Cherise Fong and her Brompton folding bike tour all of Cape Cod
All summer long I've opened my doors to smiling and well-mannered strangers from the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, France and South Africa, all booked through airbnb.com.
My recent one-night guest Cherise Fong of New York City gets my award as the most adventurous of the many adventurous types who travel this way.
Cherise is visiting Cape Cod this week using only ferries and her Brompton folding bicycle for transportation. I was enthralled by her story.
She left her lower east side apartment on a Friday afternoon and rode her bike 15 minutes to catch a ferry to Martha's Vineyard. That there is a boat to the Vineyard was news to me. After a five hour cruise she rode a short distance to her first airbnb guest house in Oak Bluffs.
The next day she rode all over the island exploring its many small communities. Total distance -- 40 miles.
Another day, another ferry, this time from the Vineyard to Woods Hole but the bike trip to my home in Harwich was not so easy. There is no safe way to ride a bike between the upper Cape to the lower Cape. Unfamiliar with our busy narrow roads, Cherise first tried state route 28 but gave up on that idea after several death-defying miles. She ultimately ended up on Phinney's Lane to scenic route 6A, again, no bargain in the safety department, but a prettier ride at least.
I don't recall the various interior roads she used to cut south to me in Harwich but by the time she arrived at my door she had traveled 50 miles and was hungry but was in no mood to hop back on that bike to get dinner in town. Together we made a salade nicoise for dinner and in the process, got to know one another.
Well mostly I got to know her. This former reporter hammered her with one question after another about how the heck she was accomplishing this trip. I asked her if a folding bike is comfortable and durable enough for a trip of this magnitude-- I thought these things were the equivalent of a spare tire in the trunk of a car, that is, better than nothing but not by much.
I asked her where was all the spandex? If anyone had reason to look like part of the Tour de France it was she but none of that interested her. She wore normal street clothes with weight the universal consideration. Her sneakers looked like Keds from the 1960s, her bike lock was strong but lightweight, her toiletries and clothing were light. When you're pushing everything you need for ten days, you eliminate the ballast pretty quickly.
Here was another surprise. Her bike has just 6 gears. I felt kind of dumb for having a bike with 21 gears to go 20 miles or so. Then I wondered when biking in America went so wrong.
We agreed that America could use millions of miles more of protected bike paths to get people out of their cars and back in the saddle for basic transportation. Instead, we stuff ourselves like sausage into skin-tight lycra and transport the bike in the car to begin biking somewhere else.
Over coffee in the morning she detailed the travel to come. She would ride the Cape Cod Rail Trail to Wellfleet, something she eagerly anticipated after a full day of dodging traffic on dangerous roads the day before, and she would walk the village and eat some seafood. After a night with an airbnb host there, she would then ride north to Provincetown and spend two full days exploring the colorful and lively tip of the Cape.
Then get this. She will take a ferry from P'Town to Plymouth then bike from Plymouth, crossing the Canal at the Bourne Bridge, to make her way back to Woods Hole for the return ferry to Manhattan. Can you imagine? Plymouth to Woods Hole by bike? How could that be possible?
Cherise is a digital arts journalist in Manhattan and she has lived in San Francisco, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing and Monaco. She is smart and fearless and I was mesmerized by the spareness of her. She needed little food, few gears, no special accessories on her bike or her person. Most people wouldn't bike two miles with as little as she needs for 200.
I was still asking questions as she picked up the folded contraption of posts, wheels and spokes that had spent the night inside my breezeway and went to the street to spread the thing open and ride it.
She thanked me for opening my home to her, and for listening to the details of her trip. I suppose it gets a little lonely riding solitary like this, so the thought of spending the night in a home with pets, dirty dishes and a laundry basket in the middle of the living room was somewhat comforting.
But I definitely got the better end of the deal. I learned that a bicycle built to look like someone's idea of a joke, as well as a ferry or two can carry a tenacious woman a long, long way.
And into the home of a caring and inquisitive stranger who couldn't get enough of this extraordinary visitor.
Safe passage Cherise! I can't imagine how you will ride 200 miles in 10 days on that funny looking thing, but I put my money on you.