Thursday, December 19, 2019

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - The Baxendales and Amrita Island

     Cape Cod hides many fascinating out of the way locations, especially for a place that is less than 400 square miles in size. Nestled snugly in the Cataumet section of Bourne lays an island. Surrounded by Squeteague Harbor and sheltered from Buzzards Bay by Scraggy Neck this island is as difficult to find as a parking spot at the Cape Cod Mall on a rainy summer afternoon. It is a hidden gem with a mesmerizing story. It is Amrita Island.
     Located on the way to Megansett Beach in Cataumet is Baxendale Road. This rural side road heads west toward Buzzards Bay over a creek to an island of roughly 430,000 square feet. Today there are ten homes on the island however at the turn of the 20th century there was only one. It belonged to Thomas Baxendale.
     Born on February 29, 1840 in Blackburn, England, Baxendale dreamed of the American life and emigrated to the United States in 1867. He settled in Brockton where he met and married Esther Minerva Simmons in 1871. Baxendale would make a fortune in the shoe business in the latter decades of the 19th century by perfecting the ‘box toe’ boot. These tougher, rounded toes helped the leather toes of boots last longer and added to their appearance.
     Thomas and Esther made a fortune in business in Brockton with Thomas running the plant and Esther keeping the books. Eventually the couple purchased land along Buzzards Bay in 1890 as a summer residence and christened it ‘Amrita Island.’ The word Amrita is from Sanskrit, the language of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, and means ‘immortality’ and in mythology it is the name for the nectar of the gods which gave said immortality.
Island Haven

     The Baxendales brought in scholars and deep thinkers of the day to deliver lectures at their estate on the western tip of the island which they named ‘Island Haven.’ One such topic they often hosted lectures on was animal welfare, of which they both cared deeply. The couple frequently donated money to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Established in 1899, Esther was dear friends with the organization’s founder Anne Harris Smith. Esther even wrote a book written as an ‘autobiography’ of her Italian-gazelle hound Fairy in 1904 entitled Yours with All My Heart. A loving tribute and further proof of her love of animals.
     Baxnedale hired a Portuguese builder named Manuel Brazil in 1908 to add a unique entrance to the island. Brazil was born in the Azores Region of Portugal in 1836 and emigrated to Provincetown in the mid-19th century. He constructed medieval castle towers, eight in all, which beckoned you across the 120-foot bridge leading to Amrita Island. This bridge to this day seems out of place for Cape Cod and creates a feel as if one is heading into a different world.
The Bridge to Amrita Island

     Once the lectures got going the Baxendales made Amrita Island more inviting for scholars by having cottages built for visiting Harvard professors. These had names like Sorrento, Castle-la-Mare, and Guardian. Eventually Thomas and Esther retired from business leaving the reins of the company to Esther’s brother John Simmons.
     In 1909 Thomas Baxendale began having stone carted across the bridge to the island. Reports at the time thought it was for a sea wall, in reality it was for a mausoleum. His health failing Baxendale commissioned the elaborate final resting place that was christened ‘Sunset Terrace.’ It was built on the bluff on the west side of the Baxendale mansion facing the sunset. Sunset Terrace was complete with forty-four steps and three broad piazzas leading to the mausoleum. Thomas died on March 31, 1910 at age seventy at his home in Brockton. He was buried in Sunset Terrace in December of that year with a big dedication of the mausoleum.
     Esther Baxendale continued spending summers at Amrita long after Thomas’ death. She and Thomas loved Harvard so much in fact that after Esther’s death on March 17, 1927 the entire island was bequeathed to the university. Shortly thereafter Harvard in turn donated the land to the Animal Rescue League of Boston in 1934 who opened a school of humane education there. Until 2007 there was a summer camp for inner city children held on the island.
The Sunset Terrace mausoleum

     The Baxendales never left Amrita though. They, along with the previously mentioned dog Fairy, are interred in a striking mausoleum on the western edge of the Island Haven property. It faces the sunset and the phrase ‘Love Is Eternal’ is inscribed on the mausoleum door. Beautiful words on a beautiful hidden gem of an island. With no more summer camp held there it is important to remember that the homes across the bridge are private residences and they must be respected.

View my previous blog posts: In My Footsteps: My Cape Cod Roots

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Thursday, December 12, 2019

In My Footsteps: My Cape Cod Roots

            I am a 12th generation Cape Codder, my roots are that of the Doane family.  Deacon John Doane, one of the founders of the town of Eastham is my paternal 9th-great grandfather.  My maternal grandfather ran his own successful business, Sullivan's Donut Shop in Hyannis for two decades.  My family is deeply rooted in the history of the Cape, although throughout my childhood I don't think I appreciated where I lived.  Looking back now though I realize how specials those times and the days since have been.

             I feel that I was born at the absolute best time to appreciate Cape Cod for all that it is and was.  I am old enough to remember things ‘the way they used to be’, yet young enough to enjoy the way things are.  For those who are dying to know, I was born in 1977.  I straddle the line between generations that gives me insight into two worlds.  I am of the age where I was able to see and experience a little bit of Olde Cape Cod and watch as my home changed and adapted with the times.

