Thursday, June 25, 2009

Where's Waldo?

"Towns in Maine that have the same name as one of the counties are always located in a different county," my cousin David said Wednesday morning. "For example, the town of Penobscot is in Hancock County, not Penobscot County, while the town Lincoln is not in Lincoln County. It's in Penobscot."

"But I rode through the town of Waldo yesteray on Route 131 and it was in Waldo County," I said.

However, I never saw a sign that actually said I was in Waldo even though there's a dot on the map labeled "Waldo." Leaving Swansville, I was soon in Morill and I don't remember a town in between. So, although I've actually been there in person this week, I still don't know where's Waldo.

Staying at David Flanagan's doesn't fall in the "roughing it" category

Maybe I need a GPS after all. On the ride back to Ellsworth from David's place in Manchester, roads went missing, not towns. I mapped out my route at breakfast with a goal of taking back roads as much as possible, starting with Puddle Dock Road, heading north out of Manchester toward Summerhaven.

"Yeah, it looks like you could go that way," David said, "but I've never thought of Puddle Dock Road as a way to actually get anywhere."

My plan to take Puddle Dock ended up on a dirt road that weaved through dead trees, passed gravel pits and petered out into a swampy nowhere. Doubling back, I found myself on Maine Highway 135, which I'd been trying to avoid. I should pay attention when someone who lives there says a road doesn't actually go anywhere.

I passed through Unity, home of the Unity Raceway. It's not NASCAR, exactly, but the management promises races that are "thrilling, dangerous and spectacular." It also seemed down at the heels, but after all the rain, everything did.

Fellow in a pickup truck who said he ran the place drove up while I was taking pictures and asked "Can I help you?" His tone indicated helping me wasn't his intention. I smiled, said I was just leaving and asked could he suggest a good place for lunch? He named four pizza places.

Maine seems beset by three things: pizza joints, which are now ubiquitous and have driven out almost every other kind of restaurant in small towns; self-storage businesses, which seem out of place in a state with so much room but are everywhere, even in converted chicken barns and tourist cabins; and large, ornamental, five-point stars, which adorn houses, barns, sheds and garages everywhere and would look pretty cool, if everybody else didn't have one, too.

I found a bronze statue of a galloping moose in front of the Unity Historical Society and a deli near the old depot offering fresh baked bread, creamy vegetable soup, homemade ice cream and the best chicken Caesar salad I've ever had, thanks to some amazingly fresh, locally grown, crunchy lettuce.

After lunch, the rain let up. Although it threatened to return, I could ride without the rain suit for the first time in two days.

In Dixmont Center, I got off US 202 and took Kennebec Road to Nealy's Corner -- exactly the kind of two-lane country road I'd been looking for: a hilly, curvy roller coaster ride through green meadows and woods. At Nealy's I met Route 69, which is "the highway department's single hardest road for to keep signs posted," David said. "Every college kid in Maine wants a Route 69 sign on their wall."

The oft-stolen Highway 69 sign

Back in Ellsworth, I stopped at Bill's "Country Custom British and American Motorcycle Parts & Service," which is right on Branch Lake Road to complete my 12 volt outlet project. The guys at Friend and Friend had given me the connectors I needed, but they needed some soldering and shrink wrap to complete the job.

Bill and I chatted about his collection of Harley Davidson's, including a cherry 1978 dresser with about 130,000 miles on it and a couple of immaculate project bikes he's building in his garage workshop. "I'm my own best customer," he admitted. And, of course, the weather. "Up here, they say, we've got nine months of winter," Bill said, "and the other three months are hard sleddin'."

Bill took his time and did a professional job. "There. Now you're ready to hook up that GPS," he said.

"How much do I owe you?"

"Nothing. Happy to do it," he said, and I went to town to find a car wash.

The 12 volt outlet charging my cell phone

At Jane's, Chris gave me a little velvet draw-string bag. Inside I found a "Guardian Bell," which is like a guardian angel for motorcyclists. "It's a Harley thing," he said.

My new Guardian Bell will guard me from potholes and other evil entities

Riding out to the lake after dinner and a gray day, the twilight sky was clear with just a fingernail of new moon in the west. The forecast is for a muggy, but sunny, Thursday.


Thursday morning, the sun was burning off the fog and things began to dry out

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