Month: August 2017

August 2, 2017 Otter Lake, MI

Howard writing:

We have almost finished our 5-day ride across Michigan, the seventh state on our route.   In two days, we’ll be in Canada, and in less than four weeks, we will be on the coast of Maine.  Today is a mundane day: making reservations in Canada, sorting through our photos; this post is being written in a laundromat – not as inspirational a place as a brewery, but still a necessity for us after not having access to a washing machine in almost 2 weeks.

We closed out our Wisconsin time with rides from Amherst Junction to the aptly named and beautiful High Cliffs State Park high above Lake Winnebago, and then the final 43 miles to Manitowac, on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

The ride to High Cliffs State Park, south of Appleton, crossed an area of thick forests and historic villages. 

One of those villages, Rural, was established in the 1860’s, and is particularly interesting. 

The old general store had the usual group of friendly older guys whiling away the day chewing the fat with each other and anyone else who ventured in (like Wendy and me). 

I spoke with a woman who was selling her home in Rural and moving full time to Florida.  She is asking $390,000 for her beautiful house on 2.5 acres of land, and all her neighbors have been telling her she’s priced the house way too high.  When I told her a similar house in the Bay Area would sell for 5-10 times that amount, she almost fell over.

Not far from Rural was an old covered bridge, no longer in use for wagon, horse, or car traffic.

As I was cycling away from Rural, I realized that much of the joy I’ve gotten from this bike trip has come from the chance interactions like the one I had with the guys in Rural. or in small businesses along the route.  On the way toward High Cliffs, I passed several mom and pop cheese factories – including this nondescript one that made a marvelous 5 year old cheddar.

At a stop to buy a peach at a roadside farm stand, the proprietor insisted I try an ear of fresh sweetcorn.

The day’s route descended consistently toward Lake Winnebago, the largest lake in Michigan.

I’m sure the famous Winnebago motor homes are – or were – built near here.  Parts of the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago consist of sheer limestone cliffs, and our campsite at High Cliffs State Park was set right on top of one of them.

The sunset view from the cliffs was breathtaking- with storm clouds building up to the west.

The next morning, August 27, dawned with brilliant sun.  Our destination was the historic ferry SS Badger, which sails across Lake Michigan.

The ferry company has a crew of folks who are amazingly skilled at maneuvering all sorts of vehicles onto the Badger, so that there is hardly a square inch on the car deck that isn’t covered by a vehicle.  We held our breaths as we watched a true professional back our beloved trailer onto the boat.

We had considered a detour to Sheboygan to eat a famous Sheboygan sausage (my go-to meal at Giants’ games at ATT Park) at the source, but the extra 40 miles were not worth the effort.  So … close, but no Sheboygan.

We had arranged a lunchtime rendezvous with Wendy’s girlhood friend, Laurie Nixon and her husband Rich.  They had visited the Bay Area a few years ago, and it was great to see these wonderful folks again.  They waved us goodbye as the Badger fired up its belching coal-fired boilers and headed east to Michigan.

And on the Michigan side, there was a reception committee waving their welcome from the docks and jetties of Ludington.  

Apparently, this is a uplifting ritual for each arrival of the Badger.

The 65 miles across Lake Michigan on the Badger were the easiest miles of the entire trip!

In Ludington, we grabbed dinner and headed a few miles north to Ludington State Park, set just behind the dunes that front the lake.  My preconception of Lake Michigan as a murky, cold, and uninviting body of water was blown apart the next day, when Wendy and I headed to the soft sands of the beach and the clear and warm (sort of) water for a swim.  I had no idea.  The Lake Michigan shore reminded me of Cape Cod, eastern Long Island, Cape Hatteras, and other stretches of Atlantic shoreline – with dunes, dune grasses and forests all coming together in a lovely way.  None of this was a revelation for Wendy, but it was for me.  Several people we talked with made us promise not to reveal the secret of Michigan and its many wonderful attributes.  We told them that as Californians, we had a duty to out the state and encourage everyone to visit.

The day after we arrived, Wendy and I went back to Ludington to explore a bit.  The place seems to be a great town with a vibrant downtown and friendly people. We were lucky to be there for the weekly Friday night live street fair and Farmer’s Market. I finally got a long overdue haircut at that great American institution, the Main Street barbershop.   We were both very taken with Ludington.

That night, Saturday August 28, on the strong recommendation of Mark and Sue Adams (friends of our San Francisco friends, Darla and Richard), we decided to try against all odds to get a campsite at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area, 23 miles north of Ludington.  Campgrounds at LMRA are fully booked 6 months in advance, but, lo and behold, the touring gods were with us again.  Ron and Bertha, the gracious and generous campground hosts, invited us to share their large site, hooked us up with electricity (at a non-electric campground), and generally took us under their wings.  How can you ever forget those small kindnesses?

On Sunday, Mark and Sue (now our Michigan gurus) joined us at LMRA.  They have been coming there for years and knew all of the required rituals, like the obligatory trek to the dunes to watch the sunset.  The next day was Mark’s birthday, so we were able to enjoy the best blueberry pie EVER, baked by Sue.

The following day, all of us headed east.  Mark and I rode 72 great miles to the town of Hersey, on the banks of the Muskegon River.   On the way, we stopped for an enormous rib birthday lunch for Mark.  We also stopped to explore the now decaying and largely abandoned but formerly thriving town of Idlewild, which has a totally unique history. 

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, black leaders from Chicago and Detroit established Idlewild as a summer home community – this during a time when almost none of the many summer home communities would permit black Americans to buy a home.  In its heyday, Idlewild had such notable summer residents as Louis Armstrong, who owned this lakefront compound.   The greatest bands of the era, including Duke Ellington’s and Count Basie’s, played the dance palaces of Idlewild.  The town’s history says a lot about the American Dream and the horrible Jim Crow era that extended well into the 1960s.

Part of the ride to Hersey was on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail.  This 100+ mile trail (which I eventually rode end-to-end) is unpaved for approximately 20 miles, but the rest, eastward from Hersey, is very nicely paved.  These rail trails are an absolutely wonderful thing.

On Monday, Wendy and I said goodbye to Mark and Sue and continued eastward for 63 miles to a campground in the woods near Sanford.

Before we left Hersey, we had a visit by the gregarious mayor of the town, Robin Marvel, who had been told about our trip by the campground hosts. Apparently, we were big news in Hersey, which is a lovely town perfectly situated for a stop along the Pere Marquette trail.

Interpretation on the Pere Marquette Trail described the days of logging and rafting logs to be floated on the various rivers to sawmills downriver.  We stopped for coffee and a chat with some thoughtful and warm folks in Evert.   A while after Wendy turned around to return to get the van and trailer, I stopped for a beer break in Clare, as the sky grew ever darker.  I asked the server if she thought I should wait out the passing storm.  She said she thought I should try and outrun it, which I did with just scattered raindrops hitting me.  But my threatening sky was nothing compared with the one Wendy faced as she returned to Hersey.

