Sunday, October 31, 2010

When I saw her standing there

Train, Ferry, Train, Train, Bike, Bus, Bike.  Cape.  I'm writing now from near Provincetown, MA, at the end of Cape Cod.  The sun is glistening off the ocean, and the wind has died down to what I would consider normal.
After gathering myself and resting on a rainy Wednesday in Brooklyn, I strolled around town and finally to the Manhattan School of Music, where Emily had gotten me some free tickets to an orchestra concert.  Beethoven's 8th Symphony, a Prokofiev violin concerto, and a piece by Poulenc.  The violin soloist was wildly exciting to hear play.  Had a slice of world-renowned NY pizza, and Emily gave me vegetables, then I took a train home to rest up - the plan was to get up at 4:45am to catch a train from Penn Station to Providence, RI (and bike from there) ...

... and sometimes it's just not worth making plans!  What I thought would be a simple journey, turned into a series of frustrations that reminded me to just keep letting go.  Turns out, Amtrack doesn't allow bicycles on their trains - unless you pack your bike in a box and take the baggage train (that only ever leaves at 2am).  Because, as someone sarcastically pointed out to me, Amtrack is just doing so well, why should they try to encourage more customers?!  So I tried a couple more things, pushing my loaded bike around Penn Station trying to find some vehicle that would transport me and my "burden."  Finally, it ended up that I would take a MTA train down Long Island, and catch a ferry across the LI Sound.

Long Island is quite a cool place, they have trees!  I very quickly noticed the change of everybody's demeanor as we rolled away from downtown NY.  I got into Port Jefferson, hopped onto a Ferry, and happily floated north.  Then in Bridgeport, CT, where the ferry landed, I caught a couple trains as far east as I could get - Saybrook, CT.  At long last, I climbed onto my bike and put foot to pedal.  It was sunny and the leaves were at a new sort of peak.  A perfect fall day, and my route took me through some truly quaint parts of CT.  A local fellow on a bike directed me to a bike shop, and suggested a place I could safely camp for the night.

It was probably only a 15 mi. ride, but so refreshing!!  got my bike fixed and sat to watch a high school girls' soccer senior game.  met some nice folks - I was in Niantic, which is apparently among the top places to live in the country (by some measures).  As the sun set, I biked down the road into the back entrance of a park on the beach.  I ended up setting up camp in front of a tree line on the beach, between a boardwalk and the high tide line.  Wasn't quite sure if I was allowed to be there, but it seemed fine.  Camping on the beach presents new challenges - sand, waves, and tide.  The waves were crashing constantly, as it seems they do!  My only security in the tent is being able to hear what's going on around me, but with wave sounds, it's just blind faith that I'm safe.  A good exercise, to take away that sense of hearing.  I slept for a couple hours without the fly up, because the stars were magnificent, and the air pleasant.  At one point I awoke to a light on the tent, and what I thought was the tail end of a person speaking - I could track the course of blood and adrenaline flowing through my whole body.  From then on, I just had to assume that someone knew I was there, and hope they were neither malicious nor law-enforcing.  The train went by every now and then.  Then I woke up, sat up, and threw off the fly, to reveal the brightest half moon lighting up the whole bay.  In one of my next vivid dreams, I did the same thing - sat up in my tent, and looked out on the bay - and there was a whole party of sailing, surfing, pirate ships, and several dozen jubilant folks swimming and laughing, all bathed in the florescent blue-black shine of the moon.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the nights while camping are almost as interesting/exciting as the days.  for probably half the night, as the tide was rolling in, I kept checking to make sure the water wasn't about to wash away my tent - because it sounded so loud it must be right below me.  It was a relief to see the tide finally receding.  Every time I awoke and opened the tent, I looked out on the moonlit star-speckled connecticut bay I had all to myself.  Joyous, really.  I got up before there was any hint of sunrise, packed in the moonlight, and was on the road as the sky began to lighten.

My morning ride took me into New London, CT, where I figured I'd give public transit one last chance.  I waited for the bus station to open, and the attendant (among the more laid-back folks I've met all trip!) sold me a ticket to Providence, like it was no big deal, and he said the bike was no problem.  But the bus driver descended the stairs wagging his finger at me and the bike, saying "No, we don't do that.  Never have, never will!"  to which I responded, "That's a terrible shame!" trying to counter the finality of his statement with some honest sentiment.  I'm beginning to see why bicycle activism is so necessary - if no one hounds Greyhound to accommodate pedal power, will it ever change? (because in my mind, an america with more people biking around is a better america ....).  I understand the inconveniences of a larger, strangely-shaped piece of luggage, but it's really just that - an extra piece of luggage.  It seems a foolish discrimination.  I would happily pay the same "extra luggage" as is usually available.
Anyway, the man who sold me the ticket came outside and talked with the driver for a few minutes, and the driver at long last gave me a resigned nod to put my bike in the luggage compartment (there was plenty of room there, but maybe wouldn't have been on a more crowded bus).  So thank you to the chill bus station attendant.

I got out at Providence (which is a fine city, everyone is well-dressed it seems), and this time had committed to biking the rest of the way (because it was nice country after all, and I had time to make P-town by Halloween).  I eventually found my way out of the city, with the help of those green bike route signs (so helpful, though sometimes misleading!).  I would like to point out this pattern of sentence-then-parenthetical-addition (because I just really enjoy it!).  I really started covering some ground - measuring it now, it looks like almost 70 miles, a new daily record (10 mi before bus, 55-60 after)!  

The title of the blog refers to the song I've been singing since my first day on the bike, and comes up every time I think about the rotations/minute of my pedaling.  I've been told to keep a fast pace with little resistance, about 80-90 beats per minute or faster.  I haven't actually checked, but I know that a lot of those danceable beatles songs are around 80 bpm - and "When I saw her standing there" came into my head first, and it has stuck.  I know my pace is pretty good if the song feels faster than it should when I sing it.  So, on most days, I check in by singing "well she was just 17, if you know what i mean ..." and adjust accordingly.

So I found my groove riding east from Providence.  There was only one glitch in the trip, which began when the 12.6 miles I was waiting for "Cohannet Rd" started to feel like it had been much more.  Just when I was getting ready to find a gas station for a map, I came upon it, Cohannet Rd!  So I head down that, looking for "Briggs St." on the right.  After 10 or 15 minutes of riding, I found myself at a T intersection with a major road.  A woman from a palm/tarot reading store came outside as I looked confusedly at my directions - I asked her what this road was called, and she said "44" - the same road I had been driving 12.6 miles on a few miles back.  I told her I was trying to get to Cape Cod, and she flung her hand up the road, saying "You want to go that way."  Well, she must have been upset at me not wanting to get a psychic reading, because she very blatantly pointed me due west (which i realized a mile into from the sun's location ..).  I asked for directions from two Click and Clack-like fellows in a car, and turned back east.  Well, biking that way, it all looked quite familiar.  I had just done a big 5 mile loop to get right back where I'd started (add 5 to my daily record!).  The first entrance to Cohannet Rd. had been obscured by construction, and traveling the opposite way down it led to my missing a road on the left instead of the right.  So ... detours happen.

When I got near the Cape, I stopped at a store labeled "Bakery."  Had a nice long conversation with the woman there, over a cran-apple brownie.  She's soon going to take the world by storm with her 52 flavors of cannoli!!!  check out to look at pictures of her artfully-crafted cakes (she proudly showed me her "Noah's Arc" creation).  She then proceeded to send me away with about 10 pounds of baked goods - brownies, cupcakes, danishes, whoopie pie, and a little chocolate cake.  And her motherly instinct intuited that I might need some big plastic bags, which I had been planning to stop for that day!  Thanks, Lil!

I made it over to Scusset Beach, north and east of both of the Cape Cod Canal bridges.  The highway  between the two is not meant for bikes, and I ended up on the raised gravel shoulder for a few miles.  Yuck.  But the beach was a great recommendation (from Lil, I think) - a few people around, but much more open public space.  I set up in the dark, said hi to a supa nice fisherman, and turned in.  I could see the lighthouse of Provincetown!  Sleep was again deep but spotty, and the wind was tossing my tent so much that I had to use my one earplug to stay sane.  Once more, the magnificence of the half moon graced my own private beach home for the night.

