Thursday, October 29, 2015

End of the Trip: Two More Weeks in Maine, Two Families to Visit on the Way Home

After four weeks of canoeing on tidewater, we wrapped up our time in Maine with a week each at two more cabins, each on a freshwater lake.  Both were new to us.  The first was the Pink Cottage on Lake Damariscotta, and pink it certainly was.  It was also charming.  It looked east across a lawn to the lake, and came with two canoes and two kayaks.  After spins in both canoes, we decided on our favorite and had a fun week exploring the lake.

It was three miles from the Pink Cottage to the south end of Lake Damariscotta, a trip we did twice, but 9 or 10 miles to the north end, a destination we did not attempt.  However, there were many fine places to paddle by, and on weekdays in mid-September it was basically a private lake for us, almost devoid of signs of other people except for the cabins that poked through the trees or across meadows, always so very quiet.  One day we spotted a beaver lodge built at the water's edge, and as we drifted closer the beaver saw us coming and dove for the water from the hillside above where he must have been gnawing away at a tree.  It all happened so swiftly, it was as if a furry bowling ball had come rolling downhill and plunged under the water.  The camera had no time to come out of its dry bag, let alone get pointed or focused.  Sad to say, all our photos are quite still, as was the lake.

The cabin was 7 hilly miles from the nearest supermarket, a logistical challenge that Ellen, the owner of the Pink Cottage, solved quite simply.  On the day we were set to arrive, we biked from our prior cabin to the supermarket and spent an hour shopping and fretting whether we had every meal covered for the coming week.  Then Ellen met us at the store, put all our groceries and our panniers and rack trunk in her car, and sent us off on a very lightweight tandem to the cabin.  Meanwhile, she dropped by her house nearby and picked fresh tomatoes and zucchini for us.  With our slimmed-down bike and help from a light tailwind, we made it to the cabin before Ellen did, quite to her surprise.  She came by two or three times more during the week to see if we needed anything, once bringing a few items we decided we needed to fill out the week's menus, and even drove us up to a marvelous lookout high above the lake one afternoon.  Wow, what service!  Next time we see ourselves going to Maine, the Pink Cottage will be one of our destinations!

Getting to our final cabin was even more challenging than the Pink Cottage, thanks to a little goof last Spring when we reserved it.  Almost all cabins in Maine rent Saturday to Saturday in the Summer, but as Fall approaches many owners are glad to get any rental at all and will rent for less than a week or with other starting days.  The owner of our last cabin agreed to a Wednesday to Wednesday rental, since we knew we could not make it 100 miles from Lake Damariscotta to Lake Arrowhead in one day of biking.  A few days later he got back to us, apologizing that he had missed seeing a prior reservation starting on the Saturday in the middle of our time period.

To make it work out, he offered to pay something toward a car rental so we could do the transfer in one day and go Saturday to Saturday.  As it turned out, one-way car rentals get pretty pricey, so we opted instead for a 40-mile bike ride and a 60-mile taxi ride to do the transfer.  We lucked out once again on the weather and had a pleasant ride from the Pink Cottage to the city of Brunswick ME, where we once again did a week's grocery shopping, then posed the bike, our bike bags and our groceries for a photo.  A call to the taxi company (with whom we had been in touch a few days earlier) brought us a very pleasant driver who somehow managed to get us, our bike and all those bags into the taxi!


Luckily we were getting better at estimating our food needs, and we never had to do the 16-mile r/t ride to the nearest supermarket.  We had another very quiet week on the lake, the biggest excitement of which was that lunar eclipse of the so-called "Super Moon."

We had spent a week on Lake Arrowhead two years earlier, but in a larger cabin since we had our Ithaca family joining us for most of that week.  We had quite loved the lake, and were able to find a smaller cabin for this time that worked out perfectly.  It was the very end of September and the first few days of October, but our first impression was that much of the foliage was still quite green.

It's a terrific lake to explore, full of nooks and crannies.  On one of our paddles we once again came across a bald eagle who sat still high in a pine tree long enough to have his portrait taken.

Meanwhile the color was indeed starting to explode in a few places around the lake, particularly as the week progressed and the cold nights (in the 40s) did their thing.  We were at last able to say that we had gotten a good taste of New England's famous fall foliage.

It wasn't exactly winter coming on, but it was time to head home.  Jeff had heard from Berwick Academy in South Berwick Maine, where he taught for 3 years in the 1970s, that there would be a student and alumni event on October 3.  As it happened, that was the day we had planned to leave from Lake Arrowhead, and he had booked us into the Academy Street B&B in South Berwick.  We stopped by campus for a bit, then went to have lunch.  Jeff headed back alone after lunch to enjoy some more memories when he spotted a group of folks his age -- ah, perhaps some alums?  As he approached the group, one of them looked at Jeff and almost instantly said "Mr. Davis .  .  .  ?"  Wow, to be recognized forty years later by a student whose name Jeff remembered when he spotted the fellow's name tag, though the face did not bring back any memories, pleasant or otherwise.  Jeff had in fact stumbled into a tour for alums and spent the next hour poking about the old place.  He remembered much about the building, but again the memory bank could not quite dredge up a recollection of which classroom had been his domain for those three years.  Guess that part of the cranial disk had to be erased to make room for something else.

