Cape Cod Bridges and Bays

I had been so overloaded reading about the bike travels of other people that I was always thinking about it. I'd had a Warm Showers guest the previous week, a friend was now on tour, and, to make things worse, my tour a few weeks before was .... well, blase. It's not only me. Brandon was so down over not being able to tour this year that he went riding around town a couple of times, then slept out in the backyard. But he says it didn't feel like touring. "You have to tour to feel like your touring," he said.

I'd also been reading a few journals on Crazyguy, and one got my attention. It was about a couple who flew from out of state to tour right around my area of Massachusetts. Hey! I can do that!

To feed the monster, Saturday morning Brandon and I planned to leave Fairhaven for the backroad journey to the Cape Cod Canal. We would cross the Bourne Bridge, ride the Cape side of the canal to Sandwich, and tent camp at Shawme-Crowell State Forest.

We originally planned to leave on Friday, but I had my high school reunion that evening. (40th. Okay, shudup.) 

Saturday August 22, 2009, 39 miles (63 km) -- Total so far: 39 miles (63 km)

Last night's high school reunion was the cause of a late start to the tour. I really wanted to begin by 8 a.m. I had no faith in Brandon being ready, either, because he's never ready. Except for today. It took me until 9 a.m. to gather and pack up, constantly worrying about what I was forgetting. All the while he was sitting on the steps with his wide grin that said, "I'm not letting you live this one down." In 25 years, this is the first time I haven't had to wait for him. The times they are a changin'. Unless this was just an anomaly, which is most likely the case. 

We decided to ride into town for breakfast before departing, which added another hour. All in all, we left two hours after our planned time. Not bad for us seasoned biker tourers. We talked about the day on last year's tour when we left town at 3:30 p.m. and still got in 60 miles. We did set up our tents in the dark, though.

It was muggy, and with the approaching hurricane -- oh, did I mention the hurricane? -- the sky was threatening and the air was heavy. We both drank buckets of water and had to stop twice for 20-ounce fruit drinks. We rode on quiet back roads mostly, through the southeastern Massachusetts towns of Mattapoisett, Rochester, Wareham, and Onset. However, once we got through Onset center, things changed. We had to get on busy Route 6, which did have a decent shoulder, but we also had to navigate the Buzzards Bay rotary. Some know it as a roundabout. We were very visible and held our lane, and everyone gave us plenty of room. This was the only possible problem spot, and we got through it gracefully.

Our destination for the night.

We could see the railroad bridge in the distance as we approached on Route 6. This was the start of the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, which would take us to the Bourne Bridge. At the railroad bridge we met Tim, a member of Bike Forums. We visited about bikes in general, and he talked about how he would like to tour someday. Don't we all hear that a lot? People who want to tour but can't seem to find the time. Brandon and I were doing this tour in just two days -- I really think it's all a matter of just doing it. (I told Tim that once he does a tour, no matter how brief or long, he will probably be hooked.) 

There's this common "gotcha" question around here: How many bridges cross the Cape Cod Canal? The typical answer is two, the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, which carry vehicle traffic. However, there is also a railroad bridge. While Tim was standing there, I asked Brandon, who'd gotten the same question a couple of nights earlier, "How many bridges cross the canal?"

"Three," Brandon said. 

"Really? asked Tim. "The Sagamore and Bourne. What's the third?" 

I told him to turn around, and he was met with the sight of this humungous railroad bridge. "Ohhhhhh!" It was funny -- he was practically standing on the third bridge, but couldn't come up with the name of it.

The quiet times ended once we got to the approach to the Bourne Bridge. It was so loud that we didn't even bother trying to talk to each other. Riders are asked to walk their bikes over the bridge, and it really was no problem complying with that. It's kind of hairy to say the least, but it's also pretty neat.

About to cross the Bourne Bridge to the Cape side of the canal.

It took us five hours with all the stop-and-go riding in the heat and humidity. But we made it to the campground pretty easily. When we pulled up to the check-in station, we saw the sign that said the campground was full. Luckily, we'd made reservations a week earlier. But as we rode to our site, we could see that the campground was, at the most, 10 percent occupied. The impending storm apparently kept most campers away. We set up, showered, and changed. Then we walked about a mile to an Irish Pub for dinner. Although we'd brought ramen noodles and oatmeal, and there was a hot dog social happening in the capmground, we figured what the heck, let's splurge.