I slept in until the eastern sky was lightening, and biked back west with the red-orange of the rising sun lighting up burnt oak leaves on all sides.  Not really burnt, but ... you get it.  I warmed up in Dunkin' Donuts and charged my phone, then head (illegally) over the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod.  I took smaller roads through some really nice little towns - the Cape has many more communities than I usually imagine it having.  Then I got some good routes from the internet, which was fortunate, because I was coming up on the Cape Cod Rail Trail - one of the nicest rides I've had all trip!  I made another record, as far as I know - 15 mi in one hour (which is nothing crazily fast, but without any obstacles or cars, I could go faster than I usually do).

This was Saturday, and when I stopped to eat in Wellfleet, there will little children parading in their costumes!  Someone leaned out his car window and said to me, "You even look like a pumpkin!" as though we had been having a conversation about how I had been planning my halloween costume.  Which I had been, but who knows how he knoew that.  I then stopped to get some "tendrils" (stripped rose branches) and "blood berries" (autumn olive!!), and completed the ride to Julie and Gail's cottage on the bay.  Gail was already getting ready for the evening, dressing as the Queen of Death.  Julie was already down at Twisted Sister, her pizza and ice cream shop, ready for a busy evening.

After a dinner at the shop, Gail got to work handing out coupons, I wandered the streets for a while, and came back to get a guitar to play.  The costumes and festivities were pretty rad, too much to begin describing!  I'll get some pictures up, if I get my hands on any.  It was definitely worth getting here to take part in Halloween, Provincetown style.  Dancing in the streets, spooky/hilarious/ridiculous/naughty folks and costumes.  Oh, and Nancy from Hartland, VT made a return appearance in my trip, helping out for the weekend at the shop.

It's really swell here, and I'm once again gathering myself together.  I had a really good long "thinking" session this morning, after spending so much time all trip trying not to think too much, and being in the moment.

I keep asking Julie and Gail, "Is it always this windy," and now I'm wondering, "Is the sunset always this perfect?"  It overtakes the entire landscape, which is impressively vast to begin with.  Looking forward to more relaxing days out here!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Philly, Wedding, NYC

Most of my photos to date are online:

After staying with the Asbells for a couple of nights, I head into west Philadelphia to stay with Sophie (daughter of previous VT host, Nancy).  Went to the oldest botanical garden in N. America (Bartram's), which was a nice bit of living things after the shock of city landscape.  Oldest ginko tree on the continent!  At the apt. made some cookies, chatted, played guitar, then went to a vinyasa yoga class.  Again, a nice way to balance out my city shock.  There was a guy playing singing bowls in the lobby, which added some great healing to the evening.  Then he broke a pencil in half with a piece of paper!  Oh, and Sophie/Autumn/Kaylyn have darned cute kitten!

The next day, I took a good bike ride around the city, downtown to a farmers market (that turned out to have only a couple vendors ...), Penn's Landing, Ben Franklin Pkwy, and a great loop up and down the river in Fairmont Park.  Finally riding again, and in some lovely sunshine and a reset clock on fall foliage!  Went to see the Mamet play, "Oleanna," just down the road.  Intense two-person piece that explores the challenging reality of multiple perspectives on a single situation.  More music with Sophie and Kaylyn, and reading "Mycellium Running" at the apt.

On Friday, my Dad (!) picked me up to whisk me away to the Bradley-Asbell wedding.  Stayed with them and some parents of my hs friends - a fun group to hang out with at the hotel!  The wedding was concise, in Philly, then over to the reception at a lovely and classy country club.  Rich Asbell, father of Sarah (the bride) gave a welcome speech and toast, that led into me singing his poem "Sarah, Nothing's Changed" while the two of them danced.  It was a marvelously sweet moment for everybody!  You can listen and/or watch the song from these links:
Went on to have a really fun time eating and dancing, and then finding a piano in the lounge (I was offered a regular Friday gig at the club, which I had to respectfully decline ...).  Rowdy singing shuttle ride and Phillies game afterwards.  Ha, at the hotel, after Philly struck out in the 9th, one wedding-dressed bride - there were a handful present - muttered in disbelief, "****, we lost," as though nothing good had happened to her that day, and now there was no more reason for hope in the world!!

From the hotel, I got a ride (lots of automobile transport for me, lately) up to northern Jersey, where I got to hang out with Kevin Asbell for some meals and a movie, before we caught a morning bus into Manhattan.  On the ride in, Kevin gave me his version of how to act in NYC to stay alive.  We agree to disagree on a lot of things!  In general, I'm always going to try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, smile when I walk down the street, be confident but relaxed in whatever I'm doing, and notice that 99% of everybody around is on the same compassionate human page as I am.  But he prepared me to think in terms of worst potential scenarios and helped me navigate public transit all the way to his apartment on the upper east side (84th/3rd, I think that's what you'd call it?  I'm still getting the hang of neighborhood names).  The city seems designed for thin, unburdened pedestrians (not loaded bicycles).

I do have to say in general that as soon as I got into the city/suburb areas down here, the degree to which people's actions are motivated by fear increased exponentially.  I recognize that this may seem a necessary modus operandi, but I know we have the free will and choice to be motivated by positive things, and love begets love without a doubt.

I decided to bicycle to Brooklyn to stay with Chas (another hs and soccer friend) - and had a great ride!  Through Central Park (what a nice park!  I understand how people can live in this city, with such places to recharge), where I fortunately made a wrong turn that gave me some more time to ride around there, then over to and down the riverside on western manhattan, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and down into Brooklyn.   As soon as I got over the bridge, the mood was much calmer, and people were smiling.  I ate at "Healthy Nibbles," including Emmy's macaroons, of Ithaca fame!  Then met Chas at his apartment, biked around with him for a little while, and settled in.  It's a relief to be able to store baggage and bike, and be a free pedestrian!

I hopped on a train to see my friends Garrett and Jon, from Ithacappella days - Garrett was playing an open mic (Potion Collective, in the basement of a rad industrial building-turned-apts) with their bandmate (the band is called Broken Glow, just moved here from Hartford, CT) Brenner, which turned into me sitting in on keys, Jon singing, and a drummer and bassist hopping up, too.  "Heard it through the Grapevine," an original, and into "Good Times, Bad Times."  Awesome fun, everyone dancing!

The subway is pretty swell here, gets you anywhere, any time.  Makes me pine for the Tokyo trains, too.  On Wednesday, I saw IC friends for some great conversation - Tom and Lendi (didn't know they were back from Bangladesh!) in brookyln, and IC friend Emily in central park.  We stumbled across a John Lennon tribute, a marble circle on the ground, engraved "Imagine," trimmed with roses and petals.  Someone sat playing guitar and singing "Love," and there was a great magic in the air.  In the evening, I met Chas for a lecture at Cooper Union on "Passive Buildings," by the creator of the concept, and American director of some implementation.  Basically, the idea is to insulate a building to the point of being airtight (we have the means to do this cheaply!), and controlling airflow at one exact point.  Heat is retained easily, reducing energy costs immensely.  Good walk/train home, and to Trader Joe's to be amazed at low prices and high ceilings!

So I'm planning on getting to Cape Cod for Halloween.  I really wanted to bike the length of Long Island and take a ferry, but it looks like the best way to get out of the city and to Provincetown by Sunday (waiting out today's rain) will be to take a train to Providence, RI, and bike the rest of the way (2-3 days).  Needless to say, I'm just about exploding with the need to get back on the bicycle for more than a couple hours.  Time to put the "bicycle" back in "bicycle trip!!"  I imagine the city is fun on Oct. 31st, but I can feel myself deteriorating for too many reasons.  It will be so nice to ride under my own power again, cover some ground, breathe some nice air, and sleep outside once more!  I haven't been cold in way too long.  But it was certainly nice to discover some of Brooklyn and Manhattan and to see friends here.  It's overwhelming how much is going on, and how many people are congregated to take advantage of this excitement.  For me, country roads, take me home to the place I belong!  Or, rather, take me to Cape Cod, then west across Massachusetts, through to the magnificent woods of New York State!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blue Hill Birthday

The last couple days at Tinder Hearth in Brooksville were a ball, absolutely great.  Kept working on music with Living Daylight, and we played for Fiona's mom's 50th birthday party.  A perfect autumn celebration.  I haven't had such a fun time performing in a while, getting people dancing and smiling.  There were up to maybe 10 people playing for a lot of the tunes, a horn trio, backup singers, etc.
Yesterday, Jared, Ruthie, and Gabriel brought me down near Philly.  Seemed very abrupt to leave the Bakery where I'd come to feel quite comfortable and familiar.  It was pretty crazy to be driving on the interstate, covering hundreds of miles in a matter of hours!  Kind of comical, and kind of like magic.  As we got into NH, I realized that it had been over a month since I got into Maine.  It treated me very well, and I'll surely be back soon!

