Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Day 5--Acadia National Park--Carriage Roads with Lots of Bridges to See

Sparky's apologizes for the break in info about Acadia and riding the carriage roads. Sparky took a week's break from picking out her favorite Acadia photos and blogging about the carriage roads to go on a road trip with her daughter's car back to Virginia, and to welcome her daughter home from a long stay in Kuwait. She's BA-A-A-C-K! (Both of them...explains E.)

A little aside about Acadia National Park...It preserves parts or all of 15 islands in addition to Mount Desert Island.  It's about 35,000 acres with 41 miles of coastline, has the only fjord in the eastern U.S., AND the highest point on the Atlantic coast of North and South America. (Cadillac Mountain).

Sparky LOVES the Rockefeller bridges. There are 16 of them that are within the carriage road system and more outside the carriage roads. Each bridge is unique, and what a lot of people don't know, if you don't get off your bike, or head down the paths that you can barely see at the sides of the bridges, you will miss a whole other world. There are trails that criss cross the carriage roads, go under the bridges and beautiful falls and streams and other surprises await, like this little wooden bridge on a trail a ways back from one of the bridges.

This is Sparky's favorite bridge, the Amphitheater Bridge.

Here's an example of what you might see if you traverse down a bridge's side and look for trails underneath.

This photo below was taken underneath and to the side of the Waterfall Bridge....

One of the coolest things about Acadia and Rockefeller's vision, are the fact that the trails and paths that lead you to Mother Nature's beauty are so well blended into the landscape, although they are man made trails, that you can't even tell they are there.....This looks like an impossible walk through, but it's really quite easy because the stone and rocks have been deliberately placed so you can step from one rock to the next, and not jam your ankle in a crack somewhere, as long as you are stepping carefully!

See the blue blaze on the trail? (it's on the tree in the center) This really is a trail!

Sparky's ride today was on the other side of Acadia, near Northeast Harbor. She wanted to see FIVE bridges. This was going to be a longer ride. Eldy dropped Sparky off at the parking lot to the side of where the Brown Mountain Gate Lodge is located, on 198 on Mount Desert Island.

We had rented a nice little bike rack from the Bar Harbor Bike Shop on Cottage Street to transport the bike rental over to that side. Sparky was going to ride the Upper and Lower Hadlock Pond loop and the Long Pond loop-- on the bike map highlighted in blue--rated DIFFICULT. Where you see stars, are the bridges. The hard part is identifying the bridges two weeks AFTER you saw them, and trying to match up the stars with the names of the bridges on the Acadia park map with this bike map. (There are no signs at the bridges). The numbers on this map are the signpost numbers.

Here's the park literature map WITH the bridge names (off to the side,  not pictured) and numbers which have nothing to do with the bike shop map numbers! See how Sparky is confused? :-) (Doesn't take much to do THAT! laughs E.)

Did Sparky get lost again on the carriage roads? Yep, briefly. You see, many of the carriage rides are loops. So when you get to a signpost, which is numbered, and which is on the bike map, sometimes it will say go either way to get to a certain point, because it's a loop. Sparky's problem is, she's spatially challenged BIG time, and she doesn't know which way is east- west- north or south on a cloudy day (or any day! laughs E, AGAIN). So she briefly went a wrong way on one of the loop routes, then asked some other bikers which way she was supposed to be going, and they straightened her out.

Sparky thinks she did over 20 miles today....She started the "Map My Ride" bike app, but it ran down the phone battery so fast, she turned it off. And if it wasn't 20 miles, it certainly was a stupendous workout with all the hills. She needs a portable odometer! It was a really fabulous ride today.....
Hadley Brook Bridge
Next up, a whale watching tour with quite the story! See you later......

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 4 in Acadia/Bar Harbor--a Hike!

First off, we highly recommend these little three little pocket books at the Acadia visitors' center or in town bookstores, if it's your first time to Bar Harbor and Acadia....Lots of helpful information, like in the biking pocket book, in July, the marshy areas have a heavy population of horseflies...ugh! Out came the hiking book for today...The hikes are recommended as to the difficulty level...Again, what the author might view as "moderate", might be someone else's "difficult", depending on what shape you are in. We're in decent shape, but Eldy's knees can be a little balky, so we picked the Flying Mountain hike to do....The weather has turned beautiful, although it's still cool, low sixties, perfect for a hike!

