New England riders carry a great sense of pride in the region that we are fortunate enough to call home. Those of us from the southern New England regularly point our bikes north via those wonderfully windy ribbons of tar. As a resident of Litchfield County, CT, I regularly heed the call north and the road that begins my journey is most often Route 202. It’s a practical choice to quickly navigate Connecticut, but also the lands beyond. Chartered in 1935, Route 202 runs 630 miles from Delaware to Maine, running through New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Recently, with autumn quickly approaching, it was time to head to the upper reaches of New England. Time was nearing where temperatures would be prohibitive for those of us motorcycle purists who refuse to don heated gear. My friend Brenda and I had been talking about heading up to Maine to get our fill of the ocean air and the tasty delicacies to be found there – specifically seafood. We chose three days in mid-September to make our trek. The schedule was fairly fluid – with only a few places on our must-see list: The pinnacle of the tour – Cadillac Mountain – and a few choice restaurants to get our fill of the New England fare we were craving.
As we both live within a few miles of Route 202, and would travel much of route throughout our trip, the familiar road signs always brought a smile to our faces throughout the journey north. The air was chilly upon leaving my home in the wee hours before dawn. Brenda and I arranged to meet in Winsted, CT at 7 a.m. We gassed up, cranked our heated grips on high and pointed our BMWs northeast on Route 202, towards Vacationland.
Along the way, we arranged to meet our friend Bob at Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge, NH. This was a good stopping point at 150 miles into the route and a nice place to visit. The Cathedral was created by the parents of Sandy Sloan – a bomber pilot who lost his life when his plane was shot down over Germany in WWII. Upon Sandy’s passing, his parents turned the property slated for Sandy to build his home on upon his return from war into an ecumenical monument to all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in our Nation’s conflicts. This serene setting overlooking Mt. Monadnock, provides visitors peaceful reflection while meandering down the landscaped paths with towering pines watching over the many monuments on the property.
On this day, a ceremony was underway at the Cathedral with many elderly gentlemen and their families in attendance – many bearing the physical signs of past injuries most likely sustained in our nation’s wars. Watching them I felt a tremendous sense of gratitude for all those who selflessly volunteered to defend and preserve those rights we are so fortunate to have today.
With Bob joining our little pack on his BMW, we headed east towards our lunch destination at Parker’s Maple Barn. Parker’s is a New Hampshire landmark, known far and wide as a biker friendly destination, even providing an area for motorcycle only parking in their lot. The breakfasts at Parker’s are sure to please with their famous pancakes and stuffed French toast along with several great lunch specials. After the meal, visitors can visit Parker’s gift shop for local maple syrup and other fun oddities.
With our bellies full, we pointed the bikes northeast once again as our overnight lodging was a ways ahead in Wiscasset, ME. With inclement weather looming, Bob peeled off after a few miles to head back to his place in mid-NH, while Brenda and I pushed on north to get to our lodging before the rain in the forecast did. We pulled into Wiscasset, enjoying some hot Haddock Chowder at Sarah’s Café in Town before getting to the hotel just as the rain began to fall. We quickly covered up the bikes and headed in for a good night’s rest for our next day’s journey to Acadia National Park.
A sunny morning greeted us as we saddled up for our second day of the tour. This day we would connect with another friend and fellow rider, Ralph, a native Mainer who calls Wiscasset home. We scheduled to meet Ralph at the renowned Moody’s Diner, along the route north in Waldoboro, ME. It was great to see Ralph again, with his new ride – a Triumph Scrambler. The last time we met was back in 2010 in North Conway, NH in an attempt to summit Mt. Washington via motorcycle. However, it was not to be as we were turned away due to high winds at the summit. Since that time, we had both endured some pretty frightening medical issues and were very thankful for our restored health and the opportunity to meet up once again and share our favorite pastime of riding in our beloved New England.
We caught up on the past four years over a wonderful breakfast at Moody’s. I had to sneak in a slice of their famous Maine blueberry pie for good measure. Ralph schooled us in proper Maine pronunciation of our destination for the day – ‘Bah Haabah’ stated in quick succession as we learned there is no ‘R’ in a Down Easter’s vocabulary as it has been since replaced with a soft ‘A’.
From there we mounted our trusty steeds, hugging the coastline on Route 1 northwards towards Acadia National Park, along the way passing through some very charming New England towns such as Boothbay and Camden. Brenda and I would have liked to spend more time in these charming enclaves but we had to choose our stops wisely if we were to enjoy the necessary daylight to get up to Cadillac Mountain and back.
