Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Perils of Not Riding Your Bike

The good news is that no bones were broken and it looks like Louise will be very sore for a while but probably fully recover in time.  The bad news is that Louise was hit by the right-side mirror of a large pickup truck, a Chevy Silverado (not actually the one below, but darned similar), passing at 30-40 mph.  While she was not riding our bike.

We had come to a steep rise on a back road, perhaps an 8-10% grade.  We dismounted and started walking.  Since it was only a quarter mile and there was more space to get off the road on that side, we stayed on the right side of the road.  Visibility was good as the road was straight for a ways back.  Several cars moved all the way across the road to pass us.

Jeff usually walks faster pushing the bike up a hill then stops to wipe the sweat off while waiting for Louise, and that's what happened this time.  He had just stopped at a driveway so they could remount from a point off the road when he noticed a pickup pull over behind him and the driver jump out and run backwards.  As he looked back, Louise was on the ground, about halfway between the pickup and the clump of trees in the photo.  His heart was in his throat.

Louise was stunned and in pain, and shocked that she had been hit.  She had looked back at 3 or 4 cars coming from behind, and all had passed her far across the road.  With cars having a straight view of her bright red jersey, it never occurred to her that a driver wouldn't see her.

Unfortunately, a friend of the pickup driver had recently painted a barn that's just off camera to the left in that picture.  The driver focused on looking at the barn and tuned out Louise as she walked along, one foot on the edge of the pavement, one foot on the uneven gravel, and struck her back just below the left shoulder blade with his mirror.  It broke the mirror.  This photo is from an online car parts distributor, but it gives you a good idea of what hit her.

Apart from whacking Louise, the driver has been great, and his genuine concern for Louise has definitely helped the healing process.  He ran back to assist her, he whipped out his driver's license and insurance card for Jeff, and when Louise said she didn't need an ambulance he helped Jeff load the bike and bags into the pickup and drove us to the resort motel we were headed to.  On the way we looked wistfully at the long downhill on the back road and the wide shoulder on the next road we would have taken.

At the motel we put our things in a storeroom, switched from drenched bike clothes (it had rained lightly earlier) to dry off-the-bike outfits. The pickup driver then brought us to the hospital two miles from the resort motel.  While we were at the hospital Jeff received a call from a state trooper -- the driver had already reported the accident.  The next morning we got a call from Progressive Insurance -- the driver had taken care of that too.

As for Louise, the x-rays show no fractures, though they can't rule out the possibility of a hair-line fracture too small to show up.  Either way, however, the treatment is the same, ibuprofen plus lidocaine-soaked pads that attach to her back over the point of impact, and take it easy for a while.  For an Energizer Bunny like Louise that is hard, but pain has a way of grabbing one's attention, and it has been holding hers pretty well.

Her biggest problem, besides the pain of course, is the difficulty of taking a deep breath.  Biking is definitely out for the time being, particularly given how hilly it is in northern New England.  Here's a shot we took three days earlier. 

We were lucky in that the day this happened was the day we were to meet up with daughter Lisa plus her husband Ray and grandkids Elise and Issei at the aforementioned resort motel.  They picked us up at the hospital and have provided some much-appreciated grandchild therapy, plus some of Lisa's always great cooking.  And the motel provided us with a local tourist magazine with an amazingly, maybe even creepily prescient ad for the hospital we had just spent two hours at:

The accident was almost a week after we left the coast, so let's take a quick look back at that week before giving you a preview of how we're going to roll with the punch, so to speak.

We eased our transition from the coast to inland with a night at Alamoosook Lakeside Inn.  They have canoes and kayaks for the guests, and we took one paddle before supper, one after, and one the next morning before breakfast!  Here are the inn, a derelict home on an island, and some loons, among other things that delighted us as we paddled away.

