Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Get That Girl a Compass!

Well....this is a sad tale, but true...Sparky is just about hopeless when it comes to navigating herself around anywhere. Actually, she hasn't been doing too badly lately, so she decided to head off on another exploratory tour of the bridges on her bike. Actually, it was a rental bike--a Fuji hybrid. Sparky and Eldo are thinking about upgrading their bikes from "comfort" Trek bikes to something with larger wheels, lighter frames, and a lots less rolling resistance on the wheels. That type of bike is usually called a hybrid. It's one step up before a serious road bike. A road bike has the super skinny tires and the handlebar down setup. We want to be upright but a little more streamlined, and it sounds like a hybrid might be a better solution for us. So we checked out Southwest Cycle in Southwest Harbor yesterday and rented a hybrid.

Renting a bike is no problem in Bar Harbor or any of the bike shops in surrounding towns, but most rent you a basic utility bike that's sturdy and heavy, like our comfort bikes. Southwest Cycle rents HYBRIDS if you want to try one out. Twenty-five dollars a day...not cheap, but we were going to make the most of it. We started out first thing in the morning and went for a bike ride at Eagle Lake. Eldy wanted to try the bike first. When Sparky saw him take off on the first gradual incline without a problem, and he sailed on ahead, she knew she was going to have to try this bike out herself!
Jordan Pond by the dam
Later in the day, waiting for traffic to clear out at Jordan Pond, Sparky decided to do the Jordan Pond stretch of the carriage road that has TWO bridges on it. Sparky didn't have her written directions from the Carriage Roads photography book that were very clear on how to see the two bridges. She did have in her head (never a good idea, says E.) the directions the park ranger gave her. Off she went.

Downhill to the Jordan Pond Dam bridge, she remembered, just a few tenths of a mile. As she came down to the Jordan Pond Dam Bridge, Sparky had trouble shifting the gears on the Fuji rental, it was a totally different shifting system from what she was used to. Sparky shifted too rapidly, and KA-CLANK-CLANK! The chain came off.....end of ride, she thought. Darn it! She tried to get the chain back on, but didn't know how to do it. After getting her hands totally greasy and black, Sparky started trudging morosely back up the hill to the Jordan Pond House. A couple passing by asked if she had bike trouble, and when the guy heard it was a chain problem, he fixed Sparky's chain in 30 seconds! Sparky watched attentively. Yay! Back to the bike ride again she went....Up the hill, turn right at the first intersection, so far, so good.

Totally uphill all the way working her way to the first bridge, Sparky pedaled onward and upward. This Fuji was WONDERFUL!  Lots lighter, Sparky didn't have to get off once as she shifted through the gears. Sparky even passed three guys in their twenties, two riding very slowly and one very buff young guy trudging up the hill walking his bike. Sparky wanted to take off her helmet and show her gray hair, LOOK AT THIS GRANDMA, fellas! But she didn't...she kept pedaling constantly, even though she was huffing and puffing till she got WAY past the guys, then she took a brief break. She had to get past the "tumbledown", the humongous pile of boulders and rocks that are to the side of the road, a testament to the work of the glaciers  that exposed the mountainside and the workers who had to blast and chisel their way through the mountainside to make the carriage road there.

Sparky came to the first bridge. The Deer Brook Bridge...and it is absolutely beautiful!

You have no idea what lays beneath you as you pass over this bridge. You have to get off the bike, and go down a series of stone steps just a little ways, to get a peek of this gorgeous bridge with the double arches and medallion in the center. Originally, there was going to be a bronze deer head sticking out between the arches, but due to cost or esthetics, that was scrapped. This is the only double arched bridge in the carriage road Rockefeller bridges. The granite used in this bridge is darker because the stone at this bridge site is older and darker. Sparky made sure that anybody who was lingering at the top of the bridge knew about what lay beneath them and where to take the few steps to see this awesome bridge. She should work for the park! Hey...she could be the Rockefeller Bridge ambassador, riding the carriage roads with the bridges and telling people all about them. There's just one problem, and you'll see what happens next. I'm getting to the reason for the title, honest I am!

