Russian journalist pedals through Portland, on her way to Florida

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PORTLAND — Lena Faber is on the road again.

“I’m not sure if I am a cyclist, but I know how to ride a bike,” she said May 17 as she passed through Portland, headed for points south along the East Coast Greenway.

A self-described “Russian journalist from South Africa,” Faber’s wanderlust is global and includes travels around Moscow, the interior of South Africa, the Appalachian Trail and Route 66, which runs southwest from Chicago to California.

“What is common is whatever the country looks like, or what you hear on media or from a politician, 95 percent of people are very good people in any country,” Faber said. “All the people just want the same for them and their kids, to have a better life.”

Her ride began earlier this month in Calais, at the head of the 3,000-mile trail. The ground was still snowy and the weather not hospitable, but the travel delays gave Faber the chance to meet people.

On her way to Portland, she stayed at a fire station, a snowmobile club, and with families who invited her to come inside after she asked if she could pitch a tent in their yards.

In return for the hospitality, Faber said she cleaned the fire station and the snowmobilers’ clubhouse.

In Thomaston, Percy and Gail Robinson took Faber in for several days, cooked lobster stew and a dinner of Finnish cuisine. On Mother’s Day, she was introduced to friends and family as an adopted daughter, Faber said.

As she rides, Faber will also promote www.stayontrailhelpontrail.com, a new site for people looking to host East Coast Greenway users in exchange for help with household tasks.

She expects to complete her ride in September, and said she is less daunted by riding through the heat and humidity than she had been about encountering wildlife on her way to Portland.

“I was not looking forward to riding too close to a bear or moose,” she said, although she still prefers off-road trails for her trip.

According to its website, 30 percent of the East Coast Greenway is off road, including almost 15 miles of the local Eastern Trail from South Portland to Saco. The trail in this section does return to roads to get over the Nonesuch River in Scarborough. There is also no off-road link over the Saco River, but Faber will be able to cross U.S. Route 1 and the Maine Turnpike on bridges.

Faber, who declined to give her age, but said she has raised two daughters, began writing professionally after a divorce.

“I know I can write, so I wrote something for one newspaper and they invited me (to write more),” she said.

She said she was blessed to be given great leeway on her work. Her travels outside Moscow came when she was test driving a car for an article; her desire was to see small towns within 100 kilometers, or 62 miles of the city.

“What I liked about it was the tiny places, tiny museums,” she said. “I would ask people ‘where is this?’ I need people to navigate for me.”

In 2009, Faber moved to South Africa, where she took up distance running, and eventually shifted to long-distance hiking while carrying minimal gear. In 2012, she walked the length of the Appalachian Trail.

The ride on U.S. Route 66 was done at her leisure, she said.

“I wanted to see middle America, and it is very cool what they made,” Faber said. “You ride from one side to the other and people keep this little bit of their golden age.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Russian journalist Lena Faber rides down Carleton Street in Portland May 17 before continuing on her trip to Key West, Florida.

Lena Faber’s starting point for her East Coast bicycle ride was Calais. In Portland on May 17, she showed where the trip will end in September.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.