Sunday, August 13, 2017

E-Bikes!

Perfect Timing

When cycling in Spain last year, I noticed some cyclists from Germany riding a couple of amazingly sleek carbon fiber bikes. Despite panniers etc. their bikes looked like they were right out of Tron. Then, in chatting with them, I came to realize they were actually electric assist (or "E") bikes.
 
Although the riders were younger than me (and clearly fitter than me) they said they loved their E bikes. Although they could use them in full electric mode (which they said they never really did), they found them to be great "helping" on long hills.
 
Well this came on a day when I was really huffing up the hills and was starting to wonder if my cycle touring days were coming to a close. So, the prospect of riding a bike that could help level out a hill sounded pretty darned good! 

When I returned to Phoenix I began looking at electric bikes. I also had serious chats with my local bike shops. They all said E bikes have become a major part of their inventories. But they also said the technology was changing fast and they felt prices would likely start to come down.

So although I've decided I will buy one, I am going to wait a year. 

And, in the meantime, I see my favorite Bike touring company is now offering "E" bikes on its more challenging routes at no extra charge.

Life just gets better!


Roadboy's Travels © 2017
 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Roadboy Bikes Acadia - Days 5-6

Day 5 - Exploring Rockefeller's Carriage Trails

On Day 5 we left the busy park roads to pedal from Bar Harbor to Northeast Harbor (and our new hotel the Asticou Inn) using Acadia's famous 45 mile network of "carriage" trails.

John D. Rockefeller Jr. began building the carriage trails in 1913 with construction continuing for almost three decades. At is peak there were 300 skilled workman employed building the trails. 

The trails afford close up views of the park's lakes and ponds and climb to some of the highest points on Mount Desert Island. The trails safely cross over the park's busy auto roads that encircle the park giving hikers, equestrians and bicycle riders a safer and more spectacular way to experience the park.

A Quiet Pond Along Eagle Lake

 The View From Trail 36 
(After a Climb to 1191 Feet)

As an architect I appreciate how the design of the trails carefully align with the natural contours of the hills while offering gentle slopes to enable their use by horse drawn carriages. The engineering of the trails delivered trails that are able to survive harsh Maine winters through the use of multiple layers of crushed granite supported by a nearly invisible series of stone culverts and drains. The trails are lined with guardrails of irregularly spaced giant granite boulders and include a series of elegant stone bridges (that are actually reinforced concrete bridges clad structures clad in stone). Each bridge is different and many are built with gentle curves where trials meet streams and ravines.
   
 One of the Stone Bridges

 
A Scupper Drain Detail

Along the way we had snack stops where our hosts tempted us with a variety of fresh fruits, energy bars and chocolate. The route was perfectly timed for us to arrive at noon at the Jordan Pond House where we could enjoy a wonderful lunch at waters edge (complete with a chance to sample the local "popovers").

Our Host Tracey at a Snack Stop on the Way to Jordan Pond
 
From here we could choose a relatively flat 3 mile hike to the Asticou Inn or embark on a more challenging ride to the hotel involving a climb of 1191 feet. I opted for the longer bike ride. It rewarded me with sore legs and seemingly endless views along with lots and lots of wild blueberries. While a challenge, the ridgetop trail was clearly one of the highlights of my trip.

Of course the long ride up the mountain meant we had miles of wonderful downhill trial that eventually resulted in our arrival at the Asticou Inn.

The Asticou Inn at Northeast Harbor

Flowers at the Inn

The Asticou Inn built in 1883 is operated seasonally and survived the great fire of 1947. It offers 31 rooms in the main lodge (no two the same) as well and clay tennis courts a large heated swimming pool. If you are lucky enough to get a room facing the harbor (I was) the view is amazing. Happily, the rooms lack TV's or air conditioning (but lovely cool evening air is afforded just by opening the windows).  

 Room 134

    The View of Northeast Harbor From My Balcony


Day 6 - A Visit Little Cranberry Island

Day 6 was our only non-biking day. The weather forecast was for grey skies with a little rain.  We met at the dock at northeast harbor and boarded the Elizabeth T for Little Cranberry Island. Along the way we passed the lighthouse at Bear Island before arriving at Islesford dock to clib aboard a lobster boat and chat with a veteran lobsterwoman and her crew. 

Northeast Harbor
(The Asticou Inn is the grey building off in the distance)


 Lobstering 101 From Stephanie The Lobster Woman and Her Crew
 (Note the old style wooden lobster trap)


Measuring The Catch
(Too small they go back, too big they go back)

We then walked to a gravel beach for a picnic lunch followed by time to visit island artisans. The highlight was Storyteller Pavilion built to showcase the work of island artist Ashley Bryan whose work includes art glass panels using colorful sea glass and marionettes made from driftwood and found objects.

Ashley Bryan's Lyrical Puppets


The walk across the island included a trip to the National Park Service Museum on the island and the time to swat losquitos and admire the many flowers blooming Isleford. 

