For riders interested in learning more about the daily routes, we are providing a route digest for each day. This summary is a compilation of history, culture and trivia that Maine native Fred Frawley uncovered along the route, and environmental information prepared by Kate Dempsey of The Nature Conservancy. If there is something you discover in your travels along the route and think should be added to the digest, please submit your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Jordan to Orono
Pull out of Camp Jordan and travel south on Route 1A for just a few miles before bearing right onto Red Bridge Road. Remember the Ellsworth Fire we talked about? It didn’t come out here, so you will likely spot some really historic farmsteads with examples of modern Maine rural residences. After a last and (mostly) fond adieu to Route 1A, you will turn right onto Route 180 and the adventure really begins. Follow Route 180 for quite a stretch where you should be able to air it out fairly well.
You are again in lake country. Along Mariaville Road your route finds old friend (by now) Graham Lake on the right and Green Lake on the left. These lakes (as well as the others that we have seen and will pass) are dotted with “camps” large and small and provide plenty of fishing, swimming and boating fun in the summer for locals and out-of-staters alike. This is simply Vacationland, Maine’s well-deserved nickname.
You might want to eat an extra banana, or pack away some snacks for the next leg of the trip, which includes Rebel Hill in Clifton. Encouragingly, the Route Map tells you that this is the Last Big Hill Climb. Once you reach the peak, it’s all downhill (mostly … well, not really entirely) from here.
You are on the home stretch, now. The route soon meets a section of Route 9 more commonly referred to as “The Airline.” Route 9 runs continuously (though a bit circuitously) from the New Hampshire border in southwestern Maine to Calais, in the northeastern section which borders Canada. The portion of Route 9 from Bangor to Calais is called The Airline, but it has nothing to do with planes or air travel.
Years before the Wright Brothers, the term “airline” was a reference to a short cut between two distant points. The trip from Bangor to Calais once had to be made by first going down to the coast and then along the shore road up to Calais. The original stagecoach from Bangor to Calais was an overnight affair with a stop in Cherryfield. In the mid-1850’s, an enterprising fellow named Pratt decided that he could run a stage and mail route in one day, over what became The Airline. The stage service ended after about three decades, but the concept was born.
The 90-plus-mile journey is still a haul (come back in January and try it in a driving snow storm), but The Airline was, and is, a more or less straight shot west to east from Bangor to the Canadian border. There is at least one other “airline” in the US, running out of New Orleans, bypassing another traditional route.
Following The Airline west through East Eddington to the last rest stop located at the Eddington Municipal Office. The Town was founded by Joseph Eddy, a revolutionary loyalist from Nova Scotia who at one time tried to make Nova Scotia the 14th US colony.
After one last refill of water, the route turns right (and north) onto Route 178, where we become acquainted with another old friend-the Penobscot River. To your immediate left is the Veazie Dam, a hydroelectric dam that is in the process of being decommissioned and deconstructed.
Just south of your turn lie the cities of Bangor (pronounced BANG-gor) and Brewer. The Penobscot flows between these two cities, which are joined by three bridges. Bangor is an old river and logging town. It was the initial landing spot for many immigrants from Canada, Eastern Europe, and Ireland. Well into the 20th century, Bangor had a notorious red light district called the Devil’s Half Acre, where workers from the countryside and immigrants could quench their thirst and support the local economy.
Today the waterfront has been redeveloped and includes a new civic center as well as an outdoor concert venue where upwards of 15,000 people can attend an open-air show. Considering Bangor’s population is only about 33,000, that’s a lot of guests!
Bangor was (until the mid-1960s) the home a of a Cold War Era Strategic Air Command base, Dow Field (now Bangor International Airport). In 1958, an 11,400-foot runway, the longest east of the Mississippi, was constructed at Dow to accommodate B52 bombers. The base was closed in 1968, and over the course of a few years the population of Bangor (including military personnel) shrunk by nearly 20%, but has bounced back nicely.
Head north on Route 178, past the Orono Dam on the west bank of the Penobscot, up to the town of Milford. The Orono Dam is still operational, and as part of the greater Penobscot River Restoration Project will be upgraded to take into account the decommissioning of the Veazie and other dams.
Finally, you’ll cross the Penobscot into Old Town then head over to the same paved bike paths on which you began your exploration of Maine 7 days ago. This will take you back to the University of Maine, where your journey ends.
Welcome back to Orono!