Things to Do

From left: Mariah MacKenzie, Della Burke, and Eva Wilson perform "The Bermuda Triangle" at a previous WIMP performance. – File photo by Ralph Stewart

The WIMP comedy improv troupe is home on winter school break, and is performing on Saturday Jan. 10 at 8 pm. IMP alumni Della Burke, Clare Boland, Carter D’Angelo, Aaron Wilson, and Alley Ellis, and current IMP member Eva Wilson, will perform. This professional troupe has consistently delivered improv comedy based on audience suggestions for six years. Doors open at 7:30 pm for an 8:00 pm show at Alex’s Place. Tickets are $8 in advance and $15/$11 at the door. For more information, call 508-939-9368 or go to the website imp4kids.com. Rated PG -13. Find advance tickets at wimpcomedyimprov.bpt.me/.

Phyllis Dunn poses beside one of her photographs at an exhibit in March 2013. – File photo by Ralph Stewart

During the month of January, the work of photographer Phyllis Dunn will be on display in the community room of the West Tisbury library. “Photography has become a part of my life and a rewarding experience for me. The Island’s beauty at all four seasons is endless, and with my images I hope to share this awareness with others,” says Ms. Dunn. She has exhibited her work at Anchors, Featherstone, Vineyard Gardens, Vineyard Haven and Chilmark libraries, the Ag Fair, Vineyard Gardens, and more. The exhibit is free and open to the public.

Oak Bluffs library converts to a 18-hole mini golf course.

One of several mini golf holes erected at the Oak Bluffs library at last year’s event. – Martha's Vineyard Times file photo

Kick off Mini Golf Weekend at the Oak Bluffs library with “Caddyshack”(rated R), the classic 1980 Chevy Chase and Bill Murray film, on Thursday Jan. 8 at 6 pm. On Friday, Jan. 9, from 5 to 8 pm, enjoy the library’s 18-hole indoor mini golf course, plus food, beverages, and fun. The event is 21-plus and $18 to enter; tickets benefit library programs. On Saturday, Jan. 10, bring the whole family back; mini golf is available from 10 am to 1 pm, free and for all ages. For more information, call the Oak Bluffs Library at 508-693-9433.

Most days, we ended up going to De Tatch for world-class conch fritters and ceviche. —Photo courtesy of Jib Ellis

Last March, we needed to be warm — tropically warm — but we wanted to speak English and go someplace to suit our Vineyard tastes (perhaps where there were no Cadillac Escalades.)

My companion is part mermaid and I was raised by sloths, so she needed to swim with the sunrise and I just wanted a hammock nearby.

Roberts Grove resort sat right on a 16-mile beach with plenty of swimming for my mermaid companion, and even a hammock for me. – Photos by Jib Ellis
Roberts Grove resort sat right on a 16-mile beach with plenty of swimming for my mermaid companion, and even a hammock for me. – Photos by Jib Ellis

We didn’t want condos, Wayne Newton, or miniature golf, nor would we be filled by mediocre food cleverly hidden among overloads of spice. Our destination didn’t have to be an island but had to feel like one. We had both heard wonderful things about Belize but had never been. Thus the research began and Belize began racking up points.

It’s not an island but rather a peninsula. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, to the south and west by Guatemala, and the rest by the Caribbean Sea. It’s also a manageable if not cozy size; the mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. Its non-vastness includes 8,800 square miles (roughly the size of Massachusetts yet just a bit larger than Connecticut) and a population of 340,844. English is the official language of Belize. (Belizean Creole and Spanish are also spoken but English is rampant).

So that was our chosen destination. We were sold on the town of  Placencia in that region but we were cautioned to avoid Belize City, as just another poor, over-run city. We were also warned not to drive. The roads, while passable, were generally reminiscent of lanes to many an up-Island beach, and not recommended.

The dock in Placencia.
The dock in Placencia.

Thus, we flew to the main airport in Belize City and hopped a bug-smasher which took two stops before depositing us in Placencia. A van carried us to our destination, the Robert’s Grove Beach Resort (robertsgrove.com). We had chosen it for its location between a 16-mile beach and yacht basin, its middle price range and reported casual splendor. We wanted as all-inclusive as possible without feeling like we were on a gambling ship with most of mayonnaise America, and we didn’t really need to leave the property. But we did, in golf carts.

