Saturday, August 11, 2007

First miles...

Ahoy, from Camden, ME. I'm in love with Maine. Definitely a bit "sticky" compared to southern California, but sooooo beautiful. This library and the last have not allowed photo posting, so you'll have to wait for that. People in Maine are strange. They're nice, considerate, very careful on the road with cyclists--such a flaming contrast to California.

I spent last night on the shores of Penobscot bay at tidewater. The water moved up a bit towards my tent, but no contact. Before setting up camp, I met a real, down-home Mainer, Stuart French, a man who can trace his family back to the Mayflower and veterans of the Revolutionary War. He said that he could lay claim to 2 -- 3,ooo relatives in the state! He carried on in a wonderfully encyclopedic way about local history, how the war ships for our independence were built just down the coast, how some of them were sunk in the harbor just around the corner and how Yankee Mainiacs rowed out under cover of night and sank three of the damn Brit's scows. Go Yankees! He was kind of melancholy character, lamenting is past body building glory (Mr. Maine among other honors). We chatted for some time; then I had to drag Mojo down to the shore for dinner. Contrary to what Stuart had said, the mosquitoes were quite comfortable with the salty shore. I ate my simple meal of rice, kippers, and broccoli seasoned with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan. The cormorants croaked and squawked. Osprey's trolled the waters for their meal. The sun set behind humid skies on this revolutionary coast.

Now I've got to saddle up and do another 20 miles before bed in a little burg called Waldoboro. I've already had a couple of offers for support and places to stay, but it's too early in the day. It's brilliantly sunny, bright, a breeze off the Atlantic--hot and sweaty on the climbs, however. This is my last brush with the eastern shore. If all goes according to plan, my next ocean will be the Pacific. Oy, the miles still to go.

My camp by the bay:

Here's Mojo in the fullest of full fig:

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Maine Event

The threshold crossing was an epic. My old self has been destroyed, and I've been reborn on the other side of the continent. The flights were all on time, but the lay-over in Boston was, shall we say, HELL? Dallas was fine--a nice airport--and the flight was made very pleasant by an unexpected encounter. I boarded on time, making sure to pass my explosive Teva's through the scanner, and settled into my seat. My row-mate, Phil from Tufts University, had just completed his own trans-continental bike ride. Well, hot diggity damn. What are the odds of both of us sitting on the same plane let alone the same row? Instant brothers, we talked long into the night as we raced towards Boston. Clouds and the inky void meant no views to be had. As we neared the east coast, towns and roads glowed through the fog like new born stars in a distant nebula.

In Boston, I dragged my monster duffel across to the next check-in area at midnight. Some folks were already laid out on cots provided for fools and wayward souls like myself. Obnoxious pop music blared from hidden speakers. Periodically, God's voice cut in to warn travellers about security requirements. Whatever you do, do NOT take that suspicious package from the bearded guy in the turban and flowing white cloak, okay? I slipped in behind an unused stainless steel cart of some sort, set up my pad, wedged plugs into my ears and hoped for the best. No sleep was as good as it got.

5am, I crawled from my burrow, staggered over to Starbucks--LIFE!--and sat in a caffeine twisted stupor to await my flight. Rain and dark clouds did little to lighten my condition as I scrambled for the tiny plane that would take me to Bar Harbor. A 19-seater, it bobbed and twisted and made me quite green. I struggled to hold onto my Starbucks'. On the ground with my stomach load intact, I was confronted by a lack of baggage. Lovely. They'd send it ahead to the hostel. In town, I marched through pouring rain to the bike shop where I was required to assemble my bike outside where no shelter was to be found. Oooooh, having fun, yo? In even heavier rain and with no rain gear (on its way, they said), I stomped to the hostel to be confronted by the all-to-common lock down. I was so tired I was about the vomit. Luckily, I found a strange, partly constructed annex with some shelter form the storm. I crawled in, covered the openings as best I could with some stray plywood, and collapsed onto my pad, getting some sleep at long blessed last.

Today is as beautiful as yesterday was horrendous. I slept well in my tent as the storm ended late in the afternoon. Now I've got my bike all together and I'm off for a little tour of the island. Tomorrow, I head west. Head west not-so-young-man, head west!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Launch or Hurl?

My last day before taking off has been somewhat busy--cleaning house, doing stuff, keeping busy. The humming birds swarm around the property, and the day is perfectly sweet, a nice cool spell after weeks of heat. Being August, of course, it won't last, but I'll take this parting gift from the weather gods, a foretaste of autumn. Already I'm beginning to sense a change in the quality of light, even if it's rather faint at this point. When I return, we'll be fully into another season, even closing in on winter. The other morning I stepped out before the sun had risen--an alarm clock gift in the form of two pounds of psychotic kitty--only to see Orion for the first time dominating the eastern horizon. Normally I would be gearing up for classes, reviewing rosters, class notes, plotting tactics and strategies for the coming semester. But little is normal this time.

I'm reminded of my internal state when I faced the vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite. I was just eighteen, hardly needing to shave, and I camped with new friends in The Valley's infamous Camp 4. El Cap, as we called it, loomed in ways that are hard for the non-climber to imagine. The casual tourist looks up and thinks: Wow, that's big. The climber poised for an ascent staggers about with a gut full of acid roiling and boiling within. He's calm and cool to his mates, but inside he's raging, plotting, striving to anticipate what he'll need to do, how to handle the challenges and fear, doing everything he can to keep the uncertainty under control. You've just got to step up and do it. How did Goethe put it? "Boldness has genius in it?" Something like that. Good words to remember when we challenge ourselves. Plot, plan, train, anticipate, then just take the leap. Although there can be risk in the leap, for me the risk of the leap not taken is the greater.

Preparing, devising, executing an expedition like this is a convoluted undertaking. Somewhere, somehow, the seed germinates in your head, and you decide that, yeah, I've simply GOT to do that. But between thinking and doing there often exists a fearsome chasm. It's one thing to think about having sex with a squadron of super models. It's something else to git 'er done. A full life means seeing these things through. So for me I substitute Maine and New Mexico for Tyra Banks and Heidi you get the idea. (I don't think I'll push this metaphor any further...)

So now, at long last, the game is afoot. Thanks, everyone, for you words of support. My next posting will be from the eastern edge of the frontier. What strange creatures and customs will I find? Will the natives be friendly or hostile? The adventure will tell!