The Bees and Blooms

Kids, Mosquitos and Kids and Mosquitos

 Isleford's Wharf Displaying the Effects of the Time and Sea

After a full day we boarded our boat back to Northeast with a short stop to retrieve a Lobster Trap to see how they work.  The 3 section trap had 4 residents in its Kitchen, Pantry and Living Room.  All were too small to keep and went back into the water.

The evening concluded with a farewell dinner and a private and performance by remarkable fiddler Gus La Casse and guitarist Peter Lindquist. The pair performed regional music and original compositions. What was a bit amazing to me was that Gus is just 16 years old.

Peter Lindquist and Gus La Casse

Tomorrow we pack up our belongings and take a final ride along the Carriage trails back to Bar Harbor where we meet the shuttle back to Bangor to begin the journey home.

Once again I offer my praise Vermont Bicycle and Walking Tours (VBT) for the creation of this incredible experience. Everything was paced perfectly and designed to provide and immersive look into the people and culture of Maine and scenery of Acadia.

This was my third trip with VBT and the first in the US. It was also my first VBT trip utilizing their new GPS based turn-by-turn mapping. 

According to my GPS I rode about 100 miles and climbed 6,522 feet at an average speed of 8.5 miles per hour.  Despite that, with all the blueberry pie and lobster I consumed, I'm pretty confident I didn't drop any weight.


Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Roadboy Bikes Acadia - Days 3-4

Day 3 - A ferry to Winter Harbor and a ride on the Schoodic Peninsula

On day three the titanium colored skies kept threatening us with rain. After our route review we made a quick walk to the Bar Harbor docks to catch the ferry to the Schoodic Peninsula.

This is the only portion of Acadia National Park that is located on the mainland. On our short ferry ride we passed some gently arching dolphins, a few of the islands beachfront summer "Cottages" (this is island understatement; here a "Cottage"is actually a huge mansion owned by wealthy seasonal residents typically from Stamford, Boston and New York etc.) and seemingly thousands of the little buoys marking a lobster trap below.

The Schoodic Peninsula is a relatively new addition to the park (joining in 2015). Prior to 2015 this area housed a naval base and most recently was attracting the eyes of developers. That all ended when an anonymous donor purchased it that it could be added the park. Its new roadways, jagged granite coastline and quiet fishing villages make for a wonderful day of bicycling. We stopped for an awesome lobster roll and blueberry pie at the Corea wharf before riding back to Winter Harbor for our return ferry back to Bar Harbor.

Looking Back on Winter Harbor

Lobster Boat Checking Traps

 Lobster Traps
 Lobsterman's House Perched Over Water

 
A Decommissioned Lighthouse


Day 4 - The Sand Beach Loop Ride

 
Dorr's Mansion

We began Day 4 visiting the site of George B. Dorr's Cottage. Dorr (referred to as the "Father of Acadia" and its first park Superintendent) lived here entertaining anyone he felt could aid in getting the lands of Acadia acquired for turnover and designation as a national monument / park. The 30 room cottage was completed built by Dorr's parents in 1880.  

He lived here until he died at the age of 90 in 1944. After his death the mansion was then left to deteriorate to a point where it needed to be restored or demolished. The UPS opted to demolish it in 1951. Despite the harsh winters the herringbone brick floors of the enclosed porches still remain almost perfectly intact.

Frenchmens Bay
(Directly in Front of the Dorr Cottage)

Dorr went swimming in Frenchmen's Bay almost every day (even having to chip ice in winter to do it). In fact it was here in 1934 while swimming he suffered a heart attack at age 80. At that time he was told he had six months to live. Instead, he lived another decade.
Passing a Gatehouse to Rockefeller's Carriage Trails

From the Dorr Cottage site we pedaled the Sand Beach Loop road. This road is what 90% of the visitors to the park will see and it includes stops at Thunder Hole and a ranger stop to view falcons nesting in the rock ledges above the road. There was also a stop at Sand Beach where we watched drivers drive round and round looking for a parking space. We parked the bikes and went straight to the nice sandy beach (for swimming if you ave anti-freeze in your veins). One of our riders dove in. I dipped my feet in and discerned that it was indeed refreshing. 

If it is that cold in July, my respect for Mr. Dorr's mid-winter swims went way up.

The roads went up and down from waters edge to hugging the cliffs above the shore (translation there were lots of hills). 

Next we came to Jordan Pond where many families were busy picking blueberries. The day finished with many of our group making the optional ascent of Cadillac Mountain (which is 3 miles straight up), I passed.

The Road Showcases Acadia's Rugged Coastline

Making Decisions About Climbing Cadillac

The day was filled with sunshine and the ride really energized everyone in preparation of the next few days of riding on John D. Rockefeller Jr's network of car-free carriage trails.


Roadboy's Travel © 2017

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Roadboy Bikes Acadia - Days 1-2

The Road to Bangor Maine

Day 1
The first leg of the bike tour involved getting to the pick-up point in Bangor Maine. That involved a rental car and a whole lot of northbound traffic. We began with WAZE directing us to make lots of odd little detours off the interstate. But obedient as we are to all things electronic, we complied for a bout half the trip and then just said "oh hell no" and made the rest of the trip on the tollway.

Here is where I inject how much I despise tollways.

