“The Bared and Bended Arm”

cape2That’s what Thoreau called Cape Cod. Looking at a map, I can see why. After a successful repair of the problem that aborted my previous attempt at a Cape Cod day trip, I tried again this past Sunday, and succeeded.

There isn’t much to say about the trip down. In the interest of time I stuck to superslab – Route 2 to 95 to 93 to 3 to 6. I’ve been stupid not to wear earplugs on the highway for a while, but I did this time, and found it much easier and less tiring to ride at highway speeds. I recommend it. My only issue was that once off the highway, the PC800 is so quiet I couldn’t hear much of anything, so I took the earplugs out for the slower back roads.

After crossing the Sagamore Bridge I was slightly apprehensive as I approached the gas station where I broke down before. But the bike behaved and went right on by with no trouble at all.

I rolled through the town of Sandwich, and since it was only 10am I was too early to have a sandwich in Sandwich for lunch. (Though I did go right by the Sandwich police station, ensuring the safety of lunches everywhere.) Soon I find myself on the narrow twisty 6A, winding through the quintessential small towns of the Cape that are just as you’d expect them to be. What I didn’t expect was the speed. In Massachusetts, everyone drives 10mph over the speed limit – except, apparently, on Cape Cod, where everyone drives 10 under for no apparent reason. The road is posted at 40-50, and was fun at that speed, but I was hard pressed to maintain it for any length of time. I lost count of how many people I passed like they were standing still, only to find myself back up to the limit, no faster. It was scenic, but slow, and tourist season hasn’t even begun yet.

IMG_0666Traffic improved the further I rode. Once past the elbow of the Cape, 6A merged back into 6, which was now a regular two lane road rather than superslab. It wasn’t as twisty but I could make decent progress, and traffic thinned the further I went. I stopped at a couple of beaches on the way, and brought my Pacific Coast 800 to the Atlantic coast for the first time. I couldn’t go down to the beach due to erosion and instability concerns, but I took in the ocean view for a bit. I don’t see much of it, despite working in the coastal city of Boston.

From there I simply followed the road. There was only one way to go, despite the road marked “east” heading north and then curving back west again. And then, earlier than expected, I found myself in Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape. I rode until I couldn’t ride anymore, and the road looped back on itself at a rotary.

It was around lunchtime, so I decided to grab a bite here. That didn’t work out. The downtown area was seriously congested, and there was nowhere to park. I found myself on the main drag, with bicycles and pedestrians wandering everywhere with no regard to the fact that this was an open public road. I felt fortunate that I had a giant SUV in front of me clearing the way so I could just follow in its wake. Still, my engine fan kicked on despite the cool ambient temperature, because the engine was getting no air to cool itself off.

I bailed out of downtown at my first opportunity and headed west (actually an easterly direction) on 6. A 50mph blast to Truro cooled the engine right off, and in Wellfleet I stopped at Savory for a quick lunch. The ice cream bar was even bigger than the restaurant area, but there was no activity there this early in the year.

IMG_0673Continuing through Wellfleet I stopped somewhere I’d seen on my way out but too late to stop – the Marconi site. This was the site of the first intercontinental radio contact from the US. I’ve made hundreds of such contacts over the years by ham radio, but there’s always something special about the first one. Parking my APRS station at this site for a little while seemed appropriate as well.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get much closer than the parking lot. The paths out to the pavilion of the actual site itself were all closed, due to concerns of erosion and unstable ground. Certainly this wasn’t an issue 110 years ago when Marconi built his station – he wasn’t stupid. In fact his location is brilliant – there was nothing between his antennas and Europe but sky and ocean.

But time marches on, and so does the ocean itself. According to a map I saw there, Cape Cod has only been around for 10,000 years – a blink of an eye in geological terms – made of debris the receding glaciers left behind. It’s also doomed to a short life, and will likely erode away in the next several thousand years. Wellfleet is only a mile wide right here, and from the viewing platform I could see Cape Cod Bay as well as the ocean next to me. If the Marconi site is in danger of washing away, it’s only a matter of time until the ocean eats its way across Wellfleet, turning the tip of the Cape into an island.

Fortunately for me, this won’t happen for a while, so I hopped back on the bike and continued on, going back the way I came because there was no other way out – at least, until I passed the elbow of the Cape and picked up Route 28. I’d follow this along the south side of the Cape, rather than 6A to the north, to make as much of a loop out of it as I could. I passed through more towns, but these weren’t so much cute New England towns as on 6A. Some of it looked like any town, anywhere in the US, with the stores and strip malls and such. Much of it was fairly quiet, more open than 6A, and with a higher speed limit. (People still drove 10 under for no reason.)

IMG_0680As with the trip out, there isn’t much to say about the trip back. I made my way to the Bourne Bridge and crossed back to the mainland, picking up Route 25, which became 495 and took me toward home.

Partway through, I got bored with the superslab, and bailed onto Route 85 in Milford. This took me to Marlboro, and from there I took back roads I know the rest of the way home, in time for dinner.

I rode about 325 miles, probably the most I’ve ever done in a day. Overall I felt fine, and didn’t hurt anywhere. My hands were a little cramped from using the controls all day. I’m just not used to that much riding at this point. Though I wasn’t in pain, my body was tired, and I decided to lie down for a few minutes just after dinner. The next thing I knew, I woke up at 11pm. I got ready for bed properly and slept well through the night.

It was a good ride. The bike worked absolutely perfectly. The Cape is nice, but it’s unlikely I’ll take another ride here anytime soon. I don’t regret the trip at all, but now I’ve been there and done that. The nature of Cape Cod is that there isn’t much variety of roads there, and now that I’ve ridden the main ones there isn’t much left to explore. But it was a good ride, and I’m happy to have successfully completed my first day trip of the year. Now to figure out what’s next.

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