Cape Cod Tandem Tour, May 2000
Sunday, May 28, 2000
Day 1 - Providence, RI to Middletown, RI (near Newport, RI)
Our flight from California arrived in Providence late last night with no
surprises, and the bike survived damage free. Our original plan was to
take a shuttle to a hotel near the airport - giving us a choice of riding
extra (yucky) miles up to Providence on the west side of the bay and then down
to Newport on the east side of the bay, or to ride south to Jamestown and then
find a way to cross the bay to get to Newport. We eliminated that
dilemma by staying at a hotel on the harbor in Providence.
The weather forecast was looking a little iffy for the weekend, but the rain
passed to the south, leaving a nice sunny morning.
Our friend Bruce from Providence joined us for the first part of the ride.
Right out the front door of our hotel we had our riding challenge for the day
- getting our tandem up the switchbacks to the sidewalk of the I-195 bridge
crossing the Seekonk River. Since the tandem had a full compliment of
gear, we opted to walk it up the switchbacks instead of riding it up.
But then the real challenge was when we got up to the sidewalk - we only had
about one foot of clearance on each side of the bike. Nevertheless, we
decided riding the bike across the bridge was better than walking it, since
that would give us less time spent on the bridge in case someone was (legally)
coming the other way. We did see a rider coming from the opposite
direction, but he graciously pulled into a turnout to let us pass!
View of the I-195 sidewalk approach
After crossing the bridge and riding through a couple of residential blocks,
the glorious East Bay Bike Path continues for about 14 miles to Bristol.
We had a nice tailwind all the way, and Bruce showed us some of his favorite
spots that he takes the kids to.
Tera and I riding the tandem
We had lunch at a really slow restaurant in Bristol (which had run out of
clam chowder, by the way), so that put us a bit behind schedule. Bruce
turned around to go back to Providence, while we continued onward.
Thanks to Howard on the NBW list, we were able to navigate our way down to the
Newport area while avoiding most of the busy 114 and 138. When the lanes
were narrow on some of these stretches, the drivers were courteous and gave
plenty of room.
We checked into our hotel in Middletown, showered, put "real"
clothes on, and hurried onto the bike to get to Newport to try to get in a
mansion tour before the last tours started at 5 PM.
We parked our bike in an area called the historical district (Washington
Square?) and decided to walk to the nearest mansion. Somehow, my sense
of distance got messed up looking at the map, and we walked, and walked, and
we found the Chateau-Sur-Mer after about 2 miles of walking! Luckily, we
made it just in time for the last tour that started at 5 PM. This
mansion was different than most, as it used to be a year-round residence,
instead of a summer vacation home.
We were smart on the way back and took the bus to get back to the area where
the bike was. That gave us enough time for a leisurely dinner and ride
back to the hotel well before dark.
One of the many "Mr. Potato Heads" in Rhode
Only regret for the day is not having enough time to spend in Newport - we had
wanted to do the cliff walk and ride around Ocean Ave. Tomorrow we have
a 1 PM ferry to catch in New Bedford, MA, so we won't have time for an Ocean
Ave. ride tomorrow.
Monday, May 29, 2000
Day 2 - Newport, RI to somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean
No, we're not pitching a tent on the ocean floor - we're on a ferry while
The morning routine had nothing unusual, except we couldn't dilly dally too
much, since we had a ferry to catch at 1 PM in New Bedford (to go to Martha's
Vineyard). So we opted for a quick breakfast at the ever-popular Dunkin
Donuts (they have stuff other than donuts, by the way) and headed out.
We had to backtrack north in order to cross the river to get to Massachusetts.
We debated taking a more direct, but unpleasant route to save time, but
decided instead to retrace our steps based on Howard's suggested route.
The ride back north was tougher than the previous day's ride, as we had a
stiff morning headwind. Nonetheless, the first ten miles or so went
Once we approached the Sakonnet River bridge, the route would turn to the
east. The bridge itself was signed as "bicycles and pedestrians
prohibited", although it had a sidewalk and an extra wide right hand lane
- go figure. Local cyclists have used this bridge with no major problems
from what I understood.
So we headed across the bridge - the worst thing about it is that we riding
straight into a headwind, and the bridge was uphill all the way to the other
end. It seemed like it took forever to get to the other side!
We were greeted with rolling hills on the other side of the bridge in
Tiverton, RI - enough to slow us down to make the arrival time for the ferry a
little tight. Still, we pressed on, continuing on RI 177 towards
Soon we crossed the state line into Westport, MA. The bike map I had
didn't show any chevrons, so I had assumed it would be flat ride. Not so
... I took a look at the footnotes and found out that chevrons on this map
were only used for *sustained* climbs - the rolling hills didn't count.
Although we picked up speed on the downhills, the rollers were still bringing
down the average speed.
