Two days before we reached Bar Harbor, we cycled 51 miles from Canaan to Holden, Maine. Before we left the campground in Holden, we struck up a conversation with a man and his high school senior daughter, who lived just 10 miles away in Skowhegan. The girl, especially, was fascinated by the idea that we had seen so much of the country by bicycle. When she heard we had lived in Central American for a brief time, she really lit up. She told us that that she had been studying Spanish, and hoped to learn several more languages and travel to many countries. We continued the conversation in our limited Spanish. I think our story may have inspired this girl to follow her dream of seeing the world.
In one of those villages, Etna, I had my one and only negative encounter with a dog. Before the trip, I had been warned that I would probably be threatened a few times by dogs on country roads across the country. Now, just two days before reaching the destination, I found myself trying to speed away from a snarling pitbull that had raced out from behind the hedge of a ramshackle house on a small road. I was screaming “Get the f**k out of here” and preparing to unclip my right foot to kick the dog in the head when the dog – by now in reach of my right ankle – finally peeled off. Just beyond this encounter, a man in a house across the road who had witnessed the scene, said in a deadpan Maine accent, “Yep, that‘s a mean one, that dog is.”
Our camping neighbors in Holden were a family from near Springfield, Massachusetts. They were in Maine for the start of the college sophomore year of one of their daughters. The parents, Mike and Gina – wonderful folks – were very excited by our journey. Gina said that if they didn’t have to return home the next day, they would have driven to Bar Harbor to witness our arrival there. We were very touched by that. Mike told us that he had voted for Trump because he didn’t trust Hillary and thought Trump would bring a different skill set as a businessman that the country needed. He said that he was now embarrassed to have supported Trump, because he thinks that Trump has not only not accomplished anything of value, but that his tweets reflect an unbalanced personality.
The next day, August 28 – our 62nd and final cycling day – was not a stellar one from a cycling standpoint. The route was along Route 1A/3, which handles all of the traffic into and out of the Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, and the surrounding areas. The constant traffic, including a high volume of trucks, did not make for very pleasant cycling. But, once the coastline came into view, the enjoyment of the scenery overcame the poor cycling conditions. It was exciting to see the road signs count down the miles to Bar Harbor.
Wendy had cycled out a short distance to start the final day and then met me in the town of Trenton for the final 11 miles of cycling to our destination in Bar Harbor. We could not have ordered up a more picture-perfect day – brilliant sunshine, light winds. I had an image of the hopes and well wishes of our parents (living and dead), our family, our friends, and the acquaintances we had made on the trip surrounding us as we rode on this final day. Our anticipation grew with every mile. Finally, we hit the waterfront of Bar Harbor and rolled down a ramp to the water’s edge – our journey was over. We were both overcome with the emotions that had been gaining intensity in the final week.The lobster blowout dinner would come the next night, but that night we celebrated our accomplishment at our campsite in Acadia National Park with a dinner of grilled scallops. We lingered around the campfire over a 16 year-old bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that had been given to me as a retirement gift by an NPS colleague, with instructions that it be opened only for a very special occasion. This was truly that occasion.
I will admit to feeling a bit adrift at the moment – I don’t think it’s possible to have an intense experience like this trip has been without feeling regret that it’s over. I know there will be dreams aplenty ahead; for now I just want to savor the memories of this dream come true.
Wow – our last blog post and the ending of an amazing coast-to-coast journey across North America!
A few highlights from the last two days of cycling:
We really enjoyed meeting the farmer at a farm stand stop where we bought freshly picked corn, summer squash, chicken eggs of beautiful varying colors, and maple syrup from their trees. What a different lifestyle the farmer and his wife have, with their crops and farm animals. Oh, how I wish that I had videoed the farmer calling his pigs with a high-pitched “pig, pig, pig, pig, pig,” and the three pigs galloping out to the fence.
As we approached Bar Harbor, lobsters were plentiful and available seemingly everywhere. We got more than our fill of lobster – and blueberry pies – over the two layover days in Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.
