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The annual Tour de Camden

Winter was fast approaching, so time was running out to do all those autumn rituals — rake up the leaves, insulate drafty bits of the house, plant bulbs and so forth.

But there was one other shore that I had to get in before snowflakes started falling from the sky. It was my annual 55-mile trek to Camden, along Route 105, by way of bicycle.

I truly didn't feel up to this year's ride, especially since my goal was to complete the ordeal without stopping — something I'd only managed to do in two of the previous four trips. With two jobs in the spring and early summer, I'd only cranked out 650 miles on my Schwinn in comparison to the 1,500 miles usually accumulated by this time of year.

But I had to try.

I'd set the alarm for 7 a.m., hoping for an early start. Wild thoughts, however, kept me from jumping on the hard saddle — I'm 40, my heart can't take this kind of punishment; those two hills near the end must be as high as Mount Katahdin.

I finally pushed off at 10 a.m. Cool and sunny, it actually was a pleasant ride, with a few things worth noting.

* It's amazing how all my senses came into play on such a long journey. It allowed me to see the rural beauty of Maine up close, smell wood-smoke, hear leaves dancing across the road and the constant drumming of the wind against my ears. And let's not forget the sense of touch, which gradually turned to pain with every passing mile.

  • The prettiest part of the ride was where routes 105 and 131 run together.

  • Surprisingly, I didn't observe much wildlife this year — just a single squirrel, 16 barking dogs, and one dead raccoon.

  • It still baffled me as to the number of motorists who fail to move over when passing a cyclist.

  • As predicted, the two hills that I met up with at the 43-mile mark just about did me in. It's not that they're so steep, but the gradual incline goes on for miles. It was such slow going that I found myself looking down at my tires to see if I'd lost any air pressure. I felt like I was riding on the rims.

The pain gripping the back of my legs  was excruciating and my heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to pop out of my chest.

But I made it up the hills and I cruised on to Camden without stopping. I covered the 55 miles in 3 hours, 35 minutes and 7 seconds.

I'm sure I'll continue to do it for years to come, although it seems to get harder with each passing birthday. I've been doing it long enough now, I keep thinking I should turn it into some sort of charity event. It would be fun to have others make the journey — and suffer along with me.

Two things really helped make the trip more bearable. One was knowing that I had a ride back to my Hallowell home — in a comfortable car. And the other was that my massage therapist, who happens to be my wife, was never very far away.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the Kennebec Journal.

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