Montpelier by night…

I left the Skinny Pancake a little before closing time and walked to the edge of town. The river was gray and still and a bit disappointing, so I didn’t stay long. As I turned back towards town, a car stopped in front of me, and an gentleman with a long gray beard climbed out. He wished me a good evening and asked me how my day was going. I told him that it was going a lot better than I had expected. He remarked on my camera and told me about his niece who was going to school to learn photography. We got chatting and he asked me if I played pool. There is no such thing as a co-incidence, right? He seemed interesting, a character who either knew he was one or was completely oblivious, I’m not sure which. I grinned at how he peppered his speech with expressions like “oh lord have mercy”.

We ran across the street – him rather impressively on his crutches – and stood outside a bar called Charley O’s. Mike asked me if I had ever been in there, and I responded in the negative, claiming that I had hardly had the time in the two hours that I had been in town.

In we went. It was a regular old bar except that the walls were adorned with scenes from old movies, photos of Elvis and framed pictures of people – perhaps old patrons or people passing through? There were also many pithy sayings, one of which made me laugh – “No life stories please.”

We got beers – Long Tail ambers – I found out later that he paid for without me knowing. The bartender and the other people in the bar appeared to know him pretty well, so I guessed that he was a regular there. We got a table pretty soon too. Playing pool was fun as usual. I’m a terrible player, but it’s one of the few games I can lose at without feeling competitive or upset about losing at. Not that I lost – he had many opportunities to win, but he kept prolonging the game so that I could win. It was so transparently obvious and good-natured that I couldn’t help laughing.

I wanted to stay and play some more but I knew I had to get an early start the next day, so I made my apologies and started to leave. He was headed to the back of the bar with a cigarette, so I said I’d join him for a little bit before I left. We joined two other girls outside – Sarai and Maggie. We smoked and talked about Vermont, Montpelier, the history of the bar we were at (apparently it dated back to the war between the states!), Lebanon, NH and the country Lebanon (Mike co-incidentally happened to have a tourism brochure for Lebanon that showed women in the 60s in swimsuits), the civil war, slavery, emancipation, eugenics at the University of Vermont, Alexander Twinkle, cotton gin, and finally Bing search. They seemed amused when I told them that I worked for the search engine.

I finally dragged myself away from their excellent company and made my way back to Gamble’s.

The night sky was studded with thousands of stars clearly visible in spite of the lights in town. I love walking at night through the shadows, when it is cool and quiet and the air is fresh and clean. The world seems like a different place – darker and more mysterious.

I passed tourists walking down Skate Street, teenagers grouped around doorways, couples kissing in dark corners, a cat padding softly across the street. I paused to wonder at how I had just experienced a sliver of these people’s lives, how through a chain of incidents my life had intermingled with theirs even if just for a few minutes, and suddenly it seemed right that I was there tonight to feel and experience all that I had.

I snuck into Gamble’s quietly and went upstairs to my room. My bed has fluffy pillows with pillowcases made of knitted lace – they remind me of the ones my mother used to make when I was little. I think to myself that I’ll sleep well tonight.

Thus ends my first day out on the other side of the continent. It’s been a good ride so far. I cannot wait to see what the next few days bring.

Update from Montpelier, VT

I am stopped for the day at Montpelier in Vermont after spending most of the day in New Hampshire. I am at a creperie called The Skinny Pancake and settled with my laptop, a latte and a chicken/pesto crepe. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Scar Tissue is playing in the background. The latte is exremely milky and a world apart from what I would get in seattle. I have mostly given up home of finding good coffee for a while, so I’m not completely disappointed. Apparently the coffee house culture that I take for granted in the Pacific Northwest is not a fixture all over the country.

Out the window, Montpelier seems lazy and sleepy, not surprising for a Sunday evening. Most of the local businesses in downtown are closed. From the looks of it, the town looks like just the kind of cool little artistic nook that I’d love to spend time exploring. I walked around a little bit gaping at some of the enormous houses. A friend of mine loves gazing at people’s front porches and yards to see how they are decorated, and I seem to have gotten this habit from him. Or – as I like to think – I’m looking at them for him and maybe I’ll remember some of them enough to relate to him. Sometimes I take pictures if the house looks sufficient impressive or unique. I think he would have been disappointed if he had looked for front porches though. The houses in New England do not seem to have these. I suppose the prolonged harsh winters have something to do with this.

I’m spending the night at a little B&B called Gamble’s B&B. It is an enormous house that reminds me of the old homes in Portland. There is a big pool table in the living room which made my face light up and I promised the landlady – a silver haired old lady called Laura Gamble – that would play a few rounds with her when I got back. Playing pool is one of those things that I could do all day long given the chance, but rarely do in real life back home.

Today’s riding was a mix of disappointing and exhilerating. The really scenic roads in Vermont leading up to New Hampshire had really bad surfaces and I didn’t enjoy riding them much. The riding in white Mountain National Forest was so-so. There was a lot of traffic (people in New Hampshire seem to enjoy driving at 45mph in a 50mph zone) and the scenery wasn’t very interesting. Granted I didn’t go as far north as Mt. washington. On my way there, I passed a stranded Harley rider and did a u-turn to go see if I could help him. His bike had completely died while he was riding and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I fished out my little multimeter and found that the battery voltage was 4V – super low – but that was more of a by-product of his trying to get the engine to turn over. Another rider stopped and started yanking at some of the cables going into the battery and found that one of them completely snapped. Problem identified! He rode off and I helped him strip the ends of the cables, splice the wires together and insulate it with electrical tape. I was glad I could put some of my tools to use and even gladder than I didn’t have to use them on my own bike. He managed to jump start it and get on the road again. I’d lost some time by now, so I decided to turn around and head west instead. It’s a pity I couldn’t take the gondola rides to the mountain, but I was glad I could help a fellow rider out.

