Cape Cod 2018

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.

mayo beach at sunset

Mayo Beach @ Sunset, Wellfleet MA

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.

fog at white crest beach

The fog bank on the ocean side stopped abruptly at the edge of the water.

After breakfast we took a ride down to Chatham for some shopping and lunch.

Top Shark: Artist Mary Dunn Cauley, Middle Shark: Pati DuVall, Bottom Shark: Dennis Predovic

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.

artsy-fartsy picture of some snow fencing

Quinn and Beta looking out over the sea.

Listening to the Navy Band at the Old Salt Pond Visitor’s Center at the National Sea Shore.

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.

Kappa sleeping on the couch, take 1. He refused to sleep in his own bed until we bought child-proof door handle covers. We found him like this on Tuesday morning.

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.

Quinn climbing up onto the light platform of the Cape Cod/Highland’s Lighthouse.

Quinn and Megh at the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse 7/27/2018

We then went to the Pilgrim museum and tower in Provincetown.  I, however, was the only one to climb the tower.

View up the Pilgrim Monument

View from inside the Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA.

I was curious about how good a picture from this distance would come out. Very surprised everything is as sharp, considering the haze!

detail of view from top of pilgrim tower

The view of Provincetown Light from the top of the Pilgrim Monument 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.

Assorted Snapshots

Mom hanging out, waiting for breakfast 7/28/2018

Cousins on the Group Shark Bench. Chatham

Will they swim or won’t they. Marconi Beach at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

We’re off to the Cape! 7/21/2018

A view of the fog over the ocean from the top of the Nauset Light House.

Quinn and Megh climbed this amazing lighthouse. The view from the top was breathtaking

Delta and Kappa when we woke up. Kappa had been on the couch all night, apparently. This was escape # 2.

600Inside the Nauset Lighthouse

Cape Cod/Highlands Light House

View down the Cape Cod/Highlands Lighthouse. There are a combination of a ladder, several platforms, and stairs, all made of cast iron.

View of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown, MA from the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse’s windows.

View up the inside of the Cape Cod/Highlands Light House.

Beta and Delta looking for shells

Kappa and Baba waiting for breakfast

Alpha took a nap on Quinn’s lap for an hour or so.

Getting ready to climb the Nauset Light House! Kelly is having fun talking to the docent.

Delta and Kappa with Kelly “up to their ankles” which meant they totally got their shorts wet.

Delta checking out the Nauset Light.

Kappa checking out the Nauset Light.

After we all got in on Saturday night, we had a dinner of pasta and meatballs, and took the kids out to work off some energy and collect some shells at Mayo Beach in Wellfleet.

Alpha and Beta in the Land of Rat

Friday-Sunday: The Planning

The Friday before February vacation, Meghan and I meet up for lunch and she drops a bombshell: “what if we take the girls to Disney next week?”

Last minute scheduling aside, this presents some very large hurdles: cost, PTO requests and balances, and arranging transportation.  We kind of, sort of had the money but I had earmarked it for other things.  I don’t get a lot of time off in my new job, and I’m husbanding what I do get for something we’re planning towards the end of the year — and we’re normally expected to schedule PTO in advance.  Last minute plane tickets tend to be expensive, crappy flights.

gecko camoflaged by mulch

If look carefully, you’ll notice that there are geckos everywhere around Disney. This one is particularly well-suited to mulch. (click to expand)

Meghan wanted to do this, I was on the fence, so we compromised and decided to go.  Meghan is vivacious, I’m the responsible one.  A decent life lies somewhere in between, and I’ve learned over time to let go a little while still reigning her in enough that we don’t meet financial doom.  It did mean that I would be working on this vacation.  I’m fortunate to have a job that only needs a laptop and an internet connection, and an accommodating boss.

The most important decision we made was to keep it a secret from the kids.  We had to make all the arrangements, prepare for the trip, and talk about it all weekend without letting them catch on — no small feat.  Oh, and we had already planned to see some friends in Connecticut on Saturday.

