We call it the mini-triathlon for aging baby boomers. It’s the end of August, and we have completed this race of two a couple of dozen times, riding our bikes down a country road past vacation houses and a farm, turning right just after the family campground that now looks as though most of the campers have returned for school or work. We ride onto a sand road, past a suburban-style colonial home and then the alpaca farm. The alpacas, with their enormous eyes and long necks, stand still, but turn their heads and follow us with their Carol Channing eyes as we ride past. Down the hill, past the house with the chickens out back, then left onto another sandy way that often causes us to stop, dismount, and walk the bikes through loose sand, or risk wiping out, as we have done numerous times before. We cross the fire road at the power lines junction, then continue onto a wooded road to our swimming destination, Duck Pond. In high season, the small parking lot is crammed with cars from New York, Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey. By next week, the lot will be almost empty. We lean our bikes against the fence and make our way down a steep, root -bound path.
The kettle pond, formed by glaciers eons ago, is surrounded by a few feet of sandy beach. Today it’s full of families sitting in low beach chairs or floating on inflatable rafts in the shallow water. We see two or three serious swimmers far out in the pond, and we quickly put on goggles and earplugs, joining them. We swim for about half an hour, three-quarters across the pond and then the other way for the equivalent of several Olympic pool laps, then head back to shore. The water is clean and cool, with warm spots here and there. We overhear chatter on the beach about everything from good places to order fried calamari in Provincetown to middle school teachers their kids have loved. We dry off, stuff our towels into the backpack and hustle back up the hill to the bikes.
The tiny parking lot is chaotic, with frustrated drivers of SUVs trying to maneuver out of tight parking spots, over gnarly, exposed tree roots and dry sand. We wait until two cars are temporarily immobilized, the drivers negotiating who should try to exit first, and we walk our bikes to the sand road and ride off, alerting a few distracted pedestrians, “On your left, please!” as we navigate our way down the road. The alpaca are still out in their pen, scanning the road for activity, noticing us as we pedal by in silence. Then it’s out to the paved road, down two hills at glorious cruising speed, past the farm, and around the corner. One more small hill that requires some fast pedaling, and we’re back onto our little country lane, overgrown with bittersweet, black locust seedlings that seem to spring up overnight, ragweed and bearberry shrub. We take turns using the outdoor shower, then kick back with a couple of strong, tart Negronis
Summer’s end, all the more precious as the days grow shorter, the nights cooler, and the fat, striped heirloom tomatoes—at long last– hang heavy on the vine.