48.9 mi / 4:27:10 time / 11.0 mph avg. / 1727 ft. climbing
Staying at The Biddeford Motel
Today stayed good a lot longer than yesterday, so that was a welcome improvement. The motel had a quality continental breakfast, which of course we ravaged, to the point where it actually put the motel stay pretty close to price parity with the campground we otherwise would have stayed at, so I think Rett became fully convinced at the utility of our motel recovery night.
Another big improvement for the day was that we got off of US 1 and onto some beautiful curvy country roads. Though at one point we passed a dead chipmunk in the road, who we determined had died not from an impact with a vehicle, but from a heart attack while ascending the steep grade. So yeah, there were still some pretty good hills, but managable for humans on bikes who had gotten acclimated to bigger ones.
Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean, and we stopped at their flagship store (er, multi-building complex), mostly just for the fun of browsing huge outdoor/camping/biking store, and of course to get a picture with a size 246 L.L. Bean boot, of which Rett has a beloved smaller pair.
Rett was pretty excited about Portland, particularly the Old Portland neighborhood with its wharves and brick streets. It was definitely a cool area, but some transients asking for money (and looking like they had ended up in the wrong Portland!) made us irrationally nervous about our bikes, the restaurant we targeted had a note on the door explaining that they were unexpectedly closed for the day (at least the third time that happened on the trip!), and I had some bad directions for getting us over the big bridges and out of town.
So while it was a nice stop, I think we were left with a slightly unpleasant aftertaste due to particular circumstances. Another day, another time, and our feelings probably would have been quite different, which makes me wonder how many of our excellent experiences are equally dependent on the exact time we were there to experience them. I guess we’ll just have to visit all these places again to answer that question!
Out of Portland, we were back onto busy and hilly US 1, which prevented the mood from recovering. I thought that would be solved when we broke off to do 6 miles on the Eastern Trail, a multi-use gravel path that’s quiet and most-importantly, dead flat, making it a good rest for Rett’s bruised muscles. But the gravel was rougher than I hoped, which makes Rett white-knuckle her handlebars, so that just continued to make things worse rather than better. I figured, well, we at least made it through half the day before things stopped being fun, which was a big improvement over yesterday!
But as the miles went by, the trail surface improved, Rett gained more confidence and speed on it, and maybe the flatness was allowing her some recovery after all. Because by the time we got back onto US 1 and into the crazy honking-at-us rush-hour traffic heading into Saco, the “discussion” we had about the rules of the road with toothless girl who nearly drove into me was at least as much a moment of astonished entertainment for us as it was actual fear or anger. Even better, despite the “go fuck yourselves” thrown at us, and laying on her horn when she finally went past, she did move fully into the other lane to pass, so our education about the illegality of riding bikes on the sidewalk and giving less than 3 feet of passing space might have actually been effective! A road rage miracle!
Some other impatient idiots along with her (including the guy intentionally shifted to the right to prevent us from passing him in the gridlocked traffic) made Saco the worst bit of traffic the whole trip, but again, there’s a good chance that it was just random timing.
Because the girl working at the ice cream shop seemed perfectly non-murderous, and while we ordered, a young guy named John came by checking out our bikes, and almost immediately offered us a place to camp on the land where he lives. He’d done a ride from Maine to Minnesota a couple years ago, so knew how helpful such an offer could be. We actually were still deciding on a place to stay at that late hour, and his location was perfect for us, but unfortunately he was on his way out of town so we’d have a spigot but no bathroom available. So we had to decline (especially disappointing since he lived in a yurt!), though he and his girlfriend still tried hard to think of any other places or friends we could crash with (who weren’t heading out to the same festival as them) that might be better than the RV-focused campground on our radar.
In the end, we just decided on a stop at a Hannaford grocery for another bed-picnic in a motel, since sunset was fast approaching. Again, the $60 motel was a worthwhile upgrade from a $35 crappy campground, so it was a trade I was happy to make. When we walked into the motel office, Rett wondered what the wonderful smell was, and the woman replied it was a curry they were cooking for dinner. And in a move that was equal parts sweet, funny, and jerky (to a pair of hungry cyclists preparing for a bed-pinic), the husband proudly brought the steaming kettle out from the back for us to inhale more directly. Mmm… But our brie/prosciutto/blueberry jam sandwiches were really good too.