Quebec City to Boston

 

Fall 2016

 

Denis Kertz, ©2016

 

Day 17: Tue, Sep 20, 2016 - Campbellton, NB to Presque Isle, Maine [41.6, 4:33, 9.1 mph, +2,092’, -2,017']

It was a gloomy morning.  It looked like it had rained overnight and it was misting.  The Super 8 had a real continental breakfast including my favorite, the waffle maker.  I didn't expect to need a huge breakfast but I still loaded up with a waffle, two bowls of cereal, and a couple of mini muffins.  I also enjoyed a new activity on this tour – reading an English newspaper.  I like to read the newspaper along the way to get an idea of the local culture and their problems but that was hard to do when the newspapers were in French.

I checked out of the motel at 8:30 and rode down the main street just a few blocks to the Enterprise building.  When I went inside, the door was locked and wasn't scheduled to open until 9 am.  So I sat on the floor to wait and watched a couple folks come in to use the ATM machines.  I thought it funny that Enterprise would have ATM machines and then I realized I was in a bank.  This bank had the same green color as the Enterprise sign and I just assumed it was the Enterprise building.

So I rode back down the street two buildings and tried that door and it was locked.  Then I saw a guy go in the side door and found that was the Enterprise entrance, which I would have seen had I paid more close attention when riding by the first time.  As I feared, the receptionist said they didn't have my intermediate car but they offered a mini-van for the same price.  I didn't particularly want to drive a mini-van but it did neatly solve how to pack my bike.  That is, once the receptionist showed me how to lay the back row of seats down flat.  I had figured out how to change the back row to face the rear but she had to show me how to lay them down flat.  Then I removed the panniers and laid the bicycle down with one of the second row seats lifted up.  There was plenty of space to fit the panniers in a couple of places.

It was easy to use the Campbellton map from the Information Center to get me on Highway 11 which merged right into Highway 17 that went all the way to St. Leonard.  There was some misting initially and there were several Moose warning signs and a bunch more later warning about moose crossings.

As I expected, the scenery wasn't much, mostly a road cut through trees.  Between Kedgwick and Saint Quentin there were some farm fields that made the scenery more interesting and then the scenery reverted back after passing through Saint Quentin.

Some how I had thought the distance to St. Leonard was about 150 miles but it was only 100 miles and that didn't take long to cover, even at the 90 kph speed limit.  Just outside St. Leonard I stopped at a Tim Horton's for a break and then I took CA2 south to Grand Falls.  It would have been a pain to find the Enterprise location but I had created a waypoint on my GPS that got me to the place with no hassle.  However, I had to roam around to find a place to fill the fuel tank and then the GPS saved me again by getting me back to the Enterprise location.

One convenient thing about the rental car was I gave the receptionist all of my Canadian money and paid the rest with my credit card.  This conveniently solved the problem of what to do with my Canadian money.  From there it was maybe a 5 km ride to the border station.  Based on three past border experiences when re-entering the US from Canada, I expected just a few questions along with showing my passport and I would be on my way.

Not this time.  After showing my passport and answering a few questions, I was asked to pull around the corner and I assumed they wanted to check my panniers so I brought my bike into the building.  That was probably a mistake.  They wanted me to fill out a customs form which I had never done before when re-entering with my bike.  Then the guy inspected all 4 of my panniers and made somewhat of a mess with the packing.  Had I left the bike outside they might have left the bike alone.

Anyway, I dropped the rental car off at noon and I was through customs just before noon.  Pretty amazing timing.  All made possible because New Brunswick's time was an hour ahead of Maine.

Once on my way I picked up US1A south for about 10 miles and then 89 west for another 10 miles to Caribou, which was my planned destination.  I stopped at a food mart on US1A and enjoyed another find – cinnamon bear claws – the first of the trip.  Then when I went outside to enjoy my treat I discovered my sunglasses were missing.  I retraced my route through the food mart a couple of times but couldn't find them.  I finally explained what I was looking for and a search party began.  The cashier quickly found them on the shelf by the cinnamon bear claws.

At first I figured I must have been so excited by my find that I just misplaced the sunglasses but later I realized what most likely happened.  I realized as I was going to pay that I didn't have any money in my wallet since I had given up all of my Canadian money to partially pay for the rental car.  However, when I left Chicago, I stashed my US$ in a pouch in my shoulder bag, knowing I would need US$ again.  To get my US$ I needed both hands and I must have had my sunglasses in one hand and just laid them down on the shelf to get my money out of my pouch and forgot to retrieve my sunglasses.

Riding down US1A it was obvious this was an agricultural area.  Eventually I remembered that potatoes were a big crop in this area and I figured that's what a lot of the fields were.  The scenery was fairly interesting with these brown potato fields and the yellow wheat fields.

