A Guided Introduction To Falmouth's Bike Path
By: Christopher Kazarian
There may be no hard and fast rule for how many bicyclists constitute an actual bicycle gang, but eight people sounds about right.
At least on Saturday, that was the number of bicyclists spread out roughly 150 feet, from front to back, that could be seen traveling down the Shining Sea Bikeway from North Falmouth to Woods Hole, and then back again.
Unlike a typical gang, this one was friendly, often saying hello to those passing by on foot and on tires, under cloudy and sometimes rainy skies.
Despite poor weather conditions, the group members enjoyed themselves and their accomplishments this day in getting outdoors as part of a tour sponsored by retailer REI.
“Wow. We did the whole thing?” Keith Kollmeyer of Waltham remarked at the end of the 21.4-mile journey as he looked at a map of the bike path not far from its end in North Falmouth. “I can cross that off my list.”
“That’s the longest I’ve ever ridden on a bike,” Alex Gomez of Medford said.
“I haven’t ridden a bike since 7th grade,” Nicole Cannavino of Ithaca, New York, chimed in.
Just five hours earlier Ms. Cannavino would relearn that skill while in the bike path’s dirt parking lot on County Road in North Falmouth, under the watchful eyes of REI senior instructor Paul Gannon and field instructor Brian Crossen.
With her were her brother-in-law, Mr. Kollmeyer, as well as her two siblings, James Cannavino, also of Ithaca, and Alyssa Kollmeyer. Also signing up for the tour was Mr. Gomez’s father-in-law, Alan Cumming of Braintree.
Saturday’s ride was part physical, part mental, part social, and part educational. It was also part adventure, with a flat tire less than a half-hour into the trip, and a crash, courtesy of Ms. Cannavino, adding to the excitement.
The Bike Tour Begins
The day began at 9 AM with the contingent introducing themselves to one another and why they signed up for the half-day class aimed at beginners and intermediate cyclists.
For some, like Ms. Cannavino and her brother, it was their introduction to the Cape.
I think this is one of the best bike paths I’ve ever been on in terms of its natural history and its sights.
Paul Gannon REI Senior Instructor
Mr. Kollmeyer said he and his wife were looking to explore the outdoors and saw this as a perfect opportunity to begin participating in activities that put them closer to nature. “We are looking to do a bigger REI trip, but we wanted to try this before forking over a lot of dough,” Ms. Kollmeyer added.
On this bike path, Mr. Gannon told the group, “you will see some beautiful spots to take some nice pictures.”
Before they got to that point, Mr. Gannon and Mr. Crossen provided them with several helpful tips on riding a bicycle and bike path etiquette.
“I think the weather will maybe keep traffic down, but you want to keep an eye out for other people,” Mr. Crossen said, before Mr. Gannon added everything from canines to squirrels to children on tricycles as other concerns.
“You want to avoid startling anybody and give them a few seconds’ warning,” Mr. Gannon said. “You’ll want to say, ‘On your left’ in a tone so someone facing the other way will hear.”
Other pointers the pair shared was how one’s bicycle helmet should fit on the head—the rim should be two finger-widths from the eyebrows—to the proper way to cross a street, walking rather than riding the bicycle, all of which were rented by participants through REI.
Rules, and rain, aside there was less an air of seriousness to the ride and more an atmosphere of fun, with a touch of levity.
After each rode the first 100 yards to judge their comfort level on the bicycle, Mr. Crossen asked how they felt.
“I think I got a few more in me,” Mr. Kollmeyer joked.
Of the group, Mr. Kollmeyer was perhaps the most humorous, remarking at one point that “you can have a good Friday night with” an EpiPen, after he learned Mr. Crossen did not carry one in REI’s first aid kit.
And Mr. Kollmeyer was perhaps the most brave, several times riding the bicycle with no hands on the bars, at one point lifting them up in the air in exultation as the group entered the northernmost section of the Steamship Authority parking lot.
Although the focus was on bicycling, Mr. Gannon provided a few mental challenges to the group, posing several trivia questions throughout the tour, the first at the intersection with Wing Road, when he asked how long ago Cape Cod was formed when the glacier retreated.
The question was asked shortly after he and Mr. Crossen, less than a half-hour into the trip, replaced a flat tire on Mr. Cumming’s bicycle. “This usually happens on our mountain bike tours, not on our bicycle tours,” Mr. Crossen said as he made the repairs.
At the next intersection, with Chase Road, Mr. Gannon answered his own question after only Mr. Kollmeyer had the courage to guess 700,000 years. “Actually, it was 25,000 years,” Mr. Gannon said. “Before we get to the next intersection, does anyone know what the main agricultural crop was in Falmouth in 1900?”
“Wasn’t it marijuana?” Mr. Cumming asked playfully, before the group set off toward Old Dock Road in West Falmouth.
There, Mr. Gannon provided the answer: “I heard cranberries, which was a good guess,” he said. “Actually, it was strawberries. They brought in a lot of money to this area.”
“You’re just making that up,” Mr. Kollmeyer joked.
Discussion Turns To Taylor Swift And Texting
The joviality continued through most of the ride as discussions ranged from Taylor Swift’s purchase of a home in Hyannis, to the behavior of some of the bike path’s users.
“How about that girl texting on her phone?” Mr. Cannavino asked the group while stopped at the intersection with Ter Heun Drive. “But she was riding her bike straight as an arrow. I couldn’t believe it.”
And when it came to local eateries, Mr. Cumming pointed down Depot Avenue, remarking that “I know a good restaurant place down there” in reference to Persy’s Place on Palmer Avenue.
There, earlier in the day, he and Mr. Gomez enjoyed breakfast, only to learn they were nowhere near where the tour began, leading them to show up 15 minutes late to North Falmouth. “It was relaxing until we found out we were in the wrong spot,” Mr. Cumming said with a laugh.
REI has one more bicycle trip planned for the Shining Sea Bikeway this summer, scheduled for Saturday, September 8, at 9 AM. For more information, visit www.rei.com.
Shortly after the group passed by the Trunk River and the rain came down harder, Ms. Cannavino fell while crossing one of the wooden bridges. “I’m fine,” she repeated, as her friends and the tour’s instructors checked on her.
At that point a light went off, prompting Mr. Cannavino to ask, “Was that lightning?”
“Did you see that?” Mr. Gannon followed up.
“It was just me,” Mr. Cumming replied, explaining that his camera’s flash had gone off while taking a photo.
“That’s it,” Mr. Crossen said half-jokingly. “We’ve hit our quota.”
By noon the group had made it into Woods Hole with Mr. Cannavino marveling, “Wow, look at that” as he got his first glimpse of the harbor to his left. In the village the group made a quick stop at Pie in the Sky before making their way back to North Falmouth.
Along the way, they would be hit with more trivia, learning about the bike path when it served as the Cape Cod Railroad, transporting those from New York and Connecticut to Falmouth, for roughly 120 years until 1972. At the bicentennial, in 1976, as noted by the engraving on the rock at the intersection with Palmer Avenue, it was turned into the Shining Sea Bikeway.
“This goes through marshes and past the ocean,” Mr. Kollmeyer later said. “This would have been a cool railroad to ride on.”
“I think this is one of the best bike paths I’ve ever been on in terms of its natural history and its sights,” Mr. Gannon said when the tour had concluded.
As to the value of such trips, he said, it was summed up in the comments of those who had completed the trek. “I think when you hear that this is the farthest someone has ever ridden on a bike before, it makes you feel like what you’re doing is worthwhile,” he said. “People really get a sense of accomplishment and pride in trips like this. And it gets people outside and shows them the beauty of where we are."