For me, Massachusetts has always been more challenging to say than to spell but with some friendly coaching from the resident American, I have finally got over my tendency to leave out the ts and pronounce it Massachuses.
We’ve come to spend some time on Cape Cod and from our base in Nickerson State Park we are ideally located. The park’s bike trails join with the Cape Cod Rail Trail and we have two rides, one to either end, including obligatory stops for ice cream and crazy golf. The trail is well suited for staying out of the way of the heavy traffic on the Cape but slightly disappointing for its lack of views or sense of being near the coast.
We see far more of the Cape and the National Seashore on the day we drive out to the ‘fist’. Attempts to have a short walk at the Salt Pond visitor centre are thwarted by the dire warnings at the trailhead of waist deep muck, so we move on to Marconi Beach where the sand has virtually vanished from sight beneath the brightly coloured beach umbrellas belonging to the thousands of people enjoying the shore. It is all a bit much so after a brief paddle we head for the Marconi Station Site where the car park is virtually empty. It is the location of one of the original wireless signal stations and while nothing remains of the tower it is still a lovely spot from which to look out to the water.
The eastern coast of the cape is slowly but surely being eroded by the waters of the Atlantic and the impact is brought into sharp focus at Highland Light. It is the oldest lighthouse on the cape and only a hundred feet remained between it and the demolishing tides when it was moved further inland in 1996. It reminds us of our visit to Hatteras Lighthouse back in 2004 and while Highland Light isn’t as tall nor striking in its paint pattern the views from the top are worth the climb up the stairs and ladders into the lantern room.
We move to Shawme-Crowell State Forest for a few days to do a little work and we manage to squeeze an hour or so on Scusset Beach late one afternoon when the sun is still warm, the water a delighful temperature and the beach already emptying. The clear sunny weather comes to an abrupt end the next day and our plans to take the bikes over to Martha’s Vineyard on the ferry are shelved while we knuckle down to some more work and wait for the clouds to clear which they do sufficiently a few days later.
Disembarking the ferry at Vineyard Haven is a shock to the system. The port is heaving: people are milling, queuing and hurrying to their destinations; cars are jockeying for position as they inch forward to join the crawling line of traffic through town; buses are filling with tourists eager to head off. Fortunately, we’ve brought the bikes and manage to wend our way through the masses and head out of town and onto the bike trail system.
The inland trails are not dissimilar to the ones on the Cape - nice easy riding but without much in the way of views but they serve well to take us down to Katama and then back up to Edgartown where we battle through the centre heading for Edgartown Light where we while away a delightful half hour walking out to and up the lighthouse.
We plan to catch the ferry back to the mainland from Oak Bluffs and so take the coastal trail in that direction, the ocean on one side, Sengekontacket Pond on the other. We arrive in good time to have dinner before boarding the ferry in the fading light of early dusk. We stand on deck watching the island retreat, its lights blurred by a gentle sea mist that chills the air and us.
Before leaving Massachusetts we intended to visit the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. It seemed like a good idea at the time but then such things often do. We always think of our camper as compact but the context has often been the wide open roads of the west not the small streets of an old New England town. Suffice to say, we didn’t manage to find parking, only just managed to extricate ourselves from a narrow lane, with helpful direction from a passing local and did not get to our intended destination. We’ll think twice next time.
You will have noticed, if you are familiar with our logs, that the purchase of alcohol in various states often brings us as much entertainment and enjoyment as the imbibing of the beverages themselves and Massachusetts was no exception. You can buy beer at the supermarket but as the cashier scanned our beer she shouted out “Numbers on eleven”. There was no response and so she called again and again and again. We were flummoxed as was the man behind us in the queue who seemed to think it was like being in a casino. We were on till eleven so that explained that part. The call was to summon a supervisor who could authorise the payment once she had seen proof of age. The overall effect is like a public shaming with a loudspeaker announcement to the entire shop that the people currently at till eleven are buying alcohol; fortunately we’re beyond embarrassment when it comes to one mere six pack.