Six nights in the Adirondacks, no #EscapedPrisoners

I’ve been looking forward to this summer for a long time. I was overloaded with work and projects from January through May, so once everything (including Alumapalooza) was done, I intended to switch back to the activity I like best: traveling. After picking up E&E in Cleveland, we had our usual decompression session in Ohio, including some game playing with our Woodruff/St Peter friends and a nice visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright “Welztheimer-Johnson House” in Oberlin.

FLW Weltzheimer-Johnson house Oberlin
Photo credit: Larry Woodruff

Then we zipped across New York to settle the Airstream in Vermont on the shores of Lake Champlain. The Airstream will stay here until early October, while we use it as a summer camp and base of operations.

The first major adventure on the schedule was a motorcycling trip with my brother Steve and our friend Eric, much like last year’s exploration of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec. It seems that taking the BMWs out for a rough road trip is becoming an annual tradition, since we’ve been doing it every summer since 2012.

This year we scaled back a little compared to the Gaspé trip, planning just six days in New York’s Adirondack State Park.  Six days might seem to be a lot for a state park if you aren’t familiar with the Adirondack region, so keep in mind that the “park” is actually about 1/3 of the entire state of New York. By backtracking and wandering down every dirt road we could find, we managed to accumulate over 1,000 miles of travel.

Wilmington NY tent camping motorcycle

Traveling like this is not what you’d call comfortable, but that’s part of the point. We are out to explore, and for me it’s a chance to explore in ways that we wouldn’t normally do with the Airstream. These motorcycle trips are conducted with minimal gear, only what we can carry on the back of the bike: tent, sleeping bag, pad, some clothes, a few tools, snacks, and not much else. We spend every night in the tent unless it’s pouring rain when we have to set up or tear down. This year we managed five nights out of six in the tents despite massive rains on several nights.

The Adirondacks are known for their beautiful mountains and rugged wilderness, rustic lodges and camps that are relics of the Golden Age, quaint towns, and biting insects. All of these things are present in abundance, but there are also many reminders of their industrial origins: abandoned factories and paper mills, dozens of dams, long-closed mines and flooded quarries, decaying brick buildings, grassy old rail lines, and logging roads. People forget that the Adirondack infrastructure was first developed not for tourists or sportsmen, but for miners of lead and iron, loggers of trees, and railroads to carry all the plunder and materials to away to cities in the 19th century.

Iron mine abandoned trainWhile many rail lines have become snowmobile trails and many dams have been converted to produce clean hydroelectric power, there’s still plenty of evidence of the past, and that’s what Steve and Eric like to explore. They are sort of “Rural Explorers,” hunting up mines, rails, dams, factories, mills, roads, and airports that have been left to slowly decay.  While my fellow travelers do respect the law (at least in moderation) and don’t go past locked gates, they do have a tendency to go in places that—while not technically trespassing—the general public would not be welcome.

This puts me in my “discomfort zone,” since I’m the sort of person who feels awkward occupying a Handicapped Parking spot for 5 seconds to drop someone off, or standing on the wrong side of the moving walkway at the airport. Riding a motorcycle through an open gate and down a dirt road to wander around an old iron mine, or peeking into a crumbling paper mill is not my preferred activity. The sites interest me, but there’s always that sense of “what if we get caught?”

Too big puddle BMW motorcycleBut I suppose it’s good for me to test my own boundaries and even stretch them a little. What’s the worst that could happen?  Hmm …. we could get arrested, yelled at, injured, lost, or encounter a group of zombies. So lots of things could happen. Nothing spectacular actually did.

Perhaps the toughest experience was when we rode a few miles around a large flooded quarry and discovered we could not get out because all of the gates (other than the one we entered) were locked or barricaded. This required back-tracking through some fairly technical road conditions including loose sand and rock, large mud puddles, steep hills, and washouts.

The photo at left shows the one mud puddle we decided not to cross during our six-day trip. Puddles are deceptively hard on a motorcycle. You might easily ford such a place with four wheels, but on two wheels it’s easy to get stuck in a muddy bottom, or slip. Either way the result is unpleasant. Slipping in a small puddle last year in the Gaspé gave me a shoulder injury that hurt for seven months.

