Musings about life, love and genealogy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

June 25, 2014

Mother Nature giveth, and then she unceremoniously rips things right out of your hands.

Tuesday was a gift. Despite prediction after prediction of a day fraught with thunderstorms, we had a beautiful, sunny day exploring Niagara Falls. I guess you can say we were lucky; other than the walking day in PEI, our days have been crisp, but rain-free.

And then there was Wednesday.

From the moment we left Niagara Falls, it was a race against the rain and we were losing. Badly. What started out as a mist shortly turned into a rain we couldn’t ignore, forcing us to find somewhere semi-dry and covered to climb into our rain gear. That’s never easy on a rural route and definitely one of the drawbacks to vacationing on a Harley. You’re vulnerable to the elements, often with no place to hide. Scenic Route 20, a terrific ride that traverses the farmlands of upstate New York, lost some of its luster as I watched the landscape roll past through a rainy haze and water-speckled glasses.

Shortly before noon there was a break in clouds, and while the sky was never actually blue, the rain did stop. With nearly 60 minutes of rain-free riding, and what looked like clearing on the horizon, we found ourselves lulled into a false sense of dryness. With my trusty Canon slung around my neck again, I happily snapped pictures of the vivid green scenery glistening with the remnants of earlier showers.

Our happiness was short-lived. In Morrisville, the skies above us exploded. I quickly shoved my camera inside my jacket, pushed my ungloved hands into my pockets and hunkered down behind Jason, as though that was going to do much of anything against a pounding, sideways downpour. A breech in the Velcro that secures my jacket sent a river of rain down my shirt, soaking me from neck to navel. It was a bit like the soaking we got on the Maid of the Mist, without the beauty of Horseshoe Falls.

We rode for more than 30 miles in this punishing rain until the skies cleared over Richfield Springs. It was the first dry stretch of road we'd seen all day - no rain and more surprising, no visible signs that it had been there.

We were rain free, if not necessarily dry until we reached the outskirts of Albany. The sinister-looking cloud that had been loitering off to the north for miles suddenly unleashed its fury over our heads giving Mother Nature one last hurrah – a final rinse and repeat cycle – just 10 miles shy of the hotel. When we finally arrived we looked more like victims of a shipwreck than cheerful vacationers traveling on a motorcycle.

A cup of coffee and a towel drying later, we peeled off the wet layers and regrouped, making the 3 minute walk (yes, in the rain) to the bar & grill across the street. The food was good, the drinks were better, but we soon learned it was karaoke night. While karaoke has its entertainment value, I’m still not sure what was more painful – the pounding rain or the pounding in my ears after a heartbreakingly awful rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Falling for Niagara

June 24, 2014

Niagara Falls State Park is America’s oldest national park and at its centerpiece is one of the iconic wonders of the world – Niagara Falls. The majesty and mystery of the three thundering waterfalls – the Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American Falls – have enticed millions to experience this environmental phenomenon more than 13,000 years in the making.

The park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, best known for New York City’s Central Park and includes a network of footpaths through wooded areas and along the banks of the Niagara River. Some of the most amazing views of the falls are available from the observation deck and Terrapin Point. But there are also opportunities to get up close and personal (and really wet). So we did.

The Maid of the Mist has been operating since 1846 when enterprising merchants decided that a steamboat would make a great profit ferrying people, luggage and cargo across the Falls. When the suspension bridge was erected in 1848, the Maid of the Mist was rebranded as a tourist adventure, and has operated as such ever since. You can soak up the scenery - literally - as you journey into the center of the Horseshoe Falls.

Want to get even closer? The Cave of the Winds starts with an elevator ride 175 feet down into the Niagara Gorge. Donned in special sandals and rain ponchos, we climbed up a series of narrow wooden stairs and platforms and were able to see and feel the torrents of the Bridal Veil Falls rushing past us. We watched more than a few brave souls climb all the way to the Hurricane Deck and get absolutely saturated in the process!

Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I thought I'd save a few and let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

Click here to see them!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


June 23, 2014

We barreled across the farmlands of upstate New York on Monday, through Jefferson County, Oswego County and countless small map-dot towns on our way to Niagara Falls.

