• gfeldstein

Day 7: Portland, ME to Portsmouth, NH 70 miles 1,979 feet

A trip down memory lane to my childhood and my children’s. As a child I spent many summers vacationing with my parents in costal Maine. I enjoyed it so much that I eventually brought my own children up to coastal Maine where they also spent several enjoyable summers. I was looking forward to our trip today from Portland to Portsmouth, as I would get to revisit towns and memories from my youth and my children’s. I was somewhat surprised to see that our planned route totally avoided both Kennebunkport and Ogunquit which both held cherished memories. I could lie to say that I missed a sign for the East Coast Greenway and ended up along the coast by mistake, but in reality I plotted my own detour along the coast.

I departed South Portland and rode the unpaved Eastern Trail for a couple of miles through the Scarborough Marsh where I encountered many early morning dog walkers as well as birdwatchers with long lens cameras trying to capture the abundant sea birds. I turned back onto the pavement and headed a few miles to the coast where I initially encountered Surfside, Old Orchard Beach, and Ocean Park. I’m fairly certain that I had never visited those towns before, but they instantly reminded me of Long Beach, NY, where my late wife was raised. The towns contained the same modest single family homes interspersed with occasional high rises, probably converted to assisted living facilities, short side streets that led directly to the beach, and even a waterfront amusement park. I did not check to see if there was a boardwalk, which would have finished the picture from my memory.

A short jog around the Saco River took me through the gentrified industrial towns of Saco and Biddeford, homes to one of the earliest European settlements in the US. The waterfalls once provided power for grain, lumber, granite and steel mills. Many of those old mills still stand and have been repurposed for the 21’st century. On the south side of the Saco River the road dumped me back out at the coast and on target for Kennebunkport, summer home of President number 41. The town looked nothing like I remembered it from my youth. It had the same “fake tourist feel” I felt in Freeport and was filled with legions of bus tourists with their “please return to ________ if found” name tags dangling from their necks. I was however hungry so I stopped into Allison’s Restaurant, reputed on line to have the best lobster rolls around. The selection of lobster rolls on the menu was extensive and I selected the South West Lobster Roll with avocado, bacon, and red pepper mayonnaise, along with some fries. The service and presentation was outstanding but I must admit that I was not impressed with the food. The lobster meat was in small, broken pieces, and did not have the fresh flavor I had experienced the day before at Red’s Eats. Luckily, the portion was much smaller so I did not have to dislike it for too long, additionally the fries were way over salted.

A few miles farther down the road I entered Ogunquit and felt like I was transported back in time to 1964. The town and the houses looked just as I had remembered them, without the fake glitz of Kennebunkport. The Ogunquit Playhouse still had it’s original, old pealing white and green paint. The billboard announced that they were performing the musical version of Mystic Pizza and I wished that I had the time to stop and see the show.

As I was about to enter York, I noticed a sign for the Nubble Lighthouse so I decided to take a short detour off my planned detour route to visit it. It was only a couple of miles off my route and well worth the detour. When I arrived I realized that you could not actually visit the lighthouse, unless you swam across a narrow channel separating the island based lighthouse from the mainland. The alternative, used only by the park rangers, was to haul yourself on a Bosun’s chair that was suspended 30 feet above the water from poles on both shores, it looked fairly dangerous to me.

I returned to my route and entered York which took me totally by surprise. The wide, white sand beaches covered in seaweed and playful families with children brought back memories of Jones Beach, my High School summer playground. It was complete with the smell of salt air, rotting sea weed, and hot dogs on the grill. The homes where all across the street from the beach, so as not to block the ocean view from the street. The houses could best be described as shingle sided shacks that looked like they had not been painted or rehabbed in 50 years. On the south end of town I noticed a few glitzy high rise condominiums under construction, unfortunately, I guess you can only delay “progress” for so long. As I exited York, I noticed a sign for the Fort McClary Fort Historic Site so I made another brief detour to visit it. The fort site dates back to the 17’th century and was officially established in 1808 as part of the second system of US fortifications to protect approaches to the harbor of Portsmouth. Before crossing the bridge into New Hampshire, I rode through Kittery which had many magnificent structures, some dating back to pre-Revolutionary War time.

Just as yesterday, the final bridge separating me from some food and beer was blocked to allow a Coast Guard Cutter to pass under. Once I finally unloaded my bike and gear at the hotel in Portsmouth, I grabbed a well earned and delicious pre-dinner Blue Moon and burrito at La Carreta Resteraunte Mexicano. One state down, 14 more to go.

For more details on my route visit my Strava link

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