 

Lake Luzerne campground motorcylesADK airport motorcycles

The biggest drama of the entire trip was about the escaped prisoners from the prison in Dannemora NY. Everyone in the Adirondacks was talking about it, in every cafe, store, campground, and gas station we visited. We certainly didn’t relish the idea of encountering the two desperados while camped overnight, so each day began and ended with a quick check of the news to see if they’d been caught yet. We finally decided that at least if we found them we’d stand to collect the $100,000 reward (assuming we lived to tell the tale), and the survivors could split it. As you probably know, the escapees are still at large, so we are not any richer but we’re also not dead.

Dannemora prison escape interview

When we got to Dannemora it was quite a scene: 800 law enforcement officers including the State Corrections Emergency Response Team, local and state police, Forest Rangers, and many others.  The media were camped out and hunting for stories, since no news was coming from the search. (In the photo above Steve is being interviewed by the Press-Republican for his theory of where the bad guys had gone.)

Blackhawk helicopters buzzed overhead, and the impact of the $1 million/day cost was evident in every convenience store and restaurant as officers came and went all day long. We were stopped at three checkpoints near Dannemora to be positively identified as someone “not matching the description” before we could proceed.

Rutted roads for BMW motorcyclesOther than intruding into crumbling old structures, the other big joy for Steve is to find the most rugged roads possible so that we can all use our BMW F650 motorcycles for their highest purpose. These are “Dual sport” bikes, meaning that they are equally happy on pavement and washed out dirt roads. The Adirondacks have plenty of both. I am sure that we averaged about 50% dirt because every time Steve spotted a dirt turnoff to nowhere, he’d zip off like a dog chasing a squirrel. Eric and I just followed without question and hoped for the best.

The photo at left shows one of the poorer results (or “better” depending on your point of view). Lots of rain lately has left many of the roads looking like this.  Those roads are posted with big yellow signs that say “Seasonal Use Road — Limited Maintenance,” which is like waving a plate of Buffalo chicken wings in front of my brother’s nose. He will go after it. Fortunately, none of us crashed or dropped a bike during the entire trip.

And truly not knowing what’s around the next corner can be both thrilling and rewarding. Sure, it’s quite possible that if you don’t plan you might miss something, but if you don’t plan you might also find something that the guidebooks won’t tell you about.

Lyonsville hydro station

Rain was the other minor drama of the trip. There is no such thing as a dry week in June in the Adirondacks.  Our first night at Lake Luzerne State Campground was a full-blown thunder-and-lightning experience with heavy rain that left a small lake under my tent. I found a live salamander there while packing up the next morning.

Iron mine lake viewOur second night at Lake Durant State Campground was pleasantly dry, but the next night was forecast to be so dismal that we took refuge at a nice end-of-the-road motel at the edge of the remote Stillwater Reservoir.  The fourth night at Meacham Lake State Campground was technically not rainy but there was enough condensation that it was hard to tell, and in any case we were already soaked because we got caught in a massive storm earlier that morning which forced us to hole up in a small town convenience store for three hours.

The fifth night at Wilmington Notch was dry enough that my boots went from “soaked” to “damp” overnight—about as good at it gets while tent camping—and we had a final day of riding where all the forces of nature aligned to give us perfect weather.

Wilmington lake view

All things considered, we did pretty well.  I don’t expect the comforts of the Airstream on this sort of trip. It’s about different values: exploration, camaraderie, simplicity, challenge. Men and machines, sleeping in tents, slapping away black flies, and eating in 1-star diners. Lots of time to think while the pine trees slip past and the single cylinder of the motorcycle thumps. One mile on a slippery, potholed dirt road can be just as memorable and exciting as anything else we might do in life. I hope we’ll do it again next summer.

BMW tour wrap-up

It’s hard not to make the last day of an epic trip seem anti-climactic.  We wrestle with that every time we come back to home base with the Airstream.  The last day is usually over roads you already know well, and there’s always that sense of being so close to home that you may as well just blast through.  Sometimes in the Airstream we combat this by taking a completely unneeded detour, or spending another night less than 100 miles from home.  This also has the benefit of making our arrival time early in the day so unpacking isn’t done at the end of a long drive.

