Maine is a wonderful place for motorcycle touring. With a variety of scenery, including its rocky coastline, western mountains, north woods, and several “lakes regions”, there seems to be nearly infinite possibilities for diverse and interesting day (and longer) trips. Still, I recently found myself longing for a new challenge and some new roads that I had not explored yet. If you take a look at a typical street map of Maine, you will notice that the further north you go, the fewer roads there are to travel. One of my favorite rides is up to Greenville on the south shore of Moosehead Lake. The problem is, once you are there, you are faced with either going back the way you came or heading toward Jackman. Both are nice roads to ride, but I was looking for something different.
If you find a good mapping program, or have a copy of DeLorme’s Maine Gazetteer, you will notice that there is another choice if you want to keep going north. Of course, these roads are not paved, and they are privately owned. They are owned by logging and paper companies, and some have (in)famous reputations. The Golden Road is noted for being wide and fast - at least if you are a pulp truck. Woe to the motorist who does not heed the rules of THIS road - which is: the trucks ALWAYS have the right of way. Best thing to do is pull over and let them by, unless you fancy your carcass as a hood ornament.
Would the road be passable on a sport touring motorcycle? Would there be a guard shack to prevent certain travelers from entering? How long would it take to travel? There was only one way to find answers to these questions, and that would be to get up there and try it.
A few weekends ago, I got up early on a Saturday morning to do just that. The ride up to Greenville was easy and pleasant. I made it there by 8:30 AM to make sure I had plenty of time to make my way into the unknown. I headed north out of Greenville, past Lily Bay State Park on the eastern shore of Moosehead lake. To my (pleasant) surprise, this part of the route was still paved. It wasn’t until I reached Kokadjo that the road turned to dirt, and the sign I had been dreading appeared. I didn’t grab a photo of it, but it said that certain vehicles, including motorcycles were not allowed in Baxter state park. I scrolled forward on my GPS and found that the road I was traveling only crossed into Baxter State Park for a very small distance - less than a mile. I had no idea what to expect - would there be a guard shack there? Would they turn me back?
‘Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!’ (to quote Admiral Farragut)! I had enough fuel even if I had to turn back (so I figured) The FJR is good for about 240 miles per tankful (although somewhat less if one is putt-putting along through the back country). I decided to go for it.
The gamble paid off. Not only were their no guard shacks, there didn’t appear to be any official representation to speak of. In fact, much of the lore surrounding these logging roads seems to have faded, much as the logging and paper industry has in Maine. I ran into only recreational users of the road, and no work vehicles. Still, it is a dirt road, and must be respected while riding a motorcycle designed for blacktop. The FJR1300 is not a dual sport bike, although it handled everything the road threw at it with aplomb. As a bonus, I was treated to views that few people get to enjoy. Here are a couple of pics:
Driftwood stacked up at the south shore of a small pond.
The downside of so much “trail riding” is that one’s bike gets quite dusty:
It would get considerably dustier by the time I reached the end of the Golden Road in Millinocket, ME. From there, I followed the more traveled roads back home, as we had plans for the afternoon.
Here is a little map showing the loop I took. It goes to show, sometimes it is worth it to take
the road less traveled (but I w o ul d st ill d o s o m e r e s e a r c h fi rs t!)