Don’t we have enough books about Martha’s Vineyard already? I thought so myself, for a while. However, the tale I have to tell relates as much to the first time Vineyard visitor as it does to the native with a five generation Island pedigree.
My role, as I see it, is to welcome the tourist to Martha’s Vineyard. I want to show off our high points and acknowledge our foibles and idiosyncrasies. To do so, I share the history of the Island, a story created by generations of Vineyarders who called this place home.
The most unique characteristic of Martha’s Vineyard is the island outlook. It sets us apart. This has bred a rugged self reliance, seen historically in our courageous seamen and determined farmers. Today this individuality is evident in our quirky personalities, our stubborn independence and the bond that draws Vineyarders together, wherever we meet.
We acknowledge life over in America, but don’t totally accept it. Our pride and comfort in island life binds us together to withstand the rigors of isolation in winter and the crowds of summer.
I wrote this little booklet to update information about the Island. There have been tour books before, but not for a while. Consider this a new version of old stories, a fresh tale for the tourists of Martha’s Vineyard.
I’ve only been on the Vineyard a decade, yet I revel in the Island’s history, admire the sturdy souls who struggle to make a living here, and appreciate the peace and beauty the Island affords.
Not everyone loves history, so I curtail my tale with a single sheet synopsis of Vineyard history, appended with a time line at the end of the book.
My personal stake is self-evident, in ‘How I Washed Ashore on Martha’s Vineyard.’ The Vineyard attitude spews forth in ‘It’s a Vineyard Thing.’ Then we get to the heart of the story: ‘An Island Tour’.
I began to drive a tour bus in the summer of 2002. Like most of us, I talk and drive at the same time. My microphone carries to the far reaches of the air conditioned bus, so it’s hard to nap while I narrate. You’ve seen the big tour buses lumber along and slow before a scenic site. We park at the ferry slip like behemoths, awaiting our next meal. Do you wonder what we tell tourists? I tape-recorded myself, then transcribed my words. That’s the pith of the book.
I never thought I’d end up on an island driving a tour bus. Maybe it’s ‘the bigger the boy, the bigger the toy’ syndrome. Maybe it’s the desire to perform, though it’s convoluted as I face my audience only in the mirror.
You should know that tour bus drivers don’t make things up. There’s no need. Didn’t Robert Ripley say that ‘truth is stranger than fiction?’ There’s plenty of truth to go around. That’s not to say we don’t make mistakes or embellish as needed. If we do err, it’s the human element that creeps into the tour to make sure you’re paying attention.
Martha’s Vineyard is a tourist’s mecca. Thousands of people are drawn here each year to savor the flavor of the Vineyard. Tourists can’t live the life we have, but appreciate it vicariously on a narrated tour.
Thumb through these pages before you take a tour to scratch the surface of the Vineyard. Hopefully you’ll be prepared when you take the bus tour. That’s the real thing. Bring the book home to peruse more carefully and enjoy the Vineyard in the off season.
This book is no substitute for a tour, but rather an adjunct. It can reinforce what the tour driver says, and add depth and description to a typical tour. If you’re in a car, you can follow the tour to see the primary sights. Then it’s a treat to dart down to Menemsha or Edgartown and explore on your own.
As you drive along the two lane roads, never over 45 mph, catch the charm of the hanging signs, festooned with a bunch of grapes. Look for quaint street names , Dirt Road, Off the Beaten Path, Line Drive and my favorite, Goah Way. Walk in one of the many conservation sites set aside for that purpose. Stop in a shop and chat with the storekeeper. Walk along a beach to absorb the smell of the salt air and feel the breeze in your hair.
One simple rule: respect people’s privacy. Though fences are few and houses unlocked, we do have boundaries. As do the rich and famous. Enjoy the Island. We’re happy to share it with you.
I hope you appreciate the beauty of the Vineyard through this little book. I certainly do. That’s why I wrote it.