We had to come up with a bunch of cover stories.  Beta needed new shorts, and we can’t buy them without her trying them on.  We had to get the dog to boarding before Monday without arousing suspicion, since we needed to be at the airport before 6 am.  We needed to get the kids showered and in bed a little early, even though Monday’s a vacation day.

The final cover story: why we’re getting up before 5 am, which we had to provide the night before so the kids wouldn’t worry when we woke them, but something that wouldn’t make them too excited to sleep.

Monday: Getting There

4:30 am: Mom and Dad rise and shine!
4:50 am: kids roll out of bed and stumble downstairs
5:00 am: in the car
5:20 am: arrive at the airport long-term parking garage
5:30 am: shuttle drops us off at the airport
5:31 am: Alpha asks “why are we at the airport?”
5:33 am: security line, and we can’t keep the secret anymore
6:20 am: take off!

Our flight to Orlando had a long layover and transfer in Detroit.  Both legs were packed solid.  There was a class trip going to Disney that got on the plane in Detroit.

During the layover I got some real work done, while Meghan and the girls got some lunch and amused themselves.

3:45 pm: land in Orlando
4:15 pm: arrange some ground transportation

Orlando airport is huge.  It has monorails to move passengers between terminals and the main building, but each terminal is pretty big in it’s own right.  They’re also building another terminal right now.

We discovered that our on-property hotel of choice, The Swan, is not owned and operated by Disney and does not come with the typical benefits like a free bus ride between the airport and the hotel.

We secured a taxi driven by a guy named Victor, who hails from NYC.  Our ride was very entertaining, as he got more comfortable his vernacular got very… colorful¹ but his stories and running commentary were among the best from a taxi that I’ve ever had.

4:45 pm: check into The Swan
5:00 pm: take a shuttle to Disney Springs to get dinner

Beta and living statue

The living statue would make you think she would stay still, and would then do something surprising (like put her hand on your shoulder or lift your bag out of your hands) then turn back into a statue.

Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is basically a mall with shops and restaurants dotted throughout.  There aren’t any rides, so it doesn’t require a park pass.  After looking around a bit and engaging in strong negotiations over who wanted what, we picked The Landing because it offered food that everyone would like while dining on a dock over the water.

To be honest, Disney Springs isn’t quite as much fun as it used to be.  The stores aren’t unique anymore — they’re the same as any mall.  The Landing was also a little disappointing, with fine-dining prices but takeout-quality food.  We refused to let it get us down, though, and watched a beautiful sunset from our table.

7:00 pm: head back to the room
7:30 pm: Beta goes swimming in the hotel pool
8:30 pm: bedtime for everyone

Tuesday: Animal Kingdom

Morning dawned clear, bright, and warm.  After a buffest breakfast at the hotel we went our separate ways: Meghan, Alpha, and Beta to Animal Kingdom and I back to our room to work for the day.

At lunch I went exploring to see what was around the hotel and found a beach, playground, and much larger pool complex with a water slide, two hot tubs, and a waterfall/grotto.

About the same time I was wrapping up work, everyone else came back to rest up a bit.  Beta wanted to swim a bit, Alpha did not, so Beta, Meghan, and I suited up and walked down to the pool.  Alpha stayed behind to charge her introvert batteries.

We played at the big pool for over an hour, until we started getting hungry.  We decided to go back to the Animal Kingdom to get dinner, try a few more rides, and watch the light show.

After a light dinner at one of the short-order restaurants we headed over to “the Himalayas” to try out a ride that Alpha wanted to see called Expedition Everest.  It’s a roller-coaster that is partially inside the “mountain” (so it’s pitch black, like Space Mountain) and rolls backwards for part of the ride.  Very intense, very fun, especially after dark.

