From Brewer to Bangor via Fairfield… Skowhegan… Newport… Dover…

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(IMAGE FROM MAPQUEST)
(IMAGE FROM MAPQUEST)

My wife Elaine and I knew we’d be heading out on the motorcycle on Sunday, April 17. The forecast said close to 70 degrees just about everywhere in Maine, with blue skies and lots of sun. With RiderZine in mind, I wanted a good, long ride with a couple of ideal stops along the way.

Anyone who knows me knows that I ride year-round. When the major snow hits, the bike goes into the walk-in basement, but so long as the roads are clear—and I can safely get off my dead-end street with its north-facing hill—I’m on the road. I’m not completely stupid; I don’t head out when it’s zero degrees. But I’ve been known to cruise through town at 25 degrees, and when the temperature hovers near 40, I don’t care if it’s January or not.

But of course I prefer warmer weather. And on this day, it was going to be a good one. We wanted a good, long ride with a great meal somewhere in the middle of it. So we decided that it had been a long time since we’d been to Big G’s Deli in Winslow, so that was the first stop on our trip. We headed out on my 2001 Honda Shadow VT750c2, me in the saddle and Elaine on the two-up Mustang seat with its Cobra backrest, and left Brewer for Route 9.

From Brewer, we zipped across the Veterans Remembrance Bridge and jumped off on Route 202 in Hampden, and before long we were headed out for a relaxing trip. Route 9 is a great riding road from Hampden to Augusta and beyond; I’ve made a few trips to Portland exclusively using Route 9, thanks to the suggestion from my friend Tim Sample. Tim lives in Portland in a quiet, side-street neighborhood right off Route 9, and notes that when he heads to his other home in Calais, he simply takes a left off his street and never leaves Route 9 until he gets there.

We rode into Unity, and even in the morning we passed at least two dozen motorcycles headed the other way—and there were plenty of bikes heading in the same direction we were.

We stopped briefly in Fairfield at her mother’s house—nature calls, after all—and then doubled back a short hop to Big G’s. The amusing thing was that while we knew Big G’s saw a good lunch crowd on Sundays, it hadn’t occurred to us that our plan for sandwich heaven wasn’t original in the world of Maine motorcycling: When we arrived, the parking lot was overflowing with motorcycles. On the way in, I tried to do a quick count, and I made it to 60 before giving up. I bet it was 80 or 90, and probably half of them were two-rider bikes.

They were motorcyclists of all stripes, but inside the restaurant it was a sea of leather jackets, chained wallets, colorful bandanas, assless chaps, United Bikers of Maine T-shirts, and club patches. The motorcyclists were in great moods, but of course there were plenty of regular folks who were a bit overwhelmed by that many of them (read: bikers scared them).

I won’t get into the food in this piece; you can read my Big G’s review here. But when we left—full and satisfied!—we visited with her mother for a bit before heading out. We hadn’t planned the return trip, but in the spirit of riding in a big circle—metaphorical if not literal—I decided to take Route 201 into Skowhegan and return via Route 2. This is another great road to ride, as just about any motorcyclist in Maine knows. I’ve ridden Route 2 all the way from Houlton to New Hampshire in various legs, and it’s virtually never a disappointment.

My initial plan was to pass through Newport and continue all the way back to Brewer, but at the Triangle in Newport I realized that I just couldn’t. The weather was beyond perfect and the riding beyond enjoyable.

They were motorcyclists of all stripes, but inside the restaurant it was a sea of leather jackets, chained wallets, colorful bandanas, assless chaps, United Bikers of Maine T-shirts, and club patches.

So I hung an abrupt left and headed towards Dexter. Elaine tapped me on the shoulder and shouted, “Where are you going?”

“Home,” I called back.

“How?” she said.

“Via Route 15,” I replied.

She knew where that was, and just relaxed on the back and enjoyed the ride.

I actually had an ulterior motive to extending the trip, beyond just riding more miles: I wanted ice cream. But it was April 17, and despite the great weather, every seasonal ice-cream place we’d passed had not yet opened. That left one destination in mind: Gifford’s in Bangor. Sure, taking Route 2 back from Newport would have been a half-hour or so, and we’d have been at Gifford’s sooner, but the added miles were more important even than ice cream.

So we cruised across Route 7 through Corinna and Dexter, and then on to Dover-Foxcroft, with only a stretch of several miles between those last two towns where the road becomes a bit challenging (it’s in need of resurfacing for a bit). After that, the Route 15 ride to Bangor is about as good as a state road can get.

What’s particularly nice about this loop is the combination of mostly rural landscapes with high-speed travel—speed limits of 50 and 55 are common on the entire trek across Routes 9, 139, 201, 2, 7, and 15. There are intermittent urban oases—Unity, Fairfield, Skowhegan, Newport, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft—but none of these are anything close to size of Bangor. What you get is a long ride through rural Maine on really good roads, mostly through farmland and countryside.

All told, we logged 166 miles that beautiful Sunday. We took a few side trips; if you do the circuit on the routes noted above, it will be about 156 miles. And when it comes to riding in a big circle, this is a good one. And where most of our long rides find lunch at the halfway point, for this ride we found lunch early on, and then found dessert toward the end. No matter at what point you begin this loop, you’ll find it a satisfying circuit.

The ride is only half the story. Be sure to read my reviews of Big G’s Deli and Gifford’s Ice Cream.

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