North To Kittery

With three days to get from Newport, RI to Kittery, ME, I opted out of public transportation, loaded up my Surly Long Haul Trucker, and had myself a New England experience.

Bicycle Adventurer: Tyson Bottenus

When: July 2015

Accomodations: I stayed with friends along the way.

Distance: 160 miles in three days.

Bonus tip for this adventure: Following the East Coast Greenway on this trip made my life so much easier and smoother.

Day One

I had three days before I needed to meet up with a 60-foot sloop in Kittery, Maine. With no car, I initially planned to use public transportation to get myself out of Rhode Island and up north to Maine, but the ten-hour route involved getting on and off four busses and one train, plus some walking between stations. I'm a tall guy and the idea of sitting on cramped busses made my mind wander toward my trusty Surly Long Haul Trucker, which hadn't been on a good tour since January.

Within five minutes of concocting this new bicycle-travel plan, I packed my Thule panniers and headed to my local bike shop, Ten Speed Spokes, picked up a spare tube, and took off. Tom, my mechanic, looked at me with hopeful disbelief but I reassured him that if anything happened, no problem: I had a 30-foot long piece of rope (an old main halyard from a boat I once worked on) in case I needed to strap my bike to a car in an emergency. This worked out really well on a trip I had done the previous year from Austin, TX to New Orleans, LA.

I was off. Newport is located on Aquidneck Island, a place that only recently started to become a little bit more bike friendly. The "bike mode" on Google Maps worked really well and took me on some back roads up to the Mount Hope Bridge where I crossed over onto the mainland of Rhode Island. Like I had been instructed, I "took the lane" while traversing this bridge and experienced no trouble from passing cars. 

Once in Bristol, RI, I hopped on the East Bay Bike Path, which took me all the way to Providence. Along the path, I found some much needed hydration on a hot summer day from a young woman selling Del's Lemonade—a frozen, slushy Rhode Island staple.

Providence has also been working hard over the last few years to become more bike friendly and the new bike path over India Point Park, connecting downtown Providence to the very long and very beautiful East Bay Bike Path, is testimony to their dedication. My only wish is that the water fountains along the way worked, as I foolishly ran out of water and found myself very, very dehydrated. 

My friends and hosts were playing a concert that night and I was grateful for the opportunity to get to see them play in front of a large audience. Unfortunately, I didn't get to bed until near 3:00 a.m., but hey, what else is youth for?

Day Two

I woke up around 8:00 a.m. and the sun beat down. Temperatures were expected to get into the 90s and I tried to ignore the fact that I had 70 miles between Providence and my destination just north of Boston. My dehydration from the previous day left me without much of an appetite, but I managed to choke down some oatmeal and blueberry pancakes from Julians, off Broadway Street. 

Again relying on Google Maps, I made my way through Providence, up College Hill (good god, that was steep) and into Central Falls, where I connected and followed the Blackstone River Bikeway and the East Coast Greenway signs around the city. Turn-by-turn navigation is a godsend when all you want to do is wake up, think about nothing, and pedal all day long. 

Before noon, I was at the Massachusetts border and in a total groove. It was hot, but I focused on drinking as much water as I possibly could. I took backroads and stuck to suburban communities as I made my way toward the metro Boston area. Unfortunately, I ran out of water and with the sun beating down on me, I became nervous about risking dehydration once again. Fortunately, I came across a great pizza shop in Dover, MA that supplied me with unlimited amounts of water, pizza, cookies, and most important, shade. 

Quiet community roads eventually turned into busy roads with stoplights, but fortunately, I was able to find a nicely connected set of (unprotected) bike lanes that escorted me into downtown Boston. This is the only place where the bike mode on Google Maps couldn't compete with the non-stop construction projects going on just west of the city.

Eventually, I found myself along the Charles River and the bike paths became familiar again. Sailboats and kayaks lined the Charles, and for a brief period, I enjoyed myself as I took in the scenery. However, before complacency set in, I was thrust into some hazardous city streets, and my hands instinctively gripped the brakes in case something awful happened. Bike lanes were ignored and used as places where cars could pull off the road. Before long however, a long stretch of East Coast Greenway bike path presented itself to me like a surprise birthday present and the rest of the trip became much easier. 

Once through Boston, it seemed as if the entire trip north up to Beverly was downhill. Coastal scenes of lobster pots and boatyards replaced the skyscrapers and I was really happy to be done with the urban navigation. I'll take a cool seabreeze any day. 

Day Three

By this point I was only fifty miles away from Kittery, Maine and the path to get there was easy. Just follow Route 1A forever. The air temperature was back down to 80 degrees and although it was a bit cooler, I was still happy to have a small headwind to cool me down, even if it did slow me down a bit.

I found my appetite again in a small coffee shop in Ipswich, MA where I seemingly ate everything they could give me. Fried eggs, hash browns, melted cheese, milkshakes, iced tea. It was a free for all and in my head, I reminded myself that bicycle tourers have an obligation to support the local economies of the places they visit. Plus, they had a great selection of alt-weeklies to read which made the gustatory consumption all the more riveting. 

From the North Shore of Massachusetts, I continued through New Hampshire, where I cruised along the small strip of coastline that they have, and eventually stopped in Portsmouth where I had the best damn burrito ever. 

Bike touring is great because it seems that every meal you have is the best damn meal ever. Has science figured out why exercise increases subjectivity? 

Since Portsmouth is only a couple miles away from Kittery, ME, I took the time to catch my breath, check my emails, and do all the other little things I like to do before stepping onto a boat. 

Thanks so much to Dan and Christina along with Bryan and Nikki for putting my sweaty self up at their awesome abodes!

Your favorite local bike shop? Ten Speed Spokes 
18 Elm St, Newport, RI 02840 
(401) 847-5609

Bike overnight tips and tricks? I have a Rokform stem mount for my cell phone, which allows me to have all my Google Map directions right in front of me. Combined with a 10,000 mHz Anker battery, I have all the battery + navigation a bike overnighter could ever need without having to invest in a Garmin GPS. I suppose I should have probably printed out and consulted paper maps, but I'm a child of the digital age with a foolish sense of my own abilities. 

This trip was kept VERY simple by staying with friends along the way. I wish I brought more water.

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HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your bike overnight adventure!

2 responses so far ↓

Stephen - Dec 14, 2015 at 4:53 PM

Great article ! Thanks for sharing. It seemed like I was riding and eating my way through New England with you. Loved the observation that 'every meal is the best' . I want to bike a similar route someday. Biking in Boston is a challenge (at least it was when Iived there 35 years ago) but you found some side roads and trails... Good advice. Just add another cage for water on the LHT on the next trip.

Sean - Sep 25, 2016 at 2:16 PM

Your article is reassuring and will be a great help as I stitch together a route from Long Island to Maine. I was interested to read that the bike feature on Google maps worked out well for you on most of the ride. Thanks for the inspiration! I'll need to find some strategically-placed friends to crash with, tho'!

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