47.3 mi / 11.1 mph / 2086 ft. climbing
Home: Dave and Ann’s WarmShowers house
Despite yesterday’s great day of bike touring, Rett still had bad associations with US-2 that made it less-than-appetizing to continue on that route. So we’d been trying to decide for days whether to stay on US-2 through Bangor to get to Bar Harbor, or get off that highway and take a more-southern, Maine-state-highway route that would have us cross the river at Brunswick rather than Bangor. Unfortunately it was the usual case of unknown vs. unknown: would US-2 return to its stressful status, or would the lower-traffic but-sometimes-narrower Maine highways out-stress a wide, relaxing US-2?
Today was the last possible point to make the decision, and it ended up not being the roads, but rather, places to stay, that largely determined our route. Motels and campgrounds were surprisingly limited along both routes, but luckily we had a last-minute WarmShowers request accepted, and that kept us on US-2.
The dearth of photos shows that it was mostly a miles-day. Still plenty of climbing, even though our base-level was down to 400 ft. above sea-level, but US-2 in Maine didn’t betray us, hanging on to its wide shoulders the whole way. We did get to experiment with a 10-mile stretch on shoulderless minor road to “shortcut” south of Farmington, and the Maine drivers proved themselves to be substantially (and consistently) better than those of Vermont or New Hampshire. For the entire 10 miles, not a single one of the dozens of vehicles who passed failed to move completely over into the oncoming lane before doing so. It was Baja-level cyclist-respect, and the only possible explanation is that Maine had (and hopefully still has) a much stronger emphasis on cyclists in their driver-education programs.
We didn’t have quite the same luck on our final few miles in to our WarmShowers house. Even though it was structurally just like our beloved North Rd. from yesterday (a shoulderless local road running along the north side of the river (this time the Kennebec vs. the Androscoggin) while US-2 stays on the south side), for some reason this version was far from empty, and the drivers had definitely forgotten their driver-education classes by this point on the winding and hilly road.
At the end of the gravel road heading back to the river we came to a magical ivy-covered brick-and-wood house in the woods. Dave met us in their garage, and we went into his amazing boat-building workshop to take COVID tests. We came up all clear, which is comforting for us to know that we wouldn’t be putting our hosts at any risk, and also just nice to know that we aren’t asymptomatically infected. We passed on a swim in the river (but enjoyed the view down the steep ladder-steps to their dock), and took our eponymous warm shower instead. Ann came home mud-covered from the work she’d been doing on a piece of conservation land she manages, and (over beers) we learned a lot about the learning and management and decision-making processes required to find the balance between restoration, wilding, and human use. Both doctors by trade, they have clearly been enjoying retirement and finding satisfaction in ways that they weren’t getting during the COVID-era.
After a wonderful dinner in their cauldron-over-the-hearth-feeling kitchen/dining-room, we retired to the living room for more conversation, including hearing about their two sons, who they are understandably proud of (and one of them video-called mid-conversation and was adorably concerned about whether his parents were being appropriately COVID-cautious with these strange guests in their house). It was nice to hear of a family of education and means who seem to truly love (and remain committed to) year-round life in this semi-rural, semi-remote, unfriendly-weather region, a space where it sometimes feels like the cultural sorting by geography is inevitable and unstoppable and tragic.
They have been a host family for a lot of international students from the nearby college (forming understandably strong bonds with some of them), so WarmShowers was a natural extension of their welcoming, parental generosity. We were staying in one of those sons’ former bedrooms, whose wooden ladder and loftiness reminded us of Rett’s dad’s place. Twin beds only though, so Lamby needed to work extra hard to fill in for me in Rett’s bed, under his old 90s/2000s pop-punk band posters, while I slept under shelves of his books and trophies and occasional stuffed animal.