Saturday, July 23, 2016

Back Cove and Eastern Promenade Trails in Portland, Maine

Back Cove exercise area.
Along with our vacation in Acadia we also explored coastal Portland, primarily to pedal the Back Cove Trail and Eastern Promenade Trail. Because we were also in the vicinity, we cruised around University of Southern Maine for a quick introduction to a small city college campus for our oldest son. We also stumbled upon a bike shop that could repair his broken derailleur on the spot (a used replacement derailleur was a welcome option), so we headed out again as a foursome, our eldest - a happy-go-lucky kid in general - pleased to have a full range of gears.

The Back Cove Trail is a flat 3.5 mile urban loop, linking neighborhoods, circling a saltwater bay. It is well used, if the packed gravel is any indication. I spied a couple lobster pot buoys and several ducks. One area has an exercise circuit and fields. I was heartened to see trikes in action, a program offering rides to the elderly, handicapped, and other folks wishing to get out on two wheels.

Oldest son loves pedaling no-handed, comfortably riding along the Eastern Promenade Trail.
Swooping beneath a bridge and connecting with the Eastern Promenade Trail, I was immediately struck by the view of Casco Bay, complete with a public beach, playgrounds, a jetty, sail boats, and working water craft: barges and cranes, with a stunning island fortress, presumably left over from WWII.

I like the breezy manner of this local cyclist.
However, we first pedaled beside a sewage plant, somewhat reminiscent of our own city's waterfront trail. How long can you hold your breath? Interestingly, a group of parents and toddlers were painting a cement wall with graffiti - perhaps some kind of acceptable public art?

Narrow gauge train tracks border the trail - we'd ridden this train many years ago when our children were young - and indeed several cars passed by.

We contemplate the menu at a taco truck,
The Eastern Promenade Trail ends along the busy fishing and touristy downtown dock area. The bike route continues on-road and eventually hooks up with other trails south of Portland. We ended our journey downtown, ate lunch and returned back the way we'd come to retrieve our car. Total miles:10.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Girls Ride Out, July 2016

Another rollicking roll around the city, courtesy of Christine Hill and Local Motion. Again, Christine hauled a trailer full of speakers, belting loud tunes. We rang bells, whooped, and laughed. It's what we women do best.

I shot a lot of photos, aiming the camera backwards over my head as we moved slowly, or halted at stop signs.

 Some women are decked in festive attire.

The average age is about 25, a crowd I'm not wholly comfortable with, yet these women are all friendly.

We are certainly a spectacle, especially when stopping at a market parking lot for a flash mob dance.

Fearless leader, Christine (left) with orange flags marking her trailer.

My favorite part of the evening was spent at Zero Gravity on their outdoor terrace. Beer and conversation was wonderful. It allowed us time to get to know one another. I connected with Julie, a woman my age, who enjoyed her first ride with the group. Julie and I pedaled home together, scrambling to get home before dark..

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Acadia National Park - Riding More Carriage Roads

Wild daisies are abundant in June, good companions on a solo ride up Day Mountain.
I didn't get enough of riding Acadia National Park's carriage roads last year, so we returned in June, spending 3 nights tenting at rustic Blackwoods Campground, located within the park.

A short family ride to explore Cobble Beach, I loved the challenge to balance these interesting Cadillac granite spheres, whereas our children discovered that if you tossed them they ricocheted as if in a giant pinball game.
Our teenagers are typical Wifi lovers so our compromise for being unplugged for a few days would be later balanced with hotels and "civilized" camping as we traveled further south in Maine. And as such, the expectation was that the entire family would spend part of every day together, with ample teenage downtime to sleep in or veg-out, playing games on their phone. This also allowed my husband and I a less stressful family vacation. We felt comfortable leaving our children alone in the campground for a couple hours so we were free to further explore on our own.

Our teens surprised us on the first day: while we set up the tent our boys rode roller coaster style, exploring both campground loops. Eventually my husband and I joined them and exited the campground via a short wooded trail onto the paved park loop, then we all pedaled along the coast. We discovered unique Cobble Beach, a playground of granite spheres.

Another afternoon, I set out by myself onto the carriage roads, planning to ride until I felt tired. I circled up Day Mountain for lovely views of the Cranberry Isles...

...then descended, forming a loop back to where I started.

Flying with a tailwind beside Bubble Pond.
Acadia National Park has a network of 34 miles of nicely graded carriage roads. Pick a loop and stay totally on car-free roads - a great option for families - or utilize the main park road for additional alternatives. I had unfortunately left a wonderful Acadia map at home, so I was navigating by the basic map given out at the park entrance - totally doable as a reference because signage at every road junction is superb.

Another Bubble Pond view.
I added an additional loop around Bubble Pond then connected with the main park road to start heading back to meet up with my family. However, because of one way roads, I couldn't retrace my route and had to descend nearly 2 miles to ocean level before steeply climbing back to the campground.

Great signage; it would be difficult to get lost in the park.

A beautiful stone bridge, one of 16 built between 1917-1932 in Acadia N.P.
The following afternoon my husband and I started our loop from Jordan House parking lot, preferring to stay on carriage roads rather than repeating the hills I'd pedaled the day before. It was a wise choice. We had a general route picked out, heading along Jordan Pond then following the Around-The Mountain loop, but we didn't obsess about mileage or elevation. We often prefer to head out and let the miles unfold, and just enjoy the scenery.

I leaned over the edge to inspect repairs on the incredible stonework that supports the carriage roads
After we left the busy path around Jordan Pond, the loop climbed, and climbed a fairly easy, but relentless grade. We spun in granny gears for a long time. However, the carriage roads are wonderfully designed to capture panoramic views. If sweeping vistas are not in sight, then wildflowers edge the road, or you cross a bridge, or pedal beside a pond. I was giddy at one point because comparing our elevation, with Cadillac Mountain  (Acadia's high point) across the valley, it appeared we had climbed 2/3 of it's height!

There's never a dull moment on Acadia's paths.
And so, what goes up, must come down, and we glided, enjoying southern ocean views before ascending into a deep valley. Tired, but satisfied, we eventually connected back to our starting point. The full parking lot was starting to empty and we headed back to the campground.

There's a lot to do and see in Acadia, between hikes, boat tours, beach combing, viewing wildlife, island hopping, or exploring coastal villages - all of which we experienced on this trip - but the carriage roads are what set this national park apart from all the others.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Ultimate Bike Commute - Lake Champlain Waterfront Path

I've had the pleasure to stay at our family's camp this week, which means I have the best bike commute ever - 7 mostly flat miles with sweeping views of Lake Champlain!