Sunday, October 31, 2010

When I saw her standing there

Train, Ferry, Train, Train, Bike, Bus, Bike.  Cape.  I'm writing now from near Provincetown, MA, at the end of Cape Cod.  The sun is glistening off the ocean, and the wind has died down to what I would consider normal.
After gathering myself and resting on a rainy Wednesday in Brooklyn, I strolled around town and finally to the Manhattan School of Music, where Emily had gotten me some free tickets to an orchestra concert.  Beethoven's 8th Symphony, a Prokofiev violin concerto, and a piece by Poulenc.  The violin soloist was wildly exciting to hear play.  Had a slice of world-renowned NY pizza, and Emily gave me vegetables, then I took a train home to rest up - the plan was to get up at 4:45am to catch a train from Penn Station to Providence, RI (and bike from there) ...

... and sometimes it's just not worth making plans!  What I thought would be a simple journey, turned into a series of frustrations that reminded me to just keep letting go.  Turns out, Amtrack doesn't allow bicycles on their trains - unless you pack your bike in a box and take the baggage train (that only ever leaves at 2am).  Because, as someone sarcastically pointed out to me, Amtrack is just doing so well, why should they try to encourage more customers?!  So I tried a couple more things, pushing my loaded bike around Penn Station trying to find some vehicle that would transport me and my "burden."  Finally, it ended up that I would take a MTA train down Long Island, and catch a ferry across the LI Sound.

Long Island is quite a cool place, they have trees!  I very quickly noticed the change of everybody's demeanor as we rolled away from downtown NY.  I got into Port Jefferson, hopped onto a Ferry, and happily floated north.  Then in Bridgeport, CT, where the ferry landed, I caught a couple trains as far east as I could get - Saybrook, CT.  At long last, I climbed onto my bike and put foot to pedal.  It was sunny and the leaves were at a new sort of peak.  A perfect fall day, and my route took me through some truly quaint parts of CT.  A local fellow on a bike directed me to a bike shop, and suggested a place I could safely camp for the night.

It was probably only a 15 mi. ride, but so refreshing!!  got my bike fixed and sat to watch a high school girls' soccer senior game.  met some nice folks - I was in Niantic, which is apparently among the top places to live in the country (by some measures).  As the sun set, I biked down the road into the back entrance of a park on the beach.  I ended up setting up camp in front of a tree line on the beach, between a boardwalk and the high tide line.  Wasn't quite sure if I was allowed to be there, but it seemed fine.  Camping on the beach presents new challenges - sand, waves, and tide.  The waves were crashing constantly, as it seems they do!  My only security in the tent is being able to hear what's going on around me, but with wave sounds, it's just blind faith that I'm safe.  A good exercise, to take away that sense of hearing.  I slept for a couple hours without the fly up, because the stars were magnificent, and the air pleasant.  At one point I awoke to a light on the tent, and what I thought was the tail end of a person speaking - I could track the course of blood and adrenaline flowing through my whole body.  From then on, I just had to assume that someone knew I was there, and hope they were neither malicious nor law-enforcing.  The train went by every now and then.  Then I woke up, sat up, and threw off the fly, to reveal the brightest half moon lighting up the whole bay.  In one of my next vivid dreams, I did the same thing - sat up in my tent, and looked out on the bay - and there was a whole party of sailing, surfing, pirate ships, and several dozen jubilant folks swimming and laughing, all bathed in the florescent blue-black shine of the moon.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the nights while camping are almost as interesting/exciting as the days.  for probably half the night, as the tide was rolling in, I kept checking to make sure the water wasn't about to wash away my tent - because it sounded so loud it must be right below me.  It was a relief to see the tide finally receding.  Every time I awoke and opened the tent, I looked out on the moonlit star-speckled connecticut bay I had all to myself.  Joyous, really.  I got up before there was any hint of sunrise, packed in the moonlight, and was on the road as the sky began to lighten.

My morning ride took me into New London, CT, where I figured I'd give public transit one last chance.  I waited for the bus station to open, and the attendant (among the more laid-back folks I've met all trip!) sold me a ticket to Providence, like it was no big deal, and he said the bike was no problem.  But the bus driver descended the stairs wagging his finger at me and the bike, saying "No, we don't do that.  Never have, never will!"  to which I responded, "That's a terrible shame!" trying to counter the finality of his statement with some honest sentiment.  I'm beginning to see why bicycle activism is so necessary - if no one hounds Greyhound to accommodate pedal power, will it ever change? (because in my mind, an america with more people biking around is a better america ....).  I understand the inconveniences of a larger, strangely-shaped piece of luggage, but it's really just that - an extra piece of luggage.  It seems a foolish discrimination.  I would happily pay the same "extra luggage" as is usually available.
Anyway, the man who sold me the ticket came outside and talked with the driver for a few minutes, and the driver at long last gave me a resigned nod to put my bike in the luggage compartment (there was plenty of room there, but maybe wouldn't have been on a more crowded bus).  So thank you to the chill bus station attendant.

