Friday, December 5, 2014

One day on Martha's Vineyard

Woods Hole, as seen from the MV ferry
Originally I hadn't planned to write another post covering my trip to Cape Cod, but yesterday's excursion to Martha's Vineyard—playground of the wealthy—deserves a few words and a few pics. Oh man, I couldn't have written the script any better: After Tuesday's and Wednesday's so-so to crappy weather Thursday was forecast to be perfect, and it all turned out to be true with nothing but sun (even though it was a bit on the chilly side).
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... leaving ...
... and heading for Martha's Vineyard on the Nantucket.
I had checked out the timetable of the SSA's sailings from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven, on the island. The 9:30 a.m. departure sounded just right, allowing me to leave the cottage at the civil (and no longer sub-zero, centigrade) time of 9 a.m., without having to ride my heart out. Why take the car and pay for parking, eh? Isn't that why I brought the bike?
The sister-ship is heading for Woods Hole
Now, the passage to Martha's Vineyard ain't cheap. The one-way fare for an adult will set you back by $8, and being accompanied by a bike will cost another $4. So, round-trip that's $24 for two 45-minute crossings. Idle chatter with the hands taught me that the Steam Ship Association is a state-governed non-profit organization, unlike the ferries in Washington state, for example, that are state-run (and -subsidized). OK. I still thought that there were way too many folks standing around running the show, but this is not the high-season, and who wants to lay off employees just because it is winter?
The source of the foghorn!
Harbor of Vineyard Haven
I saw the crossing as the equivalent of a charter boat cruise. I got to see Woods Hole from a different perspective; Nobska lighthouse greeted me from a new angle; and I finally figured out where that foghorn that I had been hearing intermittently (as it turned out, depending on wind direction) originated from on the Vineyard's coast.
One happy Ritchey!!!!
Now, you need to understand that the Ritchey, by pedigree, is a bike that could be raced in any amateur road race or crit. With its fairly aggressive geometry it is not a commuter or what one would call touring bike. But for this excursion (and Tuesday's ride, too) I had outfitted it with platform pedals and had softly talked to it to stay tame, and look what we did: We spent 43 miles together, with my using my Gore-Tex "tennis" shoes to match the aforementioned flat pedals (with me, all the while, wearing underwear!!! and Castelli commuter tights) to ride from Vineyard Heaven to Oak Bluffs and then to Edgartown, all along the amazingly beautiful north coast of the Vineyard. Did you know that MV is the third-largest island in the US? Now you do.
As is so customary, a few of Judy's ashes joined the sea right here
In Edgartown, you get to a spot where the road disappears and the water appears in the form of a small channel, maybe 100 meters across. That's where you take the Chappy ferry, short for the impossible-to-spell-correctly Chappaquiddick, to the eponymous and more importantly infamous Chappaquiddick island. If you don't know, use your friend Google with the C. word and "Kennedy." You'll love it.

You gotta love the name: The Chappy ferry
Wanna retrace Ted's escapades? Shell out the dough!
Oh man, I just love this pic!
I spent another $6 for a 2-minute trip to the other side (at least that was round-trip) and then rode to the end of the paved road. I saw a few mansions, but that was it. I had really expected a bit more. Don't waste your $6, unless you want to see lots of oak and no shoreline. Probably you have to spend more since you most likely will go by car.
These lighthouses have a metal outside and are lined with brick on the inside.
Back in Edgartown, I went off in search of the fire-engine museum. It had been mentioned in one of those ubiquitous "Your Guide to Martha's Vineyard" booklets that are heavy on coupons and maps and that one can find in a rack when leaving the local supermarket, right next to the Real Estate Guide for the region that you happen to visit. Don't underestimate the power of the printed word! After various inquiries (not so easy, since a) only a third of Edgartown's population is in E. in December, b) of that population everybody seems to be inside, and c) both of the construction dudes I asked were definitely not native to Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, or the USA, for that matter) I managed to find the Edgartown Fire Station and its adjacent museum. The place was open—yet deserted—and obviously in the midst of preparations for the upcoming Holiday Season, judging from the litter of faux wreaths, strings of holiday lights, and the like. I suppose, I could have hot-wired one of the two antique engines, but then, where the hell do you go on an island in a borrowed fire engine?
Merry Christmas to you ...
... dear Edgartown Fire Department
From here I headed south to Katama and South Beach, and that's where I finally saw the true Atlantic. It was strange: I leaned the Ritchey against the deserted "Lifeguards Only" parking sign and walked the final 50 meters through the dunes. And there it was, the Atlantic, opening up all the way to Europe on the other side. It was strange: The waves were so different, the vista went forever, the air carried that je ne sais quoi that indicated that something had suddenly changed from what the bay and sound were like. Get into a boat here, row really hard, and five or seven weeks later you may end up in Ireland, or France, or whatever the waves intended. Or dead. It was magnificently powerful and at the same time so beautiful. I could have stayed for a very long time.
There were numerous other worthy pics, but why bother?
Well, it was a good thing that I lingered for only ten minutes or so, because otherwise I would have missed the ferry. Don't get this wrong: I was fully, ahem, resigned to slowly riding back to Vineyard Haven and spend about an hour or so in some tavern over a hard-earned beer and wait for the 3:45 p.m. ferry. But once I got back to Oak Bluffs I realized that I might catch the 2:30 p.m. ferry, which would get me back to Woods Hole at 3:15 p.m. instead of 4:30 p.m. Mind you, at this latitude and longitude it is dark at 4:30 p.m.
About 3 p.m., and I'm ready to fall asleep on the Island Home
All that for $24 round-trip. I'm not complaining....
So to hell with platform pedals and underwear, I put the hammer down for the final six miles or so and made the ferry with four minutes to spare. The spoils? A gorgeous semi-sunset from the open deck and two IPAs and another stuffed quahog at Landfall in Woods Hole, with the very last rays of our beautiful sun kissing me. I rode home in the falling dark and almost-paralyzing cold, so content and happy that I decided I had to share. I hope you enjoyed reading.
So long, my friends. No quahog pics this time.

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