Aaaaand, I'm back

20 June 2011

I've returned to Toronto!  While Michael's knee was feeling better, he wasn't certain that it would be well enough to continue the trip.  We were renting a place in Portland and Michael wanted to hang out there till the end of the month (indeed, he's there now) to rest before moving on.  I was enjoying Portland, but also getting a bit restless.  I wanted to either ride or else return to Toronto in time for a friend's wedding, which I would otherwise have missed.  I chose the latter, and returned yesterday morning.

I must say, it feels good to be back.  I wasn't gone for that long, and yet it was long enough to make me miss this city and my life here.  Now I just need a place to live for the rest of the summer!

Michael is staying in Portland till the end of the month, when he'll try to continue either south or west, if his knee can take it.  I hope to take a number of shorter bike trips over the course of the summer, run a lot and race some triathlons.  Oh, and work on my dissertation.

Thanks for reading!

Onwards through Maine, slowly but surely

11 June 2011




We left Rose and Chip's place quite late on Thursday and, as a result, had to ride in the middle of the afternoon on a very hot day.  We stopped 57 km into the ride at a diner for some food.  The plan was to do work for a bit and then cycle on.  But the plan changed with the combination of a thunderstorm and food not sitting quite right in my stomach.  Even though we had just spent two nights in beds, and had two more bed nights ahead of us, we the motel next to the diner was all too tempting.  And, given the circumstances, we felt we had enough of an excuse to stay there.  So, we did!  We had showers, called family and watched some really bad TV before going to bed.  Money well spent!  I felt better by the morning and we were on the road again.

Contemplating the storm

Friday's ride was quite nice.  As a result of the drugs, Michael's knee was feeling better, so we busted out 65 km before stopping for lunch and work in a nice little town called Brunswick.  We worked in the friendly Little Dog Cafe for a few hours.   I also got to chat with my old friend Lizzie, with whom I traveled in SE Asia, which is exciting because I haven't talked to her for ages and found out she just got engaged!
A view of Bath from the bridge.  Sadly, pictures never do these views justice.

The early evening ride was the best part, especially along Route 88, a detour from Route 1, which we've been riding along for a few days now.  Huge, beautiful houses on massive treed lots, many overlooking the ocean.  And an amazing bike path most of the way!  I didn't take any pictures there, but you should plunk yourself down there through Google street view and check it out.  (You can even do that via my new awesome map!)

We were welcomed in Portland by Nancy and Steve, a couple who offered to host us through Warm Showers, a kind of couch surfing for touring cyclists.  Having completed many bicycle tours around the world – including a trip across America and a six-month tour through Europe – they knew exactly what we needed after a long day: food, shower, laundry... more food!  Their stories about traveling by bike were truly inspiring.  While they've done many tours together, there are some that Steve has done on his own (Bolivia) or with friends (India, Iceland).  He even built one of those quasi-tandem bike attachments before they ever existed in stores for his (then-)seven-year-old daughter so that she could tour with him in South Korea!

We took another day off here in Portland for the sake of Michael's knee and philosophy.  We actually did get a fair bit done and also saw a bit of Portland by car with Steve.  We hope to finish some papers off tomorrow and figure out what's in store next!

Comments? Comments!

Because I know how much you're all just itching to make comments, I have now enabled comments, not just from people with a Google account, but from anyone!  I've been meaning to do this for quite some time now, but it keeps slipping my mind every time I happen to have internet access.  So, comment away!

Really, as many of you know, comments are purely for my own satisfaction: I love to know that (whether?) people actually read (and enjoy!) this blog!



8 June 2011

Not long after we set off from Ellsworth, Michael’s knee started to bother him, and it became progressively worse as the day went on.  Even though we took many breaks, particularly at the top of long hills, it didn’t seem to be getting any better.  We decided eventually that the best course of action was to get Michael in to see a doctor.  After one failed attempt at a clinic in Bucksport that turned out not to accept walk-in patients, we cycled on to Belfast, a town that had a hospital with an ER.  I felt really bad for Michael, who seemed to be in a lot of pain (a 7/10, as he ended up telling the triage nurse) this whole time.

Spike Jonze, one of Rose and Chip's terriers
The experience at the ER was fairly quick and painless.  Michael saw a doctor who prescribed him an anti-inflammatory and a day of rest.  But by the time we finished up at the hospital it was getting dark and we still hadn’t figured out where we were going to spend the night.  We asked Rose, the friendly receptionist, whether we could pitch our tent anywhere nearby.  Unfortunately, the hospital grounds were off-limits, and the neighbouring municipal park didn’t seem too promising, either.  Rose kindly invited us to stay with her and her husband Chip, as she was finishing her shift at the ER and heading home.  We gladly accepted, leaving our bikes locked up outside the hospital and taking a ride to Rose and Chip’s home some 12 miles away.

