By SUE MELLO, Staff Reporter
Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 – 6:30pm
Long-distance bicycling trips are gaining in popularity as a fun and healthy way to travel. Simply search online for bike trips and you will find cycling options through Africa, Europe, Australia, Napa Valley and a host of other scenic locations.
Last year, the Bicycling Coalition of Maine offered its first 7-day Maine bike tour. This year, BikeMaine’s theme is pedaling scenic waterways; and, not surprisingly to locals, BikeMaine has featured Boothbay Harbor in its travel plans.
On its website, the BikeMaine trip is defined as a “a mass bicycle ride that explores the people, places, culture and food of Maine.” Last year’s inaugural ride was pedaled by 251 cyclists.
From September 6 through September 13, up to 350 BikeMaine’s bicyclists will join in a seven day ride with stops in Westbrook, Norway, Winthrop, Gardiner, Boothbay Harbor and Bath.
Along the way, cyclists will experience some of Maine’s most beautiful lakes, rivers, estuaries and seashores, its small towns and “big cities,” and enjoy some of the state’s most mouthwatering food. Cyclists who long for more than the 350 mile route will also have opportunities for side treks.
Boothbay Harbor Town Manager Tom Woodin said he was thrilled when Boothbay Harbor was chosen for this year’s trip. “This dovetails nicely with our walkability study and our work to improve opportunities for bicycling, walking and other outdoor activities,” Woodin said. He said the trip presents a great opportunity to showcase the region’s many treasures and should be a boon to the local economy.
Woodin said he first became aware of BikeMaine’s interest in Boothbay Harbor last August and met with the group, other community organizations and town government officials last November to discuss the possibility. The first hurdle that had to be cleared was locating a two-acre site where bicyclists could set up camp. Woodin said they looked at the few public sites available in the area and determined the school football field would be the most functional.
“Its proximity to town, the YMCA and the public restrooms all worked in its favor,” Woodin said, “Luckily, the school trustees and Eileen King were amenable to allowing the tent site or we wouldn’t be able to host this.”
“There was a sense that this is a great opportunity to showcase our communities on the Boothbay region peninsula,” King said, “Actually, both boards (school committee and trustees) were very excited about this opportunity.”
Support vehicles from BikeMaine will cater to the bicyclists’ personal needs and King said she does not expect that their presence for two days will disrupt school, other than the need to find another spot for football practice.
“Dan Welch, Allan Crocker and Coach Bryan Dionne were all supportive of this opportunity and we will make the necessary changes to address the athletic needs,” King said. “BikeMaine also offers a variety of educational programs that we hope to benefit from.”
Anyone who has participated in any athletic activity knows that the good times get better when the work is over and it’s time to replenish the body. BikeMaine’s cyclists are going to be hungry, and they have come to the right place to be fed well. Early September is a prime time to enjoy Maine’s fresh harvest of fruits and vegetables, as well as its mouth-watering seafood, and locally prepared cuisine and micro-brews.
Cyclists will arrive in Boothbay Harbor on Wednesday, an arrival time that fits in perfectly with Thursday’s farmer’s market on Boothbay Common. Patty Hamilton, owner of Barred Owl Caterers and kitchen director for the Common Ground Fair, is the BikeMaine food director. With Hamiliton at the helm, one can be assured that food will be local and fresh. Hamilton will be working with School Food Director Darlene French, a leader in school nutrition, in serving the Harbor’s guests.
Woodin, who will serve as the town coordinator for the event, said there will be many opportunities for local citizens, merchants and organizations to become involved. He will meet with BikeMaine on February 27 and the local planning process will kick off in earnest in March.
“This is a great opportunity and I can’t express how proud we are to be part of this,” Woodin said. “The only thing I hate is there’s so much time. I want to get going on this now.”
Anyone interested in finding out more about the BikeMaine trip and how to get involved with local planning and support can contact Woodin at 207-633-3671.