On the BMWs it was the same sensation, but rather than spend an extra night in the last 100 miles we just packed up our camp without rushing (the tents and ground cloths were particularly damp because of condensation) and then made lots of stops along Rt 2 through New Hampshire and Vermont, like dropping in on Dunkin’ Donuts in downtown St Johnsbury.  (No more Tim Hortons now that we are out of Canada).

I needed the breaks along the route anyway.  It was a colder day than most, and I had skipped the long underwear layer on the assumption that it would warm up later, but that never happened.  Eric bit the bullet and did a quick change outdoors about an hour into our ride, in a location where he’d be inconspicuous to passing traffic.  I wasn’t freezing so I just threw on another top layer, but it wasn’t really enough until the afternoon.

Also, my shoulder was bothering me.  It has gotten better since that accident back near Murdochville, and now I can sleep on that side again without the pain waking me up, but in riding position with my arms extended and the constant vibration of the thumper, and road bumps, it begins to hurt after a while.  Eventually the pain becomes excruciating and I have to take a 10 minute break, which relieves it entirely.  I’ve had a lot of time to think about a particular blog comment by one of my curmudgeonly blog advisors, suggesting that this particular problem may eventually require surgery. I’m thinking it won’t, because it has gotten steadily better.  At least I hope not.  I don’t want that sort of permanent souvenir of this trip.

And the trip has been amazing, almost worth a permanent twinge in the shoulder.  I look back over the last 13 days of it and it’s like three trips in one, with all the stuff we saw and did along the way.  I’m pretty sure I only covered the highlights here, and there are a thousand fascinating details that I’ve already forgotten.

Finally, in the afternoon of June 20, we rolled back into the Champlain Valley on a gorgeous sunny summer day, to our respective garages.  We had covered 2,600 miles on those little BMW bikes—a trip almost equivalent to riding them back to Tucson!  None of us thought we’d do such mileage.  We really didn’t know much of anything for sure, since every day was spontaneous.

Back at base, after a nice reunion with my family, I slowly unpacked all the gear, laid out the tent and groundcloth to dry in the sun, and made an enormous pile of laundry.  My motorcycle pants and jacket are flecked with asphalt, bugs, and mud.  My boots are unmentionable.  The helmet has a few new dings in the finish, and it’s probably time for me to put on a new, unscratched visor.

The BMW is looking good except for two broken turn signals and a very handsome scuff mark on the front fender.  We’ll fix the turn signals later.  Otherwise the bike has held up very well and I have a new appreciation for why Steve likes them so much.  It’s not nearly as comfortable as traveling by car or by Airstream, but there are definite advantages to the experience.

We had a great “wrap party” with friends on Saturday night, showing a quickly-made video of some of our 500 photos.  If you want to see more, check Flickr.com/airstreamlife for the album.

In a few days I’ll be flying to Los Angeles for another adventure, which will also be posted on this blog and pre-dated.  I’m picking up a new 2015 Airstream Interstate and taking it out for a 9 day adventure up the California coast.  This is a trip I’ve been anticipating for literally years, and it is finally coming together, so I’m very excited about it.  Long-time blog readers note: Since I’ll be traveling solo, I’ll also be hoisting the TBM flag for the month of July.

BMW day 12: Moosehead Lake ME to Mt Washington (NH)

Ever since we crossed back into the US we could all sense that our trip was winding down.  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are all familiar territory, and I think we had the sense that if we weren’t careful we’d end up re-tracing roads we’d all driven before, and becoming bored with the final days of our trip.

Yet we were still in the midst of some beautiful country.  So despite having Gaspé behind us, we decided to maintain our relatively slow pace and try to find things to do in the upper part of Maine and New Hampshire that we had never done before.

day12 mapWe selected a convoluted path following Route 16 past small towns and summer cabins.  This turned out to be ideal.  While entirely paved, it had the benefit of lots of vistas, sweeping turns, interesting small towns, and not much traffic.  The weather was once again ideal for riding, so we settled in at about 45-50 MPH most of the way and just soaked up the scenery.

Early in the ride we stopped in Abbott, ME for a quick break.  Lately my shoulder has been bothering me more when we ride.  The arm extended position really starts to hurt after a while, so an hour is about all I can go without giving it a rest.

