Trip to Eastport, Maine

The first weekend in March was coming up. My friends were not available. Felix and Kate already had plans. I had none. The weather forecast for the Northeast looked decent. Daytime temperatures predicted to be around the freezing mark, nights much colder, but no rain or snow! What am I going to do? Why not go riding and taking some photos? On Friday night I packed the few things I would need to stay overnight somewhere. No, no camping gear this time :). I updated the music collection on my GPS, made sure the SPOT batteries were still good and I packed some spares. Filled the tank bag with my camera, two lenses, an external battery, and some chargers. That way I could keep my helmet headset and my phone charged during the whole weekend.

We had a few flurries overnight and I was in no rush to leave on Saturday morning. Wanted to make sure the roads were okay and that it’s warm enough by the time I leave. It was nice and sunny when I left around 9 am on Saturday morning. Temperature just below the freezing mark.

I did not really have a plan where to go other than North. Perhaps Maine. Maybe RT 1. Following RT 1 all the way to the end (or is it the beginning?) in Northern Maine would be cool, but it’s also WAY up there. I started out on the highway. Not necessarily my favorite type of riding, but it gets you away from the densely populated areas the fastest. And I do actually enjoy highway riding sometimes. I jumped on I495, then on I95, and from there on I295 going through Portland. Somewhere around Freeport in Maine I got off the highway and switched over to RT 1. First break. I needed gas anyway. A little further North I stopped for a bagel and a coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

Coffee Break
Coffee Break

Alright, I admit it – I got a donut as well. Outside again, I started talking to this guy named Doug. He was wondering where I’m from and where I’m heading. We somehow got to talk about our jobs (or lack thereof). It turned out that a friend of his owns a company and is looking for IT people. I don’t think I will hear anything from that end, but gave him my card anyway. This was also the time I saw another motorcycle on the road. A BMW. The only other motorcycle I saw all weekend long!

Back on the road again, riding was very smooth. I was in the zone. My bike seems to like the cold weather. I considered staying overnight in Ellsworth. There is motel that I know and they have a restaurant onsite. By the time I got there, however, it was still early. I had lots of daylight left and certainly did not want to stop yet. So I continued, going further North on RT 1. The scenery changed quite a bit as the afternoon progressed. With the sun mostly behind me, everything looked so colorful and picturesque. I saw some cranberry bogs and the purple plants were glowing in the warm light. Many hills were covered in dark red. As I found out later, those were actually blueberry plants. I was very tempted to stop and take photos. The only reason I didn’t was that I was in a remote part of the country by now with no motel in sight. Those few that I was riding by were all closed for the season. I wasn’t really too concerned about it, but obviously enough so that I wasn’t in the mood of taking photos. I knew I could just keep going and would find something eventually, but I also knew the temperature would drop quickly after sunset. When my GPS showed a whole bunch of options for accommodation further ahead and a little way off RT 1, I decided to just take a chance. I randomly picked one of those places and asked my GPS to get me there. That’s how I ended up on Moose Island and in a town called Eastport. Funny that the animals trying to cross the road in front of me were deer and not moose. Eastport, actually, is a city. I would have never guessed, though, because it was pretty dark when I arrived and it looked like the whole area was “closed for the season”. With all those options for accommodation that my GPS showed, I was sure to come across several to chose from. I was wrong. There was no motel or hotel or Bed & Breakfast that was lit. I arrived at the motel that I had picked on the GPS earlier. It was called Motel East.

Motel East - the next morning
Motel East – the next morning

The outside of the building was lit, but there was not a single car in the parking lot. I parked in front of the office. As I took off my gloves and helmet, a stiff breeze hit me and a cold shiver went down my spine. Not only was it cold, but I also noticed that I had not seen a single soul yet in this town. The office was closed. A small lamp inside shed some light on what almost looked like a construction site. There was a note on the door with a phone number to call for help. I pulled out my phone. Thank god I had reception! I called the number, but nobody answered and all I could do was leaving a message. It was still unclear to me if this place was open for business or not. I finally understood that the GPS is pretty useless when it comes to finding accommodation, because it doesn’t know anything about “closed for the season”, unlike online booking sites. So I went back to my phone and opened booking.com. Many small places allow you to book via that website. I typed in Eastport, Maine, and got Zero results in town. The next one was not too, too far, though. I got excited and almost booked it.  Then I saw the fine print: “can only be reached by ferry”. And it was in Canada. I don’t think that was a good option. All the next ones were in Canada as well. A short distance for the crow, but a long way around on the road. So I gave up that idea as well and stopped looking on the web. I got back on my bike, and rode off. My plan was to find a gas station or restaurant or something where are people and just ask. As I left the parking lot, I noticed a pickup truck on the side of the road. An older lady came out. I pulled over. It turned out she was the owner of the motel and came up because I had called. So they WERE open and she DID have a room for me. I pulled back into the parking lot, went into the office and checked in. I took the room right where I parked, so that I would not have to move the bike again or carry my stuff too far. Yes, it was that cold! The lady told me that there was one place where I could get some food: the Happy Crab. She urged me to go very soon, because they close early when they are not busy. I brought my stuff inside, looked for a working light switch, without success. I finally found a desk lamp that worked. It was only 6:30, but I was so concerned about the potential of not getting any food anymore that I walked down to the Happy Crab immediately. Still in my motorcycle gear. It was very bright inside the Happy Crab, but somehow it looked cozy. Only 2 booths were taken. The ambience reminded me of movies that play in the 50s. The waitress was very friendly. I ordered a warm dinner (haddock with mashed potatoes) and a local IPA. That did not really warm me up, so it was quickly followed by blueberry pie and hot tea.