              During my childhood landline telephones and phone booths were common.  I remember waiting for friends to call, and actually having to remember people’s phone numbers.  Yet as an adult I love the convenience and technology of smartphones.  I do not believe I could recite anybody’s phone number today.  However I could still rattle off my old home phone number, my Nana’s number, and a few friends from middle school as well.

            Throughout my childhood I would be tossed outside by my mother during summer to go off and play with my friends, only coming home when it was almost dark.  I do not believe we ever feared being abducted, though I am sure the bad people were not something invented in the last twenty years.  The Cape seemed more innocent though I am sure that it was not.

            I was born at a time when vinyl albums were mainstays.  I had a collection as a seven-year old that might shock people today with artists like Ratt, Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and Motley Crue lining my shelves.  Of course I had the first pressing of Michael Jackson’s Thriller as well and used to play it loudly out of my window on my Fisher-Price record player so all of the neighborhood kids could dance in the yard.  I had young hip parents which influenced my style growing up.  However as much as I loved making cassette mixtapes off of stations like Cape 104 and 96.3 The Rose I can honestly say I prefer MP3’s and iTunes to Maxell and Memorex.

            I am old enough to remember walking, or driving, to the video store to rent VHS tapes.  Yet I am young enough to fully enjoy Netflix and Hulu and the instant gratification they provide.  Sure I played Atari 2600 and the original Nintendo but they were bit parts of my childhood.  Admittedly I did spend a good amount of time at the arcade but Rampage wasn’t going to beat itself!  It was a time when walking seemed more common, like after family meals on holidays.  There was always a place to walk as a family.

            I am old enough to have seen the first two schools I attended close.  I went to South Yarmouth Elementary School on Route 28 with Laurence MacArthur as my principal.  The school would eventually bear his name before being closed in 2013 and reopening as a campus for Bridgewater State University in 2015.  I then attended John Simpkins Elementary located on the same plot of land.  It served as the town’s first high school before Dennis-Yarmouth opened in 1957 and housed Grades 3-5 after.  It closed in 2006 and was transformed into the Simpkins School Residences, senior housing, opening in 2014.

The former John Simpkins Elementary in South Yarmouth

            I am old enough to remember the Cape Cod Mall in the days before it expanded.  In those days it was anchored by Woolworth, Filene’s, and Jordan Marsh and had a separate cinema on the property.  I remember spending Friday evenings searching Record Town and Tape World for my next musical interest.  However I am also young enough to enjoy the convenience of what the expanded Mall has brought with so many stores under one roof.

The Cape Cod Mall entrance circa 1995

            I am old enough to remember Cape Cod icons such as Thompson’s Clam Bar, Mildred’s Chowder House, Joe Mac’s, and Mill Hill Club.  There were fewer Shaw’s and Stop & Shop’s and more Angelo’s, Purity Supreme, and A&P’s.  I frequented Bassett’s Wild Animal Farm in Brewster and visited the legendary Cape Cod Coliseum, although it was to see Sesame Street On Ice.

            I am old enough to remember the grounding of the 473-foot freighter Eldia at Nauset Beach in March 1984 and not believing how big it was.  I saw the breach of North Beach in Chatham in January 1987 and am amazed at seeing it healing itself.  In 1991 Hurricane Bob in August and the ‘Perfect Storm’ of October made me appreciate the wonders of electricity after losing power for many days.

The Eldia aground on Nauset Beach in March 1984

            My childhood was a time when drive-in theaters were still the norm.  At their peak there were nearly 4,000 drive-in theaters in the United States, as of 2017 that number has dwindled to 338.  The Wellfleet Drive-In is all that remains of their legacy on Cape Cod.  However I have fond memories of being elementary school aged and visiting the Yarmouth Drive-In across from Captain Parker’s Pub.  I was lucky enough to see movies like E.T., Return of the Jedi, and Flash Gordon in the warm summer air.  Other drive-in theaters in Dennis, Hyannis, and Falmouth once dotted the Cape decades ago as well.

            I remember there being more salamanders and fewer turkeys and coyotes.  I was warned about jellyfish stings when stepping into the ocean, Great White sharks not so much.  I remember the noon whistle in Yarmouth scaring me on numerous occasions.  I remember more Friendly’s and fewer Dunkin’ Donuts, Bradlees instead of Walmart.  Cape Cod seemed much larger then.  A family trip to Edaville Railroad in Carver felt like a drive across the country.  Today Chatham, Provincetown, and Falmouth feel an arm’s length away.

            Amazingly for all of the changes I have seen in my time there are some things which remain the same.  The scent of Cape Cod Potato Chips cooking as you pass along the Mid-Cape Highway between Exits 6 and 7.  106 WCOD on the radio.  Delicious ice cream during the summer from places like Four Seas, Lil’ Caboose, and Ice Cream Smuggler.  Kids and families sledding on the golf courses during winter.  The Barnstable County Fair in July, the Cranberry Festival in Harwich in September, the Yarmouth Seaside Festival in October.

            Then there is the natural beauty of Cape Cod.  It is everywhere.  The National Seashore is as close as one can get to how the Cape must have looked when it was first discovered.  Summer drives along the shore routes in Eastham up through Provincetown are heavenly.  Route 6A is a blast to the past with its historic homes and tree shaded scenery, just like I remember as a child.