All day as I rode on Monday, I found myself thinking again how incredibly lucky I am to have the time, the health, and the means to do a trip like this.  This is privilege in the extreme.

Yesterday was not a particularly special day of cycling.  Wendy and I rode together to Midland for a delicious Japanese lunch, in a restaurant on the ground level of one of Dow Chemical’s many office buildings in Midland.    In fact, Midland seems like a modern-day company town.

From Midland, I turned southeast and rode another 62 miles to Otter Lake, our current campsite, where this edition of the blog will be posted soon.  The ride was not noteworthy, though there is always some quirky fun to be found on almost any road.

Toward the end of the cycling day, I experienced another kind gesture, this one from some guys repairing farm equipment around 20 miles away from here.  I had run out of water, and stopped to ask if I could fill my water bottles in their shop.  Not only did they offer me cold water, they insisted that I top off the bottles with ice.

Tomorrow, we will ride to St Clair, MI; and the day after tomorrow, we will enter Canada at Marine City-Sombra.

Wendy writing:

It was really wonderful to see my middle school friend Laurie and her husband Rich in Manitowac! We enjoyed a too brief lunch and then it was fun to have them see us off on the SS Badger. We hope that our paths may cross again on our return trip back to California (our route still TBD).

The 4 hour cruise on the SS Badger was lovely – warm, sunny, really enjoyable to be out on the deck. I had forgotten how the Great Lakes are each so big that they look like the ocean!

It felt crazy to us Californians to have fresh water in what looks like the ocean. After swimming in Lake Michigan, there was no need to rinse off. I also loved the sand dunes – reminiscent of my family childhood trips to Indiana Dunes.

At Lake Michigan Recreation Area, we were really surprised to see how the dunes supported an ecosystem beyond just dune grasses (but then again, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is all on dunes).

We have continued to enjoy the conversations with people who voted for Trump.These connections often come up when we stop for lunch or a snack, or ask someone to take a photo of the two of us. After Laura took our photos at Lake Michigan, we enjoyed talking with her and her husband, Mike.

They identified themselves as a “divided couple” – she votes Democrat and voted for Clinton; he votes Republican and voted for Trump (not because he likes Trump – he feels that the Republicans have the correct approach – and he definitely did not like Clinton). Laura is a teacher with many Muslim students who are very frightened in our country with the Trump administration.

We experienced our first (and we hope only) sketchy campground at Black Creek State Campground just outside of Sanford, MI. It was mostly empty and there were a couple of sketchy characters, one who seemed like he was on drugs, roaming through the campground. This was the only place where we did not feel safe leaving the van and trailer while we both cycled – so we moved our rig elsewhere and then cycled.

The terrain has become more varied in eastern Wisconsin and Michigan – with forests re-entering the picture and orchards for the first time. It’s interesting to see fruit orchards and forests juxtaposed with crops.

We continue to LOVE our trailer (despite having to tape the screens on at each camp) – and have no interest in staying in hotels or AirBnBs.

We have been so lucky with weather. Southern Wisconsin had flooding from drenching rainstorms – luckily our route missed that!

August 4, 2017 Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario

Wendy writing:

Cell and internet service has been really spotty in Michigan and today in Ontario – it’s slightly better tonight. We still plan to add photos to the previous post as well as share more details/stories, but we wanted to do a quick update with our current location.

We also know that some of you are following our itinerary that we sent out back in early June. As we have recently made some revisions, we are attaching the new itinerary below.

You can see that we expect to arrive at Bar Harbor, Maine on 8/28 – just 3 1/2 weeks remaining of the cross-country/continent cycling tour!

We continue to have a wonderful trip. More to come soon!

August 7, Nanticoke, Ontario

Howard writing:

I am writing this post from a bluff overlooking Lake Erie, in a campground operated by the Haldiman Conservation Area, in Nanticoke, Ontario. The lake is completely placid today, in contrast to the two previous days when very strong winds (24-30 mph) were blowing from the west, churning up the lake and creating crashing waves. Several ocean-going freighters are in view, a reminder that the Great Lakes are connected all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Ohio is somewhere out of sight immediately south of us.

The final two days of cycling in Michigan were not especially exciting. One of them, from Otter Lake to St. Clair, included a serious thunderstorm that forced me to hole up under a tree next to a road with no shoulder and cars rolling past at 60 mph. The day also included a lunch stop for Wendy and me at a great microbrewery, Tilted Axis Brewing, in Lapeer, thirteen country miles from Otter Lake.

After the thunderstorm passed, I cycled onward through the town of Imlay City, where I stopped at a gas station to ask directions around a road closure. I should know by now not to ever let my helmet get separated from my bike, but – long story short – I left my helmet at the gas station. I didn’t realize this until I was 12 miles down the road. You’re probably asking, “How can someone ride 12 miles without a helmet and not realize it?” The answer is that I also wear a cycling cap while riding, and with the cap on, I’m usually not aware of the helmet. I realize that’s a lame excuse. In any case, I phoned Wendy to swing by the gas station to pick up the helmet. But… no helmet. Hopefully, it has a new life in the hands of someone who needs a good helmet. I cycled the remaining 30 miles to St Clair without any head protection, which is something I’m determined not to do again.

The next morning, I drove up to a bike shop in Port Huron (12 miles north) and bought a new helmet.

We left camp around 11:00 AM for the final miles into Marine City, on the banks of the St. Clair River. This is the preferred cyclists’ crossing into Canada, and recommended by my Michigan cycling guru, Mark. The ferry across the river was a hoot – funky and informal, water splashing up onto the exposed deck, sign posted with a warning: “high water – use at your own risk.”

The border crossing was very laid back – a few questions, scanning our passports, and we were in Canada.

O Canada – what a lovely country! It must be true that it’s illegal here to be impolite because people are, indeed, very friendly and polite – too polite, in fact, to bring up their horror at Trump and his actions. But once we let it be known that we’re not Trump fans, the floodgates open up. Of the dozens of people we have spoken with since we arrived in Canada, without exception each has expressed the shock and disbelief that Trump could actually be President of the United States. All admired Barack Obama, and noted the contrast in his style, integrity, intelligence, and dignity to Trump. No one we’ve spoken with can understand why we’re having the health care debates we are in the United States.

The Canadians we spoke with say that they like the Canadian national health system, and that they are fine paying the high taxes they do (much higher than in the US) to get the government services they enjoy. Several people have mentioned the influx of Haitian refugees fleeing the United States and entering Canada in the wake of Trump’s latest immigration proposals. This has created the need for emergency housing at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. To the Canadians we spoke with, this represents Canada having to clean up a problem created by Trump. Our sample size is limited, and therefore our conclusions can be considered suspect, but there seems to be a very different notion of community here than in the US.

Back to the trip … after crossing into Canada, we cycled southeast to Rondeau Provincial Park, located on a peninsula in Lake Erie, directly north of Cleveland, and directly east of Detroit. In fact, we were almost exactly equidistant (around 50 miles) from both cities.

