Three months later…
After setting the goal of riding the entire length of Route 11 for myself last year, I can now say, “mission accomplished.” No, really.
Fort Kent to Lebanon, not all in one piece, and certainly not non-stop, but I have ridden the 400 miles from one end of Route 11 – and one end of Maine – to the other. Not far from Fort Kent Don and I had planned to spend the night in Eagle Lake. After lunch in Madawaska, though, it was too early to call it a day, so we spread out a map over one of the bikes and looked for other interesting places we could go. There were a couple of options – Frenchville, St. Agatha – but we decided to ride Route 161 practically as far west of Fort Kent as you can and still be on public, and paved, roads to Allagash. Or the old Dickey trading post, technically.
We took a few minutes to look around, take a few pictures, and just marvel at the scenery in this remote corner of Maine before riding the 30 miles back to Fort Kent, chasing and being chased by thundershowers all the way. Having taken a 60 mile side trip in addition to the 500-plus we had already ridden since leaving home the day before, we were ready to park and put our feet up for a while. We still stopped at a scenic overlook just south of Fort Kent, but then rode toward Eagle Lake and the Overlook Motel.
As we got closer to Eagle Lake I found myself fantasizing about a lakeside restaurant with a deck and having a refreshing beverage as a reward for the ride. That’s all it turned out to be, however, a fantasy. There are, as near as we were able to tell, no restaurants in Eagle Lake, or at least none matching that description. We made do with beer and sandwiches from a convenience store, and sitting on the little balcony that did, in fact, overlook Eagle Lake. It was probably just as well that there was no lakeside restaurant because the deer flies probably would have chased all but the most hard core outdoorsmen back inside. Only a brisk breeze kept them at bay while we sat on the balcony until the sun started to set.
The room at the Overlook was pretty stuffy when we got there. Opening the windows and sliding glass door, but leaving the screens closed (see the reference to deer flies, above), it didn’t take long for the room to cool off. We left them this way and were treated to loons calling each other, the sound of a train going by on a rail line between us and the lake, and not much else.
Around four or four-thirty in the morning I opened my eyes to see the sky beginning to brighten over the lake and heard the early birds (literally) already up and about. With the screen door and windows open all night, the room was no longer stuffy. In fact, it was downright nippy. I checked the weather and found that the temperature was all of about 45 degrees. I dozed for a while longer before we decided to get up and head out in search of breakfast.
The place we thought we had found for breakfast the day before didn’t open until six-thirty and we didn’t want to wait around, so we took off down Route 11 toward Portage Lake. But for the occasional pulp truck we didn’t encounter much traffic, nor did we encounter any wildlife, which was just as well, since neither are particularly friendly to motorcycles. When we got to Portage Lake and stopped at Dean’s for the best breakfast of the trip.
With the occasional stop here (Sherman Station) and there (Brownville Junction), even though we didn’t stop long, it took a few hours of riding to get to anything really resembling “civilization” again. After so much open road and so little traffic we found East Millinocket and Millinocket a little jarring, but we got through it without incident. Mile after mile, fields, trees, hills, and small, mostly anonymous towns went by. They gradually became a little more familiar and we found ourselves in Newport again.
We continued down Route 11 as far as Augusta before finally caving in and taking the turnpike almost the rest of the way home. By this time we had both had enough riding for a bit, though we both enjoyed the trip. The big takeaway for me? That it’s one thing to know how big Maine is, and it’s another thing to experience it. It’s remote, it’s beautiful, I am amazed at how tenaciously people cling to the landscape and make their lives and homes there. And though Route 11 goes through some of the most populated parts of Maine, it passes through a lot more of Maine than most will ever see.