P2P part 2: Boston to Portland, Maine on the East Coast Greenway

Three days, about 170 miles on the East Coast Greenway. Plus another 40 miles around Portland.

Live by the Garmin, die by the Garmin.

We certainly needed the help of our electronic gadget to find a few trails that are part of the East Coast Greenway on the second half of our P2P (Providence to Portland) adventure.

I’m especially thinking of one with an unmarked, overgrown entrance on curve of a neighborhood street and another spot where it helped navigate us from Somerville’s Assembly Point neighborhood to the start of the Bike Trail to the Sea in Everett (though we still struggled with the MBTA parking lot and roads surrounding it — how about signage for the benefit of area residents, never mind strangers like us, Everett?)

But we also opted to follow the Garmin’s directions over East Coast Greenway signs, and that led us to this “road” in North Berwick, Maine:

Oh, there’s more — the adventures of touring!

Continue reading “P2P part 2: Boston to Portland, Maine on the East Coast Greenway”

Day 7 — 64 miles from Auburn to Portland

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. And we saw where a 10-mile trail could go between Lisbon and Brunswick.

ecg maine victory lapWe 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.

ecg maine lisbon trail

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!

ecg maine papermill trail

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.

ecg maine brunswick farmers market

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!

One week to go!

Here’s our itinerary for the Maine ride along the East Coast Greenway.

East-Coast-Greenway-logoNext Saturday afternoon we’ll be on a bus from Portland to Calais (pronounced cal-iss) and the start of our 337-mile ride along the East Coast Greenway. Calais seems to be not quite the most eastern point in the U.S. But it does have a border crossing — passport and Canadian dollars are packed. Dinner? Ice cream? Definitely a passport stamp!

We’ve gotten the cue sheets and here’s how it’s shaping up:

Sunday: Calais to Machias. We’re taking the road option — the Down East Trail looks rocky and we’d rather have our road bikes for the hills that come later. 46 miles.

Monday: Machias to Ellsworth. Once again, road over that rocky trail. Thankfully we have the option. This is our long day — 68 miles. I think we stopped in Ellsworth on our first trip to Maine 11 years ago (destination Acadia National Park) — there’s an L.L. Bean outlet in town. Looks like our hotel is a parking lot away.

Tuesday: Ellsworth to Bangor. This is apparently where the hills start. At least it’s just a 42-mile day.

Wednesday: Bangor to Unity. More hills? But just 38 miles. We’re spending the night in a college dorm. We did the same thing at the start of the charity ride I did for Anchor House three years ago (then it was Burlington, Vermont) — here’s the blog about that year.

Thursday: Unity to Augusta. A 43-mile day, and our hotel at the end has the word “spa” in it. Better pack a swimsuit.

Friday: Augusta to Lewiston/Auburn. The day includes an event with the Maine Department of Transportation just 2 miles from the start, at a trailhead for the Kennebec River Trail. It’s always great to meet local and state officials and help make the case for the East Coast Greenway. And to say thanks too, of course. It looks like we’ll ride most, if not all, of this 6.5-mile trail. I wonder if there are plans to extend it? We end the 44.5-mile day with a much shorter Riverside Greenway.

Saturday: Lewiston/Auburn to Portland. We’re ending the ride with another long day — 56.6 miles, with the option of another 3.5 miles for a victory lap with Maine Adaptive Sports. If people with physical disabilities are coming  to ride with us, heck yes we can do another 3.5 miles!

THANK YOU once again to all who have supported the East Coast Greenway through this ride. If you’d like to donate, you can do it online here. If you prefer to support Clive, go here.

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