|PEI & Maine '11 - Part 2: Maine Lights, Courthouses & Bridges|
Charlottetown, PEI to Belfast, ME to North Sydney, NS (Map) (1717km/1067mi)
Woke up quick, at around 10, just thinking we had to get going to Maine then.
There was enough time to get an exterior of the Charlottetown Civic Centre though.
Unfortunately the sun was shining directly behind it. Hopefully I'll return for a better shot someday.
We went west towards the Confederation Bridge instead of the PEI Ferry. I knew that the PEI highpoint wasn't very far from the road, so we allotted an hour to that endeavor.
PEI's highpoint involves driving along a shady county lane, parking next to a forest & walking a 1/2-kilometre into the woods.
Unfortunately I only had my car GPS, since I figured that we should be able to find the highpoint in this small forest stand. Using the car GPS meant that I was confident we were within 15m of the highpoint, but we somehow failed to find the actual survey marker or the highpoint log.
I guess this counts? I suppose I could compare the path log in my GPS and the actual latitude/longitudes of the PEI highpoint? I'm sure I'll get around to that one day (sarcasm).
Eh, I still think I haven't been to any of the provincial highpoints...
Leaving PEI, we sped through New Brunswick in an attempt to save all of our remaining hours for Maine. I had plans to ride the Saint John Skate Plaza, but it's one of those places which is so good, that it's always busier than Grand Central Station. Seeing as we were driving through Saint John around 1 o'clock, I decided to skip on riding with the 40 skateboarders that were there.
After a smooth crossing with a confused American official ("you drove all the way from Newfoundland for 1 day in Maine?!?"), I finally drove a different road out of Calais Maine as I continued onto the Coastal ME-1.
There was a lighthouse along these shores, but after navigating through a forest & down to some rocks, I walked 5 feet & fell back-first onto said rocks. The low tide had exposed incredibly slippery vegetation. I was happy that I was leading the way though, as all of the years on the bike taught me to crane my neck forward, which meant that I didn't crack my head on the rocks (as I suspect Shahlene might have).
Whitlock's Mill Lighthouse would have to wait.
West Quoddy Head was a lot easier.
This 1858 structure is one of the most famous American lighthouses & I was happy to see it. It marks the easternmost point of the continental United States.
Driving here meant getting off the coastal highway, onto some secondary roads, through an isolated town (Lubec) & onto even more rural roads. This is one of the reasons I like lighthouses: they bring you to strange fingers of land where you wouldn't normally travel.
We would have taken the ferry from Canada to the nearby Maine town of Lubec, but unfortunately it was shut down for the season.
After spending four hours driving New Brunswick's boring highway, then another hour driving to Lubec to see West Quoddy Head, the day was already starting to move into the evening.
We hadn't seen many restaurants since Calais, so when we passed through the Washington County Seat of Machias, we decided to stock up on dinner. What seemed like the only restaurant in town ended up being forgettable; I can't even remember what I had & poor Shahlene had what looked like a heaping plate of deep fried, mix-n-match, freezer-section seafood. I tried to help her make it go away, but it was awful.
As for the town of Machias itself, there were some nice buildings (like the above Washington County Courthouse), along with a pleasant setting along a turbulent river. We couldn't stay though, as we needed to make a little more progress along the coast tonight.
We stopped at a promising-looking liquor store, hopeful to get something besides the customary Bud or Bud Light up here. There was nothing unique, but I forgot about the tried & true Narragansetts in these parts.
Narragansetts would do.
We came upon the Red Barn in Milbridge soon after the liquor store. This drive is very popular in the summer & the number of motels/b&bs shows that.
At the Red Barn I was excited about the motel cats, but I couldn't leave the door open because of the mosquitoes from the tidal bay and the spiders from the old building.
I'm only mentioning this because I enjoyed the Red Barn. It was rustic & it seemed like the type of place I should be staying at along the coast of Maine.
It was dark when we arrived in Milbridge, so we discovered the village once we awoke in the morning. It had a prominent main street mansion; in fact, soon after Machias, most communities had several really elaborate & impressive residences.
I stopped at the cemetery outside Milbridge at the site of this lobster headstone.
Finally, a characteristically Maine picture.
The next county seat - and a city much larger than Machias - was Ellsworth.
Ellsworth reminded me of a mid-size Massachusetts town with its old, appealing buildings; but we had to get going if we wanted any time at Acadia National Park (one of the main focuses of this trip).