The beaches in Placencia featured a few little shops
The beaches in Placencia featured a few little shops

Robert’s Grove describes itself as “Hacienda-styled” in architecture and whatever that means, it had the comfort of the tropics with all the joys of the First World we had grown used to. Our cabana-like unit, lined with tropical hardwoods and magnificent tile, had a large bedroom with terrace facing the sprawling beach, then Europe, a comfortable rattan living room with ample dining area. There was a pool, and I had a hammock.

Our first stop was a swim, then nap, then food. We went to the resort’s own Mexican restaurant — the Habanero Mexican Cafe & Bar — across the road on the ambling lagoon which lingers into the sea.

Thus began our nightly tradition. We had that day’s seafood there and after that whenever we could. Besides the obvious snapper and grouper entrees, there were copious ceviche courses, drenched in fresh lime and utterly fresh fish.

The calamari was crisp yet tender but the limes were showpieces, along with all the fruit.

Unique to the small commonwealth among so many other similar spots in the Caribbean, Belize produces much if not most of its own food, making the prices and quality better. While the theme was Mexican, it was more tilted to the adjoining country than to a North American rendition and while the help was utterly courteous, one particular face won out.

Liston Leslie, the manager at Habanero, was totally gracious and extremely proud of his country and its history. He wanted to show it off and wasn’t craving to be suffering in some U.S. city.

The Belizean people had no intention of going anywhere. They were content, friendly and easy. And Liston had good reason to be our ambassador — he is either a cousin, brother, and/or nephew to half the town. When we asked about a nice place to have lunch in the village, he suggested De Tatch, the sort of beach restaurant where you expect Sydney Greenstreet to come in wearing a white linen suit and order a cryptic drink.

We didn’t want or need to rent a car. Our own sightseeing would be at the controls of rented golf carts. They are open-air, slow enough to genuinely sightsee and rarely crowded on the roads, as cars and trucks are rare.

The next day we went to De Tatch — which it turned out was Liston’s uncle’s place — and had world class conch fritters and again the day’s catch and ceviche, overlooking the beach. We had found what we wanted in atmosphere, ambiance  and beach, and ate there nearly every day.

There are decidedly few settings better suited to slurping fresh fruits — mangoes, papapas, pineapple — with abundant and Jamaica-worthy coffee, than at the breakfast buffet at Roberts Resort.

Belize imports some of the world’s best chocolate. We ran into a couple of hippie-meets-Silicon-Valley chocolate entrepreneurs from the Pacific Northwest who were roaming the beach after attending a nearby cocoa workshop and virtual convention. They told us that historically some of the big names in chocolate had a difficult time staffing the plantations and just up and abandoned some of the vast growing facilities. Now, the discarded plantations house a myriad of these cacao startups and chocolate events abound in Belize (chocolatefestivalofbelize.com, cottontreelodge.com/belize-tours/chocolate-tours.htm).

We rarely strayed from our direct region and passed many a cozy cafe and bar but found ourselves largely at the Robert’s Grove property, which includes a private islet, Ranguana Caye, 18 miles off shore. Ranguana is the size of Cronig’s parking lot, with a scattering of three tiny huts. As part of our package — and I hate to use that word — we were entitled to a diving and snorkeling trip there. We shared the open boat with three generations of a magnificent family from Atlanta. We wanted privacy, this is after all a romantic destination, but the beaming Smiths were good company and our only other Gilligan population on Ranguana.

We didn’t see them and they didn’t see us as we snorkeled with a guide who materialized as if summoned by Herve Villechaize and led us face-down out to reef fish and breathtaking undersea life, until we were drawn ashore for basking.

Our guide vanished, our hunger arrived and soon the smell of shrimp and pasta filled the air. As equally mysterious in her appearance as the guide, a cook from the main dining room prepared a sumptuous sea lunch for the Smiths and us. We ate in a thatched but extremely clean, covered lanai.

Cleared plates vanished as did the staff, and the afternoon was well underway. After another swim, we left and the Smiths remained to stay in the jewels of cabanas facing the sea.

We returned to our splendid digs for more ceviche, fish and conch fritters and hopefully, shall again.

Should I go to California?

