Subject: Wanderlust 12 - Portland, Maine
Date: Thu, 19 Jun 1997 06:36:38 -0700
Wanderlust 12 - Portland, Maine
Right turn at Rockport. 4,275 miles.
One of the days during the campout, the road crew took me to "weird beach". Otherwise known on the map as Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee. Being naive, I actually put on my bathing suit. There is a beach, but no one from the Laconia race crowd uses it. Weirs is where the hundreds of sideshow vendors set up to attract the crowds that are there to attract themselves. I must have missed the call when 'cruise up and down' genetic instructions were handed out. Here is a pleasure I've not yet learned. People sit in chairs on the side of the road to watch the people who ride back and forth to see the people who came to watch them. (How did I start writing in a circle?)
All I can say is I have seen and heard enough Harleys to last the rest of my life. Granted some of them are exquisite, but enough already. I just can't appreciate the 'special' aspect of Trailer Davidsons as one of the spectators called them. Call me elitist, but motorcycles are supposed to be ridden farther than around the block. Twice.
Later I began to think of Harleys as the black flies of motorcycles. Obviously, they are all dressed in black, it is impossible to have a conversation when they are constantly buzzing around, when you shoo them away they only go a short distance, and they all disappear in a week or two until next year at the same time. At least they don't bite.
Ok, ok, the show was worth one visit. But I kept missing the mistress dressed in white thong tatters (how do you tatter a thong?), 6-inch white spike heels, white fur collar, and led on a leash by a bearded gentleman who allowed his belly to proceed himself. My loss, I guess. But the brothers Steve were excited.
When the combined clubs went to the races, I raced to the hills alone doing what they call the 'notch hop'. Here again is one of those interesting regional differences. In the west they are canyons, in the southwest they are draws, in Appalachia they are hollows, and in the northeast the river valley cuts are notches. I passed through three, Franconia Notch past the Old Man, Crawford Notch past the Road Kill Cafe, and Pinkham Notch past Mt. Washington.
The Old Man is a rock face that looks like a man face. Popeye after too much spinach, perhaps, but it is a beautiful valley. The Road Kill Cafe is more imaginative. There really is such a place in Glen, NH. Their menu is a laugh ... among others - Probably Pork Ribs, The Chicken That Didn't Make It Across The Road, Potato Pelts, and various burgers "served with nightcrawlers (french fried potatoes) and what appears to be either a pickle or a very old tadpole". I am reminded of a quote: "Road food is always neutral in color and taste. It only turns exciting a couple of hours later."
The last Notch was cold and windy for June, which is the same as it is all year. There is a dirt road that climbs to the 6,288 ft 1,917 m summit of Mt. Washington. I would not recommend it if you like your bike. Yes it is passable, but that's the problem. People like to drive a little too energetically on it and if you get passed you get rocks spit at you. If you do go - and many have - dress for winter even in the summer. There is an interesting meteorological phenomena here. It is the spot on the planet where the jet stream comes closest to the surface. High winds are a bit of a redundancy. :) "Weather" changes rapidly here, rarely for the better. It can be cold enough to freeze water on top while it is hot enough to melt chocolate in the valley.
Finally into Maine! And at the border there is a sign: Maine, life as it should be. I quickly found myself saying "A-yup". Maine people are proud people. Maniac is probably not the sanctioned descriptive derivative, but it is close. :) Somehow the mountains know to stop at the border. Almost immediately the land seems to begin to slope down toward the ocean, changing to pine forest, then to shorter trees and soon showing glacial deposit rocks. Even miles from the shore it seems the smell of the ocean is in the air. This trip is convincing me of what I already know - my breed must be part 'water dog'. I feel better near the sea.
Almost 20 years ago I was on another wander through this part of the state. I happened upon the town of Mexico, Maine. In it my 'cafe eye' hesitated on the overly festooned facade of The Chicken Coop diner. It might have been the plastic chicken wearing a crown, standing between pillars of a fork and a knife, proclaiming "I'm King Here" that made me pause. But I went in anyway. Let me tell you not only was that one of the best seafood diners I enjoyed in Maine, but the homemade 3-inch shortcakes covered in strawberries and buried under whipped cream are a major glorp. Twenty years later the glorp is just as good.
The old road through the backwoods of Maine rolls though many small towns. I noted something which I had forgotten is common in old New England. The very old houses, 100 years and more, are all built within a few feet of the edge of the road. I never understood why. Today there is hardly room for a sidewalk between the house and road, and it is obvious the road has not been widened in all that time.
At the beginning of this travel story I said I would turn south when I got to Maine. And so it happened. Reaching Rockport without my walking shoes, at 4,275 miles into the journey I made the right onto the longest road no one likes to drive - US 1 which follows the coast from the top of Maine to the tip of Florida. When I was in college many years ago, I collected some unnecessary items as college students are wont to do. My collection was of US1 road signs from every state through which it passes. At least in this part of Maine, the road still is close enough to show those picture postcard views of harbors (pronounced 'hah-bahs', a-yup) and the lahb-stah boats bobbing at the docks. Oh such minor things. Now riding south into the sun means I have to use sunglasses.
Heading 'down east', US 1 eventually delivered me to many a yuppie's mecca. Freeport is a small town overrun by an idea. The L.L. Bean company and outlet store is located here. Later I learned the store is open 24 hours a day. !? Wonder how many people just have to rush in for expedition gear at 2 am? Anyway, the idea of an outlet store has been carried a bit far. The entire town, as much as I could see, is all outlet stores. Not just a mall, but everything everywhere is outlet ... that is except for one road which ended near the shore and had a sign 'no outlet'. :)
What would a trip to Maine be without a battle with the culinary crustacean. President Judy met me one more time in Portland for her traditional rite of spring - a claw wrestling match. (Her and the lobster, not me.)
Thornton US3 US302 VT16 US2 ME27 ME17 ME90 US1 Portland
FuelPlus statistics: 321 miles, 10:04 engine run, 46 mph average
Have Bike, Will Travel
Wire: Sam Lepore, San Francisco
88 R100RT and 95 K75RT