A hike on Flying Mountain.....considered "moderate"....Turn off Route 102 onto Fernando Point Road where you see a sign for Causeway Golf Course. About a mile down the road, at the end of Fernald Cove, park at the gated dirt road on the left. There is a very small parking lot there, holds maybe about five cars. The trail starts right up, rising steeply to the treed but open summit in less than .5 of a mile. Flying Mountain is only 284 feet above sea level, but oh, man, what a view!

Terrific views of Somes Sound, the only true fjord in eastern North America. You can retrace your steps at the summit, or continue on the Valley Cove Trail that leads down a small slope to the end of Valley Peak Road on the shore of the cove. Total length:  1 mile. Perfect for first time hiking in a long time!

We were hungry after the hike....Off to try a pizza place...Rosalie's Pizza in town...Freshly made pizza. You place your order at the counter, take your drinks back to your table and wait for the guys to hand toss your pizza. Delicious and highly recommend!

Tomorrow, Sparky rides the carriage roads again.....and sees LOTS more bridges!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Day 3--Acadia National Park--Sparky Rides the Carriage Roads!

So-o-o-o-o...We're in Bar Harbor, and it's time for Sparky to ride the carriage roads! She has been riding the flatlands back home in FL...about 60 miles a week, so she should be in good shape to ride the carriage roads, right! HA! Wish we knew what the inclines were on these carriage roads, but first things first...Rent a bike. There are several shops where you can rent bikes in Bar Harbor, but Sparky is partial to Bar Harbor Bike Shop on Cottage Street. It's right down the hill (remember that) from an entrance into Acadia, so you can ride right from the shop to Acadia National Park. Cool beans! as Judy would say, (Travels with Judy and Emma blog).

Sparky likes Bar Harbor Bike Shop so much she bought her Trek 7300 bike there four years ago. But since we flew into Bangor, we didn't have bikes with us this time. Sparky rented a Cannondale Quick...a fitness bike. It's lightweight, and it's awesome! Much lighter than her Trek bike back home. the price of the rental is 19.00 for four hours. They have put wider tires than what normally the bike comes with, in order to give the rider a safer trip on the carriage roads without tire incidents. Sparky thought she would start with that time period and see what happened. You can rent cruiser bikes, and comfort bikes, but for the carriage roads, you really need a lighter bike and this model was perfect! No cushy gel seat, but you can swap the existing seat out and for a few bucks more, get a gel seat to rent! The shop replaces their rentals EVERY year, so you are getting a really recent model of bike. They have fantastic sales in the fall when they get rid of their old models. Sparky wished she was going to be back in the fall, but that's not possible this year. But she's going to start saving for a Cannondale Quick! There's a Quick 4, 5, or 6 to choose from. Sparky will check out all the options for sure! She's tired of getting passed by on long bike rides by the road bikers. A lighter bike would help and motivate her to ride even more back home.
The shop gives you a nice map...the one in the shop is color coded so you know which carriage roads are challenging and which are easy. The map they give you is black and white. There are stars for the bridges, but no bridge names on the map. Sparky tends to forget the order of the bridges after she gets back home. She tried to find some piece of literature that had it all in one spot while she was there, but didn't find a good combination. Oh, well!

Sparky marked a copy of the map so she could see which roads she covered. "Easy" is a relative term. Just remember that!
You head out from the bike shop and almost immediately, you go up a STEEP hill, West Street, and head out on Duck Brook Road. It's so steep it's almost impossible to ride it up, even with the proper gear functioning. Sparky actually got off the bike and walked a bit. Oh, boy...Not as good a shape as she thought she was! Finally, the road evened out and--first bridge, a road bridge---yay! It was drizzling and COLD, in the low fifties! But Sparky didn't care...She was on the carriage roads, everything was a lush, lush green, and the brisk temperatures kept her cool!

