Thursday, July 31, 2008

Down East

We're now in Durham NH about to start the 2008 Eastern Tandem Rally. We left Concord MA via Louise's home town of Weston, described in our last entry, and stayed with two more tandem couples courtesy of the Hospitality Host program of the Tandem Club of America.

Harry in Lexington MA was temporarily soloing while wife and stoker Gail was out of town. Before leaving for work in the morning he showed us his 'bent bike' (cycling jargon for a recumbent). Check out the length of that chain (he needs 3 standard chains to make the full reach)! Harry is into ultramarathoning when he isn't tandeming, and rode 120 miles each way the previous weekend to visit friends in Connecticut! We don't do that many miles in a week!

Our last hospitality hosts for this trip were Emery and Anne in Marblehead.
They drove us by car on some of their favorite cycling back roads to Ipswich for the best fried clams we've had since our last visit to New England 13 years ago. Not clam strips but whole clams, fat soft bellies and all. They were SOOOOO good we had lunch here a second time a few days later, en route north on our tandem. As with all our other hospitality hosts, it was exciting to exchange stories about our passion for tandem touring with another couple who share that love.

It was also great to be back at the beach once again. From Boston north all the way to Canada, the coast is largely rocky, with relatively short sandy beaches here and there. We again touched the ocean here in Lynn, then rode into rocky Marblehead.
Across the harbor you can see the tower of Town Hall,
which holds one of the most famous images of the American Revolution, the painting called "Yankee Doodle," plus this
imaginative version of Washington crossing a river about 10 times wider than the Delaware (you can check out the actual site in our blog entry called "Whither and Weather").

Next stop was Salem Mass., famous as an early seaport -- symbolized at a federal historic site by this reproduction sailing vessel and by the Custom House behind to the right, where Nathanial Hawthorne worked while writing The Scarlet Letter -- and infamous of course for the witchcraft trials of 1692. On the tacky side were the Witch Museum, the Witch House, and the Witch City Dry Cleaners. It's a close contest whether Salem has more businesses with "Witch" or Key West with "Southernmost." We found about 20 in the Salem phone book that start with "Witch," don't know how many others have "witch" elsewhere in the name.
On the more profound side was this simple memorial to the 19 victims, each one symbolized by a seat
set into the stone wall next to the graveyard. And what a graveyard it was -- here are just two of the more interesting stones. The witchcraft victims of course were not buried here,
for this was "consecrated ground" unfit for such evildoers. BTW, you can click on these or any other pictures in the blog to enlarge them, should you want to see more detail, then hit the back button on your browser to return to the blog.

Our next stop was Gloucester, home port of the Andrea Gale of Perfect Storm fame. Jeff biked to Gloucester several times in the '60s and remembers a grittier town then than now.
Some of the fish packing plants are still there, some have closed, the fishing fleet is almost as decimated as the once-bountiful Grand Banks, and yuppie restaurants are creeping in. Wow, there goes the neighborhood! Our B&B was almost across the street from the famous statue dedicated to those who "go down to the sea in ships." About five years ago it gained a neighbor
dedicated to those who wait behind, perhaps the more profound and certainly the more poignant of the two. We stayed two nights in Gloucester, giving us a chance to do a ride without luggage out to Rockport and one of the most-painted-and-photographed buildings in the country, the shack known locally as "Motif No. 1."
When in Rome ... So here are our two contributions to the world's collection of Motif No. 1 images.
It's alongside Bearskin Neck, a short peninsula jam-packed with restaurants and shops and looking an awful lot like a Japanese shopping street, but with about a half million fewer shoppers.

Heading north we stopped at that great fried clam restaurant in Ipswich after first cruising around town calling out dates to each other -- 1758, 1702, 1714, 1685, 1698, 1661. Ipswich claims to have more buildings predating 1720 than any other in America, and anecdotally that seems quite believable, as we went past several dozen, including the Whipple House of 1677 seen here. We followed this with a tour of the entire coast of New Hampshire, all 18 miles of it, ending in Portsmouth.
A fair amount of it is beach, looking much like many other resort beaches along the Atlantic, but with a lot of French in the air, as this is a favorite summer destination for Les Quebecois. We spent three nights in Portsmouth to fully explore it on foot, and it is indeed a quaint small city
with yet another amazingly old cemetery, streets of 18th century homes,
and views across the Piscataqua River such as this one past a wharf full of lobster traps to the Portsmouth Navy Yard (which is actually in Kittery Maine).

As a sort of small-scale preparation for our coming voyage to New Zealand in September, we took a much smaller boat past the Route 1 bridge and 6 miles out to the Isle of Shoals, a group of half a dozen small islands and a handful of rocky ledges
not quite up to island status. There's an interesting conference center there -- that's the group of white buildings --
an oceanographic research station for Cornell University, and the site of an infamous 19th century murder that Anita Shreve weaves into her novel The Weight of Water. Even before we were half-way out to the Shoals, it was amazing to see how quickly our complex terrestial world of greens, browns, tans and so many other colors, so complex and three-dimensional,
becomes reduced to such a thin gray line on the horizon of a glassy blue world divided in half between sea and sky. We're looking forward already to our first view of Hawaii after 5 days and nights out of sight of land, anticipating the wonder of a return to the familiar world of color and shape.

While in Portsmouth we had two reunions over meals, and how different they were! Jeff taught at nearby Berwick Academy in the mid-70s and fellow-teachers Jim and Diane Dean drove over to Portsmouth for dinner, then the next morning our Ithaca family stopped by for
breakfast at IHOP en route to Ray's mom's house in Maine. One meal involved experimentation with the effect of gravity on food and silverware and other topics of the now, the other with stories of the past both distant and recent -- and we imagine it's not hard to figure out which meal was which. Needless to say, both were great fun.

We still had a few days to kill before the rally, so we headed "Down East," so-called because sailing ships in days of yore followed the prevailing winds and Gulf Stream current northeasterly,
or fought their way "up" if coming back to Boston or points further south. This is the premiere part of the Maine Coast, and it took a bit of research to find affordable nice places to stay, but we succeeded in finding a cozy cottage in Kennebunkport from which we took another easy luggage-less ride up past George H. W. Bush's place on Walker Point, and elsewhere along this scenic coast, then moved on to Parson's Post House, a comfy B&B in the heart of Ogunquit. If you want to find a single town in Maine that has beach, stores, good restaurants, and traffic jams to write home about, this would be it. That glorious beach
running north for a few miles could be reached in a ten-minute walk from our B&B, as well as this rocky outcropping of classic Maine Coast on a walking path that started almost across the street from our place.
We had a delicious seafood dinner at the Old Village Inn one night, a restaurant where Jeff worked in the kitchen one summer 32 years ago, saving up money for graduate school, and another in a Thai restaurant that was to die for. Althogether, we had a great stay in Ogunquit.

We've taken it a little easy the last few days to have enough energy for this tandem rally. We're hoping to ride some 160 miles in the next three days with 120 other tandem teams. We'll write next time to tell you how it went.

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