Day 2: Calais, Maine to Machias. 50 miles 1484 feet
The forecasted weather for the start of our journey was ominous to say the least. As early as last week the weatherman was projecting a torrential downpour from a slow moving cold front that was heading straight at our planned route. Amongst our group we had 2 sailors, a pilot, and several experienced long distance cyclists who scoured all available wind and weather apps over dinner last night. We agreed that there appeared to be a dry window available if we rolled by 7AM, that would last long enough for us to reach our hotel in Machias, mostly unscathed. We advised Helen, the owner of the only diner in town that we would arrive in force and hungry at 6AM. She greeted the first of us to arrive but when we reminded her that we were 11 in total, she claimed that she had not received the memo. Helen was all alone but summoned up her New England hospitality and began to pour coffee and take orders. As the last of our group arrived we noticed that it was starting to rain fairly steadily which surprised us, till a look at our weather radar app, which showed an isolated cell moving through. We had just under 50 miles to ride after breakfast with no place to eat along the route so I chose the “Big Dinner Breakfast”, also known as the “Kitchen Sink” in New Zealand, needless to say I would be full way past lunchtime. Quite fortuitously, just as we were finishing our coffee, we noticed that the rain had stopped.
The roads were still wet but we decided that it was now or never, so we mounted our steeds and headed over to the Customs House on the US/Canadian border for a group photo op at the most northerly portion of the East Coast Greenway. We were considering getting our Passports stamped but a couple from our group had tried it the night before, after 45 minutes and half a dozen forms they gave up. The Customs official asked them to advise the rest of us not to waste his time in the morning, I guess he needs to keep his wits and energy to fight of hoards of Canadians attempting to sneak across the border just before sunrise.
We rode for about 2 miles on pavement before we encountered the first of what was to be 40+ miles of unpaved trail. It was a combination of packed dirt and granite chips, most was easily ridden but there was a 6 mile stretch that could best be described as loose beach sand studded with millions of rocks ranging in size from walnuts to grapefruits. To add injury to insult, there was a mile of freshly placed dirt and rocks that resembled an Olympic ski mogul run. It would have been better if I was riding a mountain bike, but luckily, all the training I had done climbing and descending mountain bike trails in Fort Ord on my road bike, paid major dividends. I came close to eating the dirt a couple of times but somehow managed to keep the rubber side down without dismounting the bike. The trail wound through forests, wet lands, and along the Machias River. The view, even with ominous skies, was spectacular, to say the least. The highlight of my day was watching a juvenile black bear scamper across the trail, less than 50 feet in front of me, unfortunately, I could not get my camera out in time. Even with frequent photo stops, I managed to make it to our hotel before the rain, where both my bike and I took much needed showers. For more details about my ride see the Strava link below.