Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cyclostravaganza 2007, Day 4: Twin Mountain NB to Portland ME

This would be the longest day's ride on my trip. I wanted to make it to Portland, Maine, by that evening, because of my ferry reservation the next morning; but I had not made it quite as far as planned on each of my previous days. So it would be the longest day - and perhaps the most challenging, as my itinerary would take me through the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

As I was packing up my bike on the veranda in front of the hotel, two outrageously cute red squirrels were staking out their turf. Red squirrels, unlike their grey urban cousins, are highly territorial, and it shows.

I stopped at a local coffee shop in the strip mall for breakfast - two egg mcmuffin-style sandwiches, orange juice, and coffee - and tried to keep from ogling the ridiculously attractive staff member.

It was a bit foggy and misty as I set out. That was a bit disappointing, as the kindly bike mechanic in Abercorn had suggested this would be the most beautiful part of my whole trip. I couldn't really tell because of the clouds/fog/mist, but I think that must have been Mount Washington behind the Hotel New Hampshire in Bretton Woods. Even so, the Bretton Woods municipality's town sign was worth photographing, in honour of those economics classes I'd taken.

At first the scenery was nice - like a larger version of Marshy Hope, Nova Scotia, perhaps - but a bit disappointing, because I was expecting more.

And then, well, I got more. Route 302 took me through Crawfod Notch. Wowee! Suddenly there was a huge valley/cleft, with me and the road on one side, and a sheer near-cliff on the other side, so steep that it was treeless in places. I cried out loud "wow!" to anyone listening as I descended wheeeeeeeeee all the way down the valley in a wonderful rush of glee.

I stopped at a friendly bike shop shop in Bartlett, where they cleaned my chain for me.

North Conway was attractive but a little on the cookie-cutter-side. It bustled with tourists shopping up a storm at the various factory outlets, big-box-stores, and temples to mass consumption. On the way out of town, I succumbed somewhat; I saw a Louis Garneau outlet, where I picked up the "bento box" I'd been wishing I had for days now. It fixes onto my top-tube, at the intersection of the down-tube, and keeps my camera and cell-phone within easy reach.

It started to rain as I crossed into Maine. (How funny that it stopped to rain as I left Vermont and entered New Hampshire, and then started to rain again when I left New Hampshire for Maine. New Hampshire, though, had hardly been dry to me. In any event, Maine was the best-smelling part of my trip; with good reason is it called the pine tree state. I also some some nice wild flowers: red lilies, and a wild corydalis.

I had a nice picnic - fancy crackers, habanero-studded cheddar, and (canned) pineapple - at the edge of a lake with beautiful wildflowers.

I sat on a perfectly-shaped boulder, under pine, oak, and maple trees; the boulder had a survey marker on it, so I suppose it shouldn't be hard to find this spot again. I walked around a bit, and found some massive highbush blueberries growing wild, along with poison ivy.

After my lunch, I continued on my way. It was a nice ride, but even with snack breaks, I was getting tired, especially past Gorham.

Finally I made it to Portland. Alas, I sprung a flat tire on the outskirts. I didn't even realise I had a flat until I noticed that it was too hard to advance, and looked at my tire. Grrrr! It was raining, and I really didn't feel like unloading my bags, struggling with the flat, getting dirty, and putting bags back. I checked the map of Portland I'd picked up earlier in the day at a Maine tourism bureau; it looked like I was just a few blocks from my hotel, so I decided to walk. I discovered that my map was not to scale, after walking 5km through the rain to get to my hotel, over hilly terrain, with slippery brick-paved sidewalks most of the way.

It was about 8:00 PM when I arrived at the Danforth Hotel, located very near the waterfront in a charming old house. My grumpiness couldn't last long; the hotel was very beautiful. I was famished - justifiably so, I think, after 12 hours and almost 160km - but it was getting late in the evening, and I wasn't sure what restaurants would still be open. The owner/hostess recommended Katahdin, as it was nearby, accommodating, "and they always serve pasta." I was expecting a very casual family diner, which, as it turned out, it decidedly was not. Katahdin is a lovely with a very modern and deluxe menu. I started with a wonderful carrot/corn soup; if only all restaurants put this much love into the daily soup. I followed with beautifully presented lemongrass halibut, and concluded with a delicious blackberry upside-down-cake with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. (The latter tasted deliciously of caramelised sugar, not just brown sugar; no short-cuts here, it seemed.)

I returned to my hotel, well-fed and happy, and had just enough energy to wash my laundry in the bathroom sink before falling asleep around 11:00 PM.

MXS 47.8
AVS 19.7
DST 158.31
TM 8:02:03
DEP 7:45 AM
ARR 8:00 PM

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