Summer Splendor in SE Massachusetts

Summer Splendor in SE Massachusetts
In the summer, Cape Cod becomes the crown jewel of eastern Massachusetts. While the Berkshires in the western half of the Bay State lure vacationers and weekenders with its rolling hills and famed classical music performances, the siren song of the beaches and other shoreline attractions of the Cape prove difficult to resist, with three-hour-long, Friday night bottlenecks at the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges attesting to its coastal appeal.

Wishing to avoid this nightmare of a stop-and-go affair, my friend Robert and I planned our three-day riding tour of the Cape and the southeast region of Massachusetts as a reverse commute: We'd cross the Sagamore Bridge late on Sunday and return on Tuesday. But the threat of Hurricane Katrina-related squalls and storms pushed our plans ahead a day. So on Saturday afternoon, with rain gear packed and ready, we set off on our excursion: Robert on his Vulcan 1500 and me on my 1100 Honda Shadow.

Our trip begins in Quincy, the birthplace of America's second and sixth presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams, respectively. A smattering of historical sites relating to these political principals pepper this shipyard city; while out along Route 3, a two-laner flanked by strip malls and gas stations, the commercial influence of Quincy's two most famous businessmen - restaurant magnate Howard Johnson and Dunkin' Donuts founder William Rosenberg - is most evident.

This leg of our trip is uninspiring until we reach Cohasset Harbor, where the eyesores taper off appreciably. A waterfront horseshoe-shaped detour along Route 139 takes us past the first biker bar of our trip and through the small seaside communities of Ocean Bluff and Brant Rock. Small, shingled, one-family shacks sit a block away from the ocean, sharing a strip of downtown with seafood restaurants and a roadside burger stand, and year-round lobstermen gather at the local pub to drink a liquid lunch and talk trash about their peers. While grabbing a bite to eat here, the owner of a bagger parked outside suggests a stop on our return route along Route 105. Duly noted, we finish our meal and press on.

Cozy, with a quaint downtown, historic points of interest - the Mayflower II (a replica of the ship that brought dissenting Separatists to America from England in 1620), Plymouth Rock and Plimoth Plantation (where actors recreate the seventeenth-century lifestyles of New Englanders) - and a plethora of bikes cruising along the harbor-front streets, Plymouth might make a better starting point for this trip. It's a rare day when there isn't a line of bikes parked along the main drag, and bench racing is always in season.