Cycling is one of my favorite activities and my primary source of aerobic exercise. The older I get the more I enjoy it. A runner for almost forty years, I was compelled to quit after a knee replacement. The knee guy said that if I kept running, I’d soon be back for another one. A certified sissy, I’m not suffering that very painful rehab procedure again if I can avoid it.
Harvard Medical School reports what I’ve long believed. Cycling is a great exercise and a wonderful form of recreation for almost everyone, especially us old people. An outstanding aerobic workout, it’s much easier on the joints than walking and running. Those clever folks at Harvard say that cycling is excellent for your heart, brain, blood vessels, muscles, balance and bone density. Just finished a bike ride and I’m already feeling smarter and tougher. Unbalanced since birth, doubt there’s any cure for that. If you’re a fellow geriatric, grab a bike and let’s get out on the trails.
I ride a lot. The actual mileage that I log in is confidential as I don’t want to be accused of being obsessive compulsive, a rumor without merit. Safety is my biggest cycling concern. There are simply too many people driving around sexting, texting and nipping. My preference is to get away from traffic and ride bike trails whenever possible.
The State of Maine promotes itself as a cycling friendly state. Unfortunately, that’s not really true, at least comparatively speaking. Many states, perhaps most, have a superior network of bike trails. Traveling to Utah and back this summer, I rode 33 different trails, most just off major highways. In Florida, they have scores of paved bike trails filled with gray haired people that are spread all over the state. Here in Maine, we only have a handful of true bike trails that allow for a decent ride. A ten mile round-trip is the minimum acceptable distance for me. Most of our scenic country roads lack a safe shoulder for bike travel. However, things are improving.
One of my preferred trail rides is the Eastern Trail in southern Maine; the Scarborough to Saco section in particular. My wife Nancy recently joined me for a ride. She’s younger than I so you’ll have to consult with her on whether or not she qualifies as a senior.
Leaving the Black Point Road Trailhead, we rode southerly on the hard-packed dirt and gravel trail for about a mile where a toilet is strategically located. This is just far enough away from the parking area to avoid most of the trashing these necessary amenities receive when the people sexting, texting and nipping can easily drive to them. The toilet is remarkably clean, testament to the fine work the Eastern Trail Alliance does maintaining the trail and its facilities.
A short distance further, riders reach the very scenic Scarborough Marsh. This is such a captivating area that it’s almost impossible to avoid stopping to absorb the wonderful views. I’ve never ridden the trail when kayakers and canoeists weren’t simultaneously exploring the tidal waters. As usual, we exchanged the knowing waves of people mutually enjoying a special place.
After the marsh, we entered a shaded exceptionally peaceful section of trail that continues for about five miles to Saco. Crossing the Old Orchard town line, I began thinking about the fresh cut fries sold at the beachfront take outs. Just a short detour down the Cascade Road would take me to French fry heaven. In the past, I had avoided the urge to indulge and again perpetuated my resolve despite the seemingly magnetic attraction. One of these days, I’m going to weaken. When I do, think I’ll buy the super-sized bucket and then ride three or four out-and-back trips to burn off the calories.
The late John Andrews was founder of the Eastern Trail and he has been primarily responsible for the exceptional progress the trail has experienced. I had the distinct pleasure of becoming acquainted with John when we were both involved with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Dedication and persistence were hallmarks of his approach to life. An exceptionally rugged trail bridge over Route One about a mile north of Saco is appropriately named for John.
My bike odometer read 6.9 miles when we arrived at Route 196 in Saco. Deciding to avoid several street crossings in the remaining mile, we returned to Black Point Road for a near 14 mile ride.
Three and a half words about changing flat tires – don’t do it. Changing tires is a dirty, messy business and something almost always goes wrong. I’d rather clean the toilet than change a bike tire. To be clear, I’m talking about my home toilet not the typical trailhead privy. When I have a flat tire, I invoke Ron’s Over 65 Rule: “Only people under 66 should change flat tires.” I go to extreme measures to avoid this noxious chore. I’ll ride on the rim or walk the bike for miles instead. Once back to my vehicle, I head to the nearest bike shop. This rule is also good for the economy as it helps small businesses thrive.
To reach the Black Point Road Trailhead in Scarborough, you not surprisingly take the Black Point Road (Route 207) east from Route One for .4 of a mile to a right turn just opposite the Eastern Road. Parking is .3 mile from there. I recommend using a trail or hybrid bike for the ride. Some people use road bikes but the dreaded flats are much more likely. In future blogs, I’ll share riding experiences on more of my favorite bike trails around the state and beyond.
If you happen to be in the Damariscotta area on August 24th, consider joining me at the Skidompha Library on Main Street for a talk about my book, The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery. Beginning at 10 AM, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about one of Maine’s most colorful and controversial figures Vietnam War hero and bank robber Bernard Patterson and the interesting experiences I had researching the book. http://www.skidompha.org/events/