Even though I’ve lived on MV for 10 years, I’ve barely explored the rest of the Cape. Are there beaches on the Cape that are more picturesque than on MV?   Quainter towns, sweeter B&Bs, better (gasp) lobster rolls?  What’s still open during this lovely but quieter season?    – DZ

Is there a particularly good reason to go to New York this season? Someone said something about a Thomas Hart Benton exhibit.    – KP

Get me outta here! I need to get off the Island, but I have no idea where to go. I want some place warm, but doesn’t have to be hot, not too-fancy, and affordable. Any fall/winter favorites out there? Should I go to California? Please send favorite places to eat and stay. Thanks! – JS

Got any advice? Got a question for readers? Comment online at MVTimes.com/on-island, or email us at onisland@mvtimes.com.

Foxwoods is a good bet to start with.

The Seastreak fast ferry shown leaving New Bedford. — Photo courtesy of Seastreak

The good news is, I didn’t lose. Well, not too badly anyway. The bad news is, they’re done for the season. But more good news – they’re going to do it again next year and it’s going to be even more convenient.

On Columbus Day, a friend and I boarded the Seastreak out of Vineyard Haven at 8 am for their monthly (during the season) excursion to Foxwoods. This was such a great deal. For $45 you get round trip ferry to and from New Bedford, roundtrip bus (very comfortable) to and from Foxwoods, a $15 gambling voucher and a voucher good for a free buffet lunch (a $22.50 value). If you’re getting your first Foxwoods Reward card – which you need for the $15 gambling voucher – you also get a scratch ticket for additional gambling funds. Mine was for $5, but one of our fellow gamblers got $20. When you consider that the usual roundtrip charge just for the ferry to and from New Bedford is $70 ($60 for Island residents), this is quite the windfall.

I plied the slots and it was your typical play — 60 cents and win back a dime, except the few times I scored free spins and it brought me nearly back to even. I brought $100 to gamble and came home with $60. My friend – one of the spiritual gurus of the Island – spent most of her time at the Blackjack table. She went home $50 poorer, proving that the Law of Attraction doesn’t always work. But the buffet was huge and she, even as a vegan, found tons of stuff to eat.

This is a good, cheap, and fun day trip for year-rounders who need a break from the Island during the season. They will be starting up again in June and continuing monthly through October. According to John Silvia in the Seastreak office, it will still be $45, but will be scheduled on Saturdays instead of Fridays. And, instead of leaving from Vineyard Haven and returning to Oak Bluffs, it will be in and out of OB.

And…if you have kids…they’re adding a similar excursion to Six Flags New England.

Now, isn’t THAT good luck!

Contact the Seastreak office at 1-800-BOATRIDE (1-800-262-8743) or contact@seastreak.com for details.

One man steps close to the edge, as Iceland blows off steam.

This is not up-Island, but for a story about Iceland in our Off the Rock section. The late noon sun turns the Holuhraun volcano plume an eerie yellow.

Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic that has captivated me since my first visit in 1967.  This is a remote place of pollution-free skies, rugged, natural beauty,  green valleys, unobstructed sea and landscapes, glaciers, geysers, and volcanoes. It is known to many as the land of ice and fire.

The Jokulsa riverbed with encroaching lava flow in the distance.
The Jokulsa riverbed with encroaching lava flow in the distance.

This past September my wife, Jane, and I were visiting with family residing in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. We would all be together for my 71st birthday.

Family members have often found it challenging to find ways to celebrate my birthday, but on this occasion my daughter, Maria and her husband, Brynjar Fridriksson, succeeded thousand-fold. Brynjar had been in touch with the Icelandic authorities monitoring and controlling access to Iceland’s current volcanic eruption. He had applied for a permit for a foreign photographer (me) to photograph the Holuhraun eruption located 165 miles northeast of Reykjavik and north of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull.

Brynjar and I would be travelling with a fellow named Kjartan Blöndal. The plan devised by Kjartan, himself an accomplished photographer, was to arrive in close proximity to the eruption in time to capture the “sweet light” of pre-dawn, sunrise and early morning. He figured we would photograph until about 10 am then leave the site and drive to a safe location some 15 miles away to set up camp. We would catch about five hours of sleep and head back out to the volcano to shoot in late afternoon, continuing to photograph until about 9 pm, then make the drive back to Reykjavik.

