I’m going to start this series of blogs on my tour through the Maritimes in Maine since that’s where my trip began and ended. I decided to cut through The United States en route to my first destination, Deer Island, NB, just off the coast of Maine. I’d visited Maine before a few times and had fond memories of fish & chip shops, swimming in the ocean, and a pleasant ride through small coastal towns. Those associations with Maine were smashed this time round with ATVs, camo-fashion, RV “parks,” and crappy roads.
The first thing you need to know about Maine is that it’s a Gemini state, with the coastal areas very, very different from the interior. It’s only the coast I’d experienced before, and if that’s where you’re headed, I say “Go for it. Bon voyage!” There’s money on the coast, most of it probably not made there but imported from Boston or even New York. And when there isn’t money—the mansions that line Highway 1 in the Hamptons, for example—there’s at least the ocean and a certain quaintness that comes with colourful buoys strung up on the sides of buildings and decorative fishing nets in pubs, starfish decor sort-of-thing, and of course fish & chips, which makes everything look a little better.
The good folks at Camden Hills State Park seem to know this and charge $43 USF for a site and $7 for a bundle of wood. While I was registering, I heard some people on their way out say it’s the most expensive state park. (Is this in Maine or the US, or just the most expensive one they’ve stayed at? I wasn’t sure.) At any rate, with the dollar conversion, I paid about $65 to pitch my tent on gravel and warm my bones. I won’t be going back to Camden Hills State Park anytime soon. I only chose it because it’s close to Highway 1, my ride for the next day.
It did, however, have “free” showers. I didn’t really need a shower but wanted to get a little more out of my $43 so had one anyways. Turns out I paid a higher price because while in the shower it started to teem and the tent got soaked; it would have to be packed up wet. I donned my rain gear and hit the road, heading up Highway 1 toward the ferry crossing to Deer Island at Eastport. It was raining pretty hard and very humid, and I rode through patches of fog. Soon I came to Fort Knox and the Penboscot Narrows Bridge. It’s won some awards for engineering and is pretty impressive. There’s a lookout to stop and admire the bridge but I had only been on the road a short while so decided to blow past; only once I was riding across the bridge, I realized just how impressive it is and decided I had to turn around on the other side, ride back over, and stop at the lookout for a photo. This turned out to be one of those fateful and almost disastrous decisions.
When I got on the bike again, it wouldn’t start! It’s never done this before. Aside from that first fall when I had the wrong oil in the bike for the cold temperature, my bike starts reliably every time. Now it would turn over and fire once then immediately quit.
Because of the weather, I was thinking electrical. While I was trying to start it, a guy who had also stopped at the lookout said, “That’s a frustrating sound.” As it turned out, he has the twin cylinder 650GS (2012) and told me the only time it “conked out” on him was in wet weather. He said he’d been riding it in the rain and stopped at his house and it just wouldn’t start again. So he was confirming the electrical/humidity line of thought. He said a few more things that would prove to be extremely important and useful. He suggested I just wait it out because, as he put it, “You’ve only got so many cranks on the battery.” So that’s what I proceeded to do. I decided to have my lunch and wait. I had to force myself to be patient, although given the situation, with so much hanging in the balance, obviously I had an urge to find an immediate solution. So I started pacing, watching the sky and hoping for a break in the weather, which never came. I’d return to the bike periodically and try it, with the same result. I was worried and started considering what I would do if I couldn’t start it and the battery died. I didn’t have any clear idea, but with the costs involved, it would probably mean an early end to my tour.
Dude said something else that I pondered while pacing. He said it sounded like it wasn’t getting any gas, which is true. The bike was turning over okay, and firing, albeit once. It just wasn’t continuing to fire. My first thought when he said this was—and I think I even uttered this aloud—could it have anything to do with the angle that the bike is parked on? The parking at this lookout was such that the bike was tilted back. I knew I had about a third of a tank of gas remaining, but perhaps that remaining gas was sloshed to the back of the tank away from the fuel pump. Eventually I decided it couldn’t hurt and I pushed the bike in a semi-circle so it was tipped now slightly nose-down. I tried it again and it didn’t start. So much for that theory.
Then along came a cyclist who was touring. I recognized an accent and discovered he’s from Quebec City. We struck up a conversation which was a welcome distraction from my dilemma. 15 minutes into the conversation I tried the bike again and it started! He must have been my ange gardien! I was so relieved! After this little incident, I decided to keep the tank topped up the rest of the trip. It happened another time later in the tour when the bike was tipped back, with the solution again being just to straighten the bike. So now I know: my bike doesn’t like to start unless level.
I knew my battery now was low but, although I wanted to fill my tank, I had to ride another hour to charge the battery before I felt comfortable stopping, and even then, I chose a station not far from a garage, just in case. I’d lost some valuable time and the rest of the day would be tight for catching the ferry to my planned campground. I rode hard, stopping only briefly for short breaks and snacks, but knew I had until 6:00 at Eastport to catch the last ferry. I pulled in around 5:15 and saw a sign announcing that the ferry was permanently closed. Another dilemma.
So I did what I usually do when I’m in a fix: I struck up a conversation with a local. He told me there’s another ferry at Campobello Island just past Lubec. His daughter looked up the ferry times. The last one is at 7:00, but I had basically to do a loop around the bay, back to Pleasant Point, south on the 1, left on the 189 out to Lubec, cross through Canada Customs, blow through Roosevelt’s old estate to the ferry at Welshpool, all in less than an hour. I did it with time to spare for take-out fish & chips.
That was the pleasant part of my experience in Maine. It got worse when I returned on my way back.