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Bike tour celebrates character of community, cooperatives

Cathy and Myron Skott, age 62 and 64, have been long-distance cycling for 21 years. They choose bicycling for a number of reasons: It's a great way to see the country; rural landscapes and cities; cycling exposes you to upfront and personal encounters with farmers, community, and the great things that people do across the country. It's also therapeutic, and an enjoyable way to stay in shape.
Though the Skotts have done many long-distance rides, the ride they are on now is different. They are the volunteer sponsored riders for the 2012 Community Tour that will be celebrated in Portland July 7.
Cabot Cheese is sponsoring the Skotts on this ride. Which, Cathy says "is to promote and celebrate community, volunteerism, and cooperative." This message raises awareness for the East Coast Greenway, a cycling route that, when completed, will span the east coast from Key West, Florida to Calais. Roughly 3,000 miles, 25 percent of this bike route is off-road on old restored rail beds. Cyclists are able to enjoy great cities linked by miles of rural landscape — riders see how city and farm life come together shaping the character of community, cooperative, and give cause for celebrating the great work that people do.
Myron learned of the East Coast Greenway back in 2004. He signed up for their newsletter, and cycled portions of the route since. When he learned about the 2012 Community Tour, the couple volunteered to ride. When they arrive in Portland July 7, the tour will be complete. The Skotts will have covered 2,300 miles, and celebrated in eight major cities: Miami, Charleston, Durham, Fredericksburg, Wilmington, New York, Providence and Portland.
When I caught up to the Skotts last weekend, they were in Wilmington, Del. Myron looked at his odometer: They had ridden 1,583 miles. It was Father's Day — and a rest day for the Skotts, following the Wilmington Community Celebration.
Awareness of the Cabot Community Tour is growing, and people have been following the Skotts. For the Wilmington celebration, more than 100 riders joined the Skotts on their ride into the city. And they hope that other cities will do the same. To learn about the tour, and daily rides, visit www.communitytour.coop
For those thinking about discovering the world of distance cycling, Myron offers some tips: Go out for shorter bike rides first. A five- or six-day tour will give you a good flavor for distance riding. He recommends that you drive to your furthest destination, and ride home. This helps with those moments on the ride when you begin to question your sanity in doing this — somehow, riding home makes it easier. Turning back isn't an option. The Skotts ride recumbent long bikes — built for comfort, the bikes always draw attention, invite conversation and spark curiosity.
When the Skotts tour on their own, they typically carry 45 pounds of gear each on their bike. This includes extra tire tubes, water, and granola bars. When asked what was the most essential item that they have, both agreed, it was the small rearview mirror that attaches to their sunglasses. Touring on their own, they're able to stay put on rainy days, where they find the local library. On nice days, the most welcoming sight is a shady church yard or park, with marble picnic tables. The marble is cool, and a great place for tired cyclists to stretch out on. The Skotts encourage others to discover cycling.
The East Coast Greenway route in Maine offers nearly 400 miles of diverse scenery that includes coastal communities, historic mill cities, blueberry fields and more. If you'd like to add biking to your summer to do list, go to http://www.exploremaine.org/bike/eastcoastgreenway/ There's time to get a ride or two in, before the Skotts arrive in Portland. They hope that you'll consider joining them and celebrating.
The people they meet along the way is what they really enjoy. Cycling puts you in situations and encounters that you wouldn't experience or notice otherwise. Some examples include, the encounter with the posted sign on the bridge that says 'No pedestrians or bikes allowed' – the Skotts solution: flag down a pick-up truck and ask them to transport you and your bike across the bridge! Another delightful and common encounter is the miles from a bathroom - the needed pit stop. The cyclist solution: A shady tree on a farmers land. While stopped, they enjoy a granola bar and water, and have ended up speaking to the farmers. Cathy noticed the difference that volunteers make in a community; noting the Adopt A Highway project in Florida, where a community of volunteers formed a partnership to clean up the litter. "What a difference it makes", she says. These examples, are exactly what the tour celebrates. The Skott's hope that they'll turn people onto cycling, and that people will come out, join them on the ride into Portland, and celebrate community July 7 in Portland.
The celebration will take place in Payson Park, on Baxter Blvd in Portland from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
(Karen Vachon is a resident of Scarborough. She is a licensed insurance agent, and an active volunteer in her community.)

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