Along with some nice warm merino wool socks from Vermont that Sparky bought in town...They are called "Darn Tough Socks from Vermont"....Very lightweight, very comfortable, and WARM, but not hot!
Duck Brook Bridge is the largest, most expensive bridge in the system...It's a triple arch bridge...

The streams were full of rushing water....Tons of little waterfalls.....

Sparky rode past Eagle Lake and the Eagle Lake Bridge (1928)....

She could see a loon and hear him in the distance....

Sparky spotted one solitary lady slipper...There were NONE others around, and she looked!
On she went, past Bubble Pond and its bridge....

Sparky continued on the carriage roads....There were definitely steep inclines but overall, the roads evened out just when she thought she might have to get off the bike and walk....

When Sparky got to marker 17, she decided it was time to turn back. It was exhilarating, and she wanted to keep going, but for the first day out, she decided to get the bike back in time for a four hour rental, so back she went on the same path. It was roughly about a 12 mile ride round trip. Sparky didn't have an odometer on her bike, and trying to use the app, Map My Ride ran her battery down before she was even half way through the ride! If you figure in all the hills, that was a good workout! Sparky LOVED it! She'll be back for another ride another day for sure!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Day 2 -- Acadia National Park--Rained Out Again

Well, shoot, it's coming down pretty hard again today....It's coming down so hard that there are waterfalls cascading down from the rocks at the side of the road everywhere as we drive through the park.

Sparky had to get a new senior pass because she lost her old one, so we stopped at the Acadia Park Welcome Center to get new hike info and a new pass.  If you lose your old pass, all you have to do is show a driver's license at the park and get a new one for 10.00, just like the original. You can also do it online but there's an additional fee to do that, if you are not anywhere near a national park or preserve, Sparky thinks the additional administrative fee on top of the card fee was 10.00.

We decided to explore places to stay when and if we come back to Acadia. Sparky says, we will! Since we no longer have the motorhome, we would have to stay at a motel or hotel, bed and breakfast, or cottage, of which there are MANY! We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce in downtown Acadia at Cottage and Main, where we got some information about rentals in the area. There are about 400 places to rent on Mount Desert Island alone, one of the chamber volunteers mentioned. (Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert Island). There are houses to rent, lots and lots of antiquated cottages, and cute little bed and breakfast places, take your pick! You can find places from less than 100.00 a night, to upwards of 300-400 dollars a night and depending upon whether it's "season" or not. Season, in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, gets going in mid June. That's when rates really start to climb, as soon as the kids get out of school. This year, 2015,  they were still having to make up snow days and were in school till the middle of June! So things were very quiet in downtown Bar Harbor, and in the restaurants and shops the week we were there, the first week of June.

We drove around and basically drove into places we thought looked interesting, there were cabin signs for rent EVERYWHERE!....Here is what we found...Unfortunately, Sparky did not take photos of the interiors...She just wasn't thinking about the blog at that time! In a nutshell, if you don't mind rustic, VERY dated cottages, MOST of them are just that...Very old, they haven't been updated in years and years, old gas stoves, showers and no tubs, tiny spaces, and no AC. The bedrooms are so tiny, the bed takes up most of the bedroom. Many did not have any separation between sleeping quarters and a tiny little galley kitchenette. Sparky even laid down on some mattresses to test them out, and oh, boy...back troubles probably were guaranteed. BUT--Several of them had wonderful views of the inlets and bays....That makes up for the quaintness and musty cabin smells of the interiors, we suppose....Sparky actually was ready to reserve a cabin on Frenchman's Bay, despite how old the interiors were, the view was that fantastic! There were kayaks and canoes and a dock available at this one place. Prices for a week for these vintage cabins ranged from $700 and up. Then we decided what about a HOUSE for rent? We found a wonderful one in town, a duplex, with a super nice lady living in the other half. We met with her and just really enjoyed her and the house, right smack in the middle of town. But the house was too much house for us. We wouldn't need it unless we had family or friends coming for a visit, and at this point, we didn't know if that would happen or not....We checked out an upstairs apartment near the seafood restaurant called the Charter House. It was nice and modern, but zero views and no place to sit outside that you could call your own. So, for now...we are on hold on a place to stay for next year...There are many, many places to rent all over Mount Desert Island and in Southwest Harbor, but if you don't check them out ahead of time, you might be disappointed. Photos on the web of some of these cabins were all about views, (many of them), and not so much about the actual accommodations.  Seeing them in person, gave us an eye opener about what you pay for long term stays in Bar Harbor. You don't get a lot of modern conveniences for your money, but that's because it's a tourist town that needs to make money in the summer! If you love the memory of staying in a little cabin up north when you were a kid, then these kitschy cabins would be perfect for you! We didn't check out bed and breakfasts...Eldy is not as fond of them as Sparky is....

