It’s U.S. Route 202 all the way home, baby

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One of the last signs for U.S. Route 202 East, a few miles from its terminus in Bangor, Maine. I'd mostly avoided the big storms, but the clouds were moving in ahead. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)
One of the last signs for U.S. Route 202 East, a few miles from its terminus in Bangor, Maine. I’d mostly avoided the big storms, but the clouds were moving in ahead. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

Riding all of U.S. Route 202 in Maine has sort of been on my biking bucket list. My biket list, I suppose you could say. Yeah, let’s go with that and see if we can start a meme around it. That’s #BiketList for any motorcyclists out there. Trips to Paris or Mars are fine, but when you’re on two wheels, it can be just a simple thing.

Route 202 was like that for me. I’ve ridden and driven much of it at one point or another, save for the westernmost part of it, but the route that begins (for me) in Bangor, Maine—just a short hop away from my house in Brewer—runs all the way to South Lebanon on the western border with New Hampshire. Every bit I’d ever ridden had been in great shape, so doing the whole thing had been gnawing at my brain for a couple of years.

So when I finished up a bike trip to New Hampshire and a foray into Massachusetts and was prepared to head back to Maine, I knew that this was the perfect chance. I could pick up Route 202 in Concord (I was in nearby Weare) and take it all the way home. U.S. Route 202 runs 629.6 miles from Wilmington, Del. to Bangor, with 170.3 miles of it in Maine, so I’d be doing over a quarter of 202’s entire length.

New Hampshire’s forecast looked good, but Maine’s didn’t. A storm system had been moving up through the state that day, so even if I’d wanted to take the quick route home via I-95, I likely would have just ridden right into the mess. The longer trip via 202 would slow me down by at least an hour and a half. Indeed, as I moved further northeast in Maine, what began as distant clouds on the horizon grew bigger and darker.

So I didn’t break any speed records, and in fact there are ample towns and villages and Main Streets along the way that necessitated slowing down, so it seemed like I’d stay behind the rain. There are only two major population centers with heavy traffic anywhere on the route: Lewiston and Augusta. Otherwise, the road is relaxed and a fantastic ride. Early on, you’ll see plenty of farms and rural lands, which give way to a less-agricultural feel between Lewiston and Augusta. But leaving the state’s capital brings you back into a more rural environment until you reach Bangor.

A farm near Gray, Maine. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

I stopped in Gray to visit a friend; I’d wanted to see her anyway, but I’d almost overtaken the storm clouds. That visit delayed the inevitable for a bit, and somewhere around Winthrop my luck ran out. A quick stop under a big tree to throw my rain gear on, and I was back on the road. The rain let up before I reached China, Maine, but I kept it on just in case. I was no sooner home in Brewer than the skies opened up again.

A little rain never keeps good biker down, and it was just a minor annoyance in what turned out to be a fantastic ride. U.S. Route 202 is a quality road the entire way through Maine, with hardly a pothole or a crack to speak of. It was so enjoyable that I’m looking forward to a repeat performance on a rain-free day—this time starting in Bangor, with lunch and dinner stops along the way.

In the meantime, I’ll still be riding parts of 202 frequently, but every time I do, I’ll remember the great ride I had along its entire length.

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