Altamont, Aug. 15, 2013
When our children were small, we would have them call from the top of the stairs to let us know that they were awake and ready to come downstairs to see if Santa Claus had arrived. You could hear the squeals of delight as they jumped up and down waiting for us to come up to rescue them from the long wait.
Our trip started with the same type of excitement. We had a good night’s sleep, showered, and had a nice breakfast. Now we were on our way to our primary destination – Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
The Vineyard is easy to get to by sea or air because it is only seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod. Jim researched the various avenues available to us and decided that a trip on the ferry would be fun.
If any of you have traveled to Cape Cod during the summer, you know that it requires a lot of patience. The main highway onto the Cape can, at times, resemble a parking lot more than a super highway. Our plans took us to the Cape on a Monday morning, missing most of the busy weekend traffic. Once across the Bourne Bridge, we thought we would be in trouble because the traffic was slowing down. However, as we continued, the speed picked up and we were flowing at a near normal rate rather than the stop and go that we expected.
As we rounded one left curve, a shuttle bus lurched out of a driveway in front of us and left us with a cloud of smoke to follow. We then saw a sign that said turn here for shuttle parking to Martha’s Vineyard. Later, we saw several similar signs and saw the Steamship Authorities free shuttle busses carrying passengers to Woods Hole to catch the ferry to the Vineyard.
There are thousands of people who park their cars in a remote lot, hop on the shuttle and take the ferry for the 45-minute ride. We chose to take our car and have a self-guided tour of the Vineyard.
Whether in or out of season it is always a good idea to make reservations. There are a variety of boarding times and prices and ports from which to depart. Departing from Woods Hole and Hyannis is a shorter trip, and is the only ferry that is designed to carry automobiles. Other ferries are designed for foot passengers and bikes.
We were happy to round another corner and see the harbor ahead of us. Because we had allowed plenty of time to reach our destination, we only had a short line ahead of us. At the gate we gave our name and were directed to a lot with several long, numbered rows. As we pulled up behind another car, the attendant told us what our departure time would be and said we were free to walk around, use the facilities or get a snack while we waited.
It was easy to see that these people had been doing this for many, many years. They were efficient, understanding, helpful, and very gentle with travelers who were stressed or anxious and needed a little kindness. We took advantage of the short wait to get comfortable and picked up a cold drink for the trip across to Oak Bluffs.
When the ferry arrived, it only took a few minutes to dock and unload the passengers from the Vineyard. There were a lot of trucks that had delivered supplies to the businesses and were on their return trip. Some island dwellers were coming to the mainland for shopping or other business and some campers were heading home. It was interesting to see the variety of people who were disembarking.
When we received our instructions, Jim drove the car onto the boat. Once parked, we went to the upper deck and stood by the railing to watch the travelers and bikers as they boarded the boat. Once all were on board, they put everything into high gear and we were under way. Fortunately, the weather was perfect. It was a warm sunny day and we had smooth sailing. Experience has taught us to be careful in the sun with the wind blowing. It may feel cool, but it is very easy to get sunburn. A hat and some sunscreen is always a necessity. The day was perfect with a few light clouds, blue sky, and sea gulls gliding above.
As we approached the island, we returned to our car and got ready for a rapid departure. When we docked and were tied down, we got the instruction over the loud speaker, “Start your engines.” Then, one by one, cars, trucks, campers, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians filed out in good order, but quickly. We were about the middle of the group, but we were off and into the streets of Oak Bluffs quite rapidly.
One of the main reasons we took our car was to have some flexibility. There are guided bus tours that can be hired for groups or one can just hop onto one of the tours buses as it pulls into a stop, but we thought with the car we would have better flexibility to view the various towns.
Martha's vineyard is divided into six very distinct towns. They cover a wide range of geography including rolling farmlands in Chilmark and Tisbury. The spectacular clay cliffs in Aquinnah are a must see, and sailboat harbors in Edgartown and Vineyard Haven inspire artists from all over the world. Oak Bluffs draws visitors to view its Victorian gingerbread cottages and to ride the nation's oldest carousel.
We will come back to Oak Bluffs again before we leave but right now we have just arrived and because we have the flexibility of stopping anytime we want to stop, we decided to have lunch at The Net Results. They bill themselves as, “An upper scale fish market.” Their slogan is, “If it was any fresher, it would still be swimming!” Fish and chips, lobster rolls, or clam chowder were all sensational. We are not sure if it was the freshness or because we sat at a picnic table with travelers from different places in the world; or because we were watching sailboats dart in and out of the harbor; but the food was very fresh and very good.
After lunch we traveled through West Tisbury and Chilmark enjoying the beauty of the farm fields and views of harbors as we rounded some of the corners on the road to Aquinnah. It was interesting that around 1602 the English explorers landed on the sandy shores of the island. They found it flourishing with wild berries, vegetables and the air filled with waterfowl. One of the explorers had a daughter named Martha. With the abundance of grapes growing everywhere the name was complete, Martha’s Vineyard.
During the early days, the encounters between the local natives and the explorer were friendly. They traded food and tobacco and learned the skills the Indians passed onto them. As new settlers came, they slowly but surely bought out all of the natives. They went on to other islands. Only Gay Head remains an Indian township.