Rose and Chip are artists: Chip is a woodworker, currently carving whales, which Rose paints.  Chip is no stranger to adventure, having hitchhiked across Canada and the US in the 70s and 80s.  Rose and Chip designed and built the home they live in – their dream home – which is absolutely stunning.  The living room, dining room and kitchen form one big, open space.  There are large windows everywhere, three verandas and a vegetable garden.  The property itself is large and surrounded by trees.  The basement houses Rose and Chip’s woodworking shop and also has large windows on one side.
Rose on one of the verandas, where Michael and I worked for the afternoon.  What a lovely workspace!

We will be spending a day off here to give Michael’s knee a rest.  From here, we head to Portland, where a couple from Warm Showers – a website similar to Couch Surfers, but for touring cyclists ­– has kindly offered to host us.


5 June 2011

Our gracious hosts
We’ve spent two very relaxing days at the Record family cottage in Deblois with our friends Isaac and Ellie and Isaac’s parents Larry and Peggy.  The cottage is in a remote area in a forest on the river.  Isaac, Larry and Isaac’s brother Jared built it themselves, and the house is filled with Peggy’s quilts and Jared’s wood carvings.  A true Record home!

Atop Cadillac Mountain
Yesterday we drove around with Isaac and Ellie visiting pretty Maine places and eating tasty Maine meals.  We started off eating lunch at Mainely Meat (Michael’s choice!*) and tasting beers at the Atlantic Brewing Company in Town Hill on Mount Desert Island.  From there, we visited Bar Harbor, a town on the edge of Acadia National Park, and Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak in the eastern US, standing tall at 1500 ft.  The long, steep road up to the summit reminded me of our climb up to Cape Spear, NL last year.  This time, I was simultaneously glad to be driven up the mountain in a car and sad that I didn’t get to experience the thrill of seeing that beautiful view after the intense and prolonged pain that that climb would have caused.  There is just something about the sense of accomplishment one has after conquering crazy hills that is unparalleled by anything else I’ve experienced. 
At Mainely Meat. Michael is loving the food so much that he can't even look up for the picture!

After wandering through an azalea garden and eating at a diner called Helen’s in Ellsworth, we headed home.  On the way back, we hit a deer!  Fortunately, though, Isaac dealt with the situation in a calm and controlled way: he slowed down the car as much as he could, so while we hit the deer, no damage was done.  The deer got back up and bounded back into the woods and we were all fine. 

Today we mostly just hung out and did work, except for a brief trip out to use the Chesterfield Public Library’s wireless and eat Mexican food from a truck.  Yes, Mexican food from a truck in the middle of nowhere in Maine.  And it was tasty! 

For those of you who had doubts about my ability to work on the road, doubt no more!  In total, I did a solid four hours of work today and made some serious progress revising a paper of mine.  If I can pull this cycling/work trip thing off – I mean really pull it off – then I know how I’m going to spend most of the rest of my graduate career. 

After a tasty meal of burgers and salad, we are ready to hit the road again.  Our bodies feel rested and replenished, our clothes are clean(ish ­– we hand washed them in the sink with camp soap and lake water), and our load has been lightened (by giving Isaac some of our stuff to take back to Toronto).  Onwards we go!

Lounging around the Record camp

*For those who don’t know, Michael is a vegan J


6 June 2011

This is a post from the future (Agnes still needs to post about our cozy stay at Isaac's cottage).

Our most beautiful day of cycling, with a hint of misfortune. We left Isaac's cottage late morning and traveled along 193 to Hwy 1, through the blueberry fields and onto the scenic heights of a rolling highway. It's bee season, imported communities in time for pollination, and they made their presence known crossing the road and trailing our breeze through the fields. Our muscles are relaxed, loads lightened, and minds focused after a couple of restful days so the road was clear and smooth. Isaac and Ellie (driving between scenic destinations) passed us twice on the road; Ellie waving excited out the passenger window. But as we rode into Ellsworth my knee started to hurt (tendonitis I suspect) and it still hurts the morning after. Knee brace and Ibuprofen will, hopefully, aid us in reaching Portland where a generous couple has agreed to host us for a couple of days. It's stiff and sore and I worry that only long-term rest will help. We spent the night on the United Methodist Church's lawn after speaking with Susan, the minister. We also had the privilege of enjoying dinner with Susan and two members of the church, Alan and Stephanie, both currently teaching around Ellsworth. We chatted for hours about education and America before settling into our tent for the night. Now we're 'working' at a cozy and friendly cafe, the Maine Grind, before setting off to see if my knee can take the hill out of town. The cafe is small-town urban, spacious and community-focused with vegan treats, leather couches, and local artwork. So. Back to 'working'.