It was an early start, but a perfect day for riding - blue skies, puffy white clouds, temperatures in the low sixties. Three states, 322 miles and one great lunch later, we arrived in Watertown, NY.Barns punctuate the landscape of rural America. They are one of the most recognizable structures in the country; stereotypically painted red in sharp contrast to the white farmhouse and vividly green grass and fields.

American barns are huge utilitarian structures, often bigger than the farmhouse itself. While the style of the farmhouse changed from the mid 17th to the mid 19th century, the barn design remained constant, a dignified structure built with the pre-requisites of strength and convenience. Weather also played a part in the planning of a barn, as Eric Sloane points out in American Barns and Covered Bridges (Dover Publications, 2003). Sunshine, wind, moisture and water drainage were carefully deliberated to ensure the proper storage of grains and timbers and the protection, health and safety of the animals who would call the barn home.

But why are they red?

Early American barns were unpainted, constructed of hand-hewn, seasoned wood. Farmers discovered that the right wood in the right environment didn’t need any paint, but by the end of the 18th century, with so many barns falling into disrepair, farmers needed another way to help preserve and maintain these essential structures. They began to coat the barns with a mixture of linseed oil, milk and lime. The concoction dried quickly and lasted a long time, but didn’t protect the wood from mold. Rust, it turns out, does. By adding ferrous oxide to their paint mixture, farmers preserved their barns and produced the familiar red hue we know today.

By the 19th century, paints were mass-produced, and more barns were painted. Since red was the cheapest color to produce, it continued to be the most prevalent. White barns started to pop up on dairy farms, while black and brown barns were visible throughout the tobacco growing regions of Kentucky and North Carolina, since the dark colors helped heat and cure the crop.

The big red barn still dominates the Midwest and Northeast, and no matter the shape or size, dairy white, brilliant red or weathered gray from years of use, the barn will forever remain a true symbol of Americana.

Click here to see the pictures!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

New York, New York

June 21, 2014

As planned, today began with breakfast at the Littleton Diner. Buckwheat pancakes and sausage for me; eggs, rye toast and corned beef hash for Jason. It definitely lived up to the hype.

It was an early start, but a perfect day for riding - blue skies, puffy white clouds, temperatures in the low sixties. Three states, 322 miles and one great lunch later, we arrived in Watertown, NY.

With such great scenery unfolding all around us as we traveled through New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, it was easy to keep the camera poised and clicking. The pictures from today's ride - from the White Mountains, past manicured farmlands, through small towns with waving American flags, and across the Adirondack Mountains - tell the story much better than I can.

Click here to see the pictures!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Ride Through the White Mountains

June 21, 2014

The skies were blue, the temperature peaked at more than 60 degrees (finally) and we readied ourselves for a sprint through the White Mountains to Littleton, New Hampshire.

Scores of bikers rumble across the White Mountains, and why not. The road is amazing, the panoramic scenery spectacular and for the fearless, there's no helmet law.

We rolled into Littleton, New Hampshire mid-afternoon. Located just north of Franconia Notch, Littleton is loaded with charm and its Main Street was named one of America’s best main streets by the Huffington Post in January 2014. We meandered down this slice of Americana, past the Littleton Diner, an old-school mainstay since 1928, eclectic shops and boutiques (I got a great new pair of earrings from Art to Go), and we resisted the urge to peruse the world's longest candy counter in Chutters. The Thayer Hotel is a Littleton landmark, as is the Jax Jr. Theatre, which premiered "The Great Lie" starring Bette Davis' in 1941 (Bette came to Littleton to promote the film) and is still in operation today.

We thought Bailiwicks would be a great place to grab a drink and bite to eat, but sadly, for the second time on our vacation, our first choice was a bad choice - no service - and we walked out. Taking the path to the River District, we headed down to the Schilling Beer Company, where the patio was packed with people in Harley gear. That was all the recommendation we needed.

Schilling offers more beer than food, craft brews coupled with ciders, wines and guest beers. It's got a casual, rustic appeal and a German and European influence clearly noted in its beers and fare. Its location in a converted 18th century grist mill overlooking the Ammonoosuc River only adds to its charm. And a short food menu is not necessarily a bad thing. It means they can do fewer things with a lot more style.

And they do.

