I had a great ride yesterday on Cape Cod. I had originally planned an 88 mile ride from Woods Hole to Provincetown. After seeing the distance, I figured I’d tweak it a little and make it at least 100 miles. After all, that’s less than an hour of extra riding. So instead of heading directly to Orleans from Brewster, I swung southeast to Harwich and Chatham before rejoining my originally plotted route. Voilà, 100.2 miles.
Lisa was very sweet and drove the route, stopping every 25 miles or so to let me top off my waterbottles and grab some extra food. She was also my shuttle home from Provincetown.
It was a really enjoyable ride: cool enough for arm-warmers at the beginning, sunny and warm later but not hot, with a light tail-wind for a good portion of the last half.
The roads from Woods Hole to Bourne through Falmouth were really great. Smooth, curvy, uncrowded. I can’t say exactly why, but I really enjoyed riding under the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. Once I got onto Route 6A — which I was on for about 30 miles through Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster — the ride changed in complexion quite a bit. 6A is a bit busy, especially compared to the rural roads in Falmouth, though it’s still scenic.* Unfortunately there aren’t many east-west roads on Cape north of US-6, so I did my best to enjoy the views of the cranberry bogs, ponds, marsh grasses, and cutesy galleries and shops along the way. I was happy to leave 6A and head on backroads to Chatham, where I picked up Route 28 and then headed north — on Route 28 South, mind you — past the sailboats in the bays, and the beach-goers, and the expensive resorts. After more backroads in Orleans and Eastham, I picked up US-6 in Wellfleet for what must have been the most soul-crushing part of the ride: miles 78-92.
Most of the ride was easy because it’s essentially flat. The Cape is a huge sand bar that never really got past the last ice age, when it was more or less flattened by the glaciers; and while there’s some varied topography in the central spine, most of the drumlins and moraines are now underwater due to rising sea-levels about 10,000 years ago. There’s a current that moves sand around the flexed arm of Cape Cod, but it isn’t until you get north of Orleans that you start to see the rolling sand dunes. US-6, which cuts across those dunes and sand hills in Wellfleet and Truro, is a good highway, designed for efficiently moving cars to and from the outer Cape. It has a wide shoulder for cyclists, but (as with all US highways in the Commonwealth) the inclines are artificially long in order to shallow out the grade. I prefer a shorter, steeper grade or rolling hills to long, barely perceptible uphills. But that’s just me, and I did appreciate the longer downhill stretches on the other side, where I was able to rest my forearms on my handle bars and get some speed. But I just don’t like a long, wide road with zippy traffic no matter how nice and wide the shoulder is. It’s too wide-open, the sight-lines are too “good,” and consequently I don’t feel like I’m actually going anywhere.
The last eight to ten miles were fantastic. Once I got back onto Route 6A, I was really flying. I knew that I was almost done, and I was ready. My saddle was starting to get a touch uncomfortable; I could feel a blister developing in the webbing near my left thumb; and I was dealing with an intermittent cramp in one leg, which I think might have been related to slowly rising blood glucose. So I gave myself just a tiny bit of extra insulin — an almost insignificantly small 0.2 units — and decided to finish this ride out as quickly as possible. I’m not one of those “Oh, I don’t want this long ride to be over” kinda guys; I’m more of a “Let’s get this MFer done and look good while doing it.” So I got down into a nice tuck, alternating between the drops and draping my palms over the brakehoods, and just started cranking away. In my mind I looked good riding through the heart of Provincetown, and really, when you compare me to the casual cyclists on its streets, I’m probably not wrong. My hope is that someone thought, “That crazy man attacking the hills going out of town must have just started a late afternoon training ride,” rather than, “That sweaty, salt-encrusted guy looks sad. And what’s with those socks?“** Of course, it being P-Town, I would have even been okay with “mmm… sexy.”
In the end I made it, and it was fun. I didn’t want it to be longer, but I enjoyed it, and I probably could have gone another hour or so before ennui set it. It was great seeing Lisa at the end, although when she drove into the National Seashore parking lot I thought she had knocked over a bank and we had to get out of town fast. “We have ten minutes. Let’s go,” she said out the window as the car slowed to a stop. Turns out, if you (as a miscreant cyclist) go through the “Do Not Enter” gates at one end of the parking lot, you miss the sign for the $15 fee that cars coming the other way have to pay. Lisa conned her way in, but we had to make it quick. After changing clothes (elsewhere) and having rather generic ice cream and drinking my first Diet Coke of the day, we were on our way home.
* — I finally got to have the conversation with a Massachusetts driver that I usually contemplate a few times every long outing. First off, I should say, I believe I’m a very safe rider. I stay to the right-hand side of the road, usually 3-18 inches to the left of the white line if there’s no rideable shoulder. The white line is bumpy and slick (relatively speaking) and you need a little distance to avoid storm drains and broken pavement. I’d rather stay a tiny bit wide of the line and ride a straight line than swerve around. I believe it’s safest. When I ride, I prefer to get at least three feet of clearance from passing vehicles, and I almost always give more when I’m driving. If you can’t give that much space, you should slow down and pass when you can. So what if you have to slow down from 35 mph to 15-20 mph for about 15 seconds. It’s worth it, right?
I also don’t like to yell at drivers. It doesn’t do a lot of good, and most of the time they can’t hear me anyway. And I don’t like gesturing either; it encourages small-dicked drivers to just be jerk-faces the next time around. But I am known to yell at drivers who pass within my three-foot bubble while driving too fast, and anyone who passes me within 18 inches gets a good dressing down. I try to keep it courteous and clean, but I have a good deal of volume, and if your windows are down you will hear me. (And if you turn left directly in front of me while your windows are down with your kids in the car, you will likely hear something that will prompt an interesting dinnertime talk. “Mommy, what’s a ‘motherfucker’ and why did someone shout it at Daddy while he was driving today?”) But that’s not the conversation I’ve been waiting to have.
It started with a very loud shout: “MOVE OVER!!” I quickly pointed to the left and then straight at the rear-view mirror of the driver who just passed me going the speed limit, completely within our shared lane, although there was no one in the on-coming lane.
Then I saw the taillights come on, and I smiled to myself knowing it was finally on. “What did you say?” he asked as I rolled up on his passenger side, still riding right along the line.
“I said, ‘Move over.’ There’s no reason to pass anyone that closely.”
“You should stay more to the right.”
“I was barely off the white line. No one was coming. You should move over.”
“But you were taking up too much of the road as it is, asshole.”
“Then you should wait until it’s safe to pass.”
“You should get out of my way.”
He was starting to get ready to roll off, and I could see that he was not going to back down. “Share the fuckin’ road,” I said and waved as he sped away. (back)
** — Somehow I only brought along one cycling sock. So I had to ride the hundred miles in a pair of black socks that I usually wear to work. Fortunately this pair was a bit slouchy, and I was able to fold them down a bit. It could have been worse, but I felt like a middle school gym class dork. I’ve since burned the socks I wore yesterday. (back)