7/23/11 – 8/3/11
12 days, 10 states, 3,400 miles
6/25/11, 28 days before the trip
Howard and I have finalized the route and booked the hotels. Other than changing oil before the trip, we are ready.
Here’s our route from 10,000 feet. It differs slightly from the route I posted back in January, but it still includes most of the scenic roads in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.
The ultimate destination of this trip is Acadia National Park in Maine.
Hotel booking is always a challenge, primarily because we like to have an option to cancel our reservation the same day. There’s no consistency. The same hotel chain offers same-day cancellation in one location, but requires a 24-hour notice in another location. There’s probably some logic to it, but it escapes me.
9 out of 10 hotels we will be staying in offer same-day cancellation. North Conway, NH is the only place where not a single hotel offers this option. Of course, this place has the most expensive lodging on our trip.
Days 1, 2 & 3: Chicago - Kent OH - New Windsor NY - Rutland VT (1,110 miles)
We left from Howard’s home at 8:30 AM as usual. Chicago was basically under water, at least some parts of it, after Zeus dumped 7” of rain on the city. All I-90 ramps from and to Elmhurst Road were closed, so we just rode east and got on I-294 at Touhy Ave. The plan was to take I-294 / I-80 / I-65 south to Merrillville IN and then Hwy 30 east to Kent OH.
The first day was somewhat tiresome. It started to rain several times, but we just kept going. However, at some point we got so wet that we decided to stop under the next bridge and put on our rain gear. As it could be expected, the rain stopped as soon as we had finished our elaborate dance of putting on pants standing on one leg. The thermometer on my bike was showing 97F.
Day 2 was much more pleasant in terms of weather and scenery. I-80 & I-84 turned out to be very nice 4-lane-split highways with dense vegetation on both sides shielding us from cross winds. The temperatures were not as brutal as on the previous day, but still in the upper eighties. It briefly rained a couple of times, but this time we didn’t bother with the rain gear and just kept going.
1960? Ford Edsel, the number 12 on Dan Neil’s list of 50 worst cars of all time. The owner of the car was on his way to the Annual Edsel Owners Club Convention in Springfield IL.
Our hotel in New Windsor was on the hill overlooking Lake Washington. Not the type of scenery you would expect from a budget hotel.
After 850 miles of Interstate riding behind us, we were ready to hit those scenic roads I had spent a month planning. But, of course, we couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit Orange County Choppers. Their store was just 1/2 mile from the hotel.
Choppers in the showroom were fantastic, but the rest of the store was just a lot of t-shirts and baseball caps with the Orange County Choppers logo. Nothing much was going on in the workroom.
After spending an hour taking pictures and paying $20 for a $5 t-shirt, we hit the road. This day included parts of several scenic drives from the Insiders’ Guide Scenic Driving New England: South & North Litchfield Hills (Hwy 7) and Berkshire Hills (23, 20, 112, 100, and 103.) State Hwy 7 was fine, but other roads felt like a washboard. It also didn’t help that it rained the whole day long.
On a positive note, the scenery was great, and our Tourmaster Defender rain suites performed as advertised and kept us dry.
Day 4: Rutland VT - Lewiston ME (280 miles)
Day 4 rewarded us for the misery of the previous day with great weather and smooth roads. We started north on Hwy 30, then rode the southern part of Middlebury Loop through Green Mountain National Forest to Rochester (73), turned right on Hwy 100 and took Quechee-Coolidge Scenic Drive first south and then east (4, 25, 113.) We continued north-east until we reached Lewiston.
90 miles from Rutland we rolled into Woodstock, a scenic little resort town with a beautiful downtown, lots of stores, and a couple of coffee shops (not Woodstock NY, Woodstock NH.) The Daily Grind looked good and we settled there for a cup of coffee and an apple cinnamon pie.
To offset $180 per night rooms in North Conway and Saranac Lake, we booked a room at Super 8 in Lewiston. I felt bad vibes when I first saw the building, but we were not prepared for what was inside. The tiny lobby was dimly lit and poorly furnished. Through the open door behind the counter I could see a pile of dirty laundry on the floor. There was smell of food in the hallways as if food was cooked in every room. Our room was furnished with the second-hand, extremely cheap furniture. Mattresses were probably 20 years old, dried oily drops on the table, a hole in the middle of the desk, yellowish bed sheets, broken window and sink faucet. Behind the building, next to the back door, was a big pile of garbage. We just turned around and moved to another hotel.
Day 5: Lewiston ME - Bangor ME (250 miles)
Our electronic equipment suddenly started working as advertised. I think out of frustration we just stopped pressing all the buttons every 5 seconds. For the rest of the trip we were able to talk and listen to our GPSs connected to Scala via Bluetooth. I also took full advantage of the MP3 player in my GPS with 800 MB of songs, primarily Cesaria Evora and The Barry Sisters.
This was the day when we finally reached Atlantic Ocean. I think it was at South Harpswell. The place was smelly, lots of lobster cages, and a shack saying Dick's Lobster.
Most of the day we rode scenic roads, exploring several of the long finger peninsulas jutting into the Atlantic Ocean on Maine’s Mid-Coast, stopping from time to time for a photo op. The seaside landscape was dotted with fishing villages and summer cottages, isolated beaches and surf-swept headlands, quiet coves and picturesque lighthouses, and hundreds of offshore islands.
