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Pedal the Penobscot

What's the big deal? It's only a hundred miles

Most people give little thought to driving a hundred miles in their car. For me, that's like going to Portland and back. No big deal. But how about covering that same distance on a bicycle? In a single day?

When I've told people I have done this more than 20 times starting at the ripe-old age of 49, a majority of folks — especially non-cyclists — give me that "he's crazy" kind of look. And then they might ask, "Why would you want to do such a foolish thing?" Which is a very understandable question.

I participate in century (100-mile) rides for a lot of reasons. There's the opportunity to view different areas of Maine and other states. There's the friendship factor; with existing mates and the chance to meet other people. Many of the events are in support of a cause or organization that I don't mind endorsing. And they are fun, most of the time.

Needless to say, this isn't the bike I used in the Pedal the Penobscot century ride.

But more than anything else, I keep entering these darn things because of the challenge. Simply put, I just want to see if I can still do it; to see if my body — and mind — can withstand the accompanying pain that usually occurs.

So, keeping all that in mind, I managed to complete another century this past Sunday. It was the Pedal the Penobscot, a fundraising and awareness event in Brewer, Maine, to help the Bangor Land Trust. Given the fact that there are different degrees of difficulty in riding that far, especially in the Pine Tree State, I would say that this course was the flattest and easiest one I have ever done. And there's nothing wrong with that; it's still a hundred miles no matter how you slice it!

Here are some of my other observations and thoughts about the Pedal the Penobscot:

— For the most part there was very little traffic, especially being on a Sunday, and those roads that did, almost always had well-maintained breakdown lanes. In fact, on one stretch of the course — on Route 116 heading toward Howland — we encountered fewer than 10 vehicles for more than 20 miles.

— We did cycle along the Penobscot for a good portion of the event. A very impressive river, indeed.

— There were four rest stops; a good number for that distance. Present were the right kinds of food for refueling, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You'd be surprised how many century rides I've participated in that missed the mark on this score.

— Also, the volunteers at these stops were friendly, helpful, and said "thank you" for riding.

— The cost to endure such suffering, which for some reason I didn't on this particular day, was reasonable. Many events are getting so pricey that I believe many riders just don't go for that reason alone.

— We also were given an event T-shirt, and provided a very good meal at the end at the High Tide Restaurant in Brewer.

— We covered the hundred miles in six hours and nine minutes. It would have been a little quicker, but I had to double back for a couple of miles to check on my riding companion Scott. He was delayed from leaving the Howland rest stop because he had managed to get goose poop stuck in his shoe cleat. Well done, my friend! Despite Scott's antics, the two of us still managed to average 16.5 miles per hour for the whole ride; not bad for a couple of dudes in their 60s.

— As I stated earlier, the course was very flat; I only dropped out of my third (highest) chain ring for any hills for the last three or four miles, coming back into Brewer.

If you want to attempt a century ride for the first time, this is definitely the one I would select. In the past, I've told people that the Maine Lighthouse Ride and the Tri-State Seacoast Ride are good events to try for your first 100-mile ride. And they still are, but the Pedal the Penobscot tops the list. There are also shorter distances offered at the Penobscot. I hope to see you there next year.

(Editor's note: Up next for me is this weekend's Northwoods Gravel Grind, an entirely different kind of animal in Rangeley, Maine, covering 50 miles. Stay tuned!)

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