Monday, June 29, 2009

Headed home to Honolulu, for now

By the time I got to Rochester, New Hampshire, I'd put my rain suit on three times and taken it off twice in the 200 miles from Ellsworth, Maine.

When I stopped at a Wendy's for something to eat, the drizzle let up outside and I took the suit off one last time. There were only 20 miles left to Portsmouth and I decided to make a last dash without it.

Bad idea. I should know by now that the weather changes as you approach the coast and it did -- for the worse. By the time I reached my sister Betsy's, I was soaked.

Before that, however, my new River Road rain suit had held up well. The waterproofing had worn off the top of my left boot where it works the shifter and my sock was getting damp, but there were no drips inside the nylon suit, my helmet kept the moisture out and water was still beading up on my gloves.

Chris had ridden along with me on his Fat Boy to Dysart's truck stop in Newport, where we ate a couple of enormous omelets and said so long. I'll visit him in Tennessee in August and he promises to take me on some great rides.

On I-95 from Bangor to Augusta everything else on the road was passing me, which got old. Driving 75 miles per hour in the rain to keep up didn't appeal -- think, "high-speed wobble." So, I switched to US 202 from Augusta to Rochester and then took the Spaulding Turnpike into Portsmouth.

US 202 goes through Lewiston, Maine's second-largest city. It's now a virtual museum of hydro-electric-powered industrial glory days and Victorian architecture, which I've by-passed in all my previous trips to Maine. Even in the gloom the huge factory buildings, now mostly idle, were impressive. The Great Falls of the Androscoggin River roared beneath the bridge connecting Lewiston with Auburn.

In Rochester, there was a Sunday evening crush of New Hampshire motorists heading home after readying their cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee for the Fourth of July weekend. The traffic to Portsmouth was a big change after almost three weeks on empty highways. For someone used to Honolulu's congestion, the freedom of Maine's open roads was a joy despite the weather.

Tomorrow morning, I fly back to the Islands, leaving the KLR at Betsy's until August, when I'll return to begin a ride to points south. Until then, this blog probably will take a break. I'm bringing a load of stuff to leave at home: extra tools, clothes and things I thought I'd use but never did and won't on the next trip.

I left the tent, sleeping bag and the rest of my camping gear at the cottage in Ellsworth, including a knapsack full of cooking gear and food -- mostly canned -- that I'd planned to use if the weather had cooperated. After I arrived in Portsmouth, I remembered there are two eggs in my plastic egg-case in the knapsack. I'm wondering if they'll survive the month until I return.

With eggs as with life, the devil's in the details.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Drying out in Stonington

Thursday, the sun finally came out. Chris was working on a consulting project and I was working on a newsletter, both of us at Jane's where she has a good internet connection. But by 3:30 we were ready to play hooky and go for a ride.

We headed out of Ellsworth down to Blue Hill, where I asked some kids to take our picture (above). Chris said, "As long as we're here, we ought to keep on going down to Stonington." Made sense to me -- the sun was out, after all. So, we called Jane and said we'd be back by 6:30.

To get to Stonington, you first take the suspension bridge to Deer Isle (above in the distance), which is kind of an adventure. Imagine the Golden Gate Bridge in HO model railroad scale. The bridge is a narrow two lanes and goes up, up, up before coming down on the island. After that, there's a causeway to negotiate. Finally, you're in Stonington.

On a day when the rest of Maine was in sunshine, Stonington harbor was wrapped in fog. It's a town built on lobster and stone cutting.

Hence, there's a memorial to stone cutters right there on the fishing pier, which was shrouded in a cold fog. Being on the Gulf Stream, the water is often warmer than the air, which leads to scenes like these:

Dinghies wait to take fishermen to their boats at anchor

Stonington's economy is a symbiosis, relying on both the fishery and an active art colony

The KLR on one of the many commercial piers

John and Chris think about going back to where the sun was shining

Ready to turn around and head for the sun

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where's Waldo?

"Towns in Maine that have the same name as one of the counties are always located in a different county," my cousin David said Wednesday morning. "For example, the town of Penobscot is in Hancock County, not Penobscot County, while the town Lincoln is not in Lincoln County. It's in Penobscot."

