On My Way: To the fair

This time, the Ag Fair was just a bike ride away.


I wheeled my bike out of the shed. I took my helmet from the peg. My water bottle was full, and I was wearing sunscreen.

Ahead of me, not more than a 45-minute bike ride, awaited the rides, the food, the contests, the animals, the art, and the craftsmanship of the annual Agricultural Fair.

The fair for me is like Christmas. I start thinking of the fair, only a few weeks away, in the beginning of August. The day of my visit, I am like a child waiting to come downstairs and see the stuffed stockings.

I took my bike to the road and climbed aboard. I biked along Dunham Avenue, I turned onto Rice Street, went halfway around Hinkley Circle, and then took a left onto Skiff Avenue.

I biked the last steep ascent of Skiff Avenue. Carefully, I crossed over to the west side of the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, where I went left toward Edgartown.

A few years ago, it occurred to me I could bike to the fair rather than drive. Not only would I avoid the $10 parking fee, but I would have the joy of the bike ride over the noise and noxious fumes of the truck.

I gave the matter extra thought this year. I was not keen on biking State Road, as I have in the past. Too much traffic. I hate passing bikers on State Road, and I imagine other drivers feel the same.

Fortunately, I knew a back way.

With some additional thought, I decided against biking shorts and shirt. I did not have a date, but I did want to look somewhat presentable for the other fairgoers.

The bike path along the Ed-VH Road is always a good ride — wide, straight, in relatively good shape, and mostly downhill in the section I was riding. I cruised along, happy not to contend with the main road.

At the roundabout, I turned right along Barnes Road. A bulwark of trees shelters the bike path from the road here. I biked at a good pace. The path made a series of S turns past Vineyard Family Tennis.

At the State Forest parking pullout off Barnes Road, I took another right following the path into the State Forest. I passed around the Greenlands Sanctuary entrance. I came to a four-way and took a right.

I began to look for the connector path. I had a little ways to go, but I did not want to miss it. I tried to gauge the location by some of the landmarks.

There it was. A narrow path leading into the woods. I wheeled to the right. Brush was on either side. The 30-yard-or-so sandy path delivered me to the dead end of Great Plains Road.

Great Plains is paved, and about a car and a half wide. Driveways to homes in this West Tisbury neighborhood line one side of the road. The Greenlands Sanctuary mostly borders the other. It is a peaceful road.

After a pleasant ride, I came to Old County.

Old County is a much easier road than State Road. There is no traffic. The road is straight. Cars can pass more safely. Bikers can hug the shoulder.

I did not think much as I biked along Old County. My mind was somewhere with the fair.

I came to the meadow. The familiar meadow was full and thick with green grass, yellow flowers, and other plants and shrubs. A scattering of trees stood along the road. A line of woods bordered the back.

I have driven by and admired this open stretch of conservation land off the side of Old County many times. On my bike, for the first time, I felt the true expanse and nature of the property.

I passed the West Tisbury School — many memories of my son’s Saturday soccer league. I passed Nat’s Farm — a squarish Land Bank property. The Granary Gallery was ahead. I took a right on Scotchmans Lane.

I went down and up a hill. I arrived at the intersection with State Road. There, across the way, was the fair.

The great open grounds of the Ag Hall were transformed into a magical wonderland for kids, their parents, and everyone. I heard the music. The top of the Ferris wheel loomed above.

I crossed through the intersection. I rode the grass shoulder past the line of cars waiting for entrance to the parking lots. I weaved my way around a tree. I found the bike stand, and parked my bike.

Soon I had paid my ticket and was inside the fairgrounds.

I walked through the amusement area. Lemonade and fried dough were sold to lines of thirsty and hungry customers. Happy kids and parents waited for their turn on the rides, and stepped up to try their luck at one of the games such as landing a ring on a bottle top — a task that seemed impossible.

I listened to the music, the whir of the amusements, and the loud chatter of the fair clerks. I was envious of the parents on the Happy World ride, or taking a turn at the water pistol game with their kids.

I spent a half-hour in the exhibition hall, always so impressed with the artistic skill and craftsmanship of both kids and adults. I love the photographs — the amateurs and the pros. I enjoy the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other produce.

The standout for me this year were the quilts.

This is not because my friend Anna Marie initiated the project of turning old fair T shirts into quilts. It was because each quilt was full of bright color and imagination. The hall of quilts was on par with the amusements, the outdoor contests, and the other main attractions.

I walked through the fiber tent and said hi to Anna Marie, who works there. I met up and chatted with my folks briefly. I walked through the animal barn with the goats, sheep, and pigs. Unfortunately, my favorite, the big powerful draft horses, were unable to make it this year.

I made my way to the food tents. I wolfed down a good-tasting pulled pork sandwich with fresh slaw, and then bought what my grandmother called a “brown cow,” what is more commonly known as a root beer float.

I took my brown cow to the woodsmen contest. I watched the women’s ax throw and a chainsaw contest.

One of the contestants used an electric chainsaw — a detail with which the announcer had some good-natured fun. For the most part, it was not an electric chainsaw competition. (It turned out the electric chainsaw was the secret weapon in this event, as it was lighter and easier to wield.)

I did not loiter as long as I would have liked. I had my pup Becham and his afternoon walk on my mind. Finishing my brown cow and seeing the end of the current contest, I made my way back to my bike.

I returned home mostly the way I came. I coasted down Scotchmans Lane, feeling as though the name fit perfectly. I biked Old County to Great Plains.

Instead of turning on Great Plains as I had come, I took Stoney Hill Path, located nearby. Stoney Hill is a shorter route through the Greenlands. (I had not wanted to come this way, as it was strenuous and I was on my way to the fair, not out for a hard ride. Now, though, on the return, it was downhill.)

Soon I was bouncing over a downhill trail of small- and medium-size rocks. I stood up on my pedals and let my arms absorb the shock. I squeezed on the brakes as the bike began to careen.

The trail fed me onto Stoney Hill Road.

I was in good spirits. I set to the pedals, and had fun charging ahead. I felt the wheels turn and slip over the dirt road. Stoney Hill has a short motocross type of section. With energy still, I went full throttle over the series of humps, much like a pro.

I elected not to go home the rest of the way through the woods. I had enough of a bike ride for the day. Becham was waiting for me. I took Stoney Hill back out to the Ed-VH Road. I had an easy shot home.