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Monday, 29 October 2012

Cycling the Coast of Maine

Written by Dale Fehringer
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Our tour leader, Brian, was off his bicycle on the trail in front of us and he held up his hand for us to stop.  His head was cocked upwards and he was listening to something in the trees.  “It’s two woodpeckers,” he told us when we pulled up beside him, “they’re calling to each other.”  We could hear them above us; their calls sounded like a series of sharp clicks, almost like two stones hitting together, followed by a high-pitched rattle -- from one tree and then the other.  It was enchanting.  

Maine had been all we had hoped for – gorgeous coastlines, beautiful national parks, friendly people, and scrumptious lobster.  Hearing woodpeckers in the woods was icing on the cake. 

Carriage Roads

Meeting the Group

We met our biking group at the Claremont Hotel, a historic bed-and-breakfast in the quiet Maine coastal village of Southwest Harbor.  Our tour leaders, Tom and Brian, had arranged a dinner during which we introduced ourselves and talked about traveling and cycling.  After the meal, we received an overview of the tour, and then trundled upstairs to bed, excited and nervous about the next day’s ride.

Swan’s Island

The morning broke clear and cool for our first day of cycling.  Tom and Brian fitted us to our bikes and we cycled to the harbor where we took our bikes onto a ferry for Swan’s Island.  

Swan's Island is an historic lobstering and fishing island with a year-around population of about 350.  We cycled around most of the island, taking in fabulous views of the rugged coastline and visiting Hockamock Point Lighthouse and Burntcoat Harbor.  Brian prepared a delicious lunch, after which we visited Saturn Press, a small printing company where greeting cards are made the old fashioned way on four antique printing presses. 

Saturn Press operates in an Arts and Crafts style building the owners, Jim and Jane, designed and built themselves.  Their cards are beautiful with striking images and they do it all without the conveniences of modern technology, not even a computer. Although Jane and Jim say they “didn’t mean to be green.” Isolation and hardship forced them to adopt efficient methods a long time ago, and it’s now a natural part of the way they do business.

It was great to see an old-fashioned  business thriving in today’s instant-communication world, and we left Swan’s Island feeling refreshed. 

Dinner at a Lobster Pound

We had several excellent meals during our tour, but our favorite took place at a lobster pound.  

Lobster Pound

It was raining as we walked from our inn, and we shook off the wet when we arrived.  The restaurant was warm and pungent and wooden picnic tables were lined up in rows, set with paper plates and plastic utensils and bibs.  

The staff brought buckets of steamed clams and mussels, with pitchers of cold beer, and we dug in with gusto.  That was followed by plates heaped with corn-on-the-cob, coleslaw, and whole cooked lobsters.  The lobster was warm, messy, and delicious; we dug all of the rich and savory meat from the shells, relishing every bite.  We devoured the corn, barely taking time to put it down between bites, and not caring where the butter wound up.  And, when we finished, we wolfed down slices of the best blueberry pie ever! 

The short walk back to the inn was a happy one.  It had been a delightful evening, and we were full of lobster and filled with good cheer.


Cycling on Carriage Roads

We spent two days cycling Acadia National Park, including Sargent's Drive, the Loop Road, and the famed carriage roads.

There are 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park, a gift from philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family.  Rockefeller wanted to travel Mount Desert Island via horse and carriage, so he poured some of his fortune into building a series of private roads and bridges to contend with Maine’s wet weather. Rockefeller had workers align the roads to take advantage of scenic views and grade them so they were not too steep or sharply curved for horse-drawn carriages, which also is a benefit for cyclists. 

Tom and Brian took turns riding with us; telling us stories and pointing out sights most people wouldn’t  see.  We enjoyed views of spruce and fir trees that sit atop dark granite ledges, and rugged hillsides that tumble to the sea, surrounded by blooming flowers and fluttering butterflies.  We watched men in small fishing boats harvest lobsters, and heard the ocean boom as it shook the cliffs at Thunder Hole. We then had lunch at beautiful Jordan Pond and enjoyed extraordinary views and savory popovers 

Jordan Pond

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012
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