Back to the Cape

We kept asking each other: What were we doing that kept us from coming back for five years?

The truth, mostly: biking. This trip was a spur-of-the-moment thank-you to my wife Laurie for sagging a bunch of cyclists from Vermont back home at the start of summer. Cape Cod is a place she could just sit, rather than drive to a different hotel every night for two weeks. That we brought my daughter with us for the first summer in the last seven was icing.

I’ve been to the Cape not quite 20 times since the 1980s. Many things about my life have changed, but the Cape remains a place of subtle, timeless beauty that I appreciate in its shifting tides and moon phases, and in August’s declining temperatures and arc of the sun. One week is too quick to experience the shortest of these cycles. But my own pace slows enough to observe them.

Naturally, a good way to observe is on a bike. (Walking is the best way to experience tidal shifts.) The worst is in a car. For the first time, this year we stayed in Provincetown, one of America’s edge cities, where traveling in three cardinal directions will lead you to the water. We parked the car and all got around on our bikes — for groceries, restaurants,  nearby beaches, and the crazy show that is Ptown. Its minor-league development allows a critical mass of people to celebrate the nature that is reasonably protected on the Outer Cape, the forearm and hand of Cape Cod.

Enough exposition. The point of this post is the pics, in four sets:

First are many views of Provincetown, from “downtown” to the National Seashore outpost at Provincelands, including Herring Cove and Race Point.

Second covers a day-long bike ride down the forearm to Nickerson State Park in Brewster, just below the bicep. After hilly Truro, the route picks up the Cape Cod Rail Trail, passing by Marconi Beach, where the inventor built the first transatlantic radio link, and Nauset, a popular and slightly overwhelmed National Park Service beach.

Third is a morning bike tour of Truro, adjacent to Provincetown, which is largely National Seashore and therefore protected from development. Highpoints include Corn Hill, said to be the on-shore moorings for the Mayflower before it went on to Plymouth; Highland Light, aka Cape Cod Light, which was moved back from the encroaching cliff in the 1990s; and the former Truro Air Force Station, a Cold War outpost and DEW installation, whose facilities are being repurposed or allowed to revert to nature. Also at the station is a temporary Energy Department research facility, where personnel launch pollution measurement balloons every six hours.

And fourth is a collection from the annual Carnival Parade, a celebration of drag in one of the nation’s gay capitals.

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