Trucks, hills, a blowout ... and a warm, moonless night full of stars

  • Norma sharing the road with a truck in Ellsworth, Maine.

    Norma sharing the road with a truck in Ellsworth, Maine.

  • Evie and Norma on Route 1 in Maine.

    Evie and Norma on Route 1 in Maine.

Published: 8/27/2009 11:51 AM

Evie Weber of Arlington Heights and her sister, Norma Witherbee, are familiar to Daily Herald readers who followed their bicycle travels on the Lewis and Clark Trail and the Underground Railroad. On Aug. 19, the sisters (Norma, 76, and Evie, 72) embarked on another adventure, the 2,700 miles from Bar Harbor, Maine to Miami, Fla. Stay with from now through October for Evie's dispatches from the "M&M" ride.

Most folks go to sleep counting sheep; me, I go to sleep counting miles. Arlington Heights to New Orleans 1,200 miles; Arlington Heights to Anaheim, 2,400 miles, (that's 3,600 miles); Mobile, Ala. to Owen Sound, Canada 2,100 miles; that's how many mileszzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

On the eve of our newest ride, the "M&M," Maine to Miami, we were camping at Acadia National Park. Dinner was eaten, dishes done and camp tidied up as darkness settled over the park. It was a warm, moonless night, perfect for star gazing. Norma, our friend Karen and I went down to the beach for an unobstructed view of the heavens.

There is nothing more humbling than there on the sand looking up at that enormous vastness of the starlit sky and realizing that I too, am just a very, very small grain of sand in the game of life. The gentle lapping of the waves started to lull me to sleep as I lay there counting stars and reflecting on journeys past.

When I was preparing for my very first cross-country trip in 1983, Seattle to Arlington Heights, I kept visualizing what I might look like from a great distance. Would I look like a small, insignificant person on a bicycle on this endless road? And what about the mountains?

I had no doubt that I would be able to do the climbing - very slowly I might add - but what about coming down? I was freaking myself out that I would go so fast that I would either burn up my breaks or fly off the cliff. In all actuality, coming down was so much fun that often I would hitch hike back up to the top with my bike and do it all over again.

Now 25 years later I find myself in Bar Harbor, Maine, on the city dock posing for yet another photo - this time starting a journey instead of ending one, and my how things have changed. Gone is that quaint charm of lobster boats moored in the harbor with their nets, traps and markers artistically strewn along the wharf.

I don't know where they are moored now, but to me the whole flavor of the harbor has changed. The lobster boats have been replaced by all the pleasure and tour boats that cater to the tourists.

I realize nothing stays the same, especially the roads taking us out of Bar Harbor. It sure is not how I remembered them. Narrow, with minimum shoulders and LOTS of traffic. We have been riding Route 1 on and off for the past five days and it is not exactly what I would call tranquil but for the most part, there is a nice wide shoulder.

The Lord always has a reason for everything and there are times that I wonder why when something out of the ordinary happens.

I was riding along, enjoying the down hills immensely when, BANG, my tire went flat. Not just flat, it was sliced through to the inner tube.

I was the only one who had an extra tire in the truck, so I guess that's why He chose me. It was a good thing this happened here, as a little farther up the road the shoulder disappeared, traffic became horrendous and we would have had 10 miles of what Adventure Cyclist refers to as, "Riding this stretch of Route 1 is not for the faint of heart."

My husband, Larry, who is driving the support vehicle had to come and rescue us.

Did you ever see, "The 76-Year-Old Scramble?" This is how it's done: Put a 76-year-old person on a bicycle, in a construction zone and see if they can stay upright.

Norma was riding in such a situation, her front wheel caught an uneven piece of pavement and she was thrown into the line of traffic. I have never seen her move as fast as she did that day as she scrambled off her bicycle and into the safety zone.

Thank God that the drivers were alert and swerved around her or our grand adventure could have ended sooner than expected.

A lot of advice was given to us as to what direction we should be traveling. "Don't you know the prevailing winds go from South to North?" is what my bicycling friends would tell me.

Yes, I do, and when the temperature reaches 90-100 degrees like it has been, I will gladly take the wind blowing in my face cooling me down.

Our biggest concern, however, was that the towns along the East Coast tend to pull in their sidewalks after Labor Day making it a lot harder to find any services.

Thus far I have also noticed that the climbing on Route 1 has been shorter going south, usually a mile in length but a lot longer on the descent making the climb worth while.

Occasionally the route would take us into quiet back roads where short, steep hills await us turning the climb into heart pounding, sweat pouring hills. Doing 15 to 20 miles on these types of roads makes Route 1 with the all the traffic look better and better. I actually do not mind sharing the road with cars and trucks as long as they are willing to "share the road" with me.

As I crawl into my sleeping bag this evening, instead of counting sheep I most likely will count how many hills I conquered today.

Happy trails,