Dinner
Dinner
Dessert
Dessert

A few more people walked in. Some sat down in the dining room. Some others went straight to the bar in the back. It seemed everybody knew each other and I was the only stranger. In the next booth over were two ladies chatting and having fun. Looked like a “girls’ night out”. At some point, one of them approached me, asking what had brought me to Eastport. I answered truthfully: my motorcycle. That’s how we got into a conversation. A while later I moved over to their table. We drank wine and chatted. We found out that each of us had three kids and got divorced once. Beth was actually from MA, but moved to Eastport many years ago. Julie grew up in Eastport. I learned a lot about this place, its people, and life in that part of the world. Things are slow and simple here, but in a good way. I also found out that all those islands near Eastport actually belong to Canada. Eastport is the easternmost city in the U.S. That reminded me of Cape Spear near St. John’s in Newfoundland, which is the easternmost point on the North American continent. I visited St. John’s in 2013 during my Newfoundland trip. One unique thing about Eastport is its mustard mill. Raye’s Mustard has been around since 1900 and it is the only traditional stone-ground mustard mill left in the country. It’s a working museum!

It was after 10 pm when we left the Happy Crab and called it a night. Time went by very fast and I made 2 new friends!

Just after sunrise in Eastport
Just after sunrise in Eastport

The next morning, I woke up at 6, just as the sun rose. It was very cold. Only 14 degrees. Too cold to leave early on the bike. I rushed to get out to take some photos as long as the sun was very low.

Eastport Harbor
Eastport Harbor
Mermaid
Mermaid

I only met very few people, walking their dogs. Mostly, this place was very, very quiet and seemed empty this early in the morning. After a while, the battery in my camera died from the cold. I had packed some spares, but left them in the bike over night. So they probably didn’t have too much juice either. Before I went back to the motel, however, I needed breakfast. Julie and Beth had recommended the WaCo Diner.

WaCo Diner
WaCo Diner

I believe it was the only place open in town. I enjoyed watching the locals and ordered the “Scrambled Atlantic” for breakfast, as I was assured it is by far the most popular item on the menu: a toasted bagel, tomato, onion, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and scrambled eggs. I loved it!

This is breakfast!
This is breakfast!

When I stepped outside after breakfast, it was noticeably warmer than before. Certainly warm enough to get on the road. So I walked back to the motel to pack. I was surprised to see a little bag of something on the tank of my bike.

Parked at the Motel
Parked at the Motel

Did I lose something somewhere and somebody was clever enough to figure out who it belongs to? Not at all. Inside the bag was a glass of Raye’s Mustard with a little note from Beth. What a nice surprise and gesture! It made my day.

A nice surprise!
A nice surprise!

I packed up everything and put on my motorcycle gear. On this trip I was really satisfied with my choice of gear. It feels like I finally figured it out. Two layers of thermal underwear, a thin one from Alpinestars and a thicker one on top from Under Armour. One pair of thick socks. Two pairs of thinner socks don’t seem to work too well. Boots can become a little too tight, which restricts blood flow and only leads to colder feet. My Gerbing heated jacket. I’m also wearing my Winter Touring Balaclava from Alpinestars. It is a full-face mask that extends well down the shoulders and keeps my neck warm. On top of all that, my BMW Rally suit, with the liners, of course, and my Sidi Adventure boots. In that outfit it is easy to ride all day long, multiple days in a row, in temperatures around the freezing mark. Now I know!

By around 10 am I was on the road again. Heading North on RT 1. It was sunny and there was hardly any traffic. I briefly stopped for gas and got to talk to more people. Some Indians gave me tips for photo opportunities along the way. They also thanked me for not riding one of those Harleys with loud pipes. They said far too many of them show up in the summer when the weather is nice and warm. They don’t welcome them.

The Million Dollar View
The Million Dollar View

I did eventually stop and take photos at what they call “The Million Dollar View”, overlooking 5 (frozen) lakes. That’s when a few snow flurries started coming down, but not so bad that they covered the road. I stopped again at a gas station, but this time not to fill up.

Not filling up here :)
Not filling up here 🙂

Once I reached Houlton, I had to make a decision: Do I jump on I95 and ride home or do I continue on RT 1 all the way to the end and find another place for the night? I decided to go home. With only one stop between Houlton and home to get gas and food, I made pretty good progress. Northern Maine is so beautiful, even on the highway. The ground left and right to the pavement was covered in snow and ice. I was riding mostly against the sun now and the light reflected off the snow. It looked like somebody had decorated Maine with sugar frosting. I saw large areas with trees and bushes that looked like they were flooded just before the frost hit. There was a beautiful birch forest in the median between the two highways. Many pictures that only made it in to my head and not into my camera. Sorry!

The closer I got to MA, the denser the traffic became. This is an all too familiar theme by now on my motorcycle adventures and something that can make coming home a little miserable. Fortunately, it did not slow me down this time. It was just very dense traffic. The lady that tried to “get me” with her blue Toyota did not succeed either. It was 19:20 when I safely arrived at home. What a wonderful weekend!

PS:

Studying the map a bit further, I found that Quoddy Head State Park, just a little south of Eastport, is actually the easternmost point of the continental United States. They also have a nice lighthouse. Next time I’m up there, I shall visit!

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