The next morning we set out for our next destination of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. My parents live there, and after not seeing them for about a year, we had to make our last “goodbye” before setting out for the west. It also happened to be mid-August, aka: the BEST time of year to be a tourist on the island, or the WORST time to be a local on the island. (I love it!, but for locals or hermits, they tend to stay inside and wait for the tourist droves to leave the island for the summer.)
In typical Vanlife unplanned fashion, we rolled up to the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole, MA without a reservation in our over-sized vehicle. As a seasoned island visitor, "Old-Rigid-Planner-Extraordinaire-Katharine" would have NEVER allowed this, as this was the biggest, busiest week of the year and people typically need reservations months in advance if they want a specific time and date they need a boat. Lucky for us, "Flexibility" is our middle name and the Van Gods were looking down on us. Not only did we not have to wait long, but we got on the next boat out to the island! Score for spontaneity!...Lucy and Comet's (the van's) first boat ride!
First things first, we had to get Lucy over her fear of water, which we were able to do on the first day we were on the island. She took one doggy paddle in the Lagoon pond in Oak Bluffs and never looked back. We also took her to the new dog beach at across from Eastville Beach in Vineyard Haven which the MV Landbank has just opened for public use. Now we can’t get Lucy away from the water, not even a puddle. After months of trying to get her into the water, all she needed was a little Martha’s Vineyard. (Me too!)
Illumination Night was also going on that week, which is another awesome island tradition. In the center of Oak Bluffs is an old Methodist camp of 318 gingerbread cottages organized around an open air cast iron tabernacle. They are all privately owned, but a lot of people rent them out throughout the summer. On the 3rd Wednesday each August, all of the houses and porches are decorated with illuminated Japanese lanterns. After dark and a patriotic community sing at the Tabernacle, all of the lights are turned on at once. It is an amazing sight to see. I have been going to Illumination Night every year that I have been on the island since I was 8, and it still never gets old. We also have a family friend who owns a cottage, so we also love to visit her, and sometimes help decorate!
Next up was the Agricultural Fair, which happens the 3rd Thursday – Sunday in August, just after Illumination night. (I told you this was the best week on the island!) This year we waited until Dog Show Sunday to go, which was great, because we got in to the fair before it opened, but not so great for our dog parent egos. We stupidly decided to enter Lucy. Between her being a 7 month old rowdy puppy who just had to dive into the pool before the show and my non-existant showing skills (aka: me being the only handler over the age of 9), there’s a reason we now call her “Last Place Lucy!”….My poor baby…! If the contest was for most spirit, I’m sure she would have won!
So after dusting off our bruised egos, we got to watch pig races and venture through the artisan barn, which houses the contest entries and winners for everything from needle-craft to the best sunflower. They even had a picture of Last-Place-Lucy! (See below.) And there are of course rides and games, but Humz has an extreme fear of carnival rides breaking down, so we never go on those.
Our other notable Vineyard faves include:
Burgers at Fat Ronnies in Oak Bluffs
Firemen's Fireworks in August in Ocean Park
Flying Horses in Oak Bluffs (Nation's Oldest Platform Carousel)
Lounging in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs
Watching the Bridge Jumpers at the Jaws Bridge at State Beach
Coffee & Snacks at Behind the Bookstore in Edgartown
Edgartown, East Chop, and Aquinnah Light Houses
Backdoor Donuts in Oak Bluffs
Shopping on Main Street in Vineyard Haven
After a successful 8 days on the island, we knew we had to get off the island between a Tuesday and a Thursday, since those are the only days they have standby for people without a reservation. (We were able to finagle a reservation, but not until the following Tuesday, so if we didn’t make it on a boat on Thursday, we would have to wait another 4 days for our reservation.) So we got in line at the Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority at about 1pm on a Thursday (the last possible time and day of the week before they close the line…or so they say.) Then we proceeded to wait…..and wait…..and wait. We finally made it onto a ferry at around 6:30pm. We watched a boat make 2 round trips to the mainland before we made it onto another boat. (Each way is about a 45 minute boat ride.) But that’s the glory of vanlife right? Sometimes not planning goes really well, like when we first got to the island. And sometimes things are not so easy, like when we had to leave the island. Much to the dismay of my mom, who is a walking, talking billboard for having a ferry reservation months in advance, especially in the summer, we had to keep reassuring her that we were “winging it” because our vehicle is our house and we don't have make it back to make it to a 9-6 job. My parents did hang out with us in the van for a few hours in the standby line before we left and actually realized how pleasant it was…I even got my mom to eat some non-gluten free snacks that I prepared in our van kitchen while we waited. And leaving on the 6:30 boat gave us a great open air sunset view from the van! So it did work out after all!