Mike Kennedy, who grew up in Oxnard in the 1950s and '60s before embarking on a nomadic career path, owns and operates the Five Gables Inn with wife De . It's a comfortable, turn-of-the-20th-century hotel that nestles at the edge of a forest, overlooking Linekin Bay.
The Five Gables Inn and the equally pleasant Bradley Inn - located two peninsulas to the east, in the town of New Harbor - are the overnight stops for participants in a Bike Riders tour of the Maine coast, but they are viable lodging options for visitors of any conveyance.
The Five Gables' best attribute is its location on a dead-end road. This means there is very little traffic past the front door of the inn, resulting in a quiet ambience at all hours. The hotel is configured to take advantage of this, in that it has a long, broad veranda that overlooks the water. The tables and chairs out here tend to be in high demand with guests, particularly at breakfast.
Although the inn doesn't have a restaurant, breakfast is included with the room rate, and Kennedy unleashes pent-up creativity to make certain it is memorable.
He left Oxnard for the Culinary Institute of America in New Haven, Conn., and afterward became something of a vagabond, cooking on
He now boasts that a guest could stay at the Five Gables for nearly three weeks without having a repeat breakfast entree - and along the way might savor blueberry-stuffed French toast, tomato and basil frittata , spiced pancakes with lemon syrup and a Sicilian omelet laced with Parmesan cheese, garlic and fresh basil.
"By the late '70s, I was out of the chef business," Kennedy said. "It wasn't a life I liked. I like (preparing) breakfast because I'm a cook, not a chef. Cooks work with their hands, have fun. A chef is just another executive, with food costs and labor costs."
As guests here, we settled into a grand room that occupied the center gable of five, with windows overlooking the bay. It was tastefully appointed, with antiques and period reproduction furniture. Books lined a shelf above the windows.
Each afternoon, lemonade or tea is set out, along with some fabulous homemade cookies. It's only natural to grab a snack and a cold drink and sink into one of those comfortable chairs on the broad porch. It's also a short walk to the bay, where a small public boat dock doubles as a swimming platform.
Bradley Inn: This lodging choice, operated by Warren and Beth Busteed , is also more than 100 years old, built by a ship captain at Pemaquid Point - it's only a short walk to the point's famous lighthouse.
Unlike the Five Gables Inn, the Bradley has a full restaurant and bar. An outdoor deck off the bar and a screened porch off the restaurant both overlook the inn's serene back yard (a table for dinner on the screened porch is delightful on a summer evening).
The dining choices are extensive and inventively prepared, with oysters from just down the road at Pemaquid Point, and halibut, salmon and lobster from just offshore.
A pleasant place to pass the evening after dinner is the inn's parlor, where the vintage appointments don't stop at the furniture. On a side table we found Life magazines from the 1940s, and chuckled as we flipped through ads for hair cream and "modern" washing machines.
Though not a stone's throw from the water, as is the case with the Five Gables Inn, the Bradley's upper rooms pick up views of Johns Bay - and, more importantly, stiff, cool breezes off it. With this natural air conditioning, we got comfortable in a room with a peaked ceiling of knotty pine and a four-poster bed.
The Five Gables Inn is on Murray Hill Road, East Boothbay. Rates from $135 per night, which includes breakfast. (800) 451-5048; www.fivegablesinn.com. The Bradley Inn is at 3063 Bristol Road, New Harbor. Rates from $145, which includes breakfast and afternoon tea. (800) 942-5560; www.bradleyinn.com.
IF YOU GOTHE TOUR: Bike Riders' five-day Maine Hidden Coast tour is offered five times each summer (the next trip is Sept. 18-22). The cost this year is $1,680 per person, which includes four nights' accommodation in coastal inns, three dinners, four breakfasts, one lunch, bike rental, helmet, boat tour of Muscongus Bay and airport transfers. The dinners, by the way, are in first-rate restaurants, and there is no prescribed bill of fare - you order off the menu just like the other patrons of the house.
OTHER OPTIONS: The company offers four bike tours of New England and several other options for eastern Canada and Europe. The degree of difficulty is listed as Level 1, with sub categories of A, B and C, based on terrain and number of miles traveled per day. The Maine coast trip is rated squarely in the middle - 1-B. Our guides noted that travelers desirous of easier pedaling might want to look into the tour of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, which is a bit flatter (rated 1-A/B). Those seeking more of a challenge should consider a tour of the northern Berkshires of Massachusetts and southern Vermont (rated 1-B/C).
PLANNING AHEAD: Unless you're accustomed to riding 20 or 30 miles a day, this tour will likely exact a physical toll as it progresses - on that fourth day, the quadriceps muscles begin to protest on the first hill of the morning. It's advisable to do a fair amount of riding ahead of time - and be sure to find some terrain that has some hills. We pedaled along a dead-flat bike path at the beach; it proved to be insufficient preparation. As for gear, consider getting some cycling shorts with extra padding, as well as an outer nylon shell _ so as to be dressed more modestly when you walk into a cafe or antique store. Brightly colored tops are a good idea, too, since you do share narrow, shady roads with vehicular traffic. And consider picking up a pair of bike gloves. One woman in our group went without and was developing blisters by the second day.
INFORMATION: Bike Riders, based in Boston, produces a glossy brochure detailing all of its tours. www.bikeriderstours.com; (800) 473-7040.