“Purely Acadia” Bike Vacation

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June 23-28, 2002

It was the VBT catalog that got us!  (Vermont Bicycle ToursUpdate: VBT is now known as Sojourn. We have been looking at it longingly over the years, with its alluring photographs of intriguing tours all over the world, and saying, “Wouldn’t it be fun to……?”  So last summer when we heard there was a family wedding in New England, we decided to go for it!  After all, we’re healthy!  Why put it off? Deciding which tour to take was the next hurdle to overcome.  Since Maine is Ann’s home state and a piece of her heart still lives there, Acadia National Park was the natural choice.

While in the decision-making phase, we met Bob & Vivian Losser, from Swainsboro, GA, on the Rattlesnake Roundup Ride.  They were sporting VBT tee shirts and we struck up a conversation.  They had been on the very same tour!  That was the clincher!  Hearing first hand what we might expect in addition to their unqualified endorsement left us no room for doubt. VBT would supply our bikes (hybrids), water bottles, helmets, and a tee shirt.  They also provided detailed route maps and we would be allowed to cycle at our own pace and enjoy our surroundings.  We had the option of bringing pedals and saddles (which Michael did) & whatever else we’d like, but opted for less baggage!  All meals were included except for a few.  There were optional activities recommended after the ride as well as many interesting things to see and history to learn along the trail each day.

We checked into the Bar Harbor Inn on Sunday and had a get-acquainted meeting with our group before sitting down to a shore dinner (lobster feast) together. There were 17 on our tour besides the 2 leaders: 3 sisters on a reunion, 4 singles and 5 couples….average age mid 40’s.  Beautiful weather greeted us the next morning.  On Monday, after a sumptuous breakfast in the Inn dining room overlooking the harbor, we were fitted to our bikes, got instructions for the day and headed out.  Facing us was a long climb up into Acadia National Park and the carriage roads built over a period of 27 years by J.D. Rockefeller. These gravel paths weave through the woods, up and down hills around pristine lakes.  Ocean views peek through occasionally.  Sixteen hand-cut granite bridges connect these lovely carriage roads, which were built as a refuge from autos.   The only other people we saw were on bikes, horses or foot.  “The Maine woods resonated with my soul and I knew I was home!”, says Ann.  Lunch that day was on our own at the Jordan Pond House, famous for their steaming popovers.  Yum!  We ate on the lawn overlooking Jordan Pond with “The Bubbles” (2 round mountains) beyond.  There was a 15 or a 26 mile option for riding that day.  Supper together in the dining room of the Bar Harbor Inn overlooking Frenchman’s Bay was sumptuous!
 
 

Very early (4:15 am) Tuesday morning the three sisters, a tour guide, and the 2 of us met to watch the sun rise.  We drove the van from sea level up to Cadillac Mountain (1530 ft elevation), where the sun’s rays first touch the continental USA each day.  Not only were we treated to a spectacular sunrise, there was a full moon setting at the same time!  On the way down, we saw a cyclist heading for the top.  Of course that gave Michael an idea for the following morning! After breakfast, we rode around the park on the Loop Road, with a lovely picnic prepared by our tour guides.  Some of the highlights were: seeing a peregrine falcon nest (through binoculars!), Thunder Hole, Otter Cliffs and Sand Beach (where the water rarely gets above 50 degrees). Ann hiked up beyond to take photos (see right) while Michael opted for the nearly vertical climb up the Beehive, which is “not for people afraid of heights”.  Either a 15 or 22 mile route was available that day. We opted to go whale watching later that afternoon, and it was well worth the trip!  We saw several types of whales as well as Puffins, seals and many sea birds.  Others in our group chose sea kayaking.  A bowl of Clam Chowder uptown made a perfect end to the day.


 

After his ride up Cadillac Mountain, Michael joined the rest of us Wednesday for breakfast.  Our bags were then packed and stowed in the van as we cycled toward Southwest Harbor, which is on the “quiet” side of the island.  The weather was a little rainy at first, but it didn’t last more than an hour.  We entered the Park and rode to the Hull’s Cove Visitor’s Center where we saw a film on the history of the area. In 1901, a group of wealthy Mount Desert Island summer residents banded together to set aside the land that is now Acadia National Park.  How thankful we are for their vision!  We rode on to the Atlantic Brewing Company, home of the famous Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale.  We were treated to a tasting and they even served a wonderful root beer!  Lunch was enjoyed later at Pretty Marsh Picnic Area (with its healthy mosquitoes), and then we rode on to visit the Wendell Gilley Museum. He was a bird carver whose work is beautiful.  There is a school in the building to train folks interested in the art.  The terrain was extremely rolling that day and we were glad to roll into our new B & B, The Claremont, a wonderful old wooden hotel built in 1884.  It was a 27 mile day.  The dining room here was wonderful also.  We took a walk up town after dinner looking for ice cream and the power suddenly went out on the entire island!  Arriving back at the Inn, we found most of our group sitting in the living room visiting by candlelight.  It was actually one of the highlights of the trip!
 

Thursday took us by the small fishing village of Bass Harbor to the Swans Island Ferry Dock.  On the trip over, we saw a tugboat pushing a concrete mixer on a barge!   Swan’s Island is not a tourist area and we enjoyed quiet, serene riding.  The first stop was at Saturn Press (see Victoria magazine August 2000) where not only all of the printing is done on antique pre-World War II presses, but layout and record-keeping are both done the old way.  Their beautiful products are sold worldwide. Lunch was a picnic at Hockamock Head Lighthouse.  The view was spectacular.  In fact, there were vistas at every turn on this island!  Returning by the last ferry (which Ann nearly missed!), we stopped at the Ship Harbor Nature Trail and learned a lot about the geology and fauna of the area.  Supper was another lobster feast at a restaurant on a pier in SW Harbor.  The lobsters came off the boat that afternoon!  It was a 22 mile day.

Our last day began by putting all of the bicycles (that’s 19!) atop the van and shuttling to NE Harbor for a cruise around the Cranberry Islands.  On the way, we went up Somes Sound, the only fiord on the eastern US coast; saw a lobsterman pulling in his catch; a lovely lighthouse and a colony of seals.   We had a short visit on Little Cranberry Island where we found the Islesford Historical Museum to be very interesting.  We picked up an eighth grade exam from 1887 that many of us would not be able to pass!  The children who live there today take the ferry to the mainland each day for school.  Our bicycles were waiting back at the harbor and we cycled back the 13 miles over the top of  Acadia National Park to the Bar Harbor Inn where we showered, turned in our gear and said a regretful goodbye.

What would we change about this trip?   Very Little!  We had wonderful maps and route descriptions, but Michael would also like odometers on the bicycles.  I wouldn’t change a thing except to make it last much longer!  Our tour guides, Cindy & Cy were personable as well as efficient and caring.  If you are interested in VBT, check out their web site at: http://www.vbt.com/.  Acadia National Park’s site is: http://www.nps.gov/acad/home.htm


That's Mike with the reflective stripe on his jacket shoulder, and
Ann is just to the right and in front of Mike.
If you have comments or questions, please email Mike or Ann.

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