It seemed too good to be true: a century ride along the rugged Maine coast, past historic towns, a lighthouse, and ending with post-ride celebration featuring the local delicacy, the lobster roll sandwich. It was the kind of ride that a cyclist could plan a vacation around, so that’s exactly what I did.
As it turned out, talking my wife into leaving the heat and humidity of Washington DC in late July for a getaway to Rockland, Maine wasn’t all that difficult.
The Lobster Ride & Roll is organized by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which provides education and bike advocacy throughout the state. 2013 marked the twelfth year that the Coalition has organized the ride, which serves as its largest fundraiser.
Although the Ride boasts a small-town atmosphere, it’s one of the more popular rides in the country, attracting riders from across the country and Canada for a choice of distances that include 15-mile ride, a 30-miler, a 50-mile southern route, a 50-mile northern route, an 80-mile northern combined route, and the Big Daddy ride: the 100 mile combined southern and northern route.
Each of the routes boasted its charms, but the century ride offered them all as it wound through ten downeast Maine communities, past purple lupine fields, fishing boats, and century-old towns. For many riders, the highlight is the Marshall Point Lighthouse on the southern route, made famous as a turnaround point for Tom Hanks in the running scene in the film Forrest Gump. I didn’t want to miss a thing, so it would be the century ride for me.
The morning of the ride brought fine weather, putting to rest any concerns brought on by the rain showers of the night before. A record field of nearly 1,000 riders gathered at the Oceanside East High School in Rockland for check-in, snacks and hot coffee, and last-minute instructions. With a friendly reminder that it was a ride and not a race, organizers sent the first wave of riders on their way.
I was warned by ride veterans that the northern route, which came first in the century ride, had the day’s hardest climbs. As riders tackled the rolling hills and climbs, the field broke into smaller groups I fell in with a mix of riders who formed a pace line to tackle the challenge together. We covered the first half of the ride in good form, making group stops at the aid stations and commenting on the beautiful views that we were being treated to.
After refueling at with a more leisurely stop back at Oceanside High School, we set off on the southern route and made our way to the lighthouse. The effort of covering those miles began to take its toll, as many of us began to slow our pace. For those who had more serious difficulties, SAG support was available.
As I completed the last few miles of the ride, historic biplanes from a nearby airfield circled overhead as I began to think about all I had seen, but once I reached the finish I focused on racking my bike and snagging the promised lobster roll. Never had a lunch tasted as good!
After a reunion with my family, who had signed up as volunteers for the ride, we made our way over to the wonderful Farnsworth Art Museum, and the Maine Lighthouse Museum for a taste of local art and history. These museums, along with the Owls Head Transportation Museum, offered free admission to all registered riders.
It was easy to see why so many riders return to the Lobster Rider & Roll year after year – it fully lives up to its billing as one of the best rides in the country. For more information on the ride, go to http://www.bikemaine.org/2013-lobster-ride.