Very broad, undetailed entries for the last couple weeks, and I also took very few pictures.  It often seems to be that the better life gets, the less documented it becomes!  Anyone who was has some pictures of hurricane island, Tinder Hearth, or anywhere I've been, please send them to me and i'll put them up on the blog!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tinder Hearth Bakery and Hurricane Island

This week's update!  Here's the basic story ....

I've taken up temporary residence at the Tinder Hearth Bakery in Brooksville, Maine.  I happened upon the place after too many people mentioned it for me to not go.  And sure enough, these folks are for real.  Baking bread, growing food, playing music and hosting open mics, building community inside and out ....  I offered to help out with things for a day or two, and it turned out that for the weekend a bunch of people were sailing out to Hurricane Island for a work party celebration.  Sounded too good to miss!

We showed up at the marina, and gathered a force of 29 people and 4 sailboats.  Bakery folks, boat shop apprentices, 4 captains, Portlandites, and nature education center staff ....  Long story short, it was a beautiful 11 mile ride out, cutting between islands, and the mile-long island provided us a warm welcome.  Cabins, sauna, lake, rocky shore, fire ... we did some cleaning up, construction, and trail maintenance so that the site can be revived into a Center for Science and Leadership.  I hadn't even realized, but we were part of the 10-10-10 save-the-planet work party.  See:

Two days, one night there, then an epic return trip across choppier waters and stronger winds!  Sunsets, cresent moon, baby, dogs, fine friends, wood stoves, numb hands.

Back at the bakery, I still wanted to help out, because clearly they are doing good and important work here.  I got into a project painting the front, and have been enjoying the sunny and starry days and nights.  Harvested apples and sunflower seeds yesterday.  I'm eating lots of bread.  And they have a fender Rhodes here, so I've been happily playing that.  Last night I sat in on a band practice, and it was a blast.  Lots of reggae and uplifting stuff.  There's a show Sunday, so it looks like I'm staying on around here (woo!) until then, so I can play.  I'll get a ride in a car to the wedding in Philly with Jerod/Ruthie/baby Gabriel, who are going to VA.  So the biking portion of my bicycling trip has been put on hold!  I imagine I'll get back at it from PA, and head to MA or who knows where.  It is pretty icy up here at night now, but hopefully some southern exposure will change things.  But I'm feeling totally lost in the sweet and warm welcome of the good heart warriors of Tinder Hearth.

That's the update, more later.  Pictures some day, perhaps, but don't hold your breath!  Generally, I'm feeling great and loving the world - overwhelmed at how much good there is around us.  Peace, t.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Common Ground Fair, and beyond!

Alright, I am now sitting in the home of Molly and Doug in Sedgwick, ME, right on the Atlantic Coast.  There is rain, once again, and I was fortunate to have mostly missed it in my biking!  I can lay low here in good company, and update the blog.

When the story last left off, I think I had just come into Unity, Maine.  I found "Crosstrax," the self-described "locavore hub," bakery, deli, produce market, cafe, and ice cream shop.  I met some folks from the Maine Primitive Skills School (in Augusta), and also this nice fellow from Minnesota (I still have yet to meet a Minnesotan who isn't swell).  It was approaching sunset as I was about to set off for the woods near Unity College to camp, but William (from MN) offered his back yard, right down the road.  Much easier!  Did some laundry and slept soundly.  The next day, I stopped by Crosstrax again, discovered/played a piano, met another Primitive Skills fellow, tried out his fixed-gear bike while he tried out my ride, and then set off for the fair!

After a quick ride in the country, I came upon a big open field, roped off for parking, and swung around to the "main" entrance to the MOFGA fairgrounds.  MOFGA = Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association = creators and organizers of the fair.  There was an open gate, and as I passed through it, looking out on tents, buildings, gardens, and trees, I felt like I had "made it" somewhere!  Woohoo!  I rode around the inner perimeter of the fairgrounds, smiling at friendly-looking volunteers and bicycling children, surveying the place, before I asked where to go!

I was directed to the office, where I was asked if I had any soldering experience.  I said I had soldered a toy train once, probably 15 years ago with my brother.  That was sufficient for their needs, and I was sent out back to the radio shack, where Tristan showed me 100 waning batteries that were being reworked from radio use to power temporary light fixtures.  My job was to solder stripped wires to each one of them, and he would work out the rest.  With some pointers from Tristan, I got in the groove of it, and besides a break for lunch, I soldered for 7 hours straight!!  Then on to dinner ... I got there late, but there was plenty of food left.  These MOFGA folks don't mess around with meals!  Mostly donated foods from smaller organic operations in the area.  At dinner, I met Paul, a 40-yr-old psychologist from Massachusetts who would show me the ropes of volunteer life, and become a good friend!  I hadn't set up camp yet, so he directed me to site #28 in the woods, where he always had wanted to camp, but he was attached "his" regular site, further in.  As it was dark, I had to trust that it was as swell as he suggested, and I set up camp.

As I got to sleep, I knew it was going to be a good festival.  There were only a couple dozen staff and volunteers floating around, but lots of tents up, and it was clear that a lot had gone into organizing all year.  I picked up a schedule for the workshops during the fair, and was overwhelmed with the options .... everything from low-impact forestry to sheep dog demonstrations to seed saving to polarity therapy to knot tying to stories from indian residential school to edible landscaping.  4 stages of music, with wandering entertainers; tents and tents full of Maine craftspeople, artists, businesses, and food growers; stables of horses/cows/sheep/goats/rabbits/chickens/etc; and the exhibition of hall with a county fair-style vegetable competition.

A full day of Fair setup!  I woke up in the middle of the night before, wide awake, to a nearly full moon - tons of clear thoughts racing through my head.  At sunrise I had some breakfast in the kitchen and then was assigned to Noel's (Excalibur's) electrical crew.  I worked with Stu laying out power boxes for the various tents.  After lunch, Vick joined us - a jolly musician fellow with a lot of great stories from his navy, runner, gypsy, long-distance mover, and farm lives.  I got some lessons from Stu in wiring, and began to feel like an apprentice electrician!  Then strung lights, lifted some things, and helped out with Paul's carpentry project at the Shop.  Dinner was a potluck with all of the Fair organizers/staff - a lot of people to make it happen!  Updates and new features from every section of the fair.  I did begin to wonder if maybe Mainers are even more reserved with their emotions than are upstate newyorkers ....  no conclusions here!  Bright moon, warm night, light breeze!  Who could ask for anything better?

Matthew asked me the night before if I was an early riser, and I said yes - committing me to an Ice run to Bangor at 6:30.  Basically, he had to pick up a big truck, fill it with ice, and drive it back to the fair, and I had to drive his car back.  Good gig!  He's a worldly guy, fun to chat with.  Back at the fairgrounds, I moved tables and chairs to their appropriate locations, riding around in a pickup and lugging here and there.  For a while!  It was good to be using my body again.  At lunch, I ran into Joanne who I'd met this past summer in Ithaca - such a great relief and pleasure to see someone who I hadn't just met!!  More young people were showing up, at this point, including primitive skills folk.  After dinner, I washed dishes with Fred, a veritable old pirate with cheery blue eyes and something to say.

Friday (Fair Day 1)
Rain began after midnight, but my tent stayed cozy and dry!  I woke up late, due to it was rainy.  Walked to breakfast, and things were beginning to pick up.  I stuffed my belly in case I didn't get another free meal (during the fair, you need to have volunteered that day to get meals ... and I chose to go to workshops instead of volunteer!  I figured my 30 hours of work prior had been enough, plus I was staying for clean-up ....).   Then I got myself down to the wood lot for a "Low-Impact Forestry" overview.  It's something I'm hip to, but I was wanting for a more in-depth exploration of the topic.  The next hour (wkshps are scheduled every hour!  usually about 15-25 at a time in various sections), the workshop I was trying to find wasn't happening, so I changed into warmer clothes (it was pretty chilly) and wandered over to watch the sheep dogs do their thing.  First, the handler had some kids try to herd the sheep and goats into a pen, and they did alright.  then he worked his 4 border collies, and it was a pretty awesome to see how they would respond separately to his commands, stalking around the herd, then dropping to the ground in strategic locations.  Impressive.

