There are those who would question driving five hours round trip from Camden to Machias just for a two-hour bicycle excursion.
They most likely are the poor souls who have never tasted the pies at Helen’s Restaurant.
The longer I ride my trusty Trek 20-speed, the more wary I become of highway drivers. Every time I see that 18-wheeler or the New York Mercedes drifting into the bike lane — with the driver probably on the phone — I resolve to confine my occasional exercise to a bike path. With every newspaper story about an injury or death of a bicyclist, my resolve stiffens. Florida officials, God love them, insist on an exercise path for every new road. They have spoiled me rotten.
I heard that a new “rails-to-trails” path was opened officially Sept. 4, extending some 30 miles from Machias to Ayer’s Junction, with more trail miles to come. The rails-to-trails projects tear up old, unused railroad beds and resurfaces them for recreational use. With winter fast approaching, Jefferson Phil and I decided to check out the new path last week.
At one point we planned to do the entire 60-mile round trip over two days. As reality — plus a stiff wind — surfaced, we decided on a “shakedown cruise” of as many miles as my aging legs could peddle. I managed 12 before the wind got to me. Phil, who is part Polish but all maniac, tore off down the trail for a 20-mile jaunt on his new Raleigh, with shock absorbers, no less. I never saw him again until the end of the trip when we went to celebrate at Helen’s, which is within walking distance of the trailhead.
Naturally, I ordered the trademark strawberry pie. Just the idea of it got me through the last five miles. “Sorry, we are all out,” said the charming, but disappointing waitress. I had to “settle” for blueberry, with a touch of whipped cream. When I say settle, you must understand that Life magazine once picked Helen’s blueberry as the best in the entire country.
I had no argument with Life magazine.
When we returned to the midcoast area, I naturally told one and all about the beauty of the trail along the tidal Machias River, and of course the pie.
Blue Eyes, who actually works for a living, is jealous of the vagabond life I live. She insisted on a return trip three days later, hardly enough to cure the aches and pains from the shakedown cruise. But if I know anything, it is to make Blue Eyes just as happy as I know how.
Since she agreed to take her car, I agreed to the return trip, just as long as we stopped at Helen’s for lunch at the start of the bike trip and for dessert at its conclusion.
Once again, the wind was whipping along the Machias River as we set out. But the day was a few degrees warmer and sunnier than during the shakedown cruise. Blue Eyes, unlike Phil, actually stopped to view the river scenery. Since I had done six miles, she insisted on seven, or 14 miles round trip. I agreed, since it would be a short time before I would be back in a booth at Helen’s, eating pie.
It was a fabulous trip, even if we had to get off the trail to accommodate a flood of ATVs enjoying the holiday weekend.
Soon we were back at Helen’s and I once again ordered the strawberry pie.
“Sorry, we are all out,” said a different waitress. Once again, I had to “settle,” this time for the apple pie, fresh from the oven. Life magazine should come back for a second helping. It was heaven.
As I moaned and smacked, Blue Eyes asked coyly, “Is it as good as mine?”
I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can smell a trap. “No, the crust is not as tasty as yours,” I said. Blue Eyes, who still enjoys her high school weight, passed on the pie. She didn’t take a bite. Imagine. I, on the other hand, have gained a high school since high school.
We agreed that the bike path would become part of our permanent summer list. Maybe someday, we will do the entire 60-mile round trip to Ayer’s Junction.
Maybe someday, at the end of the trip, Helen’s finally will have some strawberry pie left for me.
Send complaints and compliments to Emmet Meara at firstname.lastname@example.org.