Sunday, December 25, 2016

#430 A Gift

I recently shared this video on Facebook.  It’s such a simple message and really resonated with me.  I try to be grateful every day but sometimes I diverge into thoughts of wishing I had this or that.  Soon after I saw the video I had the stomach flu for four days.  Ugh.  Lucky for me it was only four (and a few residual) days. 

Today is Christmas.  Most of us give and receive gifts.  It’s supposed to be a jolly time, but it’s not so jolly for everyone.  We miss those who are no longer with us.  We may be isolated or estranged from family or friends.  Maybe money is tight and we can’t give what we’d really like to others.  We stress ourselves out trying to do everything for everyone.  We or a loved one is dealing with illness or pain. 

Let’s take one minute today to catch our breath and really think about the gifts we have all around us.  I’m thankful I woke up today and feel good.  I don’t have to go outside to use the toilet (I’m thankful for this every time I come home from a camping trip).  When I turn on the faucet, water comes out.  My house may be small, but it keeps me warm and dry.  Simple. 

As a child, I loved getting Christmas gifts.  As an adult, I appreciate what others give to me, but I find more joy seeing my friends and family open Christmas gifts I picked out just for them.  And I’m thankful to spend time with them. 

Today marks the birth of Jesus, yet another gift.  And He in turn gave to us the greatest gift of all – the gift of eternal life.  One day I will be celebrating Christmas in heaven with everyone I miss today. 


Regardless of your beliefs or faith, I hope you enjoy the everyday gifts around you, and any gifts you may receive today.  Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Festivus!  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

#429 BikeMaine (Still Wicked Awesome!)

Last year I branched out and drove to Maine for my yearly bike trip (see Post No. 413).  I expected it to be a one-time thing due to the distance and cost of the trip.  The last day’s ride through Kennebunkport and the other coastal towns was so beautiful that I started thinking I would like to return.  And when the 2016 route was announced (The Bold Coast) I became more serious about it. 

Something about the water draws me in.  I love everything – the sound, the smell, the sand.  I emailed my friends and told them Maine was calling my name.  As the available spots shrunk, I made up my mind to go for it.  I understood why my friends didn’t want to return.  However, the pull was too great for me to resist. 

After the thrill wore off and spring turned into summer, I began to realize I had to get myself from Indy to Maine.  I love driving, so that was not the problem.  The problem was a low number of vacation days and that this time of year is busy at work.  My plan of staying a few days to explore Acadia National Park vanished.  My new plan was how to get there and back as quickly as possible.  I admit that I got a bit stressed, but it all worked out splendidly.  Here’s the story. 

Day 1 (Sept. 8) – Drove ~570 miles from Indianapolis to Rochester, New York.  One of my co-workers (Ty) saved the day on my drive to Maine.  His sister lives in Rochester and without ever meeting her or her husband, they said I could stay at their house Thursday night.  I left at noon after working a half day and arrived just after 10 p.m. 

Day 2 (Sept. 9) – Drove ~650 miles from Rochester to Stonington, Maine.  Ty’s parents happen to have a house in Maine (I knew this after last year’s trip).  I left Rochester at 6:30 a.m. and arrived in Stonington at 5:30 p.m. 

I had a fun time Friday evening with Ty’s parents and their friends down the hill (Jeanette and Mike, and another neighbor, Karen).  Despite knowing no one in the town, I still enjoyed listening to the gossip while enjoying some wine, snacks and the amazing view. 

Day 3 (Sept. 10) – Drove ~100 miles from Stonington to Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park (Winter Harbor).  Awoke to a glorious view from my room with floor to ceiling windows.  We ate breakfast at the HarborCafe, walked around town and then drove to Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.  It’s hard to describe this place.  Sculptures, jams and jellies (obviously), an Old West-type village.  Check out the website and see for yourself.  It’s worth a visit. 

My bedroom view at the Halpin's house  
After leaving Stonington, I detoured to Acadia National Park to see the top of Cadillac Mountain.  My visit wasn’t as quick as the Griswold’s at the Grand Canyon (I did walk around a bit) but it was close. 

On top of Cadillac Mountain
The main part of Acadia is separate from the Schoodic Institute.  The drive within this section of Acadia is incredible.  I arrived around 3 p.m. and after parking, realized I had followed Woody into the park.  He is a native of Maine and I met him last year on the ride.  The ride is fairly small (limited to 400 riders) and many are repeat riders. 

