Welcome to a story, or stories I should say. A compilation of adventure tales. An ongoing itch to see, smell, and touch the world, or at least the deserted roads and rarely trampled mountains of America. Characters within the descriptive paragraphs of these stories carve out the coming and going companions in life; vital life people and pieces that parallel a universe for moments, days, years. And then spear off, leaving granules of magnificent memories of magical places. They leave a lasting trace, a gained sense of courage to stand tall on oxygen deprived mountains and shout absurdities like: I love you Ralph! Ralph is a teenage reindeer stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 20 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He is the instigator. The inspiration. And the imagination. He breathes creativity. Laughter. His is a dear companion. And yes, at 4lbs he tags along atop a pack or strapped to a rack. In delirium of 107 degree heat, the small possession of material belongings gain a persona. Innate objects become friends of the road and trails. And as for the humans who accompany, their presence reads priceless. Without O'Reilly, a 29 year old New Hampshirian with superior taste buds, the mathematical six foot four inch tall German, or handful of organic peanut butter and 99 cent jam eating munchkins, there would be a lot less excitement. The encounters we make with our specie, encapsulating the world with their awkward ways and over consumerist love, somehow we have managed to become overly adored creatures. Their generous hearts restore a faith that goodness prevails in the upheaval of a sometimes lost humanity. As for myself, I'm just the navigator, paddling up the stream of life munching on Clif Bars, with an iPhone documenting the frailties and goodies underneath all the simplified complexities in the world we reside. So again, I welcome you to get lost and dream a little through this typed text and your imagination. My name is Kristen Gentilucci. I live in Berkeley California and I love dogs.

MAINE: Cycle Touring the Northern State of Blueberries 2015

Ogunquit Maine.
That cute O'Reilly kid, Ralph, Action boy, Zeb and myself. Don't ask how the crew got here. We had tediously planned to be wearing hiking boots, draped in rain gear, raping the Mountains of Maine with our knowledgeable Amazon Appalachian book.

In the dreary days of a brisk California winter, we bought magical tickets, the golden wrapper kind in a Willy Wonka bar. The kind of winters cold blooded creatures can only dream of; with shorts and sandals and warm summer nights. We plucked from tree of maps, Maine, a destination knitted tightly with lots of trees. 

But like so many times before, life doesn't always work out in the linear way we perceive and plan. It was an annoying nauseating nuisance that at age 30 knees were to be giving out like an overstock of Halloween candy. We had a lot of talks, me and my knee. Time to heal up like a hungover teenager bounces back to life, we have golden prized tickets. But refusing to cooperate with the timeline, we were left no option but to longingly leave the idea of a dirt trail in the dust. That left three options: toss our non refundable golden tickets in a garbage pail, down margaritas while sun bathing on a New England beach, or bike tour Maine for the month. 

It was an easy last minute decision and Zeb and Action Boy quickly used gymnastics, dismantling themselves into clusters and we all boarded the plane together. The nightmare mess of transporting a reindeer as well as two metal souls to Ogunquit is irrelevant. Important part, we made it, and armed with boxes of Mac and cheese our posse and gear. 

We stood staring into the sparkling doorway of Maine with wide open roads leading to Nova Scotia. Soon to be shot into tiny towns, the posse soon to be suited in spandex, sweat, and exhaustion. We excitingly leave behind the complexities of busy lives that sometimes seem to water down the world around us. And one again reunited with that urge to capture the world is undoubtably, irresistible.

This is bike tour MAINE.

It all started the previous evening with family friends of a friend of some family. That led the posse to a billion dollar mansion. The kind where imaginations get lost in one of its twelve bedrooms and a decision was needed: rock climb on the third floor or head to the overloaded complimentary bar in the basement. It was memorable night with the millionaires over wine and whiskey, topics of politics, religion, medicine, life, death and genitals. We kindheartedly and gratefully glimpsed into each others' vastly opposing worlds via lively opinionated discussions, awoke severely hung over, and began bike tour Maine. 

