Monday, 30 September 2013

MOVING SOUTH IN THE EAST

I left Portland Maine on a nice day, heading further down the East coast of the USA. The weather was good for a while, New Hampshire state was pretty along the coast, and there was plenty of space to camp. I also met some friendly generous people there.
Then the rain came back, but I managed to mostly find a sheltered camp site, such as this abandoned gazebo on a demolition site.
I had arranged to stay over with Warmshowers host Victoria in Boston, but as I got closer to the city the cycling routes became fewer and the traffic, as usual, heavier. I found Boston to be quite an attractive city, with lots of Harvard students around the riverside central area. I also chatted to a Brazilian guy who took this picture. When I arrived at my host she wasn't home yet, so her neighbours invited me upstairs for supper and a drink while I waited.
So far my encounters with police in the USA have been quite friendly. In Rhode Island state I was camping at the roadside parking area of a nature reserve, when the night shift officer found me there. He was probably quite bored, and wanted to chat about my travels before saying it was OK as long as I left in the morning. Earlier in Maine I had met Ayse and Freddy at a place where I had been camping. They invited me to their home in Connecticut when I passed that way. When I got there they treated me like a special guest, cooking special foods and giving me all sorts of gifts. Only their dog Jake couldn't get used to me, and kept startling everyone with his sudden barking.
The road along the Connecticut coast was rather busy without a shoulder, and one day close to Norwalk I was knocked down by a car (no major damage other than a bruised arm and some small gashes in my leg). While I was taking stock of the situation local massage therapist Tara stopped to chat and I was invited to her friend, Jake's, private island for the night (where I found myself in the middle of a party and met some interesting people). So I guess getting knocked down isn't all bad news.
Daily distances cycled since my last update have been:- Kennabunk 62 km; Portsmouth 51 km; Hampton 35 km; Ipswich 41 km; Boston 71 km; Wrencham 37 km; Putnam 58 km; Mansfield 62 km; and New Britain 58 km. The total distance cycled so far on this journey is 117 308 km.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

DOWN EAST IN NEW ENGLAND

Well, now I'm back in the USA, having crossed from Canada into the state of Maine. This is the third time I've entered the USA on this trip, and the immigration officers at the tiny border post at Vanceboro were by far the friendliest of the lot.
The route which I was following is obviously a major air corridor, as at any given time there were a number of aircraft con-trails overhead.
Once I reached the Atlantic coast I found that the many picturesque villages are not very different from those on the Pacific coast around Puget Sound in Washington state. The big difference around here is probably that Maine is famous for its lobster, whereas Washington has a lot of shellfish.
Also the people who I've met here have been very welcoming. Outside the village of Springfield I asked to camp at the small farm of Tony and Maryanne. Tony is a country musician and songwriter, and I'd just missed their annual weekend bash. The following morning I was treated to a great breakfast, and sent on my way with a tasty lunch pack.
Then, for the first time in about 3 weeks I stayed in luxury at Warmshowers hosts Ted and Laura, in the riverside city of Bangor (it was high time I had a shower and did some laundry, and Ted also gave me a pair of cycling shorts, my remaining shorts were hardly clinging to me anymore).
In this part of the country I've also found that people don't really bother about where I spend the night, sometimes I camp in full view of everybody. There was some unpleasant cold and rainy weather a few days ago, and I took the day off right where I was, camping in the gazebo at a little league ball park. (Not that I needed a day off, as I wasn't cycling very far on these days).
And so, eventually I made it to the East Coast, after crossing North America mostly via Canada, but also partly across the USA.
Currently I'm in the city of Portland, Maine, staying with Warmshowers hosts Steve and Nancy. I've spent the day here getting my pictures sorted out and updating my blog (eventually!). Tomorrow I'll head South down the Eastern coast, towards New Hampshire state.
Daily distances cycled since entering the USA this time are:- Springfield 78 km; Greenbush 63 km; Bangor 47 km; Stockton Springs 45 km; Camden 49 km; Wiscasset 81 km; Yarmouth 55 km; and Portland 38 km. The total distance cycled so far in USA and Canada is 12 207 km (7 629 miles), and the distance cycled from the Pacific to the Atlantic across the continent is 7 033 km (4 396 miles). The total distance which I've cycled so far on this trip is 116 833 km (73 021 miles).

Sunday, 8 September 2013

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

OK, so I knew that the Canadians in Quebec province spoke French, but I didn't really expect them to be soooo French! Except for an innocent little roadside sign announcing "Quebec", I would hardly have noticed that I'd crossed to another province in this vast country.
Then I noticed a number of things (I'm not sure in what sequence!). Every gas station and corner store sold beer! (In Ontario province there were government liquor stores, spread rather thinly across the land). The large grocery stores had different names, and they sold certain different products. All road signs and shop signs were only in French. But perhaps more surprising to me, suddenly people couldn't understand a word I said! (some would tell me - in perfect English - that they don't speak English). I'd been singing praises about the friendliness and hospitality of the Canadians, but now this bunch in Quebec seemed rather rude. However, the longer I stayed in Quebec, the more that perception changed. If I tried to address people in the bit of feeble French which I knew, they would soften up and try their best to assist me. (Sometimes I found myself speaking Spanish rather than French - I suppose that is not surprising after spending so much time in Latin America).
Anyway, I was still following the St Lawrence (Saint Laurent) all the way East through Quebec. There was quite a bit of shipping traffic, but the larger container vessels didn't seem to go any further than Montreal.
Further east at Quebec city there was even a big cruise ship moored in the port. Another difference from some other provinces was that I couldn't cycle on the freeways (but there was always an alternate route, sometimes even a dedicated bike path). In Montreal I accidentally ended up on the freeway, but the patrol car which pulled me over was quite friendly, and simply escorted me to a road along which I could proceed.
Quebec runs along both banks of the St Lawrence, and understandably there are many connecting bridges.
There are a series of dams in the river, forming lakes such as Lac Saint Louis. There are a number of hydro-electric power plants, usually positioned at the dams.
There were many churches, and it seemed that just about every village centred around a large church with twin steeples.
As it turned out, the people of Quebec had no problem with me camping wherever I wished. They regularly directed me to go off and camp in the local town park.
At times the weather was wet and cold, but I generally seemed to find some sort of shelter. Once I camped under the verandah of a visitor info centre, and another time the only reasonable shelter I could find was the glass covering around the local village post boxes.
From Quebec I entered into New Brunswick provice, the only officially bilingual province of Canada. However, the further I moved SE, and away from Quebec, the less evident the French became. I had thought of going all the way to Halifax, but I changed my mind and from New Brunswick I headed towards the USA border and the State of Maine.
Daily distances cycled since entering Quebec have been:- Beauharnois 106 km; Montreal 109 km; Becancour 124 km; Saint Croix 89 km; Montmagny 118 km; Port Joli 61 km; Riviere Du Loup 61 km; Saint Honore 71 km; Degelis 73 km; Saint Leonard 72 km; Aroostook 69 km; Hartland 80 km; Nackawic 88 km; and Vanceboro (USA border) 86 km. The total distance cycled across Canada is 6 577 km, and the total distance cycled so far on this journey is 116 377 km.