After checking in, setting up camp and eating, I was beat.  Two 10-hour days of driving did me in.  I wasn’t feeling too social and was in my tent by 8 p.m. listening to the entertainment in the nearby food tent. 

Day 4 (Sept. 11) – Biked 64 miles from Schoodic Institute (Winter Harbor) to Jonesport.  The first 40 miles were fairly easy.  (I had not trained much for this ride so was initially pleased it felt “easy.”)  The rest stop lunch was at Darthia Farm in Gouldsboro.  Around mile 50 it rained HARD and was super windy.  I kept going until I heard thunder and then ducked into a grocery store with some other riders.  Luckily the sun came out after only 15 minutes.  Our last rest stop was at a local church and when I asked for a hot dog the woman asked, “Brown or red?”  Wha???  Apparently red hot dogs are a thing in Maine.  Pretty tasty!

Our camp was at Kelley Point.  Pretty isolated and right on the water.  Our baggage was wet from the downpour so lots of folks spent the rest of day drying out their stuff.  Thank goodness I packed all my belongings in two-gallon Ziploc baggies! The sun came out later so that helped.  Dinner was a lobster boil (lobster, mussels, corn-on-the-cob, baked beans and cole slaw, blueberry crisp with whipped cream for dessert). 

Kelley Point campsite

Let's eat!
Day 5 (Sept. 12) – Biked 54 miles from Jonesport to Machias.  The temperature dropped during the night so I put on my sweatpants, hoody and socks.  I heard the lobster boats heading out at 4 a.m.  Today was sunny and in the 70s.  Highlights were Beals Island, Great Wass Island, Roque Bluffs State Park and Jasper Beach.  Lunch was at the Machiasport Fire Station.  Sandwiches, salad, haddock stew, squash soup, kale soup and chicken soup.  I tried all but the kale.  Have to leave some for the others.  Tonight we camped at Middle River Park along the Machias River. 

Roque Bluffs State Park
Day 6 (Sept. 13) – Biked 59 miles from Machias to Eastport.  Today was the hilliest day yet.  Lots of rollers and some longer hills wore me out.  After lunch (tuna and egg salad, pasta salad, lettuce salad with amazing cherry tomatoes, lemonade and a multitude of desserts), I stopped at the Charlotte Town Hall.  A cute older man gave a tour.  All the items reminded me of my grandparent’s barn/garage. 

Eastport, the easternmost city in the United States, was our layover town.  You know you’re on the coast when most towns are named “port”.  I enjoyed the town, which was a short walk from our campsite behind a grocery store. 

After setting up my tent I walked across the street to Raye’s Mustard to catch a tour.  Raye’s is the country’s last remaining traditional stone-ground mustard mill.  The tour was very interesting and the mustard samples were delicious.  It was hard to decide, but I did buy a jar.  If I didn’t have to load my bags on a truck I would have bought more. I was a little leery of multiple glass jars in my already stuffed bag. 

Being on our own for dinner tonight, I joined some other riders for a short walk to the Eastport Chowder House.  We sat outside and had a beautiful view of the water and sunset.  The seafood pasta was great. 

Eastport fisherman and pier
Day 7 (Sept. 14) – Layover day!  We stayed two nights in Eastport so could do whatever we wanted today.  I had a quick breakfast and browsed some shops in town, I then took the Eastport ferry to Lubec and rode the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge to Campobello Island.  Our little group was Carolyn, her sister Peggy and Ellen.  We “picked up” Joe on the way.  The forecast called for rain but we timed it perfectly.  The day started out sunny, turned cloudy and we made it back to our tents before the rain.  We toured the Roosevelt’s summer home and took a short ride to Herring Cove after lunch at Jocie’s Porch.  There is much to explore on Campobello; I just wasn’t interested in riding that much since I wasn’t in top biking shape.  I topped out at 11 miles. 

Playing croquet at Campobello

Carolyn, Ellen, Peggy and Joe at Herring Cove
Dinner in town with the bike group again was salmon, potatoes, salad, blueberries and cream. 

