“Baba” plays the part of the matriarch and rents a house on the cape, then invites the families to come stay with her. Our responsibilities include making dinner (plus cleaning up) and enjoying ourselves.
This year was one of the rainiest summers in a long time, among the top 5 since record keeping began, but we still had plenty of time for fun.
We went on a whale watch out of Provincetown on Wednesday. It was really foggy and we didn’t see any whales, or anything at all, for almost two hours.
Suddenly, out of the fog, we stumbled across some whales that really showed off for a bit.
We discovered Skaket Beach, on the bay side of Orleans, on a beautiful afternoon.
The beach is very flat so as the tide retreats you can walk out very, very far.
There are natural tide pools that trap crustaceans. The kids had fun hunting hermit crabs and minnows. Tim dug up a couple of steamers to show the kids what lives beneath the sand.
Beta child made some new friends, as usual. Baba did, too, with a couple that lives in the next town over from us. Meghan and I had fun talking with them about local stuff, and listening to the husband grouse about local contractors and the crappy McMansions they put up.
A couple of days into our stay, a local hawk mother decided that her chicks were ready to leave the nest. One of the three wasn’t quite ready and complained, loudly, every remaining day of our stay.
The mother hawk, to her credit, never strayed too far away. The siblings showed up as well to coax him off his branch. This one, however, mostly hopped from tree to tree and demanded a nest and food.
Another change of venue this year: Wellfleet, MA. We seem to be creeping further up the Cape every year.
Day 0: Driving and Arriving
We left the house around mid-afternoon, planning to arrive fashionably late. Our intention worked as planned; we rolled into town around 6 pm and got busy making a pasta-and-meatball dinner for everyone.
After a short dinner, we took everyone to the closest beach to let the little ones burn off some energy. The Fox family had been on the road since morning, and rolled in around 7pm; the kids were exploding with pent up energy and excitement.
Day 1: Rain!
Meghan and I woke up on our usual schedule, 6am. (This continued for the duration of the week.) The weather was forecast to be poor, and it proved true for most, but not all, of the day.
We headed out to a full-size super market in search of a coffee maker (the house’s was AWOL) and groceries for dinner. I prefer to spend a little extra money rather than pack the car with perishables.
After breakfast, the weather cleared enough that almost everyone headed to the beach — I stayed home and napped to catch up on a week of poor sleep, and missed seeing a Great White shark off Marconi Beach.
Dinner turned out to be an unpleasant adventure: we had picked up a pair of roasting chickens that morning, but after unsealing the packages we discovered that the fowl had gone very foul. Tim and Kelly started cranking out their dinner planned for the following night, and Meghan and I dashed back to the store to get our money back.
After dinner and the little kids had gone to bed, we sat down to play Cards Against Humanity —with Alpha and Beta. It was a night that they will not soon forget… nor will I.
Day 2: Chatham
I woke up early to a beautiful day and took a bike ride around the perimeter of Wellfleet. The ocean side of the cape was still socked in with fog, but the land and western side were clear.
After breakfast we took a ride down to Chatham for some shopping and lunch.
We introduced the Fox kids to Ponyo. Tim and Kelly don’t seem to be big on anime, but the kids were fascinated. (Sorry, guys!)
A documentary of Ted Williams premiered on PBS that night, which was important to Joan, so we cleared the deck, got the kids in bed, and watched with her.
Day 3: Marconi
We chose to go hiking around the Marconi Wireless Station on Tuesday.
Day 4: Biking and A Guest
Meghan and tried out the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which has a trail head in Wellfleet. Our goal when we started was Marconi Beach, but the ride was so easy we kept going and made it to Orleans before turning around.
While we were gone, the Foxes hit Mayo Beach in Wellfleet. When Meghan and I got back we headed to the beach with the girls as the Foxes were leaving. We stayed about an hour and a half, and came away with minor sunburns, but the water was warm and the swimming was easy.
We hosted a friend of Joan’s who lives on the Cape, and her young daughter, for dinner.
On this night an issue withe the youngest of the Fox clan, Kappa, not going to bed at bedtime became particularly troublesome. We pledged to find doorknob covers the next day so that he would have to stay in his room at night, even if he wasn’t going to go to bed.
Day 5: P-Town
After a very slow start to the day, we headed to Provincetown with Joan while the Foxes went back to the beach.
We started at the far eastern end of the main drag and worked our way westward. People watching in P-Town is always an adventure. The girls are still young enough to not really notice how bizarre the crowd is and have more fun shopping.
Day 6: Cape Code Lighthouse and Pilgrim Monument
Meghan, Alpha, and I spent the day being tourists.