Along the way we had a great lunch, saw Santa in July with seemingly all of the drivers in the states of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts conspiring join us in our drive. 

When we arrived in Bangor we had a pretty great dinner at Mason's Brewery in Bangor and crashed. 

  
 Santa in a Wading Pool

Traffic Heading North

 Dinner at Mason's Brewery on The River
(Home of their own brew: Hipster Apocalypse)

At Mason's Beer Starts / Ends in the Same Place
(In the immortal words of Archie Bunker, "Nobody buys a beer, they rent it")

Day 2
Day 2 began with a drive into Bangor to drive by Stephen King's residence.  It turned out to be located on a lovely tree lined street filled with huge historic homes, King's being suitably creepy and among the largest.

Stephen King Lives Here in Bangor

After that we turned in our rental car, met some of our fellow bikers while hopping about the shuttle bus sent to transport us to Bar Harbor Maine.

Bar Harbor is a picturesque thriving seasonal tourist town full of restaurants, ice cream parlors and t-shirt shops.

 
Welcome to Bar Harbor Maine

 
A View From Our Hotel - The Bar Harbor Inn

There we met the rest of our fellow bikers, tour leaders and got fitted for our bikes. Then it was off for an 8-mile warm-up ride. It also gave us the chance to test out the (wonderful) new GPS route maps the tour company (Vermont Bike Tours) now uses.

Vermont Bike Tour Guides Ann and Terry  
Conduct the Welcome Orientation

The day ended with a truly wonderful lobster dinner at the hotel in a dining room with an extraordinary view of the Harbor.

Roadboy's Travels © 2017

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Roadboy's Day in Boston

Too Little Time
Too Much To See

I have traveled through Boston on numerous trips. In every case I either changed planes or was just in the city long enough for a client meeting. 

This summer while planning a bicycle trip to Maine's Acadia National Park I decided to fly into Boston and spend a day sightseeing before driving north to Maine.  Knowing full well I'd just be scratching the surface, at least it would be a scratch.

The day began with an inspirational visit to the JFK Library. From there we took the MTA to The Public Garden and enjoyed a great Vietnamese food truck lunch (which I finished off with a super desert - lime panna cotta with coconut ginger on top).

Then it was a visit to the Old Massachusetts State House and a walk through some of the nearby "burying grounds". We finished off with a visit to the AMAZING Museum of Fine Art and a wonderful dinner at Aquitaine.  

Here are a few photographs taken along the way.


The John F. Kennedy Library

The library was built completely from donated funds. It was designed by I.M. Pei and opened in 1979. It receives about 6,000,000 visitors a year while serving as the repository for the papers of John and Robert Kennedy as well as about 90% of the manuscripts of Ernest Hemingway.

 
The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library
(I hadn't noticed the little butterfly in the photo until now) 

"But an Idea Lives On"

The Pavilion

The Library's Columbia Point site rewards visitors with stunning views of the sea he loved and the city that launched his career. 

The exhibits portray a president that felt that with programs such as the Peace Corps every single person could make a difference. He counseled that American's must "celebrate the past and awaken the future".  I'd suggest his advice that we as a nation should never shrink from our global responsibility (by looking inward instead of outward) is more important that ever.      



The Massachusetts State House and the King's Chapel Burying Ground

The golden domed Massachusetts State house (dome was clad in copper from Paul Revere's foundry) was designed by Charles Bullfinch and completed in 1789.

 Viewing into the Hall of Flags of the State House

The Ceiling of Nurses Hall

About a block from the State House we visited the King's Chapel Burying Ground on Tremont St. Begun in 1630 it is the oldest cemetery in Boston. Today there are 505 headstones remaining of the more that 1000 buried there.

The Headstone Carvings Here Were Amazing 

 Headstone Detail
(Death Snuffing out the Candle of Life)

Boston's Museum of Fine Art
 
Our last stop before dinner was probably my favorite. The Museum of Fine Art (the MFA) joins the list of "Bests" for many reasons. If you cannot find something that brings you joy here, your heart has stopped.
My favorite area gallery was its superb Art of the America's collection (with numerous works by Winslow Homer, Mary Cassett and John Singer Sargent) all embraced by Foster + Partner's luminous Shapiro Family Courtyard with its enormous glass piece by Dale Chihuly.

Seated Bodhisattva
(Eastern Wei dynasty - about A.D 530)

North Corridor of the Art of the America's Wing

Embracing Art
(The modern painting behind the sculpture captures a young girl's reaction to this very sculpture)     

Fishing for Oysters at Concale, Normandy
John Singer Sargent 1878

 Boys in Pasture
Winslow Homer 1874

 Detail from Boy's in a Pasture

 The Fog Warning 
Winslow Homer 1885

Detail The Fog Warning

 American Folk Art
Circa 1905


Harper's Cover 1898
(Celebrating the Presentation of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, Detective)

The Shapiro Family Courtyard

Selfies With a Giant Chihuly

This visit just confirmed my need to return when I can spend more time in this wonderful city. Tomorrow we drive to Maine!

Roadboy's Travels © 2017