My companions Brynjar and Kjartan at lava's edge with gas masks due to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas.
My companions Brynjar and Kjartan at lava’s edge with gas masks due to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas.

At 7:00 pm, Wednesday, September 10, with all the required equipment, including gas masks, we left Reykjavik for what would be a 10-hour drive to the Holuhraun eruption.  Kjartan, an expert highly seasoned “4-wheeler,” did all the driving in his specially equipped SUV,  including six hours on paved and maintained dirt roads plus four hours across ancient lava fields, rivers and unmarked stretches of arctic desert. When we left Reykjavik  the weather was overcast and drizzling. Driving northeast, the winds picked up and the temperature dropped below 32 degrees, with clearing skies. With no light pollution, the Milky Way could be seen in all its splendor, accompanied by moonlight and faint waves of the Northern Lights. The only other source of light we could detect was the orange glow on the horizon. With nearly four hours of driving remaining, what we were seeing was the glow of the Holuhraun eruption. We stopped and turned off all lights to take in nature’s gift. The hardy Icelanders and I were deeply moved by these  magical lights piercing the darkness.

A night photo of Holuhraun's most active lava fountain.
A night photo of Holuhraun’s most active lava fountain.

The off road night drive was dangerous and should not be attempted without a properly equipped SUV or an expert driver like Kjartan. About a mile from the edge of the lava flow we stopped the vehicle. None of us were prepared for what lay before us:  Vivid fountains of lava pouring from a fissure that extended for miles, and a distinctive volcanic crater spewing huge chunks of magma every 20 seconds or so. We were about a mile from the eruption but just a few yards from the lava’s edge. There  also was a massive plume composed of steam, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide gas reaching upwards of 30,000 feet. It was difficult to comprehend what we were witnessing. The fact that this scene did not seem real may have diluted whatever fears I anticipated experiencing in the presence of such a violent event.

Anthony Rabasca.
Anthony Rabasca.

The timing of our arrival on site could not have been better. The predawn light enhanced the enormous gaseous plume, creating yellows and oranges spread across blue sky. The effect of morning, afternoon and evening light was equally dramatic. Tornadic stacks of steam rising from the confluence of the lava and the glacial river, Jokulsa a Fjollum, created an eerie, almost unworldly scene. The lingering scent of sulfur dioxide gas (rotten eggs), the cold wind, the backdrop of glaciers, the brilliant red and orange showers of lava, the cracking, crunching sound of the cooled crust being pushed by subsurface lava, all were punctuated by the distant rumbles of explosions. When the crust cracked we felt a blast of heat from the exposed molten lava. At times the earth trembled beneath our feet. To be in the presence of such violent forces of nature is to be stripped of one’s ego and acknowledge that we mortals are mere grains of sand. In all my travels I cannot recall an experience or a place that generated such profoundly humbling emotions.

Anthony Rabasca is the father of MVTimes graphic designer Kristofer Rabasca.
Anthony Rabasca is the father of MVTimes graphic designer Kristofer Rabasca.

During the long drive back to Reykjavik we received a number of radio calls from the authorities wanting to know our position and whether or not we had left the forbidden area. We also heard of an unauthorized group of French tourists being rescued and fined when their vehicle got stuck in the middle of a river. The calls were a reminder of how dangerous this area is and of how fortunate we were to have gained entry. Very few foreigners have visited this area from the ground and the authorities have shown no signs of relaxing those restrictions. However, there are opportunities for viewing the eruption via helicopter and fixed

fixed wing flights that one can book out of Reykjavik.

Facts

– Since August 14 there have been nearly 25,000 3.0 or stronger magnitude earthquakes recorded in this area.

– Lava from the eruption has now covered over 30 square miles.

– Holuhraun is a separate and distinct volcanic activity than that at Bardarbunga.

– For current scientific information about the eruptions: en.vedur.is.

-See a map of Iceland, with the location of the volcano at:  www.vegagerdin.is .

Getting there: IcelandAir.com is the only carrier flying directly from Boston. Upside: it’s only about four hours, and you can often get good deals for Iceland layovers (including hotels and food) while on your way to European destinations.

