Sunday, August 16, 2015

Voyage dans L'obscurité



Is it wise to drink a beer halfway through a 200k night ride?

There was some debate about this as we approached Sandwich. Some riders worried it might compromise their fortitude and strength, while others expressed no concerns. A consensus was reached that if we ALL had a beer the consequences would be felt equally, nullifying any risk. Demonstrating both a penchant for dubious justification and a one-for-all and all-for-one attitude, everyone had a beer.

This was the first running of the Dunes Dynamo--but the third in a series--the first two being the Dirigo Dynamo in 2012 and 2014 which ended in Portland, ME. (The vision going forward is that the ride will alternate between Portland and Provincetown annually, hence the slightly different names, based on destination.)

A convivial start from the Bartlett St. Cafe in Jamaica Plain

Smiles as we make our way out of town. Geoff led the way for the first ten miles or so, since he came up with the route

Jake and Brian. Check out Brian's home made fenders!

We left Jamaica Plain on Saturday around 5:30PM bound for Provincetown. Fourteen in all at the start, one rider planned to veer off to make his way home to Providence, while others planned to join us further on in the ride.  I was excited and a little nervous, as I tend to be before a long ride. Will I be strong enough to stay with others? Will I have enough food and water? Will I be okay without sleep? I packed two sandwiches, various nuts and bars, and had three bottles of water. In the end I never touched the sandwiches and may have ended the ride with one of my bottles full. That's fine, I'd rather be over prepared.

Despite these concerns, I have a basic faith in my ability to cycle long distances and go without sleep, although I don't take it for granted that I can just fly endlessly. I can't. Miles and hills take their toll and reality eventually subdues willful enthusiasm into a sustainable pace. Gladly that pace was fine with this bunch of riders.

Sun grazing the treetops as the day started to cool down


Emily, Geoff, James and others

As evening came on we passed numerous marshes and bays, making for some lovely twilight views. Glancing back, the array of high-powered LED bike lights was brilliant. We must have been a somewhat unusual and perhaps confusing sight to drivers as we approached. Somewhere around Wareham, Brian peeled off to make his way home to Providence, another 40 or so miles.

Together we travelled though rural suburban towns towards the Cape, reaching the canal in Bourne around 11:00 or so and getting to the British Brewing Co. in Sandwich in time for us to have that round of beer and pizza.  Elton was waiting on the lawn and rode the rest of the ride with us from here. Three or four riders who were well fed and had negotiated a flat tire on the canal decided to skip the meal and ride ahead. We didn't see them until morning in Provincetown.

The last light of day

Coming into Bourne

Approaching the Bourne Bridge. Once we reached the bridge, we walked our bikes.

 
Long awaited sustenance

As for that beer, I pointedly ordered a Guinness--low alcohol content and seemingly high in nutritional thickness. We were glad for the food and rest, but the air conditioning had us shivering as we ate, so we were glad to be outdoors again. We filled up our water bottles at the public fountain in the village and began rolling for the second half of our journey.

Geoff filling up in Sandwich village


Emily taking in some of the nuttiness in Onset (?), while Jake catches a wink on the pavement. We saw all sorts of capers: cops, cars full of lost travelers, cars with their lights off, cops with lights speeding by... all on one corner. 

There was eleven of us now. Almost as a unit we moved together through the picturesque villages along 6A, coursing along dark quiet roads, each with our own thoughts.  We'd been together long enough that conversations had started to subside. Though not articulated, we were now bonded, quietly glad to be cycling together through the night. I know I was.

It was along this stretch I felt somewhat weak and discouraged. I was moving along fine, but I wasn't feeling as strong as I would have hoped on the numerous small hills we encountered and I started to contemplate drifting off the tail-end of this group, a thought I didn't relish. Perhaps I wolfed down a little too much pizza; perhaps the beer at midnight wasn't the smartest idea... I don't know, but I know I felt a little bummed, like I had to press a little more than was coming naturally.

I was glad when we reached the bike path in Brewster. It meant many miles of easy pedaling. It was around this time too that we, as a group acknowledged that we were going to stay together to the end. It would have been inconsiderate to leave anyone behind having come this far together.  We also consciously slowed down a little since a couple of folks had begun to drift off the back--I guess I wasn't the only one feeling the effort. I noticed too on the bike path that we had started talking again. Perhaps being off the roads encouraged our banter or maybe the lack of sleep starting to inflict a bit of chattiness.

