Portland Head Light beckoned less than three miles from the end of the ride. Luna Soley photo

More than 750 bikers gathered for the Maine Lighthouse Ride on Sunday, a fundraiser for the Eastern Trail Alliance. 25-, 40-, 62-, and 100-mile routes stretched from South Portland to as far as Kennebunkport.

KENNEBUNK POST | Posted 9/11/2023 8:03 PM

SOUTH PORTLAND – There were sheer curtains of fog drawn across the bay last Sunday, the sort of morning that makes you want to stay in bed. Not so for the over 100 people gathered by Spring Point Light in South Portland, chatting, adjusting helmets, and hailing friends as they waited for the go-ahead to begin a 100-mile Century bike ride.

“We’re going to go off in groups of 50,” a volunteer instructed by megaphone, “don’t be shy, feel free to come right up.”

The Trader Joe’s rest stop at Kettle Cove was stocked with fruit, pickles, and peanut butter cups. Luna Soley photo

The Trader Joe’s rest stop at Kettle Cove was stocked with fruit, pickles, and peanut butter cups. Luna Soley photo

“Don’t tell anybody we’re not really doing the 100-miler,” confided two older women dressed in matching neon yellow windbreakers, “We’re trying to beat the rain.”

Two teenagers, conspicuously wearing shorts and T-shirts despite the chill, wanted to be quoted in the paper. “My names Noland,” said one, “and my name’s Ian,” added the other – and then said, in unison, “and we’re both excited for the 100-mile bike ride!”

Sept. 10 was the 20th anniversary of the Maine Lighthouse Ride, first completed as a 40-mile route by 40 determined riders in the rain in 2003.

“We were actually following the riders around with hot coffee and hot soup,” said Bob Bowker, the ride’s founder. After four or five years, Bowker recounted proudly, “We were up to 300 or 400 riders. It was mostly word of mouth, it just kept growing and growing.”

The Maine Lighthouse Ride is an annual fundraiser to support the Eastern Trail Alliance, a nonprofit founded in 1998 with the aim of turning sections of the old Eastern Railroad Corridor, discontinued since 1945, into a continuous route for bikers and hikers to enjoy. The Eastern Trail now covers approximately 65 miles, from the Piscataqua River in Kittery, near the New Hampshire border, to South Portland, Maine. Bowker said proceeds from this year’s ride will go towards maintaining the route, improving kiosks, and paying staff.

This year, over 750 participants travelled from as far as Ontario, Canada, to ride 25-, 40-, 62-, and 100-mile routes along the Southern Maine coast, paying a registration fee to support the Eastern Trail. They ranged in age from 7 to 89 years old, hailing in equal numbers from Maine and out of state.

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