But this was really a great excuse to stop in at the Abbott Village Bakery where, as luck would have it, the donuts are truly awesome.  I got one for the road after eating an enormous I-forgot-what-they-called-it jelly and cream stuffed creation.  I may have forgotten the name but it will take me a long time to forget that donut. I’d go back but it’s almost 300 miles from our base camp in Vermont, and 2,900 miles from our base in Arizona.  Some great things are destined to stay local, and that’s a good reason to keep traveling.

Just down the road we found an ATV shop, too.  Steve had been struggling with chain lube ever since the trip started.  It wasn’t holding up, and he was re-lubricating and adjusting the chains nearly daily on both our bikes.  The solution, he decided, was chain wax, and Victory Motorsports in Maine had one can of the stuff left on their shelves.  We did a quick spray wax on all three bikes and it seemed to last a lot longer.

I was feeling so relaxed that I took very few pictures on this leg of the trip, and I even stopped writing nightly notes on our travels.  Sometimes you just have to experience the travel and not worry about documenting it.  Traveling by motorcycle was becoming as natural as Airstreaming, now that I had the routine down. As we paralleled the Kennebec River in Maine I remembered long-ago whitewater rafting trips done on that same stretch of water. It was all becoming very familiar and easy, even though I hadn’t seen most of the roads before and we didn’t yet have a firm destination for our stop that night.

Our working plan was to ride to Gorham, NH, and check out Mount Washington. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is famous as the location of the “world’s worst weather” and there is a road all the way to the summit which (yet another lucky break) would be open only to motorcycles on this particular day. We figured it was a sign that we were destined to end our day with an epic ride to the 6,000+ ft peak of Mt Washington.

We made it to Mt Washington around 5 p.m., after having spotted a magnificent moose along the road in northern New Hampshire.  (This was our fourth large mammal of the trip, counting the bear cub early on, the seal in Perce, a second black bear (full grown) along the dirt road to Murdochville, and not counting the numerous deer because I’d rather not see deer.  They like to jump in front of moving vehicles and I didn’t want to find out what happens when one jumps in front of a motorcycle I’m driving.)

It was still early enough to drive up the 8-mile road to the top, have a good look, and start heading back by the mandatory 6:45 departure. It was a very nice day by Mt Washington standards: mostly clear skies, temperatures in the 60s, winds running about 55 MPH.

Yes, I said 55 MPH. When we arrived there were dozens of motorcycles coming down the mountain, all much heavier bikes than ours, 1200 cc hogs and 1100 cc street or touring bikes, everyone wearing black leather & bandannas (New Hampshire has no helmet law), and all looking a tad pinched in the face from the wind chill, perhaps even grateful to be back at low altitude. But with hundreds of motorcycles going up that day, we figured “how bad could it be?”

Pretty bad.  Unlike virtually everyone else, we were on tall, light, high-clearance bikes designed to maneuver around rocks and through potholes. Where we had the advantage on tricky dirt trails, these guys had the advantage on pavement and most importantly, in wind.

BMW Canada-32

I promise not to exaggerate. This was without a doubt the most terrifying experience I have ever had while operating a motorized vehicle. The time that the trailer brakes on the Airstream went out while descending off a bridge to a stoplight in the rain was a relaxing nap compared to our ride up Mt Washington.

After we reached about 5,000 feet of elevation and were above the treeline, the road becomes entirely exposed to the brutal winds that never stop up there.  The gusts that hit us broadside were (we later discovered) reaching 65 MPH, which is still a nice day by Mt Washington standards but nearly impossible conditions for a BMW F650.  It was all we could do just to hang on to the handlebars with a death grip and try to stay upright against the unpredictable gusts.  My bike was being slapped around the road like a hockey puck.  Sometimes I had to lean sharply in the opposite direction of a turn just to counter the huge impact of the wind.  I felt like a Weeble, except that there was the very real possibility that at any point I would fall down or even be blown right off the road and down hundreds of feet down a rocky slope—because of course there are no guardrails on this road.

We got to the top somehow.  The wind was so strong in the parking lot that Steve had to relocate his bike into the lee of a large cliff, otherwise the wind was simply going to blow it over.  We finally had a chance to take off our helmets and talk, and discovered we’d all had the same experience and thoughts on the way up: holy wind gusts, Batman!  A ride like that will teach you to focus very sharply on the task at hand.  And I was already thinking of something horrible:  we had to go back down the road later.  Perhaps there was an Inn we could stay in, for a month or two until there was a small break in the wind?  Maybe we could call a flatbed to haul the bikes back?

