Top of the hill

So we stayed last night in a funny named town called Orono.  Cindy found a place to stay named the Black Bear Inn.  It had a rustic style but a very dated décor with moave carpet, lots of wallpaper and even a working phone behind the toilet.  It was big and clean so that was good enough for me.

We went out to dinner in Orono which evidently is a college town (Univ of Maine).  There were a lot of small bars and eateries.  I drank a couple craft beers and both Cindy and I enjoyed our dinners quite a bit.  We both got a pretty solid night of sleep which was a good thing since we had an active day planned today.

We took advantage of the free continental breakfast but sort of wish we didn’t.  The coffee and orange juice tasted very odd and we left 75% of a muffin that was absolutely tasteless.  Oh well, overall I still liked the place and it was one of the least expensive rooms of the trip.

We wanted to get up and out this morning as we were heading to Acadia National Park and most importantly Cadillac Mountain, the recommendation of my gym buddy who grew up in New Hampshire.  The reason we drove all the way to Orono was to minimize the drive to the park. In retrospect we were glad we did.  Originally we planned to stay in Portland which would have been a 3 1/2 hour drive to the park.  From Orono is was more like an hour and a half.  You will see why that was so important as the story progresses.

The drive in was scenic.  We took route 3 which was under heavy construction.  It’s a two lane road with one lane totally ripped up  in certain sections.  For a period of over a half mile we were basically off roading, something the low profiled Ioniq is not designed to do in the least.  My buddy Joe, who lives in Maine told us on Facebook that this was literally THE busiest time of the year to visit the park which didn’t make us happy.  But still, I figured it’s Maine, how crowded can it really be?  The answer was, very.

We picked up our $25 park pass which Joe also warned us to make sure we got else risk a $130 fine from the park ranger system.  I surely was not going to give them a reason to fine me, again.  The drive in the park itself up to the top of Cadillac Mountain was very pretty.  We saw a LOT of bikers trying to grind it out up the steep, steep roadways.  It looked pretty miserable.

As we went up we caught some brief beautiful glimpses of what awaited us up top, we were anxious to get there.  As we approached the top we saw numerous signs warning cars to not park on the shoulder.  As we got closer I realized why that was such a problem, parking was at a premium.  We actually got a bit lucky and came upon a car that was just backing out as we approached.  Others were not so fortunate and had to just slog around the lot being parking spot mongers, a role I despise.

Once we got parked and headed onto the granite structures we got our first full look at the amazing view where you see the Atlantic Ocean wrap around you.  It ranked right up there with some of the most beautiful spots in nature I have ever visited like the Grand Canyon and Ireland.

Cindy was like a kid in a candy shop.  She loved ascending and descending the rock structures.  She was consistently 50-75 feet ahead of me.  It’s very cool how there is such an immense area up top you can explore.  Other than a few roped off vegetation areas, you could go almost anywhere.

We stopped at the visitor center and grabbed a few items including some blueberry soda that my stepmom, who was just in Maine, told us about.  She said it was some of the best soda she ever had, she was right. Cindy and I both enjoyed it as we continued to climb around.

At one point Cindy said she saw a little girl picking berries from an evergreen looking bush on the ground and eating them.  She was concerned the kid was going to get poisoned and her dad had wandered far away.  It turned out she was actually harvesting wild blueberries albeit the plant looks different than any blueberry bush I ever saw.  The little girl actually directed us to some of the bushes and we picked a few to sample.  The berries were very small but damn, they tasted like blueberries, crazy.

So we got our fill of the beautiful views and we had a mental clock on us as we only had limited time available at the park as we had to start pushing back south this afternoon due to our tight schedule.  Cindy had wanted to see another area of the park called Jordan’s Pond which supposedly had trails that would be good for EUC riding.  When we were in the visitor shop up top a park employee warned us that parking down there is very difficult as you get later in the day. (It was close to noon)  Wow, she wasn’t kidding.

So as we descended the mountain and approached Jordan’s Pond we ran into a lot of brake lights.  There was a grumpy looking older woman park ranger stopping traffic.  Evidently the lots were full and she was only allowing vehicles in once one left.  A lot of people gave up after sitting there 15 minutes and we were close to doing the same.  We caught an unexpected lucky break when the woman actually waved us through.  We found exactly one open spot in the lower lot and felt very fortunate to have grabbed it.

So when I looked at the map I saw a trail that was along the lake.  I assumed that was what we were supposed to be riding on.  We geared up and headed down a steep hill to the bank of the lake.  We quickly discovered this was not a trail to be riding on.  It was narrow, somewhat treacherous, and filled with park visitors.  We headed back up to the car and regrouped.  We decided to ride to the upper lot where another visitor center/restaurant was located.  Through some luck we got pointed in the direction of the carriage trails which are wide, packed gravel roads that are used heavily by bikers.  That was what I was looking for.

I was having a great time cruising the scenic trails.  Cindy was not.  She was feeling unsure of herself riding on the surface.  We still put in maybe a couple miles of trail riding which was cool.  We were asked about the wheels a ton, just like we have been pretty much anywhere we rode on the trip.  People are just fascinated by them.  When I get back I plan to get stickers made that I can stick on the wheels to make it very easy to tell people where to get more info from.

As we were making our way back to the car on a path more designed for walking than wheels I had to step off the wheel when I hit a high lipped root or stone while going very slow.  I tried to grab the wheel to keep it upright but I had the seat on it so the handle was not accessible.  As a result the wheel dropped to it’s side as the tire spun rapidly, adding a few more battle scars to the exterior.  Mechanically the wheel seemed fine as I rode it back to the car.

We pulled out of Acadia National Park knowing we could have easily spent two full days there seeing all the natural beauty.  As we stopped for lunch on the way out we talked about how miserable it would have been if we stuck with our original Portland plan.  The three and a half hour drive would have meant we would have arrived at the park right at the worst possible time.  We likely would have spent almost our entire time there trying to find a f’ing place to park.

So we are now doing a pretty strong push back south, having reached the turnaround point in our journey.  We have a room booked in Worcester, MA, instead of staying in Maine like we originally planned.  Putting in the extra time now will set up our last three days of travel to be more enjoyable with a little time to relax and breathe.



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