The path carried us up to Wellfleet and soon we were cruising atop the high bluffs that overlook the Atlantic--a view that to my mind is one of the great wonders of New England, mighty and endless, although in the pre-dawn dark I could only see that stunning view in my mind's eye. I knew the road we were on led to Newcomb Hollow Beach so I was surprised as we passed the last turn off.  Geoff, who had scouted most of the route, led us down what seemed like a private driveway into the most unlikely warren of small rutted and sandy lanes through the dense scrub oak forest. Cue sheets and GPS devices were weak guides in this collection of driveways and paths. Once or twice Geoff had to double back to gather those who had become lost.

Somewhere along the Cape Cod Rail Trail 
(Photo: JPTwins/Flickr)

Escape from the scrub oak forest at dawn!

I felt delight at the utter unlikeliness of the moment. Here I was at 5:15 in the morning having ridden a good 110 miles or so, in the woods with ten other souls pushing our bikes through barely recognizable sand tracks on a quest to reach the sea at sunrise. Geoff later announced "I'm sorry and you're welcome" directed at the riders who either enjoyed or were annoyed by this sojourn through the woods so close to the end of the ride.  I for one was so happy to have this unexpected adventure. A couple of the riders who had ridden ahead from Sandwich but arrived in P'town after our group mentioned they had become lost in the "sand trap".

Arrival at Coast Guard Beach

The quarter moon greeted our arrival
Jake and Emily taking in the scene
At the beach 
(Photo: Jeff 0728/Flickr)

Our goal was reaching Coast Guard Beach in Truro for sunrise. With visions of a nap following a brilliant sunrise we were a bit underwhelmed to find the scene chilly and mostly overcast--there would be no sunrise for us this time around.  Some of us took off our shoes, laid down and relaxed for a while but somehow getting to P'town felt like it would offer greater relief, so we soon headed out for the remaining few miles into town.

As you may know, Provincetown can seem like a perpetual party along Commercial Street on a summer's day, but there was no sense of celebration when we arrived. Drizzle greeted us on empty streets as we waited for the first breakfast place to open up. The food and coffee were welcome and it felt good to be done. After breakfast we waited a few chilly hours to catch the ferry home. Daydreaming about the ride beforehand, I had visions of a brilliant morning return to Boston across a serene Massachusetts Bay, but in fact we faced a surprisingly storm-tossed and rainy ride back. More than one passenger found need for a vomit bag. Geoff and I sat together and talked with a well-rested couple who were eager to talk about bikes and our ride and all the details. I tried to muster a normal conversational effort, but the tentacles of sleep were pulling hard on me...

Commercial Street in Provincetown


Post breakfast chilax

Last year's ride to Maine was magical, shared with Nancy and Douglas. I will cherish that experience for a long time,  but what made this year special for me was the bond with my fellow riders --some old friend, some new acquaintances. I really enjoy this aspect of a long ride: the hours one gets to spend talking with friends. We joined together in a unique journey and had fun, only to disperse in the morning with tired brows and muscles, but happy for the experience.

Awesome patch designed by Jon Doyle

I'm looking forward to next year already!

8 comments:

Rebecca Olds said...

This has all the essential ingredients of a magical night ride. I really do want to do this one day.

Dave Cain said...

You have friends to ride with and a place to stay if you should ever decide to join us!

bmike said...

Wonderful write up Dave! I miss the randonneuring / non randonneuring rides and people. You had good company!

New England Bicyclist said...

Great write up for a great ride. I decided late to not join you all but I might have had two advantages. 1) I would have skipped the beer, that would have been my downfall. 2) I rode that dirt section a few weeks earlier. I knew soon after I rode it that it would be part of the Dunes Dynamo and that it would be challenging late, late at night. But it was possible on the bike I would have used. But I didn't go and you did and reading your post makes me want to get in good enough shape for the next one.

Dave Cain said...

I'm sorry New England Bicyclist to only be seeing your comment now.... Did you explore those back roads with Geoff? There is something a little crazy and a little magic about an overnight ride. It goes against logic, but I'm pretty well hooked at this point.
As far as next year's ride to Maine goes, don't bother getting in shape--it's nearly flat and with luck there will be a tailwind!

New England Bicyclist said...

I explored that route by myself. I love Ocean View Road, as you do, and wanted to get from there to Ballston Beach, which is where big storms push salt water into the Pamet River, and the sandy roads were the way to go according to RideWithGPS. Of course I had no clue about what the roads were like but I did have the benefit of riding them in daylight and my GPS bread crumb trail was easy to follow. Once at Ballston, I walked the beach and took North Pamet Road back to the bay side. My intent of the trip was to ride as far as I could before lunch (getting out at 5AM) and avoid Route 6. Full story on my blog.

Night riding - yes, it's magical. I spend a far amount of time in early AM on the shoulder seasons riding in the dark. I prefer known roads when alone but I would certainly do either of the dynamos in a group. I hope to join you all next year. In the meantime, I have one more coffeeneuring trip to earn my badge.

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