The New York City-Maine Coast Tour
It had been two years since Covid forced Janet and I to scrap a bike tour in the Netherlands and piece together a local tour. It was a blast. Summer of 2022 seemed like a perfect chance for another tour. One option was to ride from Durham to Bar Harbor. Another was to use a free apartment and ride in New York City. We settled on 2 days biking in NYC and 3 days riding on the East Coast Greenway.
Day 1- The Manhattan-Bronx Loop- 35 miles
New York City has an amazing network of bike paths. During our last biking adventure here, we used City Bikes on a four borough tour. The rides were fun, but the 30 minute time limit was a major issue. This time we brought our own bikes. This ride covered a large chunk of Manhattan and the Bronx.
2nd Avenue has a dedicated bike path south, but we choose to join the hoard of delivery e bikes and headed down Lexington. The ride provides a great opportunity to see Manhattan's different neighborhoods. Our first stop was on 28th Street to visit the southeast Asian spice store Kalustyans. This place has an insane selection of spices from over 80 countries and is a cool place to browse. We grabbed some spices to make chili oil and headed towards the East River. Just North of the Manhattan Bridge, we hooked up with the East River Greenway. It offers spectacular views of the river and runs through Battery Park.
After a stop to view Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, we headed North on the Hudson River Greenway. This dedicated two-lane path runs all the way to the northern tip of Manhattan. There are numerous stops along the water to grab food and drinks. Since it was a super hot day and we had lots of biking ahead, we opted for the 16oz rather than the quart sized beer to go with some fries. At 158th street, there is a bike bridge that goes over the Henry Hudson Parkway and gets you into Washington Heights. A short ride east connects you to the High Bridge. The bridge was built in 1848 to carry an aqueduct transporting water to Manhattan. It was restored and opened for bikes and pedestrians in 2015. Once in the Bronx, we headed north of 176 St to Tremont St.
We made our way across the Bronx and stopped at Arthur Avenue. Some say this is the real Little Italy in NYC. Since it was blazing hot, we skipped the food and heading into Arthur Street Market for something cold to drink. . If you are looking for a Sopranos t-shirt, this is the place. After a welcome break from the sun, we pushed on to the gates of the Botanical Gardens. Fordham University is just across the street. Baked by the heat, we headed home on Southern Boulevard. Busy but very ridable. A bike path on the The Willis Avenue bridge got us back to Manhattan, and a short ride on Third Ave got us to the apartment. After 7 hours of exploring in 90 degree, we were happy to be done. Overall, a great first day.
Day 2- Bike to the Ballpark- Upper East Side to Coney Island- 15 miles
During our weekend in the city , the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative just happened to be hosting a Bike to the Ballgame event! It started at Owl's Head Park in Brooklyn and traveled the Greenway to Coney Island. The ride finished at Maimonides Park for the Cyclones Sponge Bob Day. No way we could pass this up.
We started the ride on 2nd Avenue and headed south to linked up with the East River Greenway. At Pier 11 near Wall Street, we grabbed the Rockaway Ferry. The day was predicted to have a heat index near 100, so the ferry was packed with people headed to Rockaway Beach. We got off at Sunset Park, and headed to Owl's Head Park. As I mentioned, the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative sponsored the ride to promote their efforts to build 26 miles of trails along the water. Most of the ride to Coney Island was along these trails and provided a spectacular view of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
By the time we reached the ball park, it was blazing hot. We had just gone to Citi Field the night before to see the Mets for DeGrom booblehead night, so it seemed fitting to see Sponge Bob at their single A team. Both the major and minor league teams loved fun spectator activities between inning. Much better than Fenway. The rain starting in the 5th inning was a signal to head home.
Since it was insanely hot and humid, we choose to take the subway home. While it is not recommended at rush hour, bikes are allowed on the subway. We managed to navigate elevators and transfers and got dropped off a block way from the apartment. We packed up the bikes and headed back to Durham. First half of the tour was a success, next stop Maine.
Day 3- Durham to Portland- 62 miles
After a day to recover from NYC, we planned to follow the East Coast Greenway up to Portland. We had done the ride before and found that there were long stretches in the middle of nowhere.,
Since the weather forecast called for rain, we got an early start. The first 12 miles takes you through Dover and then to South Berwick. There you connect with the East Coast Greenway. It is a mix of dedicated paths and on-road sections that runs all the way from Florida to Maine. South Berwick is a good place for a snack or a coffee. The next services are 21 miles away in West Kennebunk. We powered through the country roads and hit Cummings Market in West Kennebunk by 11 AM. We grabbed some pizza and cold drinks and headed for some shade. Half way done with the ride.
After crossing Route 95, there are long, crushed-gravel trails to Biddeford/Saco and another to Scarborough. Ten mile out of Portland, the rain arrived. Short downpour, but cleared up by the time we arrived at our B&B near the Old Port. Beer and Pizza for dinner at Flatbread. Very good. Long ride but overall, a good Day.
Day 4- Portland to Bath- supposed to be 39. Guessing it ended up over 50.
The plan was for this to be an easy day. While the route had some hills, it was shorter and the weather was supposed to be much cooler.
After breakfast, we headed out of Portland on the Eastern Promenade. The path hugs the water and offers great views of Portland Harbor. After a couple of bridge crossings, the route runs through Falmouth. Lots of big expensive homes with great landscaping . The route eventually transitions to farms and around 19 miles you arrive in Freeport. We stopped in the LL Bean store and grabbed a coffee and browsed the store. Very fun place to look at a crazy selection of anything to do with outdoor activities.
We rolled into Brunswick in the early afternoon. 32 miles down and only 6 to go. The plan was to have a snack and then have a lobster roll and beer in Bath. For the most part, the Greenway is really well marked. In Brunswick along the Androscoggin River, the Greenway splits into two routes: 1, and 1A. 1 heads north towards towards Augusta, and 1A heads to Bath. Only 1 is marked and so we headed the wrong way. Near Pejepscot, we discovered our mistake and added 2 hard hours to the ride over some horrible roads. By the time we rolled into Bath, we were wiped. 38 miles had transformed to 50. Some really mediocre seafood at JR Maxwells topped off a challenging day.
Day 5- Bath--Durham 8 miles on Bike
After a good night sleep and a great breakfast at our B&B, we rode back to train stop in Brunswick.
Amtrak finally came to their senses and now allows bikes on and off all stops on the Downeaster. Space is limited to 3 bikes, so reservations are a good idea. We arrived early and went in search of food. We grabbed large lobster roll plates to go from Cameron's Lobster House and headed back to the train stop. The conductor was super nice and told me to take the front wheel off the bikes and hang them in the luggage rack. Unloaded the bikes at the Durham stop and rode home. Much easier day and very positive Amtrak experience.
The tour logged in around 170 miles over 5 days. Despite the heat and some navigation challenges, it was really fun. Already thinking about our next tour. The frontrunner is the Erie Canal Trail from Buffalo to Albany.