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Active Outdoors

Active Outdoors: Falmouth, Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard by bike

Over many years and many tours together, my sweetheart Marilyn and I have learned that it’s sometimes tough to leave your car behind and travel only by bike. Especially when the weather isn’t cooperating. We’ve pedaled through the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and countless unnamed downpours. Only once have we chosen to take our car when we had planned to bike, and that was when a steady 60 mph wind was making it almost impossible to walk, let alone pedal.

So, when the first morning of our planned bike tour of Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard dawned raw, gray, damp and foggy, we lingered only a little before loading our luggage in the BOB trailer and setting out for Falmouth. This was supposed to be a bike trip and we were going to pedal, period.

Day 1

Onset to Falmouth – This time, the weather gods rewarded us. By the time we’d threaded our way through Buzzards Bay, along the Cape Cod Canal, and up onto the Bourne Bridge (we walked

our bike and trailer over the bridge; the sidewalk starts in the parking lot on the north side of the canal, and by the State Police barracks on the south side), the sun was breaking through the clouds in patches. From there we rode the quiet Shore Road through Bourne Village, Pocasset and Cataumet to a short stretch of busy 28A before catching the end of the Shining Sea Bikeway and following it into Falmouth. Our total ride was about 21 miles, which is just about the right amount for us for a first day of touring with all our luggage on the bike.

That night we stayed in the beautiful Palmer House Inn (palmerhouseinn.com), where innkeepers Bill and Pat O’Connell treated us like family, provided a quiet, luxurious room with a supremely comfortable bed, and fed us a marvelous breakfast. These folks are really willing to cater to pedalers. All the great restaurants in Falmouth (we ate at the Quarterdeck, a favorite) were a 10-minute walk away. Here’s a hint: when you are traveling by bike, make sure your lodging has meals close by in case you don’t want to ride in the evening.

Day 2

Falmouth to Vineyard Haven – The next morning we awoke to – you guessed it – pouring rain. So we lingered over a delicious breakfast (try the “Cape Cod Sunrise”). By checkout time, it was raining harder than ever. We only had to ride four miles down the bike path to Woods Hole, but in that short time, our shoes and raingear got totally waterlogged. We laughed and kept pedaling – that’s the way it is when it rains on a bike tour. The 45-minute ferry ride through rain and fog got us to Vineyard Haven where we pedaled maybe a half mile to The Doctors House Bed and Breakfast (doctorshouse.com), hidden away on a quiet side street within easy walking distance of restaurants. We’d planned to drop our gear at the B&B and go pedaling out to Mememsha that day, but we were thoroughly soaked, slightly chilled and settled for a hot shower and a relaxing afternoon of reading in our comfortable room and strolling around the village in the downpours. The Doctors House is another great location for bikers – they are close to the ferry and restaurants and have a locked garage for your wheels.

Day 3

Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Katama – We awoke to blue skies. Yay! After another delicious made-to-order breakfast, we strolled the beautiful grounds and gardens for a bit, then loaded up and pedaled. Our four-mile route took us on the bike path along Beach Road, then threaded through Oak Bluffs to Isabelle’s Beach House B&B (isabellesbeachhouse.com). Yet another perfect place to stay! Five minutes (max) from the ferry dock, with a beautiful beach right across the street, and a host of restaurants nearby.

The short ride with the gear was a great warmup, and we quickly dropped our luggage in our bright, sunny room and went pedaling. The Edgartown Road bike path starts just a few feet away and we rode into Edgartown for lunch. As we ate, we debated between exploring Chappaquiddick or taking the bike path to Katama. Katama won. By mid-afternoon we’d covered about 25 miles by bike and found ourselves back at Isabelle’s practicing our French (Isabelle is originally from the Saguenay Region of Quebec), reading on the wide front porch and looking out at the ocean, and strolling the beach.

That night, we took a one-hour nighttime SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboard) tour of Oak Bluffs Harbor with Island Spirit Kayak (islandspiritkayak.com). More on this in a future column, but trust me, it’s not to be missed.

Day 4

More Martha’s Vineyard, Oak Bluffs to Woods Hole – We thought about pedaling up-island to Menemsha and Aquinnah, but that ride is long and hilly on narrow roads, and with a long, loaded ride ahead for the next day, we decided to take it easier. Riding along the beach back down to Edgartown then out through the center of the island on the bike trails around the Correllus State Forest made for a very pleasant 25-mile ride with few hills and almost no traffic.

We stopped on the way to walk some of the beautiful Nature Trails at the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (massaudubon.org/Nature_Connection/Sanctuaries/Felix_Neck/index.php), where the flower gardens were in full bloom and the trees and ponds were alive with bird-life. Don’t miss it!

We made it back to Oak Bluffs in plenty of time to load up our luggage and catch the ferry back to Woods Hole and the Woods Hole Inn (woodsholeinn.com). This vintage inn right in the center of town has been completely refurbished. The outdoor decks are a great place to sit and watch the world go by. If you are an adventuresome eater, don’t miss the lobster tacos offered at Quick’s Hole on street level. And the breakfast they offer is worth the price of admission – great for fueling up for a bike ride.

Day 5

Woods Hole to Onset – Usually the last day of any trip is a letdown, but we really enjoyed the bike ride back to Onset, following the same route we took down. Twenty-five miles with the trailer on the back had our legs singing and we were happy to jump into the car and relax on the way home. Five great days on the bike, four great inns, lots of food and fun places to see, and we came home in better shape and weighing less than when we started.

That’s my idea of a perfect vacation. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

(Tim Jones can be reached at timjones@easternslopes.com.)

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