We checked out the Cape Cod Lighthouse, where Meghan went up –and down– the spiral staircase of the lighthouse.
We then went to the Pilgrim museum and tower in Provincetown. I, however, was the only one to climb the tower.
After dinner at home, the adults stayed up to watch Jaws with the RiffTrax overlay.
Day 7: Leaving
We were supposed to vacate the house by 9 am. We missed the time by less than five minutes (WE were ready, but the Foxes have a small army to move.)
We ate an excellent breakfast at Laura & Tony’s kitchen, and hit the road for home. Others in the party were hitting the beach one last time, but we were all ready to be home.
Time for our annual trek to the Cape! Last year the Market Basket imbroglio occurred while we were away; we’re curious if anything similar happens this year.
Day 0: Getting There
Going away for a week’s vacation always leads to more work just so you can relax. After a very busy week at work, I still had significant cleaning to do around the house — I don’t really want our pet sitter to know that we live like this.
Preparations are complicated because we choose to take Butter, the dog, back to her old day care in Willimantic for boarding. (We haven’t found boarding near us that is satisfactory, due to arbitrary breed restrictions, but Marty’s is also located near Baba’s house so it’s not entirely inconvenient.) Meghan and Beta left Saturday morning and drove to the cape with Baba, leaving the bulk of the work for me. By lunchtime Alpha and I were ready to roll!
Traffic to the cape was moderate, more than we’ve experienced in the past, but we normally go later in the afternoon due to other obligations. I think next year we’ll just wait until later in the afternoon for an easier drive — whether we have obligations or not.
We left our respective locations at different times without coordinating but somehow Meghan and I arrived at the cape house within a couple of minutes of each other. Talk about timing!
So long as Baba invites us to spend a week at the cape, we offer to prepare all the meals (except when she wants to treat). We immediately went back out to Orleans to go shopping for food and a package of spare underwear for one of the kids. (A poorly timed growth spurt.)
After dinner the only ones who felt like moving were Beta and me, so we ventured out for ice cream. There’s a new-to-us place down the street called Short n Sweet. Good ice cream, but I was a little taken aback that they were cash-only — it’s not uncommon on the cape, but it wasn’t posted anywhere. I was short of cash but they gave us our ice cream anyway. I returned a few minutes later, after rolling Meghan for money, to settle up.
Long day, so we went to bed early all around.
Day 1: Beach pt 1, Chatham pt 1
Sunday spawned a beautiful day. Megh whipped up a breakfast that couldn’t be beat, and we toddled out to Sea Street Beach (a.k.a. Crows Nest Beach) in Dennis – our traditional bay-side destination.
We got a late start, though, and arrived after the parking lot had filled up. No legal parking anywhere within walking distance. I gallantly offered to take the car out for a spin while the womenfolk got started on their ocean- and sun-bathing activities, thinking that if I came back at lunchtime (only 30-40 minutes hence) that one or more spots would open up.
After coming back and confirming that no spaces existed, Baba offered to switch with me so I could enjoy the beach for a bit. She carries the luck of the Irish, though, because a spot opened up before she left the parking lot.
We were part of a group of people that made a minor faux pas and spread our blankets on the private side of an invisible property line on the beach. A geriatric citizen appeared around noon to inform us that we were infringing on “his” property, even though we were below the mean high tide mark. (The quotes will be explained momentarily.) He demanded that everyone move, but Meghan stood her ground and said she would be happy to move if asked — which he did, so we moved. I love this woman.
A group of twenty-somethings took umbrage at this and verbally challenged this claim; the “owner” called the police and stood there to wait for them. The guys stood firm, poked some harmless fun at him, and waited for the police because they felt they were in the right.
When the police arrived they calmly and politely let us know that the property actually has deeded rights to the water line, not the high-water mark. We also found out that this guy doesn’t actually own the property: his son does. The officer very expertly talked the twenty-somethings down as well, averting any more bad feelings. I think they respond to frequent calls from this guy when he’s in town, but the son is much more easy-going. Meghan actually called the station to talk to his supervisor, in order to compliment his performance.
The water was cold but clear, and I had a good time frolicking with the kids in the water. We left before sunburns could really get started.
A plan for meals now in hand, Meghan and I headed back out with a shopping list. Among our purchases: a single package of 2 1/2 dozen eggs, in addition to the dozen we had purchased the night before. That seems like an absurd number of eggs but we still ran short of eggs by day six, as well as pretty much everything else.
After dinner of BBQ chicken sandwiches, Meghan and I ventured to downtown Chatham for a little date, while Baba watched the girls.
Day 2: Chatham pt 2
Weather: there were overnight rumbles of thunder. The day was hot and humid.
