By Judy Ayotte Paradis, Valley News

Sainte-Agathe, Maine – What brought James Henry Eldredge V, the California engineer, together initially with Anne Marie Breedlove, the historian from New York, was their love of bicycling.   

Thirty years of marriage later, the college sweethearts showed up in the St. John Valley, having completed 4700 miles of cycling 10 miles an hour, about 60 miles a day for almost 80 travel days.  The trek demanded much conditioning, practice and research.  “We had a couple of bad days in Ontario, where I’d failed to note ahead of time the narrow two-lane highway heavily traveled by transports.   Underestimating the volume of traffic makes for a scary experience.  Congestion is anathema to bicyclists,” said Anne.   “When you’re on a pedal bike, you can’t easily change direction.”  

It’s a wonderful way to see the world up close, enjoying the sounds and smells.  On a visit to Fort Kent, they noted the potato harvesting operation of Dan, Keith and Duane LaBrie.  They see many fields and often can’t distinguish what is growing.  Because they try to stay away from cities, they travel through a lot of farmland.  

Their two main concerns are trucks and bears.  Although they were blown off the road by a dump truck earlier on their journey, they have yet to see a bear this trip.  Most people are very respectful and give cyclists wide berth because so many roads have no shoulders or travel lanes for bikes.   They appreciate their helmet-mounted rear view mirrors, through which they can keep an eye on what is coming – and, the insects of the flying type? “DEET, ” says Jim.  “I try to outrun them,” says Anne 

Part of their preparations included convincing their children – son Oliver and daughter Eleanor – and other family members and friends that they would be okay.  They’re connected to a variety of networks for bicyclists like warm showers. org that gave them a break at times. Sometimes bicycling aficionados will offer them a place for the night.  People are very generous.   At times they “bonk” (run out of energy) before they can find accommodations and park under a tree or behind a shed.   They travel very light and appreciate DeLorme of Maine with their detailed maps on a CD-Rom.  They stay in touch with family and friends through the Internet.  Anne appreciated the availability of the Long Lake Public Library to catch up with her e-mails last Saturday.  They can be reached at [email protected].

Richard Derosier of Lakeview Restaurant and Campground was blown away by the couple’s incredible accomplishment.   The cyclists were very impressed with the facilities in Ste-Agathe.  “Tenting is an acquired taste, but the accoutrements here are top notch.  Dick just told us to pick the spot we wanted; the only sounds were the rustling of the poplar tree leaves and the birds’ singing,” they said. 

James and Anne Marie often chafe under the prescriptive nature of some campgrounds, where they’re given the least favorable space even if more appropriate spaces are available. 

They get around with a fluency in English and French besides a smattering of Spanish.  “It’s a crime that America is so monolingual; multiple languages help one learn grammar and better understand different people and cultures,” said Anne, a college educator.  Considering that this was their first visit to Maine, the couple was very knowledgeable about the area, its languages, history and culture and how people mesh with the rest of the francophone world.

Anne, is the sixth of ten children and had a Mémère Rioux and a Grandfather McEnroe, who worked for Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was governor of New York.

James, the mechanic, and Anne, the navigator, are definitely not novices at their sport as they’re planning a seven-month trek through Australia after completing this cross-country effort.  The twosome has already explored in depth the width and breath of France, Hawaii, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and many states before their latest trajet.   “When times on the road get tough, we remind each other that we’re a team.  We’ve got everything down to a science and our pace is measured,” says Anne Marie.  

They adored Quebec for its differences, culinary delights and wonderful bike paths.  They appreciated being caught up in the 400th celebration festivities.  “We just missed Céline Dion by 3 days, McCartney by 3 weeks,” they said.  They stopped for an extra meal in Notre Dame du Lac to soak up more of the café terrace and ambiance of the French culture, only to discover later that New Brunswick and Maine have strong francophone diversity aspects as well.

Intelligent, affable, versatile, and personable, this unique, adventurous duo are on their way to Bar Harbor, where they will meet up with family, including Anne Marie’s 93-year old father before continuing on their way.   She says that she envisions slowing down their touring if ever grandchildren arrive on the scene.