Hugging the coast: Weeks 7-8, Rhode Island to Maine

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Celebrating the finish in Calais, Maine, by the St. Croix River, with Canada on the opposite bank

Lisa Watts, communications manager for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, took the months of May and June 2018 to ride the Greenway, south to north, with her friend Deirdre Bird. Lisa sends this final report on the last two weeks of her trip, from Providence out the length of Cape Cod on thr Greenway’s complementary route, then on from Boston through Massachusetts’s North Shore, New Hampshire, and Maine. 

We lucked out incredibly with stunning weather for most of our last two weeks of riding. We left Providence on a Sunday morning, Fathers Day, that felt more like a sunny, crisp October morning. We rode a brand-new access path connecting Blackstone Boulevard to India Point Park And the beautiful East Bay Bike Path — great improvement. The East Bay Bike Path, with its views of Narragansett Bay and marshes, is always a favorite, even when you have to navigate fellow weekend Runners and cyclists. 

We turned off the bike path at Warren to head east for Fall River and Westport, MA.  

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A handful of friends rode along with us from Providence. We stopped for a snack break at a waterfront park near the battleship in Fall River, MA.

The roads through coastal southeastern Massachusetts were pretty and quiet, offering occasional views of rivers and inlets. After an overnight in South Dartmouth, we rode through New Bedford, then picked up a greenway segment in Fairhaven. The path along the Cape Cod Canal is also a beautiful greenway stretch, if you’re not bridge-phobic and worried about crossing the Sagamore Bridge — like some of us. It helps, at least for me, that you are told to walk your bikes across the raised side path. 

We stretched our time on the Cape to three days to visit friends, including East Coast Greenway Alliance board chair Bob Spiegelman and his wife, Truda Bloom, at their summer home in Eastham.  Bob rode out to meet us at the start of the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis. He led us to Eat Cake 4 Breakfast, a very dangerous bakery right on the trail in Brewster, as well as to Savory/Sweet Escape in Truro our last morning, as we made our way to the ferry in Provincetown that took us to Boston.

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Bob Spiegelman and Lisa Watts share a laugh on the Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis, MA.

Biking in and around Boston was a great pleasure, and not just because it was where I ran and biked in my twenties. The Charles River Bike Path is as beautiful as ever, and still well used by runners, walkers, and cyclists. Brand-new greenway connections brought us from the Charles River to Charlestown, and then through Medford and Malden to the Northern Strand Community Trail taking us to Lynn. More segments of greenways continue up through Boston's North Shore to the New Hampshire border, always a happy surprise to discover. 

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Al Nierenberg, a former Alliance board member, met Lisa and Dee on the Greenway in Danvers and rode to Newburyport, MA, with them, pointing out his favorite trail segments.

Until a rail trail gets developed a little bit inland, the Greenway's route through New Hampshire is basically 1A. We had a drizzly day, which helped to dampen the traffic and crowds as we passed Hampton and Seabrook beaches. We also passed by stately mansions with deep front yards facing the Atlantic Ocean. The charming and buzzing city of Portsmouth, NH, made a fine destination for the end of a day's ride, offering plenty of restaurants and coffee shop choices.

Our six days of riding through Maine to reach Calais, on the Canadian border, formed a strange bookend to our first week of riding, eight days through Florida. Both states brought us headwinds and bridges. Florida was our hottest and flattest; Maine was the coolest and hilliest. 

Those Maine hills were the most challenging between Scarborough and Camden. From ten miles or so north of Camden, the hills either mellowed or we got stronger. From there on we almost enjoyed them, especially the rolling hills that let you fly down one side and almost make it up the other side without pedaling. Maine's coastal towns are as charming as you'd imagine, most of them offering a diner or cafe where you can find the requisite lobster rolls or blueberry pancakes. Or both.

The towns grew farther apart, the surroundings more remote the further north we headed. Our last day, riding through the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge before we hit the outskirts of Calais, we were truly alone, barely seeing even a car pass us. The quiet was nice, offering a chance to reflect a bit on the last two months before celebrating our finish.

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Lisa in Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge outside of Calais, Maine

A two-month bike trip offers plenty to digest. Our experience on the East Coast Greenway was made especially rich by all the people we encountered: overnight hosts, guest riders, dining companions, and more. They helped us see each new community and each new region through their eyes. And for everyone who got a wistful look as we told them about our trip, I have two words: Go ride.

Lisa Watts is communications manager for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. You can read daily posts about her two-month trip up the Greenway at eastcoastbikeride.com

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