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Mike McDermott

Mike McDermott is used to commuting by bike from Bath to Brunswick during Maine's warmer months. Now he's riding 400 or so miles around the state during the week-long BikeMaine ride Sept. 6-13, 2014. Mike is a Press Herald contest winner, chosen to tackle the ride and write all about it right here.

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Posted: September 9, 2014

Day 1: Some killer hills & blue skies on the way to Norway

Written by: Mike McDermott
Photo courtesy Bicycle Coalition of Maine

Photo courtesy Bicycle Coalition of Maine

This morning I’m sitting in the Norway, Maine fire department having just finished a great breakfast including what I considered a great omen for the day: they brought out a selection of pies leftover from last night and among them was a strawberry rhubarb. Yum.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday was day one of BikeMaine!

What a day!

I woke up and struck camp – things were still a bit damp but not too bad. We had breakfast but now that the start was getting close it was hard to concentrate. There were people in form fitting clothing milling and pacing and fiddling with bikes everywhere. As the hour approached, we all started converging on the statue at the entrance to Riverside park. It was odd that the crowd seemed bigger the more tightly packed it got. There were the speeches and group photos, and then the ribbon was cut and the BikeMaine 2014 route was officially open.

We were too tightly packed to just jump on our bikes and ride, so we all started scootering forward on our pedals, and as the crowd ahead thinned were able to swing onto the saddle and actually start pedaling. It felt so good to be moving, and really exciting to be part of such a huge pack. People on the sidewalks cheered and waved, and police officers waved us through traffic lights. I was grinning like an idiot.

Once we were all up to speed, moving in such a throng of cyclists was as unnerving as it was exhilarating. Gradually the line thinned out. We headed out of town, and soon came to the Mountain Division Trail – a paved path along old rail lines. I loved the transition from the hectic group ride along busy roads to this quiet path where we were forced to spread out even more into single file. Here the ground was still wet from the night before, and the scent of the foliage along the track was strong. I found it very peaceful, in sudden contrast to the crowded group start. There were a couple of sandy spots where people had to slow down, and live road crossings – these gave us the chance to fall right into the habits of communicating with each other as we rode and keeping alert to what other riders were doing.

The end of our segment on the Mountain Division trail brought another sharp contrast: we came back onto the road and around a corner, and there before us was a beautiful pasture with the smell of cows heavy in the air. We were back in the sun and starting to warm up. We’d only been riding for minutes, and had already experienced three very different environments.

Day 1: Photos!

Before long we were starting the long curve around the back of Sebago Lake. Riders were well spaced out by now and cruising along with other riders in the same speed range. At our first rest stop I took my shoes off and waded out into Sebago. It felt great. People were excited and chatty – I think everyone was glad to finally be on the road.

Soon after hitting the road again I fell into pace with another rider and we ended up chatting off and on for most of the way to lunch (20 miles or so). I haven’t done a lot of riding in groups, so I had wondered how much conversation you could expect to have “in the saddle.” Quite a bit it turns out. As we rode I was frequently reminded that the sight of blue sky reflected in lakes seen through pine trees is one of my favorite things.

As we turned away from the lake and got closer to the lunch break in Casco, we encountered the first really imposing hills of the ride, with a killer right at the end. It was all made worthwhile though by some over the top delicious packed box lunches and a cool breeze in the shade of a pine tree to eat them in.

After lunch the hills got worse. The people who planned the ride seemed to delight in long uphill approaches to hills that you could see turning violently steep ahead of you. They were physically demanding and mentally demoralizing, but there were some great long downhill runs thrown in there to get you going again. After a few of these I was very glad to start seeing road signs indicating that we were approaching Norway, our destination.

Coming into Norway was such an emotional high: there was the personal achievement of knowing yes, I’d done it- I’d completed the first day of the ride; there was also the reception from the residents of Norway. People were on the sidewalks playing drums and cymbals, waving welcome signs, clapping, cheering… Again I was just grinning like an idiot.

I got to the BikeMaine campsite, found my bags in the lineup of luggage that had been trucked in for us from Westbrook, and set up my camp. The sparkling new portable shower truck worked its magic and felt like a new man. I took a stroll around Main Street to get oriented and see the sights and soon saw the site I was seeking: the beer garden. I sat and compared notes with other riders for a while, sipping a Sebago Brewing IPA, and then entertainment started. King Ping Pong is something you have to experience to appreciate. I was prepared to think it corny, but I started enjoying the way the kids down front were enjoying it, and pretty soon I was guffawing along…

There was more socializing, and then we headed across the street to the Norway fire department for dinner: you could smell the meatloaf from the parking lot and man, did it live up to its aroma. Delicious. Then back across the street for the evening announcements and entertainment. Bold Riley sounded great, but I was still in just shorts and a T-shirt and it was getting cold. I though I’d zip back to the tent for some warm clothes, but by the time I got there the biking, beer and big dinner had convinced me that the sleeping bag was looking pretty good.

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