Catching up with Martha’s Vineyard: Old and New

The On Time III ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquidick.
The On Time III ferry from Edgartown to Chappaquidick.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as plunking down in a seat at the top of the MV Martha’s Vineyard on a sunny Saturday bound for a weekend on the island. You’ve managed to park the car, taken the seven-mile bus, and now the it’s just you the happy crowd and the seagulls. Every experience on MV starts with this feeling.

Our accommodations at the Dockside Inn began with an introduction to Loomis, the hotel’s virtual concierge, who was said to be able to answer any question we could think of about the island’s restaurants, the hotel, or anything else we need to ask during our stay. The only catch is that it had to be submitted in the form of a text message. Ok, that’s cool. We queried Loomis about which of the two new Thai restaurants in Oak Bluffs he recommends…he liked one atmo better than the other but his imprimatur proved useful as we really liked the pad thai and the price.

The Sai Mai Thai restaurant is located in the former pool table room of the Ritz, a famous Circuit Avenue dive bar, where there is still a half wall between old and new. With just five tables, we saw many patrons turned away, and for dinner on MV the price could not be beat!

I observed many changes in local institutions during our bike ride and when we had lunch at the Lookout, overlooking the ferry terminal in OB, I asked our server about music venues here on the island. Once there was the Hot Tin Roof at the MV airport, a big room where national acts like Toots and the Maytals once played. Now it’s Flatbread Pizza, he said, no longer any music. And the Atlantic Connection, once a big dance club on Circuit Avenue, is now catering to teens–it’s an amusement arcade. “The only music here now are small groups, three or four, no place for big bands any more,” we were told.

Even Edgartown’s David Ryan’s a bar that’s served drinks on two levels for decades, is now gone. But most of Etown’s Main Street businesses remain the same.

During our bike ride down Beach road, we enchanted a gaggle of teens who were about to jump off the bridge into the channel. “Jump, jump jump, they yelled, egging each other on. We spent some time atop the Edgartown Town Dock, that wonderful lookout that’s been a part of every visit I’ve ever made to the island. Watching the On Time III traverse the narrow channel to Chappy, I related the story of Senator Kennedy and showed Mary Dyke’s bridge on a map.

The system of buses and bike trails here on MV continually gets better and better, although I never noticed that the bike trail stops about a quarter mile short of Oak Bluffs center. We illegally rode on the ocean side’s concrete sidewalk to avoid the narrow strip on busy Beach road. I like that they employ people to sell bus tickets and they are full of good answers to the many questions visitors pose. That’s a whole lot better than making you buy them from a vending machine!