PORTLAND, Maine — A few pedal strokes, a champagne toast and the 400-mile Spokes for Hope bike trek ended midday Monday on the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge between Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H.
Six bicyclists from Aroostook County left Thursday from Fort Kent after rolling off the International Bridge and pointing their bikes south in a ride to increase support, awareness and funding for cancer research.
This marks the third year of the ride which is also a fundraiser for Presque Isle-based CANCER — Caring Area Neighbors for Education and Recovery — and the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer, Hope and Healing in Lewiston.
Along the way, according to team vehicle support driver Penny McHatten of Presque Isle, they have seen the best — and the worst — the state has to offer.
“We were in Orono and the riders were stopped to fix one of the bikes when a lady on a mountain bike stopped to talk to them,” McHatten said. “She rode off, then turned around and wrote a $50 check to support our cause.”
Before they left Aroostook County, team members stopped by an elementary school in New Sweden to have their photos taken with the students.
McHatten said the team has collected a lot of friendly waves and words of encouragement along the way.
“Today as we went through bumper-to-bumper traffic in Old Orchard Beach people were rolling down their [car] windows and clapping and yelling, ‘good going … great idea,’” she said.
Unfortunately, she added, they also have received obscene gestures and catcalls from motorists and people alongside the roads.
“This is new. There seems to be a lot more rudeness this year,” she said. “I mean, ‘hello, what are you thinking?’ Share the road — we are doing this for everyone.”
After nearly 400 miles in the saddle — including two back-to-back 100-mile days — McHatten said the group is not letting the negative comments get to them.
“There are a few bad ones out there but we are focusing on the good people,” she said. “Right now they are very, very tired and extremely happy to have done it again.”
Taking part in the ride were Jonathan Kelley, Stephanie Caverhill, Brent Jepson, Kyle Washington, Dan Jandreau and Cary Grant. Denise Young drove a second support vehicle.
McHatten said the ride was injury-free but plagued with mechanical problems.
“We’ve had several flat tires, a broken cable and a bent rim so far,” she said. “But we’ve had really good weather and my main job has been getting water to them, so now they call me ‘the water boy.’”
Anyone interested in donating funds to CANCER or the Dempsey center may do so through Spokes for Hope care of Jepson Financial Advisors, P.O. Box 306, Caribou 04736.