Carless On Cape Cod and The Islands

Notice the raindrops? Fortunately we’re ready for it with good raingear, waterproof gloves and all our luggage in a waterproof dry bag on the BOB bike trailer. Almost every time we travel by bike, it pours—and we still have a wonderful time. (Tim Jones photo)

My sweetheart Marilyn and I love to travel. Our favorite getaway strategy, which we discovered when rising gas prices made travel by car somewhat painful, is to drive someplace, park the car, and travel on foot or by tandem bike.

On the last weekend in April,  an often-dreary and blackfly-plagued time of year in the hills, we loaded our tandem on the car, and headed for Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, two of the great biking destinations in the northeast. At this time of year, the Cape and Islands are quiet; roads, recreation paths, inns, shops and restaurants less crowded and more inviting than they will be in a month.

And the weather can be beautiful. Or not. More on this later . . .

We arrived on the Cape in the morning and spent most of the day on our tandem, visiting Falmouth (eating lunch at Liam McGuire’s, one of our favorite pubs) and riding the Shining Sea Bike Path to Woods Hole and back, before checking in to Woods Hole Passage a cozy, B&B surrounded by beautiful gardens.

It stopped raining just long enough to snap a picture of these seaside cottages on stilts. Wherever you bike in Falmouth, you are always close to the shore. (Tim Jones photo)

You can easily spend a wonderful day or two pedaling the bike routes on the excellent Falmouth Bikeways Map published by the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce. We’d have ridden more but it was our first day on the bike with two more to follow, and it was raining. More on this later . . .

We did get a break in the rain around dinnertime which allowed us dry passage back into Woods Hole for dinner at the Landfall Restaurant (try the broiled scallops!) overlooking the harbor and ferry terminal.

The next morning (cloudy, cold), after a breakfast of whole wheat pancakes with apples and walnuts (Yum!), rode off to catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, a beautiful crossing, with a hard, raw east wind carrying the promise of more rain—which of course, started falling almost as soon as we started pedaling.

Martha’s Vineyard has bike paths and marked bike routes everywhere. With the wind howling and the rains falling, we followed the most direct route from Vineyard Haven to the Ashley Inn in Edgartown.

The lovely folks at the Ashley are, apparently, used to cyclists arriving looking like they’d just crawled out of the ocean. They greeted us with hot tea and fresh muffins, threw our dripping raingear into the dryer, provided rags for wiping the sand off our shoes and luggage and generally went out of their way to make us comfortable.

We had planned to explore the island by bike that afternoon, but instead used a short break in the rain to stroll the streets of Edgartown, stopping for drinks at a pub called The News and dinner at The Warf (try the spicy Jambalaya!)

The next morning, we had planned a pre-breakfast bike ride, but awoke to the sound of howling wind and torrential rain, so we rolled over and went back to sleep. Smart move.

The rain continued right through breakfast (Belgian waffles) and intensified just as we began biking back to the ferry. Riding a bike through pouring rain and deep puddles is fun! Anyone would have thought us crazy had they heard us laughing. But they were all hiding indoors or in their cars.

Of course the rain followed us all the way back to the ferry, but it did let up for our ride from the ferry back to our car. You know what? It didn’t matter. We would have ridden more if it hadn’t rained, but as it was, we got in plenty of miles for a first weekend on the bike. And we had a ball.

Try it sometime. Park the car and forget it, put your luggage on the bike and go off exploring for a day or two. Just be sure to bring your raingear. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

Bike Touring  Basics

Our tandem bike is set up for touring with a handlebar pack, stow-away panniers on the rear rack, and a BOB trailer with a waterproof dry bag for our luggage. (Tim Jones photo)

Taking a bike as your only form of transportation on an overnight or longer trip makes for some interesting challenges. The first thing you learn is to not overdo it. We did about 30 miles the first day, which was plenty, only about 10 miles on both of the following day. Not a lot, but enough in the rain.

Speaking of rain . . . Fortunately for us, it rains relentlessly almost every time we go on a bike adventure, so we’re getting good at coping. On overnight adventures we use a single-wheel BOB trailer that has a big, waterproof dry bag which holds plenty of clothes and gear for a couple of days. We usually ride directly to our lodging, drop off the trailer and then pedal around with just the bike. Great rig, I highly recommend it.

We also wear good raingear. Marilyn uses the same Marmot jacket and pants she wears for skiing and hiking, while I have an excellent cycling-specific rain suit from Illuminite that keeps me dry and glows bright silver in the beam of a car’s headlights. We keep our heads dry by wearing the hood of our jackets under our helmets.

Hands and feet are tough to keep comfortable when cycling in the rain and cold. On this trip, we used totally waterproof neoprene gloves from Gator Sports which worked perfectly. Gator also make waterproof neoprene booties to fit over cycling shoes which seems like a GREAT idea. Even if they don’t keep out all the water, they’ll still keep your feet warmer.

The trick is to go prepared and enjoy yourself even if you get rained on a little. Or a lot . . .

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About Tim Jones

Tim Jones, Founder and Executive Editor, started skiing at age 4 and hasn't stopped since. He took up Telemark a few years ago and is still terrible at it. In the summer, he hikes, bikes, paddles and fly fishes. In addition to his work at EasternSlopes.com, Tim also writes a pair of syndicated weekly newspaper columns.