We capped off our week-long ride along the East Coast Greenway from the Canadian border in Calais to Portland with a victory lap around Portland’s Back Bay with an inspirational group from Maine Adaptive Sports.
These are people in wheelchairs, perhaps since they were born, who bike, ski, kayak and golf with the help of volunteers. I chatted with one who started skiing in 1999 and added the other three sports in 2009. He regularly does three loops around the three-mile route, cranking with his arms instead of his legs, on a customized 20-plus speed bike that is built like an upside-down version of an able-bodied person’s bike (except for the seat, which isn’t upside down, of course!) and just flies down the descents. He’s now a mentor to others who join the program.
I hope this is the first of many ways the Week-A-Tour reaches out to groups beyond the local trail advocates.
Watch this one brief TV clip about it.
Another highlight of the final day was a beautiful three-mile trail in the Lisbon area, at least part of which is known as the Papermill Trail. It went by schools and dropped us off in a residential area at the edge of Lisbon. Once again, we rode through woods and along the river — what a wonderful way to bike to school!
When the trail ended, we found ourselves on the shoulder of a road with fast-moving traffic and of course climbing a few hills. And I could see a rail line in spots along the river (flat!), with weeds that aren’t kept in check by freight trains. It turns out that stretch of many miles from Lisbon to Brunswick on the other side of the river is abandoned — and owned by the Maine Department of Transportation. The state, however, doesn’t want to convert it to a rail-trail because it sees its mission as preserving it for future rail service. Fortunately, it is open to a rail with trail, and I will thrilled to hear of progress there. And yes, the old railroad bridge is still up.
As we left Bruswick (home of Bowdoin College), we stumbled across a very popular farmers market. It’s in a field just outside town, with lots of cars pulling in and out and parked along the road — not the most family-friendly bike ride to reach it. It really could use a multi-use trail alongside the road.
But there are bike racks, and they were pretty full (not just with a good number of our group!). We fell into conversation with a family of four at the nearby picnic table. The mother lamented how difficult it is to find a place to take the kids biking (the youngest son is about to start first grade). Seems kind of odd since Brunswick is a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community, according to the League of American Bicyclists, but that says a lot about how families define bike-friendly (and how well or not the word gets out about area trails).
I encouraged her to drive out to Lisbon for those trails (such a shame you have to say drive to bike) — but of course also had to fill her in with what I knew about the saga of that abandoned rail line.
From the moment we got on the Lisbon trail until we crossed the river into Brunswick was 13.5 miles. Imagine if it was all trail — so there was an alternative to those 10 miles of road. OK, it might be a little shorter and more direct, but you could organize a half-marathon from Lisbon (the schools?) to the Brunswick waterfront or Main Street. Double back and you’ve got a marathon. The training routes runners would have!
Imagine the bike rides locals would do, with a stop for a snack at one end. And how families could get out and ride without worrying about cars speeding by with nothing but a line of paint to separate the two. There’s an Amtrak station in town — think cyclists coming up from Portland or beyond. What an impact that could have!