On the way, we had another navigation issue with my Strava routing program.

Occasionally, Strava will route us onto obscure dirt roads when a perfect paved route is the actual way to go.  Still, without a Strava error, we never would have seen memorably-named Whitebread Line Road.

Lake Erie has not been nearly as inviting as Lake Michigan, perhaps because it is experiencing storms and turbulence, and the skies are cloudy.

Rondeau is located in a part of Ontario that has made a major commitment to wind power generation.

Wind turbines are scattered along much of the Lake Erie coastal area, with some solar arrays also found in places. Not everyone is in favor of wind generation, but it seems to be generally supported. Someone told us that because of wind and solar power production, Ontario has closed all of its coal-fired power plants. Today, at Nanticote, we can see one of those plants just a few miles to the west.

From Rondeau, we continued eastward along the signed Waterfront Trail (which is mostly not on the water and is on roads, generally without a shoulder) toward Port Burwell. Some of the roads are alongside the lake, however, and many are very lightly traveled. We stopped for a lunch of asparagus soup (the asparagus was harvested just across the road) in an old converted barn. The remainder of the route was on quiet farm roads. The farm fields are surrounded by forests of predominantly maple trees. Like central Michigan, this is an area of maple syrup production.At one point, I cycled on Uncle Tom’s Road, named to commemorate a settlement formed in the 1850’s and 1860’s by slaves who had traveled north on the Underground Railroad to reach Canada and safety.

Our campground at Port Burwell was filled with groups enjoying the 3-day Civic Holiday weekend. We camped next to a group of very fun-loving women from Woodstock, Ontario, who have camping together annually for years at the same campground on the same weekend. Fishing for walleye, perch and pickerel (not sure what that fish is) is the big activity here, and we tried unsuccessfully to buy a fish to grill for dinner. So we had to settle for our sausages and Greek salad.

Yesterday, we rode the west winds 57.5 miles to our current campsite. We saw a family of German cycle tourists doing a 2-week tour of Ontario. I hooked up with a couple who were completing a weekend cycling trip back to Port Dover. I had lunch with this couple, Joanna and Armin, and had a long and interesting conversation about American politics, which they cannot understand.  We rode together in a pace line for 15 miles to their destination. Both of them are very strong cyclists, much stronger than I am, and we flew down the road averaging close to 20 mph. I rode the final 14 miles to Nanticote at a much more sustainable (for me) pace, but still averaged over 16 mph for the day.

Wendy writing:

In Evert, Wisconsin, we really enjoyed a fairly lengthy conversation with three adults (and very briefly their children) at a snack stop (the best frozen blended chai!). One of the men is a pastor (in green shirt in photo below). Once again, we found that these people who voted for Trump do not like Trump – they voted Republican for the issues that matter to them. The pastor said that a number of his friends who have thought that Trump is great are now rethinking this. He shared that there is a growing sense that our country would be better served with a President Pence (with Trump being impeached). In the town of Evert, of those students who graduate from high school, only about 10% go to college – and many of those don’t complete college. The pastor was rightly very proud that his son is heading off to University of Michigan to study engineering. He also said that there is 50% unemployment in Evert, so many of those who do not go to college have nothing to do. As has been true with virtually everyone we have met on this trip, we also found these people extremely warm and friendly. They and we agreed that we have much more in common than we have differences.

It’s been fun to see the “barn quilts” that  have been common throughout Michigan and in Canada.

I hit heavy rain on the way back to the van on the wonderful rail trail. Thankfully I had bought high-visibility waterproof shoe covers in Minneapolis, so I was ready! The rainstorm brought a welcome drop in the temperature (it has really been hot and humid for a number of days) – and had ended so that I could load my bike into the van without rain.

I experienced the scariest sky of the trip as I drove the van from Otter Lake Campground. It definitely made me think twice about going forward. Thankfully, no tornado – just heavy rain with some hail (small hailstones fortunately, so no damage).

Fun to be in Canada – we are definitely with “our people” here politically.

As Howard said, the border crossing was quite the experience. It was also amazing to see the United States on one side of the Saint Clair River and Canada on the other. It didn’t seem very secure.

Yesterday the terrain has become even more interesting – in addition to crops, orchards, and forests, we now have some gentle hills again. We also cycled past asparagus fields and orchards with cherries. Farm stands are very common here where we can buy gorgeous produce from the source.

Also enjoying seeing our second Great Lake, Lake Erie.

Recycling is back in a bigger way than in California, including bins for small used propane tanks.

I have also found the renewable energy that is so evident in Ontario exciting to see.

At our second campground in Canada where we camped under weeping willow trees, we loved meeting the Woodstock Girls! As we did not have electricity at our site, one of “the girls” helped us charge my bike battery at their site. When our conversation shifted to politics – and I made it clear that I am not a Trump supporter, one of the Woodstock Girls said, “You sure won’t find any Trump supporters here.” Like many of the Canadians we’ve talked to, they said that they (like us) can’t stop themselves from tuning in each day to see what crazy thing Trump has said or tweeted – or who has been fired next. People here cannot believe that he is the President of the United States.

Sadly we missed the fireworks (my guilty pleasure!) over Lake Erie in this 3 day holiday weekend.

A few thanks are in order:

Thanks to Reed and Amanda who introduced us to chia bowl breakfasts when they were traveling with us earlier in the trip. Chia bowls have been our go-to breakfast for each morning except layover days. For those of you who don’t know what that is, we soak chia seeds with almond milk overnight. Then top with varied toppings: fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, granola, yogurt, milk. Quick in the morning, nutritious, refreshing, and absolutely delicious!

And thank you, Al. We have greatly improved showers – both Howard’s occasional outdoor showers at our trailer and my showers in the campground restrooms – with the shower pallet that our good friend, Al Rosen, built for our trip.

With Maine just a few weeks away, I’m really getting excited about lobster – so much so that we bought some lobster tails at the grocery store today for dinner tonight (so much cheaper than in California!). Yum!

 

 

 

 

August 11, 2017 Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Howard writing:

It seems like forever since we’ve been in a large city – Minneapolis notwithstanding.  This post is coming from the historic Distillery District of Toronto, an interesting mix of commercial and residential uses centered around a former whiskey distillery.

We have loved our time in rural areas, and we have more to come, but there is a city energy that we find very exhilarating.

When we left Nanticoke, we traveled eastward along the north shore of Lake Erie to Bronte Creek Provincial Park, just east of the town of Oakville on Lake Erie.  Oakville is a very prosperous town that is a suburb for both Hamilton and Toronto. 

Mansions line the lake, blocking the view, though there are frequent parks with access to the lake.  One of those parks has a beach with cobbles formed from a former the remains of terracotta pipes produced in the region.

After Bronte Creek, we continued on the shore of Lake Erie for a while than turned northeasterly in the direction of Lake Ontario, the last of the three Great Lakes we will see on this trip. 

