Short Cape Ann getaway

Jun 25, 04:44 PM

Jennifer and I had been thinking of going to Cape Ann for a brief getaway, to do some exploring on bike. On Saturday morning, the weather seemed like it would be decent on Sunday and Monday, so we booked a couple nights in a hotel in Gloucester and I planned some bike routes.

Between Rubel’s bike map for Cape Cod and the Northern Shore, which indicates roads that are relatively friendly to bike on, and RideWithGPS’s ride database created by the site’s users, I was able to identify several possibilities.

Sunday: around Cape Ann (Gloucester and Rockport)

By the time our room was ready at the hotel on Sunday, we didn’t have time for a really long ride, so we did a 22.7-mile loop around the end of the cape, starting from our hotel at Bass Rocks and heading counterclockwise. We visited Rockport, saw the abandoned quarry—now a nature preserve—at Halibut Point State Park, and rode through the quaint village of Annisquam. Crossing the footbridge that links the mainland to the peninsula where Annisquam is situated, we saw a number of Great Egrets hunting fish in the outgoing tide. The Great Egret was the signature bird for our trip; we saw a number earlier, and we’d see more on Monday. Heading back south into Gloucester, we took mostly nondescript side streets until we hit Route 127 just north of Gloucester Harbor. A quick trip back to our hotel, and it was time to wash the grime off and relax a bit.

Though we were riding in the late afternoon and early evening, it was warm: the average temperature was 82. We had a moderate wind from the SSW. The terrain didn’t have any long hills, but there were many small rollers.

We had an excellent dinner at the Alchemy CafĂ© and Bistro, which we highly recommend. Back at the hotel, we sat on a bench and watched as the moonlight, which was filtered through light cloud, illuminated the surf rushing in against the boulders. Then it was time for a good night’s sleep.

For the curious, here is the Strava track for Sunday’s ride.

Monday: Essex, Ipswich, Manchester, and Gloucester

Someone thinking of English geography would conclude that we really got about on Monday! The cycling was more of the same: short, sometimes steep rollers, none of them long but a fair amount of climbing by the end of the day. Our first destination was the Crane Reservation, which belongs to the Trustees of Reservations, a private land conservation group in Massachusetts. For most people, the main attraction was its beach. There’s also a wildlife preserve and a historic house and inn, but we didn’t feel like hiking through the sand in blazing sun—temperature in the mid-90s—or visiting a house in our sweaty bike clothes.

After a lunch at the beach snack bar, we decided to give the Ipswich town center a miss and instead headed back through Essex, whose main attraction seems to be antique shops, seafood, and a marina that offers river tours. We headed south, crossing the cape to Manchester-by-the-Sea. There, we refilled our water at a convenience store and headed back to Gloucester, passing a faux medieval castle and museum on the way (closed, unfortunately). We stopped at a park for creemees and to walk around a bit, and found a plaque commemorating the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, followed a couple years later by the successful arbitration of a difference between two factions of colonists.

Our final leg took us through East Gloucester and then down through the private development of Eastern Point, where we saw how the top 5% live (many of them probably in the top 1%). As members of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, we had the right to go through the development to access the MAS sanctuary at the southern end. We didn’t see much wildlife, other than gulls and cormorants, and a number of mosquitoes. So it was back along the eastern shore to our hotel and another welcome shower, followed by further hydration.

Dinner was at a pretty good Portuguese restaurant, which we reached just as a torrential thunderstorm started. We only caught a few drops, and then watched the heavens pour down while dining. By the time we were done, the rain had all but stopped, so we could stop at a supermarket for dessert chocolate. Back in our room we had decaf coffee and herbal tea, then had another good night’s sleep.

As before, here’s the Strava track for the ride.

Tuesday morning it was time to pack up and head back home, so we could get back to work and vote in the special election for the Senate. It was hot, which tempered our desire to linger and see a bit more. Overall, it was a nice getaway. There was a striking contrast between the grittiness of parts of Gloucester, the modest coastal houses in some areas, and the sprawling mansions that were built, or were in the process of being built, in other areas. It was also striking how much of the cape’s interior was undeveloped. The Boston conurbation has sent many tentacles into Cape Ann, including Route 128; it was less rural overall than we had expected. But still, it was nice to see the area, and to add four more towns to my map of Massachusetts towns where I’ve cycled!

Brian W. Ogilvie

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