Strangers in a Not So Strange Land

After riding through the rain and mist, and escaping whatever ghosts there were (or weren’t) in the Haynesville Woods, crossing into New Brunswick and rewarding ourselves with a very nice German-style dinner, Don and I made our way up the eastern side of the St. John River. Our destination was Eagle Lake, Maine, home of legendary (in Maine, anyway) legislator John Martin.

We rode about 350 miles on the first day of our trip. Rolling out of bed the next morning I was reminded how much more physical riding a motorcycle is than driving a car. That I was probably a little more tense because of the rain most likely added to the muscle strain, but a little Tylenol and a little more Motrin took care of that. Some coffee and a hearty German-style breakfast (no beer, thanks), along with clearing skies got us ready for the day’s excursion tracing the northeast border of Maine and the St. John Valley.

New Brunswick Routes 165 and 105 took us up the east side of the St. John. Have I used the term “sweeping river vistas”? I think I have, but it certainly applies here. The roads were relatively narrow for a while and we rode at a relaxed pace, enjoying the clearing morning and drier air. We went through Hartland, home of the longest covered bridge in the world, before stopping for coffee and a rest stop at the Tim Horton’s in Florenceville-Bristol.

One thing I found not long after I started riding six years ago is that complete strangers were more likely to strike up a conversation when you walked in a place with motorcycle gear on. Turns out it’s true in Canada, too. The Tim Horton’s (like Dunkin’ Donuts, only with a distinctively Canadian feel, eh?) in Bristol was nearly full of locals. Sitting down with my coffee I was greeted by a friendly, elderly local (more local than me, anyway) man who wanted to know where we were riding in from. I told him we had ridden up from southern Maine – not that day, of course, but that we had left the previous day.

There was a tire and auto repair place next door, so it’s possible there were some people in Tim Horton’s waiting for their cars, but a lot of them seemed like regulars. We finished our coffee and continued up Route 105. We passed through neighborhoods and small towns, roadsides covered in daylilies, farms and fields. In places the road was narrow, and others very wide, more like parking lot than roadway. Most of the road was in good shape, but there were a couple of times I found myself asking, “Where did the road go?” There was some paving and construction, but almost no traffic and no delays on our way to Perth-Andover and the border crossing at Fort Fairfield, Maine.

U.S. Customs at Fort Fairfield was in what looked like an old converted farmhouse. There was a special lane for log trucks. There wasn’t much of a wait and we rode into Fort Fairfield without time to stop and enjoy any of the Maine Potato Blossom Festival. We turned back north on Route 1A, with the St. John now on our right, and rode past field after field, rows and rows of potatoes, potato barns, farms, rolling hills, and the gradual slope down to the river. Limestone, Caswell, Van Buren, and probably a number of other towns whose names I don’t recall (and looking them up on a map wouldn’t be fair) before stopping for lunch at Jeff’s in Madawaska.

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