My awesome bike summer — make that my awesome bike year

This essay for Rails to Trails is my thanks to my neighborhood — especially the kids — for the highlight of my COVID year. May it bring a few smiles or, better yet, inspire you in some way.

Zeba, I hope you one day bike all of the East Coast Greenway and you’ll let me ride with you part of the way.

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This bike ride hits just about every beach in Cape Elizabeth, Maine

You know how you swipe someone’s ride off Ride With GPS or similar and it’s … not what you hoped it would be? Not this one!

We picked it because it went past a friend’s house and the mileage — about 34 miles — was right. One word: fabulous. A lot of quiet roads, roads that dead-end at beaches, roads with generally respectful drivers (and when they came a bit too close, odds were the cars had out-of-state plates).

Did we miss any beach?

The rocky coast of Maine is just gorgeous — and if you can’t see it from a boat, a bike has to be the next-best thing!

We actually biked beyond Cape Elizabeth and we hit a few beaches at low tide — and it gets really low, low enough to walk across the mouth of the Nonesuch River from Ferry Beach to Pine Point Beach, all part of Scarborough.

We also spotted people harvesting rosehips outside the fancy Black Point Inn so they could make jelly (or is it jam?). After that I saw rosehips everywhere (public and private property). Would it taste good? Do you need to pair it with something sweet?

Or could you use it in another Maine passion: soft-serve ice cream? We passed several places on this ride. Next time maybe we should do a tasting?

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A lavender farm in New Jersey? You can bike to 2 near Princeton

The lavender plant at my house spills over almost the entire width of the front walkway — a challenge for those put off by the many bees foraging for nectar. But how do I prune it? And what clever things can I do with the stems?

That’s made me curious about a lavender farm between Princeton and Hopewell with 15 varieties. Easy enough to bike there, I thought. Much of it is already the route we take when we want to punish ourselves with hill climbs in the Sourlands. And much closer than the lavender fields in Provence.

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We tested out the East Coast Greenway’s new route through Jersey City and Bayonne to Rahway, New Jersey — here’s what we found

The tip of Manhattan, seen from Jersey City.

Now that the new Goethals Bridge connecting Staten Island and New Jersey is finished — and it has a bike lane — the East Coast Greenway has revised its route from Jersey City to Rahway. So of course I had to check it out.

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This fabulous new bike trail in Burlington County is finally officially open

I’ve raved about the new trail from Crystal Lake Park to Roebling before — while it was under construction, while the railroad crossing was being finished … it even made my list of 5 great Central Jersey trails before it was formally finished.

So what more can I add? Beyond go. And offer up more photos to help tempt you.

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This has got to be the oddest bald eagle’s nest — and what a back story!

See that platform on the new electric power line? It’s actually a box … and in it is an eagle’s nest. Moved by humans from its old spot on a nearby power line off to the left.

It’s a crazy story. PSE&G is replacing its old lattice-style towers with taller monopoles all over New Jersey. But bald eagles had been nesting on this one tower on Three Bridges Road in Hillsborough above the South Branch of the Raritan River and having babies every year since 2014. You can’t evict them! They have special rights, even if they are no longer on the endangered species list.

And eagles’ nests are big — many feet across. How could it safely balance on one of these poles?

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My final section of the East Coast Greenway: Stamford to New York City

I’ve done it! I’ve biked the entire 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway!

My final day began with drizzle in Stamford, Connecticut, and ended on the steps of the old Post Office across from Penn Station. Those last 40-plus miles encapsulated all that the Greenway is: wonderful trails (the Hudson River Greenway), comfortable residential roads .. and some crazy stuff.

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Hugging the Connecticut shoreline while biking from New Haven to Stamford

What a gloriously sunny day! I loved this first part of the East Coast Greenway, with the Long Island Sound never from from view. You don’t want to know how many times we stopped for photos (and food) between New Haven and Milford.

And then there were the elegant mansions in ritzy Fairfield and Westport neighborhoods that put those along the Greenway route in Ponte Vedra Beach to shame.

But the route wasn’t all simple.

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Biking from Hartford to New Haven, Connecticut, on the East Coast Greenway

This 59-mile ride from Hartford to New Haven let me once again enjoy those fabulous five-star Farmington trails, some parts of which weren’t even under construction when we discovered them five years ago.

But first we had to get over the hill. Or rather, Talcott Mountain.

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The East Coast Greenway between Hartford and Bolton, Conn.

This section of the East Coast Greenway has changed considerably since the Week-A-Year ride came through in 2012 and even when we visited the area four years later. Two trails ā€” the Hop River Trail and Charter Oak Greenway ā€” are now linked with both fresh asphalt and new bridges, attracting more users than ever. I know groups that would be envious of the sign on that red bridge!

Iā€™m on a quest to bike the entire 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway, and this section marked the start of my final piece. To do it, we biked 18 miles from Hartford to Bolton Notch State Park (the end point of a 2016 ride on the crushed-stone Hop River Trail) and then 18 miles back.

If you have a choice, east to west is easier.

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