Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From Clear Blue to Cumulus

June 7, 2011

I woke at 7:33 am on our first morning on the Vineyard. I couldn't help but smile as I looked around my gorgeous yellow room (I miss having a yellow bedroom) as the sun was streaming through the skylights. I got up, thanked God for a new day and promptly walked over to the sliding door that opened onto the balcony attached to my room, opened it and breathed deep. Then I stopped and took in the sounds - birds were alive with the sounds of morning. It was clear, fresh and green.

Neal was already up and sitting downstairs surfing the web. I assumed he was checking out things for us to do, but I chose to not ask because it just didn't matter. Vacation – ideas and options with no concrete plans.

My task at hand was coffee. I've been drinking it for years, but I no longer use a regular coffee maker. I use a French press. Therefore, I have to read the directions for the coffee to water ratio every time I use a coffee maker and just hope that I get the taste result I'm used to. How hard can it be you ask? Well, I'm the one looking foolish with measuring cups and spoons trying to get one tablespoon to six ounces of water and figuring out on the pot where those markings are. I must look a fool.

Post breakfast it was time for a walk to the beach. The rental info said we were 2 miles from South Beach. We had driven there the night before and it didn't seem that far to me, but what did I know. I travel by subway – underground – with speed that makes miles mean nothing to me.

Face completely slathered in SPF 85 sunscreen, a cap and glasses (I was turning 40 after all. Sun damage keep out) we set out for our morning walk. The sky was clear blue easy – not a hint of a cloud. The still cool air felt amazing on my exposed skin. We were walking into the breeze. Through the air were carried alternating top notes of sweet floral and woodsy cedar combined with bottom notes of salty sea air. You don't realize how amazing something is, something you never even think about, until you're doing it. I never think about the smell of the water while walking to the subway. I can tell you this, there was no overheated garbage smell on this walk. And the destination – rolling waves crashing on a nearly deserted beach – was not an underground train. A haze was barely peaking over the horizon as we left the beach.

Walking back did not bring the same breeze. The day was warming. There were small wisps of clouds now in the air. We broke a sweat as we walked and talked about parents and vacationing. All in all it took us an hour and seven minutes to complete our jaunt.

To Oak Bluffs we went. It was time to let the sight seeing begin. My camera was packed in my small Jack Spade bag and my guidebook was hidden in its back pouch. I knew I was a tourist, but I hate looking like a tourist. I try to blend in no matter where I am. Access those old acting skills please.

We found 4-hour parking around Ocean Park, a seven-acre grassy space with an 1880's bandstand at its center that, according to the walking tour brochure, so epitomized the resort community of Oak Bluffs that it was incorporated into the town seal in 1980. The parking area at Ocean Park sat in front of an amazing semi-circle of Victorian homes. It reminded of the summer cottages (White Elephants) in Newport. All the homes faced the Atlantic. Those properties cost some serious cash. We had 4 hours to explore.

We made our way to Circuit Avenue. Not only had I seen it was the main strip in my guidebook; my friend Rob, a frequent summer visitor to the Vineyard, had told me to check it out. Rob had told me about Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. He looked through my guidebook and saw that it wasn’t listed. He said that we should definitely check it out over Mad Martha’s. He wrote it down on a post it that he then stuck into my book. We found Ben and Bill’s immediately. I wanted to go in and Neal, the ice cream whore of the two of us, was game. Rob has suggested we get the kid’s size, as the small was as large as your head. We did just that. Not feeling the need to leap from his go-to favorite, Neal chose the kid’s size chocolate chip on a regular cone. It was large enough that he got a spoon to go with it. I chose Almond Joy – chocolate ice cream with whole almonds, coconut flakes and chunks of Almond Joy inside. I chose a waffle cone. I didn’t take a spoon. We found a bench just off Circuit that was partially shaded and sat and enjoyed our cones. It was amazing ice cream, and such a large portion that it stood in for our lunch.

With the ice cream finished it was time to see Oak Bluffs. Neal saw a pamphlet for a Historic Walking Tour of Oak Bluffs. We had seen that on the Internet and discussed it prior to heading into town earlier that day. We decided to take the brochure, follow the map and walk the town at our leisure.

The tour began next to where we had been sitting eating our ice cream cones – The Flying Horses, the oldest continuously operating carousel in the nation. We did not get to ride was it’s only open Friday – Sunday at that point.

We made our way to Trinity Park where at the center stood The Tabernacle. From what I gather, in the 19th-century tent meetings used to be held on that spot. The tent was replaced in 1879 with the permanent structure currently standing there. Sharing the greensward with the park is Trinity United Methodist Church, built in 1878. Surrounding the park in a circle were "gingerbread" or "Painted Ladies" cottages painted in dramatic colors of pink, lavender, blue, red and green – very Victorian with their filigree (suggesting lace) wood work. It was like a fairytale – say Hansel and Gretel. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed that it existed. The houses evoked another era; one in which I can’t imagine living.

Beyond Trinity Park we moved deeper into neighborhoods – where a white cottage was the most drab, boring color imaginable – where small side streets weren’t even drivable; streets that had signs telling you to walk your bike. If most of the houses were built in the 1800’s, many of the trees were at least that old (if not older). Standing tall and creating shade, the trees combined with the bushes created a lush landscape that fit perfectly with the cottages they surrounded.

There were 20 stops on the walking tour. Neal had suggested we look at the brochure and choose what we wanted to see if we didn’t want to see it all. He thought it would at least help us get a sense of Oak Bluffs. I was so glad he suggested it and that I had said yes. We ended up seeing everything on the tour. We took our time and took in the lovely, quaint neighborhoods of Oak Bluffs. It couldn’t have been a nicer experience on a more beautiful day. The clouds had changed to fluffy, white cumulus.

We hung out in Oak Bluffs for 3 hours and 40 minutes. It felt like 10 hours, but not in a bad way. We were tired from all the walking we had done that day starting with our walk to the beach and including our tour of Oak Bluffs, but it was a good tired. An I’m-ready-to-be-back-at-the-cottage-and-chill-with-a-beer kind of tired not an I’m-exhausted-and-need-to-go-to-bed kind of tired. It was a productive day full of exciting sights and tastes.
We pulled off the side of the road on the way back to our cottage and got out of the car without shoes and took a moment to admire the Atlantic from State Beach.

A stop off at the Stop and Shop gained us some summer fixin’s (potato salad, coleslaw) and bags of chips to go with our grilled hot dogs for the evening. Stella Artois was welcome refreshment.