Martha’s Vineyard Day 2: Chappaquiddick and the Time I Failed a Moped Safety Test

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There’s still one day left of my summer 2015 Cape Cod/Martha’s Vineyard saga. When we left off, I was on a very strange taxi ride home from downtown Oaks Bluff, to our hotel, the Island Inn, and after three full days of Narragansett and super sun exposure, I wasn’t feeling great when I woke up Sunday morning. This was only exacerbated when I ran into town to collect some Gatorade for our sad-state hotel room, and ran into tons of people bike riding, jogging, getting brunch, and generally behaving like humans who didn’t act like animals the night before. Good times.

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Our Sunday plan were to rent mopeds, and take them over to Edgartown, the county seat of Martha’s Vineyard, which was once a major whaling hub, as still evident by the giant whale’s tail statue that sits by the harbor. It’s by far the most regal looking of the towns on Martha’s Vineyard-if it looks somewhat familiar, it’s because Edgartown may be better known as Amity Island-the fictional NY resort community that was terrorized by a great white shark who liked to eat pretty, drunk skinny dippers, and dogs back in the 70’s. That’s right, Martha’s Vineyard was the filming location of Jaws, which was partially responsible for a tourist resurgence on the island. In fact, the harbor we crossed via the Chappie Ferry (which I’ll get to momentarily, and which also has a Jaws cameo), was where one of the original robotic sharks actually sank during filming.

We planned on driving the mopeds to Edgartown, and then take the aforementioned ferry over to  to Chappaquiddick, a small island off of Martha’s Vineyard’s eastern tip, which occasionally is connected to the rest of the island by a small beach (it’s currently connected, but was separated recently for 8 full years). Chappaquiddick is known for its isolated and expensive, mostly vacation homes, and gained infamy in 1968, which we’ll get too momentarily.

We first attempted to rent scooters, from Sun ‘n Fun Rentals. Yes, attempted, because guess who failed his scooter safety test? This guy. You see, we picked Sun ‘n Fun Rentals, because they were right across the street from where we ate, and because they had a sign saying that they rented bicycles to President Obama last summer-anywhere that is good enough for the President is good enough for us, right? Wrong. Sun ‘n Fun Rentals apparently takes their safety very seriously-too seriously some might even say.

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I want to preface the rest of this story by saying that I’ve rented mopeds/scooters multiple times before. I’ve driven them in Bermuda, Florida (several times), and had just rented them in Lancaster two months earlier. All of these had some sort of safety speech. Most allowed you to ride around the parking lot a bit in order to acclimate yourself. Bermuda had us take a full on safety course (weaving between cones included) because so many scooterists (I made that word up?) got injured. All of these places took into account that most people didn’t scooter regularly and that it would take you a few tries to get the hang of it.

Edgartown harbor, as seen from the Chappy Ferry.
Edgartown harbor, as seen from the Chappy Ferry.

Anyhow, we paid for two scooters (Katelyn and Kristal would be sharing one), were outfitted with helmets, and told to proceed to the main road for a safety test. Sitting right next to busy traffic (am I making this sound worse then it was, obviously!), the guy instructed me to come towards him, and then stop before hitting him. I drove forward, and stopped. He told me to come closer. I inched forward. He told me to accelerate, which I did, way too fast. He wasn’t impressed, and immediately told me he didn’t think I was fit for a scooter. I didn’t try to argue, because being told you aren’t fit for a SCOOTER is embarrassing. He was obviously a very empathetic individual though, because he did allow me to try again. I’ll admit that now I was nervous. This time, once I got close I accidentally accelerated towards him. He told me he couldn’t let me rent anything. I’ve faced a lot of embarrassment in my life. Getting denied a moped is up there. He did say I could try again with the manager, but I wasn’t embarrassing myself further by jumping through hoops for a moped, so they refunded our money.

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I have to say, I went through a bit of a dark time in the five minutes it found use to find another moped shop. I wondered if I was that stupid. I wondered if I was too hungover. I wondered if I looked too sunburnt too function. Getting denied a moped really does things to a guy. Luckily, Kings Rentals, which was right across the street simply proved that some people like to go on powertrips first thing in the morning. We paid for our scooters. and were given the option to drive around the block as a test. Weirdly enough, I was able to accomplish this without incident. Katelyn and Kristal had a little trouble, except instead of talking to them like they were mentally handicapped, the kid working simply showed them what they did wrong, and how to fix it. He also told us that there had been a pretty bad moped accident recently. so maybe that’s why the other guys were on edge?

