How two wheels and some of the best coastal scenery in the country can remake a person’s point of view.

By Kristen Shelton Fielder
January 26, 2015

After four days spent pedaling past tiny lobster shacks and towering lighthouses on our way through quiet fishing villages, it's the final ride of the trip. When we cross the finish line, our Discovery Bicycle Tours group members will scatter back to our home states. We have our heads, fingers, and noses buried in all three of our maps, periodically looking up to see if the signage is pointing us toward Bar Harbor.

We've taken a detour to avoid a busy highway and now we need to decide if we should reverse the morning's directions and retrace our trail. If only the GPS would work! Instead, a handsome man on a bike—barely out of breath—stops at our group. "Did you just come from Bar Harbor?" someone asks. "Can we get there from here?" "Yes, of course," he says. "Just take a right, and then it's all lefts." With his directions, the ride back is downhill—and I am nothing if not an excellent coaster.

To be honest, I am not an adventure-seeker or a hardcore anything. I am an erstwhile runner, a sometime yogi, and lately a real couch potato. Looking back, jumping into five full days of biking around Maine seems a bit crazy, but I couldn't have found a better tour group. Vermont-based Discovery Bicycle Tours offers small-group cycling vacations around the United States and Europe. The six-day coastal Maine tour has had us rolling down carriage roads and into villages, and hopping boats to the islands around Bass Harbor. Each day holds new coastal views and a chance to redeem myself from the last ride.

Each night has meant a filling dinner, excellent conversation, and warm beds at either The Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor or the Manor House Inn in Bar Harbor. I am admittedly partial to our guides, David and Cindy, who became counselors, teachers, and coaches. I was never without one of them, which ultimately forced me to grit my teeth and spin out another mile—uphill. Someone rode in the back (read: with me), and the other drove a van, which amazingly I never used.

I am the youngest by about 20 years and the worst by about 1,000 miles. Each day, I've drug in at dark, legs shaking and sweaty, only to find the others—mostly couples—all showered and ready to eat. But I am leaving so inspired: I think that all of my new friends will agree that we each lost something on this trip—inhibitions, a pair of gloves, five or 10 pounds. But we gained so much more. Inspiration. Determination. Knowledge. (And yes, a sore rear.)

Rates for the six-day Coast of Maine Bike Tour start at $2,195;

Photos, from top: Mike Kemp/Blend Images/Getty Images; Alan Copson/Getty Images