            Yes I feel I was born as the absolute perfect time when it comes to the history of Cape Cod.  I have watched the Cape change in some ways and stay the same in others.  This is only my story though, what things do you remember about Cape Cod as children?  What changes have you enjoyed?  What changes have you not liked?  Thanks for reading.  

Thursday, December 5, 2019

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Cape Cod's First Radio Station

     In 1903 the first transatlantic wireless communication took place in Wellfleet thanks to the invention of Guglielmo Marconi. It was the beginning of radio. 2020 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first commercial radio broadcast. However it did not take place on Cape Cod but from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There have been many legendary radio stations on Cape Cod. 106 WCOD is still going strong since debuting in 1967, others like 99.9 WQRC and 107.5 WFCC have been supplying music to various audiences for decades. In 2019 there are an estimated 15,330 radio stations in the United States. Did you know that Cape Cod’s first radio station came in with a bang, make a quick splash, and left with barely a whimper?

     On November 2, 1920 Pittsburgh radio station KDKA aired the first commercial broadcast. The station had chosen election day in America so listeners could hear the results of the race between Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox which Harding won. The broadcast was a huge success. Within four years there were 600 commercial radio stations in the country including WNAC in Boston, the future WRKO, and WEEI. These stations, and infrequently WEAF out of New York, could be tuned in to on Cape Cod.

     News programming and musical shows were the norm with special guest performers. To offset the costs of paying the performers plus improving the radio station equipment stations turned to advertisers. The very first radio advertisement, a fifteen-minute real estate ad about apartments in Jackson Heights, aired on WEAF New York on August 22, 1922. Radio became big business with advertising and networks developing and sharing programming among affiliates.

     The rising popularity and profitability of radio led to Cape Codders longing for their own local station. Boston and New York stations were accessible to varying degrees however lacked the local feel and coverage. In July 1926 their wish came true. A station was created in Osterville through the efforts of James Henderson, the president of the firm of Henderson & Ross. It was a 200 watt station located at the Seapuit Golf Course, one of the first built in America, along South County Road. The station, which would operate on the 250 meter band, was to be known by the call letters WJBX, however it debuted with the letters WSGC possibly as a nod to Seapuit Golf Course.

     The job of running the new radio station fell to William Harrison who had been working as a broadcaster for WEEI in Boston. The hype for the opening night of Saturday July 24th was palpable in all of the local newspapers. Harrison stated the station’s signal was strong enough to be heard throughout Cape Cod and Southeastern Massachusetts. An additional promotion was begun by James Henderson, it was a cash prize of $25 for the telephone call received at the station from the furthest away by midnight of the first day on the air. All other telephone callers would receive complimentary copies of Cape Cod Magazine (the original version which was in print from 1915-1927)

Aerial view of Seapuit Golf Course from 1892, courtesy of Marstons Mills Historical Society

     Opening night of the new WSGC began at 7:30pm with a half-hour performance from Joe Rines and his Sunkist Garden Orioles orchestra. Sunkist Garden was briefly the name given to the Mill Hill Pavilion located where DiParma Restaurant currently stands in West Yarmouth. The music was followed by a brief introductory discussion by founder James Henderson. He then threw it to a discussion featuring Massachusetts Amateur golf champion Freddy Wright and golf course architect Donald Ross among others. It was fitting for the station’s headquarters. From 9-11pm there was a collection of dance music featuring the likes of Jim Moynihan’s Orchestra, soprano singer Jean Hinkle, and pianist H.C. LeBrie. The night was deemed a success. More than 200 telephone calls were received by midnight with the furthest point heard from being Lexington, Massachusetts approximately seventy miles away.

     WSGC was to be on the air every evening except for Monday between 7:30-11pm typically following the same format of musical interludes and discussions of topics central to life of Cape Cod. The programming found an audience with letters coming in from as far away as Concord, New Hampshire by the middle of August. William Harrison continued to bring in big time local musicians like Chet Copp and the Eagleston Inn Orchestra out of Hyannis. On August 17, 1926 Harrison was contacted by the Department of Commerce from Washington D.C. informing him that the station’s call letters were originally supposed to be WJBX not WSGC and that the department was immediately changing them.

Program Listing for WSGC's Opening Night, courtesy of Boston Globe Archives

     The new WJBX continued on with its successful programming six nights a week throughout the remained of the summer. It was announced that as Labor Day passed the radio station would cease operating until the following spring. The final night of Sunday September 5th featured a worship service led by Reverend H.P. Almon Abbott and finally a short recital featuring Jean Hinkle. WJBX closed for the season at 11:30pm. On September 13, 1926 the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) created the first national radio network, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
William Harrison stated that due to the station’s success he was excited for the second season in 1927, promising new shows from outside the confines of the Seapuit Golf Course station. The likely relaunch was set for June 1927. Unfortunately the relaunch never came. It is unclear why but WSGC/WJBX ended up being nothing more than a flash in the pan, a test run for what would be coming in the decades that followed.

