Saturday, October 31, 2009

She's a Maine-iac, Maine-iac....

So.  In order to finish the requirements for my Iron Butt 'Master Tourer - Silver' challenge you may recall I need to get at least one stamp from a National Park in Maine.  There are only two qualifying parks in Maine and the nearest of them is halfway up the East coast in Bar Harbor.  I have until May 11th, 2010, but it's not going to be any warmer between now and then than it is now, so I have three days to get up there and back or it ain't gonna happen.

The Plan was fairly simple, really: 95 North from Maryland to Maine and back.

Sunday - Leave directly from work with bike packed to sleep at sister's house to gain 45 minutes travel time.
Monday - Leave from Harford County, MD between 7 and 8 am and ride to somewhere North of Boston and find a hotel for the night.
Tuesday - leave between 7 and 8 am and ride from Boston to Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, and spend 3 or 4 hours tooling around the park to actually enjoy it and collect several stamps available at various visitor centers along the park loop road.  Leave park mid-afternoon to ride South as far as possible before turning in for the night.
Wednesday - Leave between 7 and 8 am and hit parks in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut on the way home to add some more parks and stamps to the collection.  Arrive in Batimore early enough to get some sleep before work the next morning.

Simplicity, though, is a deceptive thing...

Sunday - I left work an hour early to get a head start, but spent it in the parking lot crawling behind the hundreds of cars also trying to get out of the Renn Faire before closed.

Monday - After some scrambled eggs and hanging with my peeps, my sister drove them to school and I delayed leaving to change my headlight to a brighter bulb for the 3 day moonless trip.  I left at about 9am and at 945 and 46F degrees pulled over to figure out why my Gerbing heated gloves were no longer warm.  The fuse to the gloves was fine, so it was probably the fuse under the seat that blew.  Back on the road, it was a tad chilly without electrified gloves, but the Delaware Park sign was only a minor distraction.  Visions of slot machines danced in my head, but I thought 'perhaps I'll have time on the way home...'  Another hour into the cold, though, and the sign for Atlantic city was a bit more enticing.

At about 1115am or so, I pulled into a Cracker Barrel to thaw and have something to eat and swap out the powerlet fuse.  After chatting with the waitress, Kristen, about bikes, I headed out again, but without the benefit of the heated gloves.  The fuse had been bad...looked like something had sneezed in its little glass tube. I put a fresh one in, but I needed to be able to rely on the power outlet to charge my phone and gps, so I didn't take the chance that the gloves would blow the fuse again.

From my last bike trip I knew that the 10 minute rule I'd implemented didn't give me quite the margin I needed, but I stuck with it anyway:  for every hour the GPS or mapping program said it would take, I add 10 mins to the total time to come up with something more realistic.  Baltimore to Bar Harbor, 12 hours x 10 minutes = 120 minutes, means 14 hours to get there.  Simple.

Unless 95 takes you through New York and over the George Washington Bridge.  I can't bring myself to go into the details of the traffic, tolls, trucks, and the accident that caused me to run the gas tank to a blinking 'low', barely moving even when we did, on a misnamed 'expressway', freezing my butt off with a serious clutch-hand cramp.

I got past New York at 230.  Since I wasn't going to make it anywhere North of Boston to stop for the night and my plans were already seriously out of whack, I decided that I'd stop at a Connecticut Park, which would open up time on the way home and give me a break today.  Of course, being a spontaneous stop, I didn't know that Weir Farm National Historic Site was only open Wednesday to Sunday.  The grounds were pretty, but I left after taking a couple of photos and finding the bathrooms locked.  Of course.

I can't for the life of me remember where I ended up Monday night.  That's what I get for not making notes that night!

******Day 2*********

Tuesday was rainy and cold and not fun.  I was hesitant to plug the gloves back in, but if I was ever gonna need them, it seemed like it was today, so what was I saving them for?  I had three more fuses with me, just in case.

I saw less than a handful of bikes on the road all day.  The rain was steady, but mostly light and traffic wasn't bad at all.   The biggest problem I had in the morning was a bit of the filling that's been escaping a back molar recently lodged itself in a dark recess next to my tongue.  Not bigger than a poppy seed, I'd bet, but tucked away in a soft fold that my tongue kept looking for, but never did find.  But for the  nacre, I'd have had a pearl by the end of the day.  In the evening, it was a bit of hair that got loose from my hood when I put my helmet on that kept wacking me, wacking me, wacking me in the eye. 

Annoyingly, the road to Acadia went through Bar Harbor during rush hour, and had construction crews directing traffic.  I had to devote most of my attention to the bad roads, so I didn't see much in the way of scenery.  It was slow going and pretty cold getting to the park, but I did make it.  The parking lot was nearly empty, so I swung in to the space nearest the base of the stairs and yanked off my gloves to undo the tank bag.  I hopped up the stairs, tank bag in hand, out of breath, hoping the center was open till 6...but it wasn't.  Of course.  Well, they can't say I wasn't there.  I took some pictures as I made my way down the million stairs and grabbed a brochure out of the box at the bottom.  I could read about all the stuff I was gonna not see some other time.