Next, I went to seed saving 101 with some folks from High Mowing Seeds.  Nothing much new, though I did learn that you can de-hybridize (make open-pollinated) within 7 generations of selection.  Hope against Monsanto, right!  At noon, I went to "Wabanaki Visions," a circle discussion with Barry Dana, former chief of the Penobscot tribe.  He was really quite inspiring, poised, down-to-earth, real, comical, passionate ....  He pointed out (in response to a question - he handled some pretty tricky inquiries) that Native people are inherently different than non-native folks because they are on their ancestral land of Countless generations.  that's neither changeable or replicable - and it has a power that's easy to overlook.  though American culture has become much of the current Indian culture, Barry is drawing on what he learns of Old Ways to move forward with strength as a people.  You need people to have a culture, and you need a place (a sustainable one) to have people.  only then can language, art, and food all exist relevantly ... so he has visions of (re)obtaining sections of connected pieces of land and growing food there.  actions that are vibrant and keep community whole.  anyway ....  a lot of tough questions at hand.  to speak broadly, I would feel fulfilled to help restore native lands to their native people, and then stand aside.  there are, of course, beautiful people and valuable cultures that now exist on the same land (Maine, from 1800 to now ... not perfect, but not irrelevant), so that can't be ignored either.  this is the same issue across the continent, so it deserves more active thought, attention, and action.

I then had a refresher course on making Acorn flour.  What an abundant resource we need to be valuing!!  Get some friends together on a beautiful autumn day (kids, especially), collect all the acorns you can find; crush them in their shells (sing while you do this!) with a big heavy stick, in a bucket; pour the shells and meat into a big container of water - so the shells float and the meat sinks, strain off the shells; place the meats in a place where fresh water can run into and out of the bucket (cover the bucket) for a few days (leech out tannins); drain and dry, then grind into flour.  make bread!
Kevin at the Maine Guides camp showed us how to tie some useful knots - taught hitch, trucker's hitch, and lashings for putting 2-3 sticks together for structures.

I went to a sounds healing demonstration, with a sweet woman who played all of her various instruments (crystal bowls and tuning forks seemed especially swell).  Then she guided a positive affirmation meditation that relaxed me and took me somewhere totally different ... it must've been good, i guess!  then we sounded/sang the tones of each of the chakras.  good time.
the last workshop of the day was with this farmer/researcher fellow, "Full Cycle Farming - Nutritional Pathways from Soil to Plant to Table."  He basically was linking soil vitality with nutrition, but pulling in everything about production ... economics, politics, social needs, no-till methods, reading weeds, using minerals, allocating energy, understanding chemistry .... on and on.  It made a whole lots of sense, and I felt pretty inspired by all of the connections being made.

After all of this, I had a big dinner and chatted with tons of people.  What a great pleasure, to have an abundance of fun folks!  I was feeling really welcomed, and beginning to know a lot of people.  Listened to some fiddle tunes, then slept soundly.

Saturday (Fair Day 2)
When I awoke, I found myself in the middle of a great game.  These three kids were adventuring around the campgrounds, and they declared that I must be "the ghost of Henry Harold," so I did my best to be ghostly, with my hair down, as they tried to kill me with swords (you can't kill a ghost with a sword, you need to use "powers" ... but even that could only temporarily subdue me!).  A few minutes later, after they left and returned, I became a dragon, and could only escape being slain by flying swiftly out of the campground to breakfast.

My workshop regimen began with "13 herbs for Healing," with Ray Reitze.  Ray is a sweet sweet man, exuding humility and peace.  We learned cottonwood, pine, and tamarack for salves, among other things.  Then on to "Woodland Roads and Watercrossings," and "woodland ecology" - both in Low-Impact forestry.  and this fellow talking about "Bioefficiency" ... i got a bit lost in his ramblings, to be honest!

Heard the Penobscot drummers for a powerful song, around a single drum that they all played.  Then Mike from the Primitive skills school in augusta gave a great session on "awareness skills" to about 20 people.  we stood in a circle, learned to fox walk from the body's center, have "soft eyes," listen for the locations of silence, and use deer ears.  then we walked slowly across the fairgrounds, toward the woods.

This fellow gave a talk called "Living the Maine Good Life, circa 1500."  He was a wealth of information about native ethnobotany, etc, but had a pretty disgusting disconnect from the peoples he was discussing (part of my aversion to "anthropology," when practiced poorly).  By that I mean he talked about Native people as though they were gone and dead, a Thing to be studied in retrospective fascination.  And this was in the very same place that Barry Dana led a discussion the day before.

Then, "Around the Story Wheel" with Ray Reitze again, which was more his 'philosophical' teachings.  There aren't many people who can teach about coming from the heart center and love, but Ray can.  Making the mind silent, allowing space for the heart, the present is the only reality!

I caught the "Full Cycle Farming" talk again, and this time it seemed like jumbled nonsense!  So funny and enlightening that someone who totally gets it can on some days have trouble communicating the very same information.  I heard some drumming and cheering in the distance, so I wandered to check it out on the amphitheater stage.  Then I rode an electric bike - fun!  Watched the sunset on the common (big area in the center of the fairgrounds circle), and had dinner.  Reconnected with Dave who I'd met at the rainbow gathering in PA - what a fellow!  Also fan into Claudia, fellow piano major at Ithaca College!  There was a contra dance afterwards, and that's always a good time.  See, the fair officially ends at 5 or 6, and all the shuttles/trains stop running.  So the volunteers, staff, and vendors are all left to hang out and have a good time!  It's like fair #2 every day!

After dancing, the moon was out, and it was decently warm, so I lay on top of the amphitheater wall (big artificial curved mound of earth).  Some folks were rolling down it (during the day, kids sled down it on cardboard), and having a ball, so I joined in, and found it to be instantaneously laughter-inducing, as you tuck your arms in and roll away!  Did that a couple times, napped on the wall until it got too cold, and went to bed.

Sunday (Fair Day #3 - Final Day)
The fair closes swiftly, I found!  But first, I met some nice folks at breakfast, then went to a panel discussion on Public Policy, regarding small food farms and food production - of interest to me, especially from Dancing Turtle's sprout certification fiascos.  The discussion was quite informative.  Maine is not that far behind NY as far as regulations making food production a more challenging affair for the little guys.  Despite all the information, it was really mostly discouraging news and outlook ... some folks in the audience were describing their preemptive efforts, basically making local food networks so small and personal that there would be no way to regulate them.  There seems to be some strength in that.

Back at the Whole Life Tent ("Wabanaki Visions," "Sound Healing," "Story Wheel," etc.), Fredda Paul told of "Healing from Indian Residential School."  I don't know what everybody knows about this most wretched part of American history, but I'll just say that it was not an easy topic to bring into public discussion.  I'm pretty much sobbing right now, in just starting to recall the stories.  Fredda just recently began to tell his wife and a couple close friends about what he experienced from age 5-14 at a "school" in Canada, and this was the biggest group of people he had ever opened up to.  He was given some strengthening energy at the side before he began to speak, then smudged the tent full of people with red willow bark as his wife spoke by way of introduction.
To briefly explain, the residential schools were places run by priests and nuns that were intended to fully eliminate Native culture from the children, and enforce integration into white culture.  The children were beaten for speaking the only language they knew, so were forced to learn English very quickly.  there was horrific abuse of the children, and only very few bright spots of sympathetic nuns.  Fredda was stolen away from his mother by his father who wanted to be rid of him - and driven across the border into Canada with his brother.  He was told his mother had died, and didn't meet his brother again until 10 years later.  He was able to survive school by standing strong with his group of friends, "warriors," as he called them.  But they witnessed so many children hurt and killed.  There were lighter stories, like Fredda befriending a bull, and cleverly escaping the "dungeon."  Really, he kept the stories mild.  This was a first step in healing.  As he said, "Every time I tell my stories, I become stronger, and I heal."
These aren't distant wrongs from centuries ago, this was less than a few decades before today, and the pain is alive.  Indian Residential Schools are a part of America that was never mentioned in school, and I had absolutely no clue until reading "Lakota Woman" in college.  There is so much more to be understood.  The first step to healing is sharing truth and stories.  Heavens.

