Dan and Hannah Celebrate Their 40th Biking to New Castle

Hannah and I have always loved to exercise.   Since forever.  We met on the tennis courts as first year students at the College of Wooster in Ohio.  Though somewhat coordinated and athletic, we were definitely not fit.  Never ran, never exercised at a gym, just played sports that required a modest amount of hand/eye coordination.  Though the Sixties in the public schools were not friendly to female athletes like Hannah (it would be 1972 before Title 9 became the law of the land), she learned to excel at various sports at Moss Lake Camp in New York State: waterskiing, tennis, canoeing, distance swimming, archery, riding, riflery, and dance.  Three years into our marriage in the mid-1970s, we weren’t doing much cardio-vascularly so we took up running.  Relatively cheap (the price of running shoes) with no need for going to a gym, running on the canals and along railroads of Tempe, AZ was how we knocked off 30-40 miles per week.  At Arizona State University, I loved being the one experimented-upon in the Human Performance Lab to determine aerobic capacity as the speed of the treadmill was increased and the incline rose.  Call me crazy, but I loved feeling spent after physical activity.
After 30+ years of running, our knees said No Mas.  So walking, biking, and hiking became our new physical activities of choice.   So I ask you?  Given that background, what do I do with the athletic woman of my dreams to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on the first of July?Why a big time bike ride on the coast of New Hampshire!  Into symmetry, we thought we’d bike 40 miles for 40 years of marriage. With our sister-in-law Becky down for the weekend from Portland, we rode 20 miles on the back country roads from York to and from Kittery on the Saturday afternoon before our anniversary so we had a mere 20 left to do this Sunday anniversary morning.
Setting the alarm for 515A so as to be on the road before the Sunday summer beach traffic gets heavy on this first day of July, we grab a quick banana, hydrate, and set out for Portsmouth, NH.  Stuffing Becky’s road bike in her Mom’s SUV, we use our Saris Bones 2 Bike Rack for Hannah’s bike and mine.   With no room for sitting in the back, Hannah sits on my lap for the ten mile trip over the I-95 Piscataqua River Bridge to Portsmouth to park by the mill pond just off the center of town.
Hannah and Becky at the Mill Pond
Leaving the mill pond lot at 615A, we indeed have the road to ourselves as we first pass the Portsmouth City Offices, formerly the Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where our son Will was born back in 1983.  (His sisters Molly and Robyn were born at Desert Samaritan Hospital in Mesa, Arizona.)  At this early hour, we pedal onto nearly empty Route 1B into New Castle, NH.
Crossing into New Castle
In typical New England fashion the exact same main road that goes through this town is called Portsmouth Avenue, Cranfield Street, Main Street, and finally Wentworth Road in the space of two miles.  The why of such naming escapes me.  New Castle is a classic New England sea port community with many 18th and 19th century houses built right to the road with very little place for parking.  It is the smallest town in New Hampshire and the only one located entirely on islands.  It’s as New England-y as you get.
Hannah rolling by the marshes
Passing tidal rivers and marsh lands, we are fortunate to have Becky in our lives; for many reasons.  One being that there are few people we know our age, who would eagerly get up at this early hour to ride with us and relish a ride of such distance.
Becky rolling by those same marshes
Passing the Wentworth by the Sea Marriot Hotel and Spa we cross an open grate draw bridge on our way to Route 1A and the Atlantic Ocean. Though busier than Route 1B through New Castle, Route 1A at 645A time means there is still very little traffic.
Passing Odiorne State Park
Once past Odiorne State Park and the Seacoast Science Center, we are greeted by the sun already up above the Atlantic Ocean.  At this point on Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), the bike path is wide and riding side by side is safe and friendly.
Ocean Boulevard
Faster bicyclists roar by us, usually with head down and pedaling vigorously on a mission to maximize their workout.  Our mission is a little more modest: to ride 20 miles and catch up on each other’s lives.
Further south on Ocean Boulevard
It’s summer vacation as we roll past Rye, NH with housekeeping cottages, rentals, and small summer homes on the marshes across from the beaches which can go for under $1000 to over $4000 per week during the summer season.  We first pass Wallis Sands State Park, then Ray’s Seafood.
We make Rye Harbor our turn around point.
Pedaling by Rye Harbor
Shooting for an hour of biking out and an hour back on our morning ride, we spin easily by lobster boats and small yachts.  Morning guests in mansions along the ocean wave as we head for home as traffic picks up along the shore road.   It’s biking central for serious bicyclists.
Passing Odiorne State Park on the return trip, we are approaching 20 miles with energy still in our legs and a look forward to Hannah’s homemade bread at breakfast.   By the time we return to Portsmouth, we’ve biked 25 miles in the early Sunday morning on a day that’s going to 90 degrees.
Back to Portsmouth Harbor
It’s a memorable 40th morning with the girl of my dreams.
When you next visit York and Seacoast Maine/New Hampshire, consider an early morning ride to New Castle, then stop by Dan and Hannah’s for coffee and toasted homemade bread with us.
We’re serious.