I followed the various state highways to Littleton and then got on US-2 to St. Johnsbury and Montpelier. Riding US2 made me happy and a little wistful. I figured if I followed it far enough west, I would get to my very own Cascade range and Washington state. It was a good thought. I’m not ready to go home yet by any means, but it was nice to be able to ride a small part of the same road from back home.

My favorite riding was in Vermont after all. It’s strange how the landscape changed as soon as I crossed over from New Hampshire – big meadows and tall grasses all looking so lush green – an impossible green that I’ve never seen anywhere in all my travels. My favorite moments were when I would come up over the crest of a hill and there spread in front of me would be miles of green land – a little like the Shire would look like if it were real.

I am going to finish up my meal now, pore over a map to figure out the route for tomorrow and try to find a place to stay at in Montreal tomorrow. Then I’ll go walk up to the river’s edge and sit by the water and smoke a cigarette before heading back into town. Then for a game of pool and possibly even break out the flask of Scotch. :)

Stopped for lunch at Conway, NH

I managed to get an early start this morning and got out on Lyme Rd. Headed towards the White Mountain Forest Park. The road was gorgeous and winding but also badly pitted and cracked from harsh winter which didn’t make it much fun to ride.

Around 11AM I reached the beginning of the Kankamagus Hwy and stopped to get fuel at Lincoln. The highway as nice although very trafficky-y.

I noticed that helmetless Harley riders don’t wave very much.

I am not very happy with my luggage setup. So far I took both my Camelbak backpack and waistpack off and stuck it on the back because I just couldn’t move around much on the bike. I alo tok off the tinted strip on my helmet visor because I felt like it blocked my vision.

I am still trying to get used to being back on the bike. My arm hurts where the break happened last year and I find myself wincing a lot when I use it Hopefully it will fade soon.

Now I am in a charming litte cafe in Conway eating a Philly Steak with kettle cooked chips. Outside of the pain, life is good.

Landed in Lebanon …

My 3 hour layover turned out to be slightly less as they decided to fly out earlier (!). The plane – a Cessna – turned out to be the smallest one I’ve been in, outside of a small one I flew for 15 minutes in Portland, OR many years ago, and the air ambulance back from the Yukon last year when I was slightly more uhhh… Strapped in and supine.

It was rather charming and old world to get into a small plane that vroomed through cloudy skies high above impossibly green country. With a little imagination, I could very well pretend that I was in pre-WW1 times.

I felt slightly tired and worn out and disinclined to chat by the time we landed. Red eye flights really are rather hard on you and I’m not sure the saving of one day and a little money was worth it.

I’ve got to say that writing longer blog posts on the Samsung i760 is not too bad at all. The full QWERTY keyboard really helps. The only downside is that the battery gets depleted far sooner than I like.

I am now sitting in an Irish pub in Lebanon with my childhood friend whom I haven’t met in 8 years. We drove through charming, winding country roads to get here. The weather is perfect as was my lunch of roast beef and horseradish sandwich with homemade chips and an orange cream soda.

We are going to get coffees and go for a walk and catch up on the past 8 years. So far life is good. I think I like beng on vacation.

Heading out to Lebanon …

Slept through the flight to Lebanon too, thank heavens. Got in to Boston Logan at around 9AM local time – still around 6AM PST.

I had to go to another terminal to catch the Cape Air flight to Lebanon so I decided to take the airport shuttle. As I walked outside to the stop, I saw a bus stop with destinations like New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island and the realization sunk in -I’m in New England! I’m in BOSTON! :) Can’t hardly wait to ge out of the airports!

I have a 3+ hour layover before the next flight and I feel tired. The blaring TVs and strange people all around are a bit much to deal with. It’ll be good to catch a bit of a nap later today.

It appears that the Cape Air flight is a 9 person flight – quaint! – and they are waiting for 5 more passengers to show up to get us out earlier. Here’s hoping.

Some last pre-journey words…

I leave tomorrow night on the red-eye to Lebanon, New Hampshire, with no less than two connections (one at Cleveland and another at Boston). I will arrive in Lebanon at 1:25PM (east coast time) where an old childhood friend will pick me up. I might go pick up my bike from Lebanon Motorsports and ride it to her place. I’ll hang out with her part of the weekend and start the big ride on Sunday heading up north towards Montreal.

I don’t have all of the details of the route planned yet, just the first few days where I plan on seeing most of New England, riding some good roads, and stopping at cool little towns, maybe even doing the occassional tourist thing. I hope to be in Ohio on the 31st after which I start heading back out west. You would think that with one month off, I will have all the time in the world to ride without feeling rushed, but I’m sure reality will be far different. On the way I hope to meet many old friends. :)

Assuming my various devices work as they should and I have cell phone coverage, I will post on here as often as I can.

That is all. Thanks for coming along on the ride! :)