Greetings to you all from the shores if the Atlantic Ocean. It took me a while (7,000 miles to be precise) but, using a route no TomTom worth it’s salt would advise, I’ve finally made it across the country. My reward? Another week full of new characters, a whack of beautiful riding through New England and even a bit of time to reflect on what making it to the coast really ‘means’.
New England is, as the name suggests, an area rather like England in parts. The hills in Vermont and New Hampshire are steeper and shorter than their mountain cousins in the West and are akin to the rolling landscapes of the UK’s Surrey, Kent and Sussex. The towns here are among some of the first established in the US, and as a result are small, sometimes cobbled and always quaint.
New England town Churches
MAINE – NEW ENGLAND’s FINEST
Until now, Maine was a mythical place. It’s a land where movies are set (Caspar – The friendly Ghost, Shawshank Redemption, The Parent Trap), where Bill Bryson’s ‘A walk in the woods’ concludes, and where (according to those in the West) “inbreds and people with funny accents live.” A little like Alaska, you know Maine exists, but really, come on, when are you actually going to go? Well. I can’t tell you how delighted I was to discover that it really is just as I’d hoped (minus the inbreds, or visible evidence of them at least). Teeny towns, brilliant sunshine, rocky shores, lighthouses, a fresh ocean breeze, lobster pots strewn accross front lawns and the catch of the day being served up on every corner. For the first time since Yellowstone, in Maine I desperately longed to stay and explore, just a little more. Alas. Sense prevailed and I headed South…
Maine at dusk
Rockin rocky shores
A RIGHT PAIR
One of the best things about this trip is meeting individuals I would never come across in ‘normal’ life (I use the term normal in it’s loosest sense). There must be something in the water in New Hampshire, because it was here that I encountered two incredibly unique ladies.
93 year old Betty ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson is currently in training for a 5km race in January. In 2011 she entered the Manchester 5km and took 17 minutes off of the 90-99 age group record. Surrounded by a selection of her 19 grandchildren, and two of her sons – she didn’t just power through the finish line, but instead kept going for another ½ mile to the presentation area. She would pass men in their 50’s and the Grandchildren would turn and taunt them “Dude. You just got beaten by my 91 year old Grandma.” If you have five minutes to spare, in fact, even if you don’t – this video of her race will make you smile endlessly.
Betty and I
Lucy, the mother of my host for the night in a town called Newmarket, was the second off-the-chart cool Grandma I met this week. Upon arrival, she swung open the door and proclaimed in a thick New Jersey accent “Oh sweetie, you’re here! I was beginning to get very bored.” She threw her arms open for a hug, ushered me inside, put the kettle on and began regaling tales of time spent living in Germany and England.
Lucy, as it turned out, is somewhat of a local celebrity. Over dinner she outlined the incident that brought about her fame. Following an advertisement in the local paper, she and 84 year old best friend Bill had attended a lecture on “Orchestrating Orgasms” at the University downtown (as you do). The curious night out culminated in Bill being given the opportunity to select a prize from a range of ‘toys’ on stage (for asking a question related to subject under discussion, naturally). The two of them then ‘got tired’, and left the auditorium early – much to the delight of the 500 university students in attendance, who promptly erupted in applause. It was a tale that needs far more space and a watershed license to detail in all it’s glory, but one that had me laughing so hard I snotted and dribbled on the table all at once.
Watching Lucy talk animatedly about a lifetime of mischief and adventure, I hoped that this’d be me one day.
Over the past week, as I’ve made my way closer to this, the most North easterly point of the trip, I’ll confess that the overwhelming feeling has been one of relief. Since Alaska, when I’ve described the route and timings to people along the way, I’ve often had a less than positive response. Granted, some comments are intended as genuine concern, as opposed to discouragement, but I shan’t lie that every little “You’re crazy / that’s a bad idea / why are you doing that? ” Is like a teeny little paper cut – and we all know how much those buggers sting. There are days where I’ve got so tired of such a reaction that I’ve plain lied about how far I’m going. Isnt that terrible?
The relief of making it to Maine
The (Rich Tea) biscuit was taken by one particular guy I met on the roadside in the West. He’d been been cycle touring for a number of years and insisted that my route, at this time of year could not be done. And I mean really insisted. Repetitively. After me offering up novel ideas like “How about I just… try?” and “I’m sure it can be done” we parted ways. His comments made me so angry that I rode on rage for most of the day. And it made wonder – what is it that possessed him, entirely uninvited, to take a dump on my dream?
Until now there have been many names for Dream Dumpers – Negative Nellies, Dementors, Drains, Nay Sayers, Pessimists, Haters… Sadly, the world is all to full of them. You probably know a few yourself. It always pays to be well prepared for future encounters. So here’s what to do, should you be attacked by a Dream Dumper in broad daylight:
1. Don’t panic. Remain composed and look the Dream Dumper square in the eyes. Do not back away. Dumpers have a heightened sense of smell and can detect fear.
2. Smile. It’s well known that smiling confuses Dream Dumpers. “Why are you so happy?! I just dumped on your dream”. Flash those pearly whites and watch the DD turn into a bumbling buffoon.
3. Calm them. If the DD persists, step forwards, slowly. Raise one finger and press it to their lips, whilst saying “Shhhh shhh shhhh” (as if calming a newborn) and shake your head softly.
To quote the 21st century philosopher, Tinie Tempah: “Opinions aren’t facts, take them in and let them go.” I like to take that (literal) dump. Put in an (imaginary) box. And put it on a (metaphorical) shelf way way out of reach. That’s Dream Dumper destruction at it’s finest.
Dream Dump destruction – The Maine coastline
And on that note, I best continue on with my own rolling disaster waiting to happen. It’s finally time for this bird and her bike to migrate south for the winter. I’m currently hanging out in Boston, waiting for my little brother to jet in and join me for the week – from here to New York City. I’m excited and little nervous about having to be more responsible than usual (read: responsible at all). My big sis hat is on, and I’ll be doing my best to keep us (mostly) out of mischief.
This week’s pictures are up on Flickr here
Catch you all next time 🙂