"But I rode through the town of Waldo yesteray on Route 131 and it was in Waldo County," I said.

However, I never saw a sign that actually said I was in Waldo even though there's a dot on the map labeled "Waldo." Leaving Swansville, I was soon in Morill and I don't remember a town in between. So, although I've actually been there in person this week, I still don't know where's Waldo.

Staying at David Flanagan's doesn't fall in the "roughing it" category

Maybe I need a GPS after all. On the ride back to Ellsworth from David's place in Manchester, roads went missing, not towns. I mapped out my route at breakfast with a goal of taking back roads as much as possible, starting with Puddle Dock Road, heading north out of Manchester toward Summerhaven.

"Yeah, it looks like you could go that way," David said, "but I've never thought of Puddle Dock Road as a way to actually get anywhere."

My plan to take Puddle Dock ended up on a dirt road that weaved through dead trees, passed gravel pits and petered out into a swampy nowhere. Doubling back, I found myself on Maine Highway 135, which I'd been trying to avoid. I should pay attention when someone who lives there says a road doesn't actually go anywhere.

I passed through Unity, home of the Unity Raceway. It's not NASCAR, exactly, but the management promises races that are "thrilling, dangerous and spectacular." It also seemed down at the heels, but after all the rain, everything did.

Fellow in a pickup truck who said he ran the place drove up while I was taking pictures and asked "Can I help you?" His tone indicated helping me wasn't his intention. I smiled, said I was just leaving and asked could he suggest a good place for lunch? He named four pizza places.

Maine seems beset by three things: pizza joints, which are now ubiquitous and have driven out almost every other kind of restaurant in small towns; self-storage businesses, which seem out of place in a state with so much room but are everywhere, even in converted chicken barns and tourist cabins; and large, ornamental, five-point stars, which adorn houses, barns, sheds and garages everywhere and would look pretty cool, if everybody else didn't have one, too.

I found a bronze statue of a galloping moose in front of the Unity Historical Society and a deli near the old depot offering fresh baked bread, creamy vegetable soup, homemade ice cream and the best chicken Caesar salad I've ever had, thanks to some amazingly fresh, locally grown, crunchy lettuce.

After lunch, the rain let up. Although it threatened to return, I could ride without the rain suit for the first time in two days.

In Dixmont Center, I got off US 202 and took Kennebec Road to Nealy's Corner -- exactly the kind of two-lane country road I'd been looking for: a hilly, curvy roller coaster ride through green meadows and woods. At Nealy's I met Route 69, which is "the highway department's single hardest road for to keep signs posted," David said. "Every college kid in Maine wants a Route 69 sign on their wall."

The oft-stolen Highway 69 sign

Back in Ellsworth, I stopped at Bill's "Country Custom British and American Motorcycle Parts & Service," which is right on Branch Lake Road to complete my 12 volt outlet project. The guys at Friend and Friend had given me the connectors I needed, but they needed some soldering and shrink wrap to complete the job.

Bill and I chatted about his collection of Harley Davidson's, including a cherry 1978 dresser with about 130,000 miles on it and a couple of immaculate project bikes he's building in his garage workshop. "I'm my own best customer," he admitted. And, of course, the weather. "Up here, they say, we've got nine months of winter," Bill said, "and the other three months are hard sleddin'."

Bill took his time and did a professional job. "There. Now you're ready to hook up that GPS," he said.

"How much do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Happy to do it," he said, and I went to town to find a car wash.

The 12 volt outlet charging my cell phone

At Jane's, Chris gave me a little velvet draw-string bag. Inside I found a "Guardian Bell," which is like a guardian angel for motorcyclists. "It's a Harley thing," he said.

My new Guardian Bell will guard me from potholes and other evil entities

Riding out to the lake after dinner and a gray day, the twilight sky was clear with just a fingernail of new moon in the west. The forecast is for a muggy, but sunny, Thursday.


Thursday morning, the sun was burning off the fog and things began to dry out

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ellsworth to Augusta on the back roads

Today's ride from Ellsworth to Manchester -- about 140 miles -- was uneventful, yet blissful, even in the rain. Lush scenery. Curvy back roads, which I had almost to myself. A little drizzle. My cousin David says he heard the all-time record for precipitation in the month of June is about to fall.

