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Saturday, October 14, 2000 - 11:00am by Lolo
65 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay
I had been to Provincetown many times when I was a child and had fond memories of its beautiful beaches and picturesque town. I can still remember standing out at the end of MacMillan Wharf when I was about 10, watching with fascination as the seagulls followed the returning fishing boats, looking for a free meal. Or, walking with my dad out on the dike at the west end of town for what seemed like a mile and glancing back at what looked like a painting of a quaint fishing village. Or, seeing my mother riding a bicycle for the first time along the trails through the dunes by the Province Lands. There were so many wonderful memories for me here that I just had to come back, this time with my own family.
Provincetown had always been a pretty gay community even when I was young, but it seemed to have become much more so. My first clue to this came when we checked into our campground, and the owner looked at Andrew and Tommy (who were 8 and 10 at the time) and then over at me and said, "You know, this is Ladies' Week, don't you?" Oh, boy. This trip might be a good time for Herb to have that talk with the boys that he's been avoiding.
It was a lovely warm day, so we decided to take a ride over to Race Point Beach, one of Provincetown's two wonderful white sand beaches. Although not warm enough to swim, the boys had a good time flying their stunt kites in the steady sea breeze. After a bit, we drove over to Provincetown's other beach at Herring Cove. Here we could back the RV into a parking spot and watch the sun set over Cape Cod Bay. Herb and I sat in the back of the RV sipping wine watching the sunset, while the boys tossed a football on the beach just outside our window. They were so busy that they didn't even notice that all the romantic couples on the beach enjoying the sunset were the ladies of "Ladies' Week."
The next day, we spent the entire day on our bikes. It was great. We first rode out to the Province Lands Visitor Center, about a mile north of town. There we climbed to the top of the Visitor Center and enjoyed a wonderful view of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding dunes, which we were soon to ride through. That afternoon we rode about 8 miles along the paved bike path that wound up and down the dunes and through a scrub pine forest. The ride was really a lot of fun.
After the Province Lands, we rode back into the town itself, first stopping at the Pilgrim Monument. Most people don't realize that the Pilgrims actually landed in Provincetown first, before settling permanently across the bay in Plymouth. This tower proudly commemorates that fact. After a brief tour of the rather eclectic Provincetown Museum at its base, we climbed to the top of the 252 ½ foot high granite tower for another great 360 degree view, which this time included the town and wharf as well.
After the Pilgrim Monument we rode out onto the town wharf and watched the fishing boats come in. Besides the commercial fishing fleet, there were plenty of whale watching charter boats as well. Too bad we didn't have enough time today to take a cruise.
I love the town of Provincetown, which was bustling even this time of year. Provincetown is made up of a rather interesting mix of people. There are the year round residents, many of which are descendents of the Portuguese fishermen that settled here in the late 18th century. That gives the town of kind of Old World feel. Then, there are the artists and writers that come here to work. That gives the town a cultural feels with a multitude of art galleries and theater, including the well-known Provincetown Playhouse. Then there is the gay community, which has made Provincetown their summer getaway. And finally, there are the tourists that come here to enjoy the beautiful beaches, fine restaurants, and the eclectic feel of P-town.
It was a little difficult riding our bikes along Commercial Street, the main drag, because there were so many people on the street. Tommy, the shopper in the family, kept wanting to slow down and go into some stores, but a vast majority of them were leather or other inappropriate for little boy shops. The town was incredibly quaint though, with its narrow lanes and lovely old guest houses.
When we hit the very end of Commercial Street, we locked our bikes and walked out a ways on the 1/3-mile long dike that was built to protect the harbor. This was the dike that I had walked out on so often with my dad when I was a child, so it brought back a stream of fond memories. I was a little less agile now then I was then, so I didn't leap from rock to rock quite as quickly as my own boys did now.
Since Commercial Street is one way, we rode back along Bradford Street and then back to the campground. It was a good solid day of some wonderful bike riding through some very interesting natural and man-made scenery.
That evening we took the motorhome back to Herring Cove Beach to watch another incredible sunset over Cape Cod Bay. What a beautiful place. I wonder why the Pilgrims left."
Provincetown, or "P-town," is located at the very tip of Cape Cod. Of all the towns on the Cape, Provincetown has the most interesting history.
It was the site of the Pilgrims' first landing before they moved on to a permanent settlement at Plymouth. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries, Provincetown was a prominent whaling and fishing port, attracting many Portuguese settlers. Many of the elegant sea captains houses built during this era still remain, and many of the town's current year-round inhabitants are descendents of these early Portuguese settlers. Most of them are still carrying on their family's tradition of fishing. Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, artists and writers, such as Eugene O'Neill, started making Provincetown their summer residence. Provincetown remained one of America's most renowned artists' colonies until about 1945, when the town became so popular, that the artists fled to find quieter places to create.
While the Portuguese fishermen might enjoy quiet, isolated winters, summers bring a very large and diverse crowd--artists and writers, tourists, and a large gay community. The gay scene is everywhere, from the beaches to the streets to the bars. Straights are definitely in the minority in this summer community.
Things to see and do in Provincetown:
- Commercial Street - the main drag through P-town with its interesting shops, art galleries, and restaurants
- Provincetown Art Association and Museum - exhibits works by noted Provincetown Artists
- Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum - 252-foot granite tower honoring the town's status as the site of the Pilgrim's first landing. Visitors can climb to the top of this 252 ½ structure for tremendous views of the town and surrounding waters. The museum houses a rather eclectic collection of everything from Pilgrim memorabilia to scrimshaw to a model of a Thai temple.
- The Wharf - where commercial fishing boats and whale watching cruises come and go from
- The Provincetown Playhouse
- Many fine restaurants
- Two great white sand beaches: Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach.
- Province Lands Visitor Center and bicycle trails through the dunes
Provincetown location map