In 1840s when the first train ran on the tracks in Cape Cod it was a big deal for the region. Suddenly the time to reach the Cape from Boston would have been cut from 7 hours by boat or two days by stagecoach to a mere 5 hours. The rail reached Hyannis in 1853 and Provincetown 20 years latter. One year later President Grant was among the dignitaries who visited Provincetown by train in an official visit, a sort of inauguration of the rail.
The rail was about 120 miles long coming from Boston and it remained in operation till 1970. It changed ownership many times and in 1968 while struggling to keep afloat was sold to Penn Central and eventually went bankrupt in 1970 and closed its operations. At that time few people still wanted to travel to the Cape by train, most preferring cars or buses.
But the rail history is still alive in its spectacular conversion as a bike track, one of the longest and better maintained tracks I rode on. The Cape Cod Rail Trail is more than 22 miles long and connects Dennis to Wellfleet on a straight and clean paved band that meanders among spectacular locations, private and public beaches, rivers and bays in the quaint landscape of the Cape.
When we rode it on Saturday the National Multi-Sclerosis Society organized a 50 miles walk during all three days of the weekend for creating awareness and fund raising for research in preventing the disease and people dressed in orange, the color of the organization, were peppering the entire bike trail.
The trail has another branch splitting from the main and going to Harwich and Chatam that we rode a while ago. We also discovered that they are working on opening up a sector right before Dennis where a pedestrian bridge over the highway is already built and operational.
At the end of the trail I could not wait to join the long line in front of the Wellfleet’s PB French Bakery for a cappuccino and a pain-au-chocolat and a much rewarding juice after a long ride. But in spite of the huge line that snakes out of it even if you come off season, the French Bakery, in typical French tradition, is closed Monday and Tuesdays. And of course the cappuccino break was just a pause because now we had to ride the entire rail trail back to Dennis, for a total of almost 50 miles. A really great ride!