Unfortunately, I will not be able to Sing A Paean of Glory to the Wonder that is the Wellfleet Bookstore. Everything was in line yesterday, absolutely everything. The rain from the previous day had cleared off and left a spotless sky and a sparkling cool dry airmass. Also, wind. Not the sort of wind that whips the ocean into froth, not the sort of wind that flattens houses, but the sort of wind that picks up stuff like, oh, sand from the dunes, and flings it into the air. And that’s not all it’s flinging into the air.
The Masta Plan was simple: Eat an early breakfast. Rack up the bikes. Drive down to the trailhead of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 27 mile stretch of nearly flat smooth asphalt. Knock of a dozen miles. Rack up the bikes and adjourn to Wellfleet. Sit on porch of Wellfleet Bookstore, order a pair of cold ones, a couple platters of oysters (or fish and chips, in Roy’s case), and swill like happy hogs in heaven while gazing out across the Wellfleet Harbor. Then? Hit up the ice-cream truck that sits in the parking lot by the pier. Drive back to P-Town, take a dip in the pool, and clean up in time for another Roving Cocktail Party down on Commercial Street, finishing up with a five-star dinner at Ten Tables.
Like I said: simple.
But as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him or her your plans.
Things started to go awry fairly quickly. Roy sailed down to round up his first cup of joe and read the papers, and came back with the news that the lot that the inn uses for parking was going to be re-striped today, and that all the cars had to be out of there promptly. The inn has space only for five cars – six if they are parked by someone with a Creative Flair – and there is little or no street (or other) parking in that area of town.
There are many ways in which Provincetown has an extraordinarily…European…feel. The lack of parking is one way. The impossibly narrow winding streets, with houses crowded together in a higgledy-piggledy yet highly picturesque manner is another.
And when I arrive downstairs, I found one of the innkeepers shrieking that they had twenty check-ins coming today!! Lions! Tigers! Bears!! And on a slightly less hysteric note, it really wasn’t a good day to have the lot restriped. I surmise that this was a surprise all around, as well, because we certainly hadn’t been alerted to the issue. The Cabana Boy was collecting everyone’s car keys to start a kind of Automotive Ballet that didn’t conclude until the afternoon was well advanced. But I get ahead of myself…
Roy retrieved the car from the large lot and pulled it into 5 square inches of available gravel in front of the inn. This is not the first time I’ve been grateful for the skills he developed as a Student Driver in New York City, or a longtime employee of a college in Boston. The division of driving labor for us is pretty straightforward: I take the wide-open stretches of road that involve jockeying for space at high speeds where driving looks more like a Nascar race, and he takes the cramped, contorted byways and alleys where driving looks more like a high-stakes game of bumper cars. When we were in Rome, the only place I’ve been that has surpassed the chaos and pure lawlessness of the Boston streets, it was Roy that had to deal with it. I navigate that stuff, he glares at drivers, makes active use of the horn and the brights, and sidles in triumphantly to score lead position.
So, I was not entirely surprised that he managed to find a tiny scrap of driveway upon which to leave the car while I racked up the bikes. And – since he had a short lesson in How To Use The Bike Rack on the previous day, he had an opportunity to try out his knowledge under supervision.
And a damned good thing, too, as it turns out.
Getting into the driveway was easier than getting out of it. Fortunately, Roy’s Romano-Bostonian Driving Skills include Skin of Iron and huevos to match, so he extracted our wheels out onto the adjoining major thoroughfare while the other drivers simply had to sit and watch in awe.
The trailhead was easy enough to find, the bikes easy enough to remove, and the path easy enough to pursue.
And this is when the trouble really started.
Now Roy has a new Trek cruiser, custom fitted with an absurdly padded and ridiculously wide seat. A normal bike saddle has the same relationship to this thing (which I admit that I bought for him, because I knew how much he’d like it, and I was right) that the wooden chair from your grandmother’s dining room has to your grandfathers’ La-Z-Boy recliner. It is, truly, the Overstuffed Sofa of Bike Saddles. He also rides a cruiser with gel wraps on the handlebars, has a pair of heavily padded bike gloves…and rides this Lux-O-Boat three times a week for an hour or so at a go.
If the general sense you are receiving from this description is one of “upholstered-ness” you would be correct.
My wheels, on the other, hand, are built for speed, not comfort. Mine is a Novara road bike, with skinny tires, a super-light chromoly frame, with ergo-dropped handlebars. And a women’s road bike saddle – that is to say, minimally padded, narrow, and hard.
Did I mention that my bike seat is narrow?
And that it’s hard?
I haven’t gone bike riding in ages – for one, the roads around here are far too dangerous to cycle on, and the bike paths are uninteresting and absolutely littered with pedestrians wielding poorly-controlled dogs and rambunctious small children. This is not to my taste, as a cyclist. Riding 15 mph is to my taste as a cyclist. This is not compatible with a narrow path that is scattered with little kids, drifting geriatrics, and dogs illegally released off the leash. Furthermore, when I started up with riding lessons last year, I was dealing with the typical saddle-soreness from horses, and didn’t wish to compound that with the bike stuff. So I haven’t been on my wheels in maybe two years. Then we went for an 8 mile ride up and down and up and down and up and down the Provincelands dunes.