Ralph would have been laughing till his organs hurt. Laughing at our haggardness on day one. Slumped over handle bars from the previous epicness of a night, he would not have let us live that one down. But Ralph is on a plane North; to his midget toy making pals and cookie eating master. Annoyed by remarks about his bulky weight, and demanding minced carrots and a freezer, a compromised was made. We splurged on his ticket and soon he was flying solo to his reindeer reunion for the weeks ahead. Yet even in his absense his contagious laughter could be heard. Suddenly I missed the obnoxious reindeer of a pillow. 

Transversing long forests and wide open roads we made it to the O'Reilly family barn along the coast of Maine. Pegged together like an Amish treasure with fresh timber, it breathes in and out the thick air of a Maine summer night. Sheltered from the tick infested woods, the sun dimed beneath lush green curtains. That green turned to black and darkness took over. Darkness darker than dark. The kind of dark that's a little too dark for comfort. The kind of dark where you can't see a hand infront. And for the night the dense canopy of trees cacconed us into a void surrounded only by sounds of nocturnal insects and the creaking of a beautiful wooden barn. 

...and without Ralph, it felt like life was missing a tantalizing component of our posse. Annoying stoplight after stoplight, with the emptiness of the gabby deer in back, the final disappointment with a flat tire. Starring at Zeb's shoes- tires that had ridden 4000 miles in previous years - one could almost see socks through the worn soles. This is one of those moments when one thinks: perhaps I have a problem here. Just a month ago trekking into the woods without enough food or fuel, and now with a thousand miles ahead Zeb lacked a wearable tire. How did such a mishap of basic preparedness happen again? 

But hours later, exiting a rarely found cycling shack with a pathetically cheap tire (beggars can't be chooser) I also held a new prized possession. It was the key to a secret world, x ray vision to the world of dumb drivers following behind. It was, in all it reflective silver glass, the purchase to invincibility! Never in my life did I ever expect to own such a hideous object, as a bicycle mirror. Although I knew it would have always made my mother very happy. 

We were no longer those hip 20 something year olds. It only takes too many people you could have known, too many friends of friends that have died on a bicycle. Killed on tour or everyday commute. Run over by ruthless cars, drivers distracted at unimportant text messages. A reality of adulthood had sunk in: naive was no longer an excuse. And so I embraced the mirror with an excited proudness, that somehow it represented we were growing up. No longer that young kid too cool to acknowledge we are completely vulnerable to life's uncertainties. 

But the important things are: despite ugliness of the projecting side reflection and hideous new tire, O'Reilly and I are happy owners of the largest fuel canister REI has to offer and this time around, wealthy enough to purchase campsites with showers for days ahead. As we rolled into the New Zealand of Maine, zebra stripped cows lined the dirt road. Fresh strawberry milk was for sale in the camp store and the local habitat was infested with scenic ocean views and Daddy Long Legs. But grateful to be on bike tour, we boiled famous road risotto and fell fast asleep at campsite 303 in Wolf Neck State Park. 

Mileage: 65. It was annoying. The morning started off with Dunkin Dounuts refusing to refill my iced coffee needs. The problem lay not in the refill, but in the concept that I could purchase another medium iced caffeine and could also bring in a personal cup to be filled for 75 cents off the listed price. But I could not purchase another coffee to be put in the disposable recyclable plastic label dunkin donuts cup that I purchased 15 minutes ago. It was only 10am, but the young naive girl behind the counter refused to partake in my save the earth speech. "So one medium iced coffee?" She asked after this back and forth of corporate rules of ridiculousness. I wanted that coffee more than anything. Like a a Mosquito feinting for warm blood. But appalled by superfluous wastefulness my answer was a flat out NO. I dreamed about that coffee all through the early afternoon.