We started with the hummus, a light creamy blend spiced with a hint of chipolte, served with chunks of freshly baked artisan bread for dipping. The real decision was between the bratwurst and sauerkraut or one of their Neopolitan style wood-fired pizzas. Jason went with the special - a 12""Steak Bomb" pizza, topped with steak, feta cheese, bacon and red peppers. I went with a more traditional version - with crushed tomato, mozzarella, sausage and red onion. The aroma was phenomenal, but the taste was even better. Hands down, this was the best pizza we've had in a long, long time. And lucky me, I have leftovers for a midnight snack.

Tomorrow we shoot across Vermont on our way to Waterville, New York, and on Monday morning, we're off to Niagara Falls. But before we do, we're having breakfast at the Littleton Diner. We hear the buckwheat pancakes are fabulous, and the homemade corned beef hash is the perfect compliment to your eggs.

Click here to see more pictures!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Red, White and Blue Skies

June 20, 2014

We left New Brunswick under the bluest skies we’d seen on any morning of the ride. It was going home day – back to the United States – Eastern Standard Time zone, dollar bills not coins and road signs in English, not English and French. It was also the genealogy leg of the trip. We were headed to Buckfield, Maine, the birthplace of two of Jason’s Brock ancestors, via Lincoln, Maine, the final resting place of another.

Most of the morning was spent riding through rural – no strike that – wilderness Maine. The homes, if you can call some of the ramshackle buildings that, were few and far between. Lincoln was the first city, and I use that term only because they had more than one traffic light and a few retail stores, we went through since we crossed the border at Vanceboro, Maine. At a construction slowdown I saw a cemetery on my right with a center hill and lots of appropriately aged headstones. I leaned into Jason and said, “There it is,” but he shook his head negatively citing the GPS. We pulled into Tom Horton's for a coffee (we had sun and blue skies, but the temperature never reached 60), an egg sandwich and a regrouping. The North Lincoln Cemetery, where Find-a-Grave indicated David Brock, Jason’s 3x great-grandfather was interred, was at the intersection of Military and Town Farm Roads and in the opposite direction of where we were. Coffee break complete, we headed off to find it.

The North Lincoln Cemetery is easy to miss if you’re not specifically looking for it. The yard is down a side street without any large or visible signage on the main road to mark it. It was a small yard with an abundance of white limestone headstones, so finding David, we thought, would be a snap. We were wrong. Both Jason and I walked and rewalked, maneuvering between every row of stones, but no Brocks were to be found. The cemetery was well manicured and well maintained, so it wasn’t likely that the stone had been damaged (others had clearly been repaired) or removed. It was simply missing.

“Let’s try the other cemetery,” I suggested, disappointed that we’d rerouted through Lincoln for naught. We headed back to the center of town.

A small sign was posted at the side entrance to the second cemetery – Lincoln Cemetery, so Jason drove in, following the grassy road to the front and center section of the cemetery where the oldest stones seemed to be located. I looked to the left and the right as we slowly motored through, wondering how I was going to find 4 headstones in such a large burial yard, if they were even there, considering this was not the cemetery they were supposed to be interred in.

Jason parked the bike and put the kickstand down. I jumped off and rested my helmet on the mirror, turned right and gasped. “What?” Jason asked, concerned. “There is NO WAY this happened!” I cried. In front of me, in the cemetery I choose, right where Jason parked, were the headstones of David Brock, his sister Betsey Brock Buck and her husband, Cyrus, and their mother, Susannah Brock.

Sometime after John Brock III, Jason’s 4x great grandfather died in 1822, his wife Susannah Crandall Brock removed to Lincoln. According to the 1850 census she was residing there with her daughter Betsey, David’s twin, her husband, Cyrus and their family. I hoped to find some Crandall headstones, since Susannah was born in Lincoln, but to no avail. More research is still needed on her branch of the tree. David and his family removed to Lincoln by 1840, according to census records, and they were in Bangor by 1855. I’m not certain when he returned to Lincoln, but his headstone states that he died there.

We headed to Buckfield, the small Maine town where John Brock III, his brother William and sister Martha once lived. David Brock was born there, as was his son, Alvan D. Brock, Jason’s 2x great grandfather. I have a copy of John’s will, (which included two sons I didn’t know he had) but no record of exactly when he died or where he is buried.

