My Route

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Day 1: Monday, 2nd July. Destination: Motor Inn, Bucksport, Maine

It’s hard to avoid the impatience and expectation that accompany setting off on a long journey, and I’d anticipated leaving early after breakfast. Ideally, a breakfast of eggs & home-fried potatoes straight off the griddle, in an American-style diner sitting on tall chairs at a chrome counter listening to old guys talking about fishing while a friendly waitress kept our coffees topped up. But we had to take it slow: E&E had to get their bike cases to the depot which was sending them on to Toronto (their finishing point), and both Edward and I had some last-minute fiddling to do with our bikes. Good news is that we had our breakfast, pretty much as described, at a place next to the hostel. Then, to try to keep delays to a minimum, we split up: Ewa in a taxi with the cases, Edward & I to the bike shop, where we planned to rendezvous. The rest of the morning trickled away. Edward’s brakes / suspension weren’t quite right and Chris was doing a thorough job getting them sorted. Ewa arrived so we went searching for fruit smoothies and muffins. Perhaps we were all a bit anxious that we still had our day’s cycling ahead of us, but there was nothing much to be gained by talking about it.

We finally set off in the sunshine at 12:30pm along a scenic high road overlooking the coast of Bar Harbor. It was about then, on the first incline, that the truth of the matter dawned on me: here I was, setting off on the first day of my cycle trip across America and I had no idea if I was fit and strong enough to do it. The unfamiliarity of an elegant new bike with clever gears and pedal cleats, a fully-loaded pair of panniers and handlebar-bag – even a new set of cycle clothes – surely all little more than a costume to disguise the victory of aspiration over common sense. But, as grey clouds gathered and it started to rain I found myself settling down, and from that moment on my instinct was to avoid such thoughts: if I could get through the day without causing myself any physical damage, then I could carry on tomorrow. It wasn’t going to help weighing myself against the enormity of the journey. I had to trust that my training, planning, common-sense and a bit of luck would be sufficient. If not, then I could always jump a freight train for the middle bit, or spend my summer fishing on the banks of a New England river…

We crossed onto the mainland in the rain. Not quite the dazzling starting line I’d imagined - more a succession of island hops over low, grey bridges. After which, the 46 miles through lovely New England farmland to Bucksport seemed to take a long time and we didn’t arrive at our motel till 6pm. The town, on the banks of the Penobscot River, seemed pretty much deserted, but a friendly chap guided us across the bridge to the local diner. We’d made it through our first day without accident, and found food and shelter. All we have to do is the same again tomorrow, right?