We were looking forward to three big things today! Mt. Washington of the White Mountains, actually entering Maine, having a clandestine meeting with long lost, never met before, friends.
I love Mt. Washington. This probably comes from my one time desire to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. Mt. Washington is one of those difficult peaks that are completely unpredictable (from a hiking perspective). When visiting the mountain by vehicle you are "safer" from weather vagaries and can usually come back another day. From a hiking perspective you kinda have to take what you get. With average highs of 54 and 53 degrees in July and August, respectively, you can assume that it will at least be chilly. And those are the warm months.
Mt. Washington is 6288 ft in height (1917 m) and the highest peak in the Northeast U.S. For 76 years it held the record for the highest wind gust directly measured (by man) at the Earth's surface, 231 mph (372 km/h). The mountain is also famous for extremely erratic weather that can be very dangerous to anyone on the mountain.
We were last here in 2007, and didn't have a lot of time. Instead of attempting to hike to the peak (can you say sucking wind greater than it whips by the mountain?), we took the famous Mount Washington Cog Railway. The Cog Railway is the world's first mountain-climbing cog railway and the second steepest. Average grade is 25%, with the max grade being 37.41%. At that time the coal engine was still heavily in use and this is what we rode to the summit, since then steam and biodiesel engines have taken over.
Here are some pictures from the 2007 trip.
|The only way I could get the base and summit in the same shot.|
|Jacob's ladder is a 300 ft long trestle with a grade of 37.41%.|
This time around Oilburner had the scheme in his head to ride his bike up the Auto Road. The Mt. Washington Auto Road, opened in 1861, is America's oldest man-made tourist attraction. This 7.6 mile drive covers 4500 ft elevation and is 87% paved and 13% gravel. Yes. I know those statistics. :)
We saw the storm coming on radar Monday night. His only hope was that it would blow through quickly. Waking up to the raindrops tinking against the window dashed that hope. The availability of the auto road is weather and condition dependent. Can you guess that it might not be open to motorcycles in rain and winds?
In the big picture we only needed to get to Portland today, about 100 miles away. Our original plan to ride the Auto Road would have taken a chunk of time and gotten us to Portland in the early afternoon. With the rain still falling and the Auto Road out, we pulled out the iPad's and maps to look for alternative destinations.
The light of day (not to mention restful sleep) allowed me to view the area. This is a happening area!
|The airport is just to the right of the parking lot.|
This is about it. The setting is wonderful. The world is quiet. I would love to return here.
While I was covering the maps I started seeing some interesting city names: Berlin, Norway, Paris, Poland, Naples. HHhmmmm....I could have a themed field day!! I mapped out a route that would take us through the Whites, into Berlin, followed by Norway, then on to Portland.
We obviously weren't in any rush with the rain. The storm should blow over by noon, so we took that as our approximate depature time. I told you, no rush. :)
|Mount Washington is somewhere back in those clouds.|
We arrived in Norway around 2 pm starving. It was a long time since 8 am breakfast. I stopped us at the first place I smelled. Ari's Pizza. (Why can't I find my image of the pizza place??)
|I guess only the pizza is important? Best pizza since CA.|
Now we were running really late to get into Portland and we had people waiting!! Our GPS' were pointing us to our lodgings. We were actually going to be staying someplace for two whole nights! Gasp. The luxury of not having to load the bikes in the morning. What were we going to do with ourselves?
I mentioned Airbnb earlier. If you don't know, it is a website where people can advertise space they have available for rent. It can be as simple as a spare room in their home, a basement apartment, or an entire house. A host will post a listing for their space and a guest will look through postings to find something suiting their needs. All payments go through Airbnb. Guest funds are held and the host is paid 24 hours after the guest checks in. This site allows comments, ratings, and referrals, so you can have confidence in expectations.
We were told that hotel/loding in Portland can be expensive. After a modicum of research we discovered that was definitely true. This is where I learned about Airbnb. And I learned about a wonderful carriage house (living quarters above a garage) near downtown Portland. The place had good reviews, and despite Oilburner's reservations (since he wasn't coming up with any alternatives), I booked it. Very good move on my part!
We arrived to find that the owners had cleared a space in their garage where we could park our bikes. The room was wonderfully comfortable and fully self contained. We had a bed, small dining table, sofa with ottoman, shower, coffee maker, mini-fridge, and a desk. The place was clean and exactly right for us. The owners were super friendly, willing to sit on the patio and tell us all about the area, places to go, places to eat, everything. We would have pounced on that, but we had someone waiting that was just as knowledgeable AND knew the best
Mike of Scooter for Fun, his sidekick (or is that the other way around) Tom of Scooter by the Sea and Mike's Beautiful Redheaded Wife were waiting on us! I called Mike and he set the train in motion. Tom stopped by for a quick hello before heading off to his oh-so-difficult and boring night job with the Sea Dogs. Rough life! Mike and "R" (BRW) kindly offered to drive us to dinner so we didn't have to get on the bikes (and could drink!).
Dogfish Cafe was it. Dark atmosphere and good food, and soon had us talking like long lost friends. Then Mike whipped out turn-by-turn instructions for our proposed route of the morrow. Boy, just as if he had known my love of maps! However...as much as I appreciated the route info, after 4 hard days of navigation I was content to sit back, follow someone else's taillight, and become thoroughly
After dinner began the driving tour of Portland. We were introduced to the Portland Observatory.
I must admit, I loved the feel of Portland. Wonderful culture and art mixed in with a good nightlife; feeling safe being on the streets downtown at 10 o'clock at night. Don't have that in Atlanta. Sigh.
Oilburner and I were starting to nod off in the back seat. Mike and BRW drove us home with instructions to sleep as late as we wanted. When we were up and ready to go, give them a shout. Mike would swing by and lead us to their place for breakfast and meet up with Tom to start our day.
YEEHAW!!!!! Bring on the Sun!