After foggy trails early morning the ride took a distinctly urban/suburban turn as I traveled through the outskirts of Manchester and into Hartford, Connecticut before climbing through country roads to the small town of Morris. An undulating gravel and road descent brought me to the final big climb of the day over Pleasant Ridge and then down into Poughkeepsie. In between there were wooded valleys, posh private schools and plenty of beautiful houses.
For the past week everyone has been talking about Hurricane Florence and it has now parked itself over North Carolina and is causing flooding, evacuations and 14 deaths so far.
The evening was spent at Tavern 23 where shots were drunk and not a lot of detail was remembered, although I'm pretty sure that we decided that Poughkeepsie was the best town in America.
Three states today, starting in New Hampshire, crossing Massachusetts and ending in Connecticut. A foggy morning through old mill towns before hitting a trail, the difference in the trails perhaps representative of the difference between Northern Maine and Massachusetts. Dirt trails and off-roading pensioners in Maine and tidy tarmac trails with mums in lycra jogging behind baby buggies in Massachusetts.
The afternoon was pleasant but uneventful. The homesteads in the woods here have Audi's, labradors and speed bumps for the kids rather than angry dogs and pickup trucks.
The evening was spent in the small town of South Coventry listening to a local blues/rock band at The Bidwell Tavern.
The ride started with some fairly industrial scenery as I went through Southern Maine, crossing into New Hampshire after lunch. Today was mostly on the road but a few miles of gravel helped break up the morning.
Southern Maine and New Hampshire seem more affluent and less rugged than Northern Maine. They do have lovely trees though. The countryside is not wholly dissimilar from that of England but interspersed with strip malls and houses that look (to English eyes) like huge garden sheds. Even the mansions are huge garden sheds with towers and Roman columns. Wood is pretty entrenched in the building market and culture.
Drinks were at the Windham Restaurant with a lively bunch of theme park owners, financial advisers and electoral officials.
Much of the conversation was dominated, understandably, by a series of fires and explosions in a town nearby caused by the gas supply. The problem apparently leapfrogged through the gas system causing buildings to spontaneously ignite or explode. Scary stuff.
There have been primary elections going on recently and dismay was shared about the low turnout in the election, only around 3,000 of the 22,000 registered voters in the town having voted. To be honest, I'm not sure how much turnout we would get in the UK if we were required to turn out as often as the American people are with the primaries, mid-terms, elections for local officials etc.
We also discussed immigration and of course, the Queen. It's a really nice bar with a bunch of local regulars who enjoy a good discussion.
Rain, rain, rain.
In the bar, Jeff said that there would be lot's of places I'd want to stop today but this morning it was head down into the rain and keep moving as it absolutely pissed down. The stop at Moody's Diner was much appreciated as was the conversation with a lovely couple who quit their jobs to become sheep farmers in Vermont. We discussed poverty in coastal Maine which seems to have some similar economic problems to coastal towns in NE England.
It cleared up in the afternoon and it was all quiet country roads and little homesteads in the woods. And then Komoot threw me a curveball (as it sometimes does if you set it to touring mode) and sent me down a country lane which became a dirt track which turned into a rocky creek bed. A certain amount of cursing, bike carrying and a slight falling off a bridge ensued.
The rest of the ride was uneventful but pretty as the route wound across the inlets that cut into the coast in these parts.
Drinks were at Gritty McDuff's Freeport Brew Pub in Freeport, a town which seems to have found an economic purpose as a regional retail outlet hub. A sports focused evening of conversation covered the state of American news media, American sports, marathon running and Tottenham Hotspur.
The fact that all the bars in Lubec close at 8pm in the off season facilitated an early sleep and an early morning start so by 10.30 I found myself sitting in a rocking chair listening to the sounds of wind chimes outside the (sadly closed) Columbia Falls General Store with the first 50 miles already done.
The morning had been spent first on small, quiet roads hugging the coast but as 9.00 approached and traffic increased my route conveniently took me off the roads and onto gravel tracks.
Most of the rest of the day was spent on such tracks and some of them were pretty sandy and draggy but the increased rolling resistance was more than made up for by the lack of traffic (apart from grannies on ATVs) beautiful countryside and deer and squirrels darting across the trails.
And yes, grannies on ATVs were a feature of the day. Rather than trundling to Tesco on their mobility scooters the pensioners of Maine like nothing more than bombing off into the woods on their ATVs it seems. God bless America.
The villages and small towns held a combination of immaculate little houses and abandoned and sometimes burned out properties and closed down shops and restaurants, suggesting that all is not well with the economy in this part of Maine.
The evening bar plans were somewhat hampered by the fact that, as in Lubec, all the bars in Bucksport close at 8pm. I may need to replan the route taking more careful note of bar opening hours! Nevertheless, despite the short time available I managed to have an interesting chat with Tony whilst at the bar at McLeod's Restaurant. Tony is a musician so we talked about the music scene in the area as well as American history, great train journeys and travels around America and the world.
Before the ride starts, a few notes on getting to West Quoddy Lighthouse in case anyone is considering a similar ride.
West Quoddy Lighthouse is the most northerly point in the US on the East Coast and I wanted to start there and ride to the most southerly point, Key West. I was coming from New York and hired a car and dropped it at Bangor Airport, the nearest place I could drop a rental car (about 100 miles from West Quoddy). You could of course fly to Bangor instead but I wanted to leave my airplane bike bag and luggage with friends in New York so drove.
I then spent the evening in Bangor where I had a splendid evening of sprawling conversation at Paddy Murphy's and later The Waverly. The similarities between teaching and barkeeping, Chinese politics, American healthcare, trout fishing, the end of western civilization and the tactical intricacies of bump pool were amongst the important issues discussed during the night. Many thanks to the good people of Bangor for a fantastic evening and in particular, James.
The next day I took the bus from Bangor Airport to Whiting and then cycled the remaining 13 miles to West Quoddy, ready to start the ride the next day. The bus leaves once a day at 3.15 and gets to Whiting around 5.50. Details here: http://www.westbusservice.com/
If you take this route it's probably worth riding directly to Lubec before checking in if you need to eat as it is the only place nearby with food and everything closes at 8pm. You could also stay at Lubec and then ride out to the lighthouse in the morning to start your ride.