“East of America, there stands in the open Atlantic the last fragment of an ancient and vanished land. Worn by the breakers and the rains, and disintegrated by the wind, it still stands bold.” Henry Beston; The Outermost House.
Heading northeast out of Newport we aim at Cape Cod, the sandy arm that holds it’s fist to the sea. Named after the once plentiful Codfish, this peninsula shelters mainland Massachusetts from the frequent winter storms called nor’easters. As we approach the Bourne Bridge, one of two bridges that allow access to the Cape, we come to a grinding halt. Oh yes, it is summertime on the Cape and the driving is dicey. It had been a few years since I had visited the Cape in the summer and I guess I forgot – everyone and their aunt who lives in New England comes here in the summer! Traffic jams and hoards of people are the norm. Restaurants have lines out the door, any and all beach access points are full and even if you have the mandated “sticker” there is no guarantee you’ll see the sand. Since the beach is the main activity for most tourists, strategy is key to having fun in the sun. Some folks arrive at sunrise, some shuttle family and friends then ride a bike back to join the fun, some get dropped by helicopter…just kidding.
Hotels are even worse, jacking up rates to scandalous heights and raking it in as fast as possible, at the expense and comfort of the guest. We knew it was risky trying to get a room at the last minute but we somehow found a spot at a posh resort near Chatham. The web site advertised luxury, gourmet food and a “Golf Club”. Upon arrival, after 3 hours in a traffic jam, well after the “check in” time we were informed our room was not ready and that the head of housekeeping was “inspecting” our room to be sure it was perfect. Jay’s face informed them that this would not do so they instantly tried to buy us a drink (to dull our vision?) which we declined (probably a bad plan). After a “tour” of the resort, to kill time, (where was that golf course? No links in sight…) we were escorted to our dark room. The valet made a hasty retreat as we looked down at the filthy carpet and decided we better look around. Fresh blood stains on the pillow, worn out bedspread (don’t get out the black light) and a prevailing breeze of mold or…had Jay marching to the phone while I visited the bathroom. We regrouped to decide what to do, good luck trying to find another hotel as I am sure this was their last room, last place you’d want to stay. Jay decides to inspect the bathroom and discovers the toilet seat had not been cleaned – great I just used it! I instantly appoint him Chief Inspector for any future hotels.
Housekeeping arrives to reclean the toilet, remove sketchy bedding, vacuum hopeless carpet and point out that the mini-bar prices are at cost so live it up! Jay heads to the manager’s office for a tete a tete. After explaining the situation he asks if they allow “pets” since the room smelled like a moldy dog. The manager’s eyes bulged as his jaw hit the floor and he promised us we would be moved to their “best” room tomorrow at no additional fee, oh yes and the rate for the dog suite? More than $600.00! They can’t be serious! We go back to the room and discover our neighbors arguing loudly, there is a 5-inch gap under the connecting door, Jay suggests we might as well invite them in. I hit the shower and look down (bad plan) and the whole floor and under the frame edge in covered in mold! I felt like the Creature of the Black lagoon was getting ready to grab me. We managed to find a spot to eat and drink away from the herds of screaming children (no easy feat) and the food was good. The next day we did move to a great room and there was no mold. There is simply no excuse to have mold in any hotel, it’s easy to clean, if they actually clean that is. As for the “Golf Club”…guests can use another course that’s located in another town 25 minutes away, seems a bit misleading…? If you find the ersatz golf club and hostelry make sure you get the “new” accommodations, away from the Creature’s cabin.
The next day we explored the area. Nearby is Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge set aside to protect migratory birds. You can take a boat over to these barrier islands to observe the birds or hike the trails on the mainland section. We then drove north passing the Cape Cod National Seashore and its beautiful beaches (no access, all full) and along the huge dunes of Truro. We like lighthouses so we found Cape Cod Lighthouse, the oldest in the state and home of the oldest golf course on the Cape. The scenic Highlands Links was built near the cliffs along the ocean in 1892. Just before the end of the Cape the dunes tower over the road and frequently migrate onto it making travel treacherous. Provincetown sits at the end of the peninsula and is where the first pilgrims landed before deciding the lack of water and poor soils were not suitable for settling. Today P-town as it is known is overflowing with tourists in the summer and supports a colorful gay population mixed with commercial fishermen and artists. If you get this far and don’t get overwhelmed by the crowds you can take a whale watch boat not too far out of the harbor to see Humpback and Fin whales feeding nearby. If you’re smart you’ll come in September after the sweaty swarms have left and the weather is the best. You can visit a cranberry bog and see the farmers getting ready to harvest. You can stroll the quaint, historic towns and enjoy the fall foliage. Best of all you can relax and have the beach to yourself and not go broke.