Strangers in a Not So Strange Land

After riding through the rain and mist, and escaping whatever ghosts there were (or weren’t) in the Haynesville Woods, crossing into New Brunswick and rewarding ourselves with a very nice German-style dinner, Don and I made our way up the eastern side of the St. John River. Our destination was Eagle Lake, Maine, home of legendary (in Maine, anyway) legislator John Martin.

We rode about 350 miles on the first day of our trip. Rolling out of bed the next morning I was reminded how much more physical riding a motorcycle is than driving a car. That I was probably a little more tense because of the rain most likely added to the muscle strain, but a little Tylenol and a little more Motrin took care of that. Some coffee and a hearty German-style breakfast (no beer, thanks), along with clearing skies got us ready for the day’s excursion tracing the northeast border of Maine and the St. John Valley.

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Change of Season

Summer is over. You didn’t get the memo?

Leaves are changing color in our part of Maine, agricultural fairs will be held over the next few weeks, and there is a decided shift in the local produce at the grocery store – more pumpkins and apples, less corn and zucchini.

I had hoped to take an early fall motorcycle ride with my friend Mark today, but the weather wasn’t very cooperative. It turned out to be a beautiful day by early/mid-afternoon, but a fun ride in the mist, drizzle, or rain is just not my idea of, well, fun. So I got my grocery shopping done earlier than I thought I would and marked the change of season with a change in the dining room candle. So long Hydrangea, hello Mulled Cider.

Eating & Mindlessness

I’m a good cook, and I don’t care who knows it. Problem is, I’m not a good eater. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t eat what I cook (never trust a skinny chef, they say), and I certainly know how to eat. That’s the problem. If you read my posts tagged with “food” or “health” or “wellness” you’ll see how much of a struggle it is. You’ll also see how little real discipline and effort I’ve put into it. I mean, let’s be honest. Keeping a food journal seems to work for a while, but only for a while.

So it was months ago that I ran across a story in the New York Times¬†(sorry if you’ve used up your free articles for the month… try next month)¬†about mindful eating, not so much about dieting as about being more aware of what we eat and why, about putting food in proper perspective. Then, about a month ago I came across another story about binge eating among men and the “Fat Dad” NY Times blog bosts. My situation isn’t as dire, but there’s no denying that those extra pounds contribute to a range of undesirable outcomes, and I am about as far from being a mindful eater as you might care to imagine. And then I suppose there’s something to be said for the first step in any recovery program, recognizing that you have a problem.

The People Raise Their Hands

Rush kicked off their latest tour at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire last Friday night. Their latest album, Clockwork Angels, has been getting mostly good reviews, and I spent a lot of time listening to it over the summer in anticipation of this concert. Having bought two tickets in a simultaneous burst of passion and foolishness (though the two do often seem to go together, don’t they?), I was glad to have one of my brothers-in-law named Randy along with me to share the experience. (I actually have three brothers-in-law, but only two of them are named Randy, though maybe we can work on Brian and change that.)

After the Time Machine tour experience in 2010, I went prepared with ear plugs to sensibly limit hearing loss while, hopefully, still enjoying the music. Pulling into Manchester and finding parking (for a hefty price!) across from the arena I threw caution to the winds and left the ear plugs in the car. Inside the arena I was a little surprised at its size, which seemed small, though I guess it seats about as many as the Mohegan Sun Arena, and about half again as many as our local Cumberland County Civic Center.

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Shifting Gears


I’ve read a few blog and Facebook posts recently about the discernible shift in life’s patterns and nature’s patterns that come with the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Kids and teachers go back to school, it’s dark earlier in the evening and later in the morning, the days and nights get cooler, all that stuff. From what I’ve seen it seems to infect people with a sense of melancholy about the passage of time that spring and summer don’t.

In our own lives we’ve seen this same kind of seasonal shift, though it seemed to happen in some form of slow motion, a kind of gradual partial re-emptying of the nest, if you will. Our eldest flew back to Washington and her senior year on the 24th of August and our middle daughter left for a fall semester at the University of Glasgow on the 31st. Our youngest daughter and my wife, a teacher, both returned to school at about the same time. All of this combined to radically change the structure, pace, and feel of home life, though my work schedule really doesn’t change that much from one season to the next (except for budget season).

Getting back to the shift metaphor, it seems like we’ve come to the end of an extended leisurely cruise in sixth gear with the top down. Now it’s time to put the hard top on, put it in four-wheel drive, downshift, and power through until next spring. It’s not like there can’t be things to look forward to and enjoy, but it seems the coming seasons are much more of a long, hard slog than the rest of the year.

The Legend and The Reward

All you big and burly men who roll the trucks along
Better listen, you’ll be thankful when you hear my song
You have really got it made, if you’re haulin’ goods
Anyplace on earth but those Haynesville Woods

It’s a stretch of road up north in Maine
That’s never, ever, ever seen a smile
If they buried all the truckers lost in them Woods
There’d be a tombstone every mile
Count ’em off, there’d be a tombstone every mile

– “Tombstone Every Mile,” by Dick Curless

We weren’t loaded with potatoes or headed for Boston town and, fortunately, it wasn’t winter, so the road through the Haynesville Woods wasn’t a ribbon of ice. But it was one of the most memorable parts of our ride across Maine.

After making up some time by taking I-95 from Newport to Orono, we tooled up along the Penobscot River and through more towns I had only heard of or known from their exits on the highway – Milford, Greenbush, Passadumkeag, Enfield, Lincoln, Winn, Mattawamkeag, all on the way to Macwahoc, and the road through the Haynesville Woods. Route 2 doesn’t pass neatly through the center of most of these towns, so I can’t exactly say I’ve seen all there is to see, but riding it does give you a sense of, oh my, just how large Maine really is.

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When Last We Left Our Heroes….

We were about to embark on our – well, my – first real motorcycle tour in the six years I’ve been riding. The plan was to leave Greater Portland, ride up to Bethel and cross most of Maine on U.S. Route 2 to New Brunswick, Canada. From there, ride up the St. John Valley to northern Maine and back home again along “the other Route 1.” And, for the most part, that’s the way it turned out.

Where Maine Route 161 comes to an end.

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