The border customs agent had warned me about a huge hill but I suggested there wouldn't likely be anything like the north shore of the Gaspésie and there wasn't.  There was some headwind but that wasn't too bad and helped to keep me cool.

When I got to Caribou it was only 2:30 so I decided I should continue on to Presque Isle, which turned out to be only another 11 miles.  I made one more snack break where I met a guy who saw me riding past and doubled back to find out where I was riding to.  He was just interested because he thought that might be something he would want to do some day.

As I neared Presque Isle there were some rain drops.  I recalled the forecast suggested there could be some late afternoon rain and this was it.  I put on my rain jacket as a precaution and the rain started its tease – rain a few drops, stop, rain a little more, etc.  Then I reached town and it gradually started raining harder.  I was also looking for motels.  I had scouted out Caribou ahead of time but not Presque Isle because I didn't expect to make it that far.  I saw a Hampton Inn and know I wasn't interested in that but nothing showed up.  I kept riding and kept looking and at the southern edge of town there was an inn/convention center and I was pretty sure I didn't want that.  Then just as I was resigned to an expensive motel, while riding in a fairly hard rain, there was a budget motel that advertised $60 rooms.

I had to settle for a room on the second floor which was inconvenient but they honored my AARP discount so with tax the room was $60.  Rather than try to carry my bike up to the second floor I carried the panniers up separately and then the bike and that turned out okay.

After cleaning up I walked about half a mile back to town to find food.  The only thing there was two pizza places when I didn't particularly want pizza two nights in a row.  But their sandwich offerings didn't excite me so I had another pepperoni pizza.  I brought 3 pieces back to my room for desert later.

An interesting day that turned out well.  I got my rental car and got across New Brunswick, avoiding some rain and some rather uninteresting scenery.  Then I got a little further in Maine than I had expected to.  Finally, back in the US, my cell phone works again.

Day 18: Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Presque Isle to Houlton, Maine [46.0, 4:44, 9.7 mph, +1,686’, -1,853']

The continental breakfast wasn't as good as yesterday but was still okay.  Mainly it was missing the waffle maker.  Still I had a couple bowls of cereal and a bowl of oatmeal and some toast.

I wasn't in a great hurry today because my destination was Houlton, only 40 miles away.  The problem after Houlton it was a long way to the next place with accommodations.  I carefully lowered my bike with the 2 rear panniers down the stairway and then carried the remaining stuff down and assembled everything.

I left around 8.  The sun was shining and it was cool enough for a long sleeve jersey and my windbreaker.

It was clear throughout the morning that potato harvesting was well underway.  There were multiple signs advertising New Potatoes and several roadside stands where you could buy bags of potatoes.  I saw several potato trucks with a special bed that could be tilted sideways to dump their potato load.  I also saw several potato harvesters.

The road was pretty up and down.  My elevation profile looked like a jigsaw but the climbing wasn't that difficult.  US1 is a main throughway so there were a lot of trucks but mostly there was a good shoulder.  Initially there was a 3-foot wide shoulder but after the junction of US1 and 1A the shoulder widened to almost the width of a driving lane.

The morning passed pretty quickly and I approached Houlton around 12:30.  There were a couple of expensive motels at I95 but there appeared to be a modest motel a mile or two north of town so I looked for that.  When I found it I was surprised to find a campground just across the street and it was still open.

Before checking in I rode into town.  I mailed some maps and brochures home to lighten my load, checked the classic downtown with the county seat and found what looked like a good place for breakfast.  On my return, I stopped at a Subway for a foot long sandwich, ate half and took the rest back to the campground.  I also talked to a couple of folks in the Subway about my trip.  While I was in Gaspésie, where touring is common, I was just another tourer but in this part of Maine I was someone unusual and so some folks asked about my trip.

Back at the campground, which was staying open until Oct 15 and wasn't listed by Google Maps I got a tent site for $21.  This included a shower and WiFi without a password.  Since it was only 2:30 I took the opportunity to wash clothes and to clean my bike chain.

An easy day with an opportunity to get caught up with some chores.

Day 19: Thu, Sep 22, 2016 – Houlton to Lincoln, Maine [73.7, 6:46, 10.9 mph, +2,614’, -2,713']

It got cool enough overnight that there was a fair amount of condensation on the inside of my tent.  So before I packed it up I used my chamois to wipe it down inside and out.  Then I headed the 4 miles into town to the breakfast place I found yesterday in the downtown section.

When I got there a little after 7 there was only one person there who was both waitress and cook.  I ordered the pancakes with bacon and got 4 small but fairly plump pancakes.  They were about equivalent to two large pancakes.  So the breakfast wasn't as filling as I would have liked but the price wasn't either - $6 with coffee.

I left right at 8 and took 2A out of town.  It was 67 miles to Lincoln by this route with few services along the way.  Linneus had a food mart but it was only a few miles outside of Houlton and too soon to stop for food/drink.  The next place with anything wasn't until about the 58 mile mark.