We all know what usually happens when Sullivans go to an Irish Pub. Yup, we reinforce the stereotype.

Eight p.m. It's dark, it's early, and there is nothing going on at the pub. We're camping.

"What do you want to do?"I asked.

"I don't know, what do you want to do?"

"Wanna walk?"


Once back at the campsite we decided to start a fire. (Keep in mind our time spent at the pub.) Forty-five minutes later, it was time for bed. "We don't need no stinkin' fire." We'd tried paper, dried grass, and twigs, but we couldn't get anything going. It's too bad, because the previous campers had left a good amount of wood.

A couple of cars had pulled up to occupy a site up the hill. They worked for at least an hour getting everything perfect. We could see them moving picinic tables, moving the cars, gathering kindling, and also the distinct red bag of purchased firewood. But we never did see a fire up there, which kind of made us feel not so unsurvivalist.

Later in the night the rains came. It stared as a comforting pitter-patter on the top of the tent, and crested with "holy s***!" comments emanating from our tents. We we sitting low, so the wind did not affect us, but we could certainly hear it overhead. We kept hearing this banging noise from up the hill. Every minute or so we would hear another bang. After awhile, both of those cars drove down the hill, never to return. The noise was the car doors slamming, while the owners were loading up.

Sunday August 23, 2009, 32 miles (51 km) -- Total so far: 71 miles (114 km)

We awoke to a damp and dreary day. After a quick snack of oatmeal, we packed up and began the return leg of our overnight trip. The skies cleared and the humidity returned.

Mmmmmmm, oatmeal.

Yesterday we'd crossed the Bourne Bridge and rode the Cape side of the canal. Today we crossed the Sagamore Bridge from the Cape and rode the mainland side of the canal back to Buzzards Bay. After crossing the bridge, we stopped for breakfast at a McDonalds. When will I ever learn that food like that -- adding heavy grease to an already stiffling hot day -- makes for a very uncomfortable bike ride? And we had to maneuver that crazy rotary again, but thankfully the Sunday morning traffic was a breeze.

When we got to Onset Villiage we made a second bad-food decision after agreeing that a frappe would give us some needed energy. A frappe, in case you're not familiar, is a milk shake with ice cream. Around here a milk shake is taken literally: syrup and milk, all shook up. Ergo, "milk shake."

We relaxed for awhile in the small village of Onset, sitting on a bench overlooking the bay. Nice!

It was a difficult slog home. We both began to suffer the effects of the humidity, and our speed decreased accordingly, especially on the hills. I found myself clipping along at 5 mph a couple of times.

We pulled up to the house early in the afternoon to be greeted by my hallway ceiling lying in the driveway. You see, the satellite TV company had come to install on Saturday, and the "new guy" came crashing through from the attic. No one was hurt, but I'm going to have to have some work done in the house real soon. Sheesh.

The Day After

You don't have to be gone, like, forever to take a bike adventure. Choosing something within a day's ride of your home can really give you the feel of being on tour. Just a day or two can work wonders for that itch. You don't need a lot of stuff, either. For example, in my bags on this ride I carried: One shirt, one pair of shorts, one pot, one plastic bowl, one little can of fuel for a tiny cooking unit, one pair of sandals, one tent, one sleeping bag, one mat, and one towel. Plus the usual toiletries and bike gear, like a pump and spare tube. Basically, it was around 15 pounds of stuff. 

Get more information about bike overnights.

Tip for this adventure: The backroads of the South Coast of Massachusetts take you to the head of the Cape Cod Canal. Very nice.

Favorite local bike shop: Travis Cycle in Taunton, Mass.

2 responses so far ↓

Rick Dickerson - Feb 17, 2014 at 4:14 PM

Appreciated the account a lot.

I was thinking of doing Southeast Massachusetts and the Cape and Islands but the Canal bridges had me a little spooked. You've put my mind at ease.

I'll probably be setting out this spring.

Thanks a lot.

John - Feb 17, 2014 at 5:16 PM

If your in the area you are welcome to get in touch with me.

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