The girls also convinced me to take two cruises on the Kali River Rapids.  I managed to stay merely damp after the first pass, but I was completely soaked after the second.

We went back to the hotel after that.  The light show was wrapping up and we wanted to beat the crowds back to the shuttles.  It was also pretty late, after 9 pm, when we finally got upstairs.

Wednesday: Epcot

This was a rainy day.  This was also a tricky day, activity-wise, because Meghan was only able to take half the day off and had to work during the afternoon.  We had breakfast at the hotel again, and I headed upstairs while the rest of the family went over to Epcot for a little while.

Everyone was back in the room at noon, as the drizzle started outside.  I knocked off work a little early (hooray for getting my crap done!) and took Beta over to the hotel’s game room while Alpha recharged her introvert batteries again.

About 2pm we decided that we wanted to go (back) to Epcot – me, Alpha, and Beta.  Meghan was still working but had arranged reservations at the Garden Grill at 4:45.  It’s Meghan’s favorite restaurant in Disney.

The rain remained light and drizzley while the girls and I toured the World Showcase in Epcot.  We stopped in a few of the “countries” along the way, from France (where the ferry dropped us off) and counter-clockwise around through China, which is almost exactly opposite.

While we poked around a shop in China the rain picked up, then picked up some more, so we stayed inside and waited for it to slow up — the clock was ticking and we had a date with Meghan in an hour.  I refused to pay $9 per poncho.

A little after 4 pm the rain appeared to lighten up so we made a break for it.  We got out of China and were in front of Norway, the next country over, when the skies opened up into a torrential downpour.  We were soaked to the bone in seconds, before we could even dart under an overhang.  So much for being dry at dinner.

We squished our way up to The Land in time for our reservation inside, a couple of minutes late but sooner than Meghan.  The rain not only stopped after soaking us, but the sun popped out before we arrived at the restaurant.

After dinner we took the slow ride that goes around the restaurant, and headed out to enjoy the rest of Epcot.  We went over to the ride in Mission: Space (not to be confused with Spaceship Earth, a.k.a. the golf ball) which is a pretty cool G-force type ride.

The rain continued to come and go so we wound up buying a couple of ponchos and an umbrella for the walk home.  This was a fortunate decision on Meghan’s part because the rain came back in earnest while we walked back to the ferry.

Thursday: Boardwalk, DVC, and Heading Home

Our last day, but a late flight (9 pm) so we had time to have some more fun.  I arranged with my boss to put off work until late in the day, since there were no meetings scheduled.  Meghan had to work in the morning and doesn’t have flexible scheduling.

kids at the beach

Alpha and Beta on the beach. Across the water is the Boardwalk.

We were a little disappointed with the Swan overall² so we decamped for the Boardwalk, just next door (and a Disney resort) with shops and things to do.  I took the girls out to play and walk around while Meghan sat in the lobby with our bags.  We discovered that Epcot is just a short walk away.

After making a circuit around the “harbor” it was lunch time.  Alpha wanted to read but Beta and I were still a bit restless.  We headed down the walking path towards Hollywood Studios.  Not to go into the park, just to see where the path goes and look for alligators.  (We didn’t see any.)

Even after all that we had a few hours before we needed to get to the airport so I wandered into the DVC office to gather some information.  Meghan and I have talked about buying back into the vacation club for about a year, as changing fortunes have allowed us to travel and vacation more frequently and the DVC can actually be viewed as a money-saving way to travel.  As the agent brought our information back up we discovered that Meghan had been making inquiries while she was at Epcot the day before.  There was an open house at another resort where we could get all of the information, so game on: I judged that we were both ready to plunge back in, and got us a ride to the open house.

beta posing on swing

Beta posing for the camera as she swings

This was late in the day, getting close to the time we should really start heading to the airport, so we had to hew to a tight schedule with the sales guys.  We arranged it perfectly, though, and got back to our starting point in time to meet Victor (remember Victor the taxi driver? we liked him so much we called him back for our pick-up³) at our pre-arranged pick-up time.