Buckfield Village Cemetery (also known as Damon Cemetery) is a large cemetery, but knowing that we were looking for mid-1850’s deaths, we headed toward the older gravestones. We (okay - Jason) found John Brock and his wife, Tamar Farar Brock. John was the son of John III and brother to David. We also found the headstones of several other Farrar family members and the stones of William, John III’s brother and his wife, Sarah Brock.

John Brock III and Susannah’s sons, with the exception of Leonard, who predeceased his father, left Buckfield as they matured and married. Only David remained. He married Judith Farrar, who died shortly after giving birth to their son, John in 1828. In January 1830, he married Livonia Coburn. After David died, Livonia moved to Lovell, ME to live with her daughter, Julia. She lived in Abington for a number of years and died of pneumonia in Medford, Massachusetts in 1888. I’ve not been able to locate where she is buried.

It was a fascinating day, but always so much more to discover.

Click here to see more pictures!

The Road to Fredericton

It was our last morning on Prince Edward Island and breakfast at Hillhurst Inn did not disappoint. In fact, Jason thought it was the best of the three. The yogurt parfait made a return, and clearly the mini muffins are a staple, but the feature today was delicious French toast (hhhmmm,,, maybe Canadian Toast?) topped with gently warmed, thinly sliced apples.

The breakfast was sunny, but the skies over PEI were dismal and bleak. Thick clouds blanketed the sky like a layer of cotton batting and haze painted the horizon a murky shade of gray. When we crossed the Confederation Bridge into New Brunswick, there was a discernable difference between the highway and the horizon as ribbons of blue began to weave themselves through the clouds. The skies cleared for good over Murray. Coincidence? I don’t think so. (Thanks, Bunny.) The sun played a bit of peek-a-boo along the way, but it was still nice to have it, even if it was in a supporting rather than starring role.

This leg of the ride was one of the best of the trip, with great roads and warm breezes. Route 105 North ran parallel to the Jemseg and St. John Rivers, visible through clearings – field, farm or family home. Riding alongside the rivers, watching the tiny whitecaps rippling with the wind, it’s easy to understand the draw people have to water, serenity when it’s still and the awe its power inspires when it rages.

We arrived in Fredericton, the capital city of New Brunswick, around 3:00, and with plenty of daylight left, we headed off to find food and somewhere to explore.

Fredericton is a great town with an amazing walkable downtown area filled with great shops, a variety of restaurants and lots of history. Its history really begins in 1783 with the arrival of Loyalists who fought on the side of the crown during the American Revolution and received a separate colonial status for the newly named New Brunswick colony for their efforts. Colonel Thomas Carleton was the colony’s first governor and in 1785 renamed the settlement “Fredericktown” in honor of King George III’s son. Because of its positioning on the St. John River, Fredericton was also Carleton's choice for provincial capital.

Because of Fredericton's proximity to the American border and its importance as provincial capital, military personnel were stationed there until the The Royal Canadian Regiment was raised on December 21, 1883. The Guard House, Barracks, and Old Officers' Quarters, which now serves as a Museum, are still standing in the downtown area known as the Garrison Historic District.

We did a bit of walking and a bit of eating at the Lunar Rouge Pub, but after 6 days on the road, it’s laundry night. Yep, laundry. That’s the secret to traveling for two weeks on a Harley.

Click here to see more pictures.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rain, Rain Go Away

Another wonderful breakfast was served this morning here at the Hillhurst Inn - a grapefruit half (already sectioned - who doesn't love that?!?!?) followed by a delicious spinach and cheese quiche, and another round of the mini muffins and sweet butter. It's been the only sunshine of the day. The weather forecast called for 100% chance of rain today on PEI, and sadly, they were 100% accurate. The good thing is we switched up our ride plans and enjoyed PEI's coastline yesterday.

We made a valiant, if not vain attempt to enjoy downtown Charlottetown, but the ofttimes soaking rains forced a retreat back to the Hillhurst Inn, but not before we ducked inside Northern Watters Knitwear on Victorian Row. This lovely little boutique features 100% British wool sweaters and accessories all made on site using antique Swiss Knitting looms. It is June, despite the early spring-like temperatures, so I wasn't necessarily thinking about a chunky wool sweater when I peeked at their window display last night, but there was a gorgeous ochre-colored wool cape....