Unlike most other areas of the country, the Indians were not harshly dispossessed. They were paid for their land and no hostile confrontation erupted between them and the settlers.
Finally, we rounded another curve and saw the Gay Head Lighthouse, which marks the entrance to Vineyard Sound. Standing above the beach, these cliffs serve as a landmark to many seamen. Designated as a national landmark, the clay cliffs, ragged peaks and narrow valleys stand as a picturesque wonder. They are one of the most popular attractions on the island. Di Levin and I climbed the hill to the lighthouse, and while Di learned more history from one of the guides, I climbed to the top of the lighthouse and viewed a most spectacular multi-colored sight. The cliffs are multi colored and with the sun shining on them, they are mesmerizing.
One of the volunteers told us of the concern about the life of the lighthouse. It is a working lighthouse but is in danger of sliding into the ocean. As the rains, storms and elements batter the cliffs, they are slowly eroding away. If you stand on the top of the cliff you can see the clay in the water at the edge of the beach as it is washed away.
We stopped at a little shop at the top of the cliffs and watched the sun setting while we enjoyed a cool soft ice cream.
Traveling back towards Oak Bluffs, we went through Edgartown and Chilmark. Edgartown was the first European settlement and the character of the old whaling village can still be seen.
The colorful village of Menemsha is the last true homeport for lobstermen and fishermen on the island. They have a beautiful figure that commemorates the centuries old tradition of sword fishing.
Back in Oak Bluffs, you can spend days visiting the colorful historic cottages with their porches, rocking chairs, colorful flower boxes and baskets, ornately carved columns and rails, eye-catching front doors and screens that make these cottages unique and charming.
The town, like our local town of Sand Lake, has its roots in the Methodist Revivalism period. Camp meetings brought many people to the campgrounds. From these gatherings grew the present brightly colored structures of gothic and gingerbread architecture.
In the town is the oldest operating carousel, The Flying Horses. Years ago we took our children there and can still remember hearing the squeals of delight as the merry go round traveled around, the children reached for the brass ring. The Flying Horses Carousel still offers a free ride for the child who catches that brass ring.
We spent lots of time in Oak Bluffs, walking through boutiques and souvenir shops, we then decided to head to the harbor to line up for the ferry ride back to the mainland. Once again, the efficiency and courtesy of the staff was wonderful. The attendant at the gate cheerfully greeted us and produced the ticket for the ride home. Jim placed the ticket on the dash board so it would be handy when we pulled up to the gangway to board the ferry.
We were a little early and able to pull right up to the front of the line. Jim turned off the engine and suggested we get out and walk around a bit because we still had a little while before they would start boarding. At that suggestion, Harvey, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, opened his door. Simultaneously, Jim opened the door on the driver’s side. A gust of wind blew in and lifted the ticket from the dashboard and carried it right out of the car onto the dock. With greater speed and agility than I thought he was capable of, Harvey leapt from the car, chased the ticket and quickly stomped on it to hold it in place. As he bent over to pick up the errant bit of paper, he raised his foot and another gust of wind whisked the pasteboard into the air once again. This time it took a path straight into the water.
Unable to retrieve the key to our passage home, we had to go into the office to tell them the tale of our flying ticket. Feeling very uncomfortable, Di and I walked up to the window to tell them our plight. Just as we were about half way through the explanation, someone opened the outer door to the office and a gust of wind blew in, rearranging all of the papers on the attendant’s desk. Laughing he said that he fully understood our situation because his desk is blown apart several times a day. He gave us a replacement and we were able to get on the ferry without any further incident.
We could tell you so much more about Martha’s Vineyard because it is such an incredible place to visit. The feel of the cottages, the rolling farming land, the harbors and the food all recall an earlier time when relaxing in a rocking chair on a porch, or lying on the beach in the sun were popular summer pastimes.
Enjoy your summer and be sure to use plenty of sunscreen. Don’t’ forget that even when you are going in circles you may get lucky and grab the brass ring.
Our daughter, Cindy Kaczmarek, is celebrating her 40th birthday today. More information to follow.
Happy-anniversary wishes are extended to:
— Donna and Harvey Vlahos and Jennifer and Corey Brooks who will be celebrating their special day on Aug. 19;
— Ruth and Joe Breitenbach on Aug. 21;
— Fran and Mike Kitto on Aug. 22; and
— Mary and Hal Hughes and and Yvette and Steve Terplak on Aug. 23.
Happy-birthday wishes are extended to:
— Betty Friebel and Pamela Frondy on Aug. 16;
— Anna Miller on Aug. 17;
— Robert Carr on Aug. 18;
— Ryan Nicholas Long, Carole Moore on Aug. 19;
— Allison Hillary Grant, Colleen LeClair, Chris Meagley, Cathy Ramo, and Kurt Stockbauer on Aug. 20;
— Bryan Furr on Aug. 21; and
— Rachel Boyer, Richard Boyer, Tristen Harrington, Kim Rau, Jackie (Kelly) Chin, Everett Rau and Nancy Trumpler on Aug. 22.