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Vacation Adventures in Cape Cod
by Don and Peg Doman
If you are considering vacationing at Cape Cod, there are several things should know and be aware of. We speak from experience.
If you are coming to Cape Cod by air, rail, or bus, then you need to consider renting a car once you arrive in Massachusetts. Cape Cod is a long, long sand bar. There are many places to go, but to be flexible you need reliable transportation.
We flew into Boston's Logal Airport on an earlier flight than expected. We had a Buick Lucern reserved at Alamo. Alamo tried their darnedest to accommodate us. They offered us several choices. We decided on a Buick LaCrosse. Nothing against Alamo, but we were not happy with the LaCrosse and we love Buicks. The ride wasn't a Buick ride, the trunk was smaller than we are used to, and the tires or power steering made strange noises every time we turned left. Still, however the LaCrosse got us where we wanted to go with enough power and comfort.
The roads on Cape Cod are generally in good condition, but there is a lot of construction always going on. By state law any construction site must have a police officer and car with blinking lights onsite. Also, the problem with the freeway system on the Cape is that you really have very few landmarks to go by for directions. Scrub pines flank both sides of the highway. Usually you can't see beyond them, so this means you can only see down the road and gives you the feeling that you are driving down a trough. Direction is also a problem. For example, you may be on a freeway system that calls for you to be driving south, but you may be going west and then possibly even north. In addition, each town is usually broken down into East, West, North, South, and Port. For example you might have West Dennis and Dennisport, East and West Sandwich, Hyannis and Hyannisport . . . the names like that go on and on.
Cape Cod cottages usually have names. We stayed with Al Burrage (friend and guide), who has a home in West Seattle. He owns The Mainstay, which he rents out during the season. Also, cute names abound throughout Cape Cod and Massachusetts in general. The quainter, the better. You will see The Jolly Captain, Cranberry Real Estate, Ketch of the Day, Shiver Me Timbers, Sea Shell Gardens, Breezy Knoll.
Many cottages have updated fronts, but not neccesarily sides and backs. This is partially an attempt to preserve original shakes and boards, while presenting attractive fronts to visitors from the streets. So, you might see sides and backs needing lots of work, and at the same time you might see excellent sides and backs quite different from the front. For example, you might see clapboard siding on the front painted yellow, and cedar shakes on the sides with only natural preservative. It's just a local convention. Also, you are going to see a lot of shutters, but they are just like most places. They are for decoration only. They aren't really functional.
Local news as well as information on local attractions can be found in the Cape Cod Times, which is available at most grocery stores and convenience stores. There are also two great coupon books: The Cape Cod and The Original Cape Cod Fun Book. Both are FREE and can be found all over the cape.
You will hear the term saltbox house quite often. This confuses people because the house really has nothing to do with the term. The term saltbox is derived from the antique saltboxes that used to hang on kitchen walls. The term really refers to an addition built onto an existing house, but of course if the house is designed that way in the first place you could still refer to the saltbox design. The home of John Adams had a saltbox addition to it. The house of the left has a saltbox addition on its right side. The firewood structure in the right image is the basic saltbox "look", so anytime you see that basic look on a home, you are seeing a saltbox house.
I don't know if the bridge on the left is the Bass River Bridge, but it should be. We watched a fly fisherman there as he made cast after cast. Peg asked him if he had caught anything and he said, "Yes. I got five stripahs." The translation for that comment is that he had caught five "stripers" or rather five striped bass. He then landed one for us. It measured 21 inches. Seven below the minimum. A striped bass needs to be 28 inches to be legal. The fisherman released the bass back to the river. The New England and Boston accents make you listen more attentatively. Like some of the local names, they may seem quaint to visitors, but the locals just speak that way.
If you're coming to Cape Cod or any where else in New England to see the fall colors, you need to be flexible. There is no set time for the leaves to change. Generally, they need a good frost or two and this happens on nature's timeclock, not our's.
Although, Peg and I had hoped to see the leaves change color while we were staying on Cape Cod the last week in September and the first week in October. It just didn't happen. We saw some color change, but not the vibrant reds we had hoped to see. Almost a week and a half after we returned home, our friend Al sent a photo of one of the first trees to turn.
Arts and crafts florish on Cape Cod. There are artists that paint, weave, draw, sculpt, blow glass and more. A favorite of friend Al is Michael Magyar. Michael's Glass Studio On Cape Cod is a great place to observe the creative spirit at work. The town of Sandwich, Massachusetts, has been famous for over one hundred years for its "Sandwich glass". Michael's studio is located in East Sandwich. He creates new glass objects every day. When we shot the photo on the left, Michael was creating a clear version of the glasses in the photograph to the right.
Glass artist Michael Magyar has many beautiful glass art objects available for purchase in his gift shop above his hot shop studio. Michael is friendly and his wife runs the gift shop. Michael learned from the masters and has worked with Dale Chihuly. He received his Masters in Fine Arts from Tulane University. He has many glass art pieces hanging and setting around his yard. Michael brings a wealth of both practical and academic experience to his work. He welcomes visitors and is open year round.
Price and fancy surroundings are not always an indicator of great seafood. We found a small, fast-food looking establishment called Jerry's Seafood. The prices were very, very reasonable and the food tasted great. You ordered at the counter from Jerry. Jerry served you and you ate at the plain Jane tables in Jerry's dining room.
I liked the signs in Jerry's windows. One read "Caution/Steamers" and the other read "Danger/Lobsta" amusing us greatly for both the humor and the accent. I don't know about dinner, but I would certainly eat lunch at Jerry's again.
I ordered the lobster roll for lunch. It was served hot. It was the best I had while I was in Massachusetts . . . and the lowest priced. Peg had the smelt. Peg is a great cook and she had cooked smelt only a couple of week before eating at Jerry's. His smelt was as good as her smelt . . . maybe better. The six to eight inch fish of the trout family were golden brown and not overly crisp or overcooked. The white flesh was tender and tasted like . . . more. Great food at great prices. We enjoyed every bite.
You will find beautiful views of small harbors, bogs, inlets, and estuaries. Enjoy them and tell others about Cape Cod . . . We will.