Monday, July 2, 2012

The Maine Massacre

Our 2010 bicycling vacation in Maine was a delightful experience, not at all a massacre. However, I could not resist paying homage to one of my favorite authors.

Summers in Houston are truly brutal.  We have loved Houston since we moved here in 1988, but every summer presents the challenge of where to vacation to get a break from the heat.  By 2010, we had started bicycling and so we took on the added challenge of making it a bicycling vacation. We considered all kinds of options, from a self organized tour to Adventure Cycling's offerings to winery tours in Napa Valley.  One additional complication was what to do about bikes: should we take our own, and then how do we transport them, or should we rent?  In the end, we settled on a fairly deluxe tour run by a small company in Maine, Summer Feet

Summer Feet's van, which they used to transport us to and from each day's ride.

Although the financial impact of this trip on our family's budget was significant, we wanted to use it to stay in touch with our two grown children and the luxury was an enticement to get them to come along.  Another reason for choosing Summer Feet was to minimize stress. They did all the planning, which included providing the bicycles.  As it happened, the one aspect of the trip that was disappointing was the bicycles provided.  I will say no more about that today, but rather devote all of next week's post to that topic.

The package included five days of riding, five nights of lodging, and most of our meals.  The first three nights we spent in a high end resort, the last two in a luxurious Bed and Breakfast.

Our family enjoying an al fresco breakfast at a period B&B

Breakfasts were provided by the lodging, dinners were different each night, always something special and unique, and picnic lunches were prepared by our guides, Norm and Paul.  (Norm is the owner of Summer Feet.)

Paul and Norm, our guides for the trip.

In order to maximize the quality of the rides, Summer Feet used their van to transport us and our bicycles to the start of each ride and back from the finish.   Thus, the rides did not need to start from where we were staying nor did they need to finish where they started.  Norm and Paul would take turns each day, one of  them riding with us and the other driving the van.  There were about 15 people in our group spanning a wide range of ages, from about 12 years old to about 75 years old.

Almost everything about the trip was magnificent.  The accommodations were luxurious and interesting.  The dinners were each a gourmet delight.  In addition to the cycling, there was one day of sea kayaking and a sailing ship dinner cruise.  Norm and Paul were friendly, helpful, competent, and funny; by the end of the trip we considered them friends. The weather was everything a sweltering Texan could hope for.  The routes were low traffic, gorgeous, and varied.  One special day was the one we spent riding the carriage trails of Acadia National Park.  The only traffic we had to contend with on these hard packed dirt roads was horse-drawn carriages and the route featured an unexpected treat; fresh, wild blueberries right off the bush.  

A carriage trail in Acadia National Park.

The tour we took, "Maine's Gold Coast", was Summer Feet's easiest. My wife, the weakest rider in our family, found it a satisfying challenge but had no trouble completing any of the rides. Each day there were one or two riders who did have trouble finishing and Summer Feet used their van to provide sag support; nobody ever had to ride more than they wanted to.  On the other hand, there were usually options for extending the day's ride.  In our family, we split up into two groups of two so that my wife was always riding with one of her men, while the other two took a more challenging route.   My wife's rides were between 6 and 28 miles long, with 28 being more typical. I managed to set what were then my personal bests in both distance and elevation gain, riding up to the 1532 foot summit of Cadillac Mountain one day and a distance of 48 miles on my longest day.

My wife and older son modeling our jerseys

As a surprise, our older son bought my wife and I custom jerseys for the trip.  He is shown here modeling the copy of mine he bought for himself.  My son's jersey reads "Raulston Strokers", the snarky pseudonym we used for the Modesto Roadmen when we entered the worst part of our adolescence.  "Raulston" was the land developer who created the city of Modesto, and the first city government would have named the city after him but he declined out of modesty.  "Strokers" was chosen for the double entendrĂ©.  You need to be a biochemist to understand my wife's jersey. It refers to a class of proteins that span the cell membrane just as the chain on the front of her jersey spans the zipper.

In summary, if you can squeeze the cost of this trip into your family's budget, we all would heartily recommend it and feel that it is worth every penny.

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