Sparky knew there was a another bridge ahead, so she kept far, so good. Here comes the second bridge, just a few tenths of a mile, still uphill on snaky curves...Huffing and puffing some more, Sparky made it to the Chasm Brook Bridge. Here's the above view....
Here's the view underneath.....
It's hard to see but there's a mountain of rock on the other side of the bridge where a fast flowing brook in the spring tumbles down about 15 feet before passing under the bridge and coming to the front of the photo. Today, it was just trickles, with the trees blocking the view. Time to move on, it was getting very late in the afternoon...Sparky continued on...the road climbs to the highest elevation, 780 feet. At this point, Sparky makes a SERIOUS error in judgement. She keeps going instead of turning around and coming back down in a steady descent. She thought this was a LOOP excursion, it wasn't. From here on out, Sparky is unable to tell you what happened, except at the next intersection, the signpost said, "Jordan POND"...Sparky thought, oh, good! This will take me back to the Jordan Pond GATEHOUSE...No-o-o-o-o, it takes you around a circuitous route adding miles and miles to the already long ride Sparky had made thus far, which was about five miles of tortuous ascending climbs.  Sparky asked directions of everyone going past her on the quickest way to get back to Jordan Pond House. The consensus of opinion, was "retrace your steps"....

Somehow, Sparky had made it to BUBBLE POND, a few miles out of her way and the only way to get back to the starting point was about five and a half miles BACK the way she had come. So she set off once more....There were plenty of people heading the opposite direction, so all the way back to the starting point, Sparky checked and rechecked with everyone. Yep, you are going the right way...Yep, it's just a few miles more, you're getting there. It's downhill most of the way. Finally, she arrived back at the parking lot and collapsed in the car. It was now 6:30 PM. It turned out to be about 11 miles of serious bike riding today....

The story isn't over. Sparky had to get from Jordan Pond House to Southwest Harbor to return the bike. No map in the car, ( a map doesn't help her, folks) so a phone call to Eldy...He got her started. The cell phone signal got interrupted many times. Sparky got ahead of herself with Eldy's directions. Sparky called Eldo. "Honey, do you remember the Mount Desert Campground? Am I supposed to be going past that? No? OK, let me get turned around." Then Sparky got lost in the little bitty town of Northeast Harbor, which is hard to do for the average person, piece of cake for Sparky---no street signs, no highway signs big enough to see in the fading daylight...cell phone signal dropped numerous times trying to get help from Eldy, who had a paper map in front of him trying to guide Sparky back to Southwest Harbor to return the rental bike by 8:00 PM. Sparky thought she had PLENTY of time, but by 7:15, she was still nowhere near Southwest Harbor. After six calls to Eldy (I think it was more like eight, says an exasperated E.) Sparky finds the bike shop, locks up the bike and sets out for home. She made a wrong turn coming home...hey, everything looks different at night! but got straightened out with another phone call to her sweetie, the man with the patience of Job.

When she arrived, Eldo stood up and gave her a standing ovation.....What a day.......Sparky went to bed early, needless to say..... But she's ready to go bike riding again any time!  She'll just take more maps next time. Eldy really doesn't enjoy struggling on the carriage hill roads because there really aren't any level ones, just some are better than others. But the scenery----WOW! It's not to be missed.....


  1. Oh you poor directionally challenged thing. I can so relate! I think you are the only other person I know who has as bad of sense of direction as me!

    And...NO...a compass won't work! I do have a Garmin hiking gps. You can set it to mark your tracks. Along the way you can enter a waypoint and then just follow the waypoints back. It makes me feel more comfortable when we're hiking, or kayaking. Al usually knows where he is at, but not always. :)

    The bike sounds pretty nice. I'll bet it's expensive. Eldy might like our bikes. They are electric. You can pedal as much as you want, but if you come to a hill, or get tired you can always give it a little juice. We really like long as the batteries don't die.

  2. Hybrid bikes are great! We have put many miles on ours. Getting lost is half the fun!

  3. Jordan Pond is beautiful. I really like the first photo. It is so calm and clear.
    What a big day you had. Think of everything you would NOT have seen if you hadn't gotten lost....hehe

  4. We don't call it getting lost, it is just taking the scenic route. Looks like she had fun thou.

  5. Oh, my! Getting lost is part of the adventure, right? LOL

  6. Great story, and that photo of Jordan Pond is absolutely perfect!

  7. Great pictures! We have Trek hybrids but I wouldn't call them "light". They aren't "heavy" either. I'd like to see what they will do on those hills you zoomed up. If you find out the cost of those bikes I'd sure like to know. Biking those carriage roads definitely sounds like fun and I'll bet if I did it enough I "might" be able to figure out where I am and how to get back! You aren't alone in the wandering thing.