Even though I’d had the foresight to wear my bike shorts, the ones with the padded seat, I realized as soon as I stepped onto my bike yesterday that my bohunkus was SORE from that blasted bike saddle. Every step on the pedal drove this home with fresh intensity.
And. The thing that had grabbed my attention most firmly on the first bike ride – which is that where my weight goes on the horse is 100% different from where my weight goes on the bike – I spent the entire ride trying to come to grips with throwing my weight forward over the forks, which is a place it should not go ever as far as I can tell on the horse, and my shoulders and elbows were feeling the consequences of that struggle. So this, instantly, was a Study in Discomfort, that made the prospect of 12 miles – which to me, a few years ago, would have been a pleasant after-dinner cruise – somewhat less appealing than it might have been otherwise.
But the worst was yet to come. We pedaled on for a few miles while the inevitable stray bits of dust, sand, and other airborne rubbish eked their ways into my eyeballs. This happens a lot – for some reason, my super-sensitive eyes are veritable magnets for this kind of stuff – and as a consequence, I was wearing my motorcycling goggles. The problem with these things is that if I crank down the band so that none of that airborne nastiness can get in, the lenses fog up instantly. So, for the most part, I crank them down so that most things can’t get in, but a steady small stream of air keeps the lenses clear.
Unfortunately, the stuff that the wind – remember that? – was blowing around was in the very small category. Which meant that three times I had to stop to clear junk out of my eyes. After the third stop, I said to Roy, “bugger this for a lark…we’re going back.” He was Not Happy about this, but I was not receptive to complaints about the change in game plan. It’s amazing how getting a constant stream of crap in your eyes can change your view of the world.
I noticed, too, as we headed back and saw the bike path through a different angle of the sun’s rays, that the entire thing appeared to be shrouded…in a cloud of…yellow…pollen. Now, there is something, I don’t know what, but some damned thing pollinates out on the Cape around this time of the year. And whatever that is, the pollen has a greater-than-usual affinity for my eyeballs, and my eyeballs have a greater-than-usual hatred of the stuff.
Which meant that as I hit the cloud of this crap at 15 mph on my road bike, it came in every tiny little gap on the goggles, and attacked my eyeballs with a feeling of five hundred million tiny little balls of acid covered with fine metal spikes.
I hit the brakes, dropped my feet to the ground, clapped my hand to my eyes, and screamed “AAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!” quite nearly simultaneously. Strong words followed, as I realized that not only could I not open my eyes without suffering excruciating pain – and with my history of injuries and such, I know “pain” – I could not even take my hand away from my eyes because the simple friction of my eyelids twitching felt like I was dripping acid right into every nerve in my eyeballs.
Yes. There I was on the bike path, effectively completely blinded. Fortunately, thanks to the earlier decision to Bail Out on the ride, we were only a third-mile from the car at this point, so Roy put the bike in my right hand, leaving me left hand pressing against my eyes and my elbow winging out to the side, took his bike in his left hand, and grabbed my elbow in his right hand, and took a turn as my Guide Dog.
Like I said, it’s a jolly good thing he learned to load up the bikes before this, because it would have been completely impossible for me to do it, not blind and with daggers of agonizing pain stabbing my brain, nor would it have been feasible to try to talk him through it, even if I’d been able to concentrate well enough to put two words together.
It was that kind of pain, the kind of pain where you’d be cursing nonstop, except that it hurts too much to breathe.
No, I don’t know what kind of pollen it is, but I’m not having it again. Blast the bike trail. I’ll stick to town. Whatever that stuff is, it’s something you find in the scrub. I did note that after Roy bunged the bikes up into the rack, he had to use the wipers to clear the window because there was so much pollen on it. Yes. In the space of 40 minutes, the car had become encrusted with this crap.
This brings us back to the inn, where we needed to park by the entrance so that my Trusty Guide Spouse could pilot me upstairs so that I could remove the cursed contact lenses, flush my eyes, and shower the pollen off.
Only…you will recall the Restriping Automotive Ballet. I don’t know how this was resolved because I was still totally blind, but I did hear Roy shout at someone “WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK! SHE HAS STUFF IN HER EYES AND I HAVE TO GET HER UPSTAIRS!” Then, thankfully, into the room and for a lie-down. By the time all was said and done, it was mid-afternoon, and the opportunity for the Wellfleet Bookstore had been blown to bits. Fortunately, we were still able to score on the roving cocktail party and the fine dining.
Now we’re home, and I just discovered that I managed to take sixty (60) photographs of Race Point. Race Point is picturesque, but not to the tune of sixty shots’ worth. It’s going to be a good couple of days while I sort through these pictures and curate them down to a sensible quantity. In the meantime, I’m already missing Provincetown, although a Warmly Enthusiastic Greeting on the part of my horse this evening did a lot to dispel those blue devils. I’m sure his enthusiasm had something to do with the carrot in my pocket, but a girl can take that how she wants to, no?