President and Ms. Obama enjoy a low-key Vineyard vacation

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File photo by Gail Daman

Saturday, August 10

At about 3 pm, houses shook and people craned their necks skyward as the thundering engines of two Osprey V-22 helicopters announced the imminent arrival of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, for eight days of rest and relaxation on Martha’s Vineyard. Note: The next reporter to use the adjectives “exclusive,” “tony” or “elite” to describe Martha’s Vineyard will be permanently banned from our fair Island.

The two helicopters ferried staff, press, two mesh bags of basketballs, the first dog Bo, and numerous not-so-secret service agents to Martha’s Vineyard airport. Islanders have noticed the increasing presence of secret service agents since before the president’s visit was officially announced in July. Although the federal agents went to great lengths to blend in, their ironed shirts and creased pants made it clear they were not from here.

The Obamas arrived about 15 minutes after the Osprey helicopters aboard the presidential helicopter Marine One, and boarded a black car.

There was no sign of daughters Sasha and Malia.

The roughly 20-car motorcade headed up Island to the couple’s vacation house, the $7.6 million Chilmark estate of Chicago pal David Schulte, on Snail Road. The motorcade passed bystanders taking pictures on Edgartown-West Tisbury Road and a large crowd waiting outside Alley’s General Store.

The White House released pool reporters shortly after 5 pm, indicating that the Obamas would not be going out on their first evening.

While this is the fourth time the president and his family have vacationed on the Island since he took office, it’s the first time the Secret Service has closed a road for security measures. While closing the short stretch of South Road irritated some residents to Roundabout levels, the suggestion of Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi’s that drivers use North Road has prompted some residents to wonder why they didn’t take that route in the first place.

Sunday, August 11

It was a sparkling, sunny day for the Obamas’ first full day of vacation. However, fire danger was “high” according to the sign on the corner of Barnes Road. After a leisurely morning, the president went to Oak Bluffs for a round of golf at Farm Neck Golf Club, where he arrived at about 11:35. The commander in chief’s foursome was rounded out by Marvin Nicholson, White House chef Sam Kass, and Robert Wolff.

The president three-putted the first green. Contrary to rumors, no one in the press corps yelled “Noonan!” on his backswing. The round took about five hours.

The motorcade pulled away from Farm Neck at 5:04, after the president stopped to chat and shake hands with an adoring crowd that assembled during his round.

The president and first lady had dinner at the Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs with a group of seven friends, in a private upstairs dining room. The president chose grilled swordfish from the menu. The White House did not release any information about the Obamas’ dining companions. At about 9:15 pm, the president and Ms. Obama came downstairs and spent about five minutes chatting with the restaurant staff and posing for pictures inside the front entry, before leaving the restaurant.

Monday, August 12

After receiving his daily briefing from National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice, the president headed out for another round of golf, undeterred by the rain. The motorcade passed the usual waving crowd at Alley’s General Store.

The motorcade arrived at the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown a little after noon. The president’s foursome was made up of former Clinton advisor Vernon Jordan, former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, and Allison Davis, a Chicago lawyer and real estate executive. Despite the current USGA’s “While we’re young!” campaign to stop the nationwide epidemic of slow play, the president’s round, for a second time, took about five hours. It’s doubtful that crowded course conditions was the cause.

At about 6 pm, the president and Ms. Obama traveled to the West Tisbury home of 2012 campaign advisor Broderick Johnson and his wife, former National Public Radio host Michele Norris Johnson, for cocktails. The White House released no information about who else was there. The Obamas left the party at about 7:30 pm, returning to Chilmark, where they stayed in for the evening. As always after cocktail parties, the president had a designated driver.

Still, no sign of the kids.

Tuesday, August 13

The president spent the wet, overcast morning at his vacation house. It’s not known if he slept in, or even if that’s possible for a president, but given the weather and the apparent absence of any domestic or international crisis, this was the perfect morning to do it. As he’s done on his previous visits to the Island, the president went to Nancy’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs for lunch. He greeted manager Doug Abdelnour, owner Joseph Moujabber, and other staffers. The commander-in-chief did not have to take a number to order at the takeout window. The White House confirmed that the chief executive’s order included fried shrimp, fried oysters, onion rings, and French fries. There was no comment from Ms. Obama about his dietary choices. Presumably, the lunch was still warm after the quick trip from Nancy’s to the Oak Bluffs home of senior adviser and longtime friend Valerie Jarrett on Sea View Avenue.

The motorcade left Ms. Jarrett’s house at 2:17 pm, and made a six-minute drive to Oak Bluffs School where the president somehow managed to play basketball after a lunch of fried food. As a ploy to get out of the rain, pool reporters challenged the president and his coterie to a pickup game, but were flatly denied by the silent stares of Secret Service agents. The president played basketball with Eric Whitaker, Marvin Nicholson, Sam Kass, and “other staff,” according to the White House.

The game ended around 4 pm and the president was home by 4:30. The president has had consistently good luck in avoiding back-ups in August Vineyard traffic.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president planned to visit a local bookstore, as he usually does at the beginning of his Island vacation. Although this soggy day was ideal time for the president to make his usual visit to Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, neither he nor the first lady did so.

For dinner, the Obamas went to the Beach Plum Inn restaurant in Menemsha, where they had dinner alone. The White House did not disclose what they ordered, but it’s very likely at least one dish included “foam.”

The first couple left the restaurant at 9:18 and got home shortly thereafter.

Unlike President Clinton, President Obama has spent little time away from his rented vacation house during his evenings on the Island.Perhaps not coincidentally, there’s still no sign of the kids.

Wednesday, August 14

After a briefing from Ms. Rice on the outbreak of violence Egypt, the president headed to Edgartown for a second round of golf at the Vineyard Golf Club on a glorious golf day. The president played the private course two days ago in soggy conditions. The motorcade passed by the West Tisbury Farmers Market, passing up the chance to pick up local produce, goat’s milk soap, or a Khen Tran’s egg roll. The usual small crowd at Alley’s General Store waved to the president as he passed.

The president arrived at the Vineyard Golf Club at 10:55 am. His partners were Jim Kim, president of the World Bank, former US trade representative Ron Kirk, and Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast. No Chappy residents were on hand to press Mr. Roberts for cable and Internet service.

The president left the Vineyard Golf Club at 4:08, after another five-hour round.

About an hour later, the first couple left Chilmark and traveled to the West Tisbury home of Mr. Roberts. He and his wife Aileen hosted the Obamas for cocktails, before the President and First Lady returned to State Road Restaurant, another Island favorite of theirs.