     James Henderson went back to focusing on his real estate while Harrison went back to Boston to continue his radio career. The Seapuit Golf Course slowly declined through the Great Depression before the entire property was purchased by Canadian ‘Aluminum King’ E.K. Davis. The golf course was abandoned after severe damage during a hurricane in 1944 and today there are very few, if any, reminders of the golf course left.

     Cape Cod would not see a new radio station until the formation of the Cape Cod Broadcasting Company in 1937. Two years later came a proposal by Joseph Goulding for a station on 8 ½ acres of land on South Sea Avenue in West Yarmouth in June 1939. He said the station would have the call letters WOCB for ‘Only Cape Broadcasting.’ A 195-foot tall radio tower was erected and the second-ever Cape Cod radio station went live on October 2, 1940. It ran out of money and folded in May 1943 before being brought back to life by new owners E. Anthony and Sons in May 1944.

A postcard for WOCB from the early 1950's, courtesy of American Radio

     In May 1948 WOCB became Cape Cod’s first FM station. It remained in business until Hurricane Bob felled the radio tower in August 1991 and the owners could not afford to rebuild. The station was purchased by automobile dealer Ernie Boch Sr. to become the flagship station for his Boch Broadcasting. Its call letters were changed to WXTK and the station is still on the air today.

     Despite being the first radio station on Cape Cod nary a word is spoken about WSGC. Perhaps because it only last two months. Perhaps because its home base the Seapuit Golf Course is long since gone WSGC lends itself to being a mere footnote in the long history of Cape Cod radio. However in the legacy of radio stations on Cape Cod there had to be a first and that one was WSGC in Osterville.

In Their Footsteps: Cape Cod History - Angelo's Supermarket                                   

Cape Cod Sunsets 2020 Calendar available at Zazzle here: Cape Cod Living Store

Be sure to check out my website: Christopher

My 5th book, Cape Cod Nights, is on sale at and through Arcadia Publishing

Friday, November 22, 2019

Road Trip Day 6 - Wild Horses and the Long Journey Home

     The 6th day of my epic road trip was to be mostly the drive home.  It began in the small town of Onley, Virginia on the eastern shore.  I left the motel by 9am with one last great place to visit.  This was Assateague Island National Seashore home to loads of wild ponies.  

     There are signs everywhere warning visitors to stay back 40 feet from the ponies, to not feed them, or even entice them to come closer, you will get fined $100.  I parked at the beach first and took a quick look around there and some of the neighboring campground without seeing anything but seagulls.  So I drove to the park entrance which leads you about 3 1/2 miles south into the belly of the seashore.  There are several little roads leading off the main one along with off-road routes and walking/bike trails.  On my way down this road I happened upon a little brown pony grazing and stopped to get a photo of it.  

     Every so often I'd come upon a car stopped in the middle of the road, knowing they saw something good.  After puttering around for nearly an hour and see 1 horse and a deer I decided to head out.  It was when I was nearly at the exit, past the ranger station, that I saw an even smaller pony grazing.  I stopped to get some photos when it began to whine.  A few seconds later a pair of larger ponies showed up meaning this was the baby.  The threesome were followed by a few more ponies and I sought safety back in my car.  I did manage a great photo of the ponies heading down the road though.

     On my way back north I did have one more thing I wanted to see.  A skeletal lighthouse in Delaware.  Reedy Island Rear Range Light looks just like a lighthouse in Marblehead, Massachusetts except that it sits in a field nearly three miles west of the Delaware River.  Not wanting to tempt fate with No Trespassing signs everywhere I grabbed one photo and left, it was not too far out of my way to get there but still seemed like a little bit of a waste of time.

    After having lunch at Panda Express, one of my favorite places although the closest one to home is about 75 miles, I started the long journey home.  Rather than just put home in the GPS I picked stopping points along the way to make the 600 mile drive seem more manageable.  I stopped at a Wawa gas station to see what it was all about before I got too far north to go to one.  I had made the mistake of not stopping at a Sheetz convenience store and wasn't going to make that mistake twice. 

     Piggybacking on my visit to Panda Express my next stop would be Quizno's in Orange, Connecticut.  I used to frequent the chain when the had a location in Hyannis but that closed years ago and I was never willing to drive 3 hours to the nearest one.  Of course before reaching Quiznos I had to stop at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike to stretch my legs.  I managed to get a good sunset photo, although not nearly as nice as the one at Bodie Island Light the day before.

     After sunset I had the obligatory getting stuck in New York City traffic, although my Waze app led me around it as best it could.  I ended up going northwest of the city and then coming down south to get to the Quiznos in CT.  That was my final stop, it was another 3 hours home from there to pull into the driveway at 11:30pm.

     All in all I drove 2,100 miles through 11 states, took 1,000 photos, tons of video I need to edit, and saw many Bucket List places.  I might be tired now but am already thinking of where my next road trip adventure might take me.  Thanks for following along.  These posts have been brief but as time goes on there will be much more detailed articles about most of the towns and attractions I saw just in case anyone needs motivation to go and see them for themselves.  

