Sunday, June 12, 2016

Terror on Two Wheels

When my 40th birthday rolled around (pun totally intended), my first-rate husband Jon planned a weekend get-away for us.  He didn't tell me where we were going, but he started dropping hints a couple of weeks before.

2 Weeks Before:
Him: Do we have anything on the calendar for two weekends from now?
Me: I don't think so.
Him: Good.  Keep it clear.
Me on the inside: I have the best husband ever.
Me: I have the best husband ever!

1 Week Before:
Him: I'm going to have to give you some hints soon, so you pack appropriately.
Me: Oooh! Ok!
Me on the Inside: Will we be hiking?  Will we be dressing up?  Will we need bathing suits?

5 Days Before:
Him: You'll need to be able to pack whatever you'd like to take for the weekend into a backpack.  No suitcases.
Me: ....
Him: Don't worry.  There's a proper hotel involved.
Me on the Inside: Ohthankgod.

3 Days Before:
Him: Let's stop at my mom and dad's house.
Me: Why?
Him: I need you to try something.
Me: What?
Him: I want to see if you can ride my dad's bike.
Me: Ok.
Me on the inside: Oh no. No no no no no no no no no.

His dad's bike was too big for me, but I could ride his mom's, and so with these clues in hand:

1) We were leaving the state of Maine
2) We needed to carry our belongings in backpacks
3) Bikes were involved

I determined that we'd be taking a ferry somewhere (and not the car ferry), and that wherever we were headed would be bike-friendly.  I guessed Martha's Vineyard the night before the trip.

Needless to say, it felt pretty good that my husband planned a weekend away for us--and he did ALL of the planning, from hotel to ferry to what would be happening with the kiddo (who was not tagging along on this trip).  He even researched the best places to eat.

But...biking.  Oy.

My history with biking includes some pretty routine stuff.  I learned to ride a bike as a young kid, went from training wheels to two wheels with the patient assistance of my father, and felt pretty comfortable riding around the neighborhood and to my friends' houses.

My first bike looked a lot like this one, and I liked it very much.
But my friends and I weren't regular bike riders.  My bike got decent use, but not lots.  I generally walked everywhere as a kid.

In middle school I lived in upstate New York, and one Christmas I found a ten speed Schwinn under the tree.  I remember riding it around our neighborhood, which was conveniently a big oval loop.  I don't think I ever left the neighborhood on my bike, and I'm not sure what happened to it when we moved.  Maybe it came with us, but I don't remember riding it in Hawaii.  Bike-riding was simply not a big part of my life.

In the early 2000s, I rented a bike while visiting Acadia, and we toot-tooted all over the carriage trails.  That was a pretty good time, but I didn't speed home to buy my own bike.

And now, 2016, a bike-related adventure lay before me, and all I could think was:

1) I don't want to get hit by a car.
2) I really don't want to get hit by a car.
3) Did I mention how I feel about cars?  And bikes? and bikes and cars?

I had been to Martha's Vineyard a couple of times before, years ago, and remembered well enough to know that it is indeed bike friendly, but not bike-only.  I felt ok about trails for bikes, but the thought of riding on the road, real roads, with cars, had me feeling uneasy.

And this is why I'm writing this blog.  The prospect of an adventure like this, taking bikes for a weekend get-away to Martha's Vineyard, should bring nothing but delight.  But in typical me fashion, I found a way to be nervous about it.  

Still, I forged on, reminding myself that lots and lots of grown ups ride bikes, not to mention lots and lots of children.  If kids can do it, I can too.  (And I REALLY wanted to go to Martha's Vineyard and have a wonderful time with my wonderful husband.)

We started our biking adventure on a trail, thank goodness, from the parking area to the ferry terminal, so my first half hour on a bike was in the relative safety zone of a level, paved path with limited traffic of any kind.  But I knew upon arriving at the Vineyard we were going to have to bike from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs, as the Oak Bluffs ferry wasn't running yet.

But while riding that nice, flat, empty trail, we realized that something was amiss with Jon's bike.  So on the ferry ride over, he researched bike shops.  And he found one!  

 This route proved challenging for a number of reasons:
1) It was in the opposite direction of where we needed to go to the hotel.
2) It was exclusively on busy town roads.
3) It was almost entirely up hill.

Google Maps reveals amazing things.
If you spend any amount of time on bicycles, you will surely realize that this was not a long detour.  One measly mile?  And while it was primarily up hill, a 108 foot elevation increase is pretty paltry.

But now you must put yourself into my bike helmet for a minute.  

I thought I was going to die.  By the time the second bus passed us on Sate Road, I veered up someone's drive and onto the sidewalk and refused to get off of it.  Fortunately, that happened as we were just approaching the bike shop.

While a very nice man tuned up Jon's bike, I sat, streaming sweat, and sweating the next leg of our journey.

In retrospect, and looking at the other possible bike routes on the map above, I see that we actually could have taken more side streets, which would have been a smarter thing to do, but planning on the fly and on a smart phone has its limitations.

Anyway, back down State Road we went, across the bridge (we walked over a construction-zone make-shift foot bridge, thank goodness) and arrived finally at the Piquot Hotel. (I loved this hotel.  You should totally stay there.)

Look at those smiles!  They do not reflect the terror I felt on State Road.

They do, however, reflect my feeling of accomplishment.  

I did all of that and I didn't die.  I didn't even get hit by one single car!

Did I overcome my fear of biking on the street?  Not entirely.  

Did we bike all over the island that weekend?


Did we bike at least a little more?


At East Chop Lighthouse

Did I like it?


Did I find myself saying, every time I saw someone jogging, "Why would you run anywhere when you can take a bike?"


Did I come home and buy a bike?



I have a lot of learning to do, but this faint-hearted adventurer has decided to give biking a try.  More posts to come on the subject, no doubt.

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