Dan and Hannah Bike the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island and Meet a Fox

Days on our PEI “holiday” begin with an hour walking the boardwalk along the harbor of Summerside before our Green Willow Farm B and B breakfast.  In mid-June, the tourist season has not begun and we’ve the boardwalk to ourselves.

Harbor scene from Baywalk

With the same crew at breakfast (mother and daughter from Alberta, Canada and a retired couple from the States), we gab like old friends on this second morning together, mainly because Hannah greases the pan for it all to happen.  Invite her to any small gathering; Hannah’s lively, quick witted, and warms to her role as facilitator.
This morning’s bike ride is heading north on the Confederation Trail from Summerside to Kensington.  (Doesn’t that sound like we are in merry old England?)  We’ll bike ten kilometres (6 miles-ish) each way on the former railway (closed in 1989) (a similar initiative to Rails to Trails in the States) with its red crushed gravel, raised bed between fields of potatoes or grain.
Newly planted potato field
Gates alert us to cross roads and slow us down for our safety.
Safety gates on the Confederation Trail
And if those Canadians aren’t nice enough already, they will 99 out of 100 times stop in the road, even on the high speed Route 2 that goes through the heart of the Province to let us pass.   Soon we come upon three pairs of all-female crews cutting the brush on the side of the trail, mowing a breakdown lane of grass, and weedwacking the high grass.  Surprised that we see no males, we ask why female teams?   No reason, but it’s easy to see the Province is an equal opportunity employer.  Their Provincial tax (16%) pays for the necessary infrastructure, let alone health care for all.  I was surprised when I paid nearly $2 tax on a $12.50 pizza.  Beer is $14 for a six pack.  Helmets are required of all bicyclists.  Will the Socialists stop at nothing!  But I digress. 
On this windy day with no humidity, laundry blows on the backyard lines out of some early 20th century Anne of Green Gables scene.
As we ride, Hannah and I talk of how going away gives us the discipline to read and write and dream and plan in ways the routines and have-tos of life at home don’t.  There are always “necessary” responsibilities keeping us from the business of self-reflection and growth.  It’s easy to run in place tending to life’s “to do” list.
Going to Kensington on the Confederation Trail
It’s a light 50 minutes of level pedaling to Kensington.   Returning to Summerside, we see a few bicyclists who are invariably smiling and polite.  Off to the East some three hundred yards past the potato fields we see Route 2 with its traffic of commerce, and yet it’s quiet and peaceful on the trail.
Confederation Trail
As we bike for home, an idea grows.  What if we bike the entire 273 kms (about 170 miles) of the Confederation Trail from the North Cape near Tisdale to Elmira on the East Cape?  With panniers (bags attached to bikes) on our bikes we could carry all we need.   We’d start out after an early June night at a B and B and bike 60-70 kilometres per day.  That sort of mileage or kilometage would allow us to visit new PEI towns in the off season and complete the trail in four days.  It would be our own mini-thru bike (a la the Appalachian Trail) with the added benefits of a short duration (four days), not sleeping with snoring fellow travelers in a shelter, a bed! and private bathroom, and ending each day with a fine glass of wine and a hearty breakfast the next morning.  This is an idea that won’t be denied.
Potato field just off the Confederation Trail
Lunch, nap, and reading rejuvenate us for our afternoon of golf.
Green Willow Farm B & B hayfield the day before it rained
