Connections

One of the great joys of traveling is meeting other folks.  Sometimes it’s through a shared in-person experience, but sometimes it’s through a virtual space. I’ve already introduced y’all to Bunk-a-Biker, but that’s not the only way I meet up with other riders.  For all the ways social media can be used for maliciousness, there are just as many ways it can be used for constructive connectedness. Of the thousands of esoteric Facebook groups out there, there’s a specific one dedicated to long distance motorcycle riders where we share routes, tips, and tricks for extended rides.  I shared a general synopsis of my trip earlier this year, and a fellow military veteran in the Bangor, Maine area reached out to me to offer a place to stay and local ride intel if I found myself in his area.  I texted him, “Great, I’ll be in your neck of the woods this week!”

The bonds of veterans and bikers!

After contacting him a few days later to let him know I would be delayed due to weather, Tony had no issues with hosting me a day later than expected.  I again donned rain gear, and heeding local rider advice, followed Hwy 1 to its place of origin in Fort Kent, ME to pick up Hwy ME-11.  Although I’ve been to the end of Hwy 1 in Key West, FL before on a work trip, I intend to do it again on 2 wheels before this year is up, so it was pretty cool to stand at its beginning point, America’s First Mile, on this trip while in Fort Kent.  With that milestone complete, I turned my rig south onto ME-11, the Aroostook Scenic Byway, for the 106-mile jaunt through the Fish River Valley, then on to Bangor to finally meet up with Tony.

America’s First Mile, the beginning point of the 2,446 mile eastermost route of the main north-south U.S. highway system. Begins at Fort Kent, ME and ends at Key West, FL
Stunning views on Aroostook Scenic Byway, ME-11. Even on a hazy, chilly day, the scenery spurred me to pull over more than once to take it all in.

Right out of the gate, Tony was a ball of energy and in full hospitality mode!  OK, part of it might have been that he is a high school teacher and I showed up just as his last day of school let out for the summer break 🙂  At any rate, within an hour of my arrival, we rode our motorcycles through downtown Bangor for a photo op at the Bangor city mural and to see Stephen King’s house!

Stephen King’s house in Bangor is unusually accessable to the public. The wrought iron fence with spider webs and bats is a dead give away 🙂

As soon as his girlfriend Tammy got home from work, we cleaned up and headed downtown to Mason’s Brewing Company, right on the Penobscot River. After a stroll on the Riverwalk and a scrumptious dinner, they took me to the Thomas Hill Standpipe, a 1.5 million gallon wrought iron water tank with a wood frame jacket.  It sits on a hill and you can see it from clear across town.  Tammy is a native of the area and explained that between the tank and the wooden jacket is a staircase that spirals around the tank that takes you up to a promenade deck.  The deck is only open four times a year, once each season, and you can see almost the whole state from the viewing deck. I bet it is breathtaking in the fall.

Tammy & Tony on the Riverwalk. Fun, energetic tour guides and incredible hosts!
Thomas Hill Standpipe – it’s a water tower!

The next morning, after Tony whipped up a homemade breakfast fit for royalty, Tammy headed off to work, and Tony jumped on his Honda for more 2-wheel tour-guiding and an escort for part of my journey westward.  Motorcycle Safety Course Instructor is one of the many hats he wears, which came in handy on our ride when a fully loaded dump truck took a corner too fast and almost rolled over into our lane.  Tony’s defensive maneuvering would’ve made a perfect safety video.  Seriously, riding behind him was a safety refresher course!  The rest of our ride was peaceful and ended with him promising to allow me to reciprocate their hospitality by hosting them in NC.  

The weather delay in Madawaska caused me to have to cancel a planned homestay at a friend’s farm in NY later in the week, so I found myself with no place to be for several days.  I followed up on Tony’s recommendation to ride west on Hwy 2 to New Hampshire to make my way to the White Mountains and the famed Kancamagus Highway.  Ever the foodie (or chow hound, depending on your perspective), I ended up having one more Maine-specific delicacy on my way out… 

Brownie Whoopie Pie from Stevie J’s Burgers & Burritos in Livermore Falls, ME. Though debateable, Maine lays claim to the origin of whoopie pie (two round mound-shaped pieces of cake with a sweet cream filling sandwiched between them). The “whoopie” in this one is marshmellow fluff! Yumm!!

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