Fort Kent to Wells

We managed to get on the road at 9 AM. We hopped on Rt 11 and headed almost due south. This is a reasonably well maintained country road that took us through mountains and small villages. At one point we encountered a 2 mile stretch of dirt road due construction. This paled in comparison to out 130 mile drive on the dirt road called the Denali Highway in Alaska. This section was a bit rough but damp to prevent dust. That was great except that the dampness created mud instead. Our truck sure showed the results.

There actually are several Northern Maine/Alaska similarities. The love of snow mobiles (machines in Alaska) and ATVs. The love of the outdoors. Roads with miles of nothing (although the nothing is much longer in Alaska).

We got to I95 and headed south with Bangor as our designated lunch stop. The drive was as we expected. The scenery was nice but nothing eye-popping. We did decide that in the fall, with the foliage, this same drive would likely be astounding. We intend to find out.

We stopped on Bangor for a great lunch and Maureen found a Joannes to replenish and add to some of her projects. We returned to I95 and didn’t stop until we reached the RV at 5:30.

It was awesome to finally have the opportunity to explore Maine. Loved it!

Winter Harbor to Fort Kent

In our quest to reach the beginning of US Route 1, we departed from Winter Harbor and headed north on “Coastal 1”. We soon re-entered Gouldsboro and found it to be really neat. It was a real working lobster town with no tourist frills. Homes had stacks of lobster traps and the harbor had its fair share of lobster boats.

Machais was our first stop. We arrived in this nice, well-manicured city and ran into the Margaretta Days Festival. We had no clue what the festival was for but saw some folks in Revolutionary War garb and decided to check it out. The festival is the celebration of the anniversary of the first naval sea battle of the Revolution and ended successfully when the Rebel ship (the Unity) captured the grounded British ship (the Margaretta). We enjoyed the music, the displays and the conversation. After an hour, we departed.

Calais was our next significant waypoint because it was the the end of Coastal 1 and it turned into Inland 1. We went almost due north, right on the US/Canadian border.

At first, we only encountered forests. However, soon we were greeted with acre upon acre of potato fields in various stages of growth. We were a bit taken aback with the amount of agriculture in Northern Maine.

Houlton was a key city. It’s a significant city right on I95 and at a major US/Canada border crossing. We had every intention of stopping for lunch in Houlton but chose to move on to find a non-chain restaurant. We soon passed and returned to the Blue Moose Restaurant in Monticello. The place was perfect and the prices were amazing. the small shepherd’s pie was more than enough and the fish and chips could not be finished. Each was $4.95.

We were anxious to see Presque Isle for no good reason other than its cool name. But we were ignorant. It turns out that Presque Isle is the launch site for the Double Eagle II helium balloon that was the first balloon to successfully cross the Atlantic - in 1979. They had a beautiful park to commemorate this event. And Presque Isle was a beautiful city with obvious pride.

Besides the potato fields, we were amazed at the size of the lawns. The homes on the outskirts of the cities had large lawns that must have taken hours to maintain - and maintained they were. We never stopped being amazed at these field of grass.

As we approached our Fort Kent destination, we passed through Madawaska and Frenchville. What was noteworthy about these cities was that, as expected, both cities were beautiful but, in addition to American flags draping the main street, they also had French flags. We have no idea why. The American flags - Flag Day is Monday. French Flag - no clue. We couldn’t justify that the adjacent French speaking Canada right across the river was the cause.

We arrived in Fort Kent at 6:00 and a motel (The Northern Door Inn) soon thereafter. We didn’t see a 2nd hotel. It turns out that it was right at Mile 0 of US Route 1. Our quest was done. That evening, Angus and I had a pleasant stroll around the town. We walked on a dike between the river and the road. We could hear the partying going on over in Clair, N.B. The trail we were on is used extensively by snow mobile and ATVs. It even has small billboards along the trail to ensure that the travelers are aware of the services provided.

Fort Kent has a blockade that was built during a US/Canada border dispute in 1839. It was the first structure in the town and was used in a bloodless war that ended with the borders being drawn based on an old drawing signed by Benjamin Franklin. The Blockhouse is well preserved and is designated as a historical site.

Tomorrow we are taking a no-frills route back to Wells. All but the first 80 miles will be on I95. With 356 miles to drive and I95 being an interstate, we don’t anticipate a lot of sightseeing.


Wells to Winter Harbor

Today we got off a little late (10:30) but were glad to get on the road. As we proceeded north, we decided to reverse the route and tackle Coastal Route 1 first due to the threat of questionable weather in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday.