Well, *breath,* moving forward ... I walked around for some time, saw some horses maneuvering, went back to my tent for warmer clothing, got my bike, and went to the bicycle area for a Fitting workshop.  If you came into the fair by bike, there was a welcoming crew with horns and cow bells to cheer your entry, down the final path.  I should have biked out and back just for this celebration!  Anyway, I ran into Dave AuClair from the bike shop in Augusta, and I became the subject of the bike fitting workshop.  raised the seat up, otherwise mostly in good shape.  Then the bike parade!  We hopped on all sorts of bikes (a bending/foldable one, a tandem, electric, recumbent, foolishly tiny, etc.), lined up 5 abreast, and took to the fairground loop.  Lots of cheering and bell-ringing.  Ha.  Every minute or so, we would stop, start singing random tunes, dance around our bikes, and bow together, to get back on and continue forward.  Check out this brief video of it:

Then a talk about Polarity therapy from two enthusiastic folks.  As I left that, it all of a sudden hit me that the fair was ending, and people were leaving.  I spent the next few hours feeling lost, melancholy, and a little confused!  I ended up talking with a fellow in the education tent who leads the VT semester, which is this fantastic container for real learning and living.  Basically a semester spent skiing the length of vermont while learning skills for winter living.  I was kind of overwhelmed, feeling some wishes that I could have done that in high school!  Didn't know quite what to do with this now ... like i missed the boat, and what could I do at present?  had a bit of an awkward introduction to a fellow doing other interesting primitive skills things.  then waited for Ray to finish talking to someone, and ended up missing him.  ran into Fredda, thanked him for sharing stories, and tried to ask what was in the salve that he had given me (he had a "medicine give-away" as part of the talk), but I asked too indirectly and didn't really get an answer!  Ha, it's just called "Good Medicine."  So under grey skies, my melancholy confusion seemed inescapable, and quickly everyone that had created "the Fair" was disappearing.  like midnight in a pumpkin carriage.

Desperate to talk comfortably to anybody I knew, I ended up missing some goodbyes, then just gave up and went to dinner.  Of course there were good folks and good food there!  "How well does Non-violent communication do with relating to non-living objects?  Not at all!"  But our needs were met.  Did a little kitchen work, and head for bed, reluctantly having to plan the next steps of my journey!

Monday (Clean-up)
Breakfast crowd was sparse.  Met a fellow from Florida who had done lots of sprouting and raw foods for a living, and we folded tent sides for a while.  Then I was assigned to sign collection duties.  After lunch, I got to shovel compostables from the horse and cow stalls, with the help of a tractor and truck.  Then I took the liberty of a much-needed nap in my tent (a good choice for feeling great!).  Dinner was much more intimate, with a group of about 20.  Ellis (volunteer/grounds coordinator extraordinaire), his Irish friend Noel, Vick, Dave, and more of us had some good hearty conversation and laughs.  Then dishes in the kitchen (Dave wants the world to know and come to understand the wisdom of Blue Oyster Cult, specifically "Don't fear the reaper").  I found it was pitch black outside, because there were no longer any vendor lights, and the rain/clouds were obscuring the moonless sky!  Without a light, I was lucky to catch a ride to the woods with Noel, rather than stumble around for a while.

(apologies for the extensive detail, I've ended up basically copying entries from my journal over the last week!)
Hot and muggy in my tent, 60's outside, rainy and windy.  Pretty strange ... I was glad not to be freezing, as could have been the case.  I began to get worried about how I was feeling from stuffing myself with food every day without getting on the bike at all.  Resorted to doing laps once in a while, which felt awesome!  Most of the day, I moved benches with a crew.  Finally, I felt ready to move on, on this day.  Previously, I was feeling a little clueless.  Dinner was steak and cake!  Would anyone be excited about a NASCOW event, if one were staged?  It would involve the aimless racing of cows, among other things ....  I tried to get to my tent in the pitch darkness this night, and got a bit sidetracked once in the woods!  lots of side paths that my feet found ... I was saved my my cell phone light.  Totally alone in the woods again, save some peepers/owls/"wooden frog instrument-"sounding creature.  Glad for the transition time from alone to bustling back to alone.

One final breakfast, which Bill, the resident chef, explained was "eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, canadian bacon, yogurt, and scones.  oh, and cider, coffee, tea, and milk.  but besides that, there's nothing!"  that was a favorite line of his!  I moved some signs with Ellis and shoveled hay for a time.  Then on the road.  Ellis said "Safe journey," which he spoke deeply and gently like a directed prayer, with a little bow.  A nice send-off.  I'll be back, I'm sure!

Biked 45 miles to Solon, where Sarah and Chip live (yurt complex, etc. where I wrote my last update from).  It was a good ride from the fairgrounds.  I accidentally walked into a high school library (it looked like a college campus!).  Some stunning leaf colors, now, intense red specimens, and some places that had a distinct silver hue over the whole area.  I decided that people in Maine are "reasonable."  Not too formal, not too lax.  A fellow stopped to see if I was okay, as I ate by the roadside.  In a gas station, a college-aged girl pinched my butt, which was pretty startling/confusing!  I guess that's what I get for wearing the those ridiculous bike shorts.  I wasn't sure if I should be glad that Mainers aren't too uptight, or if I should be offended!
Sarah and Chip are absolutely great!  Felt very comfortable to hang out with them for a couple days.  The rain was predicted to get to 4," but never really got that much where we were.  Good walks in the woods with Chip and Bodi (dog).  Sarah is an artist in the medium of cloth and sewing!  Chip builds furniture and yurts, and also gave me a professional tune-up on the bike.  The day I left, he drove me a couple miles to the end of the gravel road, which was good because otherwise I would have been late.

Well, I ended up being late anyway ... I had decided to go visit Ray at his home 25 miles away, where he was having a workshop about "Ancient Language," connecting with plants, animals, etc.  It began at 10am, and I gave myself 2.5 hours to get there.  The bike felt great, and I was right on time, so I thought, but I had made a wrong turn on rte 23 ...  I asked a nice fellow for the road, and he ended up giving me a lift over to Ray's place/"Earthways."  I made in there not too late ....

It was a good workshop, lots to work with, lots of silencing to do.

I spent the rest of the day here, harvested some herbs with Nancy (Ray's wife) dug weeds from a couple garden beds, and had dinner with Ray, Nancy, and Andrianna (an "intern/apprentice").  Lovely time in their yurt/hogan, very calm and cheerful.  I slept in the lodge, which smelled of wood fire, herbs, and bark.  Pondered "unidentifying."  In occasions when the mind is overwhelmed by intense beauty, it is essentially silenced.  The mind is a servant of the heart.

Peaceful breakfast, goodbyes, and to the road again.  Found that my muscles were getting tired - a good sign I think, because that means my joints are getting stronger, enough that my muscles can work harder.  Went the through Clinton, ME, onward back through Unity (Crosstrax was closed - no piano!).  Ran into a couple fellow I knew from the fair.  Some people were taking a ride on these sweet little 4-person vehicles that were pedal-powered and rolled on the train tracks!  Pretty much it was a perfect fall day!  Sunny, light breeze, crazy-beautiful colors all around.  Brisk air, small towns, feeling content.  People selling pumpkins at roadside stands.  I felt pretty strong on the bike, actually.  Glad that my muscles and heart got a chance to work!

I was in a town called Brooks, where I stopped a grocery store for very inexpensive dinner food.  I passed a theater and community house, and was thinking what a nice town it was when a guy in his yard looked up and gave a great enthusiastic wave as if he was saying "oh, hey, it's you!!"  Then I saw a hand-painted sign, "Newforest Permaculture Institute: visitors welcome."  They had been at the fair for a couple workshops, but the only one I got to was troubled by a tough crowd - so I had a poor impression of the institute and didn't figure I'd try to visit (and didn't find out where they were located).  Fate has a way of stuffing things in your face sometimes!  I biked in, surveyed the place, found nobody around (but several cars), and came back to what seemed to be the main building.  I peeked in the door, saw a piano, and invited myself to sit and play it!  Turned out that was a welcome thing to do, and then some people stirred, happily!  Met one of the resident directors and her baby, plus 2 apprentices, then took a self-guided tour of the place.  There's a lot of good things going on here!!  It was a clear-cut site (there are a LOT of clear-cuts that have just been ridiculously logged in Maine.  There are barely any trees older than 80-100 years old, it's kind of sad), and they were planting it to a food forest!  Gardens out front, a couple green houses, chickens, edible landscaping, some "sustainable" housing, a huge long tunnel of a trellis over the driveway (planted to hops!), plus a big common house with a nice stone floor and big kitchen for preserving and cooking.  They're looking for apprentices and a farm manager, if anybody is interested!  By the way.  Check 'em out.

