Friday, June 18, 2010

Testing My Flower-Sniffin' Patience

I can do this. I can, as we motorcyclists say, "flower sniff" which means to get off the interstate highways. I can mosey along on little backwoods roads, stop often, and not pay any attention to the clock.

So...chastised by a friend for not truly "seeing" Acadia National Park last time I was up here, I was determined to prove that I can actually get beyond the visitor center and well into the park on its roads.

First, though, I had a 50 mile ride from Bangor to Bar Harbor and the Acadia park entrance. As I departed the hotel, there were the folks who chatted a bit with me last night about BMW's. They were in a CUV with four bicycles attached: Two on the roof, two on a rack hanging on the back.

A couple of miles down 95, then to 395, then to route 1A, and then to route 3 to Bar Harbor. A few miles down 1A I ran into the first of several long nasty sections of construction. The road surfaces were scraped down to dirt, and washboard rough, with big potholes and plenty of loose stuff. Occasionally, a flagger had traffic stopped in one direction or the other as equipment moved across the roadway. At one point, they had the entire roadway closed and were routing the vehicles, one direction at a time, completely off the road bed and down onto an off-camber steeply sloping shoulder for about 20 or 30 feet. Not fun. But I survived. I was veeerrrry thankful that, once moving, the cars in front of me kept a steady pace, which made it easier for me to handle the bike across the really rough surface.

At the park entrance, I first pulled into the visitor center parking lot, climbed those 52 steps to the visitor center, got my passport stamp, and paid my entrance fee, even talked to a volunteer a little bit about the roads in the park.

Then, as I prepared to get back on the bike, who pulled up next to me but the couple with all the bicycles...the couple I met at the hotel the night before, who have an R1150RT. They chatted with me a bit more and I learned that they were from NC, never attend any MOA rallies although they are members, and were headed to Nova Scotia, taking the ferry out of St. John tomorrow. They asked me if I'd ever been and did I know how long it would take them to reach St. John, as they had a noon ferry to catch but wanted to see Acadia first.

Leaving the visitor center, I got onto the park loop road and thought I'd do the loop first, then Cadillac Mountain. But I found myself in a long slow line of cars and when the turn came to proceed on the loop, I opted instead to go straight another mile or so to the Cadillac Mountain road.

It was a great ride up to the top and the parking lot was only about 1/2 full. I found an excellent spot to park and then grabbed camera, wallet, and passport book and headed for the paved trail that makes a loop along the perimeter of the mountain top. The views were spectacular, even with the haze. In the above photo you can see Bar Harbor and a small cruise ship anchored off shore. I took some photos from several compass points of the mountain perimeter then walked over to the little gift shop to get a passport stamp.

I was at Cadillac Mountain maybe 30 minutes and in that time the parking lot was suddenly jammed with tour buses, park trolleys, RV's and cars. There was a line of cars backed up around the parking loop as folks waited for cars to leave, as cars tried to back out of parking spots, or as trolleys and buses disgorged their contents. I had to wait a few minutes for a break in the traffic so that I could pull out of my spot. This did not bode well for the rest of the park.

Going back down the mountain road, I had the bad fortune to find myself behind one of the giant tour buses. We crept down the hill as the bus driver negotiated the tight turns and slowed to let on-coming traffic clear a particularly tight one before he turned into it. I left plenty of space between me and the bus so that I could keep a reasonably steady speed through all of this. But, as I feared, I came around a particularly tight left-hander to see that the bus had come to a complete stop to let an approaching car negotiate a hairpin turn. He would need both lanes in their entirety in order to negotiate that same turn in the opposite direction.

We continued to creep down to the stop sign, the bus and I both turning right, but when he proceeded onto the one-way loop road I made a quick decision. The park ranger said it takes most folks about 2 1/2 to 3 hours to do the loop. I saw how crowded it had gotten at the top of Cadillac Mountain in a very short period of time, and I saw how agonizing it would be to get stuck behind a tour bus on that loop. Once committed, I'd need to stick with it for quite a ways and, besides, I was starting to feel the early pangs of hunger. I decided not to do it, to just exit the park and get onto route 3 toward Bangor.
So, okay...maybe I'm not a very good flower-sniffer!


But before getting onto I-95 in Bangor to head south, I needed to stop for lunch and I knew just the place. It was now 11:30, not too early to think about food. Last time I was here I stopped at a really great little place with outdoor picnic tables and umbrellas and serving traditional New England seafood - lobster, clams, mussels, lobster rolls - as well as BBQ. It would be the perfect place to stop at again and this time I was going to have the whole nine yards, the "whole enchilada"!

The owner came around to the customers, offering them a small sample of Texas sausage. I told him I was from Texas and that started a whole "it's a small world" type of conversation. Turns out he's from Fulshear TX and just bought this place last winter. Fulshear is just west of Houston and I friend and I often ride over there for good BBQ at Doziers. He said he'll come up in the summers and, when the place is closed down for the winter, will return to Fulshear. He pointed out his big RV parked near the rear where he'll be living for the summer. He also proudly pointed out his big wood-fired BBQ pit that he pulled up here behind the RV.

It was then that I noticed the messages on the menu white boards behind the hot water cauldrons. I think the official Texas BBQ theme will be a big hit for him. Most of his customers will be from other parts of the country, and there's nothing like the mystique of TX BBQ!

He convinced me that I needed to polish off a slice of warm blueberry pie topped with vanilla ice cream.

Waddling back to the bike, I remembered that I had to contend with all of that dirt road before I was "home free" on the interstate. So I geared up, sucked it up, and got back onto highway 3. Just as I approached the first of the several long stretches of dirt I see the very thing I'd hoped I wouldn't see. The water trucks coming toward me, watering down the dirt. So now, not only would it be very rough, but it would be sloppy, too.

Fortunately the flag men were not stopping traffic through any of these stretches, unlike my ride through here earlier. I did find myself behind a big, slow-moving front-end loader going 4 miles an hour through one of the long dirt stretches but he finally turned veered off toward the right and I could get around him.

A couple of miles before Route 1A met with I-395, I stopped for gas and it was then that I saw what a muddy mess my bike was! For muddiness, it was right up there with the best of the off-roaders' muddy bikes from previous MTF off-road events! My boots were totally caked, as were the shins of my riding pants. When I looked down at the sidestand, it was covered with mud. Very little of the bike from the bottom edge of the tank down to the ground was anything but mud-caked!

I stopped one more time for gas, south of Portland before arriving in Portsmouth. I momentarily considered going a little further south to Newburyport to get a maritime national park stamp, but couldn't remember when that visitor center closes. I seemed to recall it might be 4:30 PM. Even if it were 5:00 PM I knew that I'd be cutting it very close for time. Besides it would be nice to arrive at a hotel early for a change. And I had some routing to work on for the rest of the trip.

So here I am in Portsmouth for the night.

Tomorrow: Could be an ambitious day, but I have a contingency plan if it starts to fall apart time-wise.

1 comment:

  1. This blog entry so makes me long for another trip to Maine. I really like it up there!

    I think the Texas BBQ/Atlantic Seafood place needs a little works on drawing the shape of Texas! You'll have to share his location. I'll try to stop there next time I'm up there.

    Will you be going back anytime soon to attempt (again) to Flower Sniff your way through the Park? It is such a nice Park...high on my list of favorites!

    Sounds like this trip is full of challenges, but
    hope you continue to have a great ride!