A few miles inland, I cycled through the town of Caledonia, which lies along the shoreline of the Grand River.  Fishing for pickerel and walleye, and canoeing on the river are the main recreation activities in this area.

We also gradually hit the city of Hamilton, and then a little further east, the distant suburbs of Toronto.  We passed more wind farms and solar panels, and small farms selling berries and vegetables, as well as some industrial areas. 

Again to my surprise, the waters of Lake Ontario are clear and inviting. 

I haven’t had a chance to swim in either Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, but I can understand why people flock to the many beaches along their shores as they did to the shores of Lake Michigan.

The final 15 miles of that day included some roads that were very challenging – fast cars and trucks, impatient drivers, narrow (or non-existent shoulders).  It felt like I was riding along many of the suburban Bay Area roads – a stark contrast to the mellow cycling of almost all of the 3150 miles I have ridden so far on the trip.  Before we left the Lake Erie coastline, a couple of our fellow campers sort of rolled their eyes when we told them we were camping in Brampton, in the far northwest corner of Toronto.  They said we should be prepared for a culture shock.  It turns out that what they meant was that Brampton is a very ethnically diverse section of Toronto.  We find the diversity to be very refreshing after the almost total whiteness of the previous 2 months of cycling.

Along with city energy comes a marked reduction in friendliness, compared to most of the rural areas we have visited.  In rural areas, people were more interested in and excited by our adventure than here in Toronto, where we are just two more American tourists.  I guess we’ve gotten addicted to our small scale fame as cycle tourists; this is an addiction we will have to kick as we slowly transition back to our real lives in the Bay Area.

While we’ve enjoyed the pulse of this great city, we’ve noticed a lot of aggressiveness by cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians.  Horn honking, pedestrians yelling at motorists and vice versa – not fun.  Even we two experienced city cyclists have been yelled at by irate drivers and even other cyclists for violating some unwritten rule or other.  All cities have, of course, have a set of unwritten rules that a casual visitor can’t possibly know; we’ve had this ‘stranger in a strange land’ experience before. The Toronto experience will make me much more patient with the rental bike visitors to San Francisco who do things like take photos while cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge (a big no-no in my mind) I’ll at least try to suppress my scowls and grumbling in the future.

Toronto’s neighborhoods are small and have a distinct, village-like flavor.  My bike tour took me to a good cross section of many of them, from affluent to funky. 

Cafes are everywhere.  Most of the homes are small, and look to have been constructed in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  The promenade along the waterfront affords some views of the Lake and offshore islands, but most views are disappointingly walled off by large apartment buildings, with many new ones now under construction.   

Here’s to the Mexican concept of ‘malacons,’ which are public promenades along the shoreline of most coastal cities in that country.

Toronto has a lot of things going on – varied neighborhoods, great diversity, professional sports (I even considered attending a Toronto Blue Jays-NY Yankees baseball game at their downtown stadium with a retractable roof), excellent public transportation, an extensive bike share program, and lots of arts and culture.

 For a city with a large population of cyclists, there is not nearly enough accommodation for cyclists on the mostly congested streets.  There is an excellent bike-share program, however.

As we leave Toronto, our mileage tally is:  Howard – 3150 miles; Wendy 1275.

Wendy writing:

It’s been a huge change to be in an area with traffic, occasional gridlock, and stoplights. As we approached Manitowac, Wisconsin, I remember being totally shocked to see a stoplight-controlled intersection. It was also very interesting to see Google Maps navigation directions and mileage immediately shift to kilometers as we crossed the border into Canada. Thank goodness for the auditory navigation from my smart phone – what a difference that technology has made in the ease of my driving our van and trailer from camp to camp.

Toronto is that much more intense – with much more aggressive drivers, no one is yielding to me as I try to change lanes on the freeways with our van and trailer; in fact most drivers speed up when I put on my turn signal. But, as Howard has said, it’s been exciting for us to be back in the city with its energy, diversity, and food choices (we’ve enjoyed handpulled noodles in Chinatown,

crepes in Midtown, beer in the Distillery District, grazing in the amazing St. Lawrence Market,

and the pizza in the Little Portugal neighborhood at Pizzeria Libretto, a place recommended by Drew and Sara.

While the waterfront has a lot of development, it also has some great pockets with lovely parks. We took a round trip on the ferry to the Toronto Island Park and loved looking at the city skyline from the water.

As a cellist and major Yo-Yo Ma fan, I especially loved the Toronto Music Garden that was developed through the collaboration of a garden designer, a filmmaker, and Yo-Yo Ma. The garden is divided into six movements/sections based on Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello.

Canada is currently celebrating its 150 years – it’s been fun to see the many displays of this along the way.

Cycling is such a wonderful mode of travel. Bike share has been a great way to see Toronto (along with great public transit) – and tags on well to our cycling mode of travel on this journey. The bike share bikes are really heavy, but thanks to my many miles on my e-bike, my leg muscles are ready – yay! The cycling with my ebike has become more and more fun as the miles go by. I can’t remember the last time that I had to switch to my second battery to make my 30-ish mile round trip on each of our cycling days. I also no longer need to slow down on my return trip when I turn back – I can just keep zooming along for the full round trip.

Recently, I’ve been talking with Howard about doing some overnight cycling trips when we return to California home. Even carrying heavy panniers, I now have a huge range (70+ miles) with my leg strength and two batteries.

As I noted before, cycling allows me to really experience an area. More sounds to add to my previous list: the threatening rumble of distant thunder, sounds of crickets (I have always associated crickets to night time, so it’s been very surprising to hear them during the day in the rural areas of the US and Canada), lots of lovely birdsong, and the sound of the wind.

Wind is typically the nemesis of cyclists (though it’s not much of an issue with my e-bike). Ontario has really made a big commitment to renewable energy – very exciting to see! And it has made me think differently about the wind when I’m cycling as I see it generating power. In many places in Ontario, I counted 15 to 30 wind turbines generating power in my immediate location. There are many different wind farms – Erie Shores Wind Farm with its 66 turbines generates enough electricity to power the local county’s 24,000 homes. I find myself thinking of the windmills in Holland when people were first harnessing the power of the wind. Don Quixote also comes to mind; I find myself singing “To Dream the Impossible Dream” as I cycle along – it really is possible for humans to reduce their carbon footprint by switching to renewable energy source,s such as wind and solar.

In Michigan and Ontario, wildflowers have returned in a big way – and are that much more beautiful seen from a bike.

We have really enjoyed seeing three of the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and now Lake Ontario).

I am still amazed to see lakes that look like oceans – and they are very changeable. This is especially for Lake Erie – it is really shallow which makes it warmer for swimming, but is really easily churned up by the wind). Someone told us that Lake Michigan’s biggest waves were recorded at 25 feet – and that the big waves on the Great Lakes are more challenging to navigate than the bigger ocean waves due to irregular wave patterns.

