My journey on two wheels last week was one of the greatest challenges and experiences I've had so far. Everything just came together so perfectly. I had never thought seriously about jumping into a self-supported cycling tour, although the idea has appealed to me. I love the idea of being able to attain such a level of independence and stepping away from "the grid" and all that it entails. But did I really have it in me to DO THIS?
The opportunity was shared by a member of one of our neighboring bicycle clubs who was organizing a self-supported cycling tour of Cape Cod. No hotels, but carrying all of our gear right on our bicycles: tent, sleeping bag, clothes, EVERYTHING! I knew that I didn't have the gear. In fact I have never camped out in any significant way before, except an overnight with my father and using a sleeping bag in a lean-to way back in middle school. Our bike club president TEAMAGIS offered to loan me all the equipment I would need. This was going WAY out of my comfort zone. I was both excited over the prospects of stepping into a whole new world of cycling that would thrill me, but also nervous over whether I would be able to adjust to all the potential challenges, most notably being a wuss about cycling in the rain...lol!
About a week prior to the tour TEAMAGIS very kindly offered at least a couple of hours of her time going over her equipment and running through a demonstration of setting up and taking down the tent. Did I take time to run through this on my own? Yes, but not soon enough...by the time I attempted I found myself getting stumped midway through the tent process. However another member of our touring party was familiar with this tent and I knew I could get a helping hand from him.
I joined the bike tour in Plymouth:
All loaded and ready to roll!
My gear weighed in at 30 pounds and my bike felt so incredibly sluggish & loaded down I didn't know how I would be able to MOVE this thing! Walking my bike along just felt like I was maneuvering a TANK. But amazingly, once I got on the bike and started moving I discovered Newton really knew what he was talking about when he referred to "an object in motion tends to stay in motion"...! I was psyched over how I was able to move with much more facileness and speed than I ever thought I could maintain. Fleet & sweet!
South of Plymouth we arrived at the Myles Standish State Forest with long stretches of bumpy road through sandy pines. I was revved and tended to zoom out ahead of the pack...of course I joined the ride about 30 miles after they had started and only picked up on the last 12 or so miles of the day. Our tour leader let me know later on: "Fast! You're going to fast! These miles are going to pile up and you're going to feel them. Take your time and join in with us." Which is absolutely one of the things I love about cycling with others...the company, camaraderie. To reconcile this with my need for speed I found myself developing a rhythm in which I would bike around others but at times drift toward the back of our pack (there were 8 of us and at times 9 when TEAMAGIS joined the tour on Thursday) and then SPRINT on through the group to the front. One of the fellows kidded about me being "Rocket Man!" :-)
During my first night in the tent it felt like we were dive-bombed by a helicopter which must have been in search of something, but I tell ya, it felt like I was waking up in the middle of a Speilberg movie! And it was COLD...38 degrees that night! I learned the hard way that a short-sleeved t-shirt wasn't going to cut it during the night. Despite being fairly comfortable in a sleeping bag on top of an air mattress and using ear plugs, I had trouble sleeping soundly outdoors for the first few nights...it wasn't until the final two nights that I was able to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. But it was only a day or two into the tour that I was getting into the "groove" of setting up camp, taking down and ride, ride, ride!
I listened to no external music during the whole tour, but as many of you know I often have my internal "radio" dialing in on a tune that will "stick" and a perfect song popped up in the beginning of this tour, a bright, cheery song with a "world" feel to it and the lovely Delores O'Riordan of the Cranberries joining with Jah Wobbles in "The Sun Does Rise":
Success with my first tent set up! I only needed a few tips from the other fellow who had a tent that was a slightly larger version of the same tent I was using. Same color, same design...and this sameness tripped me up the 2nd night at Horseneck Beach as I mistakenly thought he mistook MY tent for HIS, when I actually was mistaking HIS tent for MINE! I even took his shoes out of his tent to put in mine, thinking I was putting them into HIS tent...OMG was I embarrassed! Doubly so when on another occasion I unzipped what I thought was my tent only to find him changing in HIS tent!
I just loved all the gorgeous sunsets and took endless variations of pictures of the beautiful surroundings which graced our rides through the Cape.
Now the choice of THIS tent set up, however, had us all shaking our heads in wonder:
Here we are on the tail end of our single rainy day on the Cape Cod Canal trail around Bourne with the bridge which could elevate to different levels. We were extraordinarily blessed by only a slight drizzle which was on & off and let up entirely in the afternoon.
One of the cool things that occurred with this tour was the re-uniting of a couple of former classmates who had lost touch with each other since high school. One is a member of our bike club, the other a resident of Massachusetts who was familiar enough with parts of the area in which we rode. He was familiar with lots of things about the wildlife and history and shared cool tidbits about the peculiar bird along the canal and other areas which I learned was a cormorant, which had a dark, almost reptilian look as many would sit on top of a pole and spread its wings to dry as it did not have the water repellant oils that most birds have, which enables it to swim in the water very low with only its head sticking out of the water and bobbing out of sight into the water for long periods of time as it went after its meal.
