We left Sturbridge, Massachusetts and headed to our campground at Sandwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod. We knew it was the Friday of a long holiday weekend so we left Sturbridge early to beat the traffic. All was good until we were about two miles from the Sagamore Bridge from the mainland onto the Cape. It took us an hour in stop and go traffic to get across the bridge. We were glad to arrive at our campground in Sandwich and get set up.
Sandwich was incorpo-rated in 1638 and is the oldest town on Cape Cod. While in Sandwich we visited the Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center. The canal is an artificial waterway connecting Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay and is part of the Atlantic Intra-coastal Waterway. The seven mile long canal moves along the narrow neck of land joining Cape Cod to the mainland. It is approximately 480 feet wide and 32 feet deep, cutting off 65-166 miles of coastal travel around the tip of the Cape. Another benefit of the canal was no longer having to sail around the treacherous outer shores of Cape Cod. At the height of the commercial shipping era from 1880 to 1900 there was nearly one shipwreck every week. Approximately 14,000 people use the canal yearly.
It was interesting to learn that in1623, Miles Standish of the Plymouth Colony scouted the land for a potential canal route but the idea was too much for the settlers to consider. Then in 1697 the General Court of Massachusetts considered the first formal proposal to build a canal but no action was taken. More energetic planning with surveys took place in 1776 with George Washington but none of these actions was completed.
Commercial construction began in 1909, it was first open to vessel traffic in 1914, and has been operated by the Army Corps of Engineers since 1928. It is designed to be a sea level waterway and is operated 24 hours a day, toll free. There are no locks even though it connects two bays with very different tidal cycles and ranges. Two highway bridges and one railway bridge cross the canal from the mainland to the Cape. During World War I the canal was used to move shipments when German sub-marines were off the coast of Cape Cod. We enjoyed touring the Visitors Center with their friendly volunteer, movie about the building of the Canal, and numerous exhibits. As a side note, Bill met and talked with some people later in the day who grew up and live on the Cape and they think the canal is too expensive to maintain and keep running and it should be filled in.
On our trip to Europe a couple months ago we met Bob and Sue, a couple who live near Cape Cod. When they learned we would be visiting their area this summer, they invited us to stop by and visit. On Sunday we were invited to a cookout at their home. We had a great time meeting Sue’s mom and step-father, some of their friends and neighbors and of course their adorable bulldog Stella. Thanks Bob and Sue!!
Another day we drove 34 miles along beautiful, scenic Route 6A (Old King’s Highway), passing through quaint towns and villages. Centuries ago the Route was a Native American Trail and then as Colonial settlements grew, this route became an extension of the Plymouth Colony and later a major route for Cape Cod. Route 6A ranks among the top scenic byways in the country. One thing that struck us was how patriotic all of Cape Cod looked for the Fourth of July holiday with so many homes and businesses displaying red, white and blue buntings and flags. Back in the days of the early settlers the wealthy merchants and sea captains did not covet waterfront property like people do today, so most of the older homes are along this highway rather than the shoreline. Needless to say the area has strict town codes and many efforts have been made to preserve these old homes. It is the newer homes you see along the waterfront.
Cape Cod is divided into fifteen towns, and within those towns are villages. For example Hyannis is a village in the town of Barnstable.
We stopped in the village of Hyannis to visit the JFK Hyannis Museum. This is not the Kennedy Presidential Library but a small museum focusing on the Kennedy family and their time on Cape Cod.
We stopped by the JFK Memorial at Veteran’s Beach. While there we looked for a geocache at the nearby Korean Memorial. We quickly discovered a young couple from Germany were also hunting for the same geocache so we had fun finding it together!
We took pictures in picturesque Wychmere Harbor, one of the most photographed places on the Cape.
The town of Yarmouth is the Cape’s second oldest town with more than 600 buildings of historic architectural significance. At one time more than fifty sea captains had homes in Yarmouth and a one mile stretch of road was known as Captain’s Row. In South Yarmouth we found an eight sided windmill. The windmill was built in 1791 in North Dennis on Cape Cod by Judah Baker to grind corn. In 1886 it was moved to South Yarmouth. Since 1953 the town of Yarmouth has been responsible for the windmill. It has undergone extensive restoration but still contains the original mechanical equipment. It is located in a beautiful setting near the Bass River adjacent to Nantucket Sound.
Our next blog posting will be about our day on Martha’s Vineyard.