As we traveled north it was very easy to understand the Maine adage – ‘You can’t get theah from heah’ as the coast is filled with many peninsular protrusions with windy roads that jut in and out of each making for a very long ride for anyone truly wishing to ride the entire Maine coastline
We did stop to view the new Bucksport Bridge in Prospect, ME – quite an architectural marvel spanning the Penobscot River. Next door was Fort Knox, a military fortress built in the mid-1800s to protect an area deemed vulnerable to attack by foreign forces. Fort Knox never saw battle but was manned through the time of the Spanish American War, then sold to the State of Maine as a historic landmark in 1923, eventually becoming a National landmark in 1970. Ralph encouraged us to take a peek at the fort and we were very glad we did as it was an architectural marvel in its own right, boasting solid granite walls and bricked archways with multiple cannon turrets throughout along with views of the Penobscot River from atop the structure. The fort was so big and cavernous we got lost trying to find our way out.
With an hour to go before reaching Acadia, we pushed onwards, finally crossing onto the island with Cadillac Mountain looming in the distance. It was a fun curvy ride up to the summit where many vacation-goers were busy snapping photos of the bay and islands around us. Our perch gave us a good vantage point to view a large cruise ship docked in the harbor below. The many flat granite rocks on the summit were very inviting, warm with the day’s sun to offset the steady cool breeze.
Cadillac Mountain was on my list of ‘must visit’ riding destinations for many years and I was not disappointed for this experience. We all enjoyed this very special place and lingered a while to soak in the multi-directional views. With bellies rumbling, we took a quick ride down the summit to Bar Harbor in search of seafood. We found the perfect waterside establishment for a relaxing outdoor lunch in Stewman’s Downtown. One delicious seafood plate after the next popped onto the table as we started with fried clams, and then enjoyed lobster, crabcakes, and bisque for our main meals. We all agreed – this was one of the best meals of our respective summers. Stuffed to the gills, we sauntered through the shops in town before hopping back on the bikes for the return ride to Wiscasset.
On the ride back south, Ralph clued us in to another interesting bit of Maine history – the Jonathan Buck Monument. Legend has it that Colonel Buck, Bucksport’s founder, ordered a woman burned at the stake during the witch-hunting era. As the woman’s body burned, her leg detached and fell out of the pyre. Upon Colonel Buck’s passing, a monument was erected above his tomb and a mysterious stain resembling a woman’s leg and foot appeared below Buck’s name on the stone. His heirs tried to clean the foot off the stone and are said to have replaced the monument twice – but the stain of the foot returned both times!
The sun quickly faded, leaving us to ride south in the darkness. Only the light of Red’s Eats in Wiscasset was visible as we crossed the bridge back into Town. We stopped for a quick bite before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel. Red’s, featured on the Food Channel, is a pretty popular place, with lines stretching around the corner of the building most days. Tonight only one other customer would be found at this late hour, enjoying his meal at one of the outdoor tables around the establishment. After farewell hugs to Ralph and many thanks for his wonderful company on the day, we looked forward to a restful evening after two long days in the saddle with another on tap for our return home the following morning.
Our third and final day of the tour was perfect weather-wise with the sun shining brightly as we started our journey back home. We hopped on I-295 to quickly get down to Portland to visit the Portland Head Light. We carefully navigated the City grid road system to make it to the lighthouse across town. The lighthouse was buzzing with tourists this day – a perfect one to capture the essence of the light in pictures. Upon parking the bikes, one of the ambassadors of the lighthouse rushed over upon spying Brenda’s R1200R and a lengthy conversation ensued about the bike and her experience since purchase. After obtaining Brenda’s rave review of the bike, the gentleman informed us he was eager check out the pre-owned inventory at MAX BMW in New Hampshire to acquire his very own R bike in the near future. That R bike is definitely a conversation piece – countless people approached us along the trip to admire it and talk about the merits of this special boxer twin BMW model – one magnificent machine.
From Portland we would hop on I-95 for a short stint to get down to Kittery for lunch at Bob’s Clam Hut to get our last taste of Maine’s culinary treasures. The crowd was significant – even on a Monday as folks were lined up to get their fill of these succulent treats. We each ordered a clam basket and beverage and sat outside at a picnic table to enjoy our meals as we talked with other lunch goers about our weekends. After lunch, our last Maine destination would be the Kittery Trading Post – a fun Maine attraction with a massive Moose in the lobby to greet guests. We made our purchases and packed them carefully on the bikes for the long ride home.
We headed southwest from Kittery, crossing through New Hampshire via Route 111, a rather slow go with the onset of rush hour traffic, finally making some time once we hit Massachusetts. Across Route 2 we sailed, once again finding our familiar Route 202 which would take us home. With the sun now firmly below the horizon, we headed south along the western edge of the Quabbin Reservoir with all of our accessory lighting in use to ensure we had a good chance to see any forest creatures that happened to wander our way. Finally – we pulled into Winsted at 8:30 p.m. – tired from the day’s travels but thankful for an enjoyable and safe journey.
After Brenda and I said our farewells, I pointed my BMW south on Route 8 to once again connect with good old Route 202 which would deposit me within 5 miles of my home. As I traveled this lonely road south in the darkness, pondering the many magical moments of the last three days and 900+ miles, I thought to myself, ‘You really can get theah from heah’.
By Victoria Zandonella
Northeast Dualsport Riders