At this point we were seriously wondering if we would really make it to New
Bedford in time to catch the ferry. Missing the ferry would have put our
trip in a real bind - we wouldn't have been able to stay in Martha's Vineyard
overnight, and we would have had to ride quite a few extra miles to get within
a day's range of our next stop in Brewster. But our task for the moment
was not to even think of all that, just to try to make the 1 PM ferry.
There was a lot less traffic in the low density suburbs of Massachusetts
compared to the first day's riding. One guy was mowing his front lawn
when we passed - he turned off his mower and joked that Tera wasn't pedaling back there! So *that's* the problem I replied, deciding against using
one of the more imaginative comebacks that were discussed at length on the
tandem bike e-mail list.
As we got closer and closer, our "safety margin" of a 12:30 PM
planned arrival time started to shrink - all the way done to 12:55 PM when we
were just west of New Bedford in the town of Dartmouth. However, we had
some riding to do across New Bedford to get to the ferry terminal, and after
realizing we should have turned left instead of right at about 1:10 PM (I was
a little less focused because I needed something to eat), we realized we
weren't going to make the 1 PM ferry. So we saw a Burger King nearby and
Tera witnessed me eating the fastest meal in the four years we've been
After lunch we decided to head over to the ferry terminal anyway, who knows,
maybe we could convince someone with a private boat to take us over to the
Vineyard. We made it over there and found out they were on their summer
schedule for today (Memorial Day), so they also had a 5 PM ferry the Martha's
It was about 2:30 or so, so we had some extra time before the ferry. A
visit to the whaling museum was in order - so we went to downtown New Bedford
to check it out.
New Bedford used to be one of the wealthiest communites of the nineteenth
century due to the whaling business. Well, they don't do too much
whaling now, so you can imagine what the city looks like today.
Abandoned buildings along the waterfront, some crumbling roads... we even saw
a green "bike route" sign (just like the ones in California), but
part of the right half was bent over the left half, and it was held on the
post with only one bolt...
A very informative guide who was a former history teacher gave us and an
English couple a history of whaling. Whaling was done in the mid-1800s
to obtain oil to light lamps, before petroleum was discovered. This was
very profitable for the investors and shareholders at that time. I also
learned why New Bedford has a large Portuguese population - during the height
of the whaling period crewmen were in short supply, and the whaling ships
would sail out to the Azores and other islands and pick up crew members along
Afterwards we were chatting with an English couple who were doing their big
America tour - starting in New York, then to Arizona, then back to New
England. They really enjoyed the sights on the old Rt. 66 in Flagstaff
and Williams. (Phoenix was a little hot for them this time of year.)
So then we headed back to the ferry terminal, with a tailwind (finally), a
snack stop at Dunkin Donuts (where else), and boarded the ferry after the
scores of weekend vacationers stepped off to return home...
Ferry's about to pull in to Martha's Vineyard, gotta sign off for now...
Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Day 3 - Martha's Vineyard, MA to Brewster, MA
Actually, we're not in Brewster yet - we're on another ferry going from Oak
Bluffs to Hyannis, then we have 15 miles to ride to get to Brewster. We
had problems with the hotel phone yesterday, and we didn't have time to get to
a pay phone today, so that's why yesterday's e-mail (and perhaps today's) is a
Yesterday we got off the ferry and arrived in an unseasonably cloudy, cold,
and windy Martha's Vineyard. Luckily, it was only a one mile ride to the
Unfortunately, our unplanned late arrival meant that we didn't have time to do
some riding around the Vineyard that day. So we instead walked into town
for dinner and walked around afterward.
Village of Vineyard Haven, on the island of Martha's Vineyard
Due to the loss of time yesterday, we had to rethink our plan for getting back
to the mainland. We were originally going to catch one of the many ferry
runs going back to Woods Hole, but that would have meant about a 50 mile ride
to get to Brewster. Instead, there was a late afternoon crossing to
Hyannis, which would arrive at 5:30 PM, plenty of time to ride 15 miles to
Brewster before dark.
Early morning the clouds gave way to sunshine and blue skies, although it was
still a little bit cool. Being in less than perfect shape, however, we
opted to take some time off from riding and take the 2 1/2 hour bus tour
around the island (too bad, there is some nice ridng on the island). It
was a good introduction to the island, although we missed the freedom of being
able to stop whenever we wanted to look at things or take photos ... somehow
taking pictures from a moving bus isn't quite the same thing ...
The cliffs at Gay Head
Pretty soon after the bus tour it was time to walk back to the hotel, get our
bike, and ride over to Oak Bluffs to catch the ferry to Hyannis. The 3
miles seemed like more than that with a real stiff headwind across the water!
This time, we were half an hour early for the ferry...
Next time we'll spend more time in Martha's Vineyard, but at least this was a
good introduction to the island.
Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Day 4 - Brewster, MA to Provincetown, MA
Writing this on yet another ferry, this one going from Provincetown to Boston
to end our bike tour.
Our story last left off on Day 3, when we were taking the ferry from Martha's
Vineyard to Hyannis. Our planned 10-15 miles to Brewster turned into 20
miles - partly because the distances are longer in Massachusetts than they
appear to be on the map (because the roads are curvy), and partly because we
had an extra mile or two due to a wrong turn in South Dennis.
Other than that, the riding was fine, the first half through suburban roads,
and the second half mostly on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Once we got on
the rail trail, we mostly took that route to Brewster, skipping the portions
where it does silly things like crossing the road and then crossing back over
Bike rotary - is it as chaotic as an auto rotary?
We rolled into our B&B in Brewster around 15 minutes before sunset.
We got two close dinner recommendations - one a half mile east (cheaper family
style), and the other one mile west (more "formal", although nothing
on the Cape is truly formal). We showered and changed and went over to
the "cheap" one, but they had already stopped serving at 8 PM, so we
doubled back to go the "formal" one. That place was so popular
that we had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 8:30 PM on a Tuesday night.
Nevertheless, we had a good (if not pricey for most bike tourists) dinner, and
we were back at the hotel at 10:15 PM in time to go to sleep.
The next morning we got an early, but not a rushed start around 9:30 AM.
We had great weather - blue skies, with the temperature about 65-70 F -
couldn't ask for a better day!
After a couple of stops to figure out why the bike was shimmying (I didn't
know Tera had put her change purse in my handlebar bag!), we took the busy 6A
to Orleans. We had decided against the rail trail at that point because
it appeared to be unpaved.
After arriving in Orleans, we detoured off to Rock Harbor - nice place to stop
for a break. We saw a group of other bikes there (they looked retired),
and chatted with some English tourists.
We then rejoined the rail trail to Eastham, where we ordered sandwiches from
the grocery store and had a picnic in the park in front of the old windmill -
not a bad place for lunch.
Windmill in Eastham
We then continued on the rail trail from Eastham towards South Wellfleet.
This was the best part of the trail, with very few road crossings, plus it was
a good alternate to the busy Highway 6, which is the only through road in this
really narrow part of the Cape.
A nice part of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, somewhere between
Eastham and Wellfleet
Once the trail ended in South Wellfleet, we had a couple of scenic detours
instead of the busy 6 to Truro. First, a loop to the beaches on the
east, then crossing 6 near Wellfleet, then a loop to the beaches on the west.
The beaches and scenery were worth the extra mileage and rolling hills!
Around Truro, we had almost no choice but to use Highway 6, but at that point
it had smooth wide shoulders. About halfway up the first big hill we
flatted - I hate changing a flat rear tire on a fully loaded tandem! But
once we got going again, it wasn't too far until the turnoff to 6A, the more
scenic way into North Truro and Provincetown.
Route 6A becomes Shore Rd. in North Truro, sandwiched in between Pilgrim Lake
and Cape Cod Bay. Beach cottages and private beaches lined the way for a
few miles along the road before crossing into Provincetown.
Provincetown was mainly a fishing village in its early days, but now it gets a
lot of business from tourism, and there are lots of art galleries also.
The winter population is 3,500, while it can get up to 50,000 in the summer.
They make an effort to attract gay tourism (for example, http://www.ptown.org/
but we were certainly not made to feel out of place there.
After checking in to our hotel, we considered going for a bike ride through
the roads and paths going through the sand dunes on the back side of town, but
we had enough of riding for the day, so we saw it all on an open-air bus tour.
Sand dunes just outside of P-town
After an excellent dinner recommendation by our host, we walked around town
for a bit before retiring for the evening.
The next morning before our ferry departure we walked up to the top of the
Pilgrim Monument. It's the tallest granite structure in the U.S. - about
30 feet taller than the Bunker Hill Monument. There's a nice 360 degree
view from the top.
A view from the top of the Pilgrim Monument
We're on the ferry back to Boston, where it's a *really* short ride to the
Amtrak terminal in South Station - we'll be shipping our tandem back to
California from there.
Ferry ride back to Boston
While I still have some time to write while on the ferry, some have asked how
I'm e-mailing these "live" updates while on the road. No, I'm
not using a laptop computer - a little too bulky, and overkill for just e-mail
as far as I'm concerned. I'm using a Palm Pilot <http://www.palm.com/
with a GoType keyboard <http://www.landware.com/
and a PocketMail device <http://www.pocketmail.com/
that attaches to the Palm Pilot. The PocketMail device has a built-in
acoustic coupler, so you don't need to physically plug it to a phone. I
just dial a toll free 1-800 number, hold the device to the handset - it's as
simple as that. It even works with payphones also.