Leaving the Cape successfully takes an act of God combined with a little fortune telling, and some traffic savvy. Let’s take a look at a typical scenario. You’ve had a great weekend with a lot of beach time resulting in sand in your swimsuit bottoms, burnt face and shins, and a little dehydration. Still you’re having a good time. You enjoyed a few fancy dinners in a well-lit tourist café with a French name, probably in Hyannis. You succumbed to the lure of the $6 Cape Cod T-shirts (2 for $10). You reluctantly played miniature golf at one of the hundreds of courses avoiding the windmill traps, followed by an over-priced ice cream cone at the Four Seas. Unfortunately, there was no time to catch a Cape League baseball game. Maybe next time. Then you’re forced to start thinking about leaving because playtime is almost over. 0-dark-30 is fast approaching where you should have a plan and some fortitude to get off Cape in a relatively quick fashion.
What was my last Cape visit like? It was somewhat uneventful and unlike the tourist experience. I was visiting my parents and my sister who live in the heart of the Cape. We don’t usually do tourist stuff, except maybe the beach. The residents put up with the swollen summer population and the choked streets. Anyway, I ventured down there late on a Wednesday night and stayed through the weekend. I worked remotely from Hyannis and overpacked, bringing an overnight bag, beach bag, computer bag, and my dog McDermott, although he wasn’t packed. I decided to go to the beach every morning allowing me some “me-time” to relax and regroup before starting work.
With my toes in the sand and my eyes fixed on the horizon I felt at peace. I set off by 7:30am each morning, when there were very few worshipers. I basically had the whole stretch to myself. Slowly people arrived, an elderly woman in a sand chair with a book, a Latino family of five frolicking in the waves, and a couple of baby-boomers under an umbrella. It was kind of fun to be a voyeur between salty dips in the water and roasting in the sun. I can be nosey that way.
However, Saturday night I had to start thinking about what time to leave the next day. So, I play this imaginary game with myself. My theory is people will prolong their weekend if they can have another nice beach day; maybe they leave early evening. Therefore, I can escape on a sunny Sunday morning without too much traffic. On a dismal day, people will start their trek home early. No sun, no beach. So, I would stay put and leave later in the day. So far, I’ve proven this assumption about 80% of the time. The odds are with me, right? Wrong.
After having breakfast out with my sister on a gloriously hot Sunday morning I felt like it was time to leave. The warm sandy beaches would be packed I thought. Plus I was anxious to get home to end
the weekend with my partner. So, I no sooner paid the check, and I was packing my car. The plan was to say my goodbyes, get McDermott in the car, stop at Dunkin’s for a large ice coffee black and sail home. I hoped that the Route 6 runway to the bridge would be clear and uncongested. I entered the on-ramp with blind faith, a full tank of gas, air-conditioner blasting and a full playlist. I was ready for anything.
Everything started out fine. But a couple of miles into the journey the traffic went from a bit sluggish to a full stop; an endless parking lot as far as the eye could see. Cars jostled between lanes to get inches closer. I couldn’t help noticing a sign on the side of the road that said, “Evacuation Route”. It struck me as ironic because there was no way Route 6 could evacuate all the residents at the same time. Expelling the weekend’s first shift of visitors was clogging the road, never mind adding a whole population. My brilliant theory was losing ground, and I thought I was being extremely clever. Sitting there, I felt like I was aging in dog years. My patience was draining as I sucked on my green spearmint vape and exhaled a cloud of contempt.
I sang along with the music, checked McDermott in the rear-view mirror, thought about the weekend and gazed ahead at the chain of multicolored car roofs that rose up the hill in front of me. Is going to the Cape worth the hassle? I think so. Getting there and crossing the bridge transforms you. The salt in the air relaxes you causing a comforting lull in your mind. All worry and concern dissipate the closer you get to the shore. And when there, you can soak in the many sights, sounds, and smells of the beach, the delicious fresh seafood and the friendly and colorful merchants. It’s an exquisite place to lose yourself. In the grand scheme, miscalculating traffic upon your departure is not fatal, only a minor annoyance. Afterall, think about all the precious memories arranged in your bags to be slowly unpacked when you finally get home.