Sunday, November 27, 2011

Small Adventures

Headed up the Shining Sea Bikeway

My route to Sandwich; the route home is on the other side

The train bridge on the Cape Cod canal with elevating center section

The Brown Jug in Sandwich. Great spot for some food and rest

Boardwalk in Sandwich. I'll explore further next time

Nancy's iPhone letting me know that the mystery sand road was cool to take

Late afternoon cup of coffee

Heading back down the bikeway with lights at sunset

Plans for the canal

We are spending the holiday weekend here on the Cape and the temperatures have been in the 60's (!). Its been thrilling to take advantage of the late fall weather down here with some time on the beach and a couple of bike rides. Today I got to go on a longer ride.

It is always with some excitement that I anticipate an extended trip that promises some new terrain and unexplored roads. From my last ride I learned an important lesson that I tried to be more careful about this time around; I did not simply print out the results of the Google Maps directions, but rather I researched the route and wrote out my lefts and rights and mileage from observation, including notes as needed about possible spots to explore.

In 2009 the rail trail that extends from Woods Hole into Falmouth village was linked up with a new section that extends the route up to County Road in North Falmouth, resulting in about 10 miles of pathway. Further up the western edge of the Cape a path runs along the Cape Cod canal from Bourne up to Sandwich -- another 6 or so miles. Between the two are another 6 to 7 miles of back roads and villages. My plan was to head up through this route, have lunch in Sandwich and then come back down through the back roads inland from the coast. This was a fortuitous decision since the wind was from the south and proved a good friend on my way north and not so bad coming south away from the water.

I have some ambivalence about bike paths, but when they are speedy and unencumbered I lose that ambivalence, and for a while I've been looking forward to exploring the canal pathway. I've always been intrigued by the canal as a man-made waterway, but have only glanced at it briefly while crossing the bridge and have never seen it close-up.

The warm weather spurred me on as I traveled, enjoying the marshes, shingled houses, fall bramble and gentle terrain. My route planning proved useful as I worked up through the roads to the canal path.

I was delighted to come upon the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, which is a lift bridge allowing rail traffic access on and off the cape. My journey up the pathway took me northeast along the edge of the canal under the Bourne and Sagamore bridges before reaching the end in Sandwich. I don't know if it was the weather, a slight alteration in my mood, or what, but I've got to say there was a bit of a lonely feel to the canal path; not a lot of people, not a lot to marvel at, and just sort of an empty feel. Maybe it would feel different on a sunny day.

I'd done a little food research as well before this ride and knew I'd be stopping at the Brown Jug in Sandwich. A purveyor of fine foods, wines and provisions, it was a great place to catch a bite to eat. They have a great little outdoor terrace that had a fire pit burning away which I sat near. It was perfect for keeping the ride-cool down chills at bay. I even contemplated having a glass of wine with lunch but decided root beer was a wiser choice.

The ride back down took me along Rt. 130 along the eastern edge of Camp Edwards, a vast area of land dedicated to military uses. Rt.130 was a drag --no room, lots of cars. I managed as best I could until I reached the Mashpee town line when things improved with wider roads and even a stretch of bike path next to the roadway.

For many years I've questioned the presence of cell phones -- and now smart phones -- in our lives. I'm not certain that what we gain offsets what we are loose in other ways, and I'm still not certain how I feel about this. Regardless, Nancy recently bought an iPhone and I took it along with me on this ride. I can say with clarity that it was awesome to have as a navigational tool. At one point I pulled off onto an unmarked sand road to take a leak and then wondered where I was. I pulled out the iPhone and found out to my delight that I could continue on this back road and would come out near enough to where I was heading. Being able to enter into an unknown and frankly confusing maze of roads through the woods was really great. Later I was able to navigate my way home over back roads when it was clear that routes I'd chosen earlier were unpleasant, heavily traveled roads.

After a pleasant 60 miles I arrived home in the darkness happy for such a warm day in late November spent on two wheels.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting there on a bike

Ready to roll 7:30am

The new bag I made

Crossing the Third Branch White River where the flood took out the bridge

I had just crossed the tracks moments before

Coffee, a muffin, wifi, and warmth in Randolph

Lunch spot in Sharon

Last Sunday I awoke just before 7:00am, had a quick cup of coffee and little breakfast, got myself together and pedaled up the driveway headed for White River Junction.