The rain continued but appeared to be lessening....We ate at the Thirsty Whale for lunch...right in town...GREAT chowder! Is there any place in Bar Harbor that DOESN'T have good chowder? It's all good here....The atmosphere is really cozy, too....We decided to drive around the island heading on the way to Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor, and ended up near the Asticou Gardens...The last time we were here, Sparky climbed all the stairs to the Thuyla Gardens at the top, where there were AMAZING displays of all kinds of flowers and LOTS of hummingbirds, but this time we stayed at the bottom...What a beautiful place! The azaleas were in full bloom, many different kinds and colors...This garden was created in 1958 by Charles Savage, a long time resident of Northeast Harbor, who was inspired by Japanese gardening and his desire to save the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand, a famous American landscape designer and pioneer for women in the profession. Mr. Savage built the the azalea garden at the bottom of the terraced landscape, and the Thuyla Gardens, a semi formal herbaceous garden, is at the top. Both are at the intersection of Rte. 198 and Rte. 3 in Northeast Harbor. Asticou is a strolling garden with a meandering pathway and is truly beautiful in late spring....

On to Bass Harbor, as the sun is coming out! There are so many fabulous photos of the Bass Harbor lighthouse, but about the only way to get a decent one is to go clambering out on the rocks and be there at the very early dawn or very late in the day. Sparky got on the rocks, but we were there mid afternoon, so the lighting was not right. Phooey!

While she was out on the fringes of the rocks moving VERY carefully around on the rocks, (that woman is going to give me a heart attack one of these days!) Eldo remained further back, talking to some RVers. It turns out the guy was wearing a Sarasota shirt, so Eldo just HAD to strike up a conversation. They are part timers, heading out of the heat during the summers from FL and there we were, two couples from the same town with the same idea. Only Sparky and Eldo had one week to enjoy the cool temps, and they had all summer planned in Maine and other New England states.

And time to head back, Sparky is getting hungry! Looks like tomorrow is a bike ride on the carriage roads!

See you there!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 1 Acadia and Bar Harbor

We arrived late last night, all we had time to do was grab a late supper at Route 66, a fun, 50's diner in downtown Bar Harbor. There is a TON of memorabilia in this restaurant, and it's really fun to look around while you wait for your food.

Sparky had a bowl of really good clam chowder...Eldy had a burger which was equally delicious. And  then we spent a little bit of time checking out the antiques on display in the restaurant.

But, they were getting ready to close so we bundled ourselves up to go back into the rainy night back to our hotel....The temperatures for the week were looking like highs in the fifties to low sixties and rain was forecast for the next day...What to do on a rainy day in Bar Harbor? Drive the Park Loop Road to reacquaint ourselves with Acadia, one of Sparky's top national parks! The next morning, that's what we did....But first--had to eat breakfast at "Jeannie's Great Maine Breakfast"...Sparky really likes that restaurant, as their name is the same as her first name. She keeps hoping that they will offer her a discount for having the same name spelled the same way, but nope......Good food, a little more pricey for breakfast, there are cheaper places in town, but that's a tourist town for you. And the food is very good.

It was a slow steady rain, not too hard that Sparky couldn't get out and take some photos of the blooming lupines, most of which are purple in the park, but can be spotted in white and pink, sometimes, too....These were taken with an iPhone 5S.

We stopped at Thunder Hole, which if you get there at 3/4 tide on the day of a threatening storm or just after, Sparky is not sure which, you could see a TERRIFIC display of saltwater spray and booming sound, as the water comes rushing into a very narrow channel with a cutout hole on the side which causes the boom sound-- very little of which was happening today.....

