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pedal plenty

notes on a north american cycle trip in 2008

Archive for July, 2008

B.E.L.H. ….

It’s not big and it’s not clever to cry in your omelette. I am in the A1 diner in Gardiner, Maine. It’s a very fine diner to have breakfast number 2 in. The choices are better than usual and I swear this place is a converted AirStream. I am eating by delicious three egg omelette with smoked salmon, asparagus, dill and cheese. On top of the pie fridge there are several bottles of beer. Regretfully it is only 0950 so it’s a little early to start. But I am intrigued by one bottle. All I can see from here are the letters B. E. L. H. and underneath I can see S. C. O. T. It can’t be. Can it? I ask to see it. It IS a bottle of Belhaven. Scottish ale (I bet it’s really 80 shilling). It says Imported from Dunbar, Scotland. It has a little Scottish flag on the label. I tell the waitress it’s made down the road from where I stay. I sniffle a little. I am a bit homesick.

I meander around the back roads of South Central Maine. Back roads means more evil hills but here is a nice cafe in the middle of no where. It’s a very good cafe. They have real ginger beer. I have strawberry shortcake. Yum. Have you noticed? I never have lunch. Just several breakfasts and then I start on high tea. (NB High tea is not brewed tea or evening meal tea it is afternoon snacks usually of the cake variety with or without tea of the brewed type – ginger beer, and lashings of it, is allowable for high tea but is usually given to children).

And I just ate my first lobster roll. Fab! And cheap. Huge amounts of lobster, fries, salad etc for $10. How I laffed.

Sorry, you want to know something of Maine and less of my eating habits? Maine is great. It is hilly and forested and friendly. It reminds me a lot of the Highlands. Belfast, the town I am now in (which was preceded by Londonderry obv.) is right down beside the water and I would go look at the pretty setting but for the warning of a thunder and lightning storm from The Weather Channel. The weather-casters put the fear of death in you. They say, Rain never killed anyone. Hail never killed anyone. But lightning … lightning it’ll strike you down especially those of you by the water admiring the view from the saddle of a metal bicycle.



Posted by me on July 31st, 2008

Day 72 stats

Lewiston, Maine to Belfast, Maine

Distance: 78 miles
Distance so far: 4012 miles
New things to try
: Lobster roll. It was a roll, with lobster in it. Very yummy. I chased it down with a fine glass of Rose Zinfandel.
View of the sea: nearly. Maybe tomorrow.


Posted by me on July 31st, 2008


I don’t feel great today. I gradually work out that I am dehydrated and under nourished. I didn’t drink enough when cycling yesterday and although I drank lots later sometimes it’s just not possible to replace everything you’ve sweated out in the humidity. I also realise that I am not eating enough during the day. I just snack as I go along and eat a normal amount at tea-time. That’s hardly sufficient to sustain all this effort. So today I drink lots and eat lots. I have three breakfasts.

  • Breakfast 1: orange juice, cornflakes, frosted shredded wheat and coffee.
  • Breakfast 2: an Orangina type drink and a Twix.
  • Breakfast 3: a big coffee and a raspberry and white chocolate scone.
  • And for tea tonight I ate two pizzas.
  • I feel better now.

Today, in my motel I catch myself in the mirror. I see for the first time in ages, my back. There are two mirrors here that facilitate back viewing. Well I am looking at my back and I’m thinking. That’s unusual. I can see all those muscles in my shoulders. I flex my shoulders in a Mr/Ms Universe style. Oooh. Horrid. Shoulder blades. Ribs. The reason for this? Well. Bits of me have become a bit scrawny. I seem to be developing a six pack too. But then there are my thighs. They are bigger. If that is at all possible. Huge quads. And sometimes I think my calves look like Lance Armstrong’s.

We interrupt this diary entry to bring you the following announcement from our sponsor.

  • Do you huff and puff when you climb the stairs?
  • Do bits of you wobble that didn’t used to?
  • Want to eat more than you already do and still lose weight?
  • Do you want to build unnatural muscles?

Then you need the amazing and wonderous Haggis Supper diet.

The Haggis Supper diet guarantees that you will become as fit as a fiddle and shed thirteen YES, 13 pounds in just two months while increasing your calorific input threefold.

What Haggis Supper dieters say:

I stuff myself on pie all day and have dropped a stone. Ms H. Edinburgh, Scotland

Get off me you fat human and get on the Haggis Supper Diet. A bicycle.

Spin. Spin. Sugar. A Sneaker Pimp.

Small print: The Haggis Supper Diet must only be used as part of a calorie uncontrolled diet. It may be necessary to cycle up to 85 miles a day over mountain passes to see benefits. Unsightly muscles may develop in unusual places. Scrawniness is a possibility. All symptoms can be reversed by reclining on a couch for 2 months drinking beer and eating Minstrels.



Posted by me on July 30th, 2008

Day 71 stats

Conway, New Hampshire to Lewiston, Maine

Distance: 64 miles
Distance so far: 3935 miles
New states: Maine. The last one.
Pizzas: two. Two white ones. One after the other.


Posted by me on July 30th, 2008

Day 70 stats

Bradford, Vermont to Conway, New Hampshire

Distance: 85 miles
Distance so far: 3871 miles
New states: New Hampshire
Saving of Haggis: Yes. She’s packed and greased now.
Fish: Yes. A lovely tasty haddock.