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The picture above makes it look so pleasant, but you can’t see any indication of the wind that was howling at every moment.  I recommend Mt Washington in a car, or at least in a much heavier bike on the calmest possible day. Then you can really enjoy the view, the museum, the coffee shop, and the outdoor observation deck without having terror in your heart.

After about half an hour to calm down, we came up with a strategy.  Upward travel would be stopped at 6:00 pm, so we’d wait until about 6:10 to start heading down.  That way we’d likely be the only people on the road and could have the freedom of being blown across two lanes instead of just one.  That sounds ridiculous but it helped quite a lot.  Downhill turned out to be not quite as bad—we got a small break from the wind during the most exposed portion of the road—and when I counted bikes at the bottom there were still three of us.  A bit shaken, perhaps, but intact.

So be careful what you wish for.  We wanted something exciting and new to do on this last leg of the trip, and we got it.

Tonight’s stay is the peaceful Moose Brook State Park in Gorham NH. No bugs here, for some reason, so we got to stay DEET-free.  It’s a short ride to the center of town from the state park, and we found an excellent wood-fired pizza place in town (with a power outlet under the booth for me to charge up my helmet intercom and cell phone).  This night of camping will be our last on this trip.  Tomorrow, we have only a half-day ride back to home.

BMW day 11: Presque Isle to Moosehead Lake ME

It turned out that the weather report was depressingly correct again, and rain was coming soon.  I was feeling some pressure because I needed to locate a Notary Public in town, and I wanted to get that job done before the rain came in.  Around 8:30 I was finally able to find a law office in town where a notary was available, and so I zipped out while the other guys were still packing.  I got my documents signed and notarized, dropped them in a FedEx box, and finally was free of that business obligation.  So, back to motorcycling.

Now here’s the other part about working from the road.  You can’t really enjoy the travel if you mentally carry around your work worries with you.  I’ve had a lot of practice at this, so believe me when I say that one minute after I dropped the package in the FedEx box, I was thinking about nothing but our day of adventure ahead.  Compartmentalizing your work is a skill that full-time travelers must learn, if they are to have any fun at all.

It wasn’t yet raining as I went back to the motel, but the toes of my boots got soaked anyway from the puddles on the ground left by overnight showers.  So another lesson learned:  wear the overboots whenever the road is wet.  Or, as I’ve decided to do, invest in a good pair of motorcycle boots that are waterproof.

day11 map

Our route for the day was completely undetermined.  Steve hadn’t done much research on travels in the US.  He kind of regarded the trip as being more or less over with by the time we left Quebec.  But we had at least three days of travel remaining before we landed back in Vermont, and we needed to plan some sort of interesting route, or we’d just end up on the paved highways covering miles for the sake of covering miles.

We did some checking and were disappointed to find that virtually all of northern Maine is closed to motorcycles.  The roads up in the forests are all privately owned, by land conservation groups, paper and timber companies, and various others.  So the roads are all private too, and they are not exactly speedways. This was a major blow:  the most exciting roads were off-limits.

At first our route was just pavement, so it didn’t matter.  And it was raining again, so we weren’t eager to hit slippery dirt yet anyway.

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Even at our lunch stop, the rain continued.  But by the time we got to East Millinocket, things had cleared up and the lure of dirt riding was too much for Steve. If I had remembered my pledge to go wherever he led us, Eric and I might have allegedly possibly could have followed him along a 50 mile ride of hell.

Let’s just say that there are very good reasons why motorcycles are not allowed on certain roads.  There is no street bike or hog that could ride the road we theoretically might have ridden.  Harley riders, don’t take that as a challenge, it’s just a fact that might save your bike. Imagine water crossings with two-foot deep ditches, potholes with potholes in them, and sections so riddled with bone-jarring bumps that it would be more comfortable to just ride a mechanical bull in a 1980s romantic comedy.  Remember my sore shoulder?  If we had ridden that road—and I’m not saying we did—it would have been the least sore part of my entire body.

