Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cape Cod--2009

We woke up Saturday with a long and ambitious list of things to do—not much different from every other Saturday. What was different about this one was that we were supposed to be in Falmouth later that day to begin our week-long Cape Cod vacation. The only things in our way were the facts that the house was a mess, the dogs needed to be dropped off in Ipswich, and we hadn’t packed a single thing yet. Our initial plans even optimistically included getting a ride in of some sort before we left. Ha.

Divide and conquer. I took the dogs to Ipswich, Jean hit the grocery store, I did some cleaning, Jean packed our supplies, and soon enough our car was packed with food, bikes, clothes and other staples of modern life.

I got a haircut on our way out of town and, as part owner of REI (it’s a co-op), I felt the need to invest in my company with the purchase of some fine Pearl Izumi products. Finally on the road, we eventually found the beach house that would be our home for the week in Falmouth. It was a huge, beautiful house on a private road that leads right to the ocean. The property is gorgeous and the house was clean, spacious, and comfortable. Amenities included everything you’d expect in a house, TV, DVD, phone, washer/drier, gas grill, full kitchen, three full bathrooms, etc, etc. There was, however, one glaring deficit—NO INTERNET!

I couldn’t believe that in 2009 a guest house/rental property would NOT have WiFi so I actually called the owner. They confirmed my worst fears—I was cut off from the world, with only my faithful BlackBerry to keep me connected—and thank Allah for that!

Sunday morning Jean and I grabbed my Rubel bike map, and our bikes, and headed out to explore. We did just under 30 miles of cruising around on a combination of bike paths, bike routes, and just plain old roads. At one point our ride coincided with the bike leg of a triathlon, so I felt compelled to race the competitors—me on a cyclocross bike, and they on road bikes or tri-bikes.

After slaying the competition, it was time for some post-ride chillin with the in-laws and consuming mass quantities of food. Mmmmm, food.

Monday… hmmm… I remember that we went mountain biking, our first foray into the Trail of Tears in the West Barnstable Conservation area (great riding by the way), but as I write this several days later, I’m not sure what else occurred… I do remember getting a flat on my bike while on the trails, and then finding my rear tire flat when we got back to the house, but damn this early Alzheimer’s, I don’t remember what else… I think we grilled Filet Mignon and chicken…

Tuesday morning, we decided to make a break for civilization to find a real dose of WiFi. It was also a chance to meet some dumb people. Jean and I each had our own encounters, hers was when asking a local tourist shop owner for a breakfast spot, and mine with some bike shop workers.

The first shop I went to, Corner Cycle, has an ad on my Rubel bike map stating that it’s the Cape’s “professional bike shop.” I walked in and found a guy dutifully truing a wheel. I asked if the shop had any trail maps for the West Barnstable Conservation Area, he had no idea what I was talking about. That would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that this trail network was probably the most popular mountain bike destinations on the Cape, and only about 20 minutes away. He couldn’t offer any suggestions for finding a map other than to go online—as if that was a stroke of genius. I thanked him and went on my way.

Later in the day, in Hyannis, I found another shop, thanks to my Rubel map, BikeZoneInc. Here, I met the most disinterested bike shop employee ever. Again, I asked, “Do you have any trail maps for the West Barnstable Conservation Area trails, i.e. Trail of Tears?” While staring off into space, he pointed to a rack of Rubel bike maps (just like the one I already had). I said that I had that map and that it didn’t have details of the trails and he just sort of shrugged. He didn’t have the epiphany of suggesting the Internet, but he did mumble a bit while ringing up my CO2 cartridges.

In an era of where I can get ANY bike part, near or cheaper than the prices bike shops pay—by buying online—I’m amazed at the shops that don’t capitalize on the one thing that sets them apart from online retailers—customer service! When I travel, especially when I travel and go riding, I like to visit local shops and I’ve got hats and socks and t-shirts from bike shops from all over the country. All it takes is a short conversation about local conditions (trails or road), and I’ll buy something from the shop—maybe a shirt, maybe an extra tube, who knows. I’m not looking for a red carpet entrance, but these two shops on the Cape gave me the impression that I was wasting their oxygen.

Interestingly, Jean went into a quilt store in Barnstable, and while I was out in the parking lot waiting (working on my bike), a woman came out of the shop and came over to me to say that that was one of the most unfriendly stores she had been in. She got in her car and left, and then Jean came out to say the same thing.


We did make it to the trails and we simply poked around some more on the various loops and side loops. We were VERY impressed. The singletrack was rolling, twisty, fast, fun, and totally worth the drive in itself. For years, I’ve known about people heading down to ToT in winter months, as the temps are slightly milder on the Cape, and now I know why. We’ll definitely be back. And when I do come back, I’ll have a map!

