Traveling in Maine


updated 11/28/08

by mainepatty

Tips for traveling around Maine by mainepatty : )

Hello everyone - just some advice if you ever travel to Maine......

Interactive map of Maine:  http://www.visitmaine.com/map/interactive/

The larger cities have public bus systems.  Portland has a train.  Greyhound has bus stations around the state.  However, be careful of your timing as the smaller bus stations close down at night – even in the winter.   Last time I used it – the Bangor one closed down at night.   You don’t want to be stuck in downtown Bangor alone at night in the area of the bus terminal – especially in winter.   Just believe me

There is a major airport in Portland.  It's not far from the turnpike and not a bad drive.   Bangor has an airport but it is usually very expensive going in and out of there.  Manchester, NH has an airport but that is a busy city and hard to get around in.  You would want to check the distance to where you are going in Maine.  It is a very busy, confusing drive from there to Maine - which I found out when I went to that Groban concert in Manchester.   

Airfare travel is usually cheapest coming in and out of Logan Airport in Boston.  There is a bus that goes right to Logan to the terminals - Concord Bus Lines.  This is what I did when I went to that Groban concert and to visit family in Denver.   You can get a round trip ticket for the bus - and you don't have to give them dates.  Concord is a very comfortable bus - they have a movie, bottled water and pretzels.  They go to Portland, Bangor, etc...   Certain times are direct routes to Logan though so check with them if you buy a ticket.  Otherwise, you might end up stuck a couple hours at a bus terminal between buses (yes, I've done that too). 

Concord bus lines:

http://www.concordcoachlines.com/concord_coach.htm

Traveling by vehicle.....

Maine has one freeway that travels from South to North.  There is no West to East freeway.   So if you travel very far – you will have to take small highways to go East and West.   Yes it is a major pain sometimes.   If you Google a destination in which you must cross the Northern part of the state – East to West – you end up with something like a treasure map or one of those choose your own adventures books the kids read.   It will ALWAYS take longer to get anywhere in Maine than what the online maps tell you. 

There are tolls in the Southern parts of the state until just after the Augusta area.   You will know you are leaving civilization when you no longer have to pay money to drive on the road.

See map below:

Maine major roads map:  http://www.smart-traveler.info/map_of_me.html

Maine is bordered by New Hampshire and Quebec on the west side.  There is a mountain range that runs along that side – the White Mountains along the NH section, and not sure what they are in the Quebec area but I did drive through a section of mountainous area going to a Groban concert in Montreal.   These mountain roads (small roads, small highways) can be dangerous in the wintertime.   They are not heavily traveled and you may not always get cell phone reception – so be prepared for emergencies.  If you go across New Hampshire into Vermont you go into the Green Mountains.  So don’t get your mountain colors confused.   Maine to New Hampshire is the White Mountains.  New Hampshire to Vermont is the Green Mountains.  Of course, if you are blessed enough to come in the Fall – all the mountains become the orange, red and yellow mountains.   Okay, I think I have that right.

Map of New England:  http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/us_2001/new_england_ref_2001.jpg

Going North in Maine, beyond Bangor, you will find it very hard to find gas stations.   Most of Northern Maine consists of very small towns that start shutting down at 6 p.m.  You will be very lucky to find anything open at all after 9 p.m. in rural Maine.    There are few gas stations – even off the freeway.   Don’t let your gas tank get too low when traveling that direction, especially at night.    Find a gas station in one of the small towns before it gets too late if you are running low.  Make sure to keep extra gas in your vehicle in the winter in case you slide off the road (to use the heater periodically in an emergency – keeping your windows open some).   

Maine is bordered by Quebec to the North and New Brunswick to the East.   Quebec is very French, which means French road signs.  So if you drive up that far – be prepared to get confused but fascinated.

