645 Miles of MA, NH, ME ... via Motorcycle

Published Tuesday, May 31, 2011 by Bryan

Amanda knew that I had been itching to take a multi-day trip on my motorcycle for some time. What she didn't expect was that I'd bring her along on my first!

A map of the New England area, with a blue line running from just outside Boston, north into New Hampshire, then east to the Maine coast, and finally back to the Boston area.
Map of the trip

We started our journey on Friday afternoon. Expecting a large rush north for the holiday weekend, we got packed and on the road by 3:30. As we crossed I-95, we knew we had made the right decision to take backroads: the place was gridlock. Even if we rolled more slowly up sidestreets, at least we'd be moving.

And moving was the important part. Friday was our hottest day yet this year, topping 90°F in some spots. Since I'm an All The Gear, All The Time kind of rider, we planned to be quite sweaty during the ride.

Our plans payed off as we rolled steadily along 35-45mph speed limit roads, enjoying the breeze. As we pushed farther north, we also gained altitude, and the temperature dropped slightly. Finally, the cool air flowing down the mountains following the streams began to refresh us around beautiful bends.

By dinner time we were in Hopkinton, NH, and decided to pull over for food. We found a restaurant right by the river, and enjoyed a burger and quesadilla with cold lemonade and soda.

From dinner to just outside of Plymouth, NH, we gained more altitude, but found the humidity rising. As dusk settled, the air grew thick … with bugs. Never yet have I been so happy to have chosen a full-face helmet!

A picture of a motorcycle helmet, with the visor covered in dead bugs.
Better the visor than my teeth.

We spent the night at the Federal House Inn in Rumney, NH. We arrived after the checkin desk had closed, but they left instructions for us on the door. Inside we also found a pitcher of ice water, and the air conditioner running. Refreshment achieved!

In the morning, we ate breakfast downstairs: yogurt with granola and eggs benedict, with fruit on the side. It was all very tasty, and came in huge portions that sustained us through the morning's ride.

This section of the ride was most of the reason for doing the trip on the motorcycle. As we headed north of Plymouth, we dove into the White Mountain National Forest. Spectacularly goreous scenery. Twisty roads with constant change in elevation. A little bumpy at times, but so much fun otherwise that the aching rear ends were worth it.

A cloud-covered, foggy forest valley.
White Mountain National Forest, along the Kancamagus highway

Coming out of the mountains, we found ourselves in Conway, NH … and also in our first traffic backup of the trip. It seems that Conway is tourist central, and we just happened to pick the prime route through. Luckily the day's weather was cool and cloudy, so a bit of standing still was not uncomfortable.

In any case, a few minutes later we were on our way down curvy roads again. Across the border into Maine, and I soon found myself interested in the odometer. A quick check of the log confirmed it: I was about to cross my 5000th mile on this motorcycle! I pulled over and had Amanda take a picture of me, causing curious looks from all passers by.

A man sitting on a motorcycle on the side of the road holiding up five fingers.
My 5000th mile on the Bonnie

Another short piece down the road, we found a cute town called Norway. It was midafternoon and time for a break, so we dismounted at the local coffee shop. A latte, a cookie, a little stroll up and down mainstreet. Many places seemed closed, in prepartion for the holiday, but it seemed like a town that could be quite cozy, and maybe worth revisiting.

From Norway, it was on to Augusta. Or rather, Hallowell. You see, both of the people we knew who had spent time living in Augusta warned us off from it. “Augusta, will disappoint you, but Hallowell …” Well, we don't really know if Augusta would have been all that bad, but Hallowell was definitely nice. We ate delicious clam and seafood chowders at Hattie's Chowder House.

We also began to hear that we'd soon find the rest of that traffic we had worried about. The owner of Hattie's said a friend of his had just returned from the coast. “It's getting pretty busy down there.” With chowder powering us, it was off to face the music.

Except no music ever came to be faced. As we rumbled down route 17 toward Rockland, the only adversity we encountered was increasing fog and cold. We pulled over to add warm layers and kept on trucking.

The Granite Inn was right where we had left it three years ago, when Amanda's mom and aunt came to visit. Same dog, same owner, same tricky one-way streets. We checked in about 5:30 and relaxed with our books for a bit before calling Amanda's cousin, Emily.

Emily, being anxious for a break in packing for her move, came to town and suggested we all trek up to Belfast for dinner at a brewery she liked. We did so, and found that there was good reason to she liked it: they made delicious things. Rauchbier with fantastic smoke smell and flavor. Coffee beer with very spicy coffee notes. Belgian IPA with bright, potent Sorachi Ace hops. The food was equally enjoyable. Hard boiled eggs, dill and sour pickles, crab meat quesadilla, stuffed mushrooms, goat cheese salad. At the end of the meal, we understood why it was that we had to wait a while for a table. (And for the mothers reading: we took four wheels, not two, to dinner, and indulged responsibly.)

Emily and Amanda enjoying the fire in Belfast

Sunday began with the most over-the-top breakfast of the trip. Three amazing dishes: crepes filled with lemon creme and topped with bluberry sauce, whole-wheat apple pancakes, and crab-corn fritters topped with spicy mayo. Too many rich flavors to be able to stuff yourself, but that doesn't mean seconds weren't still tempting.

We mostly stayed off the bike for the day, except for the short trip down to Emily's place … and except for a quick ride with an alternate pillion. Emily said she felt very safe.

Two people in full motorcycle gear sitting on a motorcycle.
That's not Amanda!

The rest of the day we spent walking around sightseeing. Emily's new place and old place (both awesome, in different ways). The Marshal Point lighthouse, and downtown Rockland. We even found time for a nap (because when, other than vacation, does one find time for a nap?).

Dinner was at a fun place called Conté. Orders are taken at the door, from a giant chalkboard covered with the day's catch. Just about any fish you'd want, cooked in olive oil and garlic, or covered with marinara (spicy or not), served over spaghetti. Grab your drink from the cooler on the way in, and get there early to claim a table if you want salad. Wow, though, was it some of the best fish I've had! The scallops had no grit at all. The swordfish was tender and juicy (and well-balanced by some spicy marinara). The haddock was light and flaky.

After dinner, and after failing to find a table at the new fancy place south of town, we settled on dessert at a place downtown. Delicious gelato, creme bruleé, and rubarb crisp. We pushed the dishes toward mutually reachable locations and attacked at will with our spoons.

Monday morning we decided to skip the parade, and just head for home. It's a good thing we did, too, because it turned out to be our longest day of riding yet. Some of that was due to the twenty or more minutes we spent waiting for a parade to finish. Some of it was due to a wrong turn. But mostly it was due to the 260 mile length. The bench seat on the Bonnie isn't really made for day-long sitting, so each leg caps itself between an hour and ninety minutes. That is to say, we hopped on a little after nine in the morning, and (including a stop for dinner) finally hopped off at home at six in the evening.

Despite the hard end, it was a fantastic and successful trip. The bike ran great. All of the luggage and gear worked. We marked 50 miles to the gallon in fuel efficiency. I think Amanda's even willing to do it again sometime. Perhaps Vermont or New York next.

Two people in motorcycle gear standing near a green motorcycle.
Happy, Relaxed, and planning the next route

Categories: Motorcycle Travel