Up until Quebec City, my days were fairly routine and involved a snot ton of miles and at this point I was pretty weary from all the riding I had been doing. For 6 days I had ridden over 3000 miles, averaging about 400 miles a day for about 8 hours on the road, with 6 of those 8 hours sitting on the bike. Even though staying a night at a luxurious hotel took some of the edge off, it was nice to know that over the next few days things would begin to slow down. The plan after Quebec City was riding across the border to Maine on Saturday, driving less than 200 miles to Rangeley Lake State park, staying 2 nights, with that Sunday off in between, and then one more night at Putnam Pond Campground in the Adirondacks before going directly south back to Philly Tuesday morning.
I had planned my ride from Quebec City to my next destination purposefully short, so that I could spend a few of the morning hours walking around and taking in the sights, since I had never been there before. I woke up early in the morning, made coffee using the keureg (I would never take for granted the simple task of heating up water without having to set up a stove), and got on the motorcycle to head into the city center. There seemed to be a few things that, although touristy, were must see sights and included the Plains of Abraham and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Making my way into the downtown, there was almost no traffic since it was really early on a Saturday and I was able to secure a parking spot adjacent to the Plains in a surface lot for little money, I could rest easy knowing that all my stuff was back at the hotel room, and not lashed to the bike. Since there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic this morning, I fixed my wheel lock on the bike just to give anyone second thoughts about whether stealing the motorcycle was worth the effort and walked towards the Plains, sun in my eyes as I proceeded east through the park. At the time, there was a foot race going on, so there were no cars going through the park and this made easy work of crossing through and taking a look around. I walked around the southern edge of the Citadelle along the Promenade Des Gouverneurs, making my way towards the Terrasee Dufferin, a promenade that wraps around the front of Le Château Frontenac and the Citadelle, offering wide sweeping views of the St Lawrence and St. Charles rivers as well as Ile d’Orleans front and center, an island I would be very interested in exploring next time i’m here (hint hint). From
the Terrasee, I hooked back around and passed through the narrow streets of Quebec City, with small cafes and shops lining the sidewalks to make my way back to the bike. It was always a pain on this trip when I visited a new place and only had a miniscule amount of time to explore, taking away only a small memory of what is there; looking at it in a different light, it meant that now I knew that there was a lot more to do, making it a candidate for future visits.
I got back to my bike, just as I had left it, made my way back to the hotel to pack everything on and head out to cross back into the U.S. I headed south along 73, a 4 lane highway that brought me out of the city into sweeping countryside. I can see why the french settled here, as everything appeared as I imagine the french countryside would be with long rolling hills and small little towns every 5-10 miles. The roads weren’t particularly well maintained, however that didn’t stop a ton of riders from having a good saturday afternoon drive. Unlike what i’m used to, not every motorcycle I passed was a Harley, seeing a great variety of bikes many of the three-wheeled variety; looking back on it now, it makes sense since a certain manufacturer of a 3-wheeled arachnid is a Canadian company. Passing through all the little towns, it was again as I imagined France to be, with little shops and cafes, many with motorcycles parked out front. Also interesting was that every town had a church that dominated the skyline and for the most part they all looked exactly the same, grey with a large steeple as if they had been made from a jello mold and plopped in every town. Before leaving Canada, I was treated to one final view of Lac Megantic before crossing at the border station Coburn Gore, a tiny outpost in the middle of absolutely nowhere. After being questioned by a reasonable border officer, I shouted a big hooray for making it back to the U.S. in one piece and winded my way through the twisties of upstate Maine to Rangeley Lake Park, the smell of pine in the air and blue skies overhead. Although getting from the border to the campground was 55 miles, it seemed to take forever, often getting stuck behind cars with no way to pass them except the occasional straight bit of road, allowing a clear view of the oncoming traffic.