Winter travel

Maine roads can turn deadly in the winter.  You don’t really notice all the steep hills and curves until they get covered with snow and ice.   There are a lot of logging trucks in Maine so be careful.   Maine roads are salted and sanded – so if they get too bad you may have to find someplace to pull over and wait for the next sanding truck to come by.  They will come by – eventually -  unless you are on a back road that is seldom used.  Snow-banks pile up on the sides by mid winter - so you can’t pull over if you need to sometimes.   Just be sure to pay attention to the sides of the roads as you drive.  I’ve been stuck in the slow lane on a hill for about an hour waiting for the plow truck to come - as I couldn’t go up or down without losing control.    Josh Groban’s music kept me company while I was sitting there watching logging trucks zoom past me on icy hills - praying. 

And remember there are probably deep ditches buried under the snow on the sides of the roads.    And just a little note here too – don’t ever take a walk off into unknown areas of Maine in the winter.  There could be all kinds of things hidden under the snow – ditches, frozen water, etc..  You never know.   I found a very deep ditch under the snow the first year I was here.  Didn’t think I would ever crawl out of it. 

Don’t forget to keep the salt washed off your vehicles – especially new ones – as it can do a great deal of damage (we prefer this though to sliding off the roads into the deep ditches).    Just don’t try to do this in sub-zero weather – not a good idea – just believe me

Never take a back road in Maine in the winter unless you know where you are going.  It can be very dangerous.   It is very easy to get lost and lose your sense of direction.  The roads will twist, turn and change directions.   They seldom have signs (they’ve gotten much better at this over the last few years).  Tourists have been lost in the woods in snowstorms in their vehicles.   It is very easy to get stuck out on a back road too – even with 4WD.   Keep in mind it gets dark very, very early in Maine in the winter.  The temperatures will drop when it gets dark.   Just believe me (yes, I’ve done that too).

Spring travel

You would think that spring would be a really good time to drive around Maine and it is.  But it also has some of its own dangers.   We know spring is coming in Maine – not by the flowers blooming – but by the frost heaves rising in the roads.   Something happens to the ground in Maine – never really figured it out – maybe caused by the high water level – that when the ground starts to thaw  --  frost heaves develop.  These changes result in either big bumps or dips in the roads.   If you hit these too fast  - they can throw you right off the road and into a telephone pole (seriously - no I never did that).    The roads also start cracking and breaking up.  They are constantly fixing the roads in the summer months,  but if you come across sections of roads that haven’t been repaired for awhile – they’ll look like they were hit by a meteor shower.     The roads will look more like an obstacle course and just as hard to drive on – so slow down.    If you see a sign that says FROST HEAVE or BUMP – watch out!!  They only put those signs on the worse ones.    You may be driving into a small trench.    Just believe me.   Really, believe me.

Spring is also “Mud Season” in Maine.  That means that all the months of snow melted into the dirt and created a muddy mess.   And the mud in my section of Maine is the very sticky and sinking type of mud.   If you pull off the road into the dirt on the side – you may sink - badly.  I did that once.   My car was making some horrid noise so I pulled off onto the shoulder/dirt.  I immediately sunk into the mud all the way up to the tops of all four tires.   I didn’t think we would ever get out of there - and boy is that another bizarre story.

Also watch out for the hungry animals coming out of the woods in the spring.    I’ve been run over by deer before in my vehicle.   Nothing like seeing a deer face coming towards your side window as you are driving down a highway.  I was going 45 mph traveling North.  The deer was going about 45 mph traveling West.   When we collided – it wasn’t a pretty picture.  It took me a long time to get the deer snot and hair off my window.  Yes, the deer did live - but I about had a heart attack.  Did you know that deer can bounce?

Wildlife & the roads

This brings me to a very important section about driving through Maine.    There is an abundance of wildlife in Maine which makes the state extremely special.   Keep your eyes open while driving down the highways as you never know what you will see and you sure don’t want to hit any of these creatures.   You may come across flocks of wild turkeys crossing the roads, foxes, coydogs, skunks (lots of skunks), porcupines, herds of deer,  seagulls, partridges, and an occasional moose.    There are black bears but I’ve never seen them on the roads yet. 

Deer usually run around in small groups, so if you see one crossing the road, there are probably more.   They will often come leaping across the roads, even in the winter - when they have to leap over huge snow-banks.    So just be careful driving around, especially at night. 

