Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three Lights Bike Tour

What a gorgeous week it's been in the north country. Yesterday, I finally made it out for my first bike ride of the season. At 15 miles, it was by no means an endurance test, but that's not what I was shooting for. Instead, I made use of my handy Portland Trails map to piece together a sightseeing ride--specifically, a three-lighthouse tour.

My apartment lies just north of Casco Bay Bridge, so before I knew it I had crossed over into South Portland (and inhaled my fair share of exhaust fumes). From there, I hooked up with the South Portland Greenbelt Walkway, a nicely paved path running through a residential neighborhood. Such trails always provide a refreshingly different vantage point from which to see a place, and I enjoyed the views back across the water to Portland.

According to a sign along the way, the South Portland Greenbelt is the northernmost section of a proposed Eastern Trail that would stretch south to the Maine border. Another sign, even more ambitious, labeled it as part of a grand East Coast Greenway, connecting Calais, ME, with Key West, FL. Wow!

The Greenbelt dropped me at the adorably named Bug Light, also called the Portland Breakwater Light, and its adjacent park. Unbeknown to me, this was the site of a massive shipyard during WWII. Several informative displays filled me in on the history.

Though sad to leave the traffic-free trail behind, I followed my map and quickly found the campus of Southern Maine Community College. Down the hill, at the water's edge, stood the remains of Fort Preble and, at the end of a long breakwater, the Spring Point Light. Having already seen Bug Light, I was more interested in exploring the old fort, whose embankments afford nice views of the bay.

The third and final stop on the tour required a couple-miles' journey through some shady, quiet residential roads, as South Portland gave way to the seemingly more affluent Cape Elizabeth. Soon I was wheeling into Fort Williams Park and within sight of a proper lighthouse, the Portland Head Light.

As I had forgotten my bike lock, I didn't venture inside the lighthouse museum, but I took a nice stroll around the grounds and admired Maine's famous rocky coastline. There was a lot of the park I didn't see, but I plan to make it back there at some point.

So, the first ride of the season went off without a hitch. My bike rides as smoothly as the day I bought it, and I can tell it's raring to go up into the Maritimes later this summer. So am I.

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