Our flight out was pretty uneventful.  We took off on-time at 8:45 pm and landed at 11:30 pm, a bit of turbulence in between.  The kids stayed awake, I worked for a bit, Meghan napped (a first for her on a plane!).  We rolled back into our driveway at half-past midnight.

All in all, a success!

Footnotes

1: We don’t worry much about letting our kids hear profanity.  We have taught them some simple lessons: profanity is what you say when you don’t have the vocabulary to express yourself; profanity doesn’t make you cool, and certain people will judge you poorly when you use it; profanity is just words.  Moreover, making a big deal about “bad words” just increases the taboo-ness of them, which makes them more desirable. Return

2: Our time at the Swan ranged from merely average to disappointing.  The room was of average quality, but we’ve stayed in downtown Manhattan for the less per night with more included as part of the nightly fee.  Some of the disappointment was due to poor expectations: we thought that it was a Disney resort with same benefits like ground transportation from the airport included; some disappointment was because they nickel-and-dimed us to death (e.g. a $25-per-night “resort fee” to cover the complimentary internet access and pool, which we only got partially refunded). Return

3: Victor’s cell phone is 321-945-1003, call a few hours ahead to arrange a ride with him (dispatch will only send the next available).  His voicemail box was full but he responded promptly to our texts.  He seemed to genuinely appreciate having a guaranteed fare.  There are cheaper methods to get in and out of the airport if you’re by yourself, but none quite so hilarious. Return

Cape Cod 2015

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

Hawksnest Nature Preserve, Cape Cod

Hawksnest Nature Preserve, Cape Cod

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.

Beta's fake mustaches

Beta purchased a package of fake mustaches in Yarmouth and modelled all of them when we got home.

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.

Megh and Alpha selfie

Meghan and Alpha paused mini-golf for a selfie

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.

Baba at the beach

Baba @ Harding Beach

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).

Hawksnest Preserve, Cape Cod

Hawksnest Preserve in Harwich, Cape Cod

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 lunch we all left Baba at home and cruised to Yarmouth for some shameless vacation fun.  We tried a mini-golf place with animals all over, checked out a few stores in search of boogie boards, and stopped at our traditional salt-water-taffy-store.  The afternoon was pretty hot and humid, with the occasional sprinkle, so we kept the convertible’s top up.

Boogie boarding at Harding Beach

Boogie boarding at Harding Beach

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

Fog rolling in at Harding Beach

Fog rolling in at Harding Beach. It went from sunny to this in about 15 minutes.

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.

Megh and Alpha, minigolfing in Yarmouth

Minigolfing in Yarmouth. It took forever to get Alpha to crack a smile.

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.

Tim and Delta on Nantucket

Tim and Delta @ downtown Nantucket. Master/Blaster?

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.

We sat for a talk on the Essex, a whaling ship that was known to be attacked and sunk by a sperm whale and served as the inspiration for Moby Dick.  The presenter stayed for Q&A afterwards and was highly knowledgeable and pleasant.

Whale skeleton at Whaling Museum

Adult sperm whale skeleton hanging in the Whaling Museum in Nantucket. The whale washed ashore and died of natural causes back in the ’90s. This is NOT from a hunted whale.

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).

Beta drying out her tongue

As we drove to the Nantucket ferry Beta decided to dry her tongue out, to see just how dry it could get. She seemed to find the experience interesting, but it didn’t impede the remainder of her day.

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

Dad

Dad driving to Nauset beach

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.)

Delta, anonymized

Delta preferred to remain anonymous, using Baba’s hat.

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.

We hiked out to a wildlife preserve and ran across these tracks all over the sand.  Morris Island Nature Preserve, Cape Cod.

We hiked out to a wildlife preserve and ran across these tracks all over the sand. Morris Island Nature Preserve, Cape Cod.

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.