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Martha's Vineyard Biking Trip
Memorial Day Weekend 2002

Photos Vineyard Biking Weekend 02 Pictures
View of Edgartown from Chappaquiddick

Earlier this year, the Meeks told us about a group that coordinates a biking/camping weekend every Memorial Day on Martha's Vineyard. The group has been doing this for many years, although its not always the same people, since people come and go. The Meeks found about this weekend from the parents of other students at Amos's school. It seems that a large contingent of families associated with that school ( Meadowbrook Waldorf School in West Greenwich, RI) go to this camping weekend. Anyway, the Meeks convinced us to sign up with them, so we filled out all the paperwork and sent in our fee (to cover meals and the campground).

For the weekend, the group reserves a block of camp sites in the Martha Vineyard Family Campground, near Vineyard Haven. The group then sets up a kitchen and coordinates meals. And then there is the biking. Everyone who camps brings a bike. The usual activity each day is to bike around the island (although there are no organized tours so you could just hang out at the beach and no one would be the wiser). The group has a van that they use to cart your luggage to and from the ferry so you can ride you bike from the ferry to the campground. All in all, it is pretty well organized. (I did mention that they have been doing this for years.)

This year there were 57 people signed up (42 adults, the rest kids). Out of those 57, we only knew the Meeks. But the group is very friendly, and they are used to new faces every year so we had no trouble making friends.

Daphne on the bike path

To get to Martha's Vineyard, you take the ferry from Wood's Hole. The ferries run on a schedule. Some ferries only take passengers, some take passengers and cars (and bikes). The ferries that take cars have a baggage cart to hold your luggage. If you take one of the passenger-only ferries or can not fit your luggage on the baggage cart, you have to carry it. This was not really an option for us since we had all our camping gear plus our bikes.

The group sent us a ferry schedule and indicated which ferries they would meet with the van. On Saturday morning, that was the 10:45 ferry. When we left home, we gave ourselves plenty of time and ended up showing up around 2 hours early. But I still had to deal with the car. You do not park near the ferry. Instead, you drop off your bikes and luggage and then drive to the parking lot (5-8 miles away), and take a shuttle bus back.

Then we waited, and waited. We sat in front just where the baggage cart would come out to make sure that there would be room for our stuff. The baggage cart fills up very fast, especially when the ferry was as full as this one. But we were in the front of the line so we had no trouble stashing our bags. The bikes cross over in the hold near the cars. You wheel you bike into the hold and lean it up against a stack of other bikes. On the way over there must have been over a hundred bikes. (On the way back there were a lot fewer).

Once we got to Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard, we dragged our stuff over to the van and loaded it up for the trip to the campground. There was a bunch of people from the same group on this ferry so the van filled up fast. Most of the people then biked directly to the campground, but we stopped for some lunch first.

The campground was an experience. Compared to Savoy (where we camp every summer), this campground was big and crowded. The area with our group was even worst with dozens of tents all packed together in a few sites. Although we easily fit our tents into some open spaces, the close proximity of everyone was something that we were not used to.

On the first day, Saturday, we decided to bike down to Oak Bluffs. The Meeks had gone to Oak Bluffs before we arrived and there was a chance we would meet up with them. We had our handy map that (supposedly) showed all the bike routes on the island so the four of us mounted our bikes and headed down to Vineyard Haven with a plan to follow the coast east to Oak Bluffs.

Ben on the beach

Before the trip, we bought a map of the island that also highlighted the major bike paths. There was an obvious route from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs that we followed. Unfortunately, we must have taken a wrong turn near Oak Bluffs. After biking for around a half hour on an obvious bike path, we ended up at an intersection that did not correspond to the map.

The orienteering instincts took over. We stopped next to a garden center and asked them where we were. As it happened, our map was not that good. It failed to mention the bike trail we took and we ended up back close to the campground instead of in Oak Bluffs. We looked at the various distances and decided to just head back.

On the way to the campground, we took a side road, called Head of the Pond Road, which, according to the map, lead down to Lagoon Pond. Well, the road was not as obvious as we expected. It turned out to be a maze of roads and driveways, all sandy (poor biking) and downhill. But just when we were ready to give up, we ended up at Lagoon Pond, a lovely spot to take some pictures.

At the end of Lagoon Pond, there was a dike separating Lagoon Pond from Upper Lagoon Pond. At the end of the dike there was an Alewife run, where Alewife fish moved from Lagoon Pond into Upper Lagoon Pond. There were a few people with nets standing over the Alewife Run catching fish. Myself, I can't see the challenge in just picking fish out of the narrow Alewife Run with a net. On the other side of the dike, we joined a paved road that we took back to the bike path, so we did not have to repeat our experiences on Head of the Pond Road.

Meals for the camping weekend are done like we do at Savoy. Everyone gets assigned to one or two meal chores, with some people in charge of meal planning, some people who do the cooking and some who do the cleaning. The Gould Family were responsible for Sunday night's dinner with Daphne helping to cook and Joel helping to clean. The group also does lunches. Lunch is served around 9:00am and consists of make your own bag lunch materials. That way everyone can pack a lunch for the their bike trip.