Posted by me on July 29th, 2008

Packed and greased!

Yesterday, in that torrent a terrible, terrible noise started in Haggis. At first I tried to ignore it and turned up the iPod but it was a persistent and loud noise.

I began to wonder if the rack was coming loose. But no, all was fine back there.

Then I wondered if there was a problem with the seat post. Maybe it will collapse beneath me. But no.

Oh no, perhaps the frame is cracked? Probably it has, due to the shockingly bumpy roads of Vermont. If the frame breaks while I am on the bike then I will surely die. But then I remembered, before I took Haggis to Bicycle Works for her final pre-tour fit-up I over zealously washed her and the next day there was a horrid sound from the rear wheel. It had got full of water but after one day it was better. A-ha! That’s the problem. Just some water. Nothing to worry about.

But today, Haggis is still making that noise. I think it’s getting worse. I am very worried about the bike. What will happen if I keep cycling? Can a rear wheel seize? I have a mountain range to go over. I am not sure that Haggis will make it. I decide to go around the mountain range and arrive in Plymouth. I see a man with two bikes on the back of the car and he directs me to the local bike store.

Hmm. May be the freewheel. We’ll have a look.

While waiting I drool over the lovely Trek Madones and steal the shop’s wifi to check my email and update my Facebook status with an appropriately whining comment.

Yup. The axle is the problem. You’re lucky it wasn’t the freewheel coz that would be expensive. There was dirt and water in the race. The ball bearings were worn, some were rusty and all the grease was gone.

Poor lamb/Haggis. The man said the axle had probably been going down hill (arf arf) since my soaking out West and yesterday was the last straw. So, new ball bearings have been installed and packed with grease. The horrid sound has gone. The tyres have been blown up too. All is good with the world.

But then things get even better. I am chatting to some guys outside the shop as I reload Haggis. That mountain range I avoided? It’s famous coz of its 13% grades. Haggis and me don’t do 13% grades. Even TdF cyclists with featherlight bikes don’t care for such inclines. So a bad day becomes a good day and ends even better when I get fish for tea!

Bike tech aside: Haggis is better but the men at the bike shop warned that the cones on one side are pitted. This means that one day the rear wheel will need replacing. Wheels for touring bikes are expensive beasties. But maybe then it’s time for a Rohloff hub if a new wheel is needed. Why spend a lot of money when you can in fact spend an entire shedload?


Posted by me on July 29th, 2008

Drowning, not waving

The weather for the next few days is for rain but no thunder and lightning storms, so I regretfully decide to leave Madge’s and her fridge of pie but not before having a final piece for breakfast. I take a box of the leftover delicious courgette (zucchini) croustade for fuel. So I hit the road and 10 miles down the heavens open. A biblical style rain storm. A torrent. It doesn’t let up all day. We’re not talking an unpleasant drizzle here. We’re talking downpour. The rain is so heavy it stings my legs. The rain is so heavy I can hardly see as the water runs down my face. I am NOT amused! Also, it is humid. It’s a well known fact that Goretex doesn’t work when it’s humid. I am as wet inside as I am out. My shoes are waterlogged. I am very miserable. I don’t like Vermont so much now.

And another thing! I have come nearly 4000 miles and have not experienced such evil, vicious hills. The mountains in the West have a decent grade of about 6% to 7% which is easily manageable in the middle ring of my crank (36 teeth) and bottom of the cassette (34 teeth). But for the first time I have to go into the bottom gear on my crank (26 teeth). This allows me to go up the hills but the gear is so low that the bike moves very slowly and becomes quite unstable. Some of these hills are quite long too. Hmm, Vermont? Going down in my estimations.

And finally. The roads! The roads are a disgrace. The Vermont DOT must be a lazy bunch coz the roads are lumpy and bumpy and degrading. The roads, in fact, are worse than Scotland and that is saying something. Vermont? Scratch that one off the list for another visit ;-)

Posted by me on July 28th, 2008

Day 69 stats

West Cornwall, Vermont to Bradford, Vermont.

Distance: 80 miles
Distance so far: 3786 miles
Pie: Yes, for breakfast.
Rain: Yes. Where’s my ark?

Posted by me on July 28th, 2008

Rained off

Shocking weather in Vermont. Thunder and lightning storms. I opt to stay another day at Madge’s. Well, there’s some pie to eat. To earn my keep, (you know how I like to do that) I help by painting an Adirondack chair. I paint my chair a nice lemon colour in celebration of lemon meringue pie and Madge paints her chair a pretty violet colour in honour of blueberry peach pie. The chairs were made by students from Madge’s school. Adirondack chairs are very functional. They are made of wood, allow for a good reclining position, they have wide, flat arms to enable placement of New Yorker magazine on left arm and glass of beer/ a martini on right arm. The only problem is getting out of them and that has nothing to do with the number of martinis consumed!

Some of Madge’s neighbours are coming for tea (that is tea as in evening meal not tea as in a brew). A banana cream pie is being made. I haven’t sampled banana cream yet. Oh banana cream pie (with cream obv!) is delicious. Not too banana-y. Not too sweet.


Posted by me on July 27th, 2008

Day 68 stats

West Cornwall, Vermont

Distance: 0 miles
Total so far: 3706 miles
Pie: Yes. Disgraceful amounts.


Posted by me on July 27th, 2008