After our ride, we had a great dinner in Barnstable and caught a presentation at the Sturgis Library put on by a local couple who had ridden their tandem bike from NH to CA back in 2007. The disappointing part of the presentation came when the two stated that they were NOT cyclists. They didn’t ride much before their trip and they haven’t ridden since. Except that they did just buy a new tandem mountain bike because their next trip is along the Continental Divide. Must have been a touch purchase as they both quit their jobs in 2007 to go on their last trip? WTF? Why do two non-cyclists get to quit their jobs and ride their bikes all across the country?

Wednesday our plan was to head to Provincetown for photos and some riding. We knew that there weren’t any trails out there, and we heard that the roads would be fairly annoying in that they are typically narrow and filled with tourists, but we were looking for a change of scenery and we wanted to see what P-town had to offer. Plus, there were supposed to be some bike paths in that neck of the woods. Sadly, spotty weather translated into the fact that we packed the bikes up and took them for a drive to Provincetown. That’s okay, we still got to walk around and experience the P-town Freak Show. Add a Coffee-House Porter and a great cheeseburger into the mix (for me—and a vegetarian wrap for Jean), and it was a successful endeavor.

We stopped in Wellfleet on the way back to Falmouth—Jean to bolster the local economy with a personal stimulus package, and me to attempt to take some decent photos. She was likely more successful than I.

Back in Falmouth, we met up with my in-laws (Jean’s parents), for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Mmmmmm. Incidentally, the portions were huge and I was eating left-overs for days!

Thursday morning started with breakfast at Betsy’s Diner in Falmouth for Jean’s dad and I. Then I spent some time showing Del the wonderful world of computers by helping him load some photos from his digital camera to his laptop. Maybe he’ll have his own blog someday! Anyway, Jean spent some time mining for shell fragments on the beach with her mom and in what seemed a blink of an eye, it was time to start packing! Of course, we did have a chance to pound out another quick road ride before we left...

We decided to head home a little early because I made an appointment to get my foot fixed (more on that later), and we knew the dogs missed us. We packed all of our stuff (did we bring enough to survive an apocalypse?), and hit the road. We got through Boston with only a few traffic setbacks and actually got to Ipswich in time to grab to dogs—and stuff them into our already stuffed car. With a car full of bikes and dogs, things were back to normal!

For those interested, I have more pics posted here ( , and will have some more over the next few days...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Another week in the can.

Looking back I think, “Wow, another week FLEW by.”

I guess nothing can be done about the pace in which it appears that life run, you just have to hold on and enjoy what you can.

On Sunday, I took the ol’ SS MTB to an EFTA mountain bike race in Rutland, MA. I *thought* my cousin was going to race, so I figured I’d go out and harass him, but he bailed. I still went out just for the *fun* of it, and I took a beating.

I didn’t have any preconceived ideas of how I’d do as, while I’ve been riding, I haven’t really been training. And there IS a difference. I was just hoping to get out and ride some new trails—instead, I suffered, cramped and walked my bike through long stretches of mud, rocks and pain.

Looking back, there were SO many things I should have done differently. I should have either fixed my shoes (the tread on the bottom of the shoes was getting in the way of my pedals) or used different shoes. I should have swapped out the rear cog on my bike. I should have brought my electrolyte tablets… so many would haves and could haves. Oh well… it was still “fun.” I do enjoy racing and I miss the scene. I don’t think my schedule will allow for any more mountain bike races this season, but cyclocross season is starting soon!

Other than that, my past week was essentially dominated by intensive preparation for lectures I gave to the PA class at the University of New England. I love participating the education of future PAs and I try to lecture/present whenever I can. However, I’m a little insane when it comes to putting together my presentation. I make notes and outlines, and I make one final version that I send out as student handouts, and another version I convert to PowerPoint slides. Of course, for the slides, I try to obtain pertinent images to help explain the content as well. AND then, I rehearse what I’m going to say, including more notes to myself. Yeah, I spent HOURS on this and it culminated in a 2hr presentation that could have gotten me to the final round of America’s Got Talent. Maybe. Okay, probably not. But the important thing is that I provided lots of information to the students in a format that was (hopefully) easy to understand and retain. I’ll be heading up again in the spring for more lectures.

So, that’s mostly what I did Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and the lecture was Wednesday, up in Portland, ME. As soon as the lecture was over, a weight was off my shoulders, so I took off for a road ride on one of my favorite road loops through Falmouth and Cumberland, Maine. Unfortunately, road construction thwarted my plan. I still had a good ride and then hung out with friends Mike and Jo for dinner.

I had Thursday and Friday for errands, and then it was back to work! One of the things I needed to do was to pick up dog food. I like to bring the dogs with me because they're allowed in the store, and they love commerce. We go to the Barking Cat in Salem. We got there a little early and the shop wasn't opened yet... but, there was a LARGE grey cat sitting out front. He didn't like the fact that I brought some dogs near him so he did the only thing that made sense in his little pea-sized feline brain--he attacked. Somehow he swatted at all of us and I got scratched. That secured it... I hate cats.