We had a particularly late start, because hey we’re on vacation. The general desire was to head into town and poke around.
We started at the west end of town, by the parking lot. At Beta’s insistence we popped into the Black Dog shop, where she found and fell in love with a giant (life-size) stuffed black dog toy. At $65 I immediately balked, but she had over $100 in savings and birthday money so we couldn’t really deny her request.
We only delayed the inevitable by requesting she wait until the end of the day to make the purchase, hoping she would find something she wanted more, or forget about it, or listen to reason (our reason, not hers) that she should save her money for later. She did not do any of those things so we now own a giant stuffed black dog.
I think Baba was worried that she would quickly tire of sandwiches, as she took us to lunch at the Chatham Squire instead of letting us pack it at home. The food was generally good, but they had some of the best fried calamari I’ve had anywhere — tasty and light, not greasy at all.
For dinner I made tacos with fajita-marinated chicken. Our plan of eating leftovers on Friday started to wane early, as there were no leftovers.
Day 3: Hawksnest, Yarmouth, Beach pt 2
Another lazy morning was in the offing, but I wanted to get to know the area. There’s a conservation area near our house that I wanted to see. Alpha was a little bored and wanted to go immediately; Beta decided that she wanted to go when she realized we might actually see wild animals. Meghan and Baba wanted nothing to do with activity so early in the morning (9:30 am).
The preserve is decently sized and pretty, but it all appears to be new-growth forest. I figure it can’t be more than 30-40 years old, based on the tree-trunk widths. The only wild animal we saw, besides birds, was a Fowler’s toad. We all got to hold it a moment before sending it back on it’s way. I’m very proud of my girls that they don’t shy away from things like going hiking and holding toads.
After we got back we met up with Baba, who had spent the afternoon at the beach and wanted to go back. The girls jumped in their bathing suits and headed to Harding beach while I ran to the store for an impromptu dinner on the beach: bread, cheese, and grapes (our so-called French dinner).
The ocean-side water was surprisingly warm so we ate and swam until a fog rolled in and the breezy air became chillier than the water.
To finish the night, we took the kids to Schoolhouse Ice Cream. We really like their ice cream better than Sundae School (but Sundae School has better atmosphere). We sat outside and ate our ice cream and met a local young woman named Emily. She mistook us for someone else, but we wound up talking until it was time to bundle the girls home for a very late bed time. (An aside: I’m pretty sure Emily has Asperger’s; both my brother and my older daughter are diagnosed aspies so I tend to recognize them quickly. I purposely engaged her in conversation, but I went easy because I didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable. She was very nice and seemed a little happy to be social for a bit.)
Day 4: Beach pt 3 & 4
I really dig hiking, especially on vacation when I can go to all-new places. I had noticed on the maps that there’s another nature preserve at the south-eastern tip of Chatham, which is also the south-eastern tip of Cape Cod.
Neither kid was interested in hiking on this fine day, but Meghan was up and interested so we went out on an adventure together.
Morris Island is part of Monomy National Wildlife Refuge. Contrary to what the name implies, Morris Island can be driven to, while the rest of the refuge can only be accessed by boat.
We hiked about a quarter of the shoreline (plus a brief detour into the interior to see where a particular trail through the marsh led to) before turning around. We stumbled across a number of horseshoe crab molts, including three perfect ones that we brought home, as well as some live starfish that were caught on the sand as the tide went out and one old snail shell with some possibly-live oysters inside. We moved the living things back to the water’s edge.
We were all hungry when we got back, as no-one had eaten breakfast — Meghan and I didn’t eat before leaving so that we could leave early, and everyone else was apparently uninterested in actually making food. It was almost lunch time, so Baba took us out to an awesome lunch at a newly-discovered diner for locals, Larry’s PX. This is the kind of place that hangs a “Sorry, We’re Open” sign on the door, and the local cops eat here. Our mixed breakfast and lunch totally lived up to expectations.
Afterwards Baba and Megh went shopping at the local pottery places, while the girls and I tagged along. The girls were bickering a bit so I started making plans to split them up for a bit.
Pottery shopping done with minimal damage to our wallets, Baba and I took Beta to a different bay-side beach in Brewster called Robbins Hill beach. Much like Sea Street beach the slope is very flat; the water was somewhat dirty with life, but the tide was high so that may have been responsible for washing in extra junk. It was a small, almost personal beach and the parking fees in Brewster end at 3 pm (instead of 4 pm in Dennis), so I think we’ll go back again.
Tim and Delta were due to arrive in a bit so we stopped at the local liquor store to pick up a little wine and beer. It was seriously disappointing and we won’t be going back.
