Vicki Doudera here, spending today pedaling my way through the first day of my sixth (yeah – that’s right – sixth!) Trek Across Maine, the annual 180-mile cycling event to benefit the American Lung Association. This year is a big anniversary, marking thirty years of the Trek, and there are lots of special events planned, including a show with comedian Bob Marley tonight at Farmington, and fireworks at Colby College on Saturday night.
Yesterday I boarded one of several busses in Belfast and made the bumpy journey to Bethel, my trusty pink-accented black bike safely tucked into one of the many vans also making the trip. My husband and I, along with our daughter, Lexi, who’s riding for the first time, checked into our room and then met some friends for a few beers. (Below is a shot of us on a training ride back in Camden.)
This morning, we ate a little breakfast, pumped some air in our tires, and rode over to the start line, joining more than two thousand cyclists. We snapped on our helmets and took off, and now we’re winding our way along the Androscoggin River, through Rumford, Weld, and Wilton, headed toward our first night at the University of Maine Farmington.
Despite the hordes of colorfully-shirted cyclists, we always see loads of familiar faces, such as friends we ride with on Saturday mornings; my daughter’s guidance counselor from Camden Hills Regional High School; our minister Kevin Pleas from the First Congregational in Camden; Jory Squibb, my birthday-sharing neighbor from my last post; Maria Libby, another neighbor and the assistant superintendent for our schools; and doctors and nurses from Pen Bay Medical Center. , We glimpse people we recognize from years past, such as the always ebullient Ed Miller, past Executive Director of the ALA in Maine. He still likes to give the assembled riders a little pep talk before releasing us in groups of thirty or so.
- Robyn Chace and my brother, Will.
Day 2 of the Trek – Saturday — 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 for a few years now we’ve gone deluxe and stayed in dorms. I joke 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.) Lexi’s in a dorm, too, although we won’t know where or with whom until we arrive.
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. Last year the route changed a bit because of highway work, and we all detoured off the main drag into Searsmont. Although there are several very big hills in that bucolic town, the ride is prettier and quieter, so Trek organizers incorporated the detour again this year.
Once we get to Belfast, there are throngs of people lining the streets, holding signs and ringing cowbells. There’s a celebratory cookout, scores of cheering volunteers with noisemakers, and the beautiful view of Penobscot Bay from Steamboat Landing. It’s also Father’s Day, so we don’t normally linger too long, but it’s awfully nice to grab a burger and celebrate the completion of another successful Trek.
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 from start to finish.
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 on the sunny side.
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.
Check out my personal fundraising page you want to learn more. Next week I can start taking donations for 2015, because – God willing — I will be doing it again!