Dinner the first night was chili. This was followed up with smores over the campfire. After dinner, people gathered around the campfire for music and singing. Many people brought their own instruments, but others just improvised by banging on the pots and pans.

After packing lunch on Sunday, the Goulds and Meeks went out for our big bike ride. We hooked up with Sheeri, who was interested in visiting the Mytoi gardens on Chappaquiddick island. The eight of us packed up our bikes and took off down the bike trails to the east.

On Martha Vineyard, they have built a number of bike paths, which are really just extra wide sidewalks along some of the main roads. The bike paths make it very convenient for bicyclists to travel around the island without worrying (much) about cars. There was a major bike trail that went past the campground, all the way to Edgartown.

We biked to the harbor in Edgartown, at which point we took a ferry to Chappaquiddick. There is no bridge from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick. Instead you take this cute little ferry that has room for three cars and around 10 bicycles. The ferry trip only takes a few minutes and drops you off on Chappaquiddick island.

Stairs in Mytoi Japanese Gardens

Once we got to Chappaquiddick, we spend some time resting on the beach before continuing to the gardens. There is no bike path on Chappaquiddick, but the road has very few cars and for most of the way, it was an easy trip. But only for most of the way. At the end of our journey, the last half-mile or so was along a sand road. Not dirt but deep sand. It did not seem to bother the cars much but it was almost impossible to peddle through. But it was not very long before we got to the gardens.

The Mytoi Japanese gardens are run by the Trustees of Reservations as part of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. Mytoi, the only garden on Martha's Vineyard that is free to the public, features Western and Asian plant species meshed together in a Japanese-style design. It was a beautiful place to walk around and take pictures. It also had a picnic table area where we ate our lunch. The whole group spend time walking around separately, just enjoying the environment after our long bike ride. I, of course, spent my time taking pictures.

After our visit to the Mytoi gardens, we continued down the sandy road to the Dike Bridge made famous by Teddy Kennedy, and to the beach on the eastern shore of the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. We parked out bicycles at the entrance to the wildlife refuge and made our way to beach. Once on the beach, some of the crew relaxed in the sand while Daphne and Beth took a brief hike north along the water's edge looking for shells.

We only spent around 20 minutes at beach before we saddled up for the long ride home. We biked straight to the ferry and crossed into Edgartown before taking another short break. In Edgartown, we stopped to get ice cream and then sat down on a patio near the water to replace any calories that we accidentally used up by biking. While we were eating our ice cream, there was a sailboat race going on in Edgartown harbor, yet another opportunity to take pictures. After ice cream, we biked around Edgartown while we looked for the public restrooms. When that chore was taken care off, we headed back.

Dinner the second night was spaghetti, always a challenge with a large group since it takes forever to cook a really large pot of spaghetti. After dinner, the group collected around the campfire again. Sunday evenings entertainment was drumming.

Beth and Daphne collect shells with Edgartown lighthouse in background

(The downside of camping with this large a group is the noise. Our family is used to going to sleep rather early and after a long day of biking, we wanted to go to bed around 9. The campground rules say that quite time starts at 10:00 and the group filled the campground with the sounds of drumming right up to 10 o'clock. But even after 10, the quieter drumming continued making it impossible to sleep. We usually do not have this problem when we camp at Savoy since we always reserve a campsite well away from the group campfire, and our Savoy group does not tend stay up late anyway.)

On Monday, the group has an organized shuttle service back to the ferry. You can put your luggage in one of three piles depending on which ferry you want to take home. Then you can bike around for at least the morning, ending up at the ferry (where your bags should be waiting). The system seems well organized and well tested (since they do this every year). However, both the Goulds and the Meeks wanted to get back earlier than the first ferry that the group handled. Therefore, we called a cab to take the luggage down to the ferry, while the rest of us biked down.

The trip home was uneventful. Because we took the early ferry (9:00), there were no crowds and we easily got room on the baggage cart for our luggage and room in the hold for our bikes. The trip back to Wood's Hole was very foggy. You could see almost nothing all around the boat, except the occasional marker buoy. Because we got to Woods Hole early, there was no traffic on the way home and we got back to Winchester at a decent hour.

All in all it was an interesting adventure. The group was very nice and openly welcomed new families. They were also very well organized for handling both luggage and meals for a large group of bicyclists. But I felt that the weekend was too short. For all the hassle of getting to and from Martha's Vineyard, we only had a day and a half of biking. I would have been happier to have the weekend extended for two more days. Also, the group is very noisy in the evening making it hard to get a good night sleep if you want to collapse early.

Will we go again next year? We'll cross that dike when the time comes.

This web page (http://www.gouldhome.com/VineyardBikingWeekend02.html) was last updated on May 25, 2002. For any comments or suggestions about the site contact Daphne Gould. Contents copyright © 1999-2003 by Joel and Daphne Gould.