Saturday, August 4, 2007

AMA IBET - Upstate NY to Acadia ME

After a productive day and a good rest in Ashland OH, I was ready to head east through upstate NY to continue my AMA tour quest and gather the last remaining national park stamps of the IBA National Park Tour.

My thoughts were to get a couple of national park stamps in OH - Cuyahoga and James Garfield NHS, but checking the visitor center hours at the national park website I realized to my dismay that they did not open until later that morning. I could be out of the state of OH and into NY by then, with intentions of getting well into Massachusetts by nightfall. So I packed up and headed out, with my first AMA stop 2/3 of the way across NY. Prior to departing on this trip, I set up an EZPass account through the Massachusetts Transportation Authority. I could have ordered the EZPass from any of the participating states but felt some allegiance to MA since I lived there for so many years. Having this toll pass made the trip across upstate NY, MA, through NH and up through Maine EXTREMELY painless. I had bad memories of previous trips through various toll booths in these states in less than ideal conditions - in the rain, in heavy rush hour traffic - and would not do that again.

First AMA stop would be Waterloo, NY, a tiny town about 5 or 6 miles south of I-90. I took the Dobbins Corner exit so that I could spend a little more time on the local roads before getting into Waterloo. I rode past a couple of potential photo opportunities, making note of them in case I had to double back. But soon enough I found a classic green "Village of Waterloo" sign, so stopped and got my photo with tour flag. As it turned out, the town of Seneca Falls was just a few miles further east on this same road. Seneca Falls is home to the Womens Rights National Historical Park, where I could get a national park stamp and add NY to my list of states for the IBA tour.

Jill got me back onto the road that would take me to I-90 and I pressed on, really hoping to make it to Springfield MA before dark. I was getting a little concerned about this, since I knew that the interstate between Albany and Springfield runs through a sparsely populated (and deer infested) area. One of the reasons I don't mind using the toll roads in the northeast is the food and gas plazas. They sure do make those stops easy and fast. I made a stop to fuel up and get a snack, but stupidly put my sunglasses back on out of habit. I didn't get too far down the road and realized my mistake, as it was dusk, the sun was at my back anyway, and I would unfortunately be arriving in Springfield after dark. I waited for a rest area to pull over, since I can't get them off using only one hand, losing time and daylight to do it.

As soon I exited the toll plaza, the ramp dumped me onto a local road where traffic was backed up to a stop. It was now dark, the road was a minefield of big potholes, cracks and ruts, and I was putting every bit of my concentration into keeping the bike upright on this rough road in the creeping traffic. I did finally make it to the hotel (thank you again Jill, and I mean it sincerely this time) and got checked in and crashed for the night.

My original plans were to get up the next morning, get two AMA photos in the area - Chicopee and Springfield - then head toward Maine. In the morning, however, I was too eager to get on the road to spend time fighting weekday morning traffic in the city, so got back onto I-90 and continued east. I made really good time! Next thing I knew, I was in Brunswick Maine, hoping the hotel would let me check in early...very early. My son is an officer in the Navy and as luck would have it, his Norfolk-based ship would be dropping anchor at the Rockland Lobsterfest and giving tours to the festival attendees. We had made plans to meet up and spend the day together at the festival, so as soon as I could get checked in and changed out of riding clothes and into shorts and sandals, I called my son and he and his dad, who lives in MA, came and got me at the hotel and we headed over to the LobsterFest in Rockland ME to have lobster and corn on the cob. We spent a wonderful day together.

The next day was Saturday, and my plans were to ride further north and ultimately to Acadia National Park. The national park stamp from Acadia would guarantee my earning the Iron Butt Association Silver certificate for the National Park Tour. Along the way I would collect four AMA IBET photos. So I headed north toward Bangor, with several waypoints programmed into Jill, my GPS. The first of these was Winslow ME. I was in Winslow AZ back in May and unfortunately had not received my AMA tour package in time for that trip. I say unfortunate since it meant I would not be adding Mountainair to my AMA list. But Winslow ME was a charming, tiny little town up on a hill looking down over the Kennebec River. I had decided to use the post office for my photo, so I let Jill direct me to the spot. I turned in where she told me to, but wasn't sure at first until I noticed the post office sign over the door to the little gas station/convenience store in the center of town. As best as I could tell, it was the only store in town.
I backtracked down the hill and over the river into Waterville. I had chosen the post office as my photo location in this town, as well, and Jill took me right to the spot. It was the post office, but nowhere on the building did it say Waterville. Well, heck! So I turned right to go around the block and it was then that I noticed that the word Waterville was carved into the granite wall that faced away from the post office. Too late to stop, I circled the block again and pulled up in front for the photo. I was sitting smack-dab in the middle of the intersection but traffic was light, so I didn't care. Since starting this tour, I was getting much more laizzez-faire about where I stopped.

Waterville was such a pretty little town, that I explored it a little bit before leaving. Some of the downtown streets were red-brick paved and it had that really old New England look about it. Eventually I headed out, taking a road that would get me onto I-95 for the short hop to Pittsfield, where I snagged a photo of a tiny train station. then it was on toward Bangor. I had identified an AMA photo spot in Bangor but decided to wait until after going to Acadia, so I took the bypass and headed to Hulls Cove and the entrance to Acadia National Park for my park stamp.

I had to make a difficult decision at this point, whether to take the park loop road and then stay in Bangor that night, or to forgo the park in the interest of getting down to Marlborough MA for the night. In the end, I chose to leave Acadia park loop for another time and start heading back toward Bangor. I had a hotel reservation in Bangor, so when I stopped for a late lunch in Ellsworth, I called and cancelled the room. Before heading south to Marlborough MA and my stop for the night, I made my photo stop in Bangor, getting a good shot of my bike with the flag in front of Bangor State College.

Next entry: Reprising Chattanooga

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