Friday, May 23

Portsmouth Bikes: New Castle

Having a bike is great, especially around seacoast New Hampshire. There are a lot places to go in and around Portsmouth that can make for a fun excursion with family or friends. The New Castle Loop is a popular one for runners, at only 10K, but it is great for people that don't like to bike too far, or as a family outing, or maybe just a quick bike ride on your lunch break.

Bike routes in seacoast New HampshireA. Prescott Park is a great place to start a bicycle adventure, but parking might be a problem during peak hours or if an event is happening in the park. Prescott Park isn't bad as a destination, either. It has a couple fields and some piers out in to the water, and the flower gardens, but I like the tree garden with the fountains, here:

bicycle from Prescott Park, Portsmouth New HampshireOnce you leave Prescott Park, you want to head towards Route 1B, and New Castle. To be honest, the narrow width of the roads' shoulders in New Castle leave something to be desired, but motorists will know you are there:

SABR Portsmouth Bikes--Share the RoadJust be aware that New Castle town ordinance dictates that cyclists must be single file, so make sure to keep vigilant behind you and get single-file if a car is approaching from behind, if you're cycling in a group.

B. After a couple of bridges, you'll be in New Castle. As you come up the little hill at the end of the bridge, keep your eyes peeled on the right hand side for the now-famous New Castle flower-bike:

Bicycle as Flower Pot, Bike with flower basketC. Then you have Fort Constitution. Don't let the "Homeland Security" thing scare you--there are no agents in this historical fort. Once you go up to the fort there's a portcullis and stuff, it's kind of like a medieval castle. Kids love that sort of thing. Heck, I love that sort of thing. Also that's where the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is.

Biking New England historical Fort ConstitutionD. Up the road a ways is the Great Island Common. This is a perfect picnic or cook-out place. There is a lot of open grassy area, and a jetty, and picnic benches. There's also a great view across the mouth of the Piscataqua. The town of New Castle has made subtle hints that this might be a good place for painters as well:

New Castle Common scenic paintingE. It is a very short bike ride to the next spot, historical Fort Stark. There is a little beach, but it's the pebbled sort of beach, not sand. And the fort is all smashed up and grafitti'd. It's more of a local beach, not an ideal family spot. On the up side, it's more of a local beach, and there aren't often kids running around.

Bike to historical Fort Stark, New Castle, New HampshireF. If you're like me, you're hungry by now. The Ice House is a little restaurant just up the road. They have a window where you can order ice cream outside, and a couple picnic tables. It's kind of perfect.

Bike to The Ice House, Route 1B, New Castle, New HampshireG. The last section of the ride is the so-called 'singing bridge' back to Portsmouth. This thing can be dangerous, especially when wet. Give it a shot riding over it, if you really want, but you might want to walk your bicycle.

Steel grate singing sagamore bridge, Portsmouth, New HampshireJust over the bridge is the only real hill on this loop; you can kind of see it in the above picture. Although it might be hard on a 40-pound single-speed while towing a couple of kids in a wagon, if you can't make it up without getting off your bike--ultimate humiliation!

Sunday Afternoon Bike Ride (SABR)
I'm thinking that with gasoline prices as high as they are, people will be skipping the "Sunday afternoon drive" and hopefully instead go for a Sunday Afternoon Bike Ride (SABR). With Memorial Day Weekend beginning today, now is a great time to start. The New Castle route is great because it has a lot of great destinations that can appeal to almost anyone. It's perfect for a Sunday bike ride, or you can skip the destinations and just bike it for the view. If you bike for health, it's a nice, relatively short ride that you can feel good about. For racers, at 10K it's a decent loop for a couple of intervals, just do it three or four times.

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