Editors Note: This is the first 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.
The Town of Orono is looking forward to hosting the 1st Annual BikeMaine event on September 7th and 14th. The community is rolling out the blue carpet (as the home of the University of Maine Black Bears, we have no “red” carpets) to welcome you on Saturday, September 7th. When you arrive, the Orono Festival Day will be in full swing, so we encourage you to join in the activities!
If you arrive Saturday morning, treat yourself to a blueberry pancake breakfast presented by the Daughters of Isabella, followed by the Pie in the Sky 5K run that features pie as the prize for age group winners and benefits our local high school trails. Everybody needs a little run before a 400 mile bike ride, right? The celebration continues with music, arts and crafts, and food vendors in the downtown, an open house at the Public Safety Building, a truck “petting zoo” at the library where you can sit in the driver’s seat of a back hoe or one of our snow plow trucks, and a reading tent where local celebrities will read stories for the young (and young at heart).
For those of you arriving in the afternoon, fear not! There are lots of activities for your enjoyment. Choose from a short recreational paddle down the Stillwater River or enter a war canoe race. Pull your friends together and enter our softball tournament, or just come watch a game or two. Fields are near your campsite or on the University of Maine campus, where you can also enjoy a guided historical walking tour of the campus designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.
The day will also include tricycle races for adults (and kids), mountain biking on Orono’s extensive trail system, and the opportunity to challenge yourself on Orono’s rope course. Cap your evening off with a trip to the beer garden sponsored by The Family Dog and featuring our locally brewed BikeMaine Brew from Black Bear Brewery. Musical entertainment will be provided by local bands and feature the BikeMaine band, The Gawler Family. Don’t worry, all this fun ends at 9:30 PM so you’ll be well-rested to start your ride the next morning!
Biking four hundred miles through Maine deserves a party, so while you ride through the hills and coastlines of Maine, Orono will be busy preparing for your arrival and final celebration on September 14th! Your final miles of the ride will pass the Old Town Elementary School where local community members will be participating in a bike rodeo and learning safe biking skills. After their rodeo, they will join some of you on the bike path for the ride to the finish on the University of Maine campus, where you’ll have the opportunity to finish like a rock star (or a Tour de France star) as you ride past cheering students and community members and into the history books as a member of the Inaugural BikeMaine Ride. After your finish, enjoy a shower at the New Balance Recreation Center and then join us for a barbecue luncheon on the lawn. If your travel plans allow, stay for the University of Maine Black Bear’s first home football game against Bryant University. Go Blue!
The Town of Orono is proud to be a host community for the 2013 BikeMaine ride. We look forward to meeting each and every one of you!
Route Digest – Day One Ride (9/8/13) – Orono to Dover-Foxcroft by Fred Frawley
Welcome to Maine!
Your first day gives you a good dose of interior Maine, places where tourists are less likely to venture. But not you! The route is a sweet trip from the back roads north of Orono through the deep woods of Dover-Foxcroft.
Orono houses the main campus of The University of Maine, which was established in 1865 as a land grant college, and today offers undergraduate and graduate studies to nearly 11,000 full and part-time students. Mainers are justifiably proud of the work done at UMaine. The route takes you onto the campus, past the athletic fields and the beautiful University Mall, before leading you onto the first off-road paved bike path in Maine, connecting the campus to Old Town.
Once off the path, you will follow Route 43 through Old Town, the home of Old Town canoes and a historically important mill town along the Penobscot River. Abenaki Indians called it Pannawambskek, meaning “where the ledges spread out.”
The French established a mission here in the 1680s but, in 1774, the area was settled by English pioneers. The name Old Town derives from “Indian Old Town”, which is the English name for the largest Penobscot Indian village, now known as Indian Island, and boasts a population of 8,000 today.. Old Town is home to a former Georgia-Pacific paper mill, which has been transformed into Old Town Fuel & Fiber, a “value-added” pulp mill that produces energy and biofuels as byproducts of the pulp manufacturing process.
You’ll get your last glimpse of the Penobscot River when you cross the Milford Dam, also known as the Great Works dam. Running over 100 miles to the sea, the Penobscot River was an early trade corridor to interior Maine from the Atlantic coast. Ocean ships could actually navigate upstream to Bangor. And, from the 1800s through the 20th century, the river was also used to float gigantic tree harvests from the interior of Maine to mills along its shore all the way to the sea.
Less than 10 miles from Orono, you will pass Hirundo Wildlife Preserve, a 2,400 acre nature preserve, spanning Pushaw and Dead Streams, Lac D’Or (lake), vast wetlands, including domed bog and maple and juniper swamps, and mixed hardwood and evergreen forests. Visitors paddle canoes free of charge and watch playful river otters, muskrat, beaver, breeding Wood Ducks, Bald Eagles, and Osprey in the tranquil beauty. While hiking, one might encounter moose, deer, red and gray fox, black bear, bobcat, fisher, and ermine. It is a birdwatchers’s paradise.