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Road Trip Day 5 - Wright Brothers, Piers, and Lighthouses on the Outer Banks

     This was the best day wall to wall of the entire road trip.  It began just after 6am. I stumbled out of bed and was able to walk only a few yards outside and was right on the beach to watch the sunrise.  I tried to go back to sleep after but didn't succeed, I was already too hyped up from sunrise.  I was up and out to have breakfast early.  Just down the street was a spot called Bob's Grill - Eat and Get the Hell Out, yes that's on their sign outside.  The food was great, the surf motif was great, I was glad I went.  
     One thing about the Outer Banks, at least the more northern part, is that it was way more developed with more people than I thought going in.  I was worried when I was driving there that I'd need to stop off and get any supplies I needed before getting to the Outer Banks and was surprised when I saw so many malls and restaurants, and tons of souvenir shops.  As I had said before I visited a Publix grocery store and now wish we had one on Cape Cod, it's like Market Basket and Whole Foods had a baby.
     Seeing that NC-12, the road which travels down the Cape Hatteras Seashore, was closed for most of the day due to sand and water from the recent storms this meant I had to wait and take my time enjoying the sites on the Outer Banks.  Gee, what a shame.  Right after breakfast I crossed the street to the Wright Brothers Memorial.  At the top of the 100-foot tall Big Kill Devil Hill is a monument to the brothers and their first flight.  I met a man named Steve from Ohio up there and we took photos for each other, nice guy.  There was also a memorial to the moment of the first flight, along with the markers denoting the flight attempt and stats about it located on the field below the hill.

The monument on Big Kill Devil Hill and the marker where the first flight ended.
     After checking out of my hotel I visited a pair of piers.  Kitty Hawk Pier and Avalon Pier, usually one of them gets shown on the Weather Channel when a hurricane is coming.  The waves were still big even a few days since the storms passed through making for some good photo ops.  Avalon Pier was being worked on so I couldn't walk out on it.

     Next was a little side track to Roanoke Island.  It was here that the first attempt at an English colony in America happened in 1587.  The first English child born in America was Virginia Dare born to this group, the highway that runs much of the Outer Banks is named for her, as is Dare County itself.  The colony vanished and it is still one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries.  Archaeologists found and reconstructed an earthen fort but have yet to find the remains of the actual fort where the 115 settlers would have lived.  Every summer they do a play at the outdoor waterfront theater about this colony.

     It was about 1pm by this point and I decided to go over the the entrance to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and check if maybe they had opened the road early.  By luck they had, although with a warning that they were still working on it so beware sand and water.  I knew it was quite a hike from the entrance south to Cape Hatteras Light, but once you're on the road it seems to go on forever.  It is nearly 50 miles on a beach road, with only pockets of civilization, before reaching the lighthouse.  

     I missed the entrance to Bodie Island Light on the way out, that one is only 6 miles or so from the entrance, but that would be to my benefit later.  They weren't kidding about the road conditions either.  Only a few miles out were front-end loaders removing buckets of sand, so the long trip was made longer when I had to slow down or stop.  One fun little side note is the Bonner Bridge which crosses the Oregon Inlet about 10 miles south of the entrance, both times I drove it there was a flock of pelicans hovering just above my car.  I didn't hit any but the bridge at the top was littered with dead pelicans.

     It took about an hour to reach Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  At 210-feet tall I could see it from a mile away.  The black and white candy cane striped structure is one of the most well known lighthouses in the world.  This was the southern most point of my journey.  It was the top site for me on my road trip, I'd wanted to visit it for years and it's matched only by West Quoddy Head Light as my favorite I've seen.  I tried to soak it all in, shoot as many photos and videos as I could but also be in the moment there.  I had one more spot to see before beginning the long trek north, this time I plugged Bodie Island Light into my GPS.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, reaching higher than the sun.
      Bodie Island Light and the amazing sunset I saw there were happy accidents.  Missing it on the way out, then when I got there I had to wait ten minutes at the entrance.  The road out to it is being repaved and there is a truck that basically leads you out one by one to the lighthouse.  It was worth it.  This lighthouse is also black and white striped and also very tall, 156-feet to be exact.  The lighthouse was bathed in an orange glow when I got there so it was easy to get great photos.  The topper was walking on a boardwalk to an elevated pavilion behind the lighthouse.  It's a boardwalk the entire way due to warnings about venomous snakes located in the marsh.  

Sunset at Bodie Island Lighthouse

     The sunset was amazing but once it was done I knew I had to get to driving.  From Cape Hatteras it was just under 14 hours back to Cape Cod.  I figured the more I drove Wednesday night the less I'd have to do Thursday.  Along the way I got to drive through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  It is 17-miles of bridges and tunnels and also cost $14 in tolls to cross.  By the time I made it across I was ready to stop of the night.  The Eastern Shore of Virginia is more along the lines of what I thought the Outer Banks would be, desolate and sparsely populated.  I managed to find an ok hotel in the town of Onley, not as good as my Outer Banks hotel but whatever.  