We joined Route 1 in Bath and finally hit new territory as we passed through Newcastle. It was a pleasant, uninspiring drive until we opted to detour to Booth Bay Harbor. This is a busy, well kept tourist town that was bustling even though the true start of tourist season has yet to hit.

The harbor town has all that you could expect. It had the unique, tempting restaurants, the shirt shops, the whale viewing cruises, ice cream stores, etc. Since it is an old town, it has nifty narrow, curvy, flower landscaped streets. Additionally, it has a small, beautiful park right on the harbor giving you a chance to get up close and personal.

We returned to Route 1 and continued north through more sea-side towns, Some of the more noteworthy towns were Rockport, Thomaston and Camden. Camden was particularly appealing. Its harbor had several clipper ships and was very busy and beautiful. It didn’t qualify as a “tourist town” as did Bar Harbor and was therefore more pleasant.

We finally settled on Gouldsboro as the days destination. To get there, we had to pass through Ellsworth which is the gateway to Acadia National Park. We opted to pass up Acadia on this trip and make an Acadia specific trip later.

We arrived in Gouldsboro shortly after 5 and decided to make a detour to Winter Harbor. We had second thoughts as the road was horrid. We continued and found Main Stay Cottages and decided to stay. It was then that we discovered that there was a piece of Acadia 3 mile up the road. So after stopping for a great meal, we headed to Acadia to catch a lighthouse and a sunset.

At the Main Stay Cottages, we actually got a guest room that overlooked the harbor. It was on the 2nd floor and included a deck that afforded a fantastic view. Of course there was no internet access. But with the view and some writing to do that the missing internet wasn’t that big a deal.

Excitement is building

We have the next 3 days off. Our goal is to get to Fort Kent, ME and get on the starting point of US Route 1. We’ll try to do a daily post so you can see if we can come close to meeting this aggressive itinerary. Route 1 actually goes to Key West all along the eastern seaboard. We touched it in many places, including Key West, but haven’t come close to traversing the entire road. We’ve driven a bunch of the Florida coast and in 2008, we covered some awesome sections of US 1 in Maryland and Virginia along the Chesapeake.

From there, we’ll pass through the northern-most town (Fornier) in Maine and then follow Route 1 along the coast and back to Wells. We’ll be visiting some remote wilderness areas that should result in seeing some wildlife. Since we left Colorado Springs, the only “wildlife” we’ve seen is a large turtle attempting to cross a bust Route 1 in York. A bit of a change from Alaska.

Today we ran up to Portland to stop by Borders. On the way back, we stopped at a small family store and got 3 live lobsters for $4.99 per pound. Maureen cooked them, made lobster rolls out of 1 of them and is going to see what happens when we freeze the meat. Since we have a freezer with us, it sure would be awesome if the freezing experiment works.

We got the truck serviced as well. This was the first time since we left Colorado. The RAM has continued to perform superbly. We’ve been averaging 22 MPG on the highway and drop to 18 when we start encountering traffic lights and increased congestion.


To Bath, Augusta and other nice areas

We bought a book at Borders that describes 25 scenic Maine drives. Today we decided to see if we could take 3 of them. The ones we chose were around the Augusta (the state capital) area. We went from (1) Bath to Gardiner, (2) Augusta to Rome and (3) Augusta to Wiscasset.

The first leg was a tour of small, old towns, farms, rivers and bridges. It was a pleasant, interesting drive that included a stop for lunch in Gardiner. The flowers, the green fields and forests and the farms were the most striking. What was also surprising was that none of the legs exceeded 30 miles. We can’t think of a drive in Colorado that would be 30 miles or less.

The visit to Wiscasset was particularly fun. Maureen was able to track down the church and cemetery that my grandfather Marcel Poirier and grandmother Mary are buried in. This was a little tricky because, although they lived in Wiscasset, they are buried in Newcastle. The church, St Patrick’s, is the oldest Catholic Church in New England.

Wiscasset sit on a harbor and is a really neat town. It’s old and well preserved. Big, old trees grow throughout the town. The view of the harbor is breathtaking. Of course the lobster restaurants abound.

The trip to Rome took us into a lake area. Although beautiful, we saw NO public access to any of the lakes. We’re sure that there had to be public boat launches, but we saw no evidence of them. In fact on this leg of the trip, there were very few parks and no rest areas.

By the time we returned, we had covered 300 miles. It was a real pleasant day that made us anxious to embark on a more extended and varied trip.