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Day 3: Bath, ME to Damariscotta, ME… and back πŸ˜ž

Well, this trip didn’t go how I was hoping. Despite a very comfortable bed last night I slept miserably again thanks to my runny nose. So I was still feeling quite exhausted when I got up. At least having splurged for the Hampton Inn I got a nice hot breakfast out of the deal.

Lingering over breakfast gave me time to think about how I wanted to approach the day. I decided that since there were towns at roughly 10-mile intervals heading east from Bath, I’d evaluate how I was feeling at each of them: First Wiscasset, then Damariscotta, then Waldoboro. Waldoboro, being 30 miles from Bath, would be my last possible turnaround point for catching the last train to Boston, since that would then be 40 miles back to Brunswick for 70 miles on the day. If I went past Waldoboro I was committed.

The other thing on my mind was that the weather forecast was showing quite a few thunderstorms for much of New England tomorrow. So if I did go past Waldoboro and hole up somewhere for the night, there was a decent chance I’d be stuck there for two nights. In fact, when I was checking out of the hotel I mentioned the forecast to the receptionist and she remarked that some boat tour companies had already preemptively canceled their excursions for the next day because of the high likelihood of bad weather. (Of course, wouldn’t you know it but the thunderstorms wound up passing early in the day and things were clear by mid-morning, so it would have just been a few hour delay. Figures.)

All this is to say that today wasn’t off to a good start. But I decided to forge ahead eastward and see what happened. The ride started off with a steep climb up to the Sagadahoc Bridge, which isn’t a drawbridge so it needs to be high enough for ships to pass under it. You get the idea. It does however have a nice view of the Bath Ironworks. Historically Bath was a big shipbuilding city, though in recent decades that industry has declined and the city’s declined along with it. Still a nice view of what’s left of the industry.

Once across the bridge, it was yet more rolling hills. Basically, Route 1 descends to sea level to cross an estuary or marsh, then climbs up to about 100 feet, rinse and repeat. Doesn’t sound too bad, but if you do that ten times you’ve climbed 1000 feet, which is considerable. And to add to the unpleasantness, at this point Route 1 is the only road up the coast, and as such not only did I have no choice but to bike on it, but it was carrying a lot more traffic than it had been in New Hampshire and Southern Maine. (After I-295 turns inland in Brunswick, any car or truck going to destinations on the coast basically has to take Route 1.) Yes, there was a good shoulder, but it’s never fun to have trucks speeding by you at 55 mph.

Anyway, despite the relatively cool, cloudy morning the weather was considerably more humid than the previous two days, so by 5 miles in I was already sweating bullets. I was also averaging a slower speed than I would have liked, considering this was first thing in the morning and I’m supposed to be fresh and energized. So by the time I got to Wiscasset I had more or less made up my mind to push ahead to Damariscotta and then turn around. At least I was able to enjoy the view of the Sheepscot River when I passed through.

Another 8 miles (and a couple of hills) brought me to Damariscotta, which was the only place on this ride that was truly new to me. Five years ago I took a trip to Boothbay Harbor with some friends, so we explored a fair amount of the Maine coast up to that turn-off. But the Boothbay turnoff is only a couple of miles past Wiscasset, so everything past there was stuff I’d only passed through on a family trip as a teenager, and we happened to bypass Damariscotta on that trip. So here’s a view of its quaint downtown, which is a bit more brick-oriented than most small towns on the Maine coast.

Incidentally, Damariscotta, like many New England town names, has a shibboleth for identifying outsiders: The second ‘a’ is silent, so the name has four syllables not five. Anyway, the town as a whole felt so relaxing that part of me just wanted to spend the day there. Only problem was I would have had to find lodging for the night, and then there was still the risk of thunderstorms today. So instead I just hung out in a cafe to get out of the sun, and then I took a walk around to check out views of the river.

The big thing the Damariscotta River is famous for are its oysters. Not only are they the most prestigious oysters in Maine (similar to Wellfleet oysters in Massachusetts), but they account for more than half of the state’s commercial oyster production. So obviously I couldn’t leave town without getting some local oysters. Of course, none of the breakfast places in town have raw bars, so I had to wait until places opened for lunch to hit up King Eider’s Pub. I promptly wound up with half a dozen of the biggest oysters I’ve ever been served in the US, and they did not disappoint! The biggest question was whether to pair them with white wine or a Bloody Mary. I decided to go with the wine because oddly enough, despite all the beer I drink while riding, I worry how my stomach would handle liquor on a long ride. Anyway, it made for a very nice lunch. Just posting the photo is making me want them all over again!