This road was well paved without a shoulder but there was little traffic once I was a few miles outside Houlton and after the “rush” hour.  I did get to see a potato truck getting unloaded.  Beyond that it was mostly a ride through the forest for the first 50 miles.  It wasn't particularly scenic but it was kind of a serene, easy ride without the noise/worry of traffic.

By 10:30 I had already covered 30 miles, almost halfway to Lincoln.  I kept hoping to find something with food/drink but nothing showed up.  After about 45 miles signs of civilization started showing up again with a few homes here and there.  Looking for a place for a second breakfast I finally picked a bank on the edge of someone's lawn under a tree that provided shade.

In about another 8 miles I finally found a small food store and stopped for a cold drink and a snack.  Then another couple of miles there was a food mart and then a few miles further another food mart.  Too bad they weren’t spread out better.

The first part of the ride, about 30 miles, was fairly flat with some easy climbing.  Then there was 15-20 miles with some bigger but fairly short hills.  Then the last 15 miles were flat again.

It was 3 pm when I rolled into town.  There were 2 motels that Google maps showed having reasonable rates, one for $50 and one for $60.  I rode to the second one but it was $75 rather than $50.  So I rode back to the first one and got a room for $65.

Throughout the ride today I noticed that my front wheel wasn't quite right when getting up to 15-20 mph.  I finally checked and found one spoke was very loose.  I hoped Lincoln would have a bike shop but no such luck.  So I did my best to tighten up the loose spoke and true the wheel as best I could.  Hopefully that fixed the issue.  I also adjusted my brakes which were getting too loose.  I think my cheap brake pads were fine for stopping power but wore more quickly than better brake pads.

I also put up my tent behind my motel room to get it completely dry.

There was a Chinese restaurant across the street so I ate there.  I had Kung Pao chicken with an egg roll.  When my plate came out I knew I wasn't going to go hungry – it was huge.  There was enough food for two normal non-cycling meals.  I surprised myself with how big a dent I put in the pile of food.  I had the rest boxed up for desert later.

I did a little food shopping in a nearby store and then settled in to plan my next day.  This was complicated by the predicted rain for tonight into tomorrow morning.  It wasn't clear how soon the rain would clear up and that would dictate how far I could go.  Bangor was another 50 miles and Bucksport another 20 miles beyond Bangor.  It all depended on the weather which was also forecast to be much cooler although that probably wasn't going to be much of an issue.

Day 20: Fri, Sep 23, 2016 – Lincoln to Brewer, Maine [49.9, 4:39, 10.7 mph, +702’, -1,039']

When I went to sleep last night I was expecting a good chance that today would be a layover day since the weather forecast was for rain into the early afternoon.  However, the rain ended earlier than forecast.  I had about a 5 minute walk to a restaurant for breakfast suggested by the motel operator.  I had pancakes and Canadian bacon.

The rain had stopped by 8 but I ended up not leaving until 9.  The radar showed the rain moving south so I felt pretty confident that Bangor would be okay.  My goal was to at least make Bangor and ideally Bucksport.

It was in the upper 50Fs when I started and I shed my windbreaker before too long.  US2 was okay for riding.  It started out with a wide enough shoulder but the shoulder typically had a vertical crack that divided the shoulder and riding closer to the white line was the best shoulder.  Eventually the shoulder mostly disappeared for a while and then it became a good, wide shoulder.

Scenery wasn't anything to write home about.  There was occasional traffic.  The road followed the Penobscot River to Bangor and the river seemed to get wider the further south I went.

Services were much like yesterday.  The first service was too early for a stop and then there was nothing for about 25 miles.

Around 11 am there were some sprinkles so I put on my rain jacket.  Then the sprinkles became more determined and I put on my rain pants.  The rain lasted for about 45 minutes and it seemed like that might be it but then it came back and stayed a while.

The first services were in Old Town about 30 miles down the road.  Unfortunately, there was road construction mess leading into town.  Part of the road was down to dirt/gravel and it was wet, rough with some puddles and a real mess to ride through on a bicycle.  It was even messy for vehicles.

When I got to a food mart I stopped for a long break.  I had some pizza in lieu of my second breakfast and watched the rain continue.  Off the bike, I cooled off and was rather uncomfortable in the damp.  Had there been a motel nearby I probably would have called it a day.  There actually was a motel nearby but I would have had to backtrack through the construction mess and I wasn't about to do that.

Finally, I took off again in light rain which ended shortly.  I rode through the town of Orono which I learned was home to the University of Maine.  Then I saw signs about a football weekend and wondered if that would fill up motels.  I figured the farther away I got from Orono the better.

I crossed the river from Bangor to Brewer and then had a decision to make.  Either find a motel or continue on to Bucksport.  It was 3 pm and Bucksport was about another 20 miles.  I decided it would be better to stop for the day and not push my luck.

