Why do I find Cape Cod so enticing? It must be more than the combination of beach, bike paths, fried seafood and miniature golf.
The appeal is the opposite of modern timeshares that offer geographic flexibility. I like visiting the same place each year finding traveling new back roads. Many of these secret nooks cannot be found in the blinding light of the summer tourist season. Some parts of the Cape must be appreciated in the off-season. That is why a weekend visit to the Cape made our fall campaign adventure list.
Rebecca and I started our off-season visit at one of the most crowded summer locations. Ember Pizza, located in Harwich Port Center at the site of multiple failed restaurants, specializes in coal fired pizza & wings. All summer Ember featured 90-minute waits; some nights the restaurant even halted takeout service.
It is one of those annoyingly busy places. The negative online reviews reflect the frustration of arriving at a place expecting a laid back night of wings and pizza and seeing that a lot of people had the same idea. The fight for space begins as soon as one pulls into the parking lot.
However, once the crowds are gone, the blueberry pizza is worth the no wait at 9 o’clock on a Friday night in November. The pizza uses blueberry puree as sauce, which is no crazier than barbeque sauce used on BBQ chicken pizza or the tomato sauce normally used for that matter. The blueberry is paired with gorgonzola and prosciutto for the sweet & salty combination that makes us all forget about leafy green vegetables. You should order the peach salad to at least assuage your conscience.
On Saturday morning we visited Reed Books to indulge our book buying habit. In a previous blog entry, I discussed our breaking the book ban after a long year of no books and the specialized attention we received from the owner.
Another indulgence is the Chocolate Sparrow, an espresso and chocolate bar in Orleans. It is open till 11 o’clock every night and offers free Wi-Fi. I have spent evenings writing or playing poker when I needed space from my family during a vacation. The Sparrow is a place to do something with bored visitors to when there is nothing to do. Rebecca and I used the space to practice for our bridge lessons Saturday afternoon.
I don’t mean to suggest Cape Cod is our Vegas. If we are down for a week, we mostly grill in, we have plenty of vegetables and take a lot of long bike rides. There are just certain things we save for the Cape. For example, it is the only location were my family keeps premium channels. Part of our visit was to watch Season 6 of Weeds on Showtime.
Another reason Rebecca and I went down was to share fond memories of a trip we took the previous November when were still plutonic friends. One that trip night, I took Rebecca to Buca’s, an upscale Italian restaurant also in Harwich. Even on an off-season Saturday night Buca’s was full, but they made room for us at the bar.
I have been going to Harwich for 5 years now and that night is one of my top three meals. Behind the bar a TV played L’Aventura, which I had seen but Rebecca hadn’t. Maybe that dinner simply offered the best of the Cape: a very safe and familiar place with a veneer of strange and exciting.
For our full length Cape Cod autumn adventure we walked along the deserted beach. We let Shula run free and she had a blast rubbing herself in the wet sand and eating seaweed, urges she cannot indulge during the summer.
I am not sure what I wanted to happen. For once, I didn’t want to play paintball. I just wanted to walk to the water’s edge, though we often had to step in to rescue the ball Shula liked to chase but didn’t understand to fetch.
We ended the weekend watching the Dolphins lose to the Ravens at Tommy Doyle’s in Hyannis. In the summer, I’d never waste daylight watching sports. Now was different. I had come to the Cape to spy on the people who live there. The adventure of visiting the Cape Cod in the off-season is to try very hard to feel like a full-time resident because those people have the best view of the changing seasons.