Tuesday, December 10, 2013
A look at the schedule of organized bike rides in and around Maine shows that the season is quickly winding down. Although you may be ready, willing and able to keep pedaling until the snow flies -- or even after it does -- event organizers tend to frown on soliciting riders when the cold-weather gear needs to be brought out.
ABOUT THESE ORGANIZATIONS
• Eastern Trail Alliance: The Eastern Trail stretches for 65 miles along the East Coast Greenway, which connects Calais to Key West, Fla. The Eastern Trail Alliance is made up of bikers, hikers, cross-country skiers, walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts who support and promote the section of trail that runs from Kittery to South Portland. Visit the website at http://easterntrail.org
• Loon Echo Land Trust: Formed in 1987, the trust protects natural resources in the northern Sebago Lake region, including 22 miles of multi-use trails and 4,000 acres of land in Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Naples, Harrison, Sebago and Raymond. Visit the website at http://www.loonechotrek.org
Fortunately, September brings two more opportunities to get in a great ride, take in some beautiful scenery and support a couple of local outdoor organizations.
LOON ECHO TREK
Publicized as "the toughest century in Maine," the Loon Echo Trek also features 25-mile and 50-mile routes that are a little less intense as far as the hilly terrain goes. The event is now in its 11th year and Carrie Walia, executive director of the Loon Echo Trust, said many riders are drawn to it for the challenge.
"Some people use it as a goal to work to throughout the year," she said. Though she hasn't ridden the century she's heard plenty of riders describe their experience as "you think you've hit the hardest hill -- but you haven't."
The route rises to an elevation of 1,600 feet as riders pass through Evans Notch, part of the White Mountain National Forest. "You climb and climb and climb and then come screaming down the mountain," Walia said.
The Loon Echo annually entices about 350 riders, with about half taking on the 100-mile route. Preregistration for all three distances continues through Sept. 8 at $80 per rider. Late-comers can also register on the day of the event, Saturday, Sept. 15, at an increased fee of $95. Century riders depart from Shawnee Peak at 8 a.m., followed by riders cycling the other distances.
"It's a cooler time of year, the colors are starting to turn, there are fewer cars on the road and it's a quiet, scenic route," Walia said. Plus, the ride benefits a worthy cause.
Funds generated from the Loon Echo Trek will help out the Loon Echo Land Trust, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The trust has exceeded 4,000 acres of protected lands and Walia said the goal is to double that over the next five years.
MAINE LIGHTHOUSE RIDE
What's more iconic for our state than lighthouses? And what better way to see them than on two wheels?
The Saturday, Sept. 8, ride sponsored by the Eastern Trail Alliance offers the chance to see nine Maine lighthouses on a century route, eight on 62- or 40-mile rides and seven on a 25-mile shortie.
According to some of the comments Carole Brush, executive director of the ETA, has received, riders sign up for the ride for the great scenery, the views of the water, the route variety and the chili. "There's hot food at the end," Brush said.
All rides begin at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland and head out toward Bug Light Park. More lighthouses are visible at toward the end of the ride than at the beginning. The courses were designed that way for rider safety and "something to look forward to at the end," Brush said.
The 100-mile route takes cyclists all the way down to Ocean Avenue in Kennebunkport and shows off Ram Island Ledge Light, Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth Light/Two Lights (east and west), Wood Island Light, Goat Island Light, Spring Point Light and Halfway Rock Light. Organizers suggest setting aside seven to 10 hours, which should allow riders to take advantage of the views and the five rest stops along the way.
The 62-mile metric century turns around at Camp Ellis and should take six to seven hours, while the 40-mile ride includes a 3-mile section of the Eastern Trail across Scarborough Marsh and should take about four to five hours. The 25-mile ride sticks to South Portland and Cape Elizabeth.
The Maine Lighthouse Ride, now in its ninth year, begins at 7:30 a.m. (100-mile route). Fees are $40 for ETA members and $50 for nonmembers before Sept. 1; $50 and $60 on the day of the event.
The ride was created by ETA Vice President Bob Bowker. Seven-hundred riders participated last year. According to Brush, the funds raised will benefit "the growth of the Eastern Trail and the continued development of its off-road sections."
Karen Beaudoin can be contacted at 791-6296 or at: