Having moved east, Editor ‘arris tries to find the perfect route from Moncton to Ontario, and it doesn’t include Quebec.
Take a look at a map of the east coast of Canada (we’ve made one for you just a little lower down). You see Maine? Up, up, up it goes forcing anyone in Ontario or western Quebec to go a long way round if they want to visit points of southern New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.
It effectively forces you on a relatively boring trek through Quebec (though you can deviate off the highway and find some more interesting back roads if you have time) as well as adding countless kilometres to an already long journey.
This is not ideal for motorcyclists and as I see it there are two solutions to this problem;
1) Invade northern Maine and draw a much more sensible border east-west from Calais in Maine to Comins Mills in Quebec (though that would involve taking a bit of New Hampshire too). We’d also need to build a new highway connecting it all up, once the dust cloud from a US nuclear strike had dispersed of course, or …
2) Work out a perfect route from Moncton in New Brunswick to Gananoque in Ontario, taking in some of the best motorcycle roads that Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have to offer. This not only saves Canadian tax dollars on highway building but it avoids the pesky nuclear winter, and what motorcyclist wants to ride through any winter?
My goal of this challenge was to also do a route that could be done in two days. Yes I know, the Quebec route can be done in one if you really want to push it and spend most of your journey avoiding crazed Frenchmen on arrow-straight highways, but I wanted to find a route that was enjoyable, relaxing and relatively free of craziness.
The resulting article is based on a trip I made last September on a DN-01 from Moncton to Shannonville race track for the finals of the Parts Canada Superbike championship.
I have since made another trip from Montreal to Moncton and will suggest the best of both trips to make one super-route at the end!
DAY 1 – Moncton to North Conway
It’s odd how the mind and body interact. Knowing that I had an early start planned and a decent day’s ride in a DN-01 saddle (not very comfy) my mind decided (in its infinite wisdom) to keep my body wide awake till 4 am.
Yet when the alarm sounded at 6:50 it did all it could to drag me back to the world of blissful sleep. That’s why we invented the morning shower and cup of coffee. The shower is like a dog pissing on the evil mind and the coffee the defibrilating shock to the comatosed body.
Thankfully the weather channel tells me what I want to hear – sunny day with a high of 28C. But it’s September and the morning smacks of the coming fall with a distinct nip in the air.
DID YOU BANGOR?
Despite a whole day’s worth of planning, mapping and printing I take an immediate wrong turn and find myself heading into Moncton (instead of around) right into the morning’s rush hour.
Now, I was fresh out of a life in Montreal (and before that, Toronto) and have a healthy fear of morning rush hours because of it. But this isn’t Montreal anymore. There really is no rush hour in Moncton by comparison. No “Tabernac, I’m going to die on the 40,” or “Holy fuck I’m never going to get off the DVP.”
No, it just flows merrily along and before you can say “wow, I really like the east coast living thing” you’re already out of Moncton and heading to points west. Today this meant the U.S. border at Calais via Highway 1 and Saint John.
The highway’s not too interesting until you reach Sussex, where the mass of surrounding trees gives way to open pasture and rolling hills and I found myself in some of the prettiest county this side of Sussex, England.
This holds pretty well all the way to the coast and the port of Saint John, after which it becomes a bit hit and miss. The hits are the few glimpses of the Bay of Fundy as it sticks its fingers into the folds of the shoreline.
The misses are all the rest. Why does it always turn out that a highway that looks like it follows the coast on a map is always rather sad when there’s no coast to see?
Before long I found myself on the bridge at Saint Stephens, which marks the (current) border crossing into the U.S., and the town of Calais (pronounced Callas over there). Here it was time for some brunch and I happened to luck upon Julianna’s World Café.
It wasn’t too long ago that a trip to the States meant that any eating options outside of the usual chains was either non-existent or frankly just plain dangerous. Times they have a changed, and even the small town of Calais now has Juliannas with a fine choice of good soul foods.
Turns out that the waiter, Rick, also rides a bike and when I tell him my intended route of Highway 9 to Bangor he warns me of the abundant wildlife along the road. “You can come around a corner and there’s a huge moose looking at you, even in the middle of the day.
Hmhh, I’d better take it slowly then. Good job I’m on the DN-01.
Turns out that today was a wildlife-free day on highway 9 and although it’s a pretty remote and desolate road, it is curvy. Nothing spectacular mind, but enough to keep you awake. Bump it up to 140 km/h and it’s now really quite fun, but the thought of a moose around the next corner brings me back to entertaining mode.
The 9 takes you to Bangor which is a reasonably sized town with a population of just over 30,000 in the ‘city’ proper. If you’re wanting to take an extra day or are doing this route in reverse and plan to go beyond Moncton, then you should be able to find a decent hotel/motel and food here.
ALTERNATE ROUTE FROM MONCTON TO BANGOR
I tried a different route when I did the trip again earlier this year
and found it to be more scenic and twisty though with a tad more
highway (blue line in the map below).
Instead of exiting the Trans Canada just outside of Moncton, keep on it to just west of Fredericton. Though the idea of the TCH may send shudders to most people I found this stretch to be not at all bad. Pretty countryside either side and not much traffic to boot.