On a whim, I had packed three clubs and a putter, six balls, tees, golf glove, and golf shoes in the trunk of our Hyundai on the chance that I’d find a nine-hole course.  I had no idea that across the street from our B and B is a nine-hole par 3 course at the Summerside Quality Inn.  And for $7 to boot!  Hannah jumps at the chance to play, too, and we have an afternoon twosome.
Quality Inn Golf course
The holes range from 70 to 120 yards so it’s short iron stuff for golfers.  The greens are just more shaved versions of the fairways with weeds here and there on the putting surface.  The Masters it is not.  The score card says; please hold up on swing at #9 as there are people in the pool.  Oh, that’s not a lawsuit waiting to happen.  But no matter.  Hannah has not played in 30 years since we golfed in Arizona.  But she’s a Phys. Ed. major from the division 3 sports powerhouse, the College of Wooster in Ohio (look it up!) and is up for most any athletic challenge.  You all may remember her willingness to climb Angel’s Landing in Zion National Parkfor a second time when the rest of the family said, “No mas.”
We get to the first tee and I exchange my sandals for golf shoes.  It’s 96 yards long with pine trees sprinkled throughout what must have been an old hay field.  We play two balls each for the practice, as our games are rusty and there is no one else on the course.  After hitting her first seven iron, Hannah sees a cute red fox approach.  How PEI!
The red fox moves in
The fox slithers over and stands above Hannah’s Titleist.  Before we know it, he grabs the golf ball in his mouth and skitters off into the brush.  Stunned, Hannah is incensed.  She runs toward the fox with her 7 iron, but the fox is too sly and too quick (You all remember The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog from high school typing class which contains all the letters in the alphabet.  That’s truer than I realized.)  In a flash, we are down one Titleist.  Given fair warning, we are ready to go mano y mano (or animale) with this PEI fox.   For the second hole, I walk half way down the fairway (some 50 yards) and wait for Hannah to hit, prepared to wave my wedge at the offending fox when he reemerges from the woods.  This strategy seems to work but doesn’t discourage the fox from trying.
Hannah and her Seven Iron
At the third hole 79 yards, the fox lurks. Bold as can be, she comes within ten feet.  Hannah jumps into action.  Grabbing the flag stick from the third hole, she starts down the fairway waving the pole with its red flag chasing the fox.  The fox wants no part of this highly motivated athletic woman and scoots into the underbrush.  On the fourth hole he’s back.  At this point, the fourth hole flag stick will be in our hands at all times.  I go down the fairway, wait for Hannah to hit and then return to the tee box and hit my shot.  We repeat this dance for each hole.
Hannah with flag stick in hand
We yell and wave the red flag when he reappears.  Fact is, Hannah plays well.  She’s an athletic talent of the first order.   She hits through the ball and follows through nicely.
Dan looking to hole a birdie putt
We each hit some good shots and enjoy the ninety minutes on a sunny 70 degree day without losing another ball.  Returning to the hotel desk, we mention the fox.  And the receptionist, clearly not a golfer, says, That happens all the time.  She is smiling and oh so Canadian.  She adds in a perky way, Sometimes people have to stop playing because they run out of balls.  “Perhaps, you might have mentioned the fox before we went out to the first tee!” we think.
That night we get takeout pizza for dinner.  As we walk back Hannah steers me across the street to this sign below at a local Wilson’s gas stop on the main drag.
I wish you Hannahs in your life.
Our take away – We’ll be back to bike the entire Confederation Trail next June and be ready for the quick red fox.
A June 2013 return to the Confederation Trail