Just as we experienced in Minneapolis, there are very few mosquitoes in the urban area of Toronto. It’s been a wonderful break from them during our layover here; they greatly reduce the enjoyment of an area. It’s very telling when you see homes with screened porches and campers with screened rooms surrounding the picnic tables – we have “screen envy.”

On our return, we are looking forward to our San Francisco without mosquitoes and no-see-ems! Tomorrow we leave Toronto for more rural environs…

There has been a lot more interest in our little trailer here in Canada – much more so than in the US. While there are still plenty of big motorhomes and trailers, tents and smaller tent trailers are more prevalent.

Continuing to be lucky with weather, we seem to thread the needle between major storms. Canada has had unseasonably cooler weather then usual, which has given us perfect cycling temperatures. Lucky us! Throughout the Midwest and Canada, we’ve learned though that weather forecasts are meaningless. A couple of examples: when our phone app is saying that it’s currently partly cloudy, we are being pelted by rain – or when it says thunderstorms at 8 pm, the storms may hit at any time during the day or dissipate entirely.

Yesterday Howard commented to me, “Look around – everyone you see here has health care.” Today, we had an interesting conversation about Canada’s health care system with a wine vendor at the St. Lawrence Market. The man is a dual citizen (Canadian and American) and had lived in San Francisco and elsewhere in the US; he now lives in Toronto. He said that wine and other alcohol (and perhaps other products) are heavily taxed (the “sin tax”) to help fund Canada’s health care. People also pay high income taxes in Canada. It’s definitely another example of “you get what you pay for;” he is extremely happy with his health care – the level of service, including quick access to doctors and needed procedures, and preventative health care services.

As we say each morning when we are moving camp, “eastward ho.” We are closing in on the Atlantic Ocean!

August 16, 2017 Brockville, Canada

Howard writing:

This post comes to you from near the town of Brockville, a beautiful place located on the St. Lawrence River around 150 west of Montreal. We’re resting after four long cycling days from Toronto.

The 58-mile ride from our campsite in Toronto to Darlington Provincial Park on Lake Ontario included one of the worst sections of cycling of the entire tour. Initially, the route took me almost to the center of Toronto, which was fun because the neighborhoods were interesting and I realized that I had developed a good sense of the layout of the city in the short time we had been there.  But soon I entered the endless soulless eastern suburbs, which to my eye are one long strip mall. The roads were filled with speeding cars jockeying for position at the next stoplight.  There were no shoulders for most of the route, and the far right lane was pocked with bike-eating potholes.  Finally, I entered a rural area, and the cycling was good again, with nice shoreline and wetlands views.

The next day, August 13, our destination was Presqu’ile, 68 miles away.  After riding by the Darlington Nuclear Power Generating Station, we were back on mostly rural roads roughly along the lakeshore, passing orchards and farms, and several pretty towns, like Port Hope.

The following day, we rode our final day on Lake Ontario to a town called Adolphustown, and a campsite called “Old Empire Loyalist Campground.”  The name refers to a group of New Yorkers who moved north in the 1780’s, after the American Revolutionary War because they wanted to continue under English rule.  The campsite is part of a national historic landmark district. 

On the way to Adolphustown, I rode by many apple orchards, and of course had to partake.

Some of the countryside in this region is particularly beautiful.

I also cycled through an area managed by the Mohawk Indian tribe.

A roadside sign caught my eye in this stretch of road:

I found myself thinking that Trump could use a little hit of Peacemaker 420 to dial down his sabre-rattling rhetoric.

With 17 miles to go to Adolphustown, I had my first and hopefully last crash of the trip.  The combination of a bad road and an abrupt 6″ drop off on the road edge – plus, as we always warn against on our river trips, one careless moment – and I was pitched off my bike onto the road.  Miraculously, the bike escaped with hardly a scratch; I wasn’t quite so lucky.  All in all, this was a minor mishap, but I don’t want to ever repeat it.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to the Great Lakes, and hello to the St. Lawrence River. This is a major river, but it’s narrow enough that it’s hard to imagine ocean-going freighters sailing along the St. Lawrence from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Great Lakes ports like Chicago.

The final 25 miles of yesterday’s ride were along the wonderful Thousand Island Parkway.  This is the only dedicated bike/ped pathway I’ve seen in Ontario.

We ended our layover day today by exploring Brockville.  This great town has an historic district dating the 18th Century and a beautiful river front with the United States just across the water.

Brockville also has one of the coolest art features we’ve seen in a while – a four-block long former railway tunnel turned into an art walk.  Water seeping from above over the limestone walls has resulted in cave-like formations.  An LED light show synced to music creates very interesting effects in the tunnel.

We also happened on the Brockville Pipe and Drum Corps practicing in a park on the shoreline at sunset.  A couple of the corps members are Americans from New York across the river.

Tomorrow, we look forward to our friend Tom Lockwood joining us for a few days of cycling to Montreal.

Wendy writing:

Wow – what a big change on two counts since our last blog post! After riding Bike Share bikes in urban Toronto for two days, my e-bike feels like a lightweight dream bike! Even without the electric assist turned on, it is easier to pedal than the Bike Share bikes (which are built to be very sturdy – and so that no one would want to steal them). And while we loved our time in Toronto, cycling is SO much nicer and relaxing than urban cycling! We are really enjoying being back on rural roads.

We are moving eastward along the shores of Lake Ontario on the Waterfront Trail, camping primarily at provincial parks. These are huge parks with hundreds of campsites, quite often near train tracks.  

Use of our trailer’s air conditioning or fan as a masking sound has been very helpful in continuing to get good sleep at night.

Presqu’ile Provincial Park was gorgeous – and without nearby trains and highways. It even had a turtle crossing with barriers along the road and an under-the-road turtle tunnel!

 At Presqu’ile, we had another great conversation with Canadians – Don, Laurie, Chris, and Terry (not in photo below) – who came to look at our trailer. When the topic shifted to politics, they said they, too, are very disturbed and concerned with the current US administration.After we signed off, these wonderful folks returned to our campsite to give each of us a Canada pin – very nice…

Another great encounter and connection: At a lunch stop on Monday, we struck up a lengthy conversation with Carol and Richard about family, travel, and politics (they are also appalled by the Trump administration).When we went to pay for our lunch, we were told that they had picked up our tab. What a lovely gesture!

The Waterfront Trail is a route on the roads relatively near, but rarely on, the waterfront. Finally we got to cycle on a road next to the waterfront for some of the miles.

Added to the lake scenery are farmland –and small towns (which seem to be thriving).

I have been very taken by grain silos both here in Canada and in the US, finding them aesthetically pleasing – especially when the silo is next to a red barn. Some individual farms have their own smaller silos to store their grain crops; other farmers store their grain in huge shared silos.

It is also interesting to see crops planted next to some of the first subdivisions that we’ve seen in a long time.

 Our route has also included a couple of unpaved bike paths through some lovely scenery.