     So Thursday begins the long trek home, it is over 9 hours, with a few stops along the way still to see.  When I pull back into my driveway I expect to have put about 2,200 miles on my car.  Nearly 400 were put on it Wednesday but the experiences are worth the highway hypnosis.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Road Trip Day 4 - Jamestown and Finding the Ocean

     Day 4 was filled with driving and seeing only a few places, but those places were worth the drive.  It started with me getting out of Lynchburg early, letting the hotel manager know I was less than impressed with his room and the noisy guests above me.  My original plan was to drive nearly 3 hours east to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia.  I am big on history so Jamestown has been on my to-do list for a long time.  

     A hiccup came with the fact that NC-12 the road that stretches most of North Carolina's Outer Banks had been closed due to the storm that had passed through over the weekend.  The meant my original plan of sunset there Tuesday night was off since it wouldn't be opened until mid-afternoon Wednesday.  I had wanted to do a sunset shoot of the wild horses on the beach at Assateague State Park in Maryland Wednesday night but couldn't be there and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at the same time.  The compromise was to drive all the way up to Assateague from Lynchburg Tuesday, nearly 6 hours, get some shots and head down to the Outer Banks for Wednesday.  In all I'd have done about 550 miles and 10 hours of driving.  

     Luckily my route to Assateague took me right past Williamsburg and Jamestown, I thought maybe I could stop off briefly and see those places and still make it to the horses by sunset.  My love of history topped my desire to see the horses and I got lost in time at Jamestown.  It is impossible to rush when seeing the first permanent English settlement in America.  Every plaque had to be read, every piece of a building's foundation had to be photographed, plus there is ongoing archaeological digging happening.  The Jamestown Church is awe-inspiring.  The current one dates from 1906 and stands on top of where the original wooden church was built in 1608.  That was where Pocahontas married John Rolfe in 1614.  

Inside the Jamestown Church
     Colonial Williamsburg is the neighboring town to Jamestown, it's a third of America's Historic Triangle with Yorktown being the other town.  It is a family-friendly, touristy spot compared to Jamestown.  It has shops, restaurants, tours, people playing the roles of Colonial-era citizens, and more.  For those familiar with it, it is along the same lines as Plimoth Plantation but with more food and shopping.  It is definitely worth visiting, and it was pretty busy for a mid-November weekday so I could only image the lines during summer.

A Colonial-era horse and carriage at Williamsburg.

     After visiting those two places I realized there was no chance I'd make it to Assateague before sunset.  I readjusted my plans and decided to go back to the original which was to head to North Carolina's Outer Banks.  Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a major Bucket List spot and the entirety of the Outer Banks is a place I've wanted to visit for years.  I booked a room in Kill Devil Hills, a beachfront room for cheap which really made my night.  Only when driving down to the hotel did I realize how big the Outer Banks is.  From where I stayed it is well over an hour south to Cape Hatteras still.

     I managed to find a little walking trail in Kitty Hawk that had a neat dock.  Knowing that I still have to wait until Wednesday afternoon to go to Cape Hatteras I decided to save many of the sites on the Outer Banks until morning.  After driving 1,200 miles since Saturday I ironically have no choice but to sit still for a while.  I plan on visiting the Wright Brothers Memorial first.  I kept my trying new places streak going by having dinner at Max's Italian Restaurant and getting supplies from Publix.  They need to build one on Cape Cod.

A secret spot in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
     I did manage to get my shoes soaked at the beach in the town of Duck which was great. Luckily I brought my running shoes in case I'd had the desire to exercise.  Those are now my main shoes with the others drying in my trunk.  All in all it was a much better Day 4 than Day 3, the hotel is great, on the beach, the weather is clearing up and Wednesday should be filled with epic sites to see on the Outer Banks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Road Trip Day 3 - Civil War Bookends

     Day 3 of my epic road trip peaked in the morning and went downhill slowly thereafter.  I left Hagerstown, MD a little after 9am headed for Harpers Ferry, WV.  This part of the day was great. The sky was overcast and it was only in the low 40's but the little town of Harpers Ferry is full of history.  It was here on October 16-18, 1859 that John Brown attempted but failed to start a slave revolt by overtaking the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. It was considered to be a dress rehearsal for the Civil War.  The town, located where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, is home to less than 300 people year round yet welcomes more than half a million visitors each year.  

John Brown's Fort in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

     The downtown area looks and feels straight out of the 1850's with more historical plaques than you can believe.  The highlights include John Brown's Fort where he holed up during the raid on the arsenal in 1859, the B&O Railroad bridge which goes through a tunnel, and the Maryland Heights trail which is a 6.5 mile round trip hike to the top of a rocky hill that overlooks Harpers Ferry.  If I'd have had more time, and it wasn't cloudy I might have attempted it.

     Next was a stop at another Civil War era town Winchester, Virginia.  It is known for its Old Town area that includes Stonewall Jackson's headquarters that is today a Civil War museum.  The area is also a dining and shopping hub that doesn't allow vehicles, only pedestrian traffic.  It was here that I also stopped for lunch and tried something new for me, Bojangles.  Think similar to KFC, there are more than 750 in the southeast, it was a good stop, although messy to eat in a car.  

