I am tired of Legos and Pokemon cards and Rainbow Looms. So as my son's 9th birthday approached, it was very clear that his gift would not be found at Toys R Us or Walmart. I knew that he would not be neglected by others in the toy department; however I was sold on giving him an experience...a memory of a great day with his mom.
I planned a day on Martha's Vineyard. Honestly, I've spent so much more time on Nantucket, professionally and personally, that I was really excited to do something that was new for both of us.
A couple of weeks before we left, I called Bill Anderson of Anderson Bike Rentals in Oak Bluffs. I have worked with him for years, but have never met him in person (this happens to me a lot). I asked him if he would be open because I was bringing my son over for his birthday and I'd like to stop by to meet him. I was glad that he, in fact, would still be open on weekends. A few days before we left, I started thinking about how cool it would be to bike the Vineyard...now THAT'S something I've never done! My son loves to bike around the neighborhood, but what about actual biking? And then there's the little fact that I haven't been on a bike in, oh like, 20 years...before helmets were even a consideration. The idea intrigued me and scared me a little. It would be a challenge. It would be different. It would certainly be an experience. So we decided to go for it!
We took the high-speed ferry to Martha's Vineyard and arrived at about 10:30am. We checked in with Bill Anderson, who is a stone's throw away from where the ferry docks at the Dockside Marina in Oak Bluffs. Bill has been there renting bikes since 1971. He said, "Oh, I've been renting bikes since before you were born!" and I admitted that it wasn't that much before I was born. We were outfitted with a couple of nice bikes, helmets, bike lock and chain and he even offered us some water (of course, I'd already packed water, apples, hand wipes, kleenex - you know, the typical mom things). He and his daughter Kathy asked about our plans and we told them that we were headed out to the Island Alpaca Company in Vineyard Haven. Kathy kind of gave me a look and said, "Really?" and I asked if it was too far. She said no, as long as you can bike a half-hour. Nah, no biggie. She gave us a map and drew some custom directions and we were off!
On the ride to the alpaca farm, it was about half regular roads and half bike trail. I was really happy that we were there in October so that traffic on regular roads was light. So we biked. And biked. And biked some more. Whew - it was so long since I'd been on a bike and I felt it! The terrain is pretty flat around these parts, but even the little hills were a bit of a challenge. Thank goodness it was a beautiful, sunny day in the low 60s and we could bike in t-shirts. The directions were spot on and we arrived at the alpaca farm as she said, in about a half-hour.
I've been to the alpaca farm once before, but my son had not. It's a lovely farm (I think someone said they owned about 20 acres) with an abundance of alpaca, maybe 75 to 80. They breed them, sell them and have a great little gift shop featuring mittens, gloves, sweaters, scarves, yarn, toys and gifts made with alpaca wool. If you have never been introduced to alpaca fur, it is incredibly soft. All of the alpacas have tags around their necks with their names on it, which is great. We went out back where most of them were hanging out and eating and one of the staff members was also there answering any and all questions. I could tell how much this woman loved her job and these animals. I loved sharing this visit with my son because even though we don't own any, we really do love animals.
We walked back to the bikes, had a snack and water and biked back to Oak Bluffs. We stopped by and saw a friend at the Oak Bluffs Open Market, which was great. There were artists selling their wares and a guy singing and playing guitar. Needless to say, the boy was hungry and we quickly moved on. We went out for lunch to one of my favorite spots - Sharky's Cantina. We love Mexican and this is the place for it on the Vineyard. It was packed, the New England Patriots were on and the food was fantastic (as usual). Then, of course, he had to have dessert so we stopped at the only place that was still open, Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium.
And then he wanted to bike. More. After stopping, it was hard to get motivated to get my now-sore captain's quarters back on that bike. But I did and we biked the Campground and Gingerbread Houses, and then Ocean Park which is picture perfect (I just read on TripAdvisor that it is the #2 attraction in Oak Bluffs). As you may be able to guess, I was getting really tired and losing steam. After Ocean Park, we biked the scenic route along the ocean, back to Anderson's bike rentals to hang it up. I was all done.
We had an hour before the ferry to Hyannis left, so we walked around (had to hit a gift shop for something) and then ended up visiting Petey at Coop de Ville. The Coop de Ville is a restaurant on the water in Oak Bluffs that Hy-Line has partnered with the past couple of years for a fall day trip special to Martha's Vineyard. He was having his annual pig roast that day and by telling you that it was well-attended is putting it lightly. He also had this great band playing on a boat so we cuddled up on a bench (due to exhaustion), people-watched, soaked up the last of the Indian Summer sun, and listened to some tunes. Seriously, everyone needs to go to Martha's Vineyard in the fall. For real.
That night, after I put birthday britches to bed, I went on Google Maps to figure out how much we had biked. I was shocked to realize that we had biked at least 10 miles that day, and I felt it.
So no, none of these birthday presents can be wrapped, or played with, or later in life be donated. But I'm OK with that because this way, he'll have them forever.