Back Way to Maine

Usually I wake up early the morning I leave for a trip, excited and raring to go. This time I didn’t. I had to consciously remind myself that really, I had a reason to get up a little earlier than usual – I needed to hit the road to Maine. I also hadn’t packed anything for the trip. When I went to Canada, I spent quite a bit of time packing, checking, rechecking, adding things I’d forgotten…  This time I just threw two days worth of clothes into my backpack, chucked it into the left side of the trunk, and called it good.  I didn’t even need my top trunk for this.  The only reason I left it attached was for the extra lighting on the back.

Of course, part of the reason it didn’t feel like I was about to leave for a few days on the bike is because I’d spent the previous day in a mad flurry of phone calls, a job interview, and finally accepting a new job that I start Tuesday. It’s excellent news, but it was a little distracting from the trip. It’s a good thing, through it will mean no more trips longer than weekends for the rest of this year. I’d pretty much already planned on that, though, since taking the Cape Breton Island trip.

I checked the weather radar, and it showed a bit of rain in Maine where I was going, but it would be moving out before I got there, so I figured I’d be OK. But I did make sure my rain gear was packed. You just never know. Temperatures weren’t supposed to exceed the low to mid 70s – unusual for the beginning of August, but very comfortable for a ride.

maine day 1I’d plotted an inland route to get to Maine on Google Maps. Its “avoid highways” function actually works correctly, unlike my GPS. But I still decided to take 495 north to Haverhill and pick up 125 from there, rather than take Google’s route through the center of Lowell. It shouldn’t be that bad on a Saturday morning, right?

Wrong. Much to my surprise, at 10am on a Saturday traffic on 495 was nearly as heavy as during a weekday rush hour.  I moved to the far left lane, often flickered my brake lights at idiots tailgating me, and struggled to reach and maintain 60 on the 65mph road. Then I noticed traffic coming to a complete stop just past the Route 114 exit. I managed to bail onto 114 to avoid it – yet another good reason to look far ahead.

Soon I picked up 133, which took me to 125. I was still bogged down in traffic all the way to the New Hampshire border. I don’t really feel like the ride began until I escaped Massachusetts. All I did between home and the border was fight traffic. Things got better on 125, but then I was reminded of how people drive on roads like this in NH – long lines of cars stuck behind someone going 5-15mph under the speed limit. Sure, I can pass people, and finally pass the slowpoke who’s causing the mess, but I’ll just catch up to the next line of slow people after a few minutes. Very frustrating.

Google Maps says it should take an hour and 18 minutes to get from my home to Lee, NH. It took me two hours, and I was ready for lunch, so I stopped at a Wendy’s on the rotary. This was yet another delay. There were just two people ahead of me, and I don’t know how it could possibly take 15 minutes before I could even place my order. At least my timing was good – the line was just about out the door by the time I finally ordered. It was… food. I got back on the road to pick through even more lines of slow traffic.

My GPS thinks the Spaulding Turnpike doesn’t qualify as a highway, and it kept insisting on sending me on it despite numerous attempts to tell it to avoid it. I finally gave up when I got to Rochester and took it anyway, but only because I know it sends me around the center of town instead of through the middle of it, and I wanted to make up the time.

IMG_0888[1]After a quick hop up Route 11, I got to the beginning of 153 in Farmington, NH. This was the turning point of the ride for me. The traffic soon faded away, and though the road surface could’ve been better, it wasn’t bad, and it got twisty and fun. I crossed into Maine very briefly as I went along the east shore of Province Lake, but a few minutes later I was back in New Hampshire. The GPS took me down a shortcut, Huntress Bridge Road, between 153 and 25 east. It was definitely a shortcut, but it was also dirt. I thought for sure I’d told the GPS to either notify me when a road it wanted to take me on was dirt, or just avoid dirt roads entirely. But it was only a couple of miles and it wasn’t bad. Still, I was losing more and more faith in the GPS. It seemed I was constantly fighting it to keep me on the route I actually wanted to take.

Soon I was in Maine, really this time, and passed through Porter and Cornish. Route 117 took me through some fun zigs and zags through Hiram and Denmark. Mainers seem to have a thing for naming their towns after foreign cities and countries. I once tried to plan a day trip through all of them – call it a “round the world ride” – but there were too many of them scattered all over the state to do it.

In Bridgton, I’d picked up two other bikes behind me. While waiting to turn left where 117 and 302 briefly merge, one of the bikes – a Honda ST1300 – pulled up alongside me. The rider told me he used to have a 1990 PC800, and asked what year mine was. It’s rare that anyone I meet actually knows what a PC800 is, so I understand his enthusiasm in randomly finding someone else riding one. Of course, I certainly wouldn’t mind having his ST1300…

IMG_0891[1]After rolling through Harrison and into Norway, I took an unplanned side trip north on 26 briefly to pick up Route 219 a bit earlier than planned – mainly because it’s twisty and fun. As I rolled into the town of Wayne, I stopped in at Tubby’s for an ice cream and root beer. Parking was tight, so I slid into a space partially occupied by a Harley. We both left at the same time and exchanged greetings. He wasn’t too talkative, so I didn’t hold him up, but I couldn’t help but notice the Audi club instructor shirt he was wearing. This told me he was track day instructor for the Audi club. I found it interesting that the same guy who is clearly an expert in high performance driving of high tech sport/luxury cars would choose a somewhat anachronistic Harley as his motorcycle. But maybe after dealing with cars as refined as Audis it’s nice to get back to basics.

I didn’t need the GPS to get me to my destination at this point. I used to live there. I just followed 133 into Winthrop and hooked up with 202 all the way to Augusta. The road got wet as I entered Augusta. I stopped for gas, then rolled into my friend’s garage, which she had considerately left open for me. Apparently it had just stopped raining ten minutes before I got there. If I hadn’t stopped for ice cream I would’ve arrived in a heavy rain, but the delay meant I just barely missed it.

The second half of the day, from Route 153 on through all of Maine, made up for the tedium of the first half. It’s also why I chose an inland route, rather than heading up the coast or Maine Turnpike. I was only on the road for about six hours, even with the added delays, but that was by design. It would be rude to crash at a friend’s house and not spend any time with them.

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