Nancy was at a conference over the weekend and since the weather seemed favorable I decided to ride down and meet her so we could drive back up together. The temps we predicted to be in the 50's but starting out I think they were in the mid 30's. Since I've been riding lately in chilly weather I knew what to expect and was pretty well prepared.

My ride through the Valley took me south to the Roxbury Mountain Road. I took off some layers before ascending up the hill. It was fine and felt good to get warmed up although I took a short-cut up the Old Roxbury Mountain Road and payed with some steep terrain, but it got me up there and it felt good to get the hardest part of my ride over early in the day.

I had checked out my route the night before and determined that the bridge on 12A in Roxbury was still out as a result of the ravages of Hurricane Irene, but I figured I'd enjoy the adventure of figuring out how to cross the river, even if it meant some shallow water wading with my bike overhead. It turned out that there was a bridge out on Carrie Howe Road as well. Luckily it was a Sunday, so there were no work crews about to mind my scrambling through their work site, and I was able to cross over the stream with little trouble. Coming out on to Rt. 12A I was surprised by how chilly it felt for what was supposed to be a warm day, although at this point it was still before 9am.

The anticipated washed out bridge a few miles south of Roxbury was a little more of a challenge, but I managed to get across completely dry on some temporary steel beams running just a foot or two over the clear turquoise water. It would have been bitter to fall in.

I was particularly pleased with my new handlebar bag arrangement when I had to make these crossings because I was able to simply lift the bag off the decaleur and carry it separately from the bike, insuring my stuff was secure as I moved it, and eliminating the weight and balance issues I would have had to manage if the bag were still on the bike.

My ride down through the valley along 12A was spectacular; since the bridge was closed there were virtually no cars to be seen and I had the road to myself for the better part of 9 or 10 miles. I even rode on the wrong side of the road for a minute pretending I was riding in England, although it felt weird and I quickly moved back to the proper side despite there being no cars anywhere nearby.

The cool of the morning persisted and when I reached Randolph about 27 miles into the ride, I was grateful for a cup of hot coffee and a blueberry muffin at the little cafe at the train station.

Unfortunately I was not as careful in studying my route I should have been and I missed a couple of opportunities to take some interesting back roads and instead stuck to the main route the whole way. I'll know next time to examine the choices more carefully and make some proper notes. In any event, I was able to keep to a reasonably good schedule and begin to feel the day warm up as I traveled towards Bethel, roughly half way through my journey.

I became a bit uncertain of which way to go as I passed through Bethel and tried to decipher the Google Maps bike route that I'd printed out. I followed my intuition and made the right choice, but for a few miles was sort of unclear where I was headed. At this point I was traveling along Rt. 14 south and closely following the path of the White River. The endless destruction left by the flooding from Hurricane Irene was everywhere to be seen in these lowlands. Villages emptied out, roads washed away, bridges closed, mud and silt spread high above the river's edge.

I ate one of the sandwiches I'd brought with me as I sat in the gazebo in the village of Sharon and nibbled on some other snacks, but I didn't linger as the day was turning slightly overcast and I was hoping to reach White River by 2pm, or thereabouts. I had agreed that I would call Nancy by 2:00 and my timing was looking good that I might actually get there by then, but I wanted to call anyways just to let her know where I was. I set out from Sharon and decided I'd call from West Hartford. When I eventually reached the village all I saw were flooded out buildings and the general store where there likely would have been a phone was boarded up. Concerned about not calling, I rolled on and committed to calling at the next opportunity.

Despite not knowing the spread of the towns in this area I knew I was getting close to White River, but I wasn't sure how close. It was with a bit of dogged hope that I saw the town sign coming up for Hartford and below it the miles to White River Junction. I was prepared for another 6 or 7 miles, but to my delight my approach revealed it was only 1 mile to town, and a flat mile at that.

I rolled into the parking lot of the Coolidge Hotel right at 2:00pm and Nancy had just walked out the door of the hotel. Our mutual timing was perfect.

So, in all it was about a 63 mile ride. I was glad to travel over new territory and enjoy an unlikely extended late fall ride.