Renewable energy sources are still evident in this part of Ontario. While not seeing as many wind turbines, we passed a huge solar installation yesterday as well as many solar panels on various properties.

Ontario also relies on nuclear power. There is a nuclear power plant very close to where we camped in Darlington that is out of sight from the land as it’s placed behind a hill with trees and is quite low-lying compared to other nuclear power plants that I’ve seen in California. I much prefer renewable energy sources.

The chain tensioner on my e-bike broke on Monday, so it was imperative to find a bike store. The only bike store in Brockville does not repair e-bikes and referred us to an electronics store that does. What an experience the electronics store was!With piles of wires and “junk,” it was impossible to step inside the store.The very nice owner, who did not seem to know much about bikes, was ready to start taking my bike apart.

I extricated myself from the store as soon as possible, and went to the Brockville bike store where Scott, the bike mechanic, was willing to give my repair a try. He was able to get my bike back in working order for the short term.  At the moment that I needed to load my bike back into our van, the skies opened up. Scott provided me with a huge trash bag as an impromptu raincoat and suggested that I bring the gear from the van into the store to keep everything dry.

In the meantime, my San Francisco bike store has located a bike store in Montreal and arranged to mail the replacement chain tensioner for installation when we arrive there in three cycling days. I’ve been given the warning signs regarding when/if I should stop riding my bike – hopefully it won’t stop me from riding between here and Montreal.

My driving route yesterday to Brockville involved another ferry trip across an inlet of Lake Ontario. This ferry was much more “seaworthy” and was free because it is viewed as part of the highway.

We’ve also had a few insights to the winter world of the areas we’ve been passing through on our trip. In Minnesota, we passed a factory making icehouse shelters for winter fisherman to place onto the ice. In Michigan and Canada, we’ve passed many snowmobile/no snowmobile signs. One Canadian man said that Canada is a wonderful place to live – except for the very cold winters.  

Canada has certainly been a great place for us to cycle and visit!

August 21, 2017  Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Howard and Wendy writing:

We’re not going to make the news reporter’s mistake of “burying the lead,” as Drew and Sara did when they phoned us with the thrilling news that they are engaged. When they called us a week ago to tell us, they first shared stories of their trip to the Northwest.

Then, after stringing us along for around 15 minutes, they told us the wonderful news.

Sara is a beautiful, warm, sensitive, talented, and altogether marvelous person, and she and Drew are so happy and lovely together. No wedding date has been set.

We are beyond thrilled!

————

Due to weak internet at our campground,  this is all we can post tonight. We will augment this post very soon, but the news of Drew and Sara’s engagement is the most important thing to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 23, 2017  La Patrie, Quebec, Canada

Our August 21 post from Montreal shared the exciting news of Drew and Sara’s engagement – for those of you who missed it, be sure to check back to that post!

This post will cover the trip from Brockville to our current location in La Patrie, Quebec, including our wonderful time in Montreal.

Howard writing:

We are now just about 200 miles – four cycling days and one layover day –  from our destination of the Atlantic Ocean. We will be arriving at Bar Harbor, Maine on August 28. Our current locale, La Patrie, is in eastern Quebec, very near the US border. From our campsite, we can see the mountains of New Hampshire. Maine is around 30 miles away. All of this makes the end of this adventure feel very near – I’m not ready for this astonishing trip to end.

After our layover day in Brockville, Ontario, but before leaving town, we took a 90-minute boat cruise into the Thousand Island area of the St. Lawrence River.    There are actually over 1800 islands over a 50 mile stretch of river, most big enough only for a house and a dock. 

Some of the islands have been reserved as parkland, for day trips and overnight camping. 

In the current full glory of summer, these islands are very bucolic.  When the river freezes over and the winter hits Ontario, they would be less hospitable.  The cruise also gave us a look back at the town of Brockville, and a glimpse of some of the historic (and recent) mansions that dot the shoreline.

After our cruise, we met our friend Tom Lockwood who lives in New Hampshire, at the Brockville train station.  We cycled that day to a campground near the Upper Canada Village.  That night featured one of the strongest rainstorms we’ve had on the trip, and our campground was saturated with water.  Tom pitched our guest tent on high ground and avoided the flood. 

We were warm and dry in our trailer – convincing us once again of how wise we were to have bought it for the trip.The nightly war with the mosquitoes and no-see-ems is another big plus of having a trailer – if we had only a tent, our 2-month long struggle with flying parasites would have driven us totally crazy, compared to the half-crazed state these bugs put us in.

The next day, Friday, we visited Upper Canada Village, which is a town consisting of historic buildings from the region that were brought together to re-create a village of the 1860’s. 

This recreated village uses only lumber milled onsite, from a sawmill that has been operating continuously for 171 years.

While strolling through the village, we happened on a performance by a fun and talented group portraying a traveling medicine show from the era.

One of the main buildings, the Willard Hotel, was owned from right after WW II until the early 1950’s by Tom’s grandmother and her husband.Tom had sent us some photos of the building when his grandmother was running it as a vacation site, including several photos of Tom himself as an infant. It was remarkable to share the moment of Tom reconnecting to such a wonderful memory.

The cycling that day also included some very nice views of the river. That night, we camped in the province of Quebec, around 40 miles west of Montreal. The following morning, we rode with Tom back to his car, which was parked at a train station near Montreal’s main airport.  The route was beautiful, following some canals and beautiful riverfront communities.        Quebec has invested a lot in making the province bike-friendly, a welcome change from most of Ontario, where the positive cycling experience is in spite of the poor cycling infrastructure.

After saying goodbye to Tom, I continued the ride along the lovely lakeshore – 

– and into Montreal, to the home of a friend of Bay Area friends of ours, Yana and Jason.  These Montreal folks, Agathe and Michel, have made us absolutely welcome and comfortable in their beautiful home in the Villeray section of the city.   Miraculously, their home is one of the few with a driveway, let alone a driveway that can accommodate our van and trailer.   We enjoyed sleeping in a home for only the third and fourth night of our entire trip.Agathe’s work has a career arc that is parallel to Wendy’s in the field of mobility for people with blindness and low vision, providing direct instruction as well as teaching teachers in the university program.  She and Michel are avid cyclists and veteran cycle tourists – their bike fleet numbers seven.  They will be riding from Vancouver, BC, to San Francisco starting on September 1. We look forward to welcoming these wonderful new friends at our house in San Francisco at the end of September.

On Sunday, after a delicious breakfast with Agathe and Michel, we took Wendy’s bike to a shop to complete the repair that had begun in Brockville.  The guys in the bike shop were terrific, and the repair was done in 25 minutes.    We spent the rest of the day cycling around this fabulous city, covering around 20 miles.  I used bikes from Montreal’s excellent Bixi bike share program.Montreal rivals Minneapolis as a bike friendly city with miles of bike lanes. Late in the afternoon we happened on Montreal’s Pride celebration, which was festive and full of good energy.