The real fun starts when you hit highway 3/4 to Saint Croix at the border – a lovely twisty well paved road through rolling hills. It carries on well into Maine treating the rider to some classic Maine scenery – swooping roads and the occasional lake to put a big splash of blue amongst the mass of green trees.
It slowly winds down as you approach the town of Lincoln and here I find it’s best to just jump on the I95 to Bangor. I’ve checked out most of the alternatives and believe me, you might as well grab the highway and just get past it.
ONWARDS TO NORTH CONWAY
Getting out of Bangor gives you the option of jumping right on the 2 or gaining some ground and time and keeping on the I95 to Newport. It’s all pretty flat and with some populace so I took I95 to get away from Bangor before joining the 2.
Highway 2 is one of those rare roads that will take you through a myriad of options all the way to the west side of Vermont if you want to. It’s still not too interesting at the start but then you hit the town of Skowhegan, which oozes some old time charm and boasts a host of funky shops and eateries.
It’s not what I was expecting to find in rural Maine but there’s something about old New England industrial towns that I find intriguing. Though most are relatively hollow echoes of some long past glory days and drawing terminal breaths, Skowhegan seems firmly alive.
Sadly time does not permit me to stop and check it out as there are still many kilometres to cover and the day is rapidly slipping away.
Post Skowhegan highway 2 seems to also gain some much-needed life as we enter the Appalachian Mountain chain. It starts to gnarl up, and every side road begins to entice.
HURRICANE MOUNTAIN ROAD
By now the sun is starting to get low against the hills and the air is getting crisp. I ponder taking the easy road into North Conway but I’ve been told that I simply have to ride Hurricane Mountain Road and that means heading south on Route 113 and into the White Mountain National Forest.
It’s a glorious little road but I’m in the trees and now hidden from the last burst of the setting sun. 113 is narrow and well-paved, and swings and swans along a brook. My sense of losing light means that I’m pushing the DN-01 and quickly settle in to roller-coaster mode for maximum enjoyment.
This is the kind of road that have seen Mr Seck and myself hauling arse, but he’s gone to Pakistan and now I have two lovely daughters, so I click the DN-01 out of Sport Mode, drop the speed a couple of notches below mad and tap the 10% wiggle room that I’m keeping in my back pocket.
I cover the front brake and hoist my right foot up to hover over the DN-01’s chunky brake pedal and press on.After some map checking I finally find the entrance to Hurricane Mountain Road and pause to contemplate the wisdom of entering a road that is about 6 feet wide, bumpy and comes complete with a gate to close it off in winter. Oh, and it’s just about dark.
Sport Mode it is then.
The DN-01 actually copes pretty well, the ABS cutting in more than once when the road unexpectedly drops off to one side just over a brow. This is the kind of road that is more undercarriage scars than smooth asphalt, and is perfect for a good bout of shits and giggles.
I manage to keep the adrenaline in check and roll into North Conway intact just as the sun finally sets over the valley’s western slope.
I check into one of a million motels in the town and SBP – Shower, Beer, Pizza.
Life is good.
Next week – getting back to Canada via the glory of Vermont and the Adirondacks (here).
If you’re passing through the Appalachian range with no particular destination, take a quick visit to a little town called Bethlehem. There’s a pub called Social in town that does BBQ (not much else, but does the BBQ well and has some good local brews). The highlight is the owner (the guy on the BBQ) and his antique bike collection that he’ll show you in his shop next door if the grill isn’t too busy.
I loves the Airline Road (#9 from Calais to Bangor). When its not under construction it’s fast and curvey.
I tried the coastal highway to Bar Harbour, but that isn’t much more scenic and is packed with meandering RV’s. Seems to take forever to cover.
Just make sure you gas up first and
Do not pass by “The Eagles Nest ” (In Brewer, on Hwy 9 across the river from Bangor). They feature amazing pie and Lobster Rolls that are to die for !!!!!
If you stop and are not happy ..Then you can slappa my face.
If you stay in Bangor ..Don’t miss The Governors for Fried Clams ..OMG go hungry
Great read, look forward to the next installment!! Am contemplating buying a motorcycle in Toronto next Spring and Riding it back to Nfld. … the route across southern P.Q. and into Maine to reach N.B. looks very interesting! Bought a Honda CRX in T.O. back in ’85 and drove it home to the Rock via the TCH thru Quebec … not interested in doing that route on a Bike!!
I haven’t had time to read your whole article, but my recent trip home through Maine was better than previous. From Fredricton made my way along parallel to Hwy 2 and secondary roads thru Canterbury, Eel River Lake on 122 to the border of Maine. Tiny stretch of twisties before straight and boring Hwy 2A down to Meadowville. Turn right and NW. 157, 11, 16, 142, 4/16 are some of the roads, but will have to take a closer look. Lots of curves especially on 4/16 nearing the NH border. Little traffic and able to make good time.
That’s actually the way I went but I thought it may be easier to have the map go through North Conway. I’ll add Bear Notch as an option for next week.
Anyone else got any suggestions?
Msr Tete Fromage,
Next time consider Bear Mountain Road to avoid North Conway Hell:
Nice twisty road, freshly repaved (closed in winter)