The reason the piano was such a good coincidence was that I needed to finish this song I'm writing.  It was a secret/surprise before, but now it's not!  My friend Kevin Asbell's sister, Sarah, is getting married in a couple weeks, and their father, Rich wrote a poem for her that he asked me to put to music.  It was definitely uncharacteristic for Rich to write a poem, and I was quite moved when he read it to me (and that he asked me to write a song that he could dance with his daughter to on her wedding day!).  So that was back in VT still, and I was at Nancy's house where there was a piano.  So I sat and wrote a chorus, then hadn't had a piano to work at since!  So I was able to finish the song, more or less, at the Newforest Institute.  The fellow who had done the composting workshop came home (Jim, father of baby!), and I was really glad for the chance to actually meet him (rather than just knowing him as the fellow that tried to manage the tough crowd at the fair!).  Dinner, internet, bed - this was the first time i'd slept straight through till morning in a while!  so i was thankful to be in a warm house with a pillow.  Learned that our beloved feline friend Bonkers passed away at the Elm Street Co-op in Ithaca.  He will certainly be missed by all, and we're sending Lee lots of love and support.

Had great breakfast (dandelion greens, kale, chard, broccoli, sage, scallions all in an omelette) and conversation on the porch with Jim before hitting the road.  It was yet another perfect day to bike.  (side note: I keep finding that I "need to" speak/feel glottal consonants (eg. "K" "G" "NG"), some sort of interesting phenomenon that leads me to making different word choices ... anyone know what that's about?).   Google maps gave me another great route of back roads, among the nicer, more peaceful rides yet.  Brooks to Bucksport.  In bucksport, I set my course for Mount Desert Island (pronounced like "dessert," no one has told me why ...).  Made it as far as Ellsworth, ate at a cafe, and as I got tired out by the traffic and box stores around here, I decided to pull into this bird sanctuary at the edge of town to set up camp in the woods.  I was worried about the sun going down!  by the time I had my tent up and food hung, it was only 6:00, and dark (especially under hemlocks!).

On the road before 7, then onto the Island.  A nice ranger gave me the scoop on the national park and carriage trails and whatnot.  the trails were awesome for riding on!  compact gravel, purposefully meandering through the woods and around ponds, with periodic vistas of mountains or ocean.  i wandered into Bar Harbor to see what was going on, and ended up at a cafe to play the piano (the hostess asked, "what's your angle?  why do you want to play the piano," and she happily showed me to the humble instrument).  2 Kittens Cafe.  I sat and played "That's All," and the tables of folks around me seemed pleased, so I played more.  The staff also seemed pretty happy about it, and more and more customers coming by to give me a pat on the back, sing along, or compliment me.  Talk about a good ego boost.  A waitress put some change in candle holder and made it a tip jar, and I ended up making enough money for a couple days of food!  Plus they made me breakfast of tofu scramble, homefries, and grapefruit juice.  Some of the staff even danced for a song - good fun!

It was a nice day, so after maybe 3 hours of playing piano, I got on my way into the park.  Went to the Nature Center and Wild Garden (demonstration site for native plants).  I asked a ranger about some trails to get to the top of Cadillac Mt. (that gets the first sunrise in America, due to its elevation and location!), and he realized I probably wanted to be up there for the sunrise - so gravely reminded me that there's no "dry camping" in the park.  But the ranger before had told me also that the park is technically open 24 hours, so I felt okay in planning on staying the night on the mountain (but didn't tell this new ranger that!).  I decided my plan was to push the bike up to Cadillac and ride down it.  I think the ranger was trying to give me a hard time, because he said it was quite possible to do that, and showed me a good route.  I biked to the base of the ridge trail, and then prepared to push/carry for about 2 miles.

Well, it was more just carrying my bike w/bags (~70 lbs total, pretty awkward shape) up what would be a difficult climb without anything to carry!  I was feeling strong and adventurous, so I pushed on, and made it about a third of mile, with plenty of energy left.  But some wariness ... I ran into a couple guys who were quite impressed with my feat of strength, but told me it would pretty much be ridiculous to keep going with the bike, because it was going to get even steeper, with slick, angled granite faces to cross.  They were completely right!  I took their word and stashed my bike, taking only a sleeping bag, tent, and some food/water.  Finished the climb, over a mile to the top of Dorr Mt (eastern neighbor to Cadillac - only a couple hundred ft shorter and much less traveled).  Great view in all directions (except where Cadillac blocked it), of the bay, Bar Harbor, mountains to the northeast, the ocean to the south, etc.

Sunset was nearly an hour early, though it stayed light late up there.  There had been maybe 4 people that passed through, otherwise I had the whole mountain to myself!!  I realized that I'd never been up on top of a mountain at night, let alone one with such a view, or a view of the ocean, or a view of the first sunrise in the country!  As the sun dropped down, the reds and oranges grew on the horizon to both sides of the mountain obscuring my westerly view, and I lay down to take it in.  I was also kind of hiding from anyone that was looking from Cadillac (i saw lots of sillhouettes), and even ducked out of view of a cruise ship in my probably-unnecessary paranoia about "breaking the rules."  I set up my sent under some dwarfed pine trees, and came back out to take in the emerging stars.

It really began to sink in that this was a darn special moment, when the clouds came and went and the stars were in fully force, Milky Way and all.  not a soul around, though I could see plenty of lights here and there along the water.  there's nothing like feeling as though there is nothing above you or even beside you!  walking around on the mountain top, feeling my way over rocks, feeling like I belonged nowhere else.  eventually, the wind picked up and it got too cold to sit outside comfortably, so I retreated to my tent.  without a pad, the patch of grass I was on was soft enough, but drained heat away quickly.  but my sleeping bag pulled through, and I could even leave the fly off to get the air coming in and see some stars.  at one point I swear there some folks just down the mountain shouting to one another ... but nothing came of it.  the wind picked up a lot (30-40 mph!), and it got so chilly that I nearly had to put clothes back on ... slept on and off, and dreamed in choral/opera music! until I eventually looked up to see a purple reddening on the horizon.  sunrise was coming!

I got out of the tent, took a picture (*gag* to think of my new photo-snapping mindset), watched for a little bit, then set at packing up camp before any rangers could find me!  then I sat comfortably to watch the sun come up - and man, it was a pretty one!  Right over the ocean, with plenty of clouds to reflect off of.  I actually wasn't ever sure of the exact rising of the sun, but it was somewhere in there ....  Satisfied, I set off down the mountain - and it was quite a quad-working walk down!  Said hello to all the Inukshuks marking the way, and made it to my stashed bike/bags.  no animals had gotten into the food, and I set off down the last leg with just all of my bags.  set those down, walked back up, carried bike down.  this was one heck of a workout to start the morning!  and boy it felt good to finally get on the bike!  I decided I had had a sufficient Acadia experience, and set off to leave the island.  riding the main road was frustrating, to say the least, with no shoulder, huge tour buses, and countless signs proclaiming "ocean view!"  Found the back road I'd come in on, and made it out safely!

 From Ellsworth, I headed southwest down the east side of the peninsula.  it was really a nice ride with less traffic and frequent rolling hills.  stopped into the Blue Hill co-op/cafe that I'd heard about, just as it began to rain.  it was expensive, but comfortable.  I had some vegetables and dolmas, and met two fellows while I was eating.  super nice and got me laughing pretty well.  felt like i had come into a good place.  I put the plastic bags over my gear and made the last leg of the trip to Sedgwick as the rain picked up.  when I made it to Molly and Doug's old schoolhouse home, Molly was outside in her raincoat picking tomatoes.  I got under the porch and inside just as the rain really got heavy.  Chatted with Molly for some time, and Doug got home after I took a good long shower.  They're both musical folks, and Doug even played some Randy Newman-esque tunes he's written.  They sing madrigals, too!  Dinner of some home-made pasta and tomatoes, and quiche (moosewood recipe!  it's not the first moosewood food I've been served on this trip.  and I then get to pretend i'm back in 2006 when I washed dishes there!).  Again, I've ended up at the home of folks that I really enjoy talking with.  We even got to make lists of emotions for a drama exercise Molly was going to use the next day with some of her students.

