A couple of weeks ago a friend and I took advantage of some relative early spring warmth and went for a ride on our motorcycles. The morning was bright but still cold, with temperatures hovering around 40° F, though it promised to warm up to the mid-fifties later in the day.
While at a local eatery an old guy who noticed our motorcycle gear struck up a conversation. He told us about various routes and roads, destinations and landmarks that made for good rides. Among those he mentioned was Maine Route 11, which stretches from Lebanon on the New Hampshire state line all the way to Fort Kent and the Canadian border, and which he referred to as “the other Route 1.”
In an age where we all take the Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways (a.k.a the Interstate Highway System) for granted, it’s worth remembering that there were interstate highways, and major intrastate highways before the present system was created beginning in the late 1950s. These roads travel through and pass by places that we rarely get to see from interstates, both because they account for a very small proportion of road miles and their necessary, but sterile and boredom-inducing sameness from one end of the country to the other. Many still exist, and are often in good condition because of their status as state (or sometimes federal) highways. Unlike Route 1, perhaps particularly in Maine, these other roads may offer a glimpse into what a place is really about, and in all its glory, or not. At least in the case of Maine’s Route 11, we’ll see.
Bearing all of this in mind, yesterday afternoon I struck out for the portion of Route 11 from where it intersects with Route 25 in Limington to where it crosses US Route 202 in Sanford. I’ve ridden or driven Route 25 dozens if not, by now, hundreds of times. But until yesterday I had no idea what lay down a different road from that intersection.
The lack of traffic I suppose I might attribute to it being Sunday afternoon, but it also might have been that the stretch of Route 11 from Limington to Sanford goes through some small towns without a whole lot of draw on their own. It’s also not exactly a straight line from one end to the other, so I suspect that people who actually live in or travel through the area use other routes. Aside from the lack of traffic I found the road and the scenery enjoyable. It’s still early-ish spring in Maine so the trees are mostly bare and you can see what the winter, and in some cases decades of neglect, left behind.
Riding from Limington to Limerick and crossing Route 5, which I have been on many times, I found myself in Newfield and came upon the Willowbrook 19th Century Village. It isn’t open for the season yet but I think it might worth a closer look after visiting their web site. Making the sharp left from West Newfield toward North Shapleigh I found myself, after a while, on a long straight stretch and a vast (for southern Maine) sandy plain.
In Shapleigh I made a note to check out Ted’s Fried Clams (“since 1950”). Seems a little inland to me, but the place is apparently in a relatively new and much larger building. What looks like the original Ted’s sits at the other end of the parking lot as a kind of 1950s road food exhibit. I often like to find places full of local, um, flavor when I’m out riding, so this may be another future stop.
Arriving in Sanford, I took the left onto Route 202 and headed for home. Route 11 continues to Lebanon, Maine and the New Hampshire border, but I’ve driven it many time and there’s really not much to see.
Next time I’ll pick up from Route 11 and 25 in Limington and head north. Probably not to Fort Kent, but at least to have a look at some more of the “other Route 1.”