Tim arrived shortly after we finished dinner, and sooner than he should have if he had obeyed all traffic laws. I, personally, was glad they came. Living in a house with four women and no men gets old very quickly. At home I have a cat for male company, at least.
Day 5: Nantucket
We have a rotation of “specials”: one year we go on a whale watch (or similar), one year we go to Martha’s Vineyard, and one year we go to Nantucket.
With Tim and Delta on-board for Nantucket, we set out in search of tickets. There are three ferry options that we know of: the Nantucket Fast Ferry out of Harwich (very convenient to get to from Chatham); Hy-Line Cruises (consistently lowest price); and the Steamship Authority (the priciest option, but most frequent sailings).
After finding out that Groupon had some expired deals for the other ferries (WTF Groupon!), I found a special weekday-only deal for SSA out of Hyannis on SSA’s own website, which made it cheaper than the other options by quite a bit. I guess the overall higher prices give them some wiggle room for specials.
Meghan and I were up really early, before 6 am, because that’s our normal schedule. The rest of the house, not so much. I think Baba wanted to treat a nice breakfast for everyone at Larry’s PX, but we ran out of time and skipped it.
That we didn’t stop for breakfast before the ferry was probably best. We made it to Hyannis, found parking and a shuttle, and made the ferry with some time to spare — but only 20 minutes, not the hour or more a sit-down breakfast would have taken. We made-do by grabbing a bite at a kiosk in the terminal.
The ferry trip was pretty routine, not much to say except that it was packed full and we all sat in pairs, scattered across the boat.
Our first stop after arriving was a couple benches to eat our lunch: PB&J and fluffernutters. When we had finished, we turned around and realized we were sitting in front of the Whaling Museum. This became our second stop.
The Whaling Museum is arguably one of the best small museums that I have ever attended. They have well-thought-out exhibits that provide interest; they have unique artifacts, from paintings to period items, from an actual whale skeleton to the last remaining whale-oil press known to exist.
Meghan, who had been to the museum before, kindly kept the littlest ones busy in the kids room while the rest of us explored the museum. She was eventually spelled by Baba, and Megh and I had a fun time following an exhibit about the Essex where you pick a crewman and uncover his fate (died, eaten, or survived).
After staying for a couple of hours, we finally re-entered the present day. We walked around a bit, did a circuit around the block, I bought ice cream for the kids, and we considered an early dinner. We uncovered a tavern called Brotherhood of Thieves that seemed intriguing. The atmosphere actually matched the name – dark, low-ceilinged, a little moody. The service was attentive, the nacho appetizer was excellent, the entrées were delicious (and probably too big – we all left food on our plates), and the prices were exorbitantly high. (I’m not considering the premium for eating on the island when I say that – other restaurants were probably comparably priced, but I was a little taken aback.)
I pause here to note something: Nantucket is preppy central. Megh and I noticed a preponderance of kids and adolescents in the ‘preppy summer uniform:’ guys in polo shirt, khaki shorts or pants, and topsiders without socks, and a particular Kennedy-esque haircut (not too short); girls in thigh-length one-piece dresses. The adults were in the adult version of the same: men in khaki shorts, nice shirts, and possibly sandals; women in shorts or pants, and polo shirts or button-down shirts.
After dinner we split up and wandered downtown in groups. At one point Meghan had Beta and was watching Delta, and lost him to ‘potty tourism’ in a book store. We all converged on the store but he was located quickly by Tim (who was aware of his tendencies).
The book store was also site of a funny shared experience of sorts. I was people-watching outside the book store after the potty-tourism incident, Baba was shopping down the street, and Meghan was back inside. A couple walked in the door, both probably about fifteen years old. The girl was mostly unremarkable in her white dress but the boy was in full preppy regalia. They both looked conspicuously uncomfortable, as if they were on a date and trying hard (too hard) to impress both each other and strangers. Independently, Baba noticed them down the street, I noticed them going into the store, and Meghan noticed them shopping in the store. We realized it later when we were comparing notes, because they stood out to all of us enough to mention to each other.
Meghan and I took the girls outside the downtown a bit to see the houses and non-shopping sites, like some pocket parks and the Coffin School. We all met up on the pier for the 6:15 ferry and had another pleasant ferry ride back to the mainland. The shuttle bus was standing-room-only back to the car.
The ride home was practically made for a convertible. When we got off the Route 6 expressway Megh and I turned on the radio and caught a local rock station playing some late-80’s songs that we know well by REM and Tears For Fears. We sang along while cruising over local roads and the girls shrank into the back seat and tried to disappear.
