Editors Note: This is the sixth in a series of articles highlighting the route and host communities of BikeMaine. Local Maine lawyer and cycling enthusiast Fred Frawley has crafted a comprehensive route digest detailing descriptions of sights and attractions along the route that connects the host communities. This combination of community information and route digest will be shared in a series of weekly articles. Remaining host communities will be showcased individually on the website through July and August.
Maine is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, young and old. As a youngster, you may have had the opportunity to come here for summer camp. But, if not, your time has come! Day 6 of the BikeMaine Inaugural Ride takes you from Bar Harbor to Bangor YMCA’s Camp Jordan on beautiful Branch Lake in Ellsworth, Maine.
Camp Jordan, a beloved summer camp that has been serving Maine children for over 100 years, is in the process of transforming into the Bangor YMCA’s Wilderness Center at Camp Jordan. In addition to completing extensive building renovations this summer, the Bangor Y will launch a number of adult and family programs at the Wilderness Center, and promote its use off-season for corporate retreats and special events.
If you are tired of tenting, riders will have the option of sleeping in one of the camp’s many bunk houses. A donation of $15/person for this privilege will benefit further development of the Wilderness Center at Camp Jordan.
BikeMaine riders will have the opportunity to enjoy the Camp Jordan waterfront, which will offer activities such as swimming and canoeing. For the land lubbers in the group, Camp Jordan has open spaces for Frisbee and softball games, and wooded areas for hiking and exploring. Pick your pleasure!
For those who prefer to “kick back and relax,” that’s okay too. An assortment of snacks and a beer/wine garden, featuring a selection of beers from Maine brewer Gritty McDuff, will be available all afternoon. And, for those interested in learning more about Maine’s climate change, adaptation and mitigation strategies, The Nature Conservancy has arranged for George Jacobson, Professor Emeritus from the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute, to host an informal discussion at 4:30.
After a traditional baked bean and ham “suppa”, the beer/wine garden will re-open and the Jason Spooner Band will be our entertainment for the evening. Afterwards, riders can gather around the campfire, tell tales of the week’s ride, and roast s’mores over the open fire. No doubt, you’ll all sleep well . . . and wake up with lots of energy for your last day of the BikeMaine Inaugural Ride!
Route Digest – Day Seven Ride (9/14/13) – Camp Jordan to Orono
Last call! 57 sweet miles on the road to Orono. By now, you can doubtless eat the road up, so it’s a good day to explore even more backcountry Maine.
We pull out of Camp Jordan and travel on Route 1A for just a few miles. We bear right onto Red Bridge Road and cruise a bit north of Ellsworth. Remember the Ellsworth Fire we talked about on Day Four? 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. We follow Route 180 for quite a stretch where you should be able to air it out fairly well.
We are again in lake country. Along Mariaville Road our 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.
The morning rest stop is at Beech Hill School on the shores of Beech Hill Pond in Otis. Beech Hill School has about 100 students, pre-K through 8th grade, and serves Otis and Mariaville children. When they reach high school age, most students transition to the high school in Ellsworth.
You might want to eat an extra banana, or pack away some snacks for the next leg of our trip, which includes Rebel Hill in Clifton. Encouragingly, our Route Map tells us 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 stage coach 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. We’re also told that there is at least one other “airline” in the US, running out of New Orleans, bypassing another traditional route.
We follow 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 our 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.
We head north on Route 178, past the Orono Dam on the west bank of the Penobscot, up to the town of Milford, where we said hello on Day One. 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, we 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’s end awaits.
Welcome back to Orono! Great riding!