A mile of so out of Portsmouth this morning, we crossed our second of two nice bridges and entered our last state.
If you can’t stand the suspense I can tell you in a nutshell: We had Grey skies and cooler temps today but we didn’t find a single cranky person!
Instead we found more friends, new ones and old. Boring, I know. And more beautiful greenways, including close to 20 miles of the Eastern Trail that leads from Kittery to South Portland.
Friend #1: Tom Gill. Early in our journey, I’d regale Dee with snippets from Tom’s social media posts. He and his cousin, John, started about a month ahead of us, also riding the Greenway south to north. Tom is about my age, John about Dee’s age, and I think we four would have been good riding buddies. They seemed to similarly not take themselves too seriously and enjoyed the people and places they met along the way.
After corresponding a bit, Tom offered to meet us this morning in Portsmouth, about an hour from his home, and ride a bit. He showed up with Maej, a young Malaysian friend and former coworker who is visiting the US for a few months. In hiking boots on a rented bike, she gamely rode her first-ever 15 miles on a multi-speed bike, in traffic, before calling it quits at our Dunkin Donuts stop in South Berwick.
We loved meeting Maej and Tom, who shared a few trip stories and offered a little route wisdom for our remaining days — including steering us away from a dirt road ahead where a fresh beaver dam has resulted in a deep puddle. Thanks for keeping us dry, Tom!
Friends #2: While I was downloading route info from Tom, Dee caught up with Dan and Barb, more Semester at Sea friends. They have been following our trip online and somehow knew we liked coffee. Dan kindly gave Tom and Maige and their bikes a ride in his truck back to Portsmouth, where Tom left his car.
Friend #3: Marilyn. This dear woman — a stepsister of Sally’s — waited in her car at a grocery/gas station on our route for two hours to see us and feed us snacks. Marilyn and her daughter, Becki, drove our route a few days earlier just to scope out a place where she could meet us — amazing.
We were sitting at a picnic table beside the market, nicely shielded from the parking lot by bushes, for our picnic. An energetic woman walked up to us, exclaiming over what a nice picnic area we had. She learned what we were up to — we have the spiel down pretty well at this point, “two months, Key West to Calais, Maine...”. In turn, she shared proudly that she had just fought off stage IV cancer. How’s that for a little perspective? She took our photo and we congratulated each other for our resilience and health.
Friends #1, redux: Tom and Maej drove to Biddeford and ate lunch while we met with Marilyn. Then they set off on a bike path section of the Eastern Trail, heading south to meet us as we came north. Maej was all smiles on the trail, enjoying the flat terrain and no traffic. So we made a trail rider out of her if nothing else.
Maej asked Tom to take her photo with us as we said goodbye, telling us that we were her new role models. It’s the kind of compliment I’m learning to take more gracefully, because what she and so many others mean to say is I love that you are doing this when you are so old.
Friends 4: Becki (Marilyn’s daughter, Sally’s step-niece, here with her daughter, Emily) and her husband, Brad. This kind family is hosting us tonight at their home in Scarborough. They cooked a fabulous dinner and invited Jim, an old friend of Dee’s from Purdue who now lives in South Portland, and Emily and her friend, Alan. Great food, great laughs.
It’s a great gift to be fed and fussed over by kind folks after a day of playing on our bikes. We rode 60 miles today, made easier because our last 10 or so miles were on a nice flat Greenway. Just a few miles from our hosts’ home the bike path took us through the spectacular Scarborough Marsh nature preserve. The sky was moody and dark and the tide was out, revealing dark sand banks — great contrast for a couple of white egrets.
No complaints, no crankiness, just gratitude.