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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big Ride - Day5

Snowmobile graveyard at the former Nike Base

The Cold War and Corners...

After a great night's sleep, and awaking late even though the sunrise is at 4:37am this far north a day before the solstice, we all had a great breakfast and good conversation around the table with Kate, and other guests Robin, and Lindsey, a guy who had been an air force brat at Loring Air Force base and was returning for a look at the old stomping grounds with his wife and daughter.

After breakfast, we decided we could lump in 2 days of sightseeing into this one, as Wednesday holds potential for bad weather (hot and chance of thunderstorms). So we headed out to try to locate one of the old Nike Missile sites, then explore the old Loring Air Force base, now a Commerce center, return back thru Caribou for lunch and to head north to Fort Kent and Madawaska, home of one of the four corners and the four corners monument.

Before heading out of Caribou, we swung by the local Harley shop so Dad and Bro could get some Caribou branded harley t-shirts:

These seemed the right size short-shorts for Mrs. Shutterpilot, but I didn't get them as I'd like to remain married.

The reason for wanting to find the old Nike site is part of the reason we came this far - to actually see the areas Dad might have been stationed in if he were stationed here near Caribou, rather than at the Nike Base in Cambria NY.

Three "casemates" that use to hold Nike missiles are hidden underground beneath these old snowmobiles
Not long after we found the place, we were greeted by Mark, who lives and works there now. He was very nice and seemed excited to show us around, which was fortuitous cause otherwise we'd have no idea what we were looking at.

Mark shows us one of the entrances to the three underground casemates that held the hidden missiles

Doors open, we're about to descend a story below ground

Bro at the bottom of the stairway

If Mark hadn't been there and agreed to guide us around, we'd have never found nor safely navigated this space. It was huge, completely dark. We'd have surely fell into this big hole, which is where the Missile used to lie.

Dad reminisces with Mark about how all this would have looked when it was new back in 1962

Mark shared that he worked here under the care of his brother, since Mark suffered permanent injuries after a 40 foot fall when he was a roofer.

The bay doors in the roof, that would be opened if a missile were to be launched

One of several vents that could be opened to vent the exhaust from  a launched missile. The pole hanging down is a simple hand crank that opens it

An emergency exit to get the heck out if something went wrong during a launch

One of many thick blast doors that sealed off the electronics room from the launch bay

On the way topside again

A photo with Mark, who really made our day by giving us such access to all this

This is what one of the vents looks like from topside. When you cranked the handcrank, the lid would lift up letting the exhaust flames etc out the hole.

Dad explaining the operation of what would have been the bay doors behind him

In the junkyard that now occupies the site, Dad saw a 1947 International truck , the same year, make, model and even color of  the first one he drove as a kid.

They really do have more snowmobiles than anything else,a testament to the winters here.

Another Casemate entryway

After leaving the old Nike site, it was a short hop over to the old Loring Air force base to check things out. After exploring the old hangar and a plane that had been stripped for parts, I couldn't help but try to make a speed run out on the old airstrip:

What it looks like in general up here, leaving the Nike site in Limestone about 100 feet from the Canada border

This is where I could've grown up

The old hangar next to the airstrip

We park under a wing of a derelict plane for some shade
The following is a video Bro shot with his phone of me pretending to go fast out on the airstrip. Sorry, we didn't have a way to edit it, and there's more than a few seconds of me waiting far away to see if his camera is on before making the run. Bike sounds good tho...and it was fun, wish I had tried to go a bit faster, but I didn't know the conditions of the strip and didn't want to take many chances. As it is, I hit an indicated 120mph before chickening out.

Click on the video above in order to play it.
After a quick stop back in Caribou for lunch, we headed the hour or so up rt161 to Fort Kent to check out the fort there, and stop by a new monument that was just erected to mark the very beginning of US1

arriving at Fort Kent
We met this really nice couple from Vermont, who used to live in Carrboro, who were traveling as avid birders to fill in some of their birding lists for calls and sightings. They took our photo here so we'd all be in the photo (as I didn't pack a tripod)

We clicked off 1,400 miles at this point
At the other end of Fort Kent, within sight of the border crossing, was the new US1 monument. As I was trying to line up a photo, our birding friends also showed up, and helped take another group photo of us all in front of the monument.
Here's where US1 begins, or for us, where it ended. The bridge barely visible behind crosses the St. John river into Canada
From Fort Kent, it was an easy 47 miles over to Madawaska and the four corners monument. You can probably guess that I sailed right by it, even though its this huge park with a drive-up monument in it next to a huge windpower turbine windmill. We took turns getting all of our photos done in front of it, doubting that we'd ever ride to all the other 4 corners in 21 days or less. This is about as far north and east as you can get in the lower 48:

As a surprise, Bro and I had arranged to have a permanent granite plaque installed at the site commemorating our trip. The only thing is, since we decided to arrive a day early, the date's wrong. But a hundred years from now, no one will care. Heck, we don't care now. It was more touching than I thought it would be, and quite nice to see it among so many others at the site. A good reason to return someday

We would have liked to have lingered, but it had been threatening rain for awhile, and after about half an hour at the site, it started to sprinkle, and the sky was very black west of us and moving in, so we suited up and headed back to Caribou by US1, which took us initially east and away from the approaching storm.
Back in Caribou, we had dinner at a recommended local favorite, Reno's, where we all ate too much, but really enjoyed our waitress who reminded us of my Mother's Mom in both her accent (sounded Italian, but was actually french) and mannerisms. She tickled Dad so much we made a photo of he and her together.

Our wonderful waitress at the Reno in Caribou

On the way back to the Inn, the blackflies were starting to come out, which meant it was time for us to go in. 
Doing my bit to flatten a bunch of black flies on my faceshield on the way home from Reno's, we decided it was time for us to go in, after doing some laundry that Kate graciously allowed us to do in her machines so we didn't have to go out to a laundrymat.

So, no really funny stories today, which means all went really well, as interesting stories only come from mishaps. But the weather was perfect, the roads were mostly perfect and moose free, the riding was great, food was better, and we all got back safe, sound, cheery and rested. All-in-all, a perfect day.

Having done all we came to do in Maine, tomorrow after another of what promises to be a great breakfast by Kate, we'll head back out to Madawaska, and over the border crossing to Quebec City.

Good Night all.

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