York Maine and the Seacoast Century

In September I traveled to York, Maine to participate in the Seacoast Century hosted by the Granite State Wheelmen. The event is held each year on the third weekend of September and this year marked the 45th edition of this awesome cycling event. Riders choose from 25, 50, 65, and 100-mile routes, with the 100-mile route navigating along the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastlines. All rides start and end at the Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire with over 1,000 riders registering this year with options to ride either Saturday, Sunday, or both days. I have participated in this ride almost every year and have participated in at least a dozen. I typically ride the 65-mile route with a detour to visit Nubble Lighthouse making it about a 75-mile ride to the lighthouse and back to Hampton Beach. This year my wife Shawn joined me and we left Friday afternoon after work with a car packed with cycling and camera gear. We stayed in York Maine one of my favorite towns in Maine. A beautiful coastal town with a quintessential New England fell, wonderful beaches, and of course the ionic Nubble Lighthouse.

Waiting for sunrise

York Harbor Sunrise

I was up early on Saturday and wanted to take some quick sunrise photos before the ride. Not having a lot of time I quickly drove to York Harbor. Garbing my camera gear I notice a fair amount of high-level clouds on the horizon and quickly scanned the beach for compositions. I was immediately drawn to the rocky coast to the left as I approached the ocean, noting several large buildings part of the York Harbor Inn. Identifying my potential composition I set-up my tripod and camera. However sky was still colorless, so I took some quick photos to frame my image consisting of the rocky coast and the York Harbor Reading Room. Then waited for the sun to make its dramatic appearance, but as the sun approached the horizon the colors only slightly improved. Beginning to think that sunrise was going to be a bust, the colors started to pop and quickly filled the sky. Being patient always pays off. I took several photos with my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and several with my Nisi filters for some long exposures. I probably spent about 45-minutes taking pictures and finally decided to pack-up to make it to the bike ride. 

Golden Sunrise

As I walked to my car I looked back and notice a family walking on the beach in silhouette against a golden sunrise. My camera was packed, so I quickly snap a few photos with my iPhone and the results were pretty decent, so much for my Nikon.

The Ride

I arrived at Hampton Beach State Park a bit late after 8 AM when all riders are required to be on the road, guess I had too much fun taking photos and most of the riders had already departed.  The weather was mostly clear and a bit cold, low 40’s, but forecasted to rise to the upper 60’s in the afternoon.  After deciding what layers of clothing I needed for the ride, I picked up my registration package, filled my water bottles, and headed out of the parking lot turning right onto Route 1-A to Nubble Lighthouse.  There were only a few cyclists were on the road, but having done the ride so many times I knew the route.  As usual being on the coast, there was a slight headwind to challenge me.  As I approached North Hampton I began to warm up, especially my fingers and ready to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Ocean Boulevard

Entering North Hampton I  passed by the Beach Plum ice cream shop that I typically visit post ride for a well-deserved chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  From North Hampton, the ride proceeds through Rye with awesome views of the ocean where I stopped several times to take some quick pictures with my iPhone.  Continuing along Route 1-A the ride enters Portsmouth taking Route 1-B to the New Castle area.  I particularly enjoy this part of Portsmouth with all the older New England style homes and great views of the harbor.

New Castle

After passing Prescott Park, riders cross the Piscataqua River and enter Kittery Maine.  The route in Maine takes Route 103 passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and stopping at Fort McClary State Park for a rest stop that provides snacks, water, and other goodies.  A bike mechanic is also available to address most mechanical issues.  Leaving the rest stop we continue north on Route 103 to York passing the Wiggly Bridge, a small pedestrian bridge on the York River.  Riders then turn onto Route 1A passing York Harbor then onto Long Sands Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and ocean.  The 65-mile route turns back before reaching Long Sands Beach, but I always continue on to reach Nubble Lighthouse, after all, it’s only a few more miles.

Long Sands Beach

Prior to getting to the lighthouse, I took a detour to join my wife and ride together to the “Nub”. At the lighthouse, it was crowded as usual with the parking lot full and at least two tour buses offloading passengers with cameras in hand. We rested for a short time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and weather and took more photos. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was being renovated and was completely wrapped in scaffolding.  After we proceed to Short Sands Beach looking for lunch, passing the pavilion we looped back around to Long Sands Beach and stopped at the Stones Throw restaurant and got a table directly in front of the beach. After having fish tacos and relaxing, I decided not to head back to Hampton Beach, but cruise around York for the afternoon. I still managed to get in 50 miles for the day. During our exploration, we hike the Cliff Walk at York Harbor a beautiful 1-mile walk out and back along the rocky Maine coastline. We saw plenty of Monarch butterflies fluttering among the flowers along the walk, a common sight during the weekend.

Short Sands Beach

Portsmouth

That evening we meet some friend for dinner in Portsmouth,  a fun town with a historic downtown area with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. I usually make going to one of their great restaurants part of my annual traditions, nothing’s better than having a great meal after a long ride. We meet at the Dolphin Striker on Bow Street and dined on fresh New England seafood. I had Haddock Piccata served with spinach, leeks, tomatoes, and fettuccine. Both the food and conversation was excellent, including a conversation with the owner. For dessert we went to one of the local bakeries, Breaking New Grounds coffee shop and enjoyed some dark German chocolate cake.  Another great bakery  is Popovers serving their namesake large popovers along with other fabulous baked goods.  In year’s past, I have eaten at several other great restaurants such as Jumping Jay’s Fish Cafe and Surf Portsmouth for seafood. Another favorite is the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro & Bar a very popular restaurant serving very tasty and satisfying dishes such as their pineapple fried rice, which I would highly recommend.

Sunday fun day

Long Sands Beach Sunrise

Sunday morning I got up early again to take photographs of the sunrise this time at Long Sands Beach. So hard to get up before sunrise, but never regret it afterwards. The sky had plenty of high-level clouds, great potential for dramatic, sunrise.  It was fairly windy and the temperature had dropped significantly from the previous day. Parked my car along the seawall and set-up my gear. Sunrise was very dramatic with lots of reds, yellow, and blacks offering great drama and contrast. For my photos, I used my Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens without filters.  

Sand Piper

I return to the hotel and we went out to breakfast at St. Joe’s Bakery off Route 1 and enjoyed a freshly made bagel egg sandwiches.  After we drove to Long Sands Beach for a walk along the beach.  The temperature was much warmer and the sky was clear.  There were a fair number of others strolling along the beach, some with their dogs, and a lone surfer.  Afterwards, we paid a visit to Stonewall Kitchen conveniently located next to our hotel.  We sampled some of their jams and other products and purchased a few jars of jams.  We also purchased some freshly baked scones with wild blueberries and enjoyed them in the outdoor courtyard with some coffee.  Outside in the courtyard was a flower garden with Monarch butterflies fluttering around, which I spent time taking photographs. 

Long Sands Beach
Monarch butterfly

Afterward, we went to the outlets in Kittery and picked up some bargains then drove to Portsmouth for a late lunch at the Green Elephant restaurant. Before sitting down for lunch we spent an hour walking around Prescott Park taking some photos of the harbor and the beautiful flower gardens. Lunch at the Green Elephant was fantastic as usual and as we started heading home south on Route 95 we witnessed a brilliant sunset. 

Prescott Park
Portsmouth Harbor

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