Atypically warm weather through December along with two days of heavy rain have made this part of Maine look more like early April than midwinter. With temperatures today in the 50s and errands to do, with the truck averaging 18MPG and the scooter 60MPG, it made sense to try to do those errands on the bike today, it being New Year’s Day notwithstanding. And it seemed to me to be warm enough that there was no danger of ice on the road, so I thought that if I was careful, and steered around any sand on the road, I could enjoy an unprecedented holiday ride.
It only took a couple of minutes to rummage through the closet and find all the riding gear, and then disconnect the battery charger from the bike, where it has been feeding the battery energy since mid-November. In a short time I had the bike out into the yard and ready to go.
First to the post office, where I could mail the last of my Christmas cards. I know, the holidays are technically over today, but I would argue in response that there are twelve days of Christmas, so technically I have until Epiphany on January 6 to mail my greeting cards; and moreover, I paid for the cards and the stationery and the postage and I’ll be damned if I don’t use them!
Then, from there to the river to visit with Robin. Some readers may not be aware that Robin and I were especially fond of canoeing, and within ten miles of our home is the boat launch on the Androscoggin River. From the time we moved here in 1989 until the summer before she died, we took every opportunity to paddle there. There is where we taught the girls to paddle, and where we spent countless enjoyable hours exploring the many islands in this stretch of the river. One such island became our favorite; one summer afternoon, as we walked along the short path to the south end of it, one of us (I can’t now remember who) commented that this would be a good spot to put a memorial bench, looking out as it does on the sweeping vista of river and marshland heading south toward Gulf Island Dam. As time passed and we took subsequent paddling trips on the Androscoggin, we filled in this barest outline of an idea and finally agreed that when the time came, the survivor between us would inscribe a memorial bench and place it there, at the tip of that island, so that others could enjoy that spectacular view while resting from the rigors of paddling and, perhaps, enjoying their lunch as well.
As it turned out, as many readers will know, it ultimately fell to me to make this happen. And at the last minute, after months of negotiating and planning with the monument company, they unexpectedly decided that they would be unable to get the bench there — transporting it across the water was more than they could do. So I settled on a backup plan; I would put the bench at the boat launch instead. And so it was there that I rode this afternoon.
You can see the bench in the background, behind the bike, in the above photo. I have been delighted to note that, in the almost four years that the bench has been there, the public has treated it with utmost respect. Never has it been vandalized or suffered graffiti. In fact, it is rare (especially in the summer months) for me to visit there without finding it already occupied; and it apparently has become a favorite spot for wedding and engagement photos, giving couples a comfortable spot to sit before a lovely river view and have their pictures taken. This makes me happy, as our original intent was always to create a memorial which also served others.
Below are two views of the river. The bench overlooks a large backwater lagoon, which freezes smooth; farther out into the middle of the river, the current breaks up the ice into fragmented shards.
For any riders who might be following this blog, I would point out that winter riding is a very risky proposition. I had driven area roads with my truck earlier this week and knew that they were both dry and relatively free of sand. Also, I knew that today’s balmy temperatures were well within the bounds of comfort for me given the gear that I have available. Had I any doubts about the presence of ice on the roads, had I any reason to believe that traction would be significantly compromised by sand in the corners, or had the ambient temperature been low enough that I would be more concerned about being cold than attending to my riding, I would most certainly have taken the truck. There are people who ride all winter (check out Steve Williams’ excellent blog “Scooter In The Sticks”), but they all have rigged their bikes with snow tires and invested heavily in cold weather riding gear — and even so are often reduced to “riding” along at 5-10MPH, their feet dragging on the ground to maintain stability. This, to me, is not riding and if it’s that cold, I’ll take the truck!
And finally, please allow me to take this opportunity to thank you once again for following this blog, and to wish you and yours the happiest and healthiest of new years. May 2023 bring to all of us every happiness and success!
Christmas night 2022 on the river