After one of my many breakfasts at The Black Dog Tavern, I will do one of two things. I will either jump on a bus to take photos in Menemsha and Aquinnah or I will just start walking. On this particular morning, I did the latter. Heading down Beach Road, I began to make my way toward Oak Bluffs. The walk around West Chop is a beautiful one, but it doesn’t get you anywhere except back where you started. I like a walk that makes me feel like I’m making progress. After grabbing a coffee to go at Black Dog Bakery, I was off!
Beach Road is a great way to start. There are a lot of interesting things to see, but it’s not the best part of the walk. That makes it a great introduction. There are a few shops and restaurants including The ArtCliff Diner, a great spot, as well as Garde East which gets great reviews and is on my ever-growing list of things-to-do. It seems counterintuitive that the more things I do, the longer that list gets, but there you have it. After the restaurants and a few smaller businesses, I pass through the shipbuilding yard. I find this fascinating. Living most of my life in Toronto, I don’t see a lot of shipbuilding yards. For me, it’s Martha’s Vineyard affording me another little glimpse into the past, and I’m always on the lookout for a boat that resembles The ORCA…of course, I am. JAWS is everywhere after all.
Lagoon Pond Bridge
After the shipbuilding comes the Lagoon Pond Bridge. Now, this bridge is apparently a drawbridge, at least, that’s what they tell me, but I have never seen it go up, nor have I been able to figure out how it’s supposed to do so. I have walked across it many, many times, and I still can’t figure it out. I have been in car line-ups while it was apparently happening, but it was so far up ahead that I could not see any goings on.
There is a lot of extraneous paraphernalia attached to the bridge if it isn’t a drawbridge. After its completion in 2016, I read a lot of articles about it costing $41,000,000 to build, but how it works is a mystery to me. I suppose, it might be part of a colossal joke. All of the islanders, whom I’ve met, have a great sense of humour so I wouldn’t put it past them. If I ever get photos of the drawbridge at work, I will be sure to share them with you, but until then, all I can do is walk on. After the bridge, there’s a short stroll past a few houses (one of which was Ellen Brody’s house in JAWS The Revenge, just saying), we come to the kind of bucolic walk that you would expect from Martha’s Vineyard. This is where the walk really washes over my soul and I grin like a fool the entire time. I turn left…
East Chop is one of my favourite parts of The Vineyard, which is probably why my two main characters in my Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries live on East Chop Drive. It is far enough off-the-beaten-path to not get much traffic, yet close enough to be accessible for a nice walk. There is more traffic on the east side of the chop, but west of the lighthouse, there is hardly any at all. When you turn toward the chop, you will head downhill. In fact, the west side of East Chop is pretty much at sea level. This causes some problems with flooding during rain storms, but it sure is beautiful. The houses are not enormous, but they are lovely. Every home is a weathered cedar shingle structure, as you might imagine, with a large porch to take full advantage of the ocean view.
The roadside is dotted with wild flowers. Every time I walk this route, it takes me ages to get past this point. My camera just keeps going. Roses, daisies, and many more that I could not identify. I have heard of an app that you can get to take a photo of plant life and it will tell you the name of the plant—I want to get that app. As I walked a little farther, I found myself surrounded by water. Not only did I have the ocean on my left but I had Crystal Lake on my right. Unlike its nominal, big screen, counter-part with the goalie-masked serial killer, this Crystal Lake is a beautiful lake—serene with only a few Vineyard homes nestled onto the shore opposite East Chop Drive. There is something about being surrounded by this much water and greenery that does the heart good. I feel it everywhere on this island.
I still get as excited as a school girl when I come upon The Brody House from JAWS. What can I say? JAWS does something to me, although I will tell you this: I used to come to Martha’s Vineyard to see Amity Island, to see JAWS, but now, more often than not, I watch JAWS to see Martha’s Vineyard. There has been a changing of the guard. I’m not sure when that happened exactly, but something has changed. Maybe the two are just completely interwoven now in my head. Regardless, I still feel that feeling when I pass The Brody House. It feels good.
A little further up I came to the East Chop Lighthouse. While the West Chop Lighthouse was the third of the five lighthouses to be built on Martha’s Vineyard, the East Chop Lighthouse was the last. It was built in 1875. Walking up to the top of the chop and watching the ferries and other boats go by in the small park that surrounds it, is one of my favourite ways to spend the morning. I started walking downhill, headed toward the centre of Oak Bluffs.
I used to give Oak Bluffs a hard time. In fact, I think my main character called it “the Atlantic City of Martha’s Vineyard” in my first novel, The JAWSfest Murders. He wasn’t giving it enough credit. Oak Bluffs is such a pretty spot with a lot to recommend it. I remember the first time I walked down from East Chop armed with a good camera, I couldn’t get over the beauty. Very rarely had I seen Oak Bluffs from this angle; I was always coming at it from town and looking up New York Ave, not the other way around. On a summer day, with the sun licking at every wave, the sparkling light is almost blinding. I love walking along the boardwalk with the ocean on one side and the antique wooden edifice of The Summercamp Hotel on the other.
Every time I am on Martha’s Vineyard, it seems that all I do is eat. That’s probably not true—not entirely true—I have just spent a thousand words describing a good walk after all; however, just before that walk, I ate and now, in Oak Bluffs, I’m going to eat. This time, on a day like today, I’m heading to Nancy’s Restaurant. I don’t know if it’s because I just walked the harbour and I’m not ready to give up the shimmering view, or if it’s because as I walked along that harbour, I could see the huge Mako Shark hanging over the restaurant entrance, calling me in. Calling me up and onto Nancy’s fantastic patio for a pint of Bad Martha’s and—you guessed it—a lobster roll!
I can, and have, spend almost all day strolling Circuit Avenue. I’ll stop in at Sharky’s, and I’ll peruse The Corner Store. There is never a shortage of things to do. There’s even the arcade if you’re so inclined, but I haven’t been in there since I played Killer Shark in 1977. I’ll talk to friends and pick up a few things at the terminally cool, Slip77. Slip77 is the perfect place to get truly stylish but still comfortable clothing for both men and women. I have a lot of their clothing, it wears very well, and the store itself just has a great island vibe. As far as trying new things, MV Salads is on Circuit Avenue this season and I’m dying to try them! They posted a photo of a salad with beets, avocado, and lobster on their instagram and I nearly passed out. They’re on my list…
A little farther down on Circuit Avenue, I can spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the work of my friend, Michael Blanchard in his inspirational Crossroads Gallery. Michael’s work is mesmerizing. It’s no wonder he has become, arguably, Martha’s Vineyard’s foremost photographer. There’s no question that Michael’s genuine spirit, openness, and honesty has created a very deep connection with a lot of people, but when it all comes down to it, it’s his talent that put him on the map.
Any and all of these things keep me busy on Circuit Avenue and this day was no different. The sun shone on my face and I milled about, bumping into people I knew, and going for coffee. Circuit Avenue was where I spent most of my afternoon that day. Eventually, I walked over to Ocean Park and then went for a swim in The Inkwell—I love that beach.
I don’t like to have a plan when I’m on The Vineyard. Too much of my life gets planned for me in my day-to-day life as it is. Trying to keep to a schedule on my holidays would defeat the purpose. Every day, I plan to get up and I plan to eat. Other than that, well, let’s see who I bump into—hey, it’s The Vineyard!