Midcoast ride a great way to spend a warm May day

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Boats crowd in at the Rockland waterfront. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)
Boats crowd in at the Rockland waterfront. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

It started as a ride to meet WingMan for lunch in Rockland, but the day was perfect. On May 12, the temperature climbed over 70 degrees, and ultimately headed to 80. I left Brewer late that morning and took Route 15 to Bucksport, then a quick hop across the river via Route 1 to Prospect where I stopped at the scenic view for the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

The viewpoint is the beginning of what was the old bridge, which this new one replaced a few years ago. The new bridge is a marvelous piece of engineering, and it boasts the highest observation tower on a bridge anywhere in the world. From up there, you can see Mount Katahdin on a clear day. I stayed down on the ground with my bike on this trip. Downriver a bit on Route 1, I pulled over again at a parking lot with a great view of the bridge, where I chatted with a pair of bikers. Then it was on to see a few waterfronts.

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge, as seen from a viewpoint built on the old bridge's traffic approach. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

Route 1 is famous for running from Key West, Fla. all the way to Fort Kent, a distance of 2,369 miles. Of that, 527 miles are in Maine—over a fifth of the total length. The portion along the ocean, from York in southern Maine to Calais at the Canadian border, is called the Coastal Route, and it has some of the finest views you’ll see anywhere on Route 1. For my purposes this day, I wasn’t riding much of the Coastal Route—just the part of Maine known around here as the Midcoast region, and then only down to Rockland.

The nice thing about Route 1, especially along the Coastal Route, and more particularly that run from York to Bucksport, is that it’s a major tourist route. During the summer, seemingly zillions of tourists visit Mount Desert Island, home of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, and when they come into Maine from the south—like most do—there are only two ways to get there. The first is to take Interstate 95 north to Bangor, then Route 1A to Ellsworth, and then you’re a skip away from MDI. The second is Route 1, which crosses the Penobscot River to Bucksport and then shoots across to Ellsworth. But while the I-95 route is faster, it isn’t as scenic. The Coastal Route affords fantastic views, not to mention lots of ritzy coastal towns where shopping is king, and where you can find plenty of non-fast-food options.

The end result is that the road is in wonderful shape, so it’s perfect for riding. This day was as good as it gets: the temperatures were climbing, but the ocean breeze kept it from getting too hot, and most importantly it wasn’t yet Memorial Day, which meant that it wasn’t a tourist-traffic nightmare. That’s the downside to the Coastal Route: From Memorial Day to Labor Day, just assume that you’ll get stuck idling your bike in traffic when you travel through those busy little seaside towns.

On the way to lunch, I visited the waterfronts in Belfast, Camden, Rockport, and Rockland, as well as Lincolnville Beach, for a few photos. Time successfully killed, and a photoessay in the works, I met up with WingMan for lunch at a fantastic restaurant called Home Kitchen Café. Read my review of that here.

The Belfast waterfront on a late spring day. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

Since I like loop rides—so the return trip isn’t a rewind of the approach—I came home on a stellar pair of roads. I took Route 17 all the way to Augusta, which is a 43-mile-long stretch that twists, turns, and holds your interest, but is in the great condition you want to ride at a good clip for that many miles. Visually, it’s a bit anticlimactic after riding along the seashore, but there’s some nice topography with low mountains and hills and a fair number of lakes and ponds. From Augusta, I took one of my favorite rides home—Routes 9 and 202 all the way back home. That takes you through the China Lakes Region, so in addition to scenic farmlands there are also ample rides along lakefronts. This eventually gives way to entirely pastoral views before coming into Hampden and Bangor and ending my day.

Parked at a pulloff on Lakeview Drive (Route 17), beside Chickawaukee Pond in Rockland. It's late spring, so the green isn't explosive yet. (PHOTO BY DAVID M. FITZPATRICK)

 

For another look at this last section, check out my story about riding the entire length of U.S. Route 202 in Maine, from Sanford to Bangor.

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