I used my GPS to find and route me to the Brewer Motor Inn that I had seen on Google Maps.  I got a room for $75, a very large room that was much larger than I needed.  I spent some time on the phone with a work colleague discussing some work issues.  Then I started walking down the street to look for food and discovered Pat's Bike Shop was next door.  I went back and grabbed my front wheel to have them take a look.  Pat actually spent a fair amount of time checking out the wheel.  He verified that it was true and then checked the tire itself.  When spinning the tire in a truing stand it was obvious the tire's center line had a wobble even though it was seated correctly.  So there was really nothing to do but live with it for about another week.  Pat didn't charge anything but I tipped him anyway for his efforts.

Then I walked down the street and ate at a Subway.  On my way back I stopped at the bike shop again and asked if they had a suggested route to get to Bucksport.  Pat made a copy of a more detailed map and highlighted the route he would take to keep him off of 15 as much as possible.

I spent the rest of the evening investigating routes.  After Bucksport the route would go along the coast.  US1 followed along the coast but everyone advised staying off of US1 as much as possible.  I had the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast map and that would provide the basic routing.  The AC map tried to use less trafficked roads and that meant riding would require more concentration to follow the route.

A messy day.  Had I known how the middle of the day would go I might have taken a layover day in Lincoln.  Still I at least made it to the Bangor area.

Day 21: Sat, Sep 24, 2016 – Brewer to Rockport, Maine [64.4, 6:39, 9.7 mph, +3,814’, -3,588']

I grabbed a couple of small pastries from the motel office and then headed out for breakfast.  I decided to stop at a Tim Horton's because it was close.

I left around 8 and headed back the way I came yesterday and picked up 15 south that would take me all the way to Bucksport.  Pat, from the bike shop, gave me his preferred route to Bucksport that avoided 15 as much as possible.  I mapped it out on RideWithGPS.com and took the directions but something was wrong.  The quoted distances were much too long.  The result is I missed the first turnoff from 15.  At that point I decided it was just easier to stay on 15.  There was moderate traffic, almost no truck traffic, and modest speeds along with a decent shoulder most of the way.

I'm sure the preferred route would be preferred by a local who already knew the roads.  In my case I would have had to keep looking out for multiple turns.  There were a couple of fairly hard climbs on 15.  It was 20 miles to Bucksport and I got there at 10.  That was a good time for my second breakfast.  But as I was leaving I noticed the sole of my right sandal was flopping, something I would have to repair with my shoe goo I bought last year when I had a similar problem with the heel of one of my sandals.

From this point on I started following the Adventure Cycling Atlantic Coast route.  In theory, I could have just picked up US1 and stayed on that all the way through Maine but the cycling advice was to avoid US1 as much as possible.

From Bucksport, the route first took me across a bridge to Verona Island and then shortly across the spectacular Penobscot Narrows Bridge, a 2,120 foot cable-stayed bridge, near Fort Knox to get off the island.  Fort Knox was the first fort in Maine and was built entirely of granite between 1844 and 1869.  This was after British invasions during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and then concerns of a confrontation with the British in the Aroostook War of 1838-1839 over the boundary between New Brunswick, then a British colony, and the state of Maine.

The route stayed on US1 until Belfast where it picked up 52, the road to Lincolnville.  It was nice to get onto a quiet road.  US1 had a wide shoulder but almost continuous traffic and the noise was very annoying.  52 had no shoulder but not much traffic.  It was also a roller coaster ride to Lincolnville.  It would have been great cycling on an unloaded bike.

At Lincolnville, 52 headed south to Camden, passing by a nice big lake.  Then it passed through Camden where the downtown streets were lined with cars and pedestrians on a nice, fall Saturday.  The route used the back roads to get to and through Rockport.

When I got to the intersection of 90 and US1, I called the Camden Hills Campground to verify they were open and they were.  Otherwise I was looking at motels that ran $120 and up.  This campground was a couple miles outside of town on 90 and I figured I would be eating from my food supply.  Then lo and behold a diner appeared 0.2 miles from the campground.  I had fish and chips, a Saturday night special, for $10.95 and it came with a heaping plate of food, just what I needed.

The campground was billed as an RV Resort but there were some tent sites and I got one for $30.  That didn't seem like such a bad deal when compared to the motel options.  However, the restrooms were not well located for tent sites – at opposite ends of the campground.

When showering I decided to rinse out my shorts and jersey and use the laundry to dry them.  I figured the laundry was also a good place to sit down and write my trip report and investigate accommodation possibilities for tomorrow.  Unfortunately, the WiFi was too weak there and I had to go back to the office to get a decent WiFi signal.

The office was closed for the night so I used a picnic table right across from the office.  This was a bit challenging in the fading light.