Eastport sunset
Day 8 (Sept. 15) – Biked 54 miles from Eastport to Lubec.  We joked that instead of biking to Lubec, we could have put our bags on the truck and taken the ferry again.  But then we would have missed the reversing falls in Pembroke Falls State Park.  To get to the reversing falls, we had to bike 1 1/2 miles on a crushed gravel road.  The gravel was small and not dangerous, but dusty and annoying.  Well worth it!  Had a wonderful lunch at the Tide Mill Organic Farm (chicken salad sandwich, salad, vegetable soup and zucchini bread). 

Reversing Falls

This puppy was napping in town.  I felt exactly the same way.  
Lubec is a cute town with a few shops.  They also had live music downtown for us.  Dinner was steak, cole slaw, potatoes, corn and rhubarb crisp for dessert.  The nights got progressively colder.  During this night, I put on my bike leg warmers under my sweats.  I later heard the temperature dipped to 38 degrees. 

Day 9 (Sept. 16) – Biked 74 miles from Lubec to Milbridge.  We had camped on the grounds of a school in Lubec.  We were unable to use any showers in the school (we had the shower truck), but this morning I changed in one of the school’s single-person bathrooms.  So nice!  I’m glad I was up early because after I ate breakfast I saw a sign that bikers were not to use it anymore. 

Today’s highlight was Quoddy Head State Park and the lighthouse.  Quoddy Head State Park is the easternmost point in the United States. Today was a hard day.  Lots of rolling hills and very windy.  Despite the beautiful rolling blueberry fields along most of the route, I did not enjoy today very much.  

At the Quoddy Head State Park lighthouse.  Very cool! 
Blueberry fields
Lunch was in Whitneyville.  Haddock stew, sandwiches, pasta salad, blueberry pie with ice cream.  I also stopped at Wreaths Across America, an organization that provides holiday wreaths at Arlington Cemetery. 

Dinner was at a downtown public building and catered by Vasquez Mexican Restaurant.  Chicken tamales, chicken and peppers, corn tortillas, rice, beans, chips and pico de gallo. 
Last freezing night!  This time I put on my bike jersey and arm warmers; with a hoody and another jacket on top of that.  On the bottom I wore my leg warmers with my sweats.  And socks and ear warmers.  I know I looked ridiculous! 

Milbridge campsite
Day 10 (Sept. 17) – Biked 38 miles from Milbridge to Schoodic Institute (Winter Harbor).  Drove ~570 miles from Winter Harbor to Dunmore, Pennsylvania.  The best parts of this day were the low mileage and the view inside the Acadia park.  We rode through Cherryfield, which, ironically, is the blueberry capital of the world.  I made it to my car by 11 a.m. and, after finding my luggage in a huge pile, I showered and ate lunch.  I was homeward bound by noon. 

My goal going home was to find a place in Scranton.  I saw a chain hotel on my phone with a decent rate but when I pulled in at 11 p.m. it was full.  I ended up at the Dunmore Inn down the street.  I was hesitant since it was a motel and the doors opened to the outside.  It was cheap and clean, and it was late.  It was also nice to roll my bike right into the room.  I was in bed by 11:30 p.m., said a prayer, and fell asleep in my warm room. 

Day 11 (Sept. 18) – Drove ~644 miles from Dunmore to Indianapolis.  I was on the road by 8 a.m.  My father trained me well with all our family road trips.  Don’t dawdle.  I stopped for gas and food and was home by 6 p.m. 

I can’t believe that I drove all the way to Maine by myself.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  I guess I’m so used to doing things like that and I don’t think twice.  (Well, I think twice after I’ve already committee to going.)  I wanted to go, so I did.  I hadn’t done a bike trip by myself since 2009.  I was a little nervous, but there were many repeat riders and it’s so easy to talk to people on these rides.  We’re all one bike family. 

For those of you contemplating doing anything on your own, DO IT.  It’s nice to have a friend (or friends) to keep you company, but when your friends are unavailable, GO.  You will meet other people with the same interested and have more friends. 

I’m thankful I made the effort to see the Down East part of Maine.  Many native Mainers on the ride said they have lived their whole life in the state and had never been to that part before.  It’s truly incredible. 


Maine is no longer calling my name.  At least not very loudly.  Next year’s ride will be in the western part of the state in the mountains – pathway to the peaks.  I’m sure it will be pretty, but I want to stay a bit closer to home.  I’m sure I will return one day.  As I said last year, Maine is wicked awesome!