Apparently scootering in flip flops is frowned upon. This is how I ended up rocking a pair of pink crocs.
Apparently scootering in flip flops is frowned upon. This is how I ended up rocking a pair of pink crocs.

I really enjoyed the mopeds. Despite the fact that you have to share the road with traffic, it’s a great way to see the island, especially because the speed limits are so low, and the road from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown (which is only about two miles) is on the water the entire time.  One of my favorite places we rode through was the Joseph A. Sylvia Beach is where a small bridge, collectively known as the “Jaws Bridge” connects Oaks Bluff and Edgartown. If you’re a fan of the film, this is the bridge the shark swims underneath when it attacks Sheriff Brodie’s son. In real life the bridge is a popular location to jump into the ocean, and was filled with people doing just that.

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Chilling on the Chappy Ferry.
Chilling on the Chappy Ferry.

We arrived without incident in Edgartown and boarded the Chappy Ferry for the 1 minute ride across the 527 foot Edgartown harbor. At $8.00 round trip for a scooter (cheaper for bike or pedestrian-although at least a bike is needed to navigate Chappaquiddick) the ferry is a real steal. The ferries (technically there are two) which resemble small barges, have an interesting history that I’m not going to describe for you. Rather, I’ll let this excerpt, directly from the Chappy Ferry website, do all the talking:

“For thirty-seven years, the Chappaquiddick ferry was owned and skippered by a blind man. It has been struck by a seaplane, splintered by a hurricane, and burned by a mid-channel fire. The ferry served as the setting for a pivotal scene in “Jaws” (as well as a principal camera boat) and played a role in a tragic car accident that changed not only the undiscovered island of Chappaquiddick forever, but possibly American history too.”

The tragic car accident referenced, is what’s infamously known as the “Chappaquiddick Incident”, a 1969 tragedy, where Ted Kennedy drove a car off of a bridge over a small tidal channel, killing Mary Jo Kopechne, a campaign worker for his late brother Robert, which may or may not have effected his decision to campaign for President. The Dike bridge, which Kennedy drove off of, is still standing (albeit, now with railings) and a popular spot to visit on Chappaquiddick, by either bicycle or moped, which seem to be the most popular way to see this island-off-an island. We rode along a little ways, and were truthfully going to ride over the bridge, however we found out pretty quickly that scooters aren’t necessarily built for driving in the sand. I almost bit it several times (the guy from the first moped shop would have been so pleased!). What we ended up doing, was going to the closest beach, Wasque Beach.  At first glance, it didn’t seem like anything special, shitty almost, with a large group of people crowded on a small mound of sand overlooking a tidal bay that looked more suited for fishing then swimming, but a short walk along the shore brought us to one of the whitest, prettiest, and most isolated beaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. We “laid down to get some sun”, and I promptly passed out for about an hour or so.

Wasque Beach on Chappaquiddick
Wasque Beach on Chappaquiddick
Passing the other Chappy  Ferry on the way back to Edgartown.
Passing the other Chappy Ferry on the way back to Edgartown.

As soon as I woke up, I realized that I had moved from “mild sun burn” to “royally F*&^ed.” We had a nice ride back to Oaks Bluff without incident and grabbed one last seafood dinner on the water. My skin was basically bubbling, and I was feeling feverish at this point, so was that asshole sitting out on the harbor on a gorgeous day wearing a full sweat suit and hat.

This was our bus stop in Martha's Vineyard.
This was our bus stop in Martha’s Vineyard.

After dinner, Katelyn and Kristal went to do some shopping. I felt like I was going to pop out of my skin and needed to lay down, so got on the bus back on the hotel, where I almost immediately fell asleep. Some 45 minutes later, I woke up back in Edgartown. I alerted the bus driver, who felt bad because he had forgot to stop at my hotel (I’d let him know to please stop when I boarded). It was my own stupidity, I assured him, and he let me know that he had four more stops before heading back that way if I wanted to go back to bed (I must have really looked that bad). I thanked him, but stayed up this time. I arrived back at the room five minutes before the girls.

This very astute sign was located right near the scooter rental shop.
This very astute sign was located right near the scooter rental shop.

At that point, all three of us were over sunned, over drank, and wiped out, so we enjoyed a quiet night in our hotel room, with the AC blasting, watching a Law & Order: SVU marathon. It was a great vacation, but ended just when I needed it too. We decided the next day to pay some extra money for the express, 1 hour ferry, and after a quick breakfast, were taken back to the Cape, and started our drive back to reality.

My view from the express ferry back to reality.
My view from the express ferry back to reality.

 

2 comments on “Martha’s Vineyard Day 2: Chappaquiddick and the Time I Failed a Moped Safety Test”

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