Friday, August 12, 2005

Bangor, Maine

More popular than McDonald's in Canada!

11:18 p.m.

Holiday Inn, Bangor, Maine

Checked out at 10:30 this morning. An important stop at "Tim Horton’s"; this could be the last one I visit on this journey! Took a photo of their sign to add to the blog (since the restaurant chain has been so vital to the trip's success thus far!) Bought a can of their coffee as a souvenir, and had a last "Tim Horton's" meal: an "Everything Bagel", toasted, with cream cheese, coffee and a "Tim's Coffee Cake" (too rich!).

Jumped on the highway, heading for the Maine border. Passed through St. John without stopping. Suddenly the landscape turned rural, with no service stations for a long time. I was becoming concerned that I'd run out of gas for the first time on this trip. Got down to a range of 15 miles when we saw a fuel pump icon indicating gas at the next off-ramp. Leaving the highway, there was no sign of services, but markers led us to a town a mile or so away, with a busy service station and convenience store.

At the border with Maine, we passed through St. Stephen, "Chocolate Capital of Canada"! Customs traffic was backed up into downtown. We joined three Harleys in line, slowly walking our bikes forward. We complained to each other about cars and trucks cutting into the line up ahead from sidestreets and business parking lots. It was over 90° on the pavement. Quite a different experience standing there in motorcycle gear versus sitting in an air-conditioned car. It took over half an hour to reach the crossing, but once there, we were quickly allowed through. I was just asked what I was bringing back. I declared my "Tim Horton’s" coffee. The heat affected both Jeff and I, creating abdominal cramps. We had to find a restroom, and quickly!

Maine proved a big disappointment, at least the areas I saw. On the Coastal Route, we didn’t actually see the coast, but saw plenty of dilapidated buildings and houses, junkyards and derelict vehicles. Struggling communities everywhere. Jeff said Maine is one of the poorest states. I saw little regard for the land and environment.

After witnessing the same thing in town after town, we agreed to leave U.S. Highway 1 and cross over to state highway 9, hoping to avoid some of the heavy coastal traffic. I noticed a "softee" stand that was doing a brisk business and pulled over to check it out. "Pleasant Valley" was a curious business. A sign said that they were tired and near the end of their season. They had little patience for rude customers. We ordered some food and raspberry milkshakes. People waited in their vehicles for their name or number to be called. It took a long time.

Sitting down with our food on a little screened patio, we asked each other "is this a joke?" Jeff's burger came with nothing but a bun and meat patty. Completely dry. My Fish and Chips was like no other. Mystery food. The shakes were flavorless. "I guess at this point they don't give a shit..."

Driving north on highway 193, we passed large swaths where the forest had been cleared, replaced by scrubby fields. Then, a huge complex that turned out to be a migrant labor camp. Not very inviting conditions. These are the "Jasper Wyman and Sons" blueberry farms. The farming of these berries seems very destructive. "Couldn't they have found another place to grow these, rather than in the middle of the forests?" Further up the road, I pulled over to have a closer look at one of the fields. A semi was following us closely. Jeff pulled onto the shoulder before reaching the dirt road I had turned onto. He hit thick sand and his front end started to "wash out" (oscillate uncontrollably from side to side.) In my mirror, I saw him trying to stabilize the bike, legs outstretched. Then I turned around and saw him pointed back across the road, half-way out into the right lane.

We tried to analyze what happened, walking along the shoulder, following the snaking tire path. He dissected his reactions and how he might have acted differently. There had been a woman in a small car following the truck, whom I had not even seen. Jeff said that, had she not been paying attention and quick to respond, she would have nailed him.

The sand was very deep, six inches in places, I’d say; a real hazard that should have been indicated. Driving on, I became aware of the sandy shoulders all along this highway, not just at the location we had stopped.

Growing dark, we settled on Bangor as the day’s final destination. Jeff has been there before and knew the motels, but with road construction, we had some difficulty finding them. “No more ‘Comfort Inns’", we searched for the “Holiday Inn”. They had a room for $119.

To celebrate the end of our travels, we went down to the bar for a drink. A curious scene. Some were obviously tourists passing through, but others looked like "regulars"". What kind of person hangs out here? Bars are great places to observe human mechanics, especially the exaggerated act of "having fun". Jeff and I don't have to act. We're always grumpy. (Just kidding. We're actually the life of the party. It's just that we can never find the party.)

1 comment:

Bill said...

Hey Tim. Drop a line when you get time. Interesting reading.

Bill (Goldwing in Alaska)