After passing through the small and charming town of Rangeley, I rounded the lake and checked in at the campground. The campsite I reserved was perfect, set back from the road with plenty of tree coverage all around, shrouding my site with privacy. I was mere steps away from running water and less than 200 yards from the bathroom and dish washing facilities, yes this would be a perfect place to spend the next two nights. Having never been to any of the campgrounds I had stayed at, it was often hard to tell how good they would be, but for the most part my luck held out. I set up my tent, took the bike to get firewood, and went about making dinner. It was only 3pm, but since I had skipped lunch (again), I was unmistakably hungry and decided that since I didn’t have to pack up everything the next day, I could make myself a bit more at home and cook something for dinner. I had dehydrated Big Barts Chili, and what would go better with chili than fresh bread? I had gotten a recipe online to make a type of native american fry bread that I tried at home and thought was actually pretty good. So before I left, I mixed all the ingredients in a bag to be used for just such an occasion. I heated up the oil, mixed in water with the dry ingredients and before long I had fresh bread for my chili, along with some extra pieces that I could use for other meals like with tuna or the peanut butter cups I snagged from a hotel somewhere along the trip. That night, I made the obligatory fire, sat in my chair reading and looking up at the many stars only visible in a place as remote as this.
I awoke the next day to clear blue skies and relatively moderate temps, got up and made coffee and pancakes, a nice reprieve from the cold, hard energy bars I usually had. When planning this day off, the original intent was to stay closer to Baxter State Park, home of the famed Mt. Katahdin, the terminus of the Appalachian trail, with the goal of hiking to the summit as a final epic conclusion to my journey. However, their were a few flies in the proverbial ointment that restricted me to choosing a different, decidedly less epic but still nonetheless awesome destination. Firstly, Baxter State park is crowded, and even getting a parking spot at a trailhead required a reservation and parking fee. This also went for the nearby campgrounds, all full with the only alternatives being private campgrounds that would put me about an hours drive from the trailhead. The final straw was the restriction that there to be no motorcycles on unpaved roads in Baxter State park, a rule clearly stated (with no real explanation) on their website. FYI, any road that led to a trailhead was going to be unpaved, and basically any road within the park was gravel/unpaved; ironically, my motorcycle could deal with unpaved roads better than many cars, just saying. Despite the disappointment, Mt. Katahdin would always be there and I would have to conquer its peak another day. So instead, I set my sights on a lesser known but still impressive state park, Bigelow State Preserve, which had a mountain range worth the hike. With a printed map in hand, and with a stomach full of pancakes, I set off for the park. I would park at the trailhead, a large dirt parking lot at the end of Curry rd., off of route 27 at the western edge of the preserve and hike the Range Trail about 3 miles to the summit of Cranberry Peak. Cranberry Peak wasn’t the highest in the range, but came pretty close and the trailhead was closest to get to by road, taking only about 45 minutes to get there from camp.
Arriving at the trailhead, I stowed my jacket in my side case and plopped my helmet on the ground next to the bike. I grabbed a minimalist camelback I had brought along, and stuffed some cliff bars and peanuts into it, along with the paper map. I set off at about 8am, with a
gradual climb for the first quarter of a mile, with steep elevation climbs for most of the rest of the way. The peak was all rock and the wind was coming from the south, cascading over the mountain top and providing a nice cool breeze, that began to get chilly after about 10 minutes. I was all alone, having passed a family of 4 on the way up who wouldn’t make the summit for another half an hour-45 minutes, so I could rest easy knowing I would have solitude for at least that long. Normally I don’t take tons of photos and selfies, preferring to keep nature where nature lies while also recognizing that pictures generally cannot capture the enormity and panoramic views of a bald mountain top. However, I took photos anyway and managed to capture some pretty good depictions of the summit. After I made my way back down to the bike and back to camp, it was only around noon and it was time for lunch – tuna salad and leftover fry bread, yum! I went and took a shower in probably the nicest campground showers I have ever used in my life and after getting back to camp, I checked the weather. Not good news, as a heavy storm was moving in across New England with the radar showing red and yellow in large swaths with predictions of rainfall in my location through the night. Before bed, I covered the bike and my tent in tarps and made
sure everything was ready to go for the morning. Sure enough, like clockwork, it began to ran at 10pm just as I was zipping myself into my sleeping bag and didn’t stop until about 8am the next morning, about an hour after I had set off for my second to last leg .
To be fair, it wasn’t pouring rain, just misting enough to make visibility a pain and the road somewhat slick as I weaved through the backcountry roads of Maine towards Putnam Pond Campground situated in the Adirondack region of NY state, an area of fond memories growing up. I would cross through New Hampshire and Vermont along route 2 and I-89, passing through Burlington, VT before turning south, crossing over the Lake Champlain bridge, and then west to the campsite.
