What comes to mind when you hear ads hocking “all-inclusive” trips and stays? If you’re anything like me, it conjures up images of crowded boat decks, syrupy cocktails and tasteless buffet-style meals. Trips you checked off your list, but places you never really visited.
The American Lung Association of New England’s Trek Across Maine breaks the mold. It’s a three-day, 180-mile bike ride across the state. The Trek is an all-inclusive vacation with substance. None of this anemic hogwash where you ate the food and drank the drink but you can’t recall the trip. You’ll remember every hill, valley and swimming hole during your Trek Across Maine. If you want a good “meat and potatoes” way to experience Maine’s beautiful back roads and quaint communities, do it by bike.
This year marks the 30th anniversary that the American Lung Association (ALA) has been leading this trip that starts at Sunday River and ends at the mouth of the Passagassawakeag River estuary on Penobscot Bay. Thousands of cyclists — who represent a diverse population of riders from the infamous 80-something-year-old Edward Blood to high school students, weekend warriors, moms, dads, grandmothers, competitive club cyclists and the like — ride. The reasons for riding are almost as diverse as the riders themselves.
I ride every year on a tandem bicycle with a youth from the Community Bicycle Center. We use it as a rite-of-passage event for kids mentored through our youth programs. Other folks use it as an annual, healthy family vacation as it’s always scheduled for Father’s Day weekend. Alternatively, for many dads it’s their weekend “off” and they go it alone. Hundreds of in-state and out-of-state riders look forward to it as a physically challenging and rewarding way to experience Maine. The kicker? Because the proceeds go to support the ALA’s healthy lung and clear air initiatives, participation in the Trek means that your vacation is improving the lives of people you may know as well as those who you may never even meet. Yes, it’s a fundraiser, but after five years of riding the Trek, I’ve never been on a better all-inclusive (and inexpensive) vacation than the Trek Across Maine.