After I was done with the WiFi I went back to the laundry room to write my report in a lighted room with an electrical outlet.  I repaired my sandal using shoe goo and used duct tape to hold it together while the goo cured.  Hopefully by morning the sandal would be in good operating condition again.

Then I had to make my way back to my tent site but I wasn’t prepared for this since it was pitch dark.  Usually campgrounds have some lighting and finding your way around isn’t an issue in the dark.  However, this campground had the tent sites situated away from the RV sites and it was completely dark.  Initially I walked in the right direction by feeling the gravel on the road under my feet but that only took me so far.  I walked a little further hoping I would stumble across my tent but I walked into a bush so I knew I had gone too far.  I was about at my wits end until I realized that I could open my chromebook and the display light allowed me to easily find my tent.

As I hoped and expected, once I reached the coast the scenery became more interesting that the previous several days.  The Bucksport area was scenic and several of the towns had scenic harbors.  The only down point was that next Tuesday looked like a bad weather day.

Day 22: Sun, Sep 25, 2016 – Rockport to Brunswick, Maine [62.3, 6:52, 9.1 mph, +3,598’, -3,752']

I packed up and rode back to the diner at 7, just after it opened at 6:45.  I had two big pancakes and bacon.  Then I took off and headed west and was surprised by a fairly brisk headwind.  I knew it would be cooler but didn't count on a headwind.

I continued west on 90 passing through West Rockport and Warren and then I picked up US1 again.  My route took a side road through Waldoboro but I stayed on US1 to find a food mart.  After my second breakfast I headed into town to see what it was like and nearly regretted it.  As I neared town I passed by a fairly large dog who didn't seem bothered by me but then just after I passed him he lurched at me.  I'm not sure what would have happened had he not been tethered and not quite able to reach me.

There really wasn't anything to see in town and the main road through town took me back to US1.  Traffic on US1 was nearly constant on this Sunday morning.  The shoulder was fine but the noise pollution was terrible.  Occasionally, there would be a gap in traffic in both directions and the resultant silence was deafening.

Adventure Cycling tried to stay off of US1 but sometimes it was hardly worth it.  So as I approached Damariscotta I skipped a side road and just caught Business US1 into town.  Shortly after crossing the river I was back on US1 again.

When I approached Wiscasset there was a huge line of vehicles and I couldn't tell why.  I thought there might have been an accident or something so I didn't take advantage of the shoulder to skip ahead.  But when I finally got some visibility I saw it was just congestion getting through town.  So I just rode ahead of the congestion on the shoulder.

Shortly after crossing the river into town, with a lot of folks in town, I turned off US1 to Old Bath Road which turned into Old Stage Road and got some peace and quiet but at the expense of some more climbing and a little longer route.  At one point I used my GPS to insure I was on Old Stage Road.

This road ended at 127 which took me south to meet up with US1 to cross the river.  After the river crossing the route left US1 in Bath and headed along Kennebec River before heading west to catch Old Brunswick Road.  Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the directions and missed Old Brunswick Road.  I caught myself by checking my GPS and retraced my route about a mile to get back on track.  But then just a short while later there was a sign that the road was closed.  Given it was a Sunday I thought I might be able to get through on a bike but no such luck.  The work was on a bridge and it was completely blocked.  So I took the detour which just took me back to US1 for another river crossing.

After a few miles there was a bike trail into Brunswick and then more fun.  I looked up Knights Inn, which looked like a reasonable mote, on my GPS and it didn't list it.  I knew it was on Pleasant Street so I created a waypoint on the street so my GPS would route me to the street.  Once I was on the street the street address got me to the motel where I was surprised to get a room for only $62.

The room was a good deal with the only problem that it was on the second floor.  Once again I debated lifting the bike up the steps but thought better of it and carried the panniers separately and then the bike.

There was a Thai restaurant just across the street where I had a red curry with shrimp dinner that was very good.

Back at the room I lubed my bike chain and pumped up the rear tire that was getting a little low.  Then I settled in to do some route planning.  The big problem was rain was forecasted for Tuesday and that was a possible layover day.  In that case I wanted to be somewhere with a reasonable motel.  I had thought Brunswick put me close enough to make Portsmouth, NH, in one day but it was 90 miles away and I doubted I could make that on a convoluted route.

It was an exciting day with fairly complex routing to avoid US1 as much as possible.  Wiscasset and Bath were interesting towns to pass through with folks milling around on a Sunday.  Then it was interesting to find my way around Brunswick.  My GPS saved me several times today.

Day 23: Mon, Sep 26, 2016 – Brunswick to Wells, Maine [66.9, 6:56, 9.6 mph, +2,314’, -2,237']

The motel had a continental breakfast where I had a bowl of cereal and bowl of oatmeal plus some bread.  Then I was gone by 8.

