Miles to Date: 434
May 12, 2015 – Partly cloudy, 65 degrees
I woke up hungry on the edge of town, unsure where I might find any food heading west. Fortunately I came upon a fresh farm stand where I got a couple of bananas, tangerines, a hunk of cheese and a container of GORP. That put me in good shape to tackle 30 miles of rolling countryside through Maine’s Lake Country.
My fascination with ‘stuff’ in Maine struck a new high today. All along the road from Auburn through Minot people had set giant piles of brush, lumber, old furniture, car parts and mildewed clothing by the curb. At one point I came upon a convoy of four orange dump trucks and a shovel truck. A team of sanitation workers in jump suits put whatever people had piled into the trucks. I am sure that this was not a typical trash day, but it was amazing to see how much stuff was headed to its final resting place buried in a landfill.
The narrow roads of back woods Maine are more like Appalachia than any other area of the East Coast I’ve ever seen. Houses with plastic covered windows and rusted trailer homes are littered with all kinds of yard stuff. Dogs bark loud, but fortunately, they’re tied tight. Towns and lakes with a tourist bent are pristine, but the back roads are cluttered with stuff past use, churches with an evangelical bent, country music references, and American flag motifs.
I stopped at Ricky’s Diner in Bridgton for lunch; patty melt with fries and a brownie sundae dessert. The waitress worked the room like a professional entertainer, brought extra napkins and exclaimed, “If it’s not messy, it’s not good.” Most of the patrons were older than me, and a good deal heftier. But it didn’t take long for folks to talk across tables, and soon I was passing out my card and asking people about tomorrow. Exactly how I imagined engaging people from a different perspective when I planned this trip. One guy with a deep, percussive voice turned out to be a bluegrass guitarist and singer. Jack D. Jolie has a great YouTube rendition of Bill Monroe’s Old, Old House.
The road to Fryeburg is perfect – a wide shoulder and fresh blacktop through a forest of gorgeous golden buds on black-trunked trees. The rise into Conway, NH is gradual. As I left Maine behind I realized what good luck I’ve had in traveling safe, meeting great people, and enjoying good cycling weather. It will be tough for other states to be as accommodating as Maine.
When I pedaled up to the White Mountain Hostel I realized I’d been here before – 40 years ago on a college ski trip. Then, the place buzzed with winter activity. Now, I am between seasons and it’s very quiet. Still, it’s clean and friendlier than a motel. They gave me a prime room. The view out my window shows the sharp silhouette of the mountains. Tomorrow I am going to live in low gear.