Portland is Maine's largest city and I was sad to leave it behind as I crossed the bridge and headed north out of town. I had set my sights on a host 88 miles away which after a few hours in I knew was too ambitious and I'd never make it. Google maps sets the pace at 10 miles per hour but I was only making 8-9 with stops for water and to check the route.
I opted against wearing my headphones today and instead listened to the traffic, the birds and tried to immerse myself in my riding. I think the lack of distractions slowed me down further. I also tried to stay clipped into my shoes and pedals longer on the up hills trusting my gears and my strength. My fear is I'll come to a stop and fall over unable to free my feet in time. It didn't happen. I was pleased.
Maine has more miles of coastline than California. Each rocky peninsula has its own name, it's own harbor, it's own mix of year-round and summer people. There are help wanted signs everywhere: in shops, restaurants, drivers wanted, full and part time positions available, inquire within. Business is booming at a cool $11 per hour. In a few years Maine will raise its minimum wage to $15, making this beautiful place a tiny bit more affordable for low wage workers.
I message Ashley, from Warm Showers to see if I could camp in her yard. She has a pop up camper I can stay in. I've passed the LL Bean head quarters, Bowdoin College, gotten lost and found and frustrated and decided to get some ice cream as a final pit stop. There are just as many ice cream stands as sea food restaurants and breweries in this state, that's to say they're everywhere. I get peach and blueberry-pomegranate and eat on an orange plastic chair periodically checking to see if my bike is still leaning against the building. It is. I'm not sure what I'd do if it wasn't.
Ashley is 31 also. She's from upstate New York, has a one year old black dog named Brody and she's the grounds keeper/care taker of a beautiful lakeside farm. There are pigs and chickens, a vineyard, raised vegetable beds, a greenhouse and solar panels galore. I'm overwhelmed with the beauty of the place.
Brody and I go for a swim in the warm lake. It's full of fish. I swim over to the platform and haul myself up to look at them. Brody splashes near the shore, where his paws can touch. I take a paddle board out to the other side of the long, narrow lake and back. What would it be like to live here?
Ashley and I drive around looking for a place to get dinner. The first place has a 49 minute wait. A reggae band is playing at the bar. I wouldn't have minded waiting but we head to a similar place (outdoor tables on the dock, restaurant by the water and it too is full. Third time's a charm. We're very near where I got ice cream. We slurp down oysters that came out of the Dammiscotta River literally feet from where we're sitting. I eat a trio of seafood sliders: fish, crab and lobster and try two new Maine craft brews. Ashley is easy to talk to. We have similar sensibilities at this stage of life. I feel fortunate to have met her.
The stars are overwhelming out here. It's so dark I can see the Milky Way and a billion other stars that the light pollution in Chicago or Cleveland or even Savannakhet prevents from being seen. I retire to the camper to the sound of the crickets.