Off-Season Cape Cod
by Mollie Chen
It was 1 p.m. on Wednesday and I was very annoyed. On Provincetown's main street, the usually flamboyant costume shops and rowdy bars were shuttered and the only cruising being done was by white-haired artists on 1970s-era Schwinns. All three restaurants I had wanted to try were closed until Friday; the downside of the shoulder season. As I peered wistfully in the windows of the darkened cafes, I grumped about how working for a travel magazine means being perennially off-cycle. I've been to Minneapolis in the dead of winter, Antigua at the height of hurricane season, and now Cape Cod in the brisk first days of fall. And yet (when my blood sugar wasn't dangerously low) I've loved every one of those trips.
The benefit of the shoulder season--on the Cape or anywhere else--is that you are forced to live like a local. This past week my mom and I had the Outer Cape nearly to ourselves: the surprising and beautiful kettle ponds in Wellfleet and the endless Truro beaches, both of which are overrun in high season; Provincetown's best restaurants, which were wonderful once we figured out their finicky opening hours; and the seaside bike trails that dipped and rose through the dunes. The clear, crystalline early fall light on the marshes and the ocean made the landscape look like a series of Edward Hopper paintings strung out beneath a glorious blue sky. We hung out with the local artists at the bar of the Red Inn, which sits almost on top of the bay; quickly became addicted to the ultrastrong coffee and breakfast cookies at the Wired Puppy; and tested the oysters at P-town's Bistro 404 (roasted with smoky pancetta) and at Truro's Blackfish (buttermilk battered and fried). There were things I missed about summer--the bay held no appeal in 60-degree weather--but others that translated quite well: the malasadas at P-town's famed Portuguese Bakery are good year-round.