3 June 2011

Woke up to the pitter-patter of a light rain, our tent tucked away behind the St. Stephen's United Church. There was a presbyter's meeting and we were invited for sweet breads and tea, the leftovers of a busy meeting. Curious old ladies amidst the bustle. But it was late, and we lay down before the sun, so we poured the tea in the sink when no one was looking. Up early, 6:30ish, and a quick stop to Tim Hortons for fuel and a sink. The border didn't take long, only a few mundane questions, despite Agnes' proud pronouncement that "we're going to cycle across America". I wanted, at least, an inquisitive query about the philosophy of science. We've barely stopped since the border: rolling hills and lonely meteors atop highland plains. Lots of tall pines and leafy deciduous. Lunch at a picnic table outside a singleton store, with a wide assortment of chocolate bars and gregarious ladies. The homes are wooden, unfinished (peeling with the weight of time) and the redwhiteandblue teased by the wind. Some uphills were vicious (should I be embarrassed to admit that I walked one?) but the downhills let us fly. First day of rain, for an hour or so, on and off, trudging (as we were) to each new height. And now: dry chicken on white bread, no gravy, side of fries; grilled cheese with tomato, coleslaw and onion rings: a roadside diner in Beddington. There are spinning-diner-chairs with red pleather cushions. The clients are true American, with that unapologetic grit of goldrushes long forgotten. A swagger of listlessness. Plaid and jeans. Chevys. We're ten miles from Dublois: Isaac's cottage and the anticipated finale of this first leg. Afterwards we're planning to take Hwy 1 down the coast to absorb Maine's small town, ocean breeze.


2 June 2011

No rain today, but lots and lots of bugs – black flies, to be specific.  They began eating us alive as we took our tent down this morning.  We walked around in circles while having our breakfast in an effort to prevent them from having theirs.  Fortunately, while we were on our bikes, we were able to keep them off.  But as soon as we’d stop, they’d be right back on us. 
Michael's legs are covered in bites (mine aren't!).  This photo doesn't do them justice.

About 40 k into our ride, we were exhausted; our bodies are still not used to cycling for hours on end.  We wanted to take a break, but stopping at the side of the road just wasn’t an option.  Fortunately, an elementary school proved to be the ideal shelter: the teachers welcomed us and were very sympathetic about our having to ride during the pinnacle of black fly season.  “We saw you coming in,” one of them said.  “Each of you had a black cloud of flies around your head.”  We had lunch at the school before continuing on to St. Stephen, where we arrived a few hours later. 

Although we camped outside, the spot was excellent, and some sweet old church ladies treated us to tea and baked goods.
We’re planning to camp at a church here, and we’re even hoping that the minister will let us stay inside.  We meet with him in an hour or so.  Fingers crossed!  Tomorrow we cross the border and hope to make it to our friend Isaac’s cottage in Deblois, ME.


1 June 2011
Set to go in Riiko's backyard!
I suppose I should begin by telling you about this trip: why we’re doing it, where we’re going and how it came to be.  Michael is a friend of mine from grad school who has been thinking about doing a long cycling trip for quite some time.  When we found out that the annual meeting for our academic society (CSHPS) was going to be held in Fredericton, NB we thought, “we should go to the conference and then do a cycling trip!”  In my head, this trip would only be about three weeks – I do have a thesis to write, after all!  But when Michael and I met to talk about it, it turned out that he had something bigger in mind.  I’m all for long bike trips, but I’m also all for finishing my thesis on time (or at least trying to).  So I proposed that we go on the trip, but bring our work with us and work for two or three hours everyday.  I’d contemplated this idea before and now I had a chance to make it a reality.  Michael was totally on board and we decided to do it!  After all, when else might we get the chance to take such a trip?  We consider ourselves so unbelievably lucky to be doing the kind of work that is so portable.

We had no destination in particular in mind, but eventually decided we’d head south into the States, stay with our friend Isaac in Maine and then do the Transamerica trail (or just part of it, depending on time) starting in Virginia and heading west towards Oregon.  We’ll see where we end up!

After conferencing for a few days, today we finally set off on our first day of cycling.  It was a late start, since we took the time to get all of our stuff together and we’re really in no hurry.  It was warm and sunny, but we had the worst headwind all day, making for extremely tough cycling. We were exhausted when we finally decided to stop at village of Harvey Station around 7, where we ate dinner and set up camp.  I’m writing this from inside the tent – what a strange juxtaposition!

The forecast calls for rain for the next few days.  Hopefully the wind gods will bring us a lovely tailwind to carry us across the border into the States!

Yes! Another bike trip!

1 June 2011

After three days of conferencing, we leave today from Fredericton, NB.  We are cycling south into Maine, for now.  More (and, hopefully, more exciting!) posts to come!