Today I followed a different route than the Adventure Cycling which bypassed Portland and I wanted to see Portland.  My route was based on a route a cyclist had sent me for his trip from Boston to Portland.  I had defined this route on RideWithGPS.com and loaded this route into my Garmin GPS.  However, I didn't understand that this “route” wasn't routable – it didn't give me turn-by-turn directions.  It simply highlighted the route on its map and I had to follow it.

This was easy routing to Portland.  I headed east to Maine Street and south to Pleasant Hill Rd.  This got me going to Freeport.  This was a nice route in the country with some farms and fields for a change.  I saw several cyclists using parts of this route for their daily ride.

When I pulled into Freeport it was immediately obvious this was an upscale town.  At just the one intersection in town that I visited there was an LL Bean, The North Face, Patagonia, and JJ Crew.

From Freeport I departed from the Adventure Cycling route and headed south on South St which became S Freeport Rd to Yarmouth where I picked up 88 the rest of the way to Portland.  These were great cycling roads as were the earlier roads – low, moderate-speed traffic with good shoulders.

88 merged with US1 just before entering Portland.  It was a bit tricky figuring out the right exit from US1 but then I rode around the bay front to the Cisco Bay Bridge.  First there was a nice park area and then there was a beachfront with folks out for their lunch hour on a nice, sunny day.  I was tempted to stay for the rest of the day and enjoy the weather and the beachfront myself but there were no good motel options that weren't expensive and rain was predicted for tomorrow.

So I moved on after a bite to eat at a food mart and crossed the pretty long Cisco Bay Bridge.  At this point routing became more complex, utilizing a variety of roads including a 7-mile section of the East Coast Greenway.  Since it was hard to keep an eye on the route in my GPS I ended up creating a couple of waypoints along the route and just had the GPS route me to the next waypoint.  Otherwise it would have been difficult to keep up with turns.

Although cycling was good it took longer to get to Wells, my planned destination, than I had planned.  I rode through Kennebunk Port and then Wells but didn't get to Wells until about 6 pm.  Kennebunk Port was another town with tourists milling about and sampling the eateries.

When I passed through Kennebunk Port I joined up with 9 until that intercepted US1.  Right at that intersection was my chosen motel, The Tallwood Motel.  It was a little outside of Wells but there were a couple of restaurants at this location.  I picked this motel because it looked like the least expensive but I was surprised it advertised rooms for $49 and up.  With my AARP discount I got a room for $45, which I didn't think was possible along the coast.

But that did come at some cost.  The first room I got assigned was a cottage that had a too weak WiFi signal so I got changed to another room.  Its WiFi signal was good enough to sign on but it was abysmally slow.  Other than that this room was kind of decrepit.  The refrigerator didn't quite close and the bathroom door stuck because the floor wasn't level.  But this was my kind of place – a decent price for a room with a bed and a shower.  It also one-upped most of my other motel rooms – it had honest to goodness lighting.  Most rooms have inadequate lighting but this one had 4 different lights.

After cleaning up I walked the short distance to the Maine Diner and was surprised.  I expected a simple diner but this place was packed and had a waiting list.  Fortunately, it had a counter and I was able to get a seat right away.  I had a stuffed baked haddock that was very good and my waitress said it was her favorite dish.  During my dinner and later I learned that the Maine Diner was well known and it billed itself as “World Famous Food Like Grandma Used to Make”.

After eating I started investigating plans to get to Boston.  I met a guy on the road south of Portland who suggested I might be able to take the Amtrak Downeaster into Boston or the commuter train from Newburyport.  This is where the weak WiFi signal was a real pain – queries were taking forever but I eventually managed to figure things out.  The problem with the Downeaster was getting a bike on the train.  I learned there were some limited spots but only in Brunswick or Portland – two places I had just left behind.

The other possibility was the commuter train from Newburyport, 35 miles north of Boston that my route passes through.  That requires about a 45 mile ride from Wells.  On the other hand, both of these options end up at the Boston North Station which doesn't have Amtrak baggage service.  So you have to get from the Boston North Station to the Boston South Station, only a couple miles apart, which does have baggage service, which just makes things a little more complicated.

This turned out, without any prior expectations, to be a great cycling day on roads with little traffic.  But now rain loomed in the morning and threat of rain for the rest of the week.

Day 24: Tue, Sep 27, 2016 – Wells, Maine to Boston, Mass [65.9, 6:25, 10.3 mph, +1,483’, -1,510']

This turned out to be a very exciting day ending up in Boston.  I had planned to ride to Salisbury, MA, and stay in a motel there and then ride the next morning to Newburyport and take the commuter rail to Boston's North Station.

As forecasted, it was raining when I got up at 6 am and it looked like that might last a couple of hours.  I walked the short distance to the Maine Diner for breakfast at 7.  It was a major difference from last night where there was a waiting list to this morning where there were plenty of seats available.  I had 3 pancakes and ham and it was very good.