Maine isn’t a good place to drive around fast or in a hurry at night.  It could cost you your life.    There are many moose/car fatalities in Maine every year.  If you hit a moose going very fast – you probably won’t survive.  They are very big, strong creatures.   Their eyes usually don’t reflect the car headlights like deer.  I think it has to do with the way their eyes are hooded but I’m not sure.   And something about their color makes them blend right in with everything.  They can be standing off on the side of the road in the trees and you won’t even notice them, despite their huge size.    One thing about them though, is that they don’t usually come leaping at you from the sides of the road like the deer.   A moose is more likely to slowly wander into the road and just stand there, like he owns the place.  

They love the dusk and dawn hours.  During those times of day, because of the lighting, they’ll look like a shadow in the road from a distance.   Maine has a lot of curvy roads that go through forest areas, so be careful going around curves.  You never know what may be standing there.  Moose love the bog areas but you often can’t see the bogs because they are hidden behind the trees.   If you see a moose warning sign – take it seriously.    Moose are known to have attitude problems – so don’t mess with them – stay far away.   

They are very majestic, awesome creatures though.   And they amaze me how they can go silently through the dense Maine woods with those huge antlers without getting stuck.  I have had a few close encounters with Moose in Maine.   We had one running behind our Ford Escort one time on a small back highway.  We didn’t even notice it at first.  It didn’t really seem to be chasing us – just following us.  It was kind of strange.  

I also came across one face to face on a highway at dusk right off the freeway headed towards LaGrange.   I was so mad my batteries were dead in my camera.    He was standing in my lane in the middle of the road – facing my direction.  I had to stop – couldn’t do anything else.  We just sat and stared at each other for quite awhile.   Well – he was actually standing not sitting.  But he gave me this look like, “What are YOU doing on MY road?”   He eventually turned around, walked down the road for awhile, and then disappeared into the trees.    He was pretty awesome.    We’ve also come across small groups of moose standing off in the bogs on the main road going into Greenville.   Greenville is moose paradise.  And the plural form of the word Moose is Moose – not Meese.

Also be careful leaving your windows open at night while driving.  You will see bats flying around.  You probably don’t want one in your vehicle.  They can be ‘fun’ to catch.   My poor neighbor is having a major problem with bats flying in through her front door at night when she opens it.    She has a big tree in front of her door which they appear to love.  She’s getting to be an expert at catching them with a towel though.

Skunks are another major road obstacle in Maine.   You will know for miles if anyone hits one – for hours and hours.    These cute, fuzzy and very stinky creatures are all over the place.  Yes, I’ve had close encounters with them too.   My poor old hound dog – with his super-sensitive nose – just about went into shock the first time he tried to chase one of those funny looking black and white cats about midnight when I let him out for a ‘break’.   Seriously, he shivered, shook and whined all night.   I sat with him outside in a van wrapped in a blanket trying to help him recover.   Well, and I didn’t have any tomato juice, so being in a panic, I tried the next best thing I had, which was giving him a bath with spaghetti sauce.    It did not work and it was really, really hard to wash out of his hair.   Oh and if your animal ever gets sprayed by a skunk – just a word of warning – the first thing they do is run into your house and roll on your furniture.   They will head straight to your bed too.   Just believe me.

I also had a skunk get his head caught in a can outside in the trash one night.  It was about 2 a.m. and I heard this horrid screaming sound.  I thought someone was dying.  Some poor little skunk got his head stuck in a can while raiding my trash.  I was in a panic trying to figure out how to help him.  Do I try to take it off of him??  Fortunately he eventually shook it off.   We later bought trash cans with locking lids.  We became friends though and he would often come back to look at me through my sliding glass door at night.   His little nose was kind of cute.

Well that is all the driving tips I can think of for now. 

God bless and safe traveling. 

Patty

 

pattyproject@gmail.com

(c) mainepatty

 

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Maine Road Photos

by Patty

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 Yeah -

I'm on the road a lot 

: )

 

Safe driving - watch out

for those moose.....

patty