July 7, 2011

400 Miles, 6 Bikers, 1 Flat Tire

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Posted by: Katie Herklotz, Team Leader for New England Climate Summer--Team Maine

After spending over a week in Portland, it was surprisingly hard to say goodbye to this vibrant and progressive city (Maine’s largest, but only 66,000 residents!) we had come to love so much. As the seven of us rolled out of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on Tuesday morning….wait….seven bikers? That’s right, Team Maine acquired an extra member for about 12 hours. We met Chael MacArthur, a Vancouver native, while working with the Bike Coalition of Maine’s valet bike event for the 4th of July fireworks. Chael, like ourselves, is on a bike journey to Newfoundland to make a statement and encourage a more sustainable future. However, Chael took things to a new level of hardcore by not carrying a cell phone or laptop with him, and sleeping in abandoned shacks in the middle of the woods. It was clear to us that we needed to offer Chael a place to sleep for the night in our humble abode, which he willingly accepted. In the morning he rode and chatted with us for a couple miles, then suddenly veered off at an intersection and yelled, “See ya!” He was heading to Freeport, but didn’t have a map and didn’t know where he was planning on staying, nor will we ever know if he made it, because he has no means of contact. Hanging out with Chael made us feel a little pathetic, but nonetheless inspired to keep up our hard work in Maine.

The 35 mile ride from Portland to Lewiston was not entirely enjoyable. It was incredibly hot, and the “flat ride to Lewiston”, as told by the sexton at the UU church was no where to be found.

Team Maine hit two milestones on this day: 1) we reached 400 miles and 2) we had our first flat tire. Two days before I bragged to Van that our team had made it this far without any flats, I should have known better. We were only three miles from the church when something felt a little funny on my bike. I am fairly used to this eery feeling that my bike is falling apart, as she has known to be a little sassy in the past (i.e. severely breaking down in the Camp Wilmont driveway). Thankfully, this was nothing but a flat. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir if I complain about flats, as every other team (Mass Acceleration in particular) has had their share. I’ll just say it wasn’t the best welcome into Lewiston.

On Wednesday we met with our Main(e) contact, Merry (author of Bringing Food Home: The Maine Example)  and Burrel Hall, and they invited us to their home for dinner. Sounds like an alluring offer, right? We were unaware that they lived atop a mountain ten miles away and that there was a severe weather system moving in our direction. After peddling for over an hour in the sweltering heat, we arrived at the Hall’s home surrounded by a vegetable garden Burrel made. He explained to us that Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma inspired him to grow his own vegetables, fruits and nuts for food security, to save money, exercise, and gratification. He led us around his property pointing out various bushes and trees and let us pick our own lettuce for the meal’s salad. Merry had prepared a delicious chilled beat soup, and we scarfed it down while the wind blew, the rain poured down, and the walls shook with thunder and the room was momentarily illuminated with lightning. We were a little nervous about how we could possibly make it ten miles in such a storm, and the Halls offered to put us up for the night. Finally, the storm passed and we flew down the mountain in a light rain accompanied by a breathtaking rainbow and sunset over a lake. Biking in the night proved to be an invigorating experience for everyone. The leftover sun and heat from the day still lingered, but the air was cool and fresh and allowed us to lose track of time as we made it up and down plenty of hills in this twilight zone.

*Check out more amazing blogs from New England Climate Summer at http://climatesummer.wordpress.com

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