We ended our day in a nice state park called Lily Bay, near Moosehead Lake, ME.  The sites were wooded and lovely, the rangers were super friendly, and so were the mosquitoes.  You’re not supposed to feed the wildlife, but in this case, it’s hard to avoid without 100% DEET on your body.  I slapped one mosquito flat while we were checking in at the gate and without looking up the ranger said, “Thank you.”  One down, 75 billion to go.

BMW Canada-25

This was again the sort of place where we immediately slathered ourselves with DEET before we did anything else.  Fortunately, it worked.  We set up camp and set out for the town of Moosehead Lake (maybe 10 miles away) for dinner.  A light rain shower started again on our way to town, so we stopped and threw on the rainsuits again, but after dinner things cleared up to give us a nice evening ride back to the campsite.

Or so I thought.  Along the way back Steve took a detour up yet another dirt road, which turned out to be not much more than a road, but then he zigged again and found something really challenging.  I was in the third position, and feeling pretty tired.  I didn’t want to go down these roads so late in the day, and within just a few hundred feet the road got so technical that I was beginning to worry about crashing again.  But I couldn’t raise the other guys on the intercom because their batteries had run out, and I couldn’t catch up to them.  So after the second or third near-crash in a puddle or while avoiding a massive rock or fallen log, I just stopped.

They spotted me, waved, and I just shrugged.  So they came back, and we got back to the paved road, and headed toward camp again … when Steve spotted a sign indicating the route to a famous B-52 crash site.  We had read about this earlier.  Apparently the B-52 crash site is only 0.3 miles from the road.  Steve asked if I wanted to go see it, and I said, “Sure, we’ve got time before the sun sets.”

Little did any of us know that the crash site was not 0.3 miles from the paved road, but rather 0.3 miles from a dirt ATV trail off the paved road.  That dirt trail wound into the woods for literally miles, forking into separate trails periodically, and seemingly without end.  Once every mile or so we’d see another “B-52″ sign but no other indications of how much further it might be.

This wasn’t what I was expecting and I wanted to turn back, but I was so tired that even catching up to the other guys on this potholed loose gravel road was too much of a challenge for me.  So I followed, hoping eventually we’d find the B-52.

We never did find that crash site, but I made one of my own.  At one of the forks Steve stopped for a conference, and I said, “Forget it, I want to go back.”  The other guys were agreeable to that.  The fork in the trail formed a nice triangle that made for an easy turn-around, but right then my brain just suddenly forgot how to ride a motorcycle and instead of staying on the road I just helplessly watched as the motorcycle, seemingly under its own control, went off the road, across a ditch, and crashed gently into a stand of saplings.  I was on the bike and theoretically the operator, but for those few moments I could not remember even how to apply the brake.

Fortunately, the crash was soft and the bike jammed between a few trees so it was left standing upright.  I was so disgusted and upset that I just got off the bike and stomped off while Steve and Eric retrieved it.  I yelled to Steve, “I’m just too tired to keep riding!” and he said, “I can see that now.  We’re going back.”  It was 7:30 pm.

The crash did no damage other than to break the other front turn signal.  Eric made me feel better when he said, “That’s OK, they are supposed to be replaced in pairs anyway,” which is a mechanic joke.  The nice thing about riding with these guys was that when I did have an incident they just jumped in and helped, and didn’t make me feel worse about it.  But I did feel pretty awful and I was exhausted.  Plus, the score was now embarrassingly lopsided, Rich 4, Steve 2, Eric 0.

The campground bathrooms at Lily Bay are not close to the camp sites.  We had a pit toilet nearby, but for actual running water I had to hop on the bike one last time that evening around 7:45 pm and ride 1.2 miles to the shower house.  You can believe that I was extremely careful for that last ride.  I had pushed beyond my personal limits on this day, with about 200 miles of riding spread over 12 hours, at least 50 of which was tough dirt (theoretically), and the last thing I wanted was to crash again somewhere in the campground in the final mile.  I survived this final ride, said goodnight to the mosquitoes, and retired to my tent.

BMW day 10: Through New Brunswick and into the USA

When we woke in Carleton-sur-Mer it was another gorgeous day, but things were a little different now because we knew we were about to end our trip in Canada. After 9 days of touring Quebec I could easily have stayed another week to continue to explore, perhaps down into the maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

I bet if I had really tried to twist the arms of Steve and Eric I could have convinced them to go further south into the maritimes, but I was the guy who had a deadline. An important business transaction needed to be done, and I had to be in the United States to do it. People were waiting for me to get off my bike and sign papers, and my first chance to do that would be in Maine. So instead of dreaming up grand tours from the map, we headed east back toward home.

