My recent house guest Cherise Fong was kind enough to share additional details of the craziest Cape Cod bike trip I've ever heard of. And whatever your mode of transportation, the following is a terrific Cape itinerary.
In sum, as Cherise puts it, her trip was "287 miles cycled, 6 boats boarded, 3 hours kayaked, 2 whales watched, all manner of local seafood eaten and 0 cars/buses/trains/planes ridden during my 10-day trip around the Cape."
Cherise continued, "Thank you so much for all your support. I'm so glad I met you early on, as your own enthusiasm really helped to propel me the rest of the way. (Indeed, reactions ranged from disbelief to reserved skepticism to "she's cluelessly naive" to "this daredevil on a bike is just asking for it…")
Out of all my very welcoming airbnb.com hosts, you were the only one who took the time to chat, share and listen to my road stories. Thanks again for your expert local guidance and cyclist empathy!
So… after my breakfast special of lobster-asparagus crepes at Bonatts, the ride to Wellfleet was predictably smooth and swift along the rail trail (punctuated by cyclist family duck crossings), followed by a short scenic route right into town (total 35 miles).
I rode around the harbor and dined on sumptuous oyster stew at the Bookstore & Restaurant, followed by ice cream behind the Chocolate Sparrow. (Again I was shocked at how some people just roll their bikes into the rack, with cable, padlock and key dangling from the handlebars, and still don't even bother to lock it.)
The ride to Provincetown was even shorter (20 miles), although quite hilly with an unavoidable 1-mile stretch on 6 to get back on 6A, but otherwise relatively painless. Just rolling into town along the curling coastline was a reward in itself. It also felt good to arrive in the early afternoon, sit down for a spell inside a big empty house, then walk down to Commercial St and spend the rest of the day just shopping and eating. 105 miles after leaving Martha's Vineyard, Provincetown was a true place of pilgrimage: food, shops, entertainment, recreation, wildlife, view.
The next morning I made a beeline to Tiny's for organic eggs benedict with house-smoked blue fish for breakfast, then rode to the west end of Commercial St and walked along the stones all the way to the other side and back again, watching the gulls eat live crabs and clams right in front of me.
Then of course I zoomed up to the much-anticipated Province Lands trail and rode it like a go-kart track, going down every side road and dead-end till I had looped around twice -- quite a thrill through the misty otherworldly dunes, after plodding along roads pushing a 10-pound travel bag and dodging car traffic for the past 3 days! (After all, even the varied loop in NYC's Central Park is longer: 6 miles vs. 5.5 miles.)
That evening I devoured local clam vongole pasta from the harbor food court, then saw a delightful live concert by Well-Strung, a string quartet of hunky, flamboyantly gay, classically trained musicians who also sing pop tunes.
The next day I went out with the Dolphin Fleet on very rough waters, but we did see a mother humpback whale (Valley, who has been coming back to the Cape every year since 1985) and her 5-month-old female calf, very cute and active, who was probably born around the Dominican Republic.
Finally back on shore, I enjoyed an "award-winning" clam chowder in a bread bowl at the service bar of Lobster Pot (where I chatted with a young native bartender who amazingly lives and works in P-town all year round), and got a souvenir red crab airbrush tattooed on my arm.
By the time I boarded the 1.5-hour express ferry to Plymouth I was still feeling queasy from the waves, so spent the last 45 minutes sitting outside in the cold wind, but at least no trouble finding my airbnb.com host from the harbor.
The next morning was beautiful, so I visited the Mayflower II (free admission on Fridays), the infamous rock, etc., but turned back midway from Plimouth Plantation, as access wasn't exactly bike-friendly, and I had a long ride ahead of me down to Woods Hole. So I chose to take the "Claire Saltonstall Bikeway", which was not at all a bike path but simply South Street and a fairly trafficked Long Pond Road all the way down to the canal.
I suspect Old Sandwich Road would have been quieter, but who knows, anyway, I finally joined Herring Pond Road to the bike path along the canal, then walked my bike across Bourne Bridge on the sidewalk, then took Shore Road, following the coast all the way to the Shining Sea bike path -- which gets my vote for best on the Cape. I only wish I had had more time to take in the sights, but by then I could feel dusk falling, so I raced through the marshes and right along the beach right up to the ferry landing by 7:10pm. Bought my ticket, boarded with my bike, went upstairs to sit down, and the ferry left the pier at 7:30 sharp. Thank heavens for the Shining Sea!
Back in Oak Bluffs, I stopped for a fast-food salmon burger before turning in for the night on Sea View Avenue. Saturday was spent riding along the paths and roads to Gay Head Lighthouse and back (56 miles), but the $8 round-trip bike ferry at Menemsha did shave off 10 dangerous miles each way.
Again, in order to make the last ferry crossing at 5pm, I had just enough time to puff my way up Lighthouse Road, walk my bike around the actual lighthouse while taking in the view, then speed back down to the pier with barely 3 minutes to spare. It was worth it!
Sunday I visited the alpacas, then kayaked against the wind on Sengekontackel Pond, then walked to the harbor for grilled cod tacos with a view.
Monday I trotted over to the house of the lady I met at the ferry going to Falmouth the previous weekend, and we chatted with her husband on the deck with a splendid view of the pond. There were so many people lined up for the final Labor Day ferry back to Manhattan that Seastreak supplied a second ferry that finally departed a half-hour later, but it was nice to be on a less crowded (albeit just as freezing inside) boat.
I know that there are organized bike tours of Cape Cod, complete with SAG wagon and luggage transport for spandexed roadies, so I am well aware that cycling the Cape can be done in safer, faster, possibly "funner" ways, but I'm still glad I did it the indie, low-tech, slow-travel way. Besides, going solo and airbnb.com hopping is the best way to make new friends along the journey!