A state and a state of mind. Would that have been a better title?
I really began to struggle through these days. I’m still not sure why. I was always hungry, I was always tired and it was always difficult to get to my work. At the beginning of this trip I could log a 500 mile day without even batting an eye. Over these days, 150 seemed like a stretch.
I was still seeing beautiful things, meeting wonderful people and having memorable experiences; so it is difficult to define why I felt this way. Perhaps the months (nearly four now) of constant exertion were finally catching up with me.
I’ll begin this post with my more traditional summary of events, then give you a chance to bail before it devolves into nonsensical, existential ramblings. 🙂
Wednesday, September 20th
When I set up my tent in the dark the previous evening, I though I might have a pretty spectacular view in the morning. There was just enough moonlight for me to make a strategic spot selection. Sure enough, I awoke to the quintessential morning Maine view.
Soak it in, people.
Sonic can be a bit standoffish at times, so I’m always encouraging him to make new friends.
I was hoping to see some of the “Reversing Rivers” (an apparent backwards flow) that this park was known for, but it was just too foggy to see anything. I packed up amid drizzle and rode towards Rt. 1, taking some back roads.
I stopped at a McDonald’s and had my first interaction with a Maine resident in Maine. While the drive thru line crept along, he hung out of the passenger window talking to me about my trip. Our conversation ended with him holding up his pipe and offering me some weed. I kindly refused, but thought it was a very friendly offer. “It’s legal here now, you know.” he said almost triumphantly. 🙂
At my first gas stop I realized I had neglected to take the Canadian bills out of my wallet. I jokingly asked the cashier if he wanted it. With almost no expression he pointed to a sign behind him that said they exchange Canadian currency at 35%. Ouch! (80% is the current exchange rate)
I had a minor break down on this day: A rear tail light
The strap for my sign must have bounced and hit it. I really should route it through the top side instead. This one was my fault, Honda. No need to order a recall.
After a little ride, I found myself at my favorite part of Acadia National Park, the Schoodic Penninsula. I had fond memories of this place from my east coast “maiden voyage” with Annie in 2013. It was the furthers from home that I ventured during that two week trip (I remember thinking that that was a long trip at the time).
I found a little rhythm to the day. Ride a little, type a little, repeat. I was really struggling with my writing. Each word was like fighting a little battle. It was one of the worst cases of writer’s block I’ve had on the trip. For a writer creating a story, this condition is frustrating but not devastating. For a writer who is recording a narrative (me), it is a double edge sword. Not only does a writer’s block affect the present, when the writing slows down the time between experiencing and recording extends. This causes experiences, feelings and important details to be forgotten.
I met a really nice couple from Connecticut that took a candid photo of my while I was struggling through this process. They sent it to me via facebook. Thanks, Jamie!
I was still trying to enjoy the scenery around me. This place is really special.
My sign began some other encouraging conversations and Annie got some more tattoos from a variety of places.
I set my sights for the evening on a free campsite that was “hike in” or “boat in” to a lakeside beach. It looked like a nice place and I thought I might be able to take Annie on the “hike” if there was no one around. The entrance to the trail was well barricaded, so Annie would not make trip. I made the hike (a little over half of a mile) to scout out the spot and decided it was worth lugging my gear down the trail. I had some trepidation about leaving Annie in the parking lot. Other than the Schefferville school bus night, this would be our furthest evening apart on the trip so far.
I didn’t pack very light, carrying all of this down the trail.
Worth the view?
There was another tent set up on the other end of the beach (probably 200 yards away), but I saw no other campers during my time here. This was where I began reading Vernon’s biography on Hank Snow.
Though I was still way behind, I thought that even a half our of leisure time might help lift my spirits a little. Reading of Hank’s childhood hardships was helpful in putting my current plights into perspective.
I had seen no sign of another human for hours, so I was a bit surprised to hear voices approaching. It sounded like they were right behind me, but it was minutes before they arrived on the beach.
(It is taking a lot of restraint to keep from making a joke about the stereotypical volume with which people from the NE part of the country speak, but it was just a really quiet night and the water tends to amplify things.) 🙂
I tried my best to have a warm, “I’m not a crazy person” smile on my face when they came into view. (When you spend a lot of time in the middle of nowhere, it is important to practice this expression.)
I met Rachel and Dave and their exhausted dog Pippi. They had just gotten married in Acadia a couple of days prior and were on a honeymoon hike up to Schoodic Mountain. We only chatted briefly, as daylight was waning, but I got to take their picture. I’m sure they would have preferred a more accomplished photographer, but I was the most qualified individual in a ten mile radius. (Plus, I got 40 likes on instagram once, so I’m basically a professional.)
Rachel contacted me a few days later through the blog. It was a fun intersection of our stories.
The night was very peaceful and I slept well.
Thursday, September 21
Basically a work day.
