Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard - The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful

Cape Cod.  As someone who has never been to Cape Cod, I had a few preconceptions of what we would find here.  As I write this, we are getting ready to leave the island, having been here 7 days.  And I have to say, our stay has been a mixed bag of experiences.

Upon crossing the Cape Cod Canal on the Bourne Bridge, we discovered that, while a beautiful bridge, it's also very, very narrow.  Julie (our motorhome, if you don't remember!) is not excessively wide but we managed to inflict a large scratch down her side by hitting the concrete curb. (Negative).  We immediately found that gasoline was cheaper on the island than back in the Boston area. (Positive).  There are few main roads on the island and they all have rotaries (roundabouts) that cause traffic to back up, sometimes up to 3 miles. (Negative).  We finally got to our campground on the Joint Base Cape Cod, a huge military installation that is almost closed and close to being a ghost town. (Negative and Positive).

The beaches, and there are quite a few, are all owned by the various towns and hotels on the island and you have to pay to go to them.  (Negative).  They are also fairly small. (Negative).  And since they are mostly on bays or sounds, there are no crashing waves, which is my favorite kind of beach. (Negative).  We did drive one day to the Cape Cod National Seashore on the outer Cape and found two perfect beaches. (Positive). And, for us, they were free due to the America the Beautiful pass for old farts.  (Positive).  But, with the stop and go traffic, the drive was well over two hours each way. (Negative).

The island itself is much larger than I thought and is crammed with houses, shopping centers, strip malls, souvenir shops and all the other businesses that go along with tourist towns.  It takes forever just to go a few miles.  (Negative).  The drivers are all very polite, however, letting people in whenever needed.  (Positive). We did go off the beaten path a few times and drive through the residential areas to gawk at the classic Cape Cod homes, with their weathered siding and bright white trim. (Positive).

A somewhat typical Cape Cod house

Not this picture, but most of the houses nearest the beaches were enormous and meticulously landscaped.  We were visiting during the annual Hydrangea Fest, so all the flowers were at their very best.  I've never seen such brilliantly blue hydrangeas before and they were stunning.  (Positive).

Not the best picture, but these were everywhere on Cape Cod

Sid managed to get some fishing in and was thrilled to catch a 20 lb. striper,  (Positive).

Sid's fish

Being this close, we took a day to cross the Nantucket Sound on a ferry and visit Martha's Vineyard.   It was very similar to Cape Cod, but I think we got a different perspective as we were on foot.  While the ferry was reasonable for passengers, it cost over $100 to take your car over, so walked and took the bus on the Vineyard.  Martha's Vineyard was not as polished as Cape Cod and the vibe was definitely a more laid back, vacation-y feel.

In the center of  the town of Oak Bluffs on the island is the Martha's Vineyard Camp Meeting Association neighborhood.  In 1835, Methodist summer retreats were organized here and tents were raised to house the attendees.  By 1859, tents had given way to wooden cottages whose look, design and size were inspired by the temporary structures they replaced.  The neighborhood has no interior streets, is heavily wooded and is a lovely, cool place to take a walk and drool over the unique cottages. (Positive).

A walking path

There are supposed to be 300 of these cottages in this neighborhood - we only saw a fraction of them.  

One of my favorites

The ferry ride was a new adventure. (Positive).   This ferry was much larger than any I've ridden on before, with a full service snack bar (beer and wine available), tables and chairs, free wifi, air conditioning and inside and outside seating.  Only 7 miles separate Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, but the ride takes 45 minutes.

Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

Another attraction on Martha's Vineyard is the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest platform carousel in the country and officially designated as a national landmark. (Positive).

 Flying Horses Carousel
Not very fancy, but you can still capture a brass ring for a free ride!

Looking back at my post, I guess the time we spent on Cape Cod was a positive experience overall. Another couple of Bucket Lists items checked off anyway. I left with the feeling that to really enjoy this place you need more time than what we had to learn the ins and outs.  That and a few million bucks wouldn't hurt either! 

Until next time...

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