I remembered ear plugs for once, which shut out the engine clatter and added to the serene nature of the trip. I only got lost once, in Swansville where an overgrown pine covered up the sign for Maine 131. I doubled back when I discovered I was still on Maine 141, but not before I took some pictures.

The list of towns and highway numbers goes on an index card in the window of the tank bag to keep me on course -- a poor man's GPS

The new bridge across the Penobscot near Bucksport is a smaller version of the one in Boston

Beautiful Belfast -- the one in Maine, not Ireland

A prayer to the Almighty -- send sunshine!

An entreprenuer near Swansville seeks donations ... and sells bait -- nightcrawlers for $1

This house near Waldo has curve appeal

A row boat takes root in a lush anchorage

A little waterfall drains a pond near Augusta

Gingerbread woodwork frames a porch near Somerville

The store in Windsor for the couple that have (almost) everything.

Gearing up for riding in the rain

The rain stopped Monday afternoon ... well, mostly.

Brother Chris and I went to Sylvia's for lunch -- homemade beef stew for me and fish "chowdah" and a sandwich for him. Afterwards, we checked out a sporting goods store and I looked for replacements for my waterproof hiking boots -- the ones that hold water. In practice, the gaiters I bought in New Hampshire kept the water out but the toes were baggy and snagged on the gear shift. I figured that can be dangerous.

We found some waterproof, Wellington-style pull-ons, about three inches taller than my hikers, but Chris suggested checking the Harley Davidson store in Bangor for "real" motorcycle boots, which would probably be about the same price.

He was right. I found the HD shop and a pair of black, high-top, pull-on boots -- what we used to call "engineer boots" -- for less than the Wellingtons. I chose the unadorned ones over the silver skulls and embroidered eagles.

My rain suit was beginning to unravel after more than a thousand miles of highway riding. The HD shop had some nylon suits -- all with giant, glow-in-the-dark Harley logos. I asked the clerk if they breathed, like my Frogg Toggs. She said, "Nope. They're like wearing a trash bag."

She suggested I visit Bangor Motorsports, three exits south off I-95 on the road to Hermon. Appreciating her honesty, I arrived there just ahead of three guys from Florida on their way south on big Kawasakis. They'd ridden to Nova Scotia from Bar Harbor, got soaked for three days and turned back. One of bike had blown an oil seal and the Motorsports folks promised a repair by Tuesday morning.

I'd considered riding to Canada instead of practice-camping in Acadia National Park. Talking to these guys, I'm glad I didn't. Of course, they'll be swapping stories about their epic escape from Canada in a cross-wind gale and pouring rain for the next 20 years. As they say, the adventure doesn't really start until something goes seriously wrong.

When they arrived, I'd just bought the last XL nylon rainsuit in the shop. "We had a run on them this weekend," the clerk said. I believed her.

Ready to go in the new gear, rain or no rain

The Florida guys were looking for new suits, too -- one had duct tape hanging from the rip in his pants and they all looked soaked. I gave them directions to Bangor Harley Davidson.

Heading back to Ellsworth, I stopped at Maine Military, a surplus store in Brewer, figuring I might find some useful camping item. Instead, I found a trove of leather motorcycle jackets at discount prices. An hour later I was dressed to ride in style, safety, warmth and comfort. When I showed up at my sisters in the new jacket sister Jane said, "Wow, you look so slim."

"Yeah, you look like you've got AIDS or something," Chris said.

Next morning, I waterproofed my gloves and new boots and got ready to ride down to Manchester, Maine, to visit cousin David. The sun actually came out for about 30 seconds, but by the time I'd packed the bike and got out of the woods and on the paved road, the rain was back with a vengeance.

Well, this'll be a good test of the new gear.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Noah would feel right at home

The ol' fishin' hole was rocking and rolling

The dam at the Union River hydroelectric plant looked like Niagara Falls when I came into Ellsworth Sunday evening to have dinner at my sister Jane's. It's been raining since Thursday afternoon and, while I'm getting weary of it, I refuse to just sit around.

Monday morning I was determined to hook up a 12 volt outlet on the KLR so I can charge stuff like a cell phone, iPod or GPS when I'm on the road. I'd stopped by Bill's Custom Motorcycles, a shop on the road down to Branch Lake and Bill told me he'd be there all day Monday and take care of it for me, but when I stopped the shop was locked. No Bill.