Tim and I had passed each other a couple of times on route 6, which turned into race once we got off the expressway. (Tim took a different route than us.) Megh and I won, but barely, by rolling through a right-hand turn at a stop sign, and kind-of, sort-of cutting off Tim (who was about to come straight through the intersection).
After getting home, I realized I was missing my ‘home’ key-ring: front and back doors, various retailer loyalty tags, and key-ring multi-tool. There’s no directly-identifying information so I’m not worried about burglars, and there weren’t any car keys so nothing will be expensive to replace, but I’m going to miss that particular multi-tool. Maybe a good samaritan will find them and return them to one of the stores I have a tag for, and the store will get them back to me.
Day 6: Beach pt 5, Chatham pt 3
Last year we discovered Nauset Beach in Orleans, which has bigger surf than the southern-facing beaches in Chatham. The beach is long and made of fine white sand, except for the very edge of the water where erosion has left larger stones. We made a half-day of it this year.
Alpha claimed in the morning that she didn’t want to go, and through some gentle prodding we uncovered part of the reason: she’s having body image issues. (She thinks she’s fat, which she’s not. Oh boy, this will be a loooong adolescence.) After lots of reassurances, plus some tickling to get her off the couch, we were finally ready to go — all of us: Baba, Joneslings, Tim, and Delta.
Without storms in the area the surf was subdued compared to last year, but that’s all relative: it was still big enough to knock me on my ass when I chickened out on the cold water (which got me into the water anyway, of course, ready or not.)
The girls had a great time with their new boogie boards, riding the waves, while Megh and I worked our way out a bit until we could barely touch bottom – we were brave enough to go that far but not to tempt fate (and rip currents) out further. Delta, who is still a bit small for the waves, mostly played on the beach, digging holes in the sand and snatching rocks from the water line.
There were a pair of seals in the area, cruising the beach about 50 yards out. They occasionally came in close and popped their heads up, and the pair came up to no more than 20 yards away from me, where we could stare at each other. That was cool.
Unlike earlier days, we stayed during the ‘sunburn’ hours: 10 am – 2 pm. Meghan and I were lightly burned on our upper arms and shoulders when we left. Baba and Tim had slathered up in sunscreen, and didn’t burn at all. They’re still bright white today, so I’m not sure which decision was better. Alpha and Beta were “brown as pagan babies” before we went, and are even browner today. Alpha also has “battle scars” on her legs from wading through the rocks at the water’s edge.
Delta missed his afternoon nap and tried to catch it on the way home, which led to a very unhappy youngster when we reached home and he woke back up. He recovered quickly, though, and powered through the rest of the day in good spirits.
After washing up, Meghan and I headed to Chatham for another mini-date. Meghan picked up my next Christmas present (a gorgeous watercolored engraving) from one of the galleries, while we noshed on some iced drinks from Carmine’s. We also stopped into Gallery Antonia, a fascinating high-end gallery owned by a rather classy and erudite man name Dominic. We enjoyed talking with him for a good twenty minutes about nothing in particular.
We had planned a pizza-and-movie dinner for the family, and on Dominic’s recommendation we tried out the Sweet Tomato. They serve a fantastic thin-crust pizza; we tried Margherita, pepperoni, and Hawaiian-style pizzas. We also stopped into the Chatham Liquor Store next door and discovered a new sangria called Mija — Meghan and Baba enjoyed it very much.
After dinner the adults stayed out on the back deck and talked until the mosquitoes came out, at which point it was bed time for the kids. Tim, Meghan, and I stayed late up to watch X-Men 2 with RiffTrax.
Day 7: Homeward Bound
The last day is always bittersweet: sad that vacation is over, but glad to be heading home. We all cleaned up, packed up, ran the dishwasher, and were ready to go with lots of time to spare before the final check-out time.
We finally broke with a tradition this week: we did NOT go to Wee Packet for Irish breakfast. We went back to Larry PX instead. Alpha was a little put out, but Larry PX puts on a very good meal, so she was satisfied with chocolate chip pancakes.
After breakfast we headed for home while Baba, Tim, and Delta went to the beach for one last dip and to wait out the traffic.
Our ride home was easy, the Sagamore bridge wasn’t too bad going west at noon. East-bound up to the bridge was backed up for miles, though. A small traffic snarl on route 3, but Waze took us through secondary roads to get around it, and we were home in about two hours.
Upon arrival, Mel was very glad to see us and spent the afternoon rolling on the floor in front of us at every opportunity. Oolong had gone feral again while we were away and hissed at the kids, but calmed down and (mostly) returned to normal by bedtime.
We picked up Butter from boarding the following day. She was most excited to see us; Mel was not excited to see her, though — I think he hoped we had lost her during the week.