Receiving a final email from my place of previous employment stating they would not be compensating me the nearly thousand dollars I was owed, didn't help the day. To rub it in even more they acknowledged my hard work had earned what the contract said I should have been paid. The obsessions started with anger over their response. Questioning my impulsive preemptive email back stating the unpleasant truth of what was burned in the walls of that restaurant was not the ending I wanted. But at least the truth had been told. I couldn't let it go on the Atlantic hwy 1 north. The thoughts seems tied to each pedal stroke, going around and around with cadence on repeat. The frustrations began to stack like a Jenga tower. The fact that this coastline had allowed citizens to purchase precious coastline views, left us with barely any coast to actually see. Instead vacationers trafficked north on this two lane hwy. At least my trusty new mirror stared down the approaching tons of metal hurtling in our direction. There is mostly a wide lane for Zeb and Action boy. Wider than the traffic lane itself; however, suddenly there are these moments on this vortex of a road where everything to the right of our glorious white line disappears. Could there possibly be a compromise between plentiful and inches of our safety net? The day ended without a shower. There just seemed something inherently wrong when the campsite, with roaring cars at the fence line and humming RVs asked for $40 to pitch tent for a mere 12 hours with two bicycles. Riled with enough anger of annoyances from the day to bitch out anyone who dare disturb us, we pitched tent in an abandoned demolished gas station for the night. 

And then DAY FOUR happened...
Mileage: 74
Side trips to spectacular state parks. Blueberries and burritos that beat any California farmers market or Mexican mafia Taqueria. This was Maine, where pottery studios sat in every town, enough potters in this state to put Ikea out of business. Enough antique stores to furnish every house. And enough winter grandma knitters to keep the state warm. 

The low from the previous day was turning into a day of smiles. And then we met Stuart. A fun young gentleman wearing sky blue farmed sunglasses and the loudest stripped shirt any thrift store could stock. He was that guy straight out of a some California surf town, curly shoulder length hair and happy go lucky.  As we stocked up on a few beers after a long days ride he asked where the posses was headed. It was 6pm and with sunset in the horizon, "that way," unsure exactly where that way meant the night would take us. 

Then everything you except about society goes right our the door. "We're headed out of town for the night, but you can sleep in our backyard," he says, and then to his girlfriend, "is this weird?" She shook her head with laughter and like that, we were on our way to his house. "It's the brown house with the lime green door six miles up the road. Door is open. Feel free to use the bathroom." Half way through his sentence my jaw had hit the asphalt. You see we are from a town where people ruthlessly blow each other brains out. O'Reilly had witnessed it for himself just months before. And this kind hearted ship captain had just befriended two strangers like nothing I had seen before. The stress of my disenchanted paycheck, the patheticness of thousands of miles of privatized coastlines, and the heart wrenching sadness of unnecessary pollution was all an afterthought. Society has hope, at least in Maine, and sunburnt we passed out like puppies on Stuarts front lawn. Thanks Stew! 
Camden Hills State Park
Mt. Battie Camden Hills
Wild berries! 
Missed a few spots.

Miles 61
Acadia National Park. Pristine Atlantic coastlines with vibrating blue hues. The sun sparkles on the gentle waters that have thawed from a long harsh winter. Rugged geometric red and brown rocky cliffs directed the scenic road up down and around. Islands afar stood pronounced through the ocean midst haze. They spoke no words, but emitted a breeze of silence, of a calm peacefulness. 

But where is Edward Abbey when in dire need. This is a necessary rant in his honor because if this protected beauty of the nation But something is seriously wrong in the idea that the grandparents in the line ahead, in their white 2012 Nissan, flash their senior plastic park card and drive right through. At age 62, their one time fee, costing less than the price of a movie ticket, equated to a lifetime pass to all National parks. Granted they gave the government 48 years of taxes, but after pedaling 300 miles and having caused no congestion or added pollution, these grey haired humans drive right through clogging up the roads, without dropping a penny. And together on bicycles we were charged the same entrance fee as an overloaded SUV with a family of obnoxious kids. I have a problem with that concept, not that anyone would care except maybe my dear friend Abbey. But then the pretty coastline appeared in the window of the road, and all was forgotten. 

Forgotten until O'Reilly took over directions. Let me refresh your memory. This boy is about as good as navigating as an artist is flying a spaceship to Mars. The past year however progress had been made in his awareness of directional forces and so I happily followed the plan in which he led. 

