The Boothbay Region

Having put a couple of hundred miles on the Burgman, I felt comfortable enough to undertake a longer trip and, given that Francis was available today and the weather was okay, we decided to travel to Boothbay Harbor, one of Maine’s premier oceanside vacation spots.  The Boothbay region is reached from Wiscasset off of US-1 via ME-27 south, giving you access not only to Boothbay Harbor itself (a quintessential coastal tourist destination) but also Ocean Point to the east via ME-96 and East Boothbay, and Southport Island to the west via ME-27, which along with ME-238 will give you a circle tour of the island.

Francis and I, rather than taking the more direct route from the south via Augusta and ME-27, took the “scenic” route (it really is very nice, if you like pastoral farmland views), ME-197 from Sabattus.  If you have read earlier posts, you may recall that I once listed this road as one of central Maine’s best motorbiking roads, as it has a number of entertaining curves to go with the nice scenery.  However, today’s trip leads me to revise my opinion of this road downward, as the pavement has deteriorated since my earlier posts and now offers a distinctly bumpy ride.  I would not say that it’s a bad road, but given that my criteria for a great motorbike road absolutely includes good pavement, I must reluctantly erase ME-197 from that list.

However, the route posed no problems, bringing us through Richmond to a short jog north on ME-127 and thence to ME-27.  Traffic can be bad in Wiscasset as you approach the bridge on US-1 over the Sheepscot River, but today we experienced no delays (if you arrive at lunchtime, stop for a lobster roll in Wiscasset at Red’s!).

Incidentally, for decades there were two old sailing schooner wrecks rotting in the river just to the right of Red’s in Wiscasset.  Legend has it that the owner, Frank Winter of Auburn, Maine, used these schooners at the turn of the 20th century to transport Maine lumber to Europe, and West Indies rum back to Maine on the return trip.  In any event, at some point around 1910 he brought his load of lumber into Wiscasset and was levied a tax on it which exceeded the value of the ships themselves.  So, rather than pay the tax, under cover of darkness he had the lumber off-loaded, replaced it with enough rocks to keep the waterline the same, and abandoned the schooners right there!  For many years they made an interesting and scenic presentation as one crossed the bridge over the Sheepscot.

We chose to begin our exploration of the Boothbay region at Ocean Point.

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This is the view that greets you as you come to the end of ME-96 and turn right onto the narrow road (in places just wide enough for two cars to slowly pass) that follows the ocean around Ocean Point.  Below is the same view, somewhat improved:

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Francis and I took some time climbing over the rocks.  I was surprised to see a number of people in the water, given that the water temperature is barely into the low 60sF.

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Below you can see Francis with his Aprilia Scarabeo 200:

Across the street from this view is an old stone chapel; the doors were open and so we took a peek inside.

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The photo below, taken back towards the water, illuminates the stained glass window over the door:

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The road around Ocean Point, “Van Horne Road”, is an interesting motorbike road, given the outstanding scenery, the extreme narrowness of the pavement, the extremely expensive homes (nice to see how the top 1% live!) and the abrupt hills and hairpin curves necessitated by the road’s proximity to the water.  More excellent views appear seaside:

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The lovely scent of oceanside rose bushes provides an added bonus as you ride slowly along.

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Van Horne road loops back to ME-96 which we then rode back north to Boothbay Harbor.  Along the way, in a settlement called “Linekin” (named for Linekin Bay, the body of water between here and Boothbay Harbor), we found this church-like building, locked up but with a sign offering to rent it (!).  Not sure of the denomination, but…

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Anyone who has spent any time on the Maine coast is aware that the coastline is one long sequence of peninsulas; as you travel east from Freeport on US-1, you veer off to the south down whichever peninsula you choose to visit.  So, for example, ME-24 takes you down the peninsula to Bailey Island; ME-209 takes you south from Bath down to Popham Beach; and ME-27 takes you south from Wiscasset down the peninsula to Boothbay Harbor.  This pattern continues all the way downeast to Cutler near the Canadian border.  The Boothbay peninsula, however, looks something like a three-tined fork — Ocean Point is the eastern tine, Boothbay Harbor is the central tine, and the western tine of this “fork” is Southport Island.

If you follow ME-27 through Boothbay Harbor it will bring you to Southport Island, affording you a view back toward the Harbor itself:

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The most scenic spot on Southport Island is Cape Newagen, right at the southern tip, where a long public wharf has been built out toward Cape Island and the Cuckold Island Light. The structure to the left in the top photo is the right side of the wharf seen in the bottom photo.

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We did not spend any time in Boothbay Harbor itself, as it is pretty much the quintessential coastal tourist village (art galleries, pottery shops, restaurants and souvenir shops along with Victorian-era bed-and-breakfast establishments) and we were not into shopping. So from Cape Newagen we headed north (up the western “tine of the fork”) back to ME-27, which we followed all the way to Augusta, connecting there with US-202 south and home.

A couple of observations about this trip: for one, the Burgman has twice the engine of the Vespa 300. This is probably an obvious thing to say, given the Burgman’s 650ccs and parallel twin engine design.  But I noticed this especially on a mile-long hill approaching Wiscasset, when I realized that where the Burgman was loafing along, effortlessly maintaining speed, the Vespa would have had to be cranked wide open and would still be slowing down as it reached the crest of the hill.

And finally, regular readers of this blog will remember that Francis, heart of gold notwithstanding, is an annoyingly slow biker.  Not only does it appear that his top speed is 45MPH regardless of speed limit, he is possessed of relatively little stamina and must stop at least every half hour, either because he needs a coffee, or because his butt hurts, or (etc., etc.).  Today he added a new wrinkle to this pattern.  Having had eye surgery over the winter, he is now required to wear the signature wrap-around sunglasses which every glaucoma/cataract patient is issued. Well, today I had to stop and wait three times, ten minutes each time, because apparently passing vehicles had blown off his sunglasses and he was forced to stop to retrieve and replace them.  Upon hearing this, I offered him a set of croakies (a cord connecting the two earpieces) but he was not able to comfortably use them, so for the remainder of the trip he kept his right hand on the throttle and his left hand on the sunglasses.  He could afford to do this, of course, because at 45MPH on a 55MPH road, one rarely needs to brake…..

Anyway, this post just barely scratches the surface of all there is to do in the Boothbay region, between the Railway Village (a museum of early transportation), the scenic boat rides, kayak rentals, sport fishing, the botanical gardens…..well, one could easily spend a relaxing week here.  Just be advised that the traffic can be brutal and the parking is expensive!  Best plan would be to drive to your lodgings and then walk around the Harbor as much as possible — but the drive around Ocean Point particularly is “can’t miss”!

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