The ride started in the pretty town of Bar Harbor nestled on the edge of Acadia National Park on an island off the Maine coast. It was gone 11 before I got going having had to return the hire car to the airport and a few last minute adjustments to the bike. A quick stop at the supermarket to pick up some lunch (Peanut Butter and Jello sandwiches, trail mix and bananas) and I set out. No sooner than I had left Bar Harbor something felt wrong with the bike. It was very “wobbly” - had I got the headset on properly? Or had I screwed something else up putting the bike back together in my jet lagged state? The stem didn’t rattle when I bounced the front wheel and a quick glance at everything else looked OK. A guy who appeared from nowhere informed me the wobble was normal for steel frames and I just had too much weight on it. It hadn’t felt like this in the UK and I wasn’t carrying that much more stuff. Drawing a blank I thought I’d push on, try and balance the weight across the panniers tomorrow and cycle in the saddle which was fine as there were no major climbs that day.
The next hour or so was spent cycling along small county roads surrounded by beautiful pine, birch and fir forest, trees that would become very familiar over the next few days. Emerging onto the bridge linking the island I joined busy State road 3 and started the 10 mile cycle through the extended urban sprawl of Ellsworth and Trenton. As I entered Ellsworth I missed the turning for a back road that would’ve linked me on to highway 1 - the next road I wanted - and found my 1 lane highway multiplying lanes and suddenly finding myself on the outside of a fast five lane road needing to turn left at the next junction. With visions of getting myself run over in the first 20 milss and some help from a few friendly drivers I made it across and turned onto highway 1 and set off down the coast.
Riding on highways is better than it sounds - at that point (and for much of the 200 miles) Highway 1 is a 2 lane highway sometimes becoming dual carriageway. There is quite a lot of traffic including some big trucks. It would be totally nerve wracking and dangerous to cycle on the main carriageway, luckily the road has a 3-6’ shoulder that serves very nicely as a bike lane most of the time. It’s not the most relaxing cycling but you don’t feel like you are going to get mowed down all the time.
As the legs warmed up some of the biggest bits of self doubt began to fall away and it started to feel like I was back on the road to Scotland again. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a blur ending up in Bucksport, ME where there is a very impressive bridge with a great viewing gallery giving views of the Penobscot bay and an impressive civil war fort.
The second day was much of the same, only lighter! I’d dumped a few kilos of gear in the hotel room and repacked and the bike felt much much better. It was also a shorter day with a nice break in moose point state park with great views of ships appearing from the mist. The day ended in Camden, ME. A small town with some absolutely stunning boats in its harbor.
Cycling along the highway was getting tedious and I longed to be back on the small lanes I’d ridden in the UK so south of Camden I started to explore the smaller county roads that ran in a similar direction to the main highways. It was a great choice and although it cost a few extra miles and some steeper gradients it was definitely worth it. Spending a few hours on quiet roads passing pretty weatherboard houses hiding amongst the trees was very peaceful and enjoyable in comparison to the constant thundering of traffic on the main carriageway.
I’d spent the past few days cycling past some incredibly bad puns - maine-ly based around the word Maine and often involving antiques of questionable quality. I was therefore very pleased to see Burnswick, my destination for the night, had embraced this fully and named their “main street” “Maine street”. I had also figured out why my bike was wobbling! I had either lost or never put in a bolt holding the rear pannier rack to the rear hub so the whole of the pannier rack moved when I shook the bike, I wasn’t carrying any bolts but do carry a lot of cable ties so I stole a bolt from my front mudguard and then cable tied that back into place.
The final day on the coast took me south through Portland to spend night in the town of Kennebunk before heading inland for a final 70 miles to Manchester and leaving Maine and the Atlantic behind and entering New Hampshire. As I got further south the forest became less dense and the openings bigger but what surprised me most was as I crossed into NH the trees changed from the birch/fir/spruce/pine mix to an oak forest. I ended up riding the last 20 miles into Manchester along a pretty rail trail with a guy called Matthew who was studying criminology having just returned from New Zealand.
Manchester signaled my first rest day before the next stage running from Manchester to Ithaca, a 7-10 day ride through Vermont and over green mountain national forest into upstate New York before reaching the finger lakes.