Emerging from the isolated woods of Maine, strong winds met me as I passed through NH and White Mountain National Forest, with fog looming and gray clouds overhead, hiding the tops of mountains. It was an impressive sight for sure, with large swaths of forest and tall, stuccoed mountain tops. I had thought about taking a trip up Mount Washington with the bike, however the weather made me reconsider and I instead opted to take a break at the mcdonalds for an egg mcmuffin, hash browns, and coffee (a number 1), a nice warm meal but paled in comparison to Tim Hortons.
Another few hours of winding through New Hampshire and Vermont until I pulled up at my destination for the day, Magic Hat Brewery. One past time that Morgan and I have is visiting breweries, going on tours, and sampling many beers. I have probably been to about 3 dozen breweries both in Philly and across the U.S. and some are really good and some, eh, not so much – I generally will get a pint glass form the brewery if I like it. I have been to breweries where I really like their beer if I get it in a store or on tap, but when I visit the brewery, I’m generally not impressed. The opposite is true as well. I have to say that trying Magic Hat beers in the past, they just really aren’t my cup of tea, er I mean beer. It’s not the odd flavors of their beers, i’ve sampled many interesting beers that i’ve really enjoyed and it’s not the wacky looking bottles either, I just have never had a really good beer from them. Alas, my feelings for them did not change all that much after I visited their “Artifactory” to try thimble sized samples of their beer. Although I didn’t ask, my guess is that they weren’t trying to be cheap (although i’m giving them the benefit of the doubt on this one) and that local liquor laws prevented them from giving larger samples or being able to sell any beer at all from the brewery, kind of a bummer. Maybe it was because I was hungry and had just assumed they might have food or snacks there and that’s what made me grouchy and hangry. Nonetheless, I left magic hat with renewed feelings of meh when it came to their beer, coming away with a nothing but a sticker to remember the visit.
After another hour of driving, I was at Putnam Pond campground, located about twenty minutes west from Ticonderoga, NY. I checked in, rode to the campsite and set up for my final night of camping, relieved that the forecast called for clear skies and no rain. The site itself was large and despite their being little privacy afforded by the trees, there were no campgoers within eyesight. Unlike every other campground I had stayed at, there was no cellular reception at this camp. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me since i’m generally not one to be on their phone, however because I had not been able to communicate that I arrived safely, I needed to get to an area that had reception. I drove to the check-in office to buy firewood as well as see if I could get a signal, but no dice. Ticonderoga was only a twenty minute drive, and since it was a town, it had to have cellular towers. I got on the bike, and drove in search of those all powerful bars. Rising up from the depths of the woods, like a king sitting atop his royal throne, almost glowing from the evening sun hitting its side was a Walmart. I parked the bike, saw that I had reception and made the appropriate calls while browsing the store. I picked up a rotisserie chicken and a cold diet coke for my last dinner fit for an adventurer, strapped it to the bike and went back to the campsite. While the fire crackled, the characteristic psssst that comes from opening a soda bottle could be heard in the silence of the camp as I enjoyed my final meal. Fittingly, after dinner I finished the book I had brought with me, Dune, and as the adventure of Paul Atriedes ended, so did mine as I turned in for the night, ready to make the final leg home.
I awoke the next morning, packed up and drove straight to Philadelphia, driving south on I-87, then west on I-287, then using US 202, going through New Hope, a route i’ve been on many times both by car and motorcycle. I stopped once at a rest area to fuel up and get a cup of coffee, so that I wouldn’t have to make any more stops. Oddly enough, I had to stop about 10 miles from home since I was running dangerously low on fuel, delaying my arrival home by what seemed like hours but was in reality probably only 10 minutes. I pulled into the driveway and parked in my normal spot, as if I was just coming home from work, let the dog out and started unloading the bike. I looked at the trip readings – Total trip time was 77 hours and 23 minutes, Total Trip MPG was 55.5, and total distance was 4179.4 miles. I had doubled my odometer mileage from when I started two weeks ago, doing a years worth of riding in just under two weeks. I was tired, road worn, hot, and very smelly. Funny thing is, the next morning the weather was so nice I couldn’t not drive my motorcycle into work, after all, i’m a rider and nothing stops a rider.