In three days of biking we covered the 100 miles from Lake Arrowhead to Gloucester MA, where the biking was to end.  The weather was cool and dry, the winds stayed mostly at our backs, but we had yet another broken spoke, the sixth of the Summer.  The folks at R&E are already planning on rebuilding the wheel as soon as we get back to Seattle.  In Gloucester we dropped our panniers at the hotel and enjoyed two rides to admire the waves  and an incredibly long breakwater next to the Eastern Point Light before getting to the business of disassembling the bike.  The empty suitcases for the tandem had been shipped to the Vista Motel a few days earlier by our friends at the Back River Marina in Georgetown ME, and were ready and waiting for us. 

We packed up the bike, this time with everything we didn't need for the coming week added to the suitcases until they in effect said 'no more,' since this time they were not flying with us and there was no 50-pound weight limit.  We rolled them 3 blocks away to a FedEx office and waved goodbye to good ole' Little Red.  The next morning we took a taxi to the MBTA commuter train, which brought us to Boston North Station.  A short walk following the Freedom Trail took us to South Station and an Amtrak train to Rochester NY.  The next morning we walked from our hotel to the nearby home of Susan B. Anthony, and had a wonderful tour.  (She spent most of her adult life in the central house in this group of three homes in the Susan B. Anthony Historic District).

Later that day we took the bus to Ithaca NY, home to Louise's daughter Lisa, husband Ray, and our two oldest grandkids Elise and Issei.  It was so good to see them again!  It was the three-day Columbus Day weekend, and we headed over to Watkins Glen for a hike, but first got sidetracked in the playground where Issei did a little time as Spiderman and Elise, then her mom and finally Dad as Bat Girl and Family.

Of course we were really there to hike the gorge, and it did not disappoint.  It was a terrific visit, particularly the part where you walk behind not one but two waterfalls!

Tuesday morning everyone else got back to the reality of going to work or school, and we hopped on a bus to the Syracuse Airport for a flight to LA to see Louise's son Brian and family.  We caught up with family news, but for Brian and wife Ardy it was largely 'same old, same old.'  Now the grandkids are another matter -- at this age, when you don't see them for 5 months you come back to different kids!  Cedro was now in kindergarten and maturing quickly into a well rounded kid.  Little sister Draelen was now walking confidently -- she was just learning to stand for a few seconds when we saw her last -- and we got to spend more time with her since she's not yet in daycare.  We had a warm one the one day we had her all to ourselves for the day, and headed over to the air conditioned mall nearby to give her a chance to play in the toddler area.  Another afternoon we went to the park with both kids, and Cedro had a blast playing with his best friend Aiden.

After twenty weeks on the road, it was finally time to head home.  And what was waiting for us in the pile of mail in Seattle?  Guidebooks for next summer's trip, back in Europe!!!  Yes, folks, we're so enchanted with the quality of the bike infrastructure in Holland and Germany that we've already got our next trip roughed out, across Holland from Rotterdam to the NE corner, next across northern Germany to the River Elbe, and then up the Elbe and Moldau to Prague.  There's still plenty of planning to do to fine-tune things, particularly what we do both before and after that part of the trip, so it will be a busy Winter.

We'll close this year's blog with a poignant look back at an incident we haven't yet talked about, and forward to an event next February.  Six weeks ago we were biking from cabin #1 in Georgetown ME to cabin #2 in Boothbay Harbor.  We stopped for lunch in Wiscasset at a restaurant next to the bridge.  As we sat at our table in our, as usual, matching red jerseys, a thirty-something fellow came over and asked if that was our red tandem parked outside the restaurant.  Yes.  Oh, then you are the couple we saw today while driving down Route 1.  My wife and I have been talking about you and wondering about where you're coming from and headed to.  Five or ten minutes later our new friend headed back to rejoin his wife.

Our meal came, and then it was time to pay.  Oh, no bill, said our waitress.  A fellow in the bar paid it for you.  Really?   Jeff went over to thank him, and got out-thanked by both the fellow and his wife, who said they now had a vision of retirement that was one heck of a lot more exciting than the one they had when they got up that morning.  Wow, what do you say to that?

Well, we want to keep passing on our passion, so next February 11 we will be giving another of our presentations, to the Cascade Bike Club, Seattle's (and America's) largest bike club.  Part of it will of course be about this summer's trip, but an equally large part of the talk will be passing on the tricks we've learned about how to do trips like this -- how to plan a route, find a bike guide or bike map, plan lodging and meals, etc. etc.  Who knows, maybe some day we'll be having lunch in a cafe in Europe and get treated to lunch by someone we encounter next February.

Thank you, dear readers, for following along with us on this Summer's adventure.  Maybe biking the rivers of Europe is not precisely your dream, but we hope we've awakened some dreaming out there, and at least entertained you in the process.

See you next Summer!  And Happy Trails until we meet again.