So, I headed to town in what started as a drizzle but turned into a downpour by the time I reached the Friend & Friend motorcycle/ATV/snowmobile/jetski dealership in Ellsworth. They listened sympathetically to what I wanted -- a couple of connectors that would plug the cigaret-lighter-style outlet into some available wires behind the KLR's headlight -- and told me to drive right into their service building.

One of the guys rooted around in the electrical parts bins, came up with a pair of crimp-on connectors and borrowed a tool from one of the mechanics for me. If I'd had some reading glasses with me, the job would have been a snap, but it took me a while to strip the ends of the wires and get things together with the help of a borrowed continuity tester to identify the hot wire.

I asked what I owed them. "Don't worry about it," was the answer. No bill again. I don't know if this was an example of the fabled motorcycle fraternity helping the two-wheeled traveller or if they just took pity on a waterlogged stranger. Either way, job done.

Next stop was the local outfitters for some waterproofing for my gloves -- the remaining gap in my rain gear. Happily, the directions on the bottle say to apply it to wet leather. No problem.

I comiserated with the sales clerk. "All this rain must be bad for business."

"Actually," he said, "it drives the campers out of the woods into the stores. There's nothing for them to do but shop."

Power for the people from Ellsworth Hydro

Today is my wedding anniversary. Nineteen years ago, Mary and I tied the knot aboard a catamaran sailing off Waikiki. It was the best party either of us have ever been to, before or since. I wish we were together today but thanks, Mary, for understanding why I need this trip. I'll be home soon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rainy days in Vacationland

It rained all day yesterday, dried out a little today, but started raining again this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow: Rain. Don't they know it's only supposed to rain at night? 55 degrees but almost no wind -- when will summer arrive?

My friend Jim in Honolulu sent me a couple of articles about motorcycle camping. One was by W.H. Wallace in the May 1916 edition of "Recreation" magazine and the second was from the current edition of "Motocycle Sport & Leisure," a British journal.

I appreciate more the article by the intrepid Mr. Wallace, who toured New England and New York state on a "spring-frame Indian" back in the day, than that by Britains Kevin and Julia Sanders, since I'm covering some of the same ground Wallace did. The Sanders have plenty of good advice about visas, bribing border guards and such, which is useful for international explorers. Wallace, on the other hand, has practical tips I can put to use on my route, such as how to start a campfire with a wad of cotton soaked in gasoline.

Both articles have sound advice on how to pack for motorcycle camping. Now that I've done a bit of that myself, here's my current, but ever-evolving, pannier-packing strategy:

I have two backpacks that fit, one-each, inside the 36-liter Givi side bags on the KLR. In one, I put food and cooking stuff, such as stove, gas, fry pan, plate, bowl, cup, knife and fork, spatula/spork, salt and pepper, water bottle, baby wipes, sponge and liquid soap in a zip-top plastic bag, large plastic bowl with snap-on lid, cutting board, vegetable oil, eggs (in a plastic egg carrier), canned and packaged food, instant coffee, wine (which is now sold in foil-lined cardboard bottles), etc.

In the other go odds and ends: a dry bag (which can accommodate both tent and sleeping bag during wet travel), nylon motorcycle cover ($20 at Walmart), hatchet, tent light, miscellaneous 12V DC adapters, iPod, passport and bike registration, duct tape, toilet paper and whatever overflows from the cooking pack.

Clothes, rain suit, toilet kit and laptop go in the tail bag. Into the tank bag go camera, Blackberry, foam ear plugs, multi-tool (I have a Gerber, which is like a Leatherman), maps, National Park pass, pen and index cards. Up front, there's a small bag above the headlight and below the windshield where I keep my new rain gaiters and a bungee cord net. The folding knife goes in my pocket.

The tent and sleeping bag together fit in a compression bag I found at Walmart. Strapped to the passenger seat, that bag makes a perfect backrest. I can lean back, put my feet up on the highway pegs and bomb along at 65 in comfort.