 We had chosen an inland route in part to see another bit of Maine, in part to visit three more art museums.  In actuality, we saw little art of interest.  At the University of Maine Museum of Art in Bangor we were actually blown away by one item however, an enormous (4 or 5 feet wide, as we recall) print by Richard Estes entitled "D Train," showing the Brooklyn Bridge from a D-line subway car crossing the nearby Manhattan Bridge.  It was done in 1988, while the twin towers were still standing of course.  His style has been called super-realist, but any New Yorker knows it's a pretty unrealistic "realism" that depicts New York subway cars as having clean windows! 

Our next art museum was the one at Colby College.  Alas, they are in a 15-month building frenzy to put up a new wing, and the bulk of the museum is closed.  The handful of galleries that were open were filled with stuff that, to put it politely, is not "our thing."

Our third visit was to the Bates College Art Museum, and they had all the good stuff either put away or loaned out for the summer!  But the campus was pretty . . .

Something just like this happened to us 2 years ago when we visited Oberlin College, only to find the art museum in the hands of building contractors.  To our surprise a few months later, we bumped into a dozen of their best paintings on loan to a museum in Washington DC during their museum reconstruction, so who knows, maybe as we explore the art world in NYC we'll find the art we missed at Bowdoin, Colby and Bates.

We also encountered four touring cyclists in as many days, the first we've seen this summer.  One woman riding alone got away before we got her photo, but another solo cyclist stopped for her portrait as she headed to the far end of Maine and on to New Brunswick.  Then we caught up with a heavily-laden couple who were on a camping trip.  And we thought we were having trouble with the hills between Bangor and Waterville!  We've done the camping thing, but now it's "been there, done that."  We like staying at B&Bs, like the Fiddlehead Inn in Brewer, just across the Penobscot from Bangor, where owner Marsha gave us a warm welcome.  Not to mention travelling with less than half the luggage that the camping couple had.  Come to think of it, we have less than half the luggage that single cyclist has, too!

So . . .  how are we doing now?

The day following the accident had been planned for family visiting, and it was indeed a restful day watching the grandkids have a blast on Highland Lake.  Elise even filled in for Louise on the canoeing and had fun with her granddad while grandma watched from a chair on the beach, glad for a change that she wasn't paddling.  

The next day Lisa and family squeezed Jeff in between the grandkids and the week's laundry for a 35-mile drive to Portland ME.  They continued on their merry way home to upstate NY and Jeff drove a rental car back to Louise.  We partially disassembled the bike into the trunk of the rental car and plan to spend a week continuing on our itinerary, but by car.  If all goes well we plan to remount the bike 8 days from now.  If Louise is still too sore, we'll drive a few more days, and if that doesn't do the trick we'll drive the rental car right into NYC where we have our one month rental starting on Aug. 31.  Louise is certainly having intermittent pain, but hoping for the best.  It's all you can do.

So we leave you with two lessons learned:

- don't base your actions on what a car will probably do, but what it possibly may do

- and bicycle with traffic (it's the law, and a good one), but walk facing traffic. 

We'll try to update you soon.  In the meantime, if you would like to send your best to Louise, please feel free to write to her at

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Final Week on the Coast

It's been about 40 days since we biked away from Amtrak's South Station in Boston, following the coast up to Acadia National Park.  We have 9 more nights along the coast before our swing inland.

We left Bar Harbor on a passenger ferry that also takes bikes, passing the lonely Egg Island Light as we crossed Frenchman's Bay to Winter Harbor.  Our destination was also that of a cycling group led by the fellow Louise is chatting with, since Schoodic Point, a remote but bike-friendly part of Acadia National Park, is just south of our landing point.  In this photo from our climb up Cadilac Mt. a few days earlier, Schoodic is the narrow peninsula in the distance.  The second photo is a look back at Cadillac from Schoodic Point.

The rocks were quite impressive, and a sign helped explain the unusual streaks, or "dikes," of darker rock adding drama to the scene.  Also worth looking at is the second sign with a diagram of the Gulf of Maine.  We've both been reading "The Secret Life of Lobsters" this week, a well-written and fascinating look at America's favorite crustacean, and it makes a point that the cold Labrador Current circulating around the Gulf of Maine is the principal reason why Maine is by far the friendliest place on the planet for a lobster.


