Day 6: Newcastle, ME to Portland, 71.3 miles 3,764 feet
Today was a day of bridges, both physically and metaphorically. I lost count of the total number of bridges I crossed over rivers, train tracks, and highways, but I know that it was in excess of 30. More importantly, today was a bridge between the peaceful, charming, and historic rural countryside and the glit, grime, smell, and noise of Portland, an urban metropolis.
I awoke in a 4 poster bed on a goose down mattress, with birds serenading me through the open, airconditionless, guest room in a B&B that dates back to 1780. The original structure was built as a shop and attached house where the shopkeeper raised his family. The current owners admitted that for years they drew water directly out of the adjoining pond both for irrigation and their own personal consumption. It was only after they decided to turn their home into a B&B did they reluctantly decide to drill a well for drinking water.
When I arrived in Portland I was instantly aware that I was not in Newcastle anymore. I think my first cue came through my nostrils as the rails to trails path wound past water treatment plants on the outskirts of the city. The scent instantly reminded me of riding many of the trails in and around Los Angeles along the canals that direct storm drain water out to the ocean. In many places the path was “tagged” with urban street art which I suspect would have been scrubbed clean as soon as it was noticed in Newcastle, not that I think anyone would deface that charming town. I know I rode through many economically disadvantaged areas in and around Newcastle but none were as visually disturbing as the urban blight I rode through in Portland. The city was visually interesting with modern architecture intermixed with revitalized old structures The city was also filled with throngs of people in motion, on foot, bikes, scooters, hoverboards, and cars. The background urban noise level was so high that I could barely hear the audible cues from the iPhone navigation app I have been using since I arrived in Maine last week.
As a stated above, I crossed many bridges on my journey from Newcastle to Portland. I lingered over fresh cinnamon english toast with real maple syrup prepared by Bobby, one of our hosts at the Mill Pond B&B before hopping on my steed to explore St Patrick’s Catholic Church, just down the road. Built in 1807, it is the oldest surviving Roman Catholic Church building in New England, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. For about an hour I rolled through forests and ancient farmland chock full of churches of all denominations. As I entered the town of Wiscasset I took a detour into town to locate Red’s Eats, reputed by one of my fellow travelers, as well as most critics, to serve the best lobster roll in the country, I arrived at 10:30AM, a full hour before they opened. I was first on line but within a few minutes there were already a dozen behind me. The couple behind me admitted that after dining here last year, they plunked Ebbie, their 3 year old Stafford, Boxer, Rottweiler mix into the car yesterday and drove 9 hours from Rochester, NY, just to have another Red’s lobster roll. Deborah, the owner’s daughter, remembered them as well as their dog and brought a bowl of water as well as a hot dog for Ebbie to enjoy during our 1 hour wait for the service window to open. Red’s is basically a shack on the corner of Water and Main Streets just before the bridge over the Sheepscot River. It could not have been larger then 200 sq feet, but they did in fact serve the best lobster roll I have ever eaten. To call it a lobster “roll” is kind of silly as it is actually 1 and 1/2 pound of fresh cooked lobster meat heaped on top of a bun that you can‘t see till you devour most of the lobster. I left just after noon and the line to get in wound down the street and around the corner with over 100 prospective guests waiting in the blazing sun for a chance at lobster heaven. Another lobster shack, not a hundred yards farther down the street, and actually on the water, had nairy a guest in sight.
Several bridges and about an hour later, the route wound me through Bath, a cute town with many dining options that I might have availed myself of, had I not devoured the meat from two entire lobsters. I pressed onward and rode through the campus of Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME. At the time Bowdoin was chartered, in 1794, Maine was still part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I stopped in Freeport, just to fill my water bottles and take an obligatory photo in front of the original L.L.Bean store, the town was otherwise noteworthy as just another tourist trap. Just before entering Portland, I rode through Foreside with it’s stately mansions, the summer homes of the rich and the uber rich. Most were hidden down 1/4 mile serpentine driveways lined with mature pine trees and guarded by massive gates hung from stone pillars. A stark contrast to the much more modest dwellings actually lived in by their owners in Newcastle. After crossing several bridges into Portland I rode along the waterfront on the Fore River where I encountered more evidence of conspicuous consumption in the form of a 200+ foot mega yacht. I was starting to get hungry but still needed to cross my final bridge of the day over Casco Bay, unfortunately the draw bridge was up and my sandwich and Blue Moon would be delayed another 15 minutes.
For more details on my ride see my Strava link