Old Town Winchester, Virginia
     From there things went downhill.  The next stop was meant to be the north entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Afton, Virginia.  I wanted to drive the scenic route for a little while and get some great photos.  I had an idea that the entrance might be closed due to the time of year, so that was not a total shock.  I went up to the visitors center on a nearby hill, which itself had some amazing views.  The super nice couple that worked inside actually had ties to New England, living at one point in Greenfield, Massachusetts.  They told me there might be an alternative route to get me onto the Blue Ridge Parkway about 17 miles southwest in the small village of Love.  I drove the curvy, climbing route, over 3,000-feet up, only to find that the road was closed still at that point too.  I was pretty disappointed.

     By this time it was 4pm, cloudy, and starting to rain.  I decided to try for my last destination anyway, the Appomattox Court House National Park which was where Lee surrendered to Grant to end the Civil War in 1865.  It was more than an hour south so I was hustling trying to get there with some semblance of light remaining.  The rain came down harder and it looked bleak.  Sunset was at 5:02pm and I arrived there about 5 minutes after.  I raced to at least get a few photos and videos of the McLean House where the actual surrender occurred.  The park closed at 5pm so the rangers were in the midst of shutting it down.  I told them I just wanted a photo and they let me go which was nice of them.  I managed to grab the photos and video I needed and then was on my way.  It was as good as I could have hoped for considering the time and weather.

The McLean House in Appomattox, Virginia
     I ended my 3rd day of my road trip in Lynchburg, Virginia.  It is a pretty nice college town, home to Liberty University.  I continued my streak of trying something new for dinner by going to Firehouse Subs.  There are more than 1,100 locations in the country but none closer than 75 miles of where I live.  That was a good choice.  The hotel, not as much.  They didn't take cash, my AAA discount was not close to what the website had offered, plus the people in the room above me sounded like they were killing each other most of the night.  I got up earlier this morning and am bypassing a shower just so I can get out of here.

     Due to the big storm that passed through the Outer Banks, North Carolina access road is likely closed until tomorrow afternoon.  This means I have to do some clever rerouting to see all I want to see and still make it home late Thursday.  Starting Day 4 heading to historic Jamestown, Virginia!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Road Trip Day 2 - The Office, Chocolate, and Battlefields

     My second day on the road saw me wake up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I had a few more sites to see including the 'Welcome to Scranton' sign from The Office located in the Marketplace at Steamtown.  Unfortunately being a Sunday the mall did not open until 11, meaning I had to get a later start than I'd have preferred.  I visited the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour at McDade Park.  The tour wasn't open yet so I walked the grounds for a bit, it is a nice wide open area with underrated views of the Moosic Mountains.  Before visiting the mall I stopped at the Steamtown National Historic Site only a stone's throw from the mall.  It is a railroad museum with many old locomotives outside and actual live trains running as well located at the site of the former Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad .  At the other end of the parking lot is the Electric City Trolley Museum, kind of a cousin to the railroad museum.  

     Technically there is a sky walk to get to the mall but it was locked so I had to drive the few yards to park underneath the mall which is neat.  I was going to take the elevator up but a screaming child changed my mind, high-pitched voices echo quite loudly in a parking garage.  The Marketplace at Steamtown is pretty big but it has a lot of empty storefronts.  It has a Crunch Fitness near the Scranton sign and a few big stores I've never heard of in New England like Boscov's which is a department store.  After getting a photo taken of me at the sign it was time to leave Scranton behind.

     Next up was a visit to the sweetest place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania.  It definitely feels like something created in a dream.  The street lights are topped with Hershey Kisses, the buildings even look like thy're made of chocolate.  The Hershey Park amusement park was pretty busy for mid-November, the screams of people on the rides could be heard even on Chocolate Avenue (their Main Street).  I made sure to pay a visit to the Hershey Story Museum and the store inside because of course I would.  The friendly lady that rang me up wished me a 'sweet day' which was fitting.

     Time began to be an issue as I flew from Hershey to the state capital of Harrisburg.  Luckily I wanted to visit the State Capitol building first and since it was Sunday there was nobody working.  I was able to park and take a walk around the few blocks surrounding the capitol.  I crashed wedding photography on the steps of the capitol, but they were almost done so I just stayed to the side, although they might be in part of a video I shot.  The view from the steps of the Capitol Building gives a great view of State Street out to the Susquehanna River.  I had wished I could have stayed longer but I had one more important site I wanted to visit before it got dark.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol 
     It was about 45 minutes to get from Harrisburg to Gettysburg, specifically the National Military Park Museum which I'd wanted to visit for years.  I love history as you can tell if you've read my blogs before, and the Civil War is fascinating to me.  There are several sites related to the battle located near the museum and you can actually do a driving tour to the sites, or you can walk like I did.  It was a fine walk out to the battlefield and soldier's cemetery.  What I thought were squirrels foraging for food in the brush ended up being close to 10 deer, yes I finally saw live deer in Pennsylvania compared to the 2 dozen or so I'd seen as roadkill.