As sometimes happens, we could not find lodging close to a restaurant.  As often happens when that happens, we were able to pick up food at a grocery along the way and have dinner salads for two at our B&B.  It just so happens that Elsa's Inn in Prospect Harbor ME provided the most scenic setting we've yet found for one of our picnic dinners.  Our dinner plates are flat as sheets of paper when stored, then fold origami-like into these shapes at meal time.  BTW, even though we had just passed a statue to the lobster and another to the lobsterman, that's actually canned crab meat topping tonight's repast.

The map shows Acadia National Park and  why Schoodic gets small crowds --  it's 45 miles by car beyond Bar Harbor.  Our next destination was the most remote part of Acadia, the segment that covers about half of Isle Au Haut (pronounced 'aisle a hoe' by the locals), so named because it is the tallest island in that region.  But en route we stopped for a second time at the Surry Inn, near Ellsworth.  The lodging is pretty basic, but the chef is a master as our duck and scallop plates show.  As scrumptious as those dishes were, Jeff says he has never tasted a better chocolate mousse than the  two he devoured here, one on each of our two stays.

It's 75 miles from Schoodic to Stonington, the jumping off spot for Isle Au Haut, which we divided into 20, 20 and 35 mile segments, the first to get much-needed haircuts along the way, the second to have time for a kayak trip in Blue Hill harbor half-way through the day.  It was bouncier out there than the photos reveal, since Jeff was inclined to keep the camera in the dry bag when the waves and chop were heavy.
We also gave ourselves a rest day at The Lookout, yet another large wooden inn along the shore.  This year the dining room was closed except for Tuesday night lobster bakes, which drew a crowd of 2-3 dozen from the area joining us and the one other couple staying at the inn.  And oh! What a feeding frenzy when the lobsters were in front of all the diners!  Problem was, the feeding frenzy was not by the customers but rather of the customers, as something about the smell of the lobsters woke up all the mosquitos from the entire township.  In retrospect (though not at the time we can assure you) it was a comical scene of hands wet from breaking apart lobster claws and slippery from picking up buttered corn on the cob suddenly slapping arms, legs, hair, clothing . . .  All the while of course sending further plumes of mosquito perfume into the air to summon the backup troops to replace the few who were actually slaughtered by the picnickers.

Little did we know in April when we booked it that our August rest day would be wet and gloomy until late in the day, perfect for catching up on the blog and then going for a walk  out to "the point."  A good day not to be biking.  Seeing that the weather made popping into town for meals a challenge, the innkeeper went out of her way to whip us up a nice lunch and supper.
The walk was a good antidote to a day of sitting, and fascinating in its own way.  There were lots of broken shells, which someone fashioned into a large "M" on the boulder that a tree is using as an anchor.  But that is neither broken shells nor snow that Louise is examining, but rather barnacles.  They are a curious animal that selects a hard surface as home (unfortunately for the boat owner sometimes the hull of a ship), then it opens the trap door and sends tongue-like appendages out to feed on passing plankton.  They can survive out of water so long as they get submerged at high tide with enough water and plankton to make a meal of it.  Further along the barnacles were competing with periwinkles for real estate.  The tip of Jeff's shoe gives some scale.

At last we were on our 35-mile jaunt to Stonington.  The town of Brooklin was little more than a road junction: a cafe and Congregational church looking east; the general store (with a second cafe tucked in on the far side) to the west; and the town library facing the junction.  That's the summer annex out front, and a library patron using its free wifi before the library has opened for the day.


