Tomorrow I’ll board one of several busses in Belfast and make the bumpy journey to Bethel, my trusty pink-accented black bike safely tucked into one of the many vans also making the trip. The following morning — Friday — I’ll eat some eggs, pump a little air into my tires, and meet the other riders (nearly two thousand in years past) at the starting line at Sunday River.
Despite the hordes of colorfully-shirted cyclists, I’ll see loads of familiar faces, such as my friends I ride with on Saturday mornings, my daughter’s guidance counselor from Camden Hills Regional High School, and doctors and nurses from Pen Bay Medical Center. I’ll glimpse people I don’t really know but will recognize from years past, such as the always ebullient Ed Miller, Executive Director of the ALA in Maine. He’ll give the assembled riders a little pep talk, and then begin releasing us in groups of thirty or so. We’ll snap on our helmets and climb on our bikes, and then we’ll be off, winding our way along the Androscoggin River, through Rumford, Weld, and Wilton, headed toward our first night at the University of Maine Farmington.
Assuming I arrive in one piece that first day, I’ll be doing a talk at 4 pm in downtown Farmington at Booksellers Devaney, Doak, and Garrett. I’ll discuss my latest Darby Farr Mystery, DEADLY OFFER, and the cycling-writing connection that helped me write that book. In the spirit of the Trek, the store’s owner, Kenny Brechner, will graciously donate proceeds from any sales to the ALA. I hope that I have a good turnout!
This is actually the fifth year that my husband Ed and I have signed up to ride. Last year, we did an amazing cycling trip across Italy, and although we returned to Maine in probably the best biking shape of our lives (they don’t call them “hill towns” for nothing!) we just had too much going on to give the four days the Trek requires. This year, we’ve done our fundrasing, logged lots of miles, and are looking forward to the ride. Okay, so we won’t be stopping for cafe macciato or gelato in Gubbio, Orvieto, or Assisi, but we’ll be pedaling through the beautiful countryside of Maine, and believe me, that’s pretty special.
Day 2 of the Trek loops through New Vineyard, North Anson, and Norridgewalk, ending at Colby College in Waterville. In years past, Ed and I have pitched our tent on the grass in front of one of the college’s pretty buildings, but this year we are going deluxe and staying in dorms. I’ve been joking with Ed that since we weren’t college coeds together, that this is our big chance to whoop it up. (“Whooping it up” will most likely mean taking Advil and falling asleep in twin beds.)
The third day of the Trek takes us by China Lake, past Hussey’s General Store in Windsor, and then a long haul on Route 3, east into Belfast. There’s a celebratory cookout, scores of cheering volunteers with noisemakers, and the beautiful view of Penobscot Bay from Steamboat Landing, but it’s also Father’s Day, so we don’t normally linger too long.
So there you have it: roughly sixty miles each day, one-hundred and eighty miles in all, and thousands of dollars raised for healthy lungs and clean air. The ride is incredibly organized and manned by a fantastic team of volunteers.
But what are the Trek Across Maine facts that no one ever talks about? Here’ my secret list.
1. They serve fluffernutters at the rest stops. Yes, along with the energy bars, sliced apples, granola and Goldfish are my favorite childhood sandwiches, and the reason I usually go home weighing three pounds more than when I started riding.
2. Even with sore muscles, dancing feels good. There are loads of opportunities to kick up one’s bike shoes during the Trek — at the rest stops (when you’re not eating a fluffernutter) at the bar in Farmington, on the common at Colby — and oddly enough, it feels great.
3. Everyone turns their bike shorts inside out. The first time I saw the airing-out technique of placing inverted lycra shorts on the top of a tent, I was disgusted, but see a few dozen gel pads, and pretty soon you’re doing it too. After all, who has time to handwash their shorts when there’s dancing to be done?
4. It’s less fun when it rains.Remember June of 2009, when it poured non-stop here in Maine for twenty-plus days? Three of those were Trek days, and the first day in particular was nasty. Temperatures in the forties, buckets of rain pelting us as we pedaled, knee-high mud encircling both the fluffernutters and the port-a-potties — ugh. Although scores of riders bailed, Ed, myself, my brother, and other hardy (or crazy?) souls persevered. I won’t lie — it wasn’t a spin in the park. It was cold, wet, and miserable, which is why I’m overjoyed that this year’s forecast is sunny.
5. It’s not that hard to raise the money. After the registration fee of $55, each participant must obtain at least $500 in donations. It seems daunting (although compared to similar rides in other states, it’s a bargain) but once you ask a few people and cough up some funds yourself, you see that the fundraising isn’t going to be too arduous. After all, it’s a terrific cause — one that makes you breathe easy, even when you’re headed up a hill.
Want to donate to this year’s Trek? You can give online to my personal fundraising page. Thank you!