     The battlefield at Cemetery Ridge is dotted with memorials of the units who lost their lives.  It is considered the most important battle of the Civil War, and the bloodiest with 23,000 Union soldiers, and 28,000 Confederate soldiers (more than 1/3 of Robert E. Lee's army) losing their lives in July 1863.  It was exciting for me to be there but definitely tempered with sadness looking over the rolling fields knowing how many people had died there fighting for what they thought was right.  I visited the Gettysburg National Cemetery a few yards from Cemetery Ridge, it is the final resting place of more than 3,500 Union soldiers, many of whom are known simply as a number on small stones.  It is also on these grounds where Abraham Lincoln gave the legendary Gettysburg Address.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

     After staying on the cemetery grounds well past sunset, trying to get my camera to work right, I had to walk nearly a mile back to the museum parking lot which made me wish I had driven.  Originally I had wanted to drive well into Virginia to find a place to stay for the night, however I really wanted to visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia so I compromised.  

     I stayed in Hagerstown, Maryland, only about 1/2 hour from Harpers Ferry.  I got to watch a raccoon stealing trash from the hotel dumpster which was fun, but overall it was a relaxing night.  I had dinner at the nearby Hagerstown Family Diner, it was very quiet there on a Sunday evening but the staff was friendly.  The food was great, Country Fried Steak, and I was lucky to get to watch the Patriots playing, of course I had to keep quiet about that since everyone else in there kept talking about how much they hated them.  Sorry they beat your Eagles everyone.  I also stopped into a Weis supermarket which I'd never heard of until tonight. It was good too but I noticed they don't have marshmallow Fluff down here, not that I wanted any, just a curiosity. 

     It was a slightly shorter day, less than 250 miles total but just as many great places to see.  Day 3 starts with Harpers Ferry and we'll go from there!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Road Trip: Day 1 - Into the Wild


     The first day of an epic travel journey began before 9am.
Luckily it was sunny although cold, only got up to about 35 at best during the day.  Although I wanted to stop and shoot photos and see as many sites as possible, I also wanted to get far enough away from home to feel like this was an adventure.  I drove more than 3 hours to the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts out in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.   

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At the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge
     I thought it might be a quick stop over to get my feet wet but it ended up being a few hours which is not a bad thing.  I highly recommend the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy.  It is a religious spot, but even if you are not religious it is filled with beautiful photo ops which is what I focused on.  The people who run it are so friendly and make you feel welcomed even if you're not there to attend mass with them.  

     If time allows, and you should make it, take in the Norman Rockwell Museum which showcases his illustrations.  It also is home to his studio and the amazing view of the mountains which lay outside of it for inspiration.  Before leaving I took a walk down the quaint Main Street of Stockbridge.  It has the classic feel of a mountain town and makes you want to stick around a while.

     I continued west into Upstate New York and the town of Hudson, routinely considered one of the best small towns to visit in the United States.  Wanting to stretch my legs after so much driving I took in a pair of parks, Promenade Hill Park and neighboring Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.  It was at the latter that I spotted the Hudson Athens Lighthouse out on the river.  Wanting a closeup photo I ran down the railroad tracks and found the perfect spot.  Luckily the train that was coming passed while I was a safe distance away.

     If beautiful homes are your thing definitely stop at the Olana State Historic Site just west in Greenport, New York.  It was the home of noted landscape painter Frederic Church and holds incredible views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River from high up on a hill.  By this time it was unfortunately closing in on sunset just after 4pm.  I decided to drive the back roads rather than the highway in order to find a perfect sunset spot.  

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Sunset on the porch of Olana with the Catskills and Hudson River in the background.
     By sheer dumb luck I saw a sign for Saugerties Lighthouse in the town of the same name.  I hustled down to the Hudson River to get a shot not realizing that it is more than a 1/2 mile walk to get out to it.  It was after sunset now but the colors and solitude at the lighthouse were worth the cold and increasing darkness.  The lighthouse is also a Bed and Breakfast but I had no intention of staying.  I wandered back along the path in the dark and cold, surprisingly when I returned to the parking lot there was another couple just getting ready to trek out to see the lighthouse.  I did not feel as crazy.
     My end for the day was Scranton, PA.  Home of The Office. I have been a huge fan of the show since it originally came out so getting to see some spots mentioned in the show was a no-brainer.  Just an odd side note.  While driving south through New York I saw lots of deer everywhere, running, eating along the side of the road, just like squirrels.  Once I crossed into Pennsylvania I still saw lots of deer, only now they were all roadkill.  

     I got to Scranton after 7pm and after checking into my hotel headed right back out.  I had intentionally not eaten all day so I could have pizza at Alfredo's, the 'good pizza' from The Office for fans of the show.  It was worth it, though I burned my mouth on it.  The place was packed as it was a Saturday night but I sat at the bar and got to people watch, and listen, especially to a pair of ladies sitting next to me that could have been a reality show on its own.

     After Alfredo's I stopped for a beer at Poor Richard's Pub, a frequently mentioned spot on The Office.  It's actually a smaller part of a bowling alley but they definitely embrace their Office connection.  I outed myself as a fan when I bought a souvenir cup which prompted the friendly bartender to bring over their own Dundie award to show me.  That was the perfect cap to a long day, over 400 miles of driving and so many fun places I saw for the first time.
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The Dundie award at Poor Richard's Pub
     Day two starts by finishing off my time in Scranton, and then heading south! Stay tuned!