Fort Popham, a Civil War era fort that was built to protect the shipbuilding interest in the upriver city of Bath, as well as the state capitol, in Augusta.
Lighthouse Park south of Chamberlain was another tourist attraction, as well as ice cream with wild blueberries sold at a nearby restaurant called Oceanfront Dining.
Once we explored the peninsulas, we took Hwy 1 and rode north-east along the shore of Penobscot Bay to Bangor.
Day 6: Bangor ME - Augusta ME (290 miles)
Acadia National Park is probably the most famous part of Maine’s ragged, 2,500-mile coastline. Most of the park is on the Mount Desert Island, but Schoodic Peninsula is, without doubt, the most spectacular part of the park. We took Schoodic Scenic Byway and rode it slowly, enjoying the scenery and stopping every 10 minutes to take a picture.
After exploring Schoodic Peninsula, we turned our attention to Mount Desert Island. The main attraction of the island was, of course, Cadillac Mountain. There was a 3.5-mile road leading to the summit, called predictably Cadillac Mountain Summit Road. The road quickly climbed via switchbacks up the mountain’s broad north flank. Several pullouts along the way offered great views. The spur road ended atop Cadillac spacious 1,530-foot summit.
On the way from Schoodic Peninsula to Mountain Desert Island we stopped for lunch at Timbers restaurant in Hancock. They served the best crab rolls I’ve ever tried.
Most of the motorcycles on the road were Harleys with a sprinkle of Goldwings here and there. So when we ran into 2003 Ural at one of the gas stations along the route, we couldn’t resist taking a picture and talking to the owner. I don’t think the look of this motorcycle has changed in the last 40 years. But according to the owner, it’s fun to ride and he rides it year round.
Texas Roadhouse was our choice for dinner. Great steaks. We could even select our own raw steaks, which would be prepared and served to us. I didn’t ask if we could watch the grilling. There was also a bucket of peanuts on each table.
Day 7: Augusta ME - North Conway NH (280 miles)
Day 7 took us to White Mountain National Forest. From Augusta we rode Hwy 17 / 156 north-west, then took Rangeley Lake Scenic Drive (Byron Rd / Swift River Rd), and then the Upper White Mountain Scenic Drive (26, 110, 23) - high, brooding upland broken by rumpled mountains and sliced by deep, glacier-carved valleys. We ended the day riding Hwy 302 through Crawford Notch State Park, considered to be one of the most famous scenery in New Hampshire.
Days 8 & 9: North Conway NH - Woodstock NH - Saranac Lake NY (270 miles)
The day started as usual, but 30 miles from North Conway Howard had a flat tire. The bike was towed to a little Harley shop called Woodstock Cycle Works, where we started a hunt for a new tire. Silverwing’s rear wheel is 13”, not the most popular size. A new tire was located in Manchester, about 80 miles from Woodstock (another Woodstock in New Hampshire.) I ran there and brought the tire back to Woodstock, where Howard, not trusting Cycle Works mechanic, took it upon himself to remove the rear wheel and then put it back. I think the mechanic didn't know much about scooters anyway.
By the time the new tire was installed, it was already 3 pm. We booked a room in Woodstock and enjoyed the rest of the day, including dinner at Woodstock Inn. A huge plate of really good potato skins was the highlight of the dinner.
The next day we continued on Hwy 112 through White Mountain National Forest, then took Hwy 302 to Middlesex, where we found a little bakery selling freshly baked pastries.
The remaining part of the route went through Green Mountain National Forest (100, 125) and took us to Lake Champlain. This time we rode the northern part of Middlebury Loop (125.)
There was a bridge connecting the Vermont and New York shores at Chimney Point, however the middle section of the bridge was missing. There was another bridge about 40 miles south, but the day was hot, and we were not looking forward to riding an extra 80 miles. We briefly considered Moses’ way of crossing water, but eventually decided on the path of least resistance and took a lake ferry.
This day’s destination was Saranac Lake, a little town 8 miles north of Lake Placid, the site of 1980 Winter Olympics. Since we had time before dinner, we rode there and walked Main Street up and down a couple of time.
About 4 miles north of Lake Placid was a restaurant called Tale O’ The Pop BBQ. It was an outdoor restaurant with a live band playing country music. The place was packed. There were at least 100 people there.
Days 10, 11 & 12: Saranac Lake NY - Batavia NY - Wauseon OH – Chicago (920 miles)
Batavia NY. Guess which restaurant we went to for dinner?
All good things come to an end, and it was time to head back home. We took I-90 / I-80 all the way to Chicago and safely made it home in 2.5 days.
Rifle air vent is the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve put 40,000 miles on my bikes in the last several years, and this trip was the most comfortable in terms of helmet buffeting and visor fogging. The vent practically eliminated both.
Scala Rider turned out to be a decent piece of equipment. However, unless you are behind a very tall windshield, it’s always a good idea to wear ear plugs. I usually wear Howard Leight MAX-1 with NRR 33dB. Scala’s volume, normally loud, is insufficient when ear plugs are used.
I’ve learned some lessons from my crash last year. I now have Firstgear temperfoam knee armor installed in my riding pants. It’s a shock-dampening open-celled foam, very comfortable and, unlike hard armor, doesn’t create pressure on the knees.