On to Cobblestone Beach.... A very cool little beach where there is no sand, just cobblestones, and the water makes a delightful tinkling, clattering sound as the waves rush in and roll out at the beach. Sparky did a little movie on her iPhone of the sound of the waves clattering over the stones, but it didn't transfer to the blog....Darn!

The rest of the day, we took it easy, the rain continued to come down all day, more of the same tomorrow, possibly...That's ok, it is SO refreshing! Everybody is wearing heavy jackets, hats, and even gloves! Sparky is really loving the cooler temps! But somebody wishes it would warm up just a little.....(Uh, that would be me, says E.) Tomorrow, if the rain eases up, Sparky is going to rent a bike and ride the carriage trails!  See you later......

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sparky and Eldo Get Out of "Dodge"

As in escaped the heat!

Sparky would like to give a shout out to her better half, "Eldo", a.k.a. Eldy or Eldon...For HOURS each day for WEEKS, he'd been researching a get away vacation to somewhere cool as in temperature cool. First, we were going to Alaska, but decided since we'd done the Glacier Bay cruise tour, we wouldn't want to come back unless we could go into the interior of Alaska and see Denali National Park, maybe rent an RV...Too expensive for now, we decided...Eldy doesn't do any researching half way...He will cross check and cross reference multiple sites for days at a time, getting the best deals. We had possibilities there, but then we decided Bar Harbor....Actually, as Eldy has trouble with his knees and shoulder, he would have probably preferred going to Alaska and done more of a sightseeing vacation, but knowing how much his gal Sparky LOVES to bike and hike, he planned out a terrific week's stay in Bar Harbor so she could hike and bike at Acadia and maybe Eldo would, too.

First, the weather....We checked out the extended weather for Bar Harbor, and it was TERRIFIC for Sparky...Fifties and sixties for highs, lows in the forties at night...A little too cool for Eldo, but a refreshing change for the both of us, since weather in Sarasota/Bradenton skipped spring and went straight to summer...low nineties! Then, the flight...Allegiant Airlines flies from St. Pete, FL to Bangor, Maine, two days a week, on Mondays and Fridays. Airfare is VERY reasonable to Bangor....It was about 350.00 for one person round trip the first week of June when we went. The problem with Allegiant is, they charge you for everything else...regardless whether you check your bag or carry it on, you pay. Thirty dollars for a checked bag one way, per bag. Allegiant had some problems recently with an episode with one of their jets just this week. Apparently, an engine started smoking 10 minutes out of the airport from St. Pete, and an emergency landing forced them back to the airport. From the news, the evacuation of the flight was sloppily handled by the crew, and it made us nervous to think that this airline might be cutting corners and not keeping their planes well maintained, despite federal regulations. If you google "Allegiant Airlines mishap" you will see several instances of problems, more than you seem to hear from other airlines...Pilots have been raising concerns about the planes' safety for months. Pilots have cited 65 times in seven months where flights had to divert because of mechanical or engine problems. Here's a link to more information about that. http://nyti.ms/1HLP1AG  Yikes!

Next, the rental car...Eldy got on Priceline and made a bid of 23.00 a day, which was accepted. (Taxes extra). Lastly, accommodations....Bar Harbor Manor, a four star hotel right in town for 109.00 a night with AAA discount...But of course, it WAS off season rates.

Our room was terrific...very newly decorated and the whole inn appeared to have been freshly renovated with paint and new fixtures...

There was a little balcony viewing the parking lot, which was very nicely landscaped, lots of wild blueberries going to bloom all over the place soon...In the main office, a sitting area with fresh coffee, a fireplace that they did turn on during the week, with nice cozy couches to sit and read on a rainy day. Very nice people to work with, we enjoyed our stay very much.

We got in late the first night, so about all we did was to find a place to eat...Route 66 right in town, a delightful 50's style diner with great chowder and burgers.

A cool place with LOTS to look at!

Time for bed...Sparky was all tuckered out from the late flight in and the drive from Bangor to Bar Harbor.....She can't wait to get on a bike in the morning! See you soon!