I got out at Providence (which is a fine city, everyone is well-dressed it seems), and this time had committed to biking the rest of the way (because it was nice country after all, and I had time to make P-town by Halloween).  I eventually found my way out of the city, with the help of those green bike route signs (so helpful, though sometimes misleading!).  I would like to point out this pattern of sentence-then-parenthetical-addition (because I just really enjoy it!).  I really started covering some ground - measuring it now, it looks like almost 70 miles, a new daily record (10 mi before bus, 55-60 after)!  

The title of the blog refers to the song I've been singing since my first day on the bike, and comes up every time I think about the rotations/minute of my pedaling.  I've been told to keep a fast pace with little resistance, about 80-90 beats per minute or faster.  I haven't actually checked, but I know that a lot of those danceable beatles songs are around 80 bpm - and "When I saw her standing there" came into my head first, and it has stuck.  I know my pace is pretty good if the song feels faster than it should when I sing it.  So, on most days, I check in by singing "well she was just 17, if you know what i mean ..." and adjust accordingly.

So I found my groove riding east from Providence.  There was only one glitch in the trip, which began when the 12.6 miles I was waiting for "Cohannet Rd" started to feel like it had been much more.  Just when I was getting ready to find a gas station for a map, I came upon it, Cohannet Rd!  So I head down that, looking for "Briggs St." on the right.  After 10 or 15 minutes of riding, I found myself at a T intersection with a major road.  A woman from a palm/tarot reading store came outside as I looked confusedly at my directions - I asked her what this road was called, and she said "44" - the same road I had been driving 12.6 miles on a few miles back.  I told her I was trying to get to Cape Cod, and she flung her hand up the road, saying "You want to go that way."  Well, she must have been upset at me not wanting to get a psychic reading, because she very blatantly pointed me due west (which i realized a mile into from the sun's location ..).  I asked for directions from two Click and Clack-like fellows in a car, and turned back east.  Well, biking that way, it all looked quite familiar.  I had just done a big 5 mile loop to get right back where I'd started (add 5 to my daily record!).  The first entrance to Cohannet Rd. had been obscured by construction, and traveling the opposite way down it led to my missing a road on the left instead of the right.  So ... detours happen.

When I got near the Cape, I stopped at a store labeled "Bakery."  Had a nice long conversation with the woman there, over a cran-apple brownie.  She's soon going to take the world by storm with her 52 flavors of cannoli!!!  check out to look at pictures of her artfully-crafted cakes (she proudly showed me her "Noah's Arc" creation).  She then proceeded to send me away with about 10 pounds of baked goods - brownies, cupcakes, danishes, whoopie pie, and a little chocolate cake.  And her motherly instinct intuited that I might need some big plastic bags, which I had been planning to stop for that day!  Thanks, Lil!

I made it over to Scusset Beach, north and east of both of the Cape Cod Canal bridges.  The highway  between the two is not meant for bikes, and I ended up on the raised gravel shoulder for a few miles.  Yuck.  But the beach was a great recommendation (from Lil, I think) - a few people around, but much more open public space.  I set up in the dark, said hi to a supa nice fisherman, and turned in.  I could see the lighthouse of Provincetown!  Sleep was again deep but spotty, and the wind was tossing my tent so much that I had to use my one earplug to stay sane.  Once more, the magnificence of the half moon graced my own private beach home for the night.

I slept in until the eastern sky was lightening, and biked back west with the red-orange of the rising sun lighting up burnt oak leaves on all sides.  Not really burnt, but ... you get it.  I warmed up in Dunkin' Donuts and charged my phone, then head (illegally) over the Sagamore Bridge onto Cape Cod.  I took smaller roads through some really nice little towns - the Cape has many more communities than I usually imagine it having.  Then I got some good routes from the internet, which was fortunate, because I was coming up on the Cape Cod Rail Trail - one of the nicest rides I've had all trip!  I made another record, as far as I know - 15 mi in one hour (which is nothing crazily fast, but without any obstacles or cars, I could go faster than I usually do).

This was Saturday, and when I stopped to eat in Wellfleet, there will little children parading in their costumes!  Someone leaned out his car window and said to me, "You even look like a pumpkin!" as though we had been having a conversation about how I had been planning my halloween costume.  Which I had been, but who knows how he knoew that.  I then stopped to get some "tendrils" (stripped rose branches) and "blood berries" (autumn olive!!), and completed the ride to Julie and Gail's cottage on the bay.  Gail was already getting ready for the evening, dressing as the Queen of Death.  Julie was already down at Twisted Sister, her pizza and ice cream shop, ready for a busy evening.

After a dinner at the shop, Gail got to work handing out coupons, I wandered the streets for a while, and came back to get a guitar to play.  The costumes and festivities were pretty rad, too much to begin describing!  I'll get some pictures up, if I get my hands on any.  It was definitely worth getting here to take part in Halloween, Provincetown style.  Dancing in the streets, spooky/hilarious/ridiculous/naughty folks and costumes.  Oh, and Nancy from Hartland, VT made a return appearance in my trip, helping out for the weekend at the shop.

It's really swell here, and I'm once again gathering myself together.  I had a really good long "thinking" session this morning, after spending so much time all trip trying not to think too much, and being in the moment.

I keep asking Julie and Gail, "Is it always this windy," and now I'm wondering, "Is the sunset always this perfect?"  It overtakes the entire landscape, which is impressively vast to begin with.  Looking forward to more relaxing days out here!

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