By the time I finished lunch I had 5 1/2 hours to catch the last train from Brunswick, it was 27 miles to the station, and there were three breweries I wanted to hit up on the way back, so it was definitely time to hit the road. Fortunately it had clouded over again by this point so the first several miles were smooth sailing until I had to start climbing hills again. Even so, now that I had a timetable I pushed myself through it, and on the western outskirts of Wiscasset I arrived at Bath Ale Works. They’ve only been open a year, but they seem to be off to a good start! The owner offered me a flight of all dozen of their beers (notice the large paddles on either side of the steering wheel) but this was a bit much even for me, so I got a small flight of four (see paddle in the foreground).

Like many breweries I visited on my cross-country ride, all the beers here were very good and I’d happily go back, but there was nothing truly outstanding. The Pond Island Light blonde ale stuck out because it’s hard to make a blonde ale that actually has character, but this one does. The Drummore Bay Scotch Ale was also really good, but again I’d happily drink anything on the menu here. Oh and in case you’re wondering, I did ask the owner why he calls his business Bath if he’s in Wiscasset. He said he had wanted to open in Bath but couldn’t find a suitable location, so instead he wound up on Bath Rd. (Again in true New England fashion, the name of a road is a great way to figure out what town you’re not in.)

After leaving Wiscasset, my next destination was Trinken in West Bath. While Trinken is on the main local road between Bath and Brunswick, it is also at the top of a large hill. I’d avoided the hill on my way east by taking a more northerly route that added a little distance but was considerably flatter. This time I was going to have to take it on though. Fortunately halfway up the hill was Witch Spring Hill Ice Cream, and since it had gotten sunny again by this point I was definitely stopping there. Coffee and black raspberry soft serve for the win!

Leaving the ice cream shop, I tried to downshift to my lowest gear in front to get up the rest of my hill. But as my luck would have it, the chain stuck. So I gave the derailleur a bit of a kick… and the chain came off altogether. Just another reason I was probably best off turning back. At least once I got the chain back on I had an easy time climbing the rest of the hill in granny gear.

Not surprisingly, Trinken Brewing specializes in German styles (“trinken” being German for “drink”). While I like German styles, there was nothing here I really connected with. None of it was bad mind you, but none of it really made an impression on me. I liked that they offered styles like the Von Wolfhausen Munich Dunkel and the Degenberger Weizenbock though. And at least the flight was nice and colorful.

Cresting the hill and starting to descend the other side, I noticed that I felt a bit light. Yet again, I managed to leave my Camelbak at a brewery! At least this time I discovered my mistake almost immediately and only had to backtrack several hundred feet. I guess worst case scenario would have been driving back to West Bath to reclaim it if I had somehow made it home without it.

The ride to Brunswick was pretty straightforward and mostly downhill or flat, but even so the small uphills were still getting to me. But by this point I was pretty determined to have enough time to hit up Black Pug and still make my train. So I managed to get there at 4:45 with just enough time to try a few beers and still get to the train station, which was less than a mile away. The Shake It Off: Pineapple IPA was very, very good and if I’d had more time I would have gotten a full pour of it. The Fade (Banana) white stout was also quite creative, with strong notes of banana and coffee.

And, well, there’s the anticlimax of it all. I left the brewery, biked a few minutes to the train station, bought a ticket ($30 for me and $8 for my bike), and took the 3-hour ride back to Boston. But even biking home from North Station, I noticed the difference between the very small rolling hills of Brunswick and the totally flat ride across Cambridge and Somerville. Those 5 miles home felt so easy compared to anything else I’d ridden yesterday.

So that’s a wrap, I guess. Not sure what I’ll do for future bike trips. Maybe I’ll put my bike in my car and drive to Atlantic Canada so at least I can see some of what I would have gotten to. In the meantime, it’s nice to be recovering at home and not doing much of anything today.

Total distance: 50.3 miles
Average speed: 13.3 mph

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