Swans graced some of the small, quiet ponds filled with lily pads and still as glass. On another day an old song "Smile" came up on my "radio"...a lush, romantic rendition by Toots Thielemans, an exquisite 90+ year-old harmonica player from Belgium who is still going strong:
Near this salt marsh there were lots of broken bits of clam shells scattered around the road and this tour member from MA further educated me on how the gulls would pick up the clams from the ocean and drop them on the road to break them so that they could eat the meat. I wondered what gulls did before we paved roads for them?
Overnight at Martha's Vineyard Campgrounds one of our members' wallet had disappeared and was found. We suspect a raccoon stole off into the bushes with it. In another encounter with nature while taking down the site & loading up our bikes we had left some snacks out; cantaloupe, natural almonds & somebody's coffecake. Unbeknownst to us during our pack up we had a winged guest! I turned around and saw a gull hungrily snarfing down...the almonds? No, the cantaloupe?That coffecake was HISTORY! Sugar salt fat strikes again! I guess humans aren't the only critters vulnerable to this! :-)
Ferry rides were a big part of our tour, riding to and from Martha's Vineyard and while out on Martha's Vineyard we took a day trip our to Chappaquiddick (yes, and everybody got their historical elbow dig in...lol) which required the teensiest ferry ride. We saw the impeccably maintained Mytoi Japanese Gardens while on our way to Wasque Beach which I believe is on the Cape Pogue sound. There were some challenging rides through sand which was riddled with fist-sized rocks.
I unfortunately learned the following day that my rear tire had much less life left to it than I thought. Those stones must've pummeled the tire so much so that it was losing air and soft the following morning. Rather than taking any chances we changed the tube and kept our eye out for a bike shop and I later bought a replacement tire, wishing I had avoided this grief and bought it beforehand, however my local bike shop led me to believe my existing tire would work. At least we averted any problem of repeated flats out in the middle of nowhere!
The campgrounds at Martha's Vineyard offered a roaring campfire each of the two nights we stayed.
I noticed throughout the Cape the look of the homes and all their myriad variations on a driftwood grey theme:
Such a serene view by one's home...
Oh! And I think I found my 2nd career for my retirement!
Will pedal for food! :-)
And a bike tour wouldn't be complete with some bossa creeping into my radio...love the rhythm of Celso Fonseca's "Meu Samba Torto" which kept me bopping along:
There were certain points of the tour where we would start up a paved bike path or trail in which there were no turns or ways to split off from the group in which the tour leader would announce for my benefit, "hey we got 9 miles of trail here, feel free to go for it!" Which I happily did...whoosh! Off I went! Especially on a trail which is mostly lined by trees arching overhead and blocking any significant views. No flowers to stop & smell...? Time to feed my need for speed! Some others would join me occasionally too, which was great to have company, but I was pretty much the consistently incorrigible one...lol!
And for good reason: Just read in Huffington Post today: "100 Ways To Live To 100": "In a 2011 study of Copenhagen cyclists, men who pedaled fastest lived about five years longer than men who pedaled slowest. The fastest female cyclists averaged about four extra years. Among both genders, average cyclists lived somewhat longer than the slow pokes, proving the point that physical activity is good, but vigorous activity is even better." Zoom zoom ZOOM! :-)
It's a fun article: www.huffingtonpost.com/2
We tried to take in as many lighthouses as possible, the one above being the Highland Lighthouse near Truro. I learned from our tour partner from MA that we also pedaled by the site of the first source of fresh water that the pilgrims had located after landing on the Cape.
During our last day on the Cape we made the most of it: after setting up camp we beat it to the beach at Herring Cove:
One of us found a baby squid!
Here I am with another member of our tour:
We learned from our MA native that there was a trail we could ride from Herring Cove to the northern most point above Provincetown which was Race Point. And the WAY cool thing about this trail is that it wound up, down and all around the huge sand dunes in the area...the way a mountain bike trail might, except: all very nicely paved! Woo hoo! We were OFF!
Time for another SUNSET!
And we headed back to camp to prepare for a ride into Provincetown for dinner and seeing the nightlife:
And the one woman from the tour who joined several of us fellas just had to poke some fun and said, "all right guys, line 'em up by the Toys of Eros!"
Provincetown morning, waiting for our ferry ride back to Boston:
A sign among the eateries of Provincetown: Lobster - The Other Red Meat!
Tune for the last day: such a fine songstress, Janis Ian, "Light A Light":
Arriving in Boston harbor:
From there we rode through Boston via some pleasant trails leading up through U of Mass in Boston and heading into Braintree and Hingham where our journey ended at Wompatuck State Park.
The weather for all but one day was stupendous...70s, sunshine...and the nights warmed up into the 50s. Our tour leader put together such a seamless and smooth ride for the whole tour...we were truly blessed by his talents and diligent preparations. He scoured via Google's Street View every route that we took. All of us riders were rock solid in our skills and there was nary a single mishap with either our riding or mechanically with our bikes, other than my tire. Everyone was very pleasant, kind, helpful and generous with plenty of humor and wise-cracking...wonderful folks! It was such a perfect introduction to the world of self-supported bicycle touring!
I am so pleased that I took a chance to push the envelope and challenge myself with this tour!
For those interested in more pics, here are over 100:
What a finale to my summer! On to autumn...still lots of great riding left to the year! :-)
ps...more pics as shared by another member of the tour, including a cool video of the canal bridge in action, raising and lowering:
and yet MORE pics including sections of Martha's Vineyard where I did not travel...such as out to Gay Head: