Car-free road trip

For much of August, I am staying about 70 miles south of Boston at a summer intensive at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. Before I came down, I spent a lot of time worrying about how Angela and H. would fare in my absence, how much I was going to miss H, and how much I was going to enjoy having someone else cook for me while here. But I forgot to think very hard about how I was actually going to get here.

The idea of biking down had crossed my mind, maybe sometime in June, but any work on necessary preparation for such a trip was quickly brushed aside in our summer chaos of multiple work trips (for both of us), seemingly innumerable family visits, and looming grant deadlines. But a day and a half before I needed to leave, I got it in my head that I really did want to have my bike here, and that I didn’t want to box my bike for a trip on the Peter Pan bus (I don’t know how, didn’t have time to learn, and I think the dirt is holding my bike together so I’m loathe to take it apart). I quickly figured out that a bike-friendly commuter rail ride to Plymouth would get me what I thought was 30 miles from Woods Hole, which seemed somewhat do-able, even though I’ve never done a long-ish ride like that. I bustled around cleaning my bike, rustling up panniers to borrow (Thank you Karen!), buying a much needed rain-jacket and snacks, packing, culling, and repacking the panniers, all during the approximately 30 hours that Angela and I were both home after her trip but before mine. Angela, bless her, thought this was a great idea and helped with the planning.

The ride turned out to be wonderful. There was plenty of room for my bike on the train. I found my way easily using my Rubel bike maps (though the directions at the Sagamore Bridge could use some work), following the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway. The weather originally threatened rain, but surely my nice new rain gear is what fended it off. I felt so free as I sailed down the side highways on my little old road bike, with everything I needed in my panniers. As I rode, I wondered why I had never done this before and fantasized about a tandem bicycle and family bike trips. My bike even held up fine. The ride also turned out to be 40 miles, not 30, but it was manageable (surely it has been documented that pre-trip estimates are always low).

If I’d had a car, I would have just driven down. Had I been feeling less adventurous, I certainly could have taken the bus, but I love that the combination of pressures (not easy to get a bike on the bus, no car with bike rack, really wanting my bike in Woods Hole) combined to encourage me to have a new adventure, one that I hope to repeat. That said, I think I’ll hitch a ride back to Boston. It’s uphill going back.

About Nathan

Nathan lives in North Cambridge, MA with his wife and two kids, and prefers never to be in cars if he can avoid it. Nathan thinks parenting is way more fun when you don't have to worry about car seats.
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4 Responses to Car-free road trip

  1. Mikhela says:

    What an interesting blog! I was carfree until I moved to the country when I was thirty. I never knew there was a whole movement around it though – I just didn’t like cars. I can’t see my partner ever giving up the car, but maybe we could aspire to have just one, rather than two…

  2. Mikhela says:

    PS I got here via Daddy Dialectic

  3. Dorea says:

    Mikhela–thanks for the comment! Paul at is car free with kids in Santa Fe, which is a bit more country-like than Boston. Lots of folks pull of one car, though, in all kinds of situations. For most, the trick is finding a way to commute w/out the car (bike or bus/subway/train). I actually just found your blog the other day and enjoyed it, by way of Polly at Lesbian Dad.

  4. Congrats on the successful execution of the bike trip. Looking forward to hearing about life at Woods Hole.

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