The red one was more my style and color. :)

The rain wasn't giving an inch, so we scurried back to the Hillhurst to dry out. I've made good use of the quiet time (of course, with Jason napping quiet isn't always quiet) to catch up on the blog posts, check my email and caption the hundreds of pictures (well, not all of them) I've taken over the last few days.

"Coasting" Around PEI

Oh Canada!

We woke on Tuesday to the wonderful scents of home-baked goods wafting up the stairs, something you just don’t get at the Hampton Inn (although the late afternoon white chocolate chunk cookies are a definite plus). We headed down to the dining room, where we met the other house guests – a young couple from Quebec en route to Halifax for a wedding, and an older retired couple from Kingston, Ontario and shared “where-are-you-froms” and “have-you-been-here-befores” over a fabulous breakfast that included a yogurt parfait with granola and kiwi, delicate wheat pancakes with a warm blueberry compote, and assorted mini muffins with sweet creamy butter.

Since the weather report promised sunny blue skies and warm breezes, we opted to cruise the coasts of Prince Edward Island and save the walkabout for Wednesday. The areas outside of Charlottetown are decidedly agrarian – potatoes and cows- with fields of deep chocolate brown patched among the emerald green farmlands. The furrowed rows of tiny green shoots draw your eye down to the water, which sparkled like facets of a brilliant diamond.

We visited several lighthouses along the coast, and arrived at the spot where the world begins – at least according to the sign – East Point, the furthest point east on Prince Edward Island. It was one of the most picturesque and spontaneous riding days of the trip.

Seven hours, 4 lighthouses and two hundred and twenty miles later, we were back at Hillhurst and thinking about dinner. There is no shortage of wonderful restaurants and cafes within walking distance, including Victorian Row, an eclectic mix of eateries and boutiques housed in the brick Victorian row houses on Richmond Street. We settled into an outdoor table at the John Brown Richmond Street Grill. The atmosphere was festive (the street is closed to vehicle traffic during the summer), the food superb and the service excellent. Not to mention the music – a medley of hits from the 60, 70’s and 80’s – playing in the background. Jason opted for the Richmond Street club stuffed mightily with grilled chicken garlic spinach aioli and maple peppered bacon. I was tossed between the flatbread and the garlic chicken – which won out (although I did see the flatbread go by. It would not have been a bad choice either), warm diced chicken and Portobello mushrooms tossed in a garlic cream sauce and served over spinach. It was delicious. Turtle cheesecake, a cup of coffee, and we were totally content.

Tonight, we’re thinking about Hunter’s Ale House (we stopped there last night for a nightcap on the way back to the B&B), where we’ve been told the ribs and lobster are awesome, and the band begins at 10:00 pm. I don’t think we’ve been awake that late since we started on this journey, but we’ll give it a shot (and maybe throw back one or two).

Click here to see more pictures.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Funday, Funday...So Good to Me

Oh Canada!

New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy is one of the Marine Wonders of the World. The tide rises as much as 53 vertical feet twice each day. We followed it, unknowing, for miles, until we spied a turnout for a scenic overview and stopped.

Two aquamarine Adirondack chairs sit perched on a hill in the center of the parking lot, providing front row seats to a panoramic view of the Fundy, a long ocean bay that stretches between the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast. The Bay of Fundy is the world’s most dynamic tidal coastline, with more than 160 billion tons of seawater flowing in and out of it during each of the Bay's daily tide cycles. In 2007, the New Brunswick side of the upper Bay of Funday was designated as a World Biosphere Reserve. This designation helps celebrate and promote unique landscapes and ecosystems.

Another hidden treasure, something we would not have planned to visit, was Cape Enrage. After leaving the Bay of Fundy overlook, we continued on remarkable Route 114, following its gentle sweeps through lush green hillsides and towering pines, punctuated by the occasional house, farm or barn. The next scenic overview sign – people with binoculars – beckoned us to Cape Enrage, so we made a right and continued...for 6 kilometers (just under 4 miles). As we climbed higher and higher, twisting and turning up the summit, my expectations grew, but I wasn't prepared for the breathtaking views from towering cliffs we found at the top.