On Monday, we walked with Agathe and Michel to Marche Jean Talon, a remarkable, huge year round farmers market located in their neighborhood.   After a delicious lunch back at their home, we all enjoyed viewing the partial solar eclipse (53% occlusion in Montreal) using a homemade pinhole viewing box.  After that, Michel kindly escorted me by bike through the city onto the bridge leading out of town,and I cycled the 23 miles to a campground that put us in position for our final week of riding to Bar Harbor. Wendy worked on SFSU prep (she’s still working part time at SFSU – the fall semester begins this week) and met me with the van and trailer at the campground.

From our campsite close to Montreal, we rode 65 miles to the town of Eastman. On the way, we entered an area of mountains, apple farms, and forests with just a touch of autumn in the air and color in the trees.This is the first time we’ve been in this kind of terrain since we left Wyoming, some 2200 miles ago. The route to Eastman took us on beautiful rural roads and through very nice little towns like Chambly, with bike trails and lakes. My route after Wendy returned to get the van and trailer was mostly on a network of beautiful dedicated bike trails, some of which had art installations to add to the pleasure.

A threatening sky led to a hard rain for most of last night. We learned today that there was major storm damage in Montreal, with many trees down. North of Montreal there was a tornado – there are 8-10 tornadoes a year in the province. Fortunately, we were warm and dry in our trailer.

Eastman is on a lake, and is sort of the gateway to a lake-filled region that is particularly gorgeous.    Today’s 68-mile ride from Eastman to La Patrie took us deeper into this region.The weather was perfect – cool (mid-60’s), wind at our backs – and both of us were elated with the return to this type of terrain. Today’s elevation gain – 4291 feet – is among the top three of the entire trip.

We passed through Magog, a very pretty town on a large lake,and had lunch at a little restaurant in a village called Ste. Catherine de Hadley. To get to Ste. Catherine required a 1/4 mile climb with a gradient  that averaged around 10-12%.

On today’s route, I passed a specialized psychological facility that attests to the love and care many people provide their dogs.

The scenery throughout the day was just magnificent.Even though it meant a very steep climb, I took a 1 km detour at one point to see an 1895 covered bridge.

Cycling through this area is like cycling in France. The people of Quebec are proudly French. Many are bilingual to a degree, but some speak no English. I must have been French in another life, because I feel a very close affinity to the people of Quebec, as I do to the people of France. There’s a certain je ne c’est quoi that I just love. Both Wendy and I would put Montreal and eastern Quebec on the list of favorite places we have visited on the trip and places we want to visit again.

 

Wendy writing:

We have been surprised at the very limited cell phone and internet service for most of our trip, making it more challenging than expected to post our blog and stay in touch with friends and family. Some of the campgrounds early on in the US, especially the RV parks, had good wifi. Wisconsin had the best cell service of the entire trip; it was difficult to go back to really spotty service in Michigan and Canada. We’ve frequently needed to go to library, restaurant, or Tim Hortons (which are the equivalent to Dunkin’ Donuts in America – they are virtually in every fairly large town in Canada).

We loved Brockville and environs. The setting is lovely along the St. Lawrence River with cargo ships passing by. There are also many good restaurants; we loved our walleye fish dinner the first night so much that we went back to the same restaurant our second night to enjoy it one more time. The 1000 Islands boat tour allowed us a glimpse into the area and its recreational options, including sea kayaking, boating, camping on the islands, and scuba diving. The St. Lawrence River has very clear water – and by August, the water temperature is in the mid-70’s. There are three underwater shipwrecks in the immediate area and an underwater park just offshore with underwater sculptures – it’s billed as a great place for beginning divers. It was great to see that the dive shop also offers diving for people with disabilities. We highly recommend Brockville.

As Howard already said, we also really loved Montreal – a wonderful large city with great diversity, food, breweries, parks, cultural events, cycling paths and lanes, AND drivers who are friendly to cyclists. The kindness and warmth of Agathe and Michel was a marvelous bonus.

Now, of course, we are seeing this area during summer. We’ve seen some additional signs that remind us of what a different experience winters would be here. On the boat tour, the guide mentioned that the St. Lawrence River ices over which halts all shipping for two months during the winter. It’s hard to imagine that this huge river with its strong currents and massive amounts of water could freeze. Fishermen move icehouses onto the river – just like we saw and heard about in Minnesota.

As we experienced in our entry to Canada from Michigan, it was really interesting to again have two countries flanking the same river – the United States on one side, Canada on the other. We also learned some fascinating facts: the Canadian-American border is the longest undefended border in the world; the Seaway of the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes goes halfway into the North American continent; and 20% of all of the fresh water in the world is in this Seaway.

Inclusion seems to be the norm in our experiences here in Canada. I loved seeing this yard sign near Brockville. In the town of Magog, I found this sculpture and its wayside sign remarkable. It is called L’Esseulee (The Lonely) by the sculptor, Roger Langevin. The sign discusses the three elements of intimidation: the intimidator, the witness, and the victim; and how the space next to the girl invites spectators to sit with her and protect her from the aggressors. It goes on to say that the town of Magog is against all intimidation, not just of the young, but in all forms.

We have enjoyed local produce in Quebec – and blueberry pie! On my return trip back to the van and trailer, I often stop at produce stands and small stores to pick up some groceries. I had quite the challenge to fit my spare bike battery, jacket, pump, fruit, vegetables, bagels and cream cheese, yogurts, and a blueberry pie in my pannier and on my bike, but I pulled it off!

On my return trips to our van and trailer, I also have more time for sightseeing. I stopped at Fort-Chambly and learned that it was built in the early 1700’s and used for many purposes, including defending against the British from entering Montreal and Quebec (it failed). I find it interesting that the French province of Quebec joined the rest of English-speaking Canada long ago; there are definitely some people here now who would like to become a separate country.

And who knew (though it’s obvious when you think about it) that cul-de-sac is a French word that is commonly used in America…

Mailboxes continue to provide some fun and insights into the communities we have been passing through – here are some photos of mailboxes from Michigan and Ontario that clearly show how rural most of the two regions are. 

While I haven’t had all of the leisure time that I had expected on this trip (we were so unrealistic of what our days would involve on this trip!), I have had time for ten-minute meditation sessions on almost 20 different days with the Headspace app (thank you to Reed and Amanda for turning me onto this app). If you have not heard of it, I highly recommend that you try it out with ten free sessions and see what you think. It has helped me immensely to find the calm in my day-to-day life and our world’s current storm – that even when there are clouds, the blue sky is always present too. (And no, I am not working for or invested in Headspace!)

Tomorrow we leave beautiful Quebec, and so we are working on spending down our Canadian dollars as we return to our country. Canada’s bills (vs. American money) are so much more attractive with see-through “windows” and different colors for its various denominations – and its bills are accessible with Braille on them (another example of inclusion here in Canada).