I lugged all of my belongings back up the trail and found Annie just as I’d left her. My first goal of the day was to find a new gas canister for my cooking stove. I wasn’t sure how much fuel was left in my current one and wanted to be prepared when it ran out. I began my search in Elsworth, Maine.
I visited a store called Cadillac Mountain Sports. What a place! They have pretty much everything. A guy named Mark helped me find the matching canister and we started chatting. He told me that he actually has a disc golf course on his property and invited me to come camp there if needed. There were no promising free campsites in the area, so I eagerly accepted his invitation. He also told me where to find some discs in case I wanted to play a round.
Spurred on by his generosity, I got a little “generous” too. I decided to purchase a more complete coffee solution. Instant coffee is OK in a pinch, but having it every day was growing tiresome. Brewing my famous Swedish egg coffee is not a realistic option for obvious reasons. But on this day I think I found my solution, a portable French press:
Realtime update: I resolved to use up my instant coffee first, so this pot will make its debut tomorrow morning.
$27 was a pretty sizable outpour for an item that is completely superfluous, but perhaps these are the types of things that can make this trip more sustainable. Time will tell.
I spent most of the day at the Elsworth library, which had good internet speeds. I got a lot of work done.
I set sights for Mark’s course and arrived right as he was leaving. He showed me where the discs were and invited me to play. I used to be pretty good back in the day, so it sounded like fun.
As I was switching from boots to shoes a couple of cars pulled up. Before long there were four guys who worked together talking with me about my trip. I asked if I could join their quartet and they welcomed me.
It’s all about the high follow through.
I probably should have told them that I didn’t drink, because each time I finished a Bud Lite, another one would magically reappear in my hand. 🙂
It was fun being “one of the guys.” I was not exempted from heckling when one of my drives hit the first tree off of the tee.
They all signed the bike (“All I know how to draw are naked ladies. What should I do?”) and were very encouraging. It was a fun evening.
I got my tent set up and Mark returned. He brought me a couple more beers (good ones!) and made sure I was all set for the night. It was nice to feel so welcomed.
Since I was still feeling a bit worn thin, I resolved to eat more heartily than usual. Canned lasagna, a can of peas and a beer? That’s a picture worthy meal for me!
Alright! Things get pretty introspective henceforth. I don’t blame you if you bail! 🙂
So….why is this so hard?
I think the toughest part about this adventure is the requirement to “Work three jobs.” It is no stretch to say that at least 15 of my waking hours are dedicated to the trip each day.
First, I have to be a man of the past. I have to recall what I have experienced and put it into words. These words are supplemented by videos, pictures and other media; all of which require time. I would guess that the average blog post represents 3-5 hours of work. Not an inordinate amount of time, but difficult with all of my other tasks.
One might ask, “Is this really necessary?” To me, this is possibly the most important task I do each day. In a decade or so, I will have very few memories of this roller coaster ride. If I didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen. I experience so much so quickly that there is no way to carry all of the memories until the trip concludes. I don’t want to lose the little details of things like my conversation with Ron at the Chatanika lodge, or the feelings associated with my longest riding day on a bad bearing.
Second, I have to be a man of the present. I need to cover miles, have experiences and meet people. “Need” is an unfortunate word in the preceding sentence. I do generally enjoy these things, but they take time. Even when having a chat about my trip at a gas station, I almost always wait for the other party to end the conversation. That’s just my nature. When I’m in a place connected to the song, I always want to budget plenty of time. Rushing can easily cheat me out of experiences.
Also in the present are the “daily upkeep” items. It takes a full hour to both set up and tear down my campsite. Maintenance on Annie takes some time each day too. Finding a spot to camp, food to eat, spots for wifi; it all takes time.
Third, I have to be a man of the future. This is a part of the trip that I do not talk about very much, but it is vital to ensuring the best experiences possible. I always try to research about a place before I arrive. I will sometimes contact a business or a visitor center. I hate coming into a place blind.
Furthermore, I am always checking weather forecasts and planning my route for days, sometimes weeks ahead. Even now, I am working on my Central and South America plans, including trying to spend an hour each day on Spanish study. Again, it all takes time.
But with all that said, I’m not completely sure that it’s the busyness that wears me out. I think being a nomad might be what really does it. Sleeping in a tent for a weekend is no problem, but months on end is a different beast. Being that I am not normally in traditional campgrounds, there is always stress associated with being disturbed in the night; either by a person or an animal. It is difficult to calculate the toll that takes on me.
Is this the hardest thing that I’ve ever done? No, not yet at least. Is it harder than I thought it would be? Hmmm….I’d say it’s about even so far. I guess these lower times will come, but I think they will go too. I’m still thankful to have the opportunity to attempt this crazy trip, even if that opportunity hinges on a very strict budget.
I may be down, but I’m not out! I don’t think Sonic would let me quit anyway. 🙂
Stay existential, everybody.
Realtime update: I am in Brockport, New York. It is a super friendly place!