Cape Enrage is at the southern tip of Barn Marsh Island, half way along the coastline between the villages of Riverside-Albert and Alma. It sits across the river from Nova Scotia and juts halfway out into the Bay of Fundy. Cape Enrage was named for the turbulent waters that pass over the reef and continue southward at low tide; the rough seas can be seen for much farther on windy days as the current and wind are in opposition. During the shipping heyday, it was prone to shipwrecks and one of the most hazardous areas for mariners in the upper Bay of Fundy. In 1838, 33 local residents and sea captains signed a petition for a lighthouse on Cape Enrage. The original structure was built in 1840; the lighthouse that stands today in 1870.

You are free to explore the area, so we climbed the wide planked stairs to the lighthouse and then climbed down a steep metal staircase onto the beach area. At low tide, the "beach" is covered with rocks, shard of shale and fossils contained in the layers of sedimentary rock approximately 320 million years old. Like Route 114, as we gingerly maneuvered across the rocks, we were awed at how every angle provided a different, more stunning view of this natural wonder.

Click here to see more pictures.

Click here to read more about Cape Enrage.

The Road to Prince Edward Island

I had intended to detail our ride to PEI when we got back to our B&B last night, but the lethal combination of total exhaustion (thanks to fighting crosswinds for most of the day), Jason's snoring and food coma (dinner was awesome), the only thing I could do was sleep.

Monday morning was beyond blustery; the wind was fierce and the skies menacing. The only saving grace was the weather forecast - no rain and blue skies, literally, on the horizon. The road out of St. John was fraught with frost heaves. Between that, the pot holes and patches of repaving, I felt like I was on the back of a bucking bronco, not an Iron Horse. And the GPS had somehow conspired against us as well. On more than one occasion, it beckoned us to take a dirt road, and on a few others, it actually lulled us into a false sense of security by teasing us with pavement that without warning disintegrated into gravel and dirt.

It was time for coffee and recalculation.

We pulled into Tim Horton's, the Dunkin' Donuts of Canada to warm up (despite long sleeves, a hooded sweatshirt and jacket, the wind was taking its toll) and take a look at the route. It took some backtracking and a little more reliance on Jason's internal compass, but we got back to Sussex and continued on to Prince Edward Island.

Routes 114 and 951 were picturesque, not unlike some of the routes we’ve ooh’d and ahh’d over in the US – the Blue Ridge Parkway for one, where every curve brought another spectacular site. We finally caught up to that elusive sun in Alma, where the skies were a beautiful and welcoming shade of blue. But, try as we did, we couldn't outpace the wind.

It was after 5 when we rolled into Charlottetown and settled into our B&B - The Hillhurst Inn- home for the next two days. I gushed over the architecture and spectacular Victorian interior, including the reception hall in quartered oak with an oak-paneled ceiling. Although it has been renovated since it was built, specifically for the purposes of operating as a B&B, the house (which boasts 8 bedrooms) has retained many of its original features. The home was built in 1897 by George Longworth. The Longworth family were successful shipbuilders and merchants in Charlottetown.

We wandered downtown towards Charlottetown's historic area, (a nice walk, since the wind was finally reined in) rich in a bounty of restaurants, shopping and history. Dinner was the objective, and we enjoyed PEI mussels (of course) and terrific seafood fare at the Old Dublin Pub.

PS. If you're waiting for my further musings on St. John, you'll have to wait until our next visit. Torrential rain and wind pummeled the area shortly after we got to the hotel - and never let up. Instead of exploring, we ordered take-out and watched a "Shutter Island" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Strange movie.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oh Canada!

Oh Canada!

It was an early start to the Father’s Day leg of our journey. We were up, showered, coffee’d  and on the road by 7:45. Before we left, we chatted briefly with a really cool couple who were saddling up their Harley trike about riding in general (they recommend a spin on the Green Eyed Snake), but specifically about the switch from two to three wheels. Marketing genius for Harley I must say. It definitely extends one’s riding life.

The Maine coast continued to be spectacular, with stunning views and quick teasing glimpses through the thickets of fir and pine trees filling the air with the persistent smell of balsam and Christmas. Americana is everywhere – flags waved proudly from front yards, front porches and telephone poles, welcoming us like old friends. The American spirit is so prevalent here, we even saw a bald eagle soar overhead as we rode through Gouldsboro, it’s white crown unmistakable against the backdrop of towering pines.

