a picture of him and his bike - but mostly I was a little envious. Definitely something I'll have to do some day.

That's all for this vacation - I'll be back at work all too soon.


  1. Blue Highways are the best! My wife and I recently did a kayak tour on San Juan Island. I insisted on including bikes. We did a one day tour around the island and it was fantastic. Bikes are a great way to see a new place. It gives you time to take things in more slowly and is a more intimate way to appreciate the landscape. I hope to do more trips like that.

    1. It's funny you should mention Blue Highways, this post reminded me of the book of that name by William Least Heat Moon.

    2. Blue Highways is one of my favorite books. I read it the first time when I was 17 - it was a new book at the time. Read it several times since then.

  2. I did a number of tours in Vermont in the 1990s, and it's a lovely place to ride. There are little towns all over, so you are rarely far from a place to stop and get a snack. Much as I like California, sometimes one can ride 40 miles between potable water stops. My rides were with a commercial outfit (Discovery Bicycle Tours), but that's not needed for everyone. Even though the state is known for its hilliness, the company did a fine job finding routes that were hilly but had few monster climbs (and almost no riding on major roads) except for optional side routes. I am particularly fond of the Middlebury area and the northeast part of the state.

  3. Great places to go! Brattleboro is mentioned in some of H. P. Lovecraft's stories I think.

  4. I've never been to Maine but I've done some cycling--both road and mountain--in Vermont. You won't be disappointed!

  5. Hi Brooks. What a small world. I was in Brattleboro in May. We bought maple syrup and drove (off-road) to Marlboro, just because of the name of the place and took pictures of the covered bridges. Sad that we didn´t have time for a meal at Chelsea Royal Diner. Oh yeah, the place is too cold for us Brazilians.

  6. Delorme State Atlases. I try to make copies of the pages of areas I am likely to ride in. I stll use my smart alec phone, but prefer paper maps if at all possible.