So far, this arrangement has worked. Once I reach camp and set up the tent, the two backpacks, tail bag and sleeping bag go inside and I can ride unencumbered but with plenty of room in the now-empty side cases to haul groceries or whatever. The heavy stuff is down low in the side bags, while the light stuff is up high on the seat or rear rack. Altogether, the whole shebang weighs less than a passenger.

I added an oversize rear rack, which is overkill for the tail bag, but handy for hauling firewood, cases of beer or bags of cement (just kidding!). The rack is a great anchor for the webbing straps that keep stuff aboard. My little netbook computer is sandwiched above the clothes and below a fleece in the tail bag's center compartment where it's well-cushioned, but easily accessible when wi-fi is available.

I've left most of my clothes at the cottage at Branch Lake during my overnights out at Acadia. So, despite advice not to bring more than one change of clothes, I'm thinking I'll need more room on the road in August. I think tank panniers might be the way to go.

I have a Cortech mini tank bag, which is perfect for the three or four items you need all the time -- camera, phone, sunglasses, multi-tool -- and it's easy to remove to fill the tank. Balancing a big tank bag on top of the humped KLR tank wouldn't be optimal. Besides, tank panniers look cool.

The cooking kit still needs work. During my first overnight, I found I needed something for dishwashing and storage and picked up a squarish Rubbermaid tub with a locking lid to do the job. Second overnight, I forgot to bring a towel -- don't do that.

Here's a tip: Pick lighter to start your campfire in a bright color such as yellow, white or baby blue so you can find it easily. My first one was black and perfectly camouflaged in the black nylon zipper bag it shared with a bunch of other stuff, such as cable ties, zip-lock bags, GI can opener and nylon line.

Naturally, as soon as I got a replacement it reappeared.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Delightful Mount Desert Island

Yesterday, I finally went public with this blog after spending most of a beautiful day writing out at the lake and uploading, editing, adding pictures, etc., at Jane's house in Ellsworth. The Internet connection through my Blackberry at the lake is really only good for email. Web pages just take too long to load. Happily, every public library on Maine has free wi-fi and I'm posting this update from the Ellsworth library.

I sent an email announcing the launch at about 3 p.m. Jane was home by then and went to work figuring out how to add captions to the photos, which would make putting the posts together a lot easier. She also showed me how to cut and paste the image links in HTML mode, avoiding the Blogspot editor, which is a PITA on a tiny netbook screen.

Since it was such a nice day, I packed up the bike and went back out to Acadia to camp for the night at Seawall Campground, out beyond Manset and Southwest Harbor. I checked in about 8 p.m., picked a campsite and talked to the ranger who teased me about how real men ride BMWs.

"Yeah, but can you imagine trying to get a BMW repaired in Kansas?" I said.

"Sure," he said, "in Lawrence. That's a pretty sophisticated town."

Now you BMW riders know where to break down in Kansas.

After unloading the bike and pitching the tent, I doubled back to Southwest Harbor to buy a couple of pork chops and a ready-made tossed salad with a packet of Paul Newman dressing. Bought some nice, dry camp wood on the way back.

In the gloaming, I cooked my chops on my tiny MSR stove, sipped Cabernet and snacked on cashews. It was a big meal, but I'd missed lunch. I heard campers need to eat well to stay warm at night -- right?

My first night in the tent was good, but this one was better. No fog bells, no heavy dew and one of the tent flys was propped open with some extra poles I bought at Walmart.

There was no shortage of mosquitos, however. The Sawyers repellant I brought along works, but they still fly in your face. I instinctively blow them away, which apparently encourages them. I read somewhere that they're attracted by the carbon dioxide humans exhale. Anyway, the smokey fire and slight breeze mitigated the insect nuisance. At least, there were no skeeters in the tent with me.

When I rolled out at 6:30, almost no one else was stirring. I decided to take a walk down to the natural seawall the campground is named after. There's a "beach" on one side of the natural barrier and a pond on the other, which is full of mosquito-engorged frogs that croak all night long sounding like a cross between a duck and a pig. In the middle, between the beach and pond is this gorgeous ess bend. It was as fun to ride as to photograph.

Friends in Hawaii wouldn't be familiar with what passes for sand on many Maine beaches: granite. Others are shale.