Amazing that we are on the final approach to Bar Harbor, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean! I can already taste the lobster in our celebratory dinner!

 

 

August 26, 2017 Canaan, Maine

Howard writing:

We’re now in the town of Canaan, Maine, with just under 100 miles to go to reach the Atlantic.  I’m trying hard to stay in the moment and not think about the journey ending.  Fortunately, the route has continued to be great so I can still appreciate each cycling day.

We left La Patrie, Quebec, in a light rain.  The terrain continued to be extremely hilly, and forests and lakes continued to dot the landscape.  We crossed the border into the United States at Woburn, which (along with Sombra, Ontario, where we entered Canada) must be one of the sleepiest border crossings anywhere.  That didn’t prevent the young US border agent from yelling at me for going to the “wrong” line to be cleared for entry.  It wasn’t the warm welcome back to America that I had expected, but then again, border guards aren’t known for their sensitivity to elderly cyclists like me (or anyone else).

The remaining 30 miles to our campsite in Eustis, Maine, was very pretty, following a river.  Knowing that the 2180 mile Appalachian Trail passes just south of Eustis, I found myself thinking about the hikers who started in the spring way down in Georgia and who are just now reaching the end of their epic hiking adventures.  With my own feelings of regret that my trip is nearly over, I could imagine the feelings of anticipation and regret they must be having as their trips begin to wind down.

Eustis is situated on Flagstaff Lake, one of Maine’s largest. There are several modest ski areas in the region.

We spent August 25 as a layover day in Eustis.  We took a hike on a section of the Appalachian Trail, with roots, rocks, and ruts creating all sorts of hazards for hikers..  We talked for a time with some backpackers who have recently started southward toward Georgia.  They hope to arrive before Christmas.  What an amazing undertaking.

We ended that day with a delicious lobster dinner – the first of what will be many here in Maine – at a very nice restaurant in a former farmhouse.  We had a nice conversation with a couple at the next table, who were celebrating their 10th anniversary.  Andrew and Cassie live near Portland, Maine, with two young children.  He’s a Republican; she a Democrat.  Andrew said that while he didn’t like Hillary as a candidate and sees himself as a fiscal conservative, he simply couldn’t vote for Trump, who he feels is certifiably crazy.  Cassie works as a healthcare administrator, and she explained how dire the health situation is here.  Maine’s governor, who they feel is as irresponsible as Trump, blocked Medicaid for Maine’s citizens.  Poverty and some of its associated problems like opioid abuse are very prevalent here.  They said they were grateful that Maine Senator Susan Collins was one of three Republican votes that shot down the recent Republican attempt to dismantle Obamacare.

Today, we moved from the Appalachian Mountains to the central region of Maine.  The route followed the beautiful Carrabasset River for around 40 miles, including a fabulous 7-mile stretch of the Narrow Gauge Trail.   Along this forested trail, many trees are already starting to turn colors.  We can only imagine how glorious the colors will be in 3-4 weeks.

The upper stretch of the Carrabasset has very little water this time of year.  The low water reveals a very dramatic stream bed; the river must be a wild maelstrom during the spring thaw.

My lunch stop in the town of Kingsfield continued our culinary taste of New England.  This was some of the best clam chowder I’ve ever had.

Continuing along the Carrabasset, the scenery continued to dazzle.    Just before Skowhegan, the route turned to follow Maine’s largest river, the Kennebec.After Skowhegan, I climbed out of the Kennebec watershed to my rendezvous with Wendy at our Canaan campground.

Tomorrow, we will ride to Holden, around 50 hilly miles further east.

Even as we continued our tour today, we were aware that the Bay Area, especially the GGNRA, was dealing with the fallout of the alt right event-that-wasn’t.  It’s sickening that these people can cause so much stress and expense. Trump has enabled and encouraged these fringe groups to seek their 15 minutes of fame by creating confrontations around the country.  We were thrilled to read of all of the creative counter-demonstrations that would have greeted the white-supremacists and neo-Nazis, had they held their pathetic little event.

Meanwhile, while we’ve been enjoying this trip, we’ve let some things slip on the financial front. Imagine our shock when this text showed up on my phone yesterday:

“WARNING:IRS is filling lawsuit against you, for more information call on +1-4752192363 on urgent basis otherwise your arrest warrant will be forwarded to your local police department and your properties, social benefits and bank accounts will be frozen by the government.”

Naturally, we immediately called the number and provided all of our financial information, so that we don’t end up in jail. Close call.

(P.S.  The above was provided merely for your enjoyment – we haven’t done anything to compromise our financial information.)

 

Wendy writing:

With crossing the border back into the United States, we are back to the English language, Google Maps giving instructions in miles, and American money (no need to worry about spending down our cash before leaving the country).

And happily, we have already been enjoying Maine lobster! “Lazy” lobster (already out of its shell), lobster bisque, and while Howard was enjoying his clam chowder, I had a huge and delicious lobster roll. Yum!

We also are enjoying cooler weather – wearing long pants and jackets at night and extra layers for cycling – AND there are virtually NO MOSQUITOES! I am writing this blog sitting at our campsite picnic table after weeks of the insects driving us into our trailer. This is just in time, as we were really becoming weary of the biting insects. In La Patrie, the mosquitoes and no-see-ums were insane; even using insect repellent with DEET, I ended up with 12 mosquito bites along my hairline on my forehead alone and many more bites elsewhere. Due to the intense itching, Howard and I have been taking an antihistamine the last couple of nights in order to sleep. Nice to have at least a temporary reprieve…

After crossing the border, it was amazing to see the scenery change immediately to very dense conifer and hardwood forests. Any area that has not been cleared for buildings, roads, or trails is virtually impassable. Moose caution signs are frequently posted along the road.It’s hard to imagine how bull moose with five foot wide antlers can move through these dense forests; someone told us today that they have to turn their head so that their antlers are vertically positioned. On the Appalachian Trail portion that we hiked, the forest had only one spot where we could see any long views.

Maine is gorgeous. Too bad that we can’t stay to see the fall color in its full glory, but one of us has to teach on September 23…

Canoeing is big in Maine – it would be a lovely place to canoe, lake to lake, and on rivers. It’s been great to see rivers running clear and clear lakes.

A new sound to add to my cycling time: gunshots. I heard gunshots in two different areas today. These were likely to be target practice (not my favorite sound, to say the least). “No Hunting” signs are posted along the road. Through the forest in this photo is our campground.

Atlantic Ocean and Bar Harbor, Maine – here we come! Two more cycling days with perfect sunny weather and temperatures in the low 70’s in the forecast – we have been so lucky with weather!

August 28, 2017 Bar Harbor, Maine

Howard and Wendy writing:

Our long and wondrous coast-to-coast journey is over! We arrived in Bar Harbor in the afternoon – in perfect weather –and ended the trip with a tearful embrace and kiss. We are elated, and glowing from having completed this epic odyssey. 

In a few days, we will add a post that covers the concluding days of our tour.

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