Last month, I had the pleasure of visiting Vinalhaven, Maine, a small island in Penobscot Bay. You have to take a ferry to get there. We had dense fog for the entire ferry trip, but it just made Vinalhaven seem like a magical land, hidden in the mists.
Round trip fare for a car or pick-up truck: $49.50. Round trip for a person: $17.50. Round trip for a bicycle: $16.50. Hmm, that doesn’t really seem fair, does it? My bike weighs about 1 percent the weight of a car… Oh well, it’s a beautiful island and it was definitely worth it to bring a bike. I mean, check this out:
What’s that in the distance, you ask? Oh, it’s just three electricity-generating windmills.
I’m sure there was some controversy before they were put up, people complaining about “ruining the view” and whatnot, but I’d say they improve the view – they are a sign of progress and a hope for a future full of renewable energy. Of course, back in the day, people probably thought that smokestacks were a sign of progress, modernization, and industrial strength.
One sign of progress completely absent from Vinalhaven: cell phone towers. I didn’t mind so much, it was nice to be completely off the grid for a few days. It was nice to ride around the island, stopping here and there. I probably didn’t even need to lock my bike (but I did, since I’m a city slicker).
I had a great, relaxing visit to the island, only slightly tarnished by the following interaction with the ferry worker who took my ticket: I was waiting to board the ferry to leave the island, chatting with my friends who were staying for a couple more days.
Ferry Worker: Do you have your tickets ready?
Me: [thinking she was asking for the tickets for me and my friends] Oh, it’s just me going… Oh, you mean the ticket for my bike. I forgot that I bought a ticket for it too.
FW: Some people think we should encourage people to bring bikes to the island, but really it’s the opposite, we should discourage them.
Me: Why’s that?
FW: The roads are too narrow here, it’s dangerous.
Me: [trying to remain upbeat] Oh, I found that everyone who passed me gave me plenty of room, I really didn’t have any problems at all.
FW: Well sometimes, a car can be coming around a curve and you can’t see them.
Me: Well, it’s so nice and quiet on the island, I could hear the cars coming from quite a ways away, so if someone was about to overtake me and I could tell that it wasn’t safe, I just stuck out my left hand and the car behind me would wait a couple seconds until it was safe to pass. I found that everyone was pretty patient and they only had to wait a couple of seconds.
FW: Oh no, these fishermen around here are some of the least patient people you’ll ever meet.
Me: Well, I’ve biked many different places and I found everyone here to be very polite.
FW: I’ve talked to bikers from all over and they say that Maine drivers are the worst.
Me: [needing to board the ferry by this time] Well, that hasn’t been my experience.
FW: People can get killed on these roads, you were lucky.
I was walking away by the time she said this. Of course, once I was in the middle of the bay, I thought of how I should have responded:
Me: Yeah I guess was lucky. Everyone I met on Vinalhaven was very polite, that is, everyone I met until just before I left.
So, thanks Vinalhaven Maine Ferry Service, part of the Maine Department of Transportation. Thank you for the great send-off.