Leg; 720 miles / 1,159 km
Total; 11,546 miles / 18,581 km
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Our New England adventure started with a fantastic stay in New London, with a classical furniture maker / restorer. Richard lives in a house he made, stocked full of beautiful wooden chart tables, wardrobes and sleigh beds he also crafted. The house was right next to a lighthouse and our bedroom looked onto a small beach and over the Thames River. The place names were making us feel right at home, as was the weather! We left the next morning in driving rain and gruesome headwinds. Our efforts were rewarded with beautiful countryside and we ended the day in the state of Rhode Island. The next 20 miles were along the incredible Washington Secondary Trail and before we knew it we were in Massachusetts. Chris grew up in Plymouth (England) so we couldn’t come all this way without seeing its famous American namesake.
We were immediately struck by how similar the two Plymouth’s are! Both small maritime cities, surrounded by beautiful countryside and tragic out of town retail centres. The Pilgrim and Mayflower themed businesses are also seen in both cities, as are the historically inaccurate references to the ‘founding fathers’. Our next stop was Boston. We had no expectations, but we loved it. Easily our favourite US city. There’s a wonderfully open, friendly aura across the city that seems to make all visitors and residents smile. The history associated with Harvard and MIT Universities is everywhere, and the Charles River (running through the middle of the city) has numerous lagoons, walking and biking trials, that give Boston a waterfront feel. On the way out of town we took a detour to see the USS Constitution – which was surrounded by snow! – and cycled through the Amsterdam-esque Charlestown to see the Bunker Hill Monument.
We took the Northern Strand Community Trail out of Boston and bumped into two incredible custom frame builders (Bryan of Royal H and Jay of Roulez) within a few miles of each other. We cycled with Jay to his workshop and he fixed Ties’ rear brake, which hadn’t been working for weeks! We pedalled onwards towards Salem and had lunch surrounded by numerous museums, memorials and tourist traps associated with the town’s ‘witches’ past. Our last night in ‘Mass’ was spent with Matt; a Warm Showers host, nurse and photographer. Matt took us for a delicious dinner in nearby Newburyport and a sunrise beach walk with his adorable dog Pepper. From Matt’s it was only a few miles into New Hampshire, where we were greeted with the most dubious state sign slogan yet, “live free or die”. Several people explained it was to do with the Revolution, but no-one could explain why New Hampshire in particular retained such an explicit reference in 2017!
New Hampshire was the only state of our trip where we didn’t spend a night, and after a short ride through three states we finished the day in Maine. We stayed with Larry who had hosted us in Florida and said that if he was around in Kittery he’d happily host us there too. We timed our arrival well and he broiled some steak and told us about his upcoming triathlon back down in Florida. The forecast for the next day was grim but we left with sun poking through the clouds and happy to be on rural coastal roads. Sadly the forecast was right and we got drenched for the last 20 miles to Portland.
The next few days took us through gorgeous Maine countryside and coastal villages to Camden. We had never planned to stay in Camden but we wanted to visit a fellow cycle tourer (Brent) we met in California who had since got a summer job on the oldest surviving schooner in the States, the Lewis R French. We met Brent in Rockland, where, in his own words, he was ‘thrifting for a crockpot’. We went to the local market and bought a lobster for dinner, then cycled up to Camden where the boat was docked. Brent’s current job was prepping the boat for the busy summer season, when hoards of tourists would come to Camden to go on 5 day island-hopping cruises. The boat was magnificent, even though it was still wrapped in its giant plastic winter coat. Brent cooked up a storm on the boat’s wood burning stove and we slept in one of the cabins. The full Maine experience was topped off with clam chowder that Brent had picked up from the local pub.
Larry had recommended we take a detour to Castine. We dismissed this initially, as it added significant hilly miles, but eventually we decided to take the plunge as Larry’s tips had returned a 100% hit rate! And he wasn’t wrong; the ride along the Bagaduce peninsula was stunning. After a night in Castine, we followed the scenic Penobscot river to Blue Hill before heading north again towards Ellsworth. Our final adventure I Maine was a detour down to Acadia National Park. We rode the Loop road on both the Bar Harbor and Schoodic peninsula sides of the park. While the weather wasn’t great – it snowed the first morning! – it was great to have the park (almost) to ourselves and avoid the 3 million visitors they get in the peak summer months. Acadia has an incredible landscape. The Loop road meanders through forests and skirts right along the coast so you get to see a huge variety of views. We also cycled the 3.5 miles up to the top of Cadillac Mountain; famous for giving visitors the ‘first sunrise in the US each day’. The view from up there is exceptional and the descent is lots of fun too!
Our last day in the States was a rainy send off but a stunning ride with a view of Canada to the right as we entered Calais. The Canadian Border Patrol team gave us a warm welcome and significantly less grilling than the last encounter with their America counterparts!