WINTER HARBOR — Toting plates of lasagna, salad and garlic bread followed by apple crisp, 400 bicyclists settled onto the ball field at the Schoodic Institute Sept. 10 before burrowing into their colorful tents for the night.
The bicyclists and dozens of support staff are participating in the fourth annual BikeMaine ride sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is a nonprofit with more than 5,000 members. Its mission is to make the state a better place for bicyclists.
Mark Berry, president of the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, said the healthy, outdoor recreation is a nice way to showcase what the area in general, and the Schoodic Peninsula in particular, has to offer.
“Downeast Maine is an extraordinary place with a uniquely valuable natural landscape and attractive communities,” he said.
BikeMaine is the largest seven-day ride in the Northeast and is modeled after successful rides in other parts of the country.
This year’s event includes bicyclists from 37 states and provinces and from a half-dozen countries.
The idea is to raise awareness about bicycling and expose riders to areas of the state that might not normally see large waves of visitors.
The BikeMaine trip began in Winter Harbor and then went on to Jonesport, Machias, Eastport, Lubec and Milbridge. It will end Sept. 17 at the Schoodic Institute.
Riders cover about 55 miles per day with an optional more-than-10-mile loop for those who want to extend their trip in each area.
The cost is $875 per bicyclist and includes 18 meals of mostly locally sourced, seasonal food, beverages and snacks, baggage transport, mechanical and medical support and a camping site with showers, restrooms and evening entertainment.
Comedian Tim Sample entertained the riders at the Schoodic Institute while the institute staff provided the food.
The ride director of BikeMaine, Kim Anderson True, said the organization is trying to develop bicycle tourism in the state, particularly in small communities.
Another goal is to create what will be a permanent bike route for bicyclists.
Each year BikeMaine chooses a different route and a new part of the state to explore.
This week’s ride straddles Hancock and Washington counties and encompasses the Bold Coast Scenic Byway, the Blackswoods Scenic Byway and the Schoodic National Scenic Byway.
The coalition said the first three BikeMaine rides generated more than $1 million in direct economic impact to different regions of the state through rider spending as well as the sourcing of local products and services for the ride.