Stonington is at the south end of a large island, Deer Isle, and we worried a bit about how we would do crossing the tall suspension bridge over Eggemoggin Reach.  We paused to take the photo and were about to remount the bike when we heard the distant sound of a motor vehicle from behind us.  OK, let's let it pass.  Good call!  It was a huge semi with a half dozen cars and trucks parading behind it!  When it was totally quiet once again we made a run for it and did fine.  Two cars passed us on the climb up to the high point by going completely into the oncoming lane, and a third had only a brief delay behind us as we crested before seeing a similar clear path around us.  Good thing as there was no place to pull over, and it was steep enough that we had to get into the second-lowest of our 27 gears for the last minute of climbing, doing about 6 mph.  We're happy to say that we had even better luck recrossing it three days later, thanks in part to a 15 mph tail wind!

We loved Stonington.  It has a little bit of tourist town draw, but a lot of local color and authenticity.  It lands more pounds of lobster by far than anywhere else in Maine (and, thus, anywhere else in the world), and we took care of four of them at the Harbor Cafe for the amazing price of $16.99 per person for two lobsters and two side dishes!

The next morning we took the mail boat out to Isle Au Haut, with patches of fog, a passing lobster boat and a lighthouse or two adding additional atmosphere. 

National Park Rangers gave us a quick guide to the trails at the landing and set us free, warning us that the trails were steep and rocky in some places and scenic in many, so we should not expect to cover much above 1 mile per hour of exploring.  And so it was.  We'll just turn off the sound for a few photos and let them tell the story.

Many of the rocky outcroppings have cobble beaches between them where chunks of rock get rounded by the surf, creating a fascinating juxtaposition of jagged and straight next to smooth and round.  As we had our picnic lunch on one such point we would hear a large wave occasionally wash in, followed by a high-pitched cacophony of rocks rolling back down with the retreating surf.  We read that a powerful storm can move rocks the size of a loaf of bread a mile or two.

On the way back to the dock we passed some teen volunteers.  In exchange for four weeks of trail building they were going to be treated to a one week adventure trip.  They certainly seemed to know what they were doing and doing it well.
Our return boat was even smaller, but it treated us to a visit past an island covered in seals!

As we approached Stonington we passed an active granite quarry that provided the stone for the JFK memorial, among others. We also got a good view of Stonington harbor.

Those of you who have followed us for a while have seen our fascination with some of Claude Monet's series of paintings, such as those of haystacks or of the cathedral at Rouen, where he paints the same thing at different times of day to capture the changes in mood.  Som off that rubbed of on us in Stonington of all places, so we offer two pairs of photos, first morning vs. late afternoon of a scenic bend in the road, then evening vs. the next morning for the harbor, both times at low tide.  Monet was onto something, wasn't he?

Our second and last day in Stonington was spent ocean canoeing, starting at Old Quarry Ocean

Adventures.  We did an 8-mile or so loop from the black dot to Bold, Camp and Scott islands, among others.  Each time we crossed the deeper channels in white, we had to look far in each direction for lobster boats and cabin cruisers, since either can cover a lot of ground as we plod across their path, like turtles watching cars approach on a highway.
The weather and wind were perfect as we paddled past one little island with Mt. Cadillac in the distance, another with the detritus of an abandoned granite quarry, a third with a first for us, a colorful flower growing in seawater.  Throw in a picnic lunch on a publicly owned island and it's hard to do better than that.

Back at the canoe shop we ran into Chris and Emily, who had been out in their own inflatable kayak.  They live in a flat in Brooklyn NY so needed something that stored small, and they demonstrated for us just how small it got.  We were so impressed we spent an hour later looking at the Innova website, though whether we ever buy one is debatable.  But we had fun dreaming about owning one some day.

Our actualized dream of a summer on the Coast of Maine was about to end.  We rode 41 miles to Bucksport, our last view of saltwater until NYC a few weeks and a few hundred miles from now.  Along the way we saw canoeists and kayakers running the reversing Bagaduce Falls (at high tide the falls run the opposite direction!), and from our motel room in Bucksport we looked wistfully out at Penobscot Narrows, with Fort Knox off to the right.

We'll be headed southwesterly and inland in our next posting.