Back at the motel I packed up and left at 8:45 while it was misting a little bit.  I took care of a couple of things in town before really getting on the road.  I started out on US1 until Ogunquit where I picked up the Adventure Cycling route by taking Shore Road.  This was a great road, winding, twisting, and undulating with little traffic.

At York Beach Shore Road ended and I started riding on 1A, which was also good riding.  It was a long beach stretch ride with simple homes and many motels along this stretch of beach.  At York Harbor I picked up 103 that took me to US1 and across the river into Portsmouth, NH.  There things got confusing even with the help of my GPS.  I eventually hooked up with 1A that took me most of the rest of the way.

1A covered a long stretch of beach from outside Portsmouth to where 1A made a 90 degree right turn to Salisbury.  There were too many motels along the way to keep track of.  There were a fair number of folks out enjoying the beach, even on a Tuesday afternoon.

Along the way I kept thinking about my Amtrak plans.  The more I thought about it the more I really wanted to be in Boston this night.  Staying in Salisbury and catching the commuter train in the morning meant I couldn't get into Boston until 10:15.  If I missed the 9:15 train, the earliest I could get my bike on the train, then I took some risk missing my Amtrak train at 12:50 pm.

At first I thought about just winging it and getting into Boston and finding some place to stay downtown.  That meant an expensive, $200+, motel plus I didn't have an Amtrak reservation.  Later events showed that would have been a bad idea.  However, I still had Marriott points so I thought I might be able to get a free stay.

I started looking for a place where I could get WiFi along the way.  The several places that looked promising were all closed, probably for the season or at least during the week.  Then I decided to stop at a food mart and I lucked into one that had an adjoining Dunkin Donuts and they had WiFi, plus they had Pumpkin Spice muffins.  Using the WiFi I was able to quickly line up the Amtrak reservation for tomorrow.  Then I checked the Marriott website and was able to secure a free night at a Courtyard downtown.  At that point things were looking good with only the commuter train a potential problem.

When I left the Dunkin Donuts I pulled another one of my not thinking moments.  I had turned right just off the road to get to the food mart.  When I left I forgot about that and headed west rather than south.  Fortunately, I had my GPS tracking 1A and when it started beeping at me I realized the problem and recovered.

At the start of the day I had estimated today's ride would be about 45 miles.  Somehow that was an underestimate and this turned into close to my typical 60 mile day.  This was starting to be an issue because I wanted to catch the 4:44 commuter train so I would get into Boston with at least an hour of good daylight.  Events would prove that I needed more daylight.

Eventually 1A turned west and linked up with US1.  From there it was just a couple of miles to Newburyport to catch the train.  Unfortunately, I didn't know exactly where the train station was.  I had thought I would see signs but I only saw one sign that said it was up ahead.  Fortunately, I knew it was around Parker Street.  As I got close a pedestrian was able to point out exactly where it was, within sight just off the road.

Newburyport was the last station on the north rail.  When a train pulled in from Boston around 4:20 I learned that it was the train I needed.  The conductor said I could put my bike anywhere except in the middle of an aisle.  I found a spot at the end of a car that was a natural parking spot with an adjoining seat.

Then I enjoyed not having to bike this 35 mile stretch into Boston.  Things were looking good at that point but I was too optimistic.  The problem was finding my Courtyard when I got into the Boston North Station.  I knew the Courtyard was only a mile or two away.  I couldn't find it in my GPS's accommodation list but I knew it was at 88 Exeter so I inputted that address and relied on the GPS to get me there.

Unfortunately, the GPS routed me down Storrow Dr which turned out to be a major highway with limited access and it wanted me to turn left.  I never saw the left turn, probably because it was rush hour with 4 lanes of traffic.  Even if I had seen the left turn I would have had to merge across several lanes of traffic and that wasn’t going to happen on a bicycle. My GPS told me I had missed the left turn so I continued on thinking it would call for another left turn but it never did.  I got yelled at by a couple cars for being on the highway when there was a trail along the Charles River.  I kept riding and hoping the GPS performed some magic but I didn't realize until later that I had to get on the other side of the highway.  On the other hand, it was interesting to see all the cyclists, joggers, and pedestrians using the trail without crashing into each other.

Eventually, I realized nothing good was happening and I applied the old adage – when digging a hole for yourself the first thing to do is stop digging.  I turned around and hoped I could get back to somewhere close to where I started from the train station.  By this time it was getting dark and I had to dig out my front headlight.  Still I had no solution for my predicament.  I didn't even know how I could call a taxi.  It wasn't clear where one could pick me up even if I could tell it where I was.

