|Fresh cooked lobster|
For my part, the scenery features only a little in my decision to join a cycling trip in Maine, but mostly it fits into my travel dates: tucked neatly between visiting the foodies in Milwaukee and a friend in New York. I also mistakenly think it will give me the incentive to get fit in the scant month we have back in New Zealand, between eating our way around France and Italy and coming to the US.
|Bar Harbor, Maine|
|One of the 17 hand hewn granite bridges in Acadia|
I arrive the day before the rest of the group joining VBT's Purely Acadia tour, and spend time getting to know Bar Harbor. Not unlike Kaikoura on the east coast of the South Island of NZ, it has a population of less than 5,000 which swells to three times that with summer visitors, who come not only to eat lobster, but hike, cycle, canoe, kayak, whale watch, sail, and generally relax and enjoy the outdoors. However, unlike Kaikoura, many of those coming for the summer are the rich and famous who have "cottages" - a term surely rich in irony - on the island.
|A summer "cottage"|
|The best tour leaders on earth|
Day two dawns sunny and everyone is ready to go - me with justified trepidation, given my lack of preparation. The ride is rated easy-moderate which apparently means some "moderate" hills. Tony heads off in the support van and Anne rides shotgun on the group. The support van is not really there to scoop you up when you lie exhausted alongside the road, nice as that would be. The carriage trails are just that - for horse drawn carriages, walkers and cyclists. No vehicles are allowed within the Park. It is not long before I am hoping a well timed heart attack will relieve me of having to continue on the ride. It is quite hot, the carriage trails are gravel, and harder work than the nice flat asphalt I ride on at home. By banana o'clock I am gasping, but after a break and words of encouragement from Anne, I complete the 13 miles (20 kms) to Jordan Pond House and lunch. With survival my main goal, I elect to take a ride back to Bar Harbour rather than continue for another 13 miles in the afternoon.
|Bar Harbor Inn, our base for 3 nights|
|Looking back across Sand Beach|
The afternoon sees the group divide into two: the masochists who cycle up Cadillac Mountain - a 45 minute uphill (1,500 ft or 440 metres) grind with a 12 minute adrenaline filled downhill run; and the rest who take a leisurely ride back along the loop road. No prizes for guessing which group I join.
Having enjoyed weather that can only be described as hot over the first few days, it is a surprise that the next day it rains. And rains. And rains. However, as luck would have it, this is the one non cycling day, assigned as it is for a ferry trip to an offshore island. Hardy souls decide to take the ferry anyway, some opt for a trip to a car museum, and I enjoy sitting in the comfortable lounge of the Asticou Inn, drinking tea and gazing out over the brooding harbour. It stops raining about mid afternoon and a mile walk into the village is a pleasant respite and provides a surprise. I find the best home and kitchenware shop I have ever seen! They seem to do very well out of the summer people equipping their "cottages".
|Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park|
It has been a wonderful trip and everyone has enjoyed themselves immensely. There is enough challenge for the fitter, faster riders, and enough options for those who don't want to ride as much, or like me, need a couple of days to get up to speed. The accommodations were very comfortable, the food great (especially the picnic Anne prepared including her home preserves), and the company fun and congenial. Apparently the Maine state motto is "life the way it should be". Sounds good to me.
|14 happy bikers|