Two hours later tears were about to pour from eyes at the bottom of hwy 233 staring into the junction of hwy 3. Moments before, O'reilly's face snarled with annoyance as I unsurely questioned his direction? One thing is certain, I can't spell for shit, and it takes a second to remember left from right (it's a dyslexic thing) but directionally without question 95% of the time I could tell you which way is north. We had descended from a beautiful quite road flying down miles of asphalt. And we went the wrong way. Staring back up at the massive hill felt like standing at the base of the Rocky Mountains. There was no way that 50lb bike was about to pedal back up. We had missed the turn to see the entire other side of the park. Mistakes happen, things that are every easy for some are extremely difficult for others, but frustration took over and oozed out any pore clogged with sweat and sunscreen. We had spent 4 days getting here, and in 2 hours it was over. Even worse, the two bikes and two humans were now completely directionless. Where to next? NW to Baxter or NE to Nova Scotia; there was no plan. The one positive of anger combined with cycling is it can equate to speed. A speed so fast that if dropped in the Tour de France one might, just might, be able to hang on the wheel of the last man dropped. 

This race turned badly after an hour of madness. All fuel had been used, the sugar tanks were on empty. Below empty. Without any backup storage the mind beings to play tricks. All the basic necessities needed after an hour race on a 50lb bike: a bathroom, water, food, the brain was unable to decipher which was to be prioritize. Thoughts of a sugary snack break banged at the door, but no one answered. They could only say just keep pedaling. This is called bonking. 

Despair had lead to a bonked state, but thank someone's God for Subway. That sign called out the smell mom's freshly baked cookies wafting out the windows of the house. A serious mental sobbing breakdown nearly happened for no exact reason while patiently waiting to order the best veggie sandwich on the planet. 15 minutes later, sanity was restore, a campsite was found, and poor O'Reilly started me down and gave me a big smacker of a kiss. And at the end of the day, laying in the red tent laughter sang at one another of the absurdities that happen on bike tour. 

Miles: 84
Weather: 95 and sunny
The New Englanders say there is an imaginary line that stretches across Maine. It is the divide. The farther north the weirder the breed. It wasn't hard to spot after Howland Maine. Only a few rednecks and gas stations stocked with Budweiser and Cheetos. Finally we had found the backroads! Wild blueberries filled the landscape for miles. Warmed from the blistering sun, it was like an explosion of blueberry pie on thirsty taste buds. White pristine box houses dwindled to grimy trailers fraught with lawns of rusted cars and junk. How anyone could or would survive a lonesome white frozen dark long cold and dismal brutally harsh winter left me stunned. No one drove these newly paved roads. Their fresh smooth black tar was like riding on a silk scarf. Moments, long pauses of uninterrupted riding were found, where thoughts can wonder, were cars cease to roam, and where miles drift by effortlessly. No tamed yards, no cement channeled rivers, this was the wild lands of wild blueberries where few choose to inhabit. Territories devoid of supermarkets and Dunkins stretch for 50+ miles. After days of riding we had crossed that imaginary line, where moose roam free and roads are barely touched.

Miles: 46
Weather: 95
Fatigue finally set it. Legs felt ballooned full of pebbles. It was only 10:30am and already the heat index hit the 90s. The asphalt boiled like lava below. The previous night mosquitoes had swarmed our tent raging war. They sucked our blood all night like vampires and we awoke with pounding welts. How those parasitic suckers snuck in bewildered us, but one thing was certain, their blood filled tummies weren't leaving the mesh walls alive. The battlefield was laced with death in a mere 20 minutes. Blood smeared the tiny neon holes like a red stained glass window. Itchy, we had won the war!

But sleep is never quite as restful in a cemetery or little league field and especially when surrounded with a swarm of a quite intolerable mote of mosquitoes. Without Ralph to keep a nightly watch, sleep in these type of circumstances is never super enjoyable. For some reason, without his furry head, red nose, and big black eyes in my arms, I didn't feel the confidence to talk my way out of this slightly illegal trespassing situation if needed. 

Hamstrings tight as guitar strings painfully dragged the miles by. Arriving at the last town before crawling up to Baxter state park, it was decided that climbing mountains in biking shoes was something of our twenties. Biking across states in flip flops was something of our teens. The little church thrift store run by 3 lovely elderly ladies thought we were quite the adventuring adorable bunch marching in spandex dripping sweat. There they were staring right at me, a pair of solid Merrel branded hiking shoes, size 8, stuck with a sticker that read $2.50. They fit like a glove. It was glorious. O'Reilly also in luck, met his match of Asics running shoes size 10. And then off up the lonesome road to the large and wild State Park. 450 miles in, 7 days, we rode to the entrance gate, to find, absolutely no bikes allowed. No bikes on roads, no bikes past the entrance, and no bikes even tied to the roof of cars. So let's just get this straight. We rode here, and tied our horses to trees to hitch a ride into the green box on the map. Whatever we were about to climb the tallest mountain in Maine. 