Hirundo is the Latin word for swallow. Scores of tree swallow nest boxes attract flocks, breeding in the spring. Hirundo Wildlife Refuge was founded by Oliver Larouche from his parents’ 3 acre camp in 1976, expanding to its present 2,402-acre size. In 1982 the Refuge was donated as a trust to the University of Maine. Hirundo is a living laboratory, where much past research and scientific studies continue. The public is welcomed to visit Hirundo Wildlife Refuge free 7 days a week 9 AM to dusk.
As you get your legs on this journey, you will pass next into Hudson which was first settled about 1800. Originally called Jackson, the town’s name changed to Hudson in 1854 after Hudson, Massachusetts. In 1937, playwright Maxwell Anderson, who received the Pulitzer prize for “Both Your Houses” and penned “Anne of a Thousand Days,” bought a farm in Hudson and used it as a vacation home.
Just up the road from Hudson is your first rest stop, at the Bradford Town Office. This is farm country and the population today is about the same as it was 100 years ago. In 1872, an uncommon (for these parts) tornado struck Bradford, and destroyed a barn and a couple of houses.
On to LaGrange. Sorry, ZZ Top fans, this is not that LaGrange, which is in Texas, of course. In 1900, this part of the state suffered a massive forest fire, and LaGrange was probably the hardest hit. As the New York Times reported back then: “a large part of the male population is working night and day in an effort to stay the flames by felling strips of forest and throwing up trenches. Many people have already been driven from their homes…”
Your next rest stop is Milo, on Route 16, which was incorporated on January 21, 1823, and named after Milo of Croton, a famous athlete from Ancient Greece. Until 1975, Milo was home to the American Thread Company (ATCO) spool plant, which employed up to 300 people at its most active period. Without spools, what good is thread, after all? In a period including the First World War, the Milo and the Lake View mills, both spool makers, together used 20,000 cords of birch (annually). And, during the 70-plus years of ATCO’s operation, the company estimated that it shipped out three billion, six hundred million spools, bobbins, etc., of various shapes and designs.
Once back on route, you’ll start climbing. At the top of the hill, look north and you may be able to see Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, nearly a mile high. It is actually a few feet shorter than 5,280, but enterprising hikers tend to stack stones at the summit to get the last ten feet or so. Katahdin (pronounced Kah-TAH-din) is located in Baxter State Park and its summit is the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail.. Let’s hope for a clear day, so you can see it in all its glory!
Our final leg of the route today goes into the Sebec Lake area where, in the early 1800s, quarries were established to extract the region’s abundant slate, the quality of which won first prize at the 1876 Centennial Exposition. In 1843, the Bangor & Piscataquis Slate Company opened with 60 employees and produced 8,000-12,000 squares of roofing slate annually. The Merrill Quarry opened in 1846 with about 80 employees, producing 30,000 squares of roofing slate annually. And, the Highland Quarry employed Welsh employees, who were recruited because they were accustomed to working in slate. The last quarry closed in 1917. Many residents in the area now rely on their ingenuity to eke out a living.
Your third rest stop is in Sebec, which is lake country. Sebec Lake was and remains a popular vacation spot, where Mainers go to their holiday homes (called “camps” up in these parts). In the early 1900s, Sebec Lake was home to pleasure steamboats and a dance hall.
Follow the Piscataquis River (along the River Road) to Dover-Foxcroft, your final destination of Day One. Relax. Get a shower (please!) and enjoy BikeMaine’s hospitality. Dover-Foxcroft is the county seat of Piscataquis. Dover was founded in the early 1800s when Maine was still part of Massachusetts. The towns of Dover and Foxcroft merged in 1922, and remain a single town today. The Piscataquis River runs through the two (formerly separate) towns.
A native of Dover-Foxcroft, Clarence Blethen spent 18 years in organized baseball, almost all of it in the minor leagues. He pitched briefly for the Boston Red Sox in 1923 and did not have another opportunity until 1929, when he played with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In seven major league games, he had no decisions and posted a 7.32 ERA with two strikeouts in 19-2/3 innings pitched.
Blethen, who had false teeth and would put them in his back pocket when he was running the bases, suffered one of the most ignominious injuries in baseball history. According to a contemporaneous report in The Sporting News, one day in 1933 he slid into second base, and the false teeth took such a big bite out of his posterior that he was removed from the game because of excessive bleeding. Some stories are too good not to be true.
Enjoy your evening in Dover-Foxcroft.