Got a nice photo of a man and a boy out on the beach and on the way back I spotted a bald eagle fishing along the rocky shore.

The big bird landed on a rock out of range of my point-and-shoot camera. I kept walking closer, snapping shots, until I was about 50 yards away. He kept his eye on me the whole time. When I was close enough, he took off. Pretty cool.

I had coffee, an omelet and a fresh grapefruit for breakfast. I now have enough Splenda to last the rest of the summer. I bought some evaporated milk for the coffee and used just a dab. Don't want to waste it, so I sealed up the holes in the top of the can with duct tape. I have no idea how long have until the milk goes bad, but it'll probably make it back to fridge at the lake. I wonder if I'll be able to taste the tape.

Since it's a really nice day, I rode over to Bass Harbor and around the west end of the island, stopping at Bernard, a working lobsterman's town. I'm a sucker for seascapes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

About this blog and an update

It's, Wednesday, June 17, time to go public with this blog and to get caught up. I'd put it off hoping to come up with a catchier title and struggling to get pictures to show up where I want them. Today, I'm plunging ahead. This isn't the Great American Novel, after all.

This is the view from our cottage on Branch Lake in Ellsworth, Maine, which is about halfway between Bangor and Bar Harbor:

About the title: My motorcycle is a Kawasaki KLR 650. Reading a KLR FAQ online, I found a section on high-speed wobble, an undesirable behavior attributable to the big front fender's aerodynamics, or lack thereof. To some, grown men going off on motorcycle adventures is also an undesirable behavior, so the title seemed to fit. At least I haven't thought of a better one.

What am I up to? The plan is a long motorcycle trip in August from Maine through the mountains of New England, New York, Pennsylvania, etc., down to North Carolina and back up the coast to the starting point. As much as possible, I'll do it on back roads and camp out in good weather. Along the way, I'll visit family in Maine, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia and Massachusetts.

Why a KLR? Conceptually, form following function has always appealed to me and the KLR is a perfect expression of function over style. In many ways, it is the anti-Harley. People have ridden KLRs around the world and from Alaska to Patagonia. They are relatively inexpensive, compared to the big touring motorcycles you see pulling trailers down the interstate. You can load them up like pack mules and ride on desert trails or super highways.

The story so far: I began by finding a motorcycle on Craigslist which I bought from Herman von Oy, who lives in Connecticut. He purchased it new in 2000, used it to commute and eventually outfitted it to go on- and off-road touring in places such as Mexico, Utah and Newfoundland. Herman trailered the bike cross country behind his RV, so it only had 13,000 miles on it when he put it up for sale. He replaced it with a Vespa GTS 250, which he plans to haul on a rack on the back of his RV.

I'm in Maine for most of June, getting to know the bike, putting my gear together and re-learning how to camp. Since Boy Scouts, I haven't been camping much and what I did was unpleasant. I'm hoping good gear -- tent, sleeping bag, etc. -- will make the difference.

In July, I'll be back home in Hawaii where we're having work done on the house. Then, it's back to New England to start the adventure, blogging my way south.

So, that's the plan. What follows is the update from June 4 through just yesterday...

A happy camper

Tuesday, June 16 -- I was up, damp but rested, with the sun at 5 a.m. and feeling pretty good about my first night in the woods, which was warm and reasonably comfortable in my new tent and down bag. There was fog out on the ocean and a bell on a buoy rang all night. No rain, but everything was damp from condensation.

I cooked scrambled eggs for breakfast, mounted my new Maine license plate on the bike, broke camp at a leisurely pace and arrived at the post office in Bar Harbor shortly after it opened to return his Connecticut plate to Herman. He has to turn it in or keep paying property tax on the bike.

The harbor was gorgeous as the sun worked to burn the fog off Frenchman's Bay. I stopped at a cafe for coffee and wi-fi -- my cell phone battery was almost dead. There's free wi-fi all over coastal Maine now. It's like going back to Europe and finding that since your last visit everybody in France and Spain learned to speak English.