National Geographics ranks Katahdin the second top mountain to summit in the world. It is the highest peak in Maine and Baxter state park rates it as a "very strenuous" hike. At an elevation of 5262 feet we didn't believe them. Nine hours later at a brisk pace, trekking from the west side and exiting the east, we stood corrected. The stunning explorers magazine says Katahdin is "possibly one of the most inspiring mountains of east America." Thin timber birch lined the trail, green spread thick like oil on canvas. It was a pretty view at the top, but overly congested with many seekers of that same awe inspiring experience. Their neon color tanks and voices interrupted the entirety of a moment. It took away from the "inspiring". There was no daze, no instance where the mind freely wandered in trance. This mountain required concentration. Bouldering is a necessity and steel pegs turn rocks into an elevator headed up. Every step must be carefully calculated. It was hard, but like any challenge it came with a reward. 

I guess I could chant on, but I have to spill the beans. I'm sick of this blog. It has become a story on repeat. Pretty mountains, pristine lakes, weird people and fascinating interactions, towns secluded from the world and a physical and mental fatigue that can run so deep it turns 99cent Kraft Mac and cheese into an experience at the French Laundry. You've heard it; same story different state.

Did we wake up this summer, 30 years old and something changed? Are we becoming our parents and are the stories of their youth really true? That before birthed mom actually climbed Mt Ritter in a hail storm with crampons and an ice axe and dad planned to hike the entire Pacific crest trail? I vowed to never be like them: old, demanding beds and showers, stuck in routine, partaking in societies corporate agenda, and becoming a bit too attached to comforts. But somehow I felt too aged this time around to find joy for weeks in the neglect of seemingly basic needs. Too old to be bum camping in city parks and gas stations, falling asleep in a pajama suit of sunscreen sweat and road grit. Ralph no longer pranced around the tent, but returned to his stuffed state, a distant reminder of childhood fantasies. Already at day 8, dreams crept in about fluffy bath towels or any towel at that. How we made it last year to day 43 averaging 80 miles in 105 temps is bewildering. Perhaps it was still all very new, and we were a little bit younger. 

What is next? Still excited to wake up and hop on Zeb, even more excitement sits in the ideas that in four very long days we will reach Boston and pass out on family couches in AC. A flight back across the 48 states will be waiting to rejoin friends, a tiny studio apartment, a pottery studio, and a beloved old pal of a doggie. And I guess figure out what chapter comes next in life.  

Officially this story, buried within the state called Maine, can end with no regrets. Mosquitoes had eaten flesh and it itched like children with the chicken poxs. Poor O'Reilly was smeared in poison ivy and a  tiredness set in so painful it was deliriously nauseating. Maine showed it's true colors, blueberry blues and isolated green stretched of a never ending density. New Englander's vacation homes contrasted the unmanicured scraps of poverty layered deep within the back roads. Their countryside clearly portrayed why these northerners produce 90% of the nations toothpicks and 99% of our blueberries. 

The icing on the cake: there she stood in the distance, her majestic chocolate brown fur, her big adorable eyes, her body larger than the largest wild horse; she was beautiful. A huge Gorgeous moose. We named her Gracey. Days followed with paniers filled with enough rain water to keep a small pond of fish alive. A thunderstorm like a stationary pedal bike drowning under a shower faucet for five long wet hours. Fingers turned into prunes worst than any wrinkly dried packaged store bought plums.

700 miles passed without a car horn blaring through the peaceful landscapes of Maine. But two miles back into Boston, in the "bicycles may use full use of lane", that damn impatient bastard in too big of a hurry lays his horn on our asses. It officially ended with a middle finger staring down his ugly eyes and Ralph greeting us with a plethora of hugs. Thank you Maine!

The Bicycle Crew