I got back on the bike ready to start my way home grateful that the rain had at least stopped. The temps were 36 and 34 depending on whether you believed the bank or the convenience store sign, but either one put it too close to freezing for my taste.  I planned to get as far on my way as I could before the sun set.  I wasn't going anywhere once the sun disappeared and left the wet roads to an icy night.

I made my calls from a Walgreens where I'd gotten something to drink, and decided on the place right across the street.  The Cozy Inn in Brewer, Maine was basic, but had free wireless and wouldn't require me to do anything but make it across the street.

Ah, the Cozy Inn... The wireless was not working, so I gave up messing with that to warm up in the shower.  Really, all I wanted out of a hotel tonight was a hot shower and a clean bed to sleep in.  Well, they did have a bed.  When I called about there being no hot water and no internet, the oh, so charismatic owner said she'd reset the router and I should try later and that perhaps I should try the shower in the morning because the other guests must have just performed their evening ablutions.

So, cold and bored and wondering what karmic debt I was paying off, I watched the weather report and called home.  It was going to be cold again the next day, but the rain had moved out, so at least it should be dry.  My rain suit was tattered from the day's ride already, so 'dry' sounded good to me.

*********Day 3**********

On Wednesday, there was no point to taking a shower and not being able to dry my hair completely.  I used the now hot water to wash my face and then turned on the weather and started packing up again.  Wind chills in the 30's all day, but dry.  At least my gloves had dried completely on the heater overnight.  I made my first trip out to the bike with all the cords that needed to be secured to the handlebars and stopped short at the ice covering the bike.  I didn't need a chisel or anything, but the tank and speedometer were covered in frozen rain and the seat was no longer black for the frost that was on it.

I went back in and slowed down a bit wanting to give the sun a little time to do it's thing to whatever might be sticking to the asphalt before getting back on the road.  I watched the news on and off while organizing my things and was struck by the least pretty news team I'd ever seen.  Not that they were unattractive, but very normal and striking in their lack of attempt to satisfy anyone's expectations of what people on tv 'should' look like.  I flipped through the other channels and found the other news teams decked out in their on-air fancies and all make-up'd out.  I went back to the average Joe channel in silent support of the regular guy, but they used no maps when they did the traffic report.  Neither did the other stations, so I had no idea if I was going to hit the traffic on 95 caused by the accident they kept mentioning.

I scraped the frost off the seat, the ice off the speedometer, and loaded up my stuff.  At 8am it was cold, but clear and I was grateful not only not to get stuck in accident traffic, but apparently to be out of the way of rush hour activities at all. 

At 10am I stopped to fill up and warm up.  The gloves were still working, but like a most of yesterday, it was so cold out that all they served to do was keep my hands from being worse than cold.  The outlet plug continued to shimmy itself out of the socket at annoyingly frequent intervals and the change in temperature in the gloves from cold to frozen was a constant prompt to reseat the plug.  It was annoying, but at least it proved that the gloves were doing *something* for my hands, even if it wasn't enough to call them warm.  Not by a longshot.

Augusta, Maine into New Hampshire again, then Massachussetts headed West to start an avoidance path to keep me far, far away from the George Washington Bridge and other New York irritations.  On the way, a brown road sign caught my attention and I thought I recognized Springfield Armoury as a qualifying National Site.  I took the exit and pulled over to check my book.  Indeed, it was, and I made another unplanned stop to warm up and watch their educational film adding another park and another state to my belt.

I checked the GPS again to see where I was headed.  To keep me away from NY I told it I was headed to Harrisburg, PA and it was sending me all the way out on 90 West and then South past 4 different Parks/Sites.  I checked each one and, remarkably, the one I'd hit first was open the longest.  I managed to get myself to Van Buren National Historic Site well before the 530 close, but wouldn't make it to any of the other 3 in time, which was good...I needed to get home and there was rain in the forecast again.  The out of the way route was adding a couple of hours to the trip home as it was and I didn't want to get home in the wee hours.

I coasted into a gas station after leaving Van Buren and filled up.  I planned on riding hard until the sun went down to take advantage of the light and heat.  It turned out that going South on Rt. 287 was a beautiful alternate route with only a bit of congestion.  Once I started making my way back East to hook up with 95, I stopped for gas again in the dark and a local sign said it was 50F out.  Well, no wonder it had been almost comfortable these last couple hours.  Even in the dark it was warmer now at 730pm than it had been for the last 48 hours.

At the MD border the drizzle started.  I knew it was coming and was glad that the temps were what they were, given that my rain suit was in tatters and the fuse had blown out on the accessory port again.  It was only another hour and a half with the rain and no heated gloves 'till I pulled into the garage and unloaded what I needed off the bike.  The rest could wait.

HOME!  I'd done what I needed to do and gotten home in one piece and on time.  It wasn't the most fun ride of the season, but I wouldn't trade it.  Now, officially done the riding portion of the Master Tourer, I need to start in on my paperwork.  If there are any nice days left of the year, I might hit the nation's capital since there are a bunch of sites less than 2 hours from home base. I need to count again, but it looks like 31 states/provinces and 60+ park stamps in less than 6 months.  Not bad for my first full riding season.  And now I have all winter to plan for next year. ;)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OK, so I know what to get you for Christmas - an insulated and heated 72 layer motorcycle rainsuit made of Kevlar. Easy enough! bjelwp