I answered my email and decided to head back to Ellsworth to get the state inspection done on the KLR and install a 12V outlet so I'll be able to recharge the phone and laptop on the road. But first, I went to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, where I could see the Margaret Todd coasting out to sea, and rode the National Park Loop Road. There were few cars. I've driven the loop before, but in good weather there was always a lot of traffic. Gorgeous scenery, like this:

The weather held all day, getting warmer by the hour. I shed a few layers on my way to Ellsworth where I stopped at Friend & Friend's motorcycle dealership at about 12:40 p.m. for a state inspection to complete my registration. The man at the service counter said I'd need to come back after 1 o'clock because all the mechanics were at lunch. I said lunch sounded like a good idea -- was there a good place nearby? He recommended Sylvia's Cafe across the road and I headed there for a club sandwich with curly fries and a diet soda.

After the inspection, I headed to Bangor to visit Mom and fix her floor lamp, which needed a new socket -- the switch knob had broken off. Then it was back to Branch Lake to unpack, air and dry my damp camping gear, recharge my batteries and get to bed early.

Monday, June 15 -- I emailed my family:

Hi, everybody,

I set up camp at the Blackwoods Campground in Acadia National Park this afternoon and discovered, after promising my wife and sistert that I'd call every day, that there was no cell service. I stopped in nearby Otter Creek and asked the guy who was hosing out the ice locker outside the market (they hope to be open by June 24) if they had cell service there. He said, "Nope, but yah might be able to get it up theyah on top of that hill," pointing to a 500-foot crag of granite.

So, I'm writing this in the park by the pier in downtown Bar Harbor, which not only has cell service by free wi-fi. The four-masted schooner Margaret Todd is waiting for passengers at the dock and it's "pahtly clouday," with a little chill in the air and some fog in the valleys across the bay.

I stopped at Trenton Bridge for a lobster lunch -- a pound-and-a-half, hard shell. I took before and after pictures of the bug for the blog, which I've promised to get ready for prime time in the next couple of days.



There was a crush of patrons at the Ellsworth DMV office this morning including me. I took a number -- 73 -- and checked the board. They were serving number 61. So I had time to rest and contemplate life.

When they called my number about 45 minutes later, I found I could register the bike in my own name as a non-resident, but first I had to go to the town office and pay excise tax. When I came back, I wouldn't have to go to the end of the line, they'd let me jump to the front. Excise tax was only $19, but when I went back to DMV, they hit me for more than $200 in sales tax (5 percent of the purchase price), plus title and registration fees. Anyway, I'm now legal -- just have to stop someplace and get a safety sticker in the next few days. Jane, my title will arrive at your house in a couple of weeks.

Although I set up the tent in the cottage at the lake yesterday, it was more of an adventure "in the wild." The adventure truly started when I parked the bike. After the side stand sank into the soft, ground, saturated by yesterday's rain, I tried to put it on the center stand. Hauling it up, I lost my balance and over she went with me on top. I'm glad there were no other campers around!

To right the ship, I unloaded everything first. Would've made a funny picture I suppose: Gray-haired man struggling to lift a large green motorcycle in the middle of a pile of camping gear. It didn't budge at first. The tires wanted to slide along the ground instead of giving me a fulcrum. Eventually, they caught and I hauled her up. I suspect I'll feel it in the morning. After that, the tent was easy -- once I found all the pieces.

Well, that's the news from Camp Woebegone.



I still think Dinty Moore Beef Stew makes a tasty meal -- at least when served in the Great Outdoors. Add a fresh whole-wheat roll to mop up the gravy and some cheap Cabernet in a cardboard bottle and we're talking gourmet fare. However, it can't beat the fresh lobster lunch at Trenton Bridge, which for $13 included a bag of chips, melted butter and a diet Sprite.

It's a nippy 55 degrees at the campground at 8:15 p.m. and I'm procrastinating. I've decided to finish the wine before I start blowing up my mattress.

I went to Bar Harbor for food after pitching my tent and picked up the stew, baked beans, pears, fruit cocktail and corned beef hash. I also bought a Bangor Daily News for reading and to start a fire, and some liquid soap and a sponge to clean up after dinner. I headed back to camp, stopping along the way for some "camp wood."

To buy wood, I followed hand-lettered signs and arrows down a dirt drive to a ramshackle settlement of houses, shops, lobster traps and a big blue boat named "Occupational Hazard," put $2 in a coffee can and took a bundle of split logs. Since it's been raining, the bundle I strapped to the bike wasn't enthusiastically combustible.

