McLean Rest Stop Has Welcomed Trek Across Maine Cyclists for More than 20 years

Embden Rest Stop Between Farmington and Waterville is a Favorite Among Trekkers

McLean Photo
Winston and Nancy McLean with their granddaughter, Kristen, in 1999.

On Father’s Day weekend, the American Lung Association of the Northeast will celebrate the 29th annual Trek Across Maine, with more than 2,000 cyclists taking off from Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry and finishing up at Steamboat Landing Park in Belfast. The event is the largest fundraiser for the nonprofit organization nationwide, raising $1.8 million in 2012, with a goal of $2 million for 2013.

While the cyclists who come to Maine may be able to ride 60 miles each day, even the most advanced trekkers need respite.  That’s why the Trek Across Maine partners with local property owners, like Nancy McLean of Embden, who are willing to donate their land for the day to serve as rest stops. The strategically placed stops are scattered all along the 180-mile route giving trekkers a place to relax and recharge. She and her late husband, Winston, were approached some 20 years ago by the Lung Association to see if they’d be willing to let the event use their large field as a rest stop. The McLean rest stop has been in operation every year since.

“I recall someone from the Lung Association coming to our door to ask us,” says Nancy. “We were happy to do so.  It’s fun to be part of this event and there’s really nothing we need to do to prepare except make sure the lawn is mowed.  The Trek people have the portable toilets set up ahead of time as well as the medical tent and the large tent for  snacks, water and other drinks. Everything is ready by the time the volunteers and the bike mechanics arrive.  They break down everything when they leave and clean up too.  When they’re through, you wouldn’t know anyone had ever been here. People have asked us if we are having a wedding as the large tent is set up several days before the event.”

The Lung Association’s mission has always been important to Nancy.  Her husband, Winston, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, which is a term referring to two lung diseases, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, that are characterized by obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing. Winston’s COPD was controlled for many years but he succumbed to the disease December 9, 2012, at age 85. This year’s Trek will be the first Trek Across Maine Winston will not see.

“For many years my husband lived well despite the COPD,” explains Nancy.  “Back when he was first diagnosed in 1983, they called it emphysema but eventually that was changed to COPD.  As the years went on, the treatments changed as well; there were always new treatments coming out. At first Win took some different medications and had inhalers.  Then they came out with a new nebulizer machine that helped him greatly. It wasn’t until the last four years of his life that he needed to be on oxygen.   I really credit the Lung Association and the research they fund to find better treatments for COPD for helping to make his life as comfortable as possible and for living as long as he did with the disease.”

Nancy said that Win did smoke when he was a very young man, but was never a heavy smoker. "I didn't know he did smoke, until one of his friends told me he had quit,”  says Nancy. “When we started going together in 1953, he told everyone that he couldn't afford to take me out and smoke, too, so he quit smoking.  I am glad he chose me!"  

While COPD is most frequently caused by smoking and approximately 85 to 90 percent of all COPD deaths are caused by smoking, there are other risk factors. While Nancy doesn’t know for sure what caused Winston’s COPD, she surmises that the hay dust, sawdust and chemicals used in growing corn on the family dairy farm they  owned and operated in North Anson after the death of his father, may have contributed to his disease. That farm was down the road about a mile from where they have lived for 30 years in Embden after retiring.  Other risk factors for COPD include exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke and occupational dusts and chemicals. Heredity and a history of childhood respiratory infections are risk factors as well.

“Things are done a lot differently on farms nowadays, both in terms of the chemicals used and in the way a farm is run,” Nancy says.  “For example, the dairy cattle used to stay inside all winter and were all closed in; that’s not done anymore and it’s much healthier for them.”  
 
Nancy says she is looking forward to this year’s Trek Across Maine.  She enjoys visiting the rest stop and seeing all the cyclists and teams sporting their company jerseys.  She is always amazed by the number of people the event attracts each year and is interested to hear how far people have traveled to be part of the event. "It is also fun to see the children, some of them  quite small, who ride with their parents on a tandem bike, or even occasionally, a three seater.  They seem to really enjoy it, and have a lot of energy, always ready to get on their bike and head off."

 “I have so many fond memories of the Trek,” says Nancy. “One year there was quite a thunderstorm and it was kind of frightening.  Winston escorted the cyclists that were at our rest stop at the time to our barn to take cover and wait out the storm.  They were very grateful; we received thank you notes from many of them after the Trek was over.  It’s just really a nice group of people and a wonderful event for a worthwhile cause.

On Friday, June 14, more than 2,000 will leave from Sunday River Ski Resort and make the 180-mile Trek to Belfast. Cyclists come from all over the country to be a part of the weekend. All proceeds benefit the American Lung Association and help fund valuable research, education and advocacy.

Registration for the Trek's 30th Anniversary ride is open online by visiting TrekMaine30.org and will also be available on-site at this year's Trek. To learn more about the Lung Association’s other bike treks or to make a donation that could help save lives visit Biketreknewengland.org.