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Day 2: Saco, ME to Bath, ME

I hate being sick, I hate headwinds, I hate hills, and I definitely hate any combination of the above.

Let’s start with the first. Remember back before COVID-19 when people would get colds? Couple days of a sore throat, no fever, and it would slowly progress to a runny nose? Well, I have one of those, and my nose has been a faucet the last couple of days. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t sleep very well last night. So even sleeping in, I didn’t feel very rested.

But let’s digress to more pleasant things for a moment. I got to start off the day biking the Saco-Scarborough section of the Eastern Trail. No, it’s not the Scarborough where the fair is. But it does have an impressively large marsh, and the view from the bike path crossing the marsh is one of my favorite views from any bike path I’ve ridden.

Where the Eastern Trail ended was where my problems started. The normal bike route up the coast would continue over the South Portland, catch another bike path, and then go through downtown Portland on streets. Now, downtown Portland is a great place to hang out, but I wasn’t really interested in biking through it, especially since an inland diversion would get me to Allagash Brewing, which is both the best-known brewery in Maine and also one of the best in quality. Problem was, going inland meant going north, and there was a strong wind out of the northwest. So I spent the next 10 miles fighting a headwind, and every time I had to do any sort of climbing was just plain brutal.

I did make it to Allagash in the late morning though, only to discover that they decided to take advantage of the covid shutdown to renovate their taproom and it’s not ready yet. They do have a really nice beer garden, but flights are out of the question because they don’t allow glassware outdoors. One cool thing though is that there’s a semi-permanent food truck there, Bite into Maine, that’s rated as having one of the best lobster rolls in the state. So I did have an awesome lobster roll to pair with my Coolship Cerise Estate, a very complex wild-fermented cherry sour with cherries from their own orchard!

One other cool thing about Allagash is that they’ve attracted a number of other breweries to the industrial park where they’re located, to the point where there are now five breweries in a single block. Hitting all five seemed unrealistic, but three seemed doable, especially since it would let me kill some time while waiting for the wind to die down.

Next stop was then Definitive, which has a few locations in southern Maine including one next door to Woodland Farms. This was my first visit to any of their locations though, but I sure hope to be back! The Radiant Days with marionberry, peach, and marshmallow was a great smoothie sour, and their Particles double IPA was also solid. Unfortunately the barrel-aged Nephthys was a bit too boozy.

Then it was on to next door to check out Battery Steele. One nice thing about their setup is they have some comfy couches which felt really nice to sink into after sitting on bike seats and barstools. As for the beer, by this point I was trying not to overdo it, so I just got a 10oz pour of the Obscurum imperial milk stout. It was very good, but even so, I was feeling full enough that I couldn’t finish it.

By this point it was 2:30, I had only covered 18 miles, and I was really wondering whether this trip was a good idea. But at least for today I wanted to press on. I quickly Googled the shortest route to get out of Portland and set off. Only when I started biking on Summit St. did it occur to me that with a name like that there would probably be a big hill involved. In fact, there was one block that was so bad I couldn’t convince myself to pedal through it and got off and walked the bike. At least what goes up must come down, so I got a downhill afterwards.

For the next stretch, Google took me on some nice back roads through the Portland suburbs of Falmouth and Cumberland. However, by this point even small rolling hills were getting to me. Every climb felt agonizing, and just looking at a hill would make my legs cramp. Yesterday when I had descents leading into climbs, I’d pedal through the bottom of the descent to keep up my momentum going into the climb. Today even doing that was tough. Really, the only way I could take it was one mile at a time, and stop every few miles to stretch and catch my breath.

Eventually I got to Yarmouth, where the side roads brought me out to Route 1. Fortunately, there’s a bike path paralleling the highway so I was able to use that instead and got to enjoy a nice view crossing the Royal River.

A few more miles of painful rolling hills brought me to Freeport (best known as the home of L. L. Bean) and Maine Beer Co. While the place has a cut following among IPA fanatics, I’ve found their stuff to be a bit uneven. Like the Prince Percy pilsner was nice but a bit heavy for what I wanted from a pilsner in summer weather. The Barn Program #33 black ale was very good though. Also, I got to sit by the tree fountain.

By the time I left Maine Beer it was 5:15 and I still had 20 miles to go before Bath. Good thing for late sunsets it the summer! My next stop was Brunswick. En route were a couple of nasty hills, but it was slowly starting to get slightly more bearable because I was now mostly heading east rather than north. A little over 10 miles got me to the Bowdoin campus. Bowdoin is one of the three major liberal arts schools in Maine, along with Bates and Colby, so I figured I’d at least bike through their main quad. Boy did the grass look inviting to lie down on in the shade!

Since it was a bit late in the day to visit their art museum, I admired it from the outside.

One thing of note: In the course of my travels in China, I learned that lion statues guarding temples, palaces, etc. are typically one male lion and one female lion. The male lion can be identified because his paw is on a ball, while the female lion can be identified because her paw is on a lion cub. Notice that here both lions have their paw on a ball. Are they gay lions? Was the architect just ignorant of Chinese conventions? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now here’s where my day gets even messier. offers an Airbnb-type service where property owners can rent out rooms, so I booked one such room in Bath. The listing said I should get there by 8, so I figured I’d get dinner in Brunswick and make it to Bath around 8. Shortly before 7 though, while I was eating dinner, I got a message from the owner that she hadn’t been renting her place for 3 years! I don’t know if she didn’t properly ask Booking to delist it or if Booking is trying to scam people, but one way or another I suddenly had no place to stay tonight. So I frantically started searching sites and discovered there were very few listing in Bath. Brunswick had more listings, but today was already going to be a pretty short day and I didn’t want to tack on more distance tomorrow. So I wound up booking the Hampton Inn for way too much money (but at least I got a discount from their own site that wasn’t offered on third-party sites).

Downtown Brunswick does have a brewery though, so before I left town I had to check out Moderation, since as we know drinking should be done in Moderation. I would’ve really liked to have gotten the flight of everything on tap, but I just didn’t have room, so I settled for the Spice in Paradise mango habanero wheat beer and the Grog Shop rye IPA. They were both nice, the mango one especially, but I think I’d try something else next time.

Before we move on from Brunswick, one final thing to note: Brunswick is the easternmost town in the US with passenger train service. No matter what I do from here on, I will have to get myself back to Brunswick to get home. I suppose that’s next technically true– I could, for instance, get my bike boxed in Halifax and get a plane ticket home, but that would be ridiculously expensive. So for all intents and purposes, I need to be able to get back to Brunswick.

Anyway, it was 9 miles to Bath, including a nice bike path along the Androscoggin River for part of the route. I finally made it to Bath about 10 minutes before sunset, which gave me enough light to catch a great view of the Sagadahoc Bridge over the Kennebec River. (Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?)

So here I am in Bath, with no clue what I want to do next or what I’m physically capable of doing next. I’m well aware that most people would not be able to do what I’ve done in the last few days. I’m also aware that the forecast is calling for a more favorable wind from the south or SSW tomorrow, so that may make things easier for me. But I really don’t know how I’m going to be able to handle any sort of hills, and I’m acutely aware that anything I bike tomorrow I’ll have to also eventually bike in the opposite direction. I’d love to make it to Bucksport, but that’s about 80 miles and I honestly don’t know if I have it in me. Guess I’ll just see how I feel in the morning and hopefully get a better night’s sleep than I did last night.

Total distance: 54.4 miles
Average speed: 13.7 mph


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