November 24, 2020

On the Beach. Provincetown in the distance on the left.


Nothing soothes the soul like a walk on the beach.



It’s 6:30 AM on a foggy Sunday in Marlborough.  The air is still and damp in the predawn darkness when the four of us, Christine, Phyllis, Waldo and I, meet in the Hannaford parking lot next to exit 24 off Interstate 495.  The chance of rain was forecast to be 5%, but a very light drizzle, more of a heavy mist, really, left everything solid covered with a thin sheet of moisture.  Gassed up, we leave one car behind in Marlborough and take the other two down 495, then onto its extension, Rte 24, and over the Bourne bridge to US 6 and Cape Cod.  Two and a half hours after we left Marlborough, we arrive in Provincetown.  Following our well-oiled routine, one car is parked at our end point, in the lot below the Pilgrim Monument that towers above the town like a massive Egyptian stele.  By that time, the sun has been up for a good two hours, the sky is blue, not a cloud in sight, the temperature hovers around 60 degrees and a gentle breeze tickles at the small hairs on my face and arms.  From Provincetown, we take Christine’s king-cab pickup, Waldo and I in the back seat, Christine and Phyllis in front, to where we start the day’s walk – a parking lot just off US 6 in Truro.

On May 15, 1602, coming from the mainland, Bartholomew Gosnold landed near Provincetown.  Later that day, he caught a great deal of cod and, as a result, decided to call the area Cape Cod.  The name stuck.  On November 9, 1620, the Mayflower sighted Cape Cod on their way to the Colony of Virginia, where they hoped to settle.  After two days of trying to fight strong winter seas and failing to sail south, they returned to the safety of what is now known as Provincetown Harbor.  The Mayflower Compact was drawn up and signed and, as they say, the rest is history.  The Cape served the colonists with its excellent fishing grounds and its deep-water harbor, considered the best along the coast.  Provincetown was incorporated in 1727, but had only a small population throughout most of the eighteenth century.  After the Revolutionary War, Provincetown grew as a fishing and whaling center.  As early as the 1890s, the town developed a resident community of artists and writers, as well as summer tourists, that flourishes today.  Notable residents include Norman Mailer, Eugene O’Neill, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tennessee Williams, but the list is very long.  A gay community grew in the liberal artistic atmosphere, and today, 163.1 per 1000 couples are same-sex, the largest in the country.

Our trek starts out on Castle Road, a narrow, paved street that heads, in a general winding kind of way, toward the western beaches of Cape Cod Bay.  It isn’t long and we can see the blue waters of the bay drawing us onward like honey bees to asters.  We find a path, that is no more than two ruts drawn in the sand, called “Old Colony Way” and follow it north.  A left turn then takes us down a long set of wooden steps to a broad, smooth, beach with sand that’s solid-ish and easy to walk on.  The water is shallow with little surflets that lap at the shore with waves no more than a few inches high.

Waldo is, at first, a little skittish about the water.  After less than a minute, however, he overcomes his first reaction of “what the hell is that?” and gingerly approaches the water’s edge. The waves roll in toward him and he soon is playing tag with the undulating waters.  It’s cute to watch, it always warms my heart to see him having fun, as he wades in and splashes about.  Until he starts lapping it up.  I envision a sandy, wet, sick, puking puppy producing really foul-smelling diarrhea the consistency of seawater for the entire two-and-a-half-hour drive home and decide I have to cut his fun short.  I try to give him fresh water from the supply I carry for him, but he isn’t all that interested.  He longs for a taste of the sea.

We walk for a good eight or nine miles on that beach.  For much of the way, Christine and Phyllis are out front a good piece, absorbed in conversation, and periodically have to wait for Waldo and his anchor.  There are a handful of other dogs and people doing as we are, sauntering along, walking in the sand next to the sea, enjoying a beautiful day.  The entire time, we can see the Pilgrim Monument in the distance — a stone needle thrusting high up into the blue sky above Provincetown.  Deep blue water lay between us and that spire as the beach gently arcs to our left around a quarter circle.  Slowly, as we plod along, the monument grows in stature until we are so close, it disappears behind the wooden buildings of the town.  Stiff and tired, we climb another long set of wooden stairs, walk down a narrow alley and pop up on Commercial Street, the narrow one-way main street of Provincetown.  It comes as no surprise that the place looks like the archetypal artist community, with many small tourist and art shops and restaurants.  We stop and have the most delicious grilled cheese lobster sandwich and a slice of cheese pizza, sit and chill in the shade on a park bench, then get in the car to head home.  Waldo makes it home with no undo ill effects.

This is maybe the best walk, on the best day, of the entire journey.


Commercial Street, Provincetown.

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