We drove south from Ellsworth, across a bridge and onto Mount Desert Island - home to Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park. The road was lined with tourist motels, cheap clothing stores & lobster shacks, but we made it to the National Park quite quickly, finding ourselves on quiet, forested roads not before long.
Those roads started to curve and ascend, as we drove to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. It's one of the main attractions of Acadia, with a fantastic view over Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands. You can hike up here as well (obviously), but since we were short on time, we drove to the parking lot & joined the 50 other cars up there.
Acadia was the spot for the bigwigs of the late 19th century (ex.: Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Carnegies). John D. Rockefeller was one of the more prominent 'rusticators', who wanted to keep Acadia wild & automobile free. He commissioned nearly 80km of carriage roads, with appreciable vistas and fantastic stone bridges.
These carriage roads were never converted for automobile use & they remain accessible only by horse-drawn carriage, ski or bicycle.
Thankfully someone built the main highway under one of these stone bridges, meaning I was able to see one without breaking out the BMX.
We continued to the southeast corner of Mount Desert Island, figuring that it might be hard to get this lighthouse if I didn't get it today.
There had to be 20 people at this lighthouse outside Tremont, including 3 flustered women who were terrified of a snake which couldn't have swallowed a dime. We avoided all of those crowds though, opting for the staircase which led to the rocks below Bass Harbor Head instead.
The day was moving into the afternoon, but we still had a little more time to go southwest.
We passed through Ellsworth again, turned at Bucksport & crossed over the Penobscot River to Prospect.
Of course we didn't take that old, rusty bridge...we took the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge!
...and then we took the elevator up to the observation deck inside it!
This is 420 feet above the Penobscot.
Unfortunately, in researching the old bridge just now, I read that the Maine Department of Transportation announced in February that they will demolish the 1931 Waldo-Hancock Bridge in the upcoming year.
The author is quoted as saying that removing the rusting skeleton will make tourists very happy. I must be just a weirdo then, because I actually liked the old bridge & gazed up at it. The new bridge is neat because you can (legally) go inside, but it's otherwise forgettable in terms of design. So very sterile and boring.
With only a few hours of free time left, we went to our furthest point, to the Waldo County Seat of Belfast.
Situated on the shores of Belfast Bay, Belfast isn't the largest town, but there are a few streets lined with old buildings & pleasant street atmosphere. Apparently this is a popular tourist destination, but since we were too early to see the good leaf colours, I expect the tourists must come earlier in the year or a few weeks later.
We went to the local cooperative market in search of interesting beers, then returned to Darby's Pub which we discovered along the main road. It ended up being an alright choice as the building was built in 1865, and their tin ceiling & original bar remain. I remember my Mac n' Cheese being alright & Shahlene raves about her pumpkin beer to this day.
Leaving the restaurant we parted ways, as I wanted to hit the skatepark in Belfast.
Unfortunately, it's one of those old school parks which has gates & access times. There was a collection of skaters in the parking lot & they said it opened at 3...but I sat there as it turned from 3 to 3:15 to 3:30...
Eventually I grew tired of doing flat ground 180s, so I threw the bike back in the car, cursed the stupid skatepark gate system, then found Shahlene wandering & we left Belfast.
With Belfast as our furthest point, that means we made it 11.25 hours into the mainland. I know this because that's how much time it took for us to get back to North Sydney. We drove until midnight, spent a few hours at a motel in Truro, then continued through the early hours onto Cape Breton Island & into the ferry lineup.
Not without stopping at an LC in Nova Scotia though.
Boring Newfoundland selection be damned, I was bringing some Nova Scotia-specific 40s and wheat beer back with me.
We boarded the ferry without incident, but all of this ferry travel finally caught up with me. I have always heard about people getting stuck at sea, but haven't had any delays myself. Well this time, we couldn't dock in Newfoundland for an additional 7 hours, so we floated just outside of Port-Aux-Basques until 1 a.m..
These trips are always a bit bittersweet, since it would be very nice to have a bit more time to savour everything - but I think in the case of this trip, it was worthwhile in terms of what we saw vs. the money/effort exhausted.
I still plan on seeing the rest of the Maine Coast below Belfast & I've always thought about having a responsibility-free week in Maine. A week where I could take all of the coastal ferries & explore islands/peninsulas to all of my heart's desires.
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Sources: 1 - Bangor Daily News - Demolition of 81-year-old Penobscot River bridge to begin this fall
2 - Wikipedia: Waldo-Hancock Bridge
3 - Wikipedia: Mount Desert Island
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