It was a blustery day so we finally surrendered to the wind and layered up in Machias – another first. I’m used to peeling off layers as the temperature rises, not adding them as we push further north.  I swear it dropped 10 degrees right after we crossed the border into Canada. But before we got there, we stopped at a few scenic overlooks and took in the incredible views, including the St. Croix River, which was simultaneously rustic and majestic. 

Once in Canada, we detoured slightly to St. Andrews, or St. Andrews By-the-Sea, as it is commonly called.  This tiny seaside town – population less than 2,000 - was founded in 1783. It retains much of its colonial charm, and is piping with quaint character and bungalow type dwellings clad in cedar shakes painted in shades of gray and brown courtesy of Mother Nature's weather brush.

We found a similar roadside treasure in Lepreau Falls, just outside of St. John. Early area settlers relied on the Lepreau River for transportation and fishing and the power to move logs and run sawmills. During Prohibition in the US, American bootleggers used this relatively isolated spot as a rendezvous point to load their boats with liquor. Bootleggers would smuggle the liquor from New Brunswick to Maine and sell it at black market prices.

Sun shone like a beacon in spots along the way today, but it couldn’t quite muscle its way through the insistent blanket of clouds. And the closer we got to St. John, the more dismal the sky became.

At first blush, St. John is nothing to write home about – or blog about for that matter. Of course, I can only comment on what I’ve experienced so far, snaking our way up, down and around a roller coaster of hills to our hotel. So far, and maybe it’s the influence of the wind and grey fringed clouds, it feels very much like an old urban town. And quite frankly, it is. It’s the oldest incorporated town in Canada, but rich in architecture, galleries and quiet historic charm.  Uptown, I’m told, is where we need to be, but we’re only here for the night so a true St. John experience will require a return trip.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

2014 Harley Ride: Day One

Day One of our 2014 adventure is in the books.

We left Massachusetts under suspicious skies, but luckily, the threat of rain never materialized.  This ride was a year of firsts – first on the new Harley, first time the ride originated in Massachusetts and the first time we’ve headed north instead of south.

Today’s destination was Bar Harbor, Maine and dinner at Stewman’s Lobster Pound. The road to the promised land  - at least to the promised lobster – was Route 1. We traversed the Bay State and hugged the Maine coastline, skirting any hint of bad weather and sailing with the sea breezes.

Route 1 was littered with Victorian era homes transformed into B&Bs or antique stores.  Every so often we’d pass a lonely cemetery with its white limestone headstones standing stoically as reminders of lives past or meander through a Main Street town with trendy restaurants, small boutiques and a walkable downtown, like Portland, where we stopped and enjoyed lunch at the Dry Dock Tavern & Bar.

Jason loves navigating the Harley along these secondary roads, listening to me sigh as the antique stores pass by. There’s no place to put anything, packing for 2 weeks is challenge enough, but the only thing I can get at an old roadside cemetery are pictures. I don’t usually ask to stop, because it’s too easy for me to get caught up in the genealogy, but there were just so many of them today, I couldn’t resist.  I spied a collection of leaning headstones and asked to stop. The yard wasn’t marked, so all I know about it for now, other than the names of the interred, is that we were in Verona, Maine, just outside of Bucksport. I scrambled up the small grassy incline and surveyed the small collection of headstones, some ramrod straight, others leaning and broken. Some weathered and illegible, others with crisp details chiseled into smooth granite.

After a 15-minute fix, I was back on the bike and we were back on the road.

Bar Harbor and its rugged coastal landscape is home to Cadillac Mountain—part of neighboring Acadia National Park. The first settlement in the area was recorded in 1761 by Abraham Somes, a sailor and fisherman from Massachusetts.  In 1855, the first hotel, Agamont House, and the first wharf were built. Even back then, Bar Harbor was a place of inspiration for many people. That tradition continues today. Bar Harbor is beautiful, but after 8 hour on the bike, what inspired me was lobster.

You can’t go to Maine and not have lobster. Our dinner at Stewman’s started with appetizers  - a blueberry margarita, a slightly pink, perfectly sweet libation garnished with a slice of lime for me and a Sam Adams for Jason. We both opted for the Downeast Lobster Experience Dinner – steamed lobster, mussels, corn and potatoes with the obligatory drawn butter. And for dessert, blueberry pie.  Yum.

And now - yawn. It's been a long day and another one is scheduled for tomorrow as we head on to New Brunswick, Canada.

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