Thursday, August 6, 2009

The big adventure begins

Lily Bay State Park, Moosehead Lake, Greenville, Maine -- Welcome back to the Blogosphere, Flanman followers. The sun is glinting on Moosehead's crystal-clear waters, the cicadas are droning, the birds are chirping and the outboard motors are drowning it all out. Faithful KLR is parked a few dozen yards away, the tent is pitched and the laptop is fired up on the picnic table. God's in His heaven and yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.

This is my first visit to Moosehead Lake, despite a lifetime of coming up to Maine many winters and most summers. Our family always gravitated to Bar Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, the coastline and the nearby lakes. So, I thought it was about time to drop by and see what it has to offer.

Moosehead is a vast, fresh water playground

My campsite is right on the shoreline

Somehow, all the stuff I've collected to take on this trip found its way for the first time aboard the bike this morning . There's too much stuff and I can remember where it's all stashed, but I believe this will sort itself out in the next week or two.

The tank panniers didn't make it mounted on the tank. My knees hit them no matter how far forward I strapped them on. I found a way to hang them over the ends of my duffel bag on the passenger seat. With the compression bag containing the sleeping bag and tent on top, the bags make a very comfortable back rest.
All loaded up, it's an impressive sight, isn't it?

The KLR, finally ready to roll

Today's leg began in Ellsworth, Maine. Instead of retracing the well-worn track down US 1A to Bangor and taking a direct route to Moosehead, I headed out through the blueberry fields through Eddington and worked my way up the east bank of the Penobscot River before crossing over at Old Town and passing by the canoe and kayak works.

Maine blueberries ripen in August

I had lunch at Pat's Pizza in Milo. My cheese steak sandwich with onion rings was tempered by a Diet Coke. Then we were down the curvy "Blue Highways" to Dover-Foxcroft. A mile or two outside that town I found a vast lumber plant. Huge trailer loads of logs arrive and are piled outdoors to season before being sawn into neat yellow stacks of lumber before being wrapped in plastic and shipped out on pallets. The scale of the operation was a shock -- kind of like a strip mine.

Tens of thousands of logs are piled at the lumber factory in Dover-Foxcroft

After cutting and drying, the new lumber is hauled away

On Tuesday, I rode up from Portsmouth, where the KLR had been napping for a month while I was back in Honolulu at my sister Betsy's. The big news in that town was that my nephew Jack's Babe Ruth team won the state championship last weekend and Jack was the star, driving in a run to tie the game at 5 and force it into extra innings. Then, he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 12th to win the game, 6 to 5.

This weekend, the team will vie for the New England championship. Go, Jack!

My cell phone GPS worked well and guided me to my uncle's house in Portland without a hitch -- something Mary and I had failed to accomplish many times with road maps. We had a good chat and lunch before I headed out for Ellsworth, via Lewiston, Augusta and Belfast.

Dick's Place in Eliot, Maine, has a fine selection of hub caps for the connoisseurs of 20th century automobiles

It was a warm day and I was glad I had my hot-weather mesh jacket until I reached the coast. Crossing the river in Belfast, I could see a fog bank rolling in off the Gulf of Maine and in minutes the temperature dropped from 80 to about 60. I pulled off US 1 at Moose Point State Park and switched to my leather jacket with the thermal liner. I believe I will be glad I have both jackets on this trip.

I arrived at sister Jane's in Ellsworth just as she was putting the lobsters in the pot. It was a little chilly out on the deck, but the lobsters made up for it.

Monday, August 3 -- Back on the road -- or at least in the air -- it's time to catch up, pack up, saddle up and get this adventure underway. I'm writing this on a flight from Chicago to Manchester, NH, where the KLR has been waiting under a cover behind my sister Betsy's garage. I'm looking to cover about 4,500 miles between Aug. 4 and Sept. 20. Quite a goal.

July was a busy month back home in Honolulu. Mary and I had two walls of sliding glass doors in our house replaced and I did a lot of deck repair and painting. The result is a major improvement, but all that work delayed my motorcycle trek. I hope August and September will see better weather than my rainy trial runs in June.

As wet as they were, my excursions in June highlighted gaps in my preparations. For example, using soggy index cards for navigation has its charms, but GPS is better.
I'm a GPS neophyte. My experience was with an early hand-held unit that basically reported latitude and longitude. That was adequate on our boat where we could spread out a chart and know exactly where we were. On a moving motorcycle, however, getting turn-by-turn instructions is handy, since unfolding a road map isn't an option.

I considered buying a Garmin or Tom Tom unit, but my Blackberry has GPS built-in. I hadn't used it much in Honolulu; however, in July I turned it on a couple of times to navigate to friends' homes and it proved to be useful and accurate. I investigated further and found entering addresses directly into the phone was cumbersome, but Verizon Wireless has a web site where you can plan a trip, save waypoints (they call them "favorites") and synchronize your online settings with the GPS program on the cell phone. One click and the server places a call to your phone and updates your favorites.

My Blackberry GPS

Once the data is on the cell phone, select a favorite, click "navigate" and the phone starts giving directions. I can choose the fastest route or, better for my purposes, opt to avoid highways, HOV lanes and toll roads.

I bought a robust RAM mount to secure the phone to the KLR handlebar. It'll plug into the 12-volt outlet installed in June since the GPS function would eat up the phone battery. The mount isn't waterproof, but the phone can go in the tank bag when it rains. I added a Bluetooth helmet speaker to hear the GPS instructions even if the phone is packed away.

Another major addition is a big Givi trunk for the luggage rack. In June, I'd maxed out the carrying capacity of the saddlebags and tailbag. I considered adding a larger piece of soft luggage but, remembering the rain and picturing a soggy sleeping bag, wet clothes and rain-destroyed or stolen laptop, decided on a waterproof, lockable top case instead. It matches the saddlebags, but with 45-liter capacity instead of 36.

I also bought two panniers to add a little carrying capacity up front. It'll take a little work to get all this new stuff mounted to the bike, but once it is, I should have plenty of carrying capacity.

I was going to leave my mesh, armored jacket at home in favor of the leather jacket I bought in June, but riding my Vespa around Honolulu on a hot day, I reconsidered. Heading south in August, I think the mesh jacket will be much more comfortable, while on cooler days I'll use the leather. I found some mesh pants with armored knees and hip pads to complement the mesh jacket and provide more protection at a Harley-Triumph-Kawasaki dealer's in Waipahu. They were the only pants like them in Hawaii, I think, but they were a perfect fit.

Let the games begin!


  1. Aloha John. Glad you're back in the saddle. I look forward to following your trail. Thanks for sharing the sights and experience. Keep your eyes peeled for smoke signals from the island too.

    Safe travels.

  2. Hope you got to talk to Mary and I hope that today was less frustrating and wet than yesterday. Keep writing. Lov j

  3. Hiya John. It's Deb from Maryland-D.C. I hope i can see you on your journey. Looks like a fabulous adventure. How long did it take to plan, or did you just start riding? I have emailed my sked during the next several days to Mary. email me.