The Eastern Trail meanders along the East Coast, stretching from Florida to the tip of Maine. When planning the route, our resident Mainer Shaun said that the trail was great, so I decided that we would take the trail from Kittery, ME to our destination for the day, Saco, ME. After the stress of our bridge incident in Portsmouth, it was incredibly peaceful to be on the Eastern Trail.
That peacefulness disappeared after a few hours of travel, however. The meandering trail became more and more of a hassle as the day got later and later. The beauty and serenity of the road soon turned into frustration and tiredness. Our breaks became longer, and every time we rechecked the route on our phones the distance remaining would increase. At seven, just like the day before, a thunderstorm hit. This time a generous couple did not welcome us into their home, so we waited it out in a front yard instead, quickly becoming soaked through as rain pooled in the creases of our panniers and lightning flashed all around us.
Luckily, the rain started to subside after about half an hour and we headed onwards. We biked incredibly fast and this rush of adrenaline lifted our spirits. We made excellent time and soon arrived in Saco, despite the sloppiness of the trail and the gradual onset of darkness. We cheered with relief, but then routed our mileage to the church and realized we had five more miles to go. We arrived at the church at 9:30, drenched and exhausted but never happier to seeing a welcoming light.
Looking back on that day we all learned something. Everyone learned something different, but as the team leader I learned the importance of making a route and checking that we can cross any bridges we encounter. I also learned how vital it is to more carefully check out trails. My assumption of the Eastern Trail was that it was off-road and a straight shot to Saco, ME. Unfortunately, by making all these assumptions I led the team astray and caused us to end up biking around 70 miles instead of 40. Next time, I plan to follow our team norm of no assumptions and be a more focused planner.
Despite this experience being very long and stressful, it is only the beginning of the summer. This is the time to make mistakes and learn from them. We have many more weeks to learn as a team, and we’ll only be getting better at problem-solving and working together. This was my first big mistake and (unfortunately) probably not my last. However, my hope for this summer is to take this experience and not dwell on how badly it went, but rather remember how we all made it through together, and how we will again when other mishaps arise. Just thinking about that makes the prospect of future challenges seem a little less intimidating.