The Coastal Route and Route 111

maine day 3With highs in the 70s again and a 0% chance of rain predicted, it looked like a great day to take the scenic route home. Part of me wished I could stay in Maine an extra day and go finish the route I hadn’t completed yesterday, but I was scheduled to start my new job the next day and couldn’t do that. If I was still unemployed I probably would’ve stayed the extra day.

I prepared the bike for departure, which meant nothing more than chucking my backpack in the trunk, and hit the road. I didn’t even bother programming the GPS. I already knew most of the specific roads I wanted to ride, and I wouldn’t have been able to convince the GPS to take me on them anyway. I crossed to the east side of the Kennebec River and rode Route 9 down to Randolph before crossing the river back into Gardiner. This meant that rather than poking along at slow speeds through the quaint little town of Hallowell, I leaned twisties at 50mph through Farmingdale. Then I took 201 up the huge hill out of Gardiner and followed it to Topsham, where I hooked up with Route 1 in Brunswick. This was a mistake – as soon as I committed to the ramp to 1, I found myself in nearly gridlocked traffic, despite it being long past commute time. I muddled through Brunswick, and it was clear sailing again after most traffic took the ramp to I-295.

Route 1 would be the backbone of my ride until I got well through New Hampshire. Though I did hop on 295 to avoid downtown Freeport. I didn’t want to deal with the traffic of LL Bean and all the other stores there. Back on 1 I rolled into Yarmouth, and on a whim I stopped at the DeLorme map store. I like maps, and though I could get home today by any number of routes from memory, I liked the idea of looking at the big picture in a road atlas for planning future rides. So I picked one up. Then I detoured from Route 1 down 88, through the high rent parts of Yarmouth and Falmouth Foreside. After I linked back up with 1 I found myself in Portland, looking forward to a scenic cruise and photo opportunities through Baxter Boulevard around the edge of Back Cove. Unfortunately, Baxter Boulevard was completely closed. With little choice from that point, I hopped back on 295 and picked up 1 in South Portland. Been there, done that, and I didn’t feel like sitting in Portland traffic.

IMG_0906[1]After sitting through an extremely poorly timed traffic light in South Portland I was back on my way through Scarborough. I saw the signs for Maine Indoor Karting and thought of many times I’d raced there. I thought about stopping in, but I felt more of a need to ride than race. In Saco I ran into more gridlocked traffic on Route 1. I took advantage of my bike’s excellent turning radius to backtrack and take Route 9 through Biddeford and Kennebunk instead, then hooked back up with 1. I stopped for a quick lunch in Wells (it took all morning just to go 100 miles), then rode through York, Ogunquit, and Kittery. Sadly, despite riding so much along the coast, I could almost never actually see the ocean.

The Route 1 bridge into Portsmouth, NH was closed, which messed up my planned route a bit. After diverting across another bridge and getting turned around a bit with all the detours, I plugged a point on the map from my intended route into my GPS and told it to take me there. Within minutes I was on Route 1B like I intended. Now I got to see some ocean scenery as I rode down the coast. This was another high rent area where I could never afford to live, but unlike in Maine, where the roads were far enough away from the ocean that you couldn’t see it, Routes 1B and 1A went right along the beach for the most part. It was a bit cool and windy for a swim, but I did stop a few times to look around and take pictures. At one point I parked next to a KLR and a scooter, both with Quebec plates. I could see the KLR coming this far under its own power, but the scooter? It would be one heck of a ride if it did, from one end of NH to the other.

IMG_0905[1]As I rolled past the beaches in North Hampton I found the beginning of Route 111. I grew up in Acton, MA at the south end of 111, and in Harvard not too far up the road. I’ve traveled it a little bit into NH, but not much. For a while, just out of curiousity, I’ve been interested in finding the other end of this road that my entire childhood focused around. When planning this trip, I discovered that rather than riding it all the way from home to NH, my plan to ride down the coast would take me right to the top end of it, and I could simply follow it home. It’s a very indirect route, but who cares.

Route 111 starts out as a fairly slow, highly populated road as it heads west through Exeter. To my surprise, it merges with 125 for a few miles, which I took on the way north to Maine. As usual, traffic moved in clumps of slow traffic stuck behind one person going 10 under the limit. But after a few miles 111 split off again, and became a wide, open, quiet 50mph road. In Windham I got stuck in construction where it crosses under I-93. Both directions were stopped for a solid five minutes, and I couldn’t see that they were doing anything in the construction zone. This clumped us up quite a bit once we did start moving again through Hudson, and finally into Nashua. It was still before afternoon commute time, but traffic was terrible, particularly at one red light that turned green just long enough to let about five cars through before turning red again for five minutes. I shut the bike off completely at many points while waiting to get through here, it was so bad. Eventually I made it through, and after crossing Route 3 I was moving again through Hollis. I recognized the intersection where the Alzheimer’s Ride had turned down 111A, and I’d gone up the road a mile to refuel. Things started looking more and more familiar. I crossed into Pepperell, MA, and once 111 merged with 119 in Groton I was back in completely familiar and recently traveled territory. I stick with 111 through Ayer, Harvard, and Boxboro into Acton, but peeled off toward home instead of riding to the Concord rotary where 111 officially ends. I’ve been there many times before, and they’ve torn up Route 2 where 111 merges with it to the rotary. I didn’t stop for pictures along the way because it wasn’t particularly scenic, and it was more of a gimmick ride than anything, just for fun.

I got home, unpacked the bike (brought my backpack inside), and relaxed. Though I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to do this trip, it was still a good ride, despite a bit more congestion and traffic than I prefer.

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