Because cycling across the continent was at the top of Howard’s retirement bucket list, this trip happened at this particular time. Given the current divisions in our country, it could not have been a better time to cross the country and reach across the divide. I was so surprised to see how much of the country is rural – and that even in fairly large rural towns, the streets are often unpaved. Hearing from people about the unemployment in their towns really brought home how people in rural areas also need to be heard and have their needs addressed. The people on “the other side” whom we met helped humanize for us those who voted for Trump (and, as we’ve said, they are warm, nice, and welcoming people) and we hope that we humanized San Francisco Liberals for them (and that we are warm, nice, and welcoming people). It’s clear that we have much more in common than what divides us. I am more optimistic about our country having traveled across it and met so many Americans, and feel/hope that the United States will find its way to create jobs for rural and urban areas alike, take care of the environment and planet, and value all Americans.
It’s been a fabulous ride!
Here are some stats and closing thoughts about this journey:
By the Numbers
Miles: 3902.8 Howard; 1757 Wendy
Elevation gain (total): 87,000 feet
Cycling days: 62
Total days: 86
States crossed: 8
Provinces crossed: 2
Flat tires: 1 (central Oregon)
Tires worn out: 3
Crashes: 1 (Ontario)
Specific warnings about cyclists being attacked by grizzly bears in Wyoming: 4
Attacks by bears: 0
Snarling dogs: 1 (Etna, Maine)
Seriously scary moments: 1 (being blown downhill at 45 mph by storm winds, Wyoming)
Ticks removed: 6
Mosquito and “no-see-um” bites: Hundreds
Best roads: Oregon; Runners up: Tie – Idaho, Wyoming
Best supporting meteorological phenomenon: Winds out of the west
Best beer: Woodshop Series IPA #3, Lost Cabin Brewing Company, Rapid City, SD
Best dessert: Tie – Sue Adam’s blueberry pie, Agathe Ratelle’s blueberry tart
Best cycling day: Day 15, Victor, Idaho to Grand Teton National Park
Other great days: Too numerous to mention
Worst cycling segment: Tie – Leaving Idaho Falls, Idaho; Eastern suburbs of Toronto
Most considerate drivers: Almost 100% of them
Value of lost cycling items: $475 (helmet; rain jacket)
Cost of inferior replacements of lost items: $143
Coziest camping night: Reed, Wendy, and Howard sleeping in one bed in the trailer, Ketchum, ID
Coolest campsite: Camping alone on a promontory overlooking Poison Creek, near Shoshoni, Wyoming, with Reed and Amanda
Crappiest campsite: Clearmont, WY (dirt patch, no restroom, no water)
Biggest surprise to Howard: Clarity of the water in the Great Lakes
Biggest surprise to Wendy: How the great majority of the North American continent is rural
Best bike touring enhancement: Rail Trails
Biggest investment in cycling infrastructure by a state: Minnesota
Best infrastructure, city: Tie – Minneapolis and Montreal
Coolest city on route: Montreal
And finally and most importantly, we want to conclude the blog with an expression of the gratitude that fills our hearts. Thank you …
To our family and circle of dear friends for their support and encouragement.
To Cass and Nan (Stanley, ID); Martha (Rapid City, SD); Ken and Janet (Minneapolis, MN); Agathe et Michel (Montreal, QC) for graciously taking us into your homes.
To Greg, Reed, Amanda, Doug, Mark, Sue, and Tom for traveling parts of this journey with us.
To the many people we met who who shared their feelings and viewpoints with us freely and openly.
To the dozens of strangers who offered prayers for our safety.
To Reed for connecting Howard with his beloved Canyon Bike.
To Drew for managing our affairs back home and making huge improvements to the look of our blog.
To Sara and Drew for thrilling us with the news of their engagement.
We’re also very grateful for our good health and that we have the means and ability to pull off this wonderful trip.
From Wendy to Howard:
Thank you to my sweet Howard for the inspiration for this trip. You made all those miles look so easy – what an amazing adventure, and what memories we have made and will enjoy for years to come.
And, finally, from Howard to Wendy:
From deep within my heart, thank you to my partner, my love, my Wendy. Thank you for everything you did to create the countless shared moments that made this the trip of a lifetime.