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Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure, by Marty Basch
 Article List
• My winter vacation
• Phil Gaimon wins 2008 Mt. Washington Hillclimb
• Biking brothers in law charge around the Whites
• Overendís ready for a Granite State nickname
• Maineís Islesboro is a seaside bicycle adventure
• Quietly cycling Connecticutís northeastís corner
• That "new bike fit"
• Cyclocross - Best way to enjoy it, watch it.
• The next step in personal training?
• What goes up, goes down along Virginiaís Skyline Drive
• Hillclimbs, heaven or hell?
• Acadiaís bikeways beckon
• Where Cycling Is Taken Seriously
• Crusing along Lake Winnipesaukee by bike and boat
• Crank That Kanc
• Wrap, ride and reward
• A Clean Sweep
John Travolta wasnít there, but Kirstie Allie was and we missed her. Sometimes bicycling is so slow. But thatís the beauty of a place like Islesboro. Itís for going slow.

Islesboro is a finger-shaped 10-mile long island in Penobscot Bay. In mid-coast Maine, a fast three mile ferry ride from Lincolnville Beach is the ticket to the island, a longtime summer retreat that mixes exclusivity with downhome Maine. Year-round Islanders, summer people and day-trippers share the island, discovered as a summer and sailing community long ago by Boston Brahmins.

The southern part of the island has resplendent homes and mansions hidden away along rocky coasts and in forested pine while ìup-islandî in the northern section is everything from a neat equestrian center to a trailers that have seen better days. Spare part art is outside one home (and at the school ìdown islandî) while itís possible to see deer and wild turkeys.

There is talk of the islandís two famous thespians: John Travolta and Kirstie Allie. Word is Travolta likes to fly in to his home while Allie takes the ferry. Apparently Allie was in the house when we were there. We met a couple who saw her at lunch and when we left a ferry attendant told us she was aboard earlier in the morning.

One way to explore the island is by bicycle. Islesboro is heavily-forested, often closing Mother Natureís window to the Atlantic that surrounds it. This isnít pancake-flat cycling. Islesboro is rather hilly actually with surprising tree-shaded lanes. Roads are narrow, shoulderless and winding. There are cyclists in Lycra and helmets, plus matronly riders with baskets for groceries and those wearing sandals, letting the breeze go through their hair. When Mother Natureís window does open to the ocean, like as the island squeezes through its mid-section called the Narrows, there are smile-inducing vistas. Lupines, pines, stone beaches, cliffs, chablis, white Adirondack chairs and pink flamingoes are all at home on the island. Golf course greens and boat yards are hidden.

There are a couple of B&Bís for visitors, plus an inn, and a handful of lunch spots, gift shops and galleries. A pair of public cove beaches are access to the splendor of the water, the best being Pendleton Point in the south with its picnic tables, grills, driftwood and snaking trails. It is a place not of white sand beaches, but a place to scamper, hold on, hang out and search for whatís washed up by the tide. The other public spot, in Seal Harbor, is a vantage point for those learning to sail at the Big Tree Boating Association.
Bikes and kayaks are pieces of gear being brought to Islesboro.
Maine. Marty Basch photo
If the hills donít slow you down, waving will. Just like on a hiking trail where everyone says hello, a multitude of drivers provide various hand salutes from the wheel, from a real wave to the lifting of two fingers. Return the greeting, at least with a smile.

With the Camden Hills to the west, visitors arrive by ferry to Islesboro and the white 1850 Grindle Point lighthouse - you can climb it - next to the maritime museum. Binoculars can make out the flag flying at Warren Island State Park across the harbor, a popular kayaking spot with its 10 campsites accessible only by boat. Daytrippers might have a make a choice about which part of the island to explore. From the landing, itís about a twenty mile ìup islandî circuit, while those wanting Dark Harbor and Pendleton Point have about eight miles of cycling to and from the boat.

Dark Harbor, on the southeast side, is a hamlet of small shops, private lanes and home to overnight lodging like Derby Roadís Dark Harbor B&B and the hilltop Dark Harbor House.

The island has many personalities for the cyclist. A strong rider can lick the island before a late breakfast, pedaling under the cover of an eerie fog before the sun burns it away. Roads dead-end. Someoneís driveway looks like the road. ìPrivateî signs are all over. Turning around is an art.

Paved Pendleton Point Road is gateway to the south while Main Road is the road that runs through its heart. Keep an eye out for a small plaque that marks the site of the first recorded observation of a total solar eclipse in North America (Oct. 27, 1780). Meadow Pond Road passes by a stretch of Sprague Beach while West Shore Drive and Derby Road roll away. Hewes Point Road leads by coves as does the dirt, steep and remote East Shore Road, land of mansions, A-frames and million dollar one-room cottages. You might think youíre in the mountains until you see the sea. West Bay Road, hugs the splendid shoreline along West Penobscot Bay before a long uphill on an island that is so close, yet feels so far away.
by Marty Basch


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