Back in October, I took my annual trip to see the array of what deciduous leaves can do in the fall. I think most of you know that I love my travel, especially during the times of the year when those wheels on the school buses go ‘round and ‘round.
My favorite fall direction when I travel is east — somewhere in the Mid-Atlantics or in New England — and this year it was to Cape Cod, primarily the Nantucket Sound side of the island through towns such as Hyannis Port, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich and Chatham and also off the Cape to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard in the Sound.
Of course, in resort areas, which is what this part of the Massachusetts Commonwealth is, that meant there were several shops, restaurants and pubs that were either closed or on a rather short clock during my week, the week before Columbus Day.
To be honest, despite the high regard in which I hold most of humanity (except, of course, for the mean ones and the haughty ones), I enjoy off-season travel. Not only are there fewer of other people’s children but also my fellow travelers so often are either my age or even older.
As for the older, my Lady Jane and I got the last two seats on a narrated shuttle around Nantucket Island. The rest of the shuttle was occupied by a tour group that ferried out from Hyannis Port with us.
As I rode along looking at the beauty of Nantucket, especially in the lighthouse area where there is the second largest cranberry bog in the country, and listening to a well-informed driver talk about the island’s first inhabitants, the Wampanoags, and the rise and fall of the whaling industry that once defined Nantucket, I couldn’t help but notice the nodding heads of several of those in the tour group — a couple of bobbing hoary heads right in front of me and yet another just off to my left. Even at 64, I felt like a teen again.
As for the islands of both Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, where Jane and I so enjoyed riding bikes from Oak Bluff to Edgartown and back along the shoreline, by October, both islands each year lose about 80 percent of their populations when those deep-pocketed folks who come only for “the season” ferry off to more permanent, no doubt, palatial digs. Other Cape towns we visited also had already lost a good portion of their populations as well.
I spoke with one of the owners of the Pillory Pub in Plymouth, a wonderfully atmospheric watering hole on Water Street just across from the shoreline and the portico under which sits America’s most famous rock, the one with “1620” chiseled into it. Here, we found a row of rocking chairs in front of a long open-air window. While in colder weather the open space is blocked off, that wasn’t the case on my sunny mid-60-degree day with those gentle autumn winds wafting in as I savored my lobster roll and sipped my pint of locally brewed craft beer, enjoying the guilty pleasure that comes with diurnal libations.
The ‘tender’s name was Ben, and he was also one of three owners. He looked to be in his mid-30s. He had heavily inked forearms, and his hirsute appearance somewhat belied the congeniality he exhibited and is expected of those who make a living coaxing dollars out of tourists’ pockets.
He told us that his father and wife were the other two owners. It was his wife who ran the kitchen and prepped our food. Their last day of the season was near, as in Thanksgiving. By that time the pub will be prepped for its winter slumber while the owners will have departed for three months of R and R in Florida, leaving the year-round residents to brace themselves for the next nor’easter.
I think the thing I like best about my eastern fall travels to places that rely so much on tourist dollars — places like Vermont’s Stowe, New Hampshire’s Lake Winnipesaukee, Maine’s Old Orchard Beach Pier and the Cape and her islands in the Sound — is the fact that the areas are indeed on the clock.
By tourist season’s end, there’s a sense of closure, a sense of business completed, especially when I see those signs in the windows of vacant shops and pubs, signs that thank everyone for the great season, signs that tell everyone that they’ll see them again next year.
Certainly the sentiments the signs convey are presumptuous, given the uncertainty of life and its linear nature, but that’s how most of us live, with the feeling that there indeed will be another season, giving us time yet again to buy that pound of fudge, sample the newest craft beer, or talk ourselves into purchasing that ceramic Chatham Lighthouse.
So, next fall, I intend to return somewhere east, yet again, to watch those trees that line my off-peak travel roads before their winter dormancy robs them of their vibrant vermilions, golds and mandarins, that is, assuming I’ll be blessed yet again with another fall. And, may we all be so blessed.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.