I was able to make a recording of the song to send to Rich, the song is called "Sarah, Nothing's Changed."  Played the piano for a while, what luxury.  My heel is healing back up again (after pushing it a little far the last couple days ....).  Today (Friday), I lay low inside working on music and writing this blog, and went for a walk in the woods.  It's quite lush here, compared with just a little ways north.  Sea moisture and warmth, is my guess.  Another delicious dinner and conversation, and my goodness it's after midnight now ... that's new.  I hope you've enjoyed this lengthy recollection of tales from my travels.  hopefully I'll update with shorter accounts from now on, but no promises there!  I'm getting photos up on my facebook page, slowly.  Very well, carry on!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Filling in stories, from Burlington to Unity

Rain and wind are converging upon a balmy (70 degrees) central Maine, and I am safe at the home of Sarah an Chip, near Solon.  It's basically this really pleasant yurt complex in the woods, with really pleasant residents (2 dogs included).  The main yurt (out of a few) has an "inner yurt," with a meditation room above, bed and storage below.  Incredible craftsmanship that got this place together, complete with rounded furniture built largely from these woods.

Taking advantage of the adverse weather conditions, I'm hanging out here until a workshop on Oct. 2nd, nearby.  This allows me the opportunity to flip back through my memory (and journal) to recall some stories of the last couple weeks that got lost in the movement of the trip:

Excitement about the Art Hop just kept building, as I helped to create and install some guerrilla art pieces for the South End Arts District.  Good fun with this.  I got to go to a soccer practice, too, make some new aunts, and tour the Intervale (a wonderful valley of agriculture right outside of Burlington.  Quaint, productive, fertile, and educational.).  The night of the Art Hop, my college friend/roomate/Ithacappellamate Lloyd Dugger came over from his home in Montpellier.  After managing to find eachother on Church st., we had a drink and hit the Hop.  At Marie's studio, she had a guitar, so Lloyd and I sat down to sing a song or two for gallery-goers.  And man, it was fun!  So we sang some more!  and some more!  really great to just play around with songs we both knew, singing harmonies, trading lines, improvising things, and getting the audience into it.  I think we just know one another musically and vocally, and it was simply a ball.  This is up there for one of the best parts of my trip ... thanks Lloyd!

On Saturday, I returned to my bike, and left Burlington.  Must have met a dozen bicyclists just on my way out of town, all of them cheery.  I stopped in Vergennes at a thrift store, where the only wind pants they had were creamsicle orange ... so now all of my outer garments are bright orange, and i stick out no matter where i am.  When I got to Middlebury, I was a little let down ....  I have fond memories of the place from when my sister went to school there, but now I didn't get a sense that folks were all that excited about things.  Coulda just been the day, I guess.  So I got some food, and head for the mountains.  But I didn't get far, because my rear tire was completely flat.  Got some help at the bike shop in town, and it turns out I had a piece of metal inside the tire that had given me 3 flat tires in the same exact place.  Good to get that figured out!

I was unable to resist a stop at the A+W roller-skate service drive up (this is fun as a biker, because you're all alone when everyone else is in their cars).  Then through East Middlebury, and the climb began.  I made it a couple miles before it became too dark, and I pulled off to sleep in the woods.  Mossy woods here in the Green Mountains.  The next day I was up and biking early, stopped into a general store, passed Bread Loaf (again not as magical as it 'used to' be), and before I knew it I was at the top of Middlebury Pass - 2100+ ft.  Popped into one side of the Long Trail (part of the AT), decided I need to travel on foot so I can really be in the woods, then began the descent.  I spent the rest of the day in deep valleys of the Green Mountains, stopping at little towns, admiring the walls of trees, and pushing to get to Hartland where my next contact would be.

Coming down the homestretch, Nancy and Karen (my new hosts) pulled up in a car, and directed me the last few miles to the house.  When I got to their road, it really felt like a fall Vermont country home.  Very cozy, and then the golden retriever (Maya) enthusiastically met me in the driveway.  See my entry "In the Hartland" for more ....

I got packed to leave after a second night with Nancy and Karen, and as soon as I was on the road, my rear wheel loosened and was way offset.  I struggled with it for a while, found a temporary solution (tighten the spindle w/o aid of the "quick release"), and made it to White River Junction pretty swiftly.  This was a neat little town, and I stopped into the food co-op.  met a fellow, Colin, self-described "happy hobo," young cheery fellow.  he gave me the scoop on the town, and led me to a bike place where I could buy a new spindle.  then off across the bridge into New Hampshire.

I had decided at this point to skip the scenic Kancamangus Highway, in favor of a much more level route, south of the Whites and north of Winnipesauke.  This was the right choice, I think, for my body's sake.  Every decision is the right one, on this trip!  Things just keep working out!

I ended up riding on a rail trail, shortly after I got into NH, and it was a great break from highways.  Now I could be in the woods where it was quiet and peaceful, and still move forward on the journey.  just as i got on the trail, I met a nice woman who was on her bike for the first time in 30 years!  working on her "bucket  list" (a reference to a movie I haven't heard of, but a good concept).  Good company, until she turned back after a few miles.  Once I got about 10 miles, i realized it was taking a long time ... pedalling is difficult on gravel.  so i returned to pavement, and relished the ease of gliding without pedaling!

ended up under a pavillion to eat dinner, as rain came.  then all these 5 and 6 year olds showed up!  it was a birthday party, complete with games led by a PE instructor.  pizza and cupcakes (which they offered to me, also!).  one of the parents was interested in my trip, and offered a dry place to stay - her parents' barn, down the road a little ways.  there was no one living there, and I had the place to myself for the evening (besides the bat and squirel residents).  from all the signs in the barn, I could tell this was the annual site of a big summer party, complete with games, swimming, votes, meals, and family.  i slept well.

The next day, I stopped in several New Hampshire towns, and it began to get more vacation-y.  People here are nice, like Minnesota.  You know, there are nice people everywhere, it's good to remember.  Really genuinely nice people.  Anyway, it was getting into the evening, and I had no idea where i'd camp, and if there would even be suitable places to tent.  I was on a road with no shoulder and heavy traffic, pulling off the road frequently to let cars pass.  sometimes this ends up with stalling out in the sand ... and i gave up and walked for a ways.  found a vegetable stand/nursery/farm, and figured I'd ask if I could tent there.  Good lesson of the trip for me: always stop at farms and farm-like places to find good people!  the cashier had done a cross-country bike tour, and the owner assured me that I'd have a ball at the Common Ground Fair.  he told me I should camp down by the lake, on a beach just up ahead.  so I got some green beans and went over there (help from a couple people to find the road ... the number of individuals who go out of their way to be helpful ... it's becoming hard to keep track!).

I found myself standing in a huge clearing, looking out on a broad cloud-splotched sky, and some islands in a still lake.  I parked my bike and went up the shore to see where a good camp site would be.  On the way, I passed a man with his dog sitting up on a rock.  With encouragement, the little golden stayed still as I passed.  When I came back, I commented that this was test #2, and the dog bounded down to play!  We got talking (Steve), and he had moved up here with his family, and gotten a place as close to the water as they could.  He spoke very fondly of the lake, and had lots of history and suggestions too.  This was Winnipesauke, I found out, funny that I didn't realize!  I guess I just didn't see Bill Muray anywhere, so I had no clue.

Anyway, Steve offered that I could camp in his yard, and I declined in favor of being by the water and swimming, etc.  But later he mentioned that it was going to get pretty cold, and offered his basement ... I couldn't really refuse!  He said his family might think he was crazy, but I shouldn't worry about it.  I parked my bike at his house, took a swim/bath totally alone on this expansive lake, as the sun set in magenta, and the water temperature became warmer than the air.  As I got back to the house, I thought I saw someone pacing angrily, awaiting the return of this stranger.  I went to the basement door, and Steve's son Scott popped out to say hi, and I knew the family was a good one!  There was a filling dinner, and Steve's wife and her mom were reading my blog to me!  (a good way to background check!)  I had plenty of great laughs with these guys, good for the soul.  we even watched "america's got talent" together, and Office with Scott.  i slept quite well in the finished basement, and said goodbye in the morning, with another few pounds of food they had sent with me. thank you, winnipesauke family!

