We decided to take a long bike ride on the East Coast Greenway — from Providence, Rhode Island, to Portland, Maine. So P2P. Only you can’t leave a car overnight on the streets of Providence and we could leave it in a friend’s garage just outside Boston. Small change of plans. Part 1 of our trip would be a two-day ride south to Providence. Then we’d take the commuter train back to Boston, see our friends again and then head north to Portland.
We met three of our fellow riders from the annual Week-a-Year riders at North station and headed out. It was a gorgeous day and lots of other people were out on the Charles River Esplanade or out on the water. The path itself is decades old and not as wide as you’d build it today, so not a place for fast riding. And those who prefer a more direct route may be annoyed at following the curves in the Charles River and the zigs and zags of the Blue Heron Trail.
One of the day’s highlights: seeing a section of the Mass Central Rail Trail under construction. This is what was once a 104-mile railroad line that ran from Northampton to Boston; 47 miles are open as a trail. Getting more miles open will be a big step toward completing the East Coast Greenway in Massachusetts and giving cyclists an alternative to some busy roads, both for recreation and for transportation.
Refueled with dumplings and, later, lemonade from some entrepreneurial fourth-graders, we reached the Assabet River Rail Trail. And when there is a crosswalk leading to an ice cream spot, well, how do you not follow it?
This is two scoops at the appropriately named Reason to be Cheerful just outside Hudson.
And if that wasn’t enough ice cream, there is a microcreamery in the cute downtown of Hudson. We didn’t stop there, so someone else can decide which is the better choice.
Good thing we did take a break, though, because we soon moved on to quiet roads and hills. And hills. They didn’t stop until we got to our hotel in Worcester. A 58-mile day. (Train service back to Boston for those who want it.) Think I earned the mountain the bbq nachos (yes, so large a portion that the waitress asked if I was sure I wanted the full portion and not the half portion like the guy at a nearby table. Not like I didn’t have two people to help me. And then there’s always leftovers for breakfast.)
Day 2 took the three of us who remained through the Blackstone River Heritage Corridor. The vision is a 48-mile trail from downtown Worcester to India Point Park at the southern end of Providence (and the start of another trail). So far just 17 miles have been built, mostly in Rhode Island, and we rode most of them. Massachusetts, this is another project that would go a long way toward completing your part of the East Coast Greenway. And based on how busy it was in Rhode Island, it would be a popular project.
Is this a new section of the East Coast Greenway at the southern end of Worcester or just a spur of the Blackstone River Trail?
And check out this mural on the side of Walmart in Worcester:
We picked up the trail in earnest in Millville, where we also met up with Jack, a former WAY rider, and his friend Ethan. It was all flat from here, across the state line into Rhode Island and through Woonsocket, Central Falls and Pawtucket into Providence. Most impressively, whenever there were gaps in the trail, the on-road segments were well-signed. Note the distance in this one to both Calais, Maine, and Key West — all that’s missing is an East Coast Greenway sticker!
Speaking of signage, that’s another task for Massachusetts, where we saw only a handful of East Coast Greenway signs. The organization is working on this, but local communities should think about mileage and directional signage for their own residents.
Love this one:
Leave it to Jack to find a sweet ending to our 55-mile day.
The next day, we started our ride from Boston to Portland.
Want to keep riding south instead? The amazing Washington Secondary Trail will get you almost to the Connecticut state line — here’s how we did it.