Seaside Follies

So you couldn't afford to leave Cambridge this spring. It's not your fault that your parents aren't rich enough to have you meet them on Martinique. You might have tried out for the lacrosse, baseball, tennis or golf teams--all are planning group vacations in the sun--but not everyone can make it. Dorm crew or driving the shuttle bus to earn enough to rent one-seventh of a Toyota for the trip to Fort Lauderdale would have hurt your chances for Group III. However, there's no excuse for not selling tickets to the Pudding show and getting the trip to Bermuda. You're lucky that The Crimson even realizes that you're still here to read this.

Being stuck in Cambridge is not the same kind of torture as being stuck in New Haven. But if you're seen enough of the Museum of Fine Arts for Fine Arts 13 and you've decided that you weren't really that crazy about the Freedom Trail, being the only one to show for Friday's Chem 20 section may start you wondering why you didn't try to manage some team. After one breakfast at Tommy's and one lunch at Elsie's you'll be making a sign that reads: TAMPA.

Before you do anything rash consider Cape Cod. Like everyone else, I have been explaining my vacation plans for the last two weeks: "I'm going down to the Cape. My parents have a house there." Last spring in reading period everyone was begging me for an invitation but now they just look surprised. I am going to the Cape because that is where I live.

Cape Cod is synonymous with sun, beach, party, friendly cops and melting creamsicles. There are also crowds. In fact, Cape Cod in the summer is quite similar to Florida during spring break--any number of bars resemble the Eliot House Happy Hour.

Cape Cod does not go to college in September. It stays right there. Any real Cape Codder will tell you that he prefers the rain and wind of the winter to the sun and clouds of the summer. There is a very good reason. Most of the summer people come to the Cape for the parties or the beaches. But the Cape has great natural beauty which many of them miss. And late in November or early in April the weather is nice, there are no crowds and this natural beauty shines through. I think it is the best time of year.


Cape Cod is at the southern end of Route 3, a natural peninsula turned into a large island: the Cape Cod Canal separates the Cape from the rest of southeastern Massachusetts. Two bridges connect the rest of the world to us. Cape Cod is shaped like an arm flexing its bicep, and the bridges connect where the shoulder would be. There are 13 towns on the Cape. One highway, Route 6, runs the length from Bourne (the shoulder) to Provincetown (the fist); 6A runs parallel from the shoulder to the crook of the elbow. Route 28 runs south from the southwest portal of the Canal to Falmouth (the armpit) and then east to Chatham (the elbow).

It is easiest to explore the Cape by car, but busses run from the Trailways terminal in Boston to both Hyannis and Falmouth. The ambitious can then hitchhike. The very ambitious can bicycle. (It is 70 miles from Boston to Hyannis and another 45 miles to Provincetown.)

Crossing the canal on the Sagamore Bridge (the northern one), take route 6A east. The vicinity of 6A is an historic district--John Adams could still recognize it. Sandwich, which has a quaint village center, as do most of the towns, is the first town on 6A. The Heritage Plantation, a museum for antique cars, many of which are used in movies, is worth a visit.

Route 6A then runs through West Barnstable, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewster. On a sunny day with no wind, Sandy Neck beach in Barnstable is perfect for a picnic. Even in April it can get warm enough to tempt some into the water. For those who can think of books and vacation at the same time, the Parnassus Bookstore on Route 6A in Yarmouth is a fine second-hand book shop.

In Orleans, 6A rejoins Route 6 and heads north. Most of the forearm (Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown) is part of Cape Cod National Seashore, a National Park. The beaches on the Atlantic are wonderful, always nice to walk on when there are no crowds. Even in the rain and wind, if you are dressed warmly, it is fun to explore the beaches. With a wet suit, March is not too early to surf.

The Seashore has a visitor center in Eastham which is helpful, interesting and attractive. Also in Eastham, and part of the Seashore, are Coast Guard Beach and the Red Cedar Swamp. There is a path through the swamp which few people know about even though it is publicized at the visitors' center, well worth the hour it takes to walk it.

No trip to the Cape is complete without a stop at Great Island, one of the last undiscovered parts of the National Seashore, in Wellfleet. It is on the inside of the Cape in Wellfleet Harbor. The tides and winds have gradually formed a sand spit which now connects the Island to the town. It was the location of Higgin's Tavern, in which famous pirate Black Bellamy hung out. It is now uninhabited.

In 1620 the Pilgrims landed at Provincetown, at the very tip of the Cape. The Pilgrim Museum and Tower, if they are open, should not be missed. From the top of the Tower you can see the entire Cape on a clear day.

Provincetown is a thriving artistic and literary colony. In the summer there are more famous authors than in English 175. Even in the winter, P-town is one of the cultural centers of Cape Cod. It also has a large gay population.

Any ornithologist worth his Sterna dougalli (common tern) should trek back Route 6 to Chatham and visit the National Wildlife Refuge on Monomoy Island. Information about reaching the island--a permit is required--can be obtained at the Chatham Town Hall or at the Seashore's visitor center in Eastham.

Heading west from Chatham, Route 28 goes through Harwich, Dennis, Yarmouth and Hyannis. These towns exemplify the worst in "development." Hyannis, the center of the town of Barnstable, is hardly worth mentioning except that it is the largest village on the Cape.

Route 28 continues to Mashpee, the home of the Mashpee Indians. Recently, the Indians sued the town to get back much of the land; the outcome is still uncertain. The Wampanoag Indian Museum in Mashpee is a good place to pick up Indian history or gossip about the suit.

Falmouth follows Mashpee. The most distinguishing feature in the town is Woods Hole, Falmouth's southernmost village and the home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and the Marine Biological Laboratories. The scientific community has given Woods Hole the atmosphere of a small college town. Poetry readings, local theater and folk dancing are common. The Fishmonger's Cafe or the Market Bookshop in Falmouth Center are the best places to learn what is to be done.

Route 28 turns north in Falmouth and runs through North Falmouth (the home of the Nickelodeon Theater, the finest movie house on the Cape), Otis Air Force Base and then Bourne. I can't remember anything in Bourne that I have ever wanted to see.

Don't let this list of the nicest places on the Cape fall into enemy hands. Last summer one of Boston's weekly papers called my bar "Cape Cod's most interesting bar;" there have been lines ever since, and I cancelled my subscription to that paper. However, I am confident this article won't destroy my favorite places, at least not until summer--realize, the Cape just had a foot of snow.