Due to the flatness of these parts of New Hampshire, I was able to make good time, and was at the Maine border by afternoon (only 2 nights in NH).  This guy who lived right before the border was out moving rocks around in a tractor, and I asked him if he'd take my picture with the ME sign.  He did me three better, by taking my picture on both sides of the sign (NH/ME), offering me his riverside picnic area to eat lunch, and then finding a map of Maine to give me for the next part of my trip!  Just across the border, I stopped to get an ear of corn at a farm stand (getting just one ear is kind of impolite, I realized ... as I had made the fellow get out of his car and go in the cooler, for a 50 cent sale).  I thought maybe I was in a new country, because I could hardly understand the man!  and he was hard of hearing!  thick, thick maine accent, but I haven't yet encountered anyone with such a thick accent here.  I tried to ask when the first frost was around here, and once he understood what I meant, he said "oh, anytime."  that's a challenge!  welcome to maine agriculture!

Stopped at a swell small-town library in Kezar Falls, made it to Cornish by evening, and remembered an apple orchard I had seen on the map.  I backtracked a little on a side road, to get to Apple Acres, and got to see some nice countryside.  It was past business hours, so I knocked at the house across the street, and found the owners at the door.  Bill Johnson (most common name in America, he says!) was friendly, and said I could put the tent anywhere.  I ended up in the hay shed, because rain was coming.  And that was a lucky place to be, for sure, because we got some good rain!  I think i ruined a mouse nest, though, because as I was sleeping, I could hear/feel burrowing coming straight at my head!  once I finally switched my head with my feet, I heard the mouse squeeking like an abandoned child :-(  poor thing.  I think it was okay, in the end, though.

In the morning, I awoke to 15 acres of apples, a pond, woods, gift shop, cider press ....  I had offered to help out in the morning, and Bill said he could pay $8 cash.  good a deal as any, so I ended up labeling cider bottles (first pressing day!) for most of the day.  oh, and Bill and his wife Marilyn had me in for a luxurious breakfast before the work day began!  such hospitality!  then cider donuts, fresh cider, fudge bowls to lick, pizza with the crew, and some fun characters.  loaded up several apples and a liter of cider, and got moving by late afternoon.  probably could have stayed here longer, happily, but the weather was too good not to bike.

I made it as far as Sebago Lake, which is a huge round pond of a lake in western maine.  i kept trying to get glimpses through the trees, but it was all private homes ....  Starting to seriously consider tenting sites, I found myself getting passed by huge trucks on a narrow road.  I heard a beep from behind, and a toyota prius was basically setting a pick for me, so I could get off the road to let an 18-wheeler pass.  He turned into his driveway up ahead (had a bike rack on the car), and I stopped nearby to look at a map.  An older guy, with longer grey hair ... we started talking, and I went over to chat ... he very quickly offered that I could stay at his place (understanding the touring bicyclists needs).  Then offered I should swim on his beach.  And did I want some soap?  And a bath robe?  I washed off in this secluded cove overlooking the western shore of the lake.  the water was quite cold, but pleasant once I got fully in.  then my host came out and offered me a drink, and we chatted and watched the sun go down.  Lovely!  Nice to find someone who thinks about ecology and balance and culture in the same way I do.

the cottage was extremely quaint, and had been in the family since the first half of last century ("1940" doesn't sound as long ago).  wood stove, lots of family objects and pictures and furniture, but Tee (that's his name) lived there by himself.  big place, too.  he made us one of the healthier meals I had had thusfar in the trip.  for sleeping arrangements, I think he had just moved two twin beds apart in his bedroom. so it was a little strange to sleep in such proximity to someone I'd just met, but it was fine.  I felt lucky to be dry and inside and warm again, on a chilly night.  The next day, I helped Tee move a big rock from up on the mountain into his car (for landscaping purposes), and got a glimpse at the view of the lake.  To the road again ....

On the bike, I found myself clumsy and easily frustrated .. a rare sensation for this trip!  Missed a turn, added some miles to the route ....  I pulled into a public accounant's home/office to ask for directions and fill my water bottle.  the business looked to be based in the garage, and as I approached, I'm fairly certain I heard one guy whisper to the accountant, "It's another immigrant!"  I smiled at him, to confirm that I had heard his joke, but he didn't smile back ....  I asked if he had called me an immigrant, and he said, "I sure did."  I told him that we're all bloody immigrants, and he told me to shove off.  I asked if he was going to make me leave, and he said he planned to.  So I kicked him in the knee cap.  By then, the accountant had put down his feather quill, and walked up to my bike, which he promptly smashed with a baseball bat.  Luckily, I drew the styrofoam sword from my baggage, and lept off to the side to defend my pride.  Okay, sorry, enough of that ... none of this happened.  Well, the guy did whisper "It's another immigrant," and i did smile at him to confirm that I had heard his joke, and he didn't smile back.  But then I just asked the accountant if such and such a road was up ahead, and it was.  I asked him if I could refill my water, and he looked around in a panic, apparently eager to get me to leave, and produced a mini bottled water from a mini-fridge.  What made that more entertaining was the fact that we were a few miles from Poland Springs.  Ironically, not only did he not have fresh water to offer, it was water bottled in another country.  I left promptly and thanked him for the cold water (I was totally out, so it was very helpful!).  I stopped a little while later and asked a nice younger couple (working on home repairs) for a simple direction, and they said "thanks for the easy one!"  In Auburn/Lewiston, I found myself in a neighborhood with women walking around calmly in groups wearing gorgeous bright robes - I later learned that they're part of a large Somali population in the city.

In getting to Maine quickly, I could really take my time in getting to Unity.  The next place I stopped was Willow Pond Farm, where I found good company and fun work.  I got in before sunset, pitched my tent under a picturesque apple tree beside a pond and the woods, and then hung out in the apprentice's kitchen.  Melissa was canning tomatoes, because there were tons of tomatoes!  I made myself some dinner, and had lovely conversation with melissa and becky.  it's still surprising to me when I find folks who are thinking about the world in ways that I jive with!  the next morning, becky showed me a prime mushroom-watching woods, and then I worked a little at the farm.  spread a cover crop of rye and cut corn stalks to sell as decoration.  threw older corn to the pigs, which delighted them greatly!

Took off from the farm in the afternoon, and made it to Hallowell.  This is one of the coolest little towns I've ever seen ... right on the river, and they got a conservation easement of some sort in the 60's.  so it's still a quaint river town!  a dozen bars and live music in half of them, on a weekday.  i popped into one to ask for a piano, and found a great band playing.  had a drink and some soup, and this super chill fellow sat down and started chatting.  He seemed to know the music in the area well, and was part of the Kennebec Conservatory.  Here's a fellow who's really working hard to keep the teaching of music going outside of public schools, and doing it well!  I asked if I could stop by the next day to record part of a song I'd been thinking about, and he gave me directions.

From the bar, I was given a suggestion to camp at the Augusta arboritum.  Great suggestion!  No one around, but tons of nice plantings and nice woods.  even an american chestnut grove!  I was totally alone, only a couple miles from the city, and quite at peace.  In the morning, I went to the library, got air for my tire, had a quick meal, and went to the conservatory.  Jason (who I'd met at the pub) was sanding the body of an electric guitar, and graciously took the next hour or more to chat, record, and listen to some of my music.  real genuine listening!  i somehow forgot to hear his music and play some things together ... i guess i didn't want to keep him from work or something silly like that ....  He pointed me to Dave's bike shop up the street - another standup swell fellow.  it was a cheerful sendoff from Augusta!

Waterville was a neat little city, and i stopped at the co-op there for a meal.  Everything local!  Finally, turned East across the river, and head for Unity.  I was warned that it was a hilly ride, and it wasn't exactly an easy final leg.  But I made it smoothly and happily, and ended up in what I was pretty sure was downtown Unity.  There was no parade to welcome me, but "Unity" was my (originally arbitrary) destination, after all!  I felt some celebration in my heart, anyway!  I went to a little cafe/bakery/local foods "hub," had some tasty dinner treats, and met some nice folks.  A couple were part of the Maine Primitives School, teaching/learning primitive skills ....  William, who was working at the cafe, offered that I could camp in his backyard (rather than try to get to Unity College in the dark to camp).  This was a welcome offer, for sure.  He's a Minnesota transplant, nice!  I could even do some much-needed laundry in the basement.  Felt good and secure here, and the moon was spectacular.

The next day I head up to the Common Ground Fair to help with set-up  -  but these stories will have to wait for another entry!  I've spent far too long at the computer, and I'm feeling offensively anti-social (and tired of computer vibes)!  Short version: the Fair was incredibly fun!  Maybe I wrote that already ....  And check out my facebook page for a few pictures I've put up .... 

Greetings and Thanks to everybody!