Menemsha feels like some small Portuguese village, or some seaside town in Normandy, a quiet, out-of-the-way place where the fish is fresh and the people guarded, even vaguely suspicious, until you spend a few minutes chatting with them, asking about the daily catch, the nearby sandy cliffs, or commiserating over the Celtics’ disappointing loss on the far coast. Then you realize their guardedness is just that understated Yankee reserve and before you know it, you’re friends.
But as much as the idea of lingering here appeals, we don’t. With the bike ferry behind us, up we ride on North Road, back into the Massif Central, my odometer edging toward 50 miles. The sun still burns hot and bright in the cloudless blue sky and we’re feeling the good and honest fatigue that comes from hours in the saddle and the constant absorption of salt air, sun, and island wind. Despite the allure of the relatively shaded Chilmark roads with their massive oaks and maples and scant number of autos, thoughts of a huge fish dinner begin to overtake our enthusiasm for the pedal stroke and in silent mutual agreement we know we’re now riding with a destination in mind – the Edgartown Seafood Market.
We ride with purpose along the aforementioned Edgartown-West Tisbury Rd’s bike path. It’s shady, the surface endearingly toned in places by patches of faded orangey pine needles, and basically bereft of other users. It’s always a good thing, too, after a long day of riding when you’re tired and perhaps allowing the mind to wander a bit, not to have to worry about car traffic. You’re able to find a comfortable pedal pace and lapse, without danger, into meditative calm. So we do and in no time we’re back on the outskirts of Edgartown and parking our bikes on the wooden porch of the fish market just before the tony village center.
Everything in the long glass display case looks appealing and fresh: local cod and marlin, thick red tuna steaks, heaps of littlenecks, bone white haddock filets, a tray packed with olivey-green soft shell crabs, buckets of shrimp. We clomp in our riding shoes back and forth trying to decide what to get, trying to envision how we’d cook this or that and what would be good for starters and how many pounds of haddock and dare we get lobster too? We go with the haddock (to be pan-fried, breadcrumb-coated, in olive oil) and thick marlin steaks (for the grill), smoked mussels (for the salad made from greens growing in Kevin’s garden), and, at my insistence, three soft shell crabs (only three as the Leonator balks, unfamiliar with eating these strange creatures – later on, after I’ve lightly fried them, cut them in half, and placed each half open-faced on toasted bread with mayo and arugula, he devours his share with considerable delight).
Not the best one-handed bike handler, nonetheless I happily take up the burden of carrying the bounty home (the Virginian’s bike satchel already filled with produce purchased up the road at the Morning Glory farmstand). Carefully we wend our way back to the Chappy ferry, wait for the skipper to beckon us aboard, and chug across the cut to the other side. The last stretch, a couple miles on Chappaquiddick Rd, then the long dusty driveway to Camp.
But before setting in to cook, the lure of a plunge into the ocean is impossible to resist. A five minute drive in Kevin’s pickup takes us to Dike Bridge and the Trustees of Reservations at East Beach where, unhesitating, we rush down the hot sand and plunge headlong into the chilly surf in diamondy sparkle splashes.
The denouement to an extraordinary day of cycling comes later, in the gathering evening, our plates laden with the sea’s bounty, our spirits soaring, our thirst slaked, our bodies humming with fatigue and gratitude. We toast each other and offer thanks and praises to the Most High for the privilege of Being in this wholesome place, and for enduring friendships.