There’s a place we all want to go when we climb into the saddle of a bicycle.
For some people, it has a name; it is the “there yet” destination that children whine about when hunger, impatience, and nature call. It is the slam of the inside door and whir of the A/C fans and satisfaction of knowing that the hot bath and unplugged phone await.
However, for many others, it is the semi-transcendence of just being on the way to wherever “there yet” is; it is the rush of merely being in the saddle, legs spinning, heart pumping and wind catching the grooves and corrugations of a snug Rock-locked helmet.
The bath can wait, as can the hug of privacy. There is satisfaction in the groove of consistent motion that makes the trip to point B just as (if not more) exciting than actually B-ing there.
But even for enthusiasts of the latter variety, every way does not lead to the Way (to borrow from a Buddhist axiom).
The way along a shoulder on a commercial vehicle access road is a far cry from the way along a scenic and remote county path through the Fall-yellow thick of an aspen grove and the scarlet symphony of a maple swarm.
The way through the crush of an urban jungle does not allow for the same introspection that the way along a mountain ridge road of breathless horizons does.
Where then are these true and special ways to the Way? Which inspiration do you follow when that three-day weekend screams to be filled with something more gentle than the local block party or the tailgate or the carnival atmosphere of the nearest patch of picnic green?
Everyone has a few neighborhood favorites. You know, the behind-the-shed, cross-the-bog, back-alley traverse that leads to a mellow stretch of road with a vista. Some are more dramatic than others, and are good for that odd afternoon escape.
But where are the slightly longer, bigger bites when one day’s chewing isn’t enough? Where’s the really tall playground slide that truly challenges a kid’s sense of adventure and fear of heights, and then rewards with that greater rip through the air and echoing giggle when spit out at the bottom into a tumble of sand and appreciating friends?
Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, Maine
There is a soft luster and mossy pace to Maine. The earth’s natural redolence finds slow and sweet expression in its long and fertile stretches of field and forest.
The people, many of whom tend to the land in a fashion as flexible and firm as a willow, know what they know and know that they need to know no more. Even the animals, domesticated and wild, have woven themselves calmly and authoritatively into the fabric of the Vacationland state.
Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island about two-thirds of the way up the coast, draws more visitors per acre than any other national park in the United States. This may make it sound crowded, but it isn’t. And it is a joy. An elemental country where land and sea have collided to bring about the best of natural splendor, Acadia is as much the dry heights of Cadillac Mountain as it is the goo of the sea-fed tidal basins.
Cycling in Acadia is worth every bump you take, and with more than 120 total miles of hiking trails in the park, including 43 miles of bikable carriage roads—car-free woodland roads—you have an opportunity not to suffer the burnt fossil fuel fumes and aggravation of the car-bound.
That said, the 20-mile Park Loop Road, a two-lane one-way car avenue of slow-moving traffic, provides an unparalleled dramatic ride (especially if you make the seven-mile added puff up to the top of Cadillac Mountain).
Come for an extended weekend, mix, and match the trails. You will never tire of the terrain, the tug of the air, or the tweeting of nature, just be sure to have a comfortable bike saddle!