But first we took one last quick tour around Carleton-sur-Mer, stopping at a cafe in town for a leisurely breakfast and coffee, and then up into the mountains above town to a church set on the peak 555 meters above our campsite, near yet another wind turbine farm.

BMW Canada-13

We lingered for a few minutes, taking in the view, and then turned the bikes downhill back to the coastal road and east to New Brunswick.

BMW Canada-19

The road through New Brunswick is not very exciting. Basically it cuts the corner of the top of the province in the shortest possible way, directly from the last stretch of coastline on Gaspé to Limestone, ME. We had received an offer via an Internet forum from a guy in New Brunswick who would take us on a more “interesting” path through the province, but with my looming deadline to get back into the USA, we had to pass on that. Our only stops in New Brunswick were to get gas (and a bunch of Canadian candy bars as treats for my ladies back home), and lunch.

day10 map

Crossing the border in Limestone ME would have been a non-event if I hadn’t gotten selected for a random search. This added a few minutes to the crossing, just filling out an I-9 form and having an agent take a perfunctory peek at the contents of my panniers. Nope, no alcohol, tobacco, firearms, merchandise, or contraband in there—unless you count a stash of 7 Canadian candy bars. Eric had a tough moment when the agent asked him where he was going. He didn’t know, so he just said, “I’m following those guys.”

BMW Canada-21

Not far down the road we found the former Loring Air Force Base. Like other abandoned bases in the northeast (Plattsburgh, Pease, Brunswick), there’s an attempt to convert it to a “business park,” but in this case not much is happening. Most of the buildings, including this massive hangar (of which only about 1/3 is shown in the picture) are slowly deteriorating. If you need indoor space to store a really huge RV, or perhaps 200 or 300 of them, I can recommend a spot in far northeast Maine.

We rode the motorcycles down the long taxiways to see everything. It’s not every day you can ride your motorcycle down the taxiways of a formerly secure military facility. The runways are so long that even at 60 MPH it takes a couple of minutes to get to the other end.

We ended up, as planned, in Presque Isle, ME. The weather was threatening again, so we holed up in a local motel—not a nice place, but cheap—and I started in on my business tasks. Now here’s an example of “working from the road,” for those of you who want to see the real gore involved. I had researched copy shop, UPS Store, and office supply locations previously while in Canada, so I knew there was a Staples in town. I rode over there, and using the store’s wifi I emailed my documents (seven of them) to the store’s print shop. They printed them out for me (about $2), and then I rode over to the nearest FedEx drop box (also previously researched) to get an overnight envelope. I put all of that in a plastic zip bag because the rain was starting up again, and rode back to the motel.

At the motel I wrestled for about an hour with Bank of America, trying to arrange a wire transfer. They wouldn’t do it over the phone, and there are no branches in Maine. I couldn’t do it on the mobile app, either. So I got onto the website and immediately ran afoul of security protocols, which required me to verify my identity with username, password, my business credit card number, and then a 6-digit security code sent to my phone. Then I had to set up the wire transfer recipient, which required another security code. With various website SNAFUs and re-tries, this took quite a while. Eventually I was able to break through the security cordon and order my wire transfer. I wasn’t done, but it was a good start.  Tomorrow I have to find a Notary Public.

After that ordeal, we decided that a walk to town for dinner would be good idea, and we scored by finding Governor’s restaurant. After many days of mediocre meals, this was a real treat. It turned out that we’d arrived on a special day when they were discounting lobster rolls to $5.55. If you’re not familiar with lobster rolls, suffice to say that they are awesome and normally run about $13-15. So Steve and I, being lobster fans, ordered two each.

BMW Canada-74

Since it was apparently gluttony night for the motorcycle boys, I also got a real American milkshake to make up for the disappointing one I’d had in Quebec. The waitress comped it because they didn’t have the flavor I wanted. Two thumbs up for Governor’s! We waddled back up the hill to our hotel, stuffed with lobster. Maybe it wasn’t so bad to be back in the USA after all…