PORTLAND, Maine (AFPN) — After pedaling their bicycles along 170 miles of Maine roads, 18 Maine Air National Guard Cycle Team members, dressed in red, white and blue cycling outfits, coasted to the end of their three-day journey Aug. 20 in front of the local minor league baseball stadium here.
Their trek started in Bangor Aug. 18 and they headed south, stopping along the way to celebrate and promote the 60th anniversary of the Air National Guard with the public.
The event was part of Air Force Week New England Aug. 17 to 26, which is celebrating the Air Force’s birthday with special events in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
Flat tires, hills, and rain did not stop them from informing the public about the Air National Guard and the Air Force.
“It was a little difficult at first with the rain and wind, and it was cold, but we made it through,” said Lt. Col. Michael Girardin, from the Maine ANG’s Joint Force Headquarters at Camp Keyes in Augusta.
They spent the first night in Augusta and they rode to Auburn the next day. Their final leg took them to Portland.
After taking a short break in Freeport, the group left for Portland with a police escort leading the way. They followed the police car and its siren along the town’s main boulevard as hundreds watched them roll by.
The riders represented the Maine ANG’s 101st Air Refueling Wing, 243rd Engineering Installation Squadron, 256th Combat Communications Squadron and the Joint Forces Headquarters.
“It seemed fitting that we put together a bike team and stop at communities to talk to people about the Air National Guard,” said Col. Don McCormick, JFHQ chief of staff.
A chase van followed the team with spare bike tires and tubes as well as boxes of ANG water bottles and other handouts which team members gave to people along the way.
The colonel said a highlight of the trip was visiting the Maine Veterans Home in Augusta.
“It was a really touching experience,” Colonel McCormick said. “We’d had a tough day. We started in the rain, and then we had hills, and then we had the wind, but to finish with the veterans made the difference. We actually met a veteran who was in the Maine Air National Guard in 1946 and 1947 … a founding member and he was just so proud and happy that we stopped in to see him.”
Maine officials kicked off their portion of Air Force Week with a proclamation by Gov. John Baldacci. The celebration continued on the following day with a musical performance by the Air Force’s Tops in Blue at Old Orchard Beach. A Military Appreciation Day Aug. 20 in Portland included a flyover by a 101st Air Refueling Wing KC-135 Stratotanker during a local minor league baseball game.
“We saw a lot of folks waving flags along the way, and it was a very good trip,” Colonel Girardin said.