The situation was getting pretty dicey.  Finally, I rode by a Bistro along the trail that was set up to do business with all of the trail users.  I was so lucky to ask a guy, waiting while his wife/girl friend ordered, about getting a taxi or something.  He had a smart phone and knew how to use it so when I told him the Courtyard address he was able to quickly see it wasn't very far away.  Knowing the area, he was able to explain that all I had to do was get on the other side of the highway using a pedestrian overpass and then I would be on Beacon Street.  Turning right on that, the street names increased in alphabetical order and I only had to watch for the sequence a,b,c,d,exeter and turned on Exeter and find the address.

It was even easier than that.  Once I crossed over on the pedestrian overpass, my GPS quickly figured out what to do.  So what looked like an almost hopeless situation turned out to be easily solvable, but not without this kind stranger’s help.

With great relief, I cleaned up and walked a couple blocks to a Chipotle for some quick food.  Then back at the room I checked out directions from the Courtyard to the Boston South Station (which has baggage service and North Station doesn't).  It was almost comical how trivial the directions were.  At the end of my block, next to the Boston Public Library, Boylston Street went directly there with just a little tail at the end.  If I couldn’t make that, I should never enter a large city again.

All's well that ends well but I couldn't help but think what would have happened had I stayed with my original plan to take the commuter train in the morning.  I could very possibly have missed my Amtrak, although directions from the North Station to the South Station, which were only 1.5 miles apart, would have been much more reasonable than directions to the Courtyard since there was no intervening major highway.

Day 25: Wed, Sep 28, 2016 - Boston, Mass to Amtrak [1.4, 0:11, 8.1 mph, +23’, -18']

For some reason I didn't sleep well.  Maybe it was the excitement of getting to the Courtyard yesterday or, perhaps, the excitement of going home.  In any event I got up about 5:45 am and starting taking care of some packing things.  I ate breakfast at the Courtyard shortly after 7.  I had hoped to find something else close by but I didn't find anything other than the Lenox Hotel next door and that didn't appeal to me.

I checked out at 9:30 and rode the mile and a half to the South Station.  All I had to do was go to the end of my block, turn right on Boylston Street, and ride until I was about to hit the station.  Even I could handle that.

When I checked in with the Amtrak agent it looked like I might get lucky.  Amtrak has been experimenting with roll on bike service on some Amtrak segments and had apparently just rolled it out the roll on service officially yesterday.  It looked like I was a pioneer in Boston.  My agent consulted a roll on bike notice but she couldn't find any way to sign me up on her computer form.  She started calling around.  In the end, the conclusion was that my train didn't have the special luggage cars to accept roll on bicycles.

That was a disappointment after thinking I might be able to just roll on my bicycle and avoid packing up the bicycle and the panniers.  So I had to go through the old routine, pack up the bike in Amtrak's bike box and pack my other stuff into my 2 rear panniers and my duffle bag.  I stuffed my tent and sleeping bag and 2 empty front panniers in my duffle bag.  I put all of my electronics and sensitive equipment and toiletries in a backpack that held about as much as a front pannier.

With the wait time for resolving the roll on bicycle issue and the packing, I had to only wait about an hour and 20 minutes for my train.  During the time I was partially entertained by a young Amish girl, maybe 3 years old, demonstrating the non-stop activity of a youngster.

We boarded and left on time.  The good news is that I had a 2-seat combo for myself due to the low mid-week participation.  I hoped I would have the same luck in Albany/Rensselaer when we changed trains there.  That would make sleeping much easier, being able to stretch out a bit across two seats.

The train reached Albany at 6 pm, right on time.  The train to Chicago, not due to leave until 7:05, came in just a few minutes later so we only had to wait about 15 minutes to board.  There was plenty of room so I got a 2-seat combo to myself that made sleeping much easier.

Day 26: Thu, Sep 29, 2016 - Amtrak to Naperville, IL [2.0, 0:15, 7.8 mph, +83’, -60']

Despite the train seats I actually slept better than I had at the Courtyard.  The train was pretty much on time and arrived at Chicago Union Station at 9:30 am.  Originally I planned to ride to Naperville but there was some rain in the area so I elected to take the Marta commuter train to Naperville.  I hoped to catch the 10:30 train or I would have to wait another two hours to catch the next train at 12:30.

It was a real drag to carry my duffel bag and my two rear panniers strapped together plus my daypack into the station.  At that point it seemed like it would have been better to have checked them but that wasn't the case.  I bought a one-way ticket to Naperville and then went to the baggage claim area where folks were waiting for their luggage to show up.  All I needed to do was get downstairs to reclaim my bicycle but someone had to open the downstairs door in the luggage room.  As soon as the baggage attendant showed up I got her attention and was on my way downstairs.  If I had checked my baggage I would have had to wait for my baggage before going downstairs and I would most likely have missed the 10:30 train.

As it was, my bicycle was waiting downstairs.  All I needed to do was get it in condition where I could roll it to my next train.  This was easy to do and I made the 10:30 train by 10 minutes.  An hour later I rolled my bike off the train at the Naperville station and rode 2 miles to home.



 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 2016. All rights reserved.