Back at camp, the fellow in the next tent offered some left-over wood, saying he was leaving in the morning. He and his wife, retired and from northern Georgia, have set out to camp in all 50 states. They had two left: Maine and Vermont. I said thanks but I probably had more than I needed, too. He offered to bring over some hot coals instead to help me start my campfire, which I gladly accepted.

In spite of the coals and lots of twigs from the nearby woods, the camp wood wasn't interested in burning. I gradually sacrificed the entire Monday edition of the Bangor Daily, much of it unread, and eventually stacked the entire bundle of wood in a pyre four layers high. That tactic was successful, but it's still cold enough to see my breath. On June 15 in Maine, summer is still weeks away.

With the fire finally going well, popping sparks, warming my face and keeping the bears and chipmunks at bay, I sipped the last of the wine and deemed my first camping day a success. My first camping night? Well, that's a story for another day.

My brother doesn't travel light

Sunday, June 14 -- My brother Chris and his entourage -- wife Terry, girls Paige and Haley, golden retriever Wilson, cat and two gerbils, arrived from Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. towing a U-Haul containing his Harley and piles of luggage. I've been traveling light, but that's not Chris' style, Terry admitted.

Wilson leaped out of the minivan and laid a poop in the middle of the traffic pattern, which Terry found with her shoe about 30 seconds later. The gerbils took up residence in one of the back bedrooms, the cat disappeared under a bed and Chris and I unloaded his Fat Boy from the trailer in the drizzle.

"Takes a fat boy to own one," I said.

"Yes," he answered, straight-faced. "They weigh you at the dealership to see if you qualify."

I have to admit it's a beautiful, massive, machine -- all chrome, leather and shiny black paint. Getting on the Fat Boy isn't half the adventure mounting the KLR is, since the Kawasaki's seat is about 12 inches further off the ground.

Chris is a software consultant and is headed out of Bangor International at 6:00 tomorrow morning to Newark. He'll be back here next Friday and future weekends, but he'll take comp time and stay the week after July 4.

I'd spent the rainy Sunday morning getting things squared away at the Branch Lake cottage -- much of it unfolding and refolding approximately 279 bed sheets to find two twin-bed sets for Chris' kids. It's time to get rid of a few.

During the afternoon I sealed the seams in my tent with urethane goop that smelled like airplane glue. I ran out with only half the seams done, but Jane came out and drove me to town to buy another tube of sealer and a compression bag for the tent and sleeping bag at Walmart.

Happily, Chris took me and the gang out to Jordan's drive in for seafood dinners. Then, everybody turned in back at the cottage on Branch Lake.

The rain in Maine

Saturday, June 13 -- It was 304 miles to Ellsworth, where I arrived Thursday evening for dinner at my sister Jane's. I think I'll try to keep future legs to something like half that or less. I stayed overnight there, since it started to rain and we'd celebrated my arrival with a big bottle of Chardonnay.

The rain continued on Friday, so I borrowed Jane's car and went to Bangor to have lunch with Mom. The drizzle finally let up around 5 p.m. Jane, Joey and I went out for Thai food and then Jane and I went out to the lake and unloaded all the camping and bike stuff I'd bought and had had shipped to her.

Saturday, the sun came out and it's gorgeous. I took the KLR to Jane's where she and Chuck had a yard sale. After lunch, I decided to ride out to Acadia, where this unseasonal sign is still posted at Northeast Harbor:

I've been taking off layers all day. I started wearing a t-shirt, polo shirt, fleece, thermal jacket liner, rain liner and motorcycle jacket. Now I'm down to the t-shirt and the mesh jacket.

There were lots of motorcycles out on the island. I found myself behind a couple of Harley dressers heading from Northeast Harbor to Bar Harbor and discovered one of them had an "Aloha" vanity tag. I stayed on their tail until we parked near the city pier and then introduced myself, apologized for stalking them and asked if I could take a picture.

"We're aways looking for signs of Hawaii in the universe for the newspaper," I said, They were happy to oblige. Turns out they are from Searsport, Me., and had vacationed a couple of times in Hawaii. The woman said when she decided to get a vanity tag for her bike she decided "Aloha" was perfect.