Tolkien wrote: “not all those who wander are lost.” Ed and Rachel Barnhart are this sentiment sprung to vivid life. When they retired in 2004, the intrepid RVers hooked up their Alfa Gold fifth wheel on a mission to see all that God created and man constructed…and find the best pizza in the USA. From the beaches of Seattle, Ed and Rachel set their sights on Maine. From there they would turn south toward the sunshine, only to be greeted by the worst Mother Nature had unleashed in decades. Undaunted, the Barnharts headed off into the sunset, through the southwest and across the Rio Grande to the shores of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. From sea to shining sea and back again, all in their first year in the “Land of Awes.” In Chapter 12, having officially traveled from one ocean to another, Ed and Rachel fall in love with Cape Cod.
As we parked the truck along the shores of the Atlantic we took a moment to let it sink in: our cross-country trek is over. The first leg of our journey has been enchanting, enlightening and inspirational – better than we could have ever hoped – but our journey in the Land of Awes is far from complete. Soon, we will head south – but, first, we have more of New England to explore and a Lobster Party to crash.
Crossing the narrow-laned Bourne Bridge onto Cade Cod was a little tense. We have encountered quite a few bridges where the engineers did not seem to have big rigs in mind, but this one was really tight. We made it across without event, but the return trip loomed in the back of our minds for our entire week on the Cape. After dropping the Alfa at an RV park in East Falmouth we went in search of the lobster rolls we had seen advertised along the way. When initially planning our trip, Rachel had circled the date for the Maine Lobster Festival. Not being much of a crustacean fan I was willing to tag along while she savored the “wonderful buttery goodness.” After all, she indulged my loved for the mining industry back in Butte (see chapter 2), so the Lobster Festival would be my turn to “take one for the team.” I ordered a lobster roll purely in the spirit of our adventure. One bite banished my ambivalence. A few more and I was hooked!
But “wonderful buttery goodness” is hardly all there is to love about Cape Cod. The drivers are overwhelmingly considerate, the most conscientious we have seen anywhere else the U.S. When they saw us coming, instead of trying to dart out in front of our relatively slow-moving rig, they stopped and waited patiently for us to pass. This courtesy was not just reserved for the obvious tourists, either. The drivers we saw were both alert and mindful of pedestrians as well as other locals. Heartwarming displays of courtesy in the Age of Rage and a nice balm for the road weary after the white-knuckle drive across the Bourne Bridge.
Our port of call on Saturday was the oldest town on Cape Cod, Sandwich. We gave ourselves all day to get there and managed to use every minute of it. We drove up and around the coastal “hook” from Falmouth to Provincetown before finally landing in Sandwich. Our senses were on overload for the entire trip. Surrounded by history and bracketed by the Mighty Atlantic and
Cape Shore Near Falmouth
Cape Cod Bay, we were, quite literally, in the Land of Awes. We marveled at the distinctive buildings, sentinels that had weathered the notorious storms of this coast since before the founding of our Republic. Even the smallest cottages had personality, warm and welcoming for over three centuries.
Though these homes have been replicated in subdivisions from Tampa to Phoenix, the neighborhoods here are not laid out in the typical grid pattern. Instead, they flow away, in and around what were once winding wagon trails. Our eight-foot-wide dually engulfed the roadway. We traveled secondary highways through the towns, detouring as often as possible to follow the sea. Because of our zigzag track, we relied heavily on the GPS to keep us going in the right general direction. We took our time and soaked in as much Atlantic Coast culture as we could, gladly turning what might have been a two-hour drive into an all day expedition. Rachel, our official trip photographer, snapped over 600 digital pictures. Time to take it ALL in. One more reason to love the RV lifestyle.
Speaking of, there are several comfortable RV resorts in and around Falmouth, most with a beautiful Atlantic Coast view. Each has its own particular ambiance and target crowd. You may want to base your choice on your itinerary. Some parks offer nearby ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island. Others are in town or right on the beach. So call ahead for the best option for your plans and your party.
Dusk was upon us by the time we reached Sandwich. In the failing light we searched for and found the Calvary Chapel on Quaker Meetinghouse Road where we planned to attend in the morning. At the service Pastor Toni Marinelli spoke out of Philippians 4 regarding focusing on good things. What you focus on grows, so look on the bright side. Great advice!
After the service we toured the Sandwich Glass Museum. Thousands of pieces of glassware from the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company were on display. The company was founded by one of the most famous early colonial glassmakers, Deming Jarvis. A British Loyalist, he continued to import glassware and furniture from England even after the Revolution. When the War of 1812 ended his import business he established a glass factory. Jarvis’ company continued to produce even after his death. It was eventually taken over by Anchor Hocking.
Our next stop in Sandwich was the Dexter Grist Mill. Leo Manning, the town miller, explained the milling process.
Two types of stone were used in New England. The first, solid granite stones, could be had just about anywhere in the area. The second, French buhr stones, were brought over in pieces as ships’ ballast. Once unloaded, the buhr stones were shaped, covered with plaster and bound with steel. Though more work than a solid granite stone, the buhr stones were preferable because they were porous and did not overheat as quickly. Still, even these stones might burn the grain, so the miller had to “keep his nose to the grindstone” sniffing for the telltale odor of burned grain.
Because there was no common currency in the New England colonies at the time each town operated on the barter system. And, because everyone always needed a steady supply of grain, the mill became the de facto meeting place for trade. Gathering at the mill eventually became a social event. Villagers came early and stayed late, giving birth to the term “milling around.”
We did the same, immersing ourselves the colonial culture of this truly historic town. The next stops on our tour of colonial New England include the iron heart of Massachusetts and the stepping-stone for all New England, Plymouth Rock.
Read previous chapters by selecting one of the links below:
Chapter 12 - At the Atlantic and Around Cape Cod
Chapter 11 – Marches, Mozart and Mozzarella
Chapter 10 – Loving Life on the Road
Chapter 9 – Picturesque Settings & Police Surveillance
Chapter 8 – Erie Museums and Niagara Mist
Chapter 7 – The Amish and Edison
Chapter 6 – Dutch Treats and Bavarian Festivals
Chapter 5 – Two American Icons – Miller Beer and Chicago Pizza
Chapter 4 – Touring the Twin Cities
Chapter 3 – Discovering Middle America
Chapter 2 – A Trip Around the Sun
Chapter 1 – Pacific in the Rearview, We Wave Goodbye