Traveling, Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard

Last Morning on the Mainland

I wake up in that jolting way that only happens on a plane. The traditional announcement that “we are starting our descent into Boston” has just come across in a somewhat audible tone. My row-mate is still dozed off. She and I had chatted briefly once onboard, both relieved that the middle seat was unoccupied by chance, but we didn’t go into further detail. It’s always challenging to make small talk on a plane and then usually descend into awkward silence. In this case, a little chat is all that’s needed, especially on a red eye.

The plane lands smoothly and there’s a wait for parking at the gate. I see a few flights departing, presumably heading back to the West Coast, maybe going elsewhere. Our plane parks, the unloading is a clunky process as usual. Among the three-quarter full range of passengers, maybe 10 have been wearing masks for the journey. I think briefly about how wearing of masks are moving at rapid speed from a physical question mark to something that is more mandated. I realize, since we’re “early” arriving at 4:50 am, that I’ll probably be able to make the first bus back to the Cape. I remember that my ticket isn’t officially from Logan, though, meaning I’ll have to get on the Silver Line and mosey over to South Station, then wait in the arrivals hall. I have an hour or two to play with, so I feel it’s okay.

I’m off the plane and moving along. I look back at the display to see where the plane is going next. Slingshotting back west to Los Angeles at 8:05. The arrival gate of choice is about as far back as it can be, but it’s not a long walk. I look at the gate I’d departed from six days ago. Today’s plane is going to Detroit, a place now in my past, but still on my “regular visit” list. I move right through the must exit area and check the phone for the time. It looks like I could make that first bus down to the Cape. There’s the bus! I hustle over and make it on, alongside between five and ten other passengers.

The driver notices my ticket is from South Station and gives me a light chiding for boarding at Logan instead, with its corresponding higher fare. I say I hadn’t planned to get this bus – not lying – and that’s fine with him. As it turns out, no one boards at South Station. I remember that the northbound driver last week had been fine, no comment made, about my riding all the way to Logan.

As we leave Logan, there’s also the now-traditional moment of passing under the airport departure signs. In nearly three years of being back in Massachusetts and now going SOUTH rather than the traditional/historical NORTH to “go home” from Boston, the airport has become the only place where it still feels weird for me to do that intentional geographic shift. Except this time, I notice that a new sign has been installed, now adding Lynn instead of only Revere as a featured destination, and for some reason that makes me feel more settled.

Of course it’s dark outside as we settle into the southbound ride along the steady southeast Expressway. I try to doze back off with uneven success. Now my thoughts turn to how to spend the two or three hours in Hyannis. It can be organic once I get there. Eventually the sun starts to rise as we cross the Cape Cod Canal, just after 6 am.

The Hyannis transportation center is quiet when the bus pulls in. My car’s still there, so the weeklong parking experiment worked out. I get the long and short feeling of time passing as I walk back to the car. I catch the sun finishing its rise on the hood and decide to drive around town to see what’s open, and because I have never been in Hyannis at this hour. Main Street is expectedly quiet. I find one place open – the Sea Street Café – as I loop back on the more residential eastbound one-way sibling of the street.

I’m the only customer, unsurprisingly, and choose a seat in the middle of the restaurant. I tell the waitress that I’m settling back into Eastern time after a red-eye flight. I can’t tell if she believes me. I order my traditional diner meal of pancakes with scrambled eggs on the side, plus an orange juice. It goes down well. I continue to be aware of my need to get to the Woods Hole boat, but also feel like I can be as leisurely as I want.

After the meal, the sense of time picks up speed as I go “up” to the more commercial area of Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and additional stores in the Hyannis commercial district. Target is first. It’s my second time in their new store that opened last fall, part of the renewal efforts at the Cape Cod Mall. My impression is the same disappointment that I felt on the earlier visit – the store feels cramped and like the inventory is selective. I get what I need but feel like I’ve forgotten a few items. The last item is a white mocha that I don’t really need, but it tastes good as I go around the corner to Trader Joe’s. It’s a little after 8 am.

I know what I need in the store, and decide to be more modest this time around, except for getting two gallons of lemon ginger echinacea juice. I’ve secured it all, is it time to head back in the direction of “my” island? The closer-to-Hyannis island is on my mind, however, as I realize I could go back “down” to the (other) Steamship Authority terminal to watch the (other) ferry depart to the (other) island. In fact, I’d done that same activity exactly a year ago today, so I decide to do it again.

The wind has picked up considerably as I pull into the terminal staging area at 9:13. The Eagle is getting ready to leave, so I snap a quick “selfie” with it in the background. I want to take a video of it reversing out of the dock, too, but I’m a few seconds too late to catch the boat horn, so all that gets recorded is the slightly creaky movement, and the turn to starboard isn’t as pronounced as the Woods Hole routine of the boats.

Time is still moving along but I have a few more minutes to spare. I’ll head back “up” to Whole Foods, located in a different area than where I was earlier, but still relatively close to the other destinations. I only get a few things. The cashier says that one item is two-for-one on Wednesdays. I tell her I don’t consume enough to make the discount a valuable one.

Now it is time to head for Falmouth, after one last stop at the Speedway on the edge of town. Always best to get off-island gas, and to allow a few miles of higher speed driving before the boat and going back to maximum of 45 MPH on the island.

Route 28 is moving at a good clip; I think back to other recent times when it had been slower on this stretch, and the previous time in particular, when I’d been in even more of a hurry. Nonetheless, time is still moving along, so once at Mashpee Commons, I decide to take the more expedient Route 151 bypass route through Mashpee and North Falmouth. That does give me a few extra minutes to take the “back way” into Woods Hole, in part because I like to close the loop differently than I started it and remember that I took the “regular” route out of town last week.

The back way is comfortable, and this time, I take it all the way into Woods Hole. It’s still early, so it’s not busy, but I do see that my boat has arrived, so I loop up and around the hill back down to the ferry entrance. It’s the same two or three people as usual and they still don’t recognize my car or name. I drive around to the line and sit back and wait for boarding to begin.

I don’t know that this is an indefinite one-way ticket back to the island. That the ferry schedule will be drastically reduced 10 days later, or that the coronavirus will soon rear its invisible head at a speed that seems hard to imagine.

For now, another off-island excursion has come to a close. I board the boat and reflect on the successful weeklong adventure as familiar island sights return to view.

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