Hotel Deals: tripadvisor.com/SmartDeals

Favorite restaurants: grillmarkadurinn.is/

fiskmarkadurinn.is/english/index.php

fiskfelagid.is/

laekjarbrekka.is/

tripadvisor.com/Restaurants

Anthony Rabasca is the father of MVTimes graphic designer Kristofer Rabasca. See more of his photographs at Anthonyseye.com.

Walk to soup.

Mashpee River Woodlands features trails that meander along a tidal river ideal for paddling. – Photo by Bill Mauk-DeSousa

One of our most in-the-know friends on the Cape sent us these fall delights, just off the rock.

Allons-y! A hike through Mashpee River Woodlands

Good paddling.
Good paddling.

Leave the hustle and bustle of Route 28 behind as you wander through this protected tidal river with its crystalline water, pristine shoreline, natural spawning areas, all of which make Mashpee River one of the Commonwealth’s finest sources of rare, sea-run brook trout. Since at least 1915, spirited conservation efforts have protected this tidal river, which begins at Mashpee/Wakeby Pond and empties into Pirate’s Cove on Popponesset Bay. Along the way, you’ll find stands of hardwood trees, low bush berries, beach grass and outcroppings of stone as you meander through its undulating paths. As the road noise recedes, a sense of peace pervades, broken only by the occasional slice of kayaks through gently flowing water wending its way towards Popponessett Bay.

Then, soup and sweets and take a look at all that du pain!

After a long walk through the woods, you can eat pastries guilt-free at Maison Villatte in Falmouth.
After a long walk through the woods, you can eat pastries guilt-free at Maison Villatte in Falmouth.

Afterwards, as you head towards Woods Hole and the ferry home, repair to Maison Villatte, an outstanding patisserie/boulangerie on Main Street in Falmouth. Owned and operated by French native Boris Villatte who came to America eight years ago, this sensation on Main Street is one of the “must go” places in town for pastry, sandwiches, pastries and confections. Inside, there are round café tables and at the back, the gleaming baking oven — four levels featuring 120 square feet of baking space that can handle 250 loaves of bread at once (the bakery features 12 –15 types of breads each day, which vary seasonally). The bread selection includes baguettes, farmers loaves and rustics which utilize buckwheat, spelt and rye flours as well as flavored breads such as bacon and cheese, cranberry, white chocolate and walnut raisin. Breads, rolls, sandwiches, croissants, cakes, pastry cakes roll out of the behemoth oven right before patrons’ eyes. Pastry cases, custom-built in Spain, hold an eye-popping selection of magnificent croissants, brioche and more indulgent treats alongside a selection of cheeses and charcuterie, ready-made sandwiches, quiches and soups. French- and American-style coffee can be enjoyed there (if you can find a seat) or taken away (there is room for twenty at the café seating, as well as tables out on the sidewalk for warmer days).

You might need to wait a bit, but what’s a few minutes when you’re inhaling fresh bread fumes?

Mashpee River Woodlands, Quinaquissett Avenue Mashpee, MA

(located less than one mile from Mashpee rotary).

thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/cape-cod-islands/mashpee-river.html

Maison Villatte, 267 Main Street Falmouth, MA 02540‎ 774-255-1855

Open 7AM-7PM Tuesday – Sunday

In the first Gay Head 10k in 2013, starters have lighthouse at their backs. — File photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

The Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee announced that it has begun signing up runners for the second annual Gay Head 10K road race, A Race Against Time, to be held Sunday, Oct. 5.

The race is a fundraiser for the ongoing effort to restore and relocate the Island’s historic landmark.

The 10K will start at 10 am, under the beam of the Gay Head Lighthouse, then proceed down the hill past the Aquinnah Cultural Center onto State Road, and onto Moshup Trail, which leads back to the loop at the Cliffs, according to a press release. The finish line lands runners in the shadow of the lighthouse after they complete the circle.

“The course is at once challenging, historic, and picturesque,” said Martha Vanderhoop, committee member and 10K race director. “We are also working on having the race certified by USA Track and Field this year, which would, hopefully, make the Gay Head 10K a destination race appealing to elite runners.”

For more information and to register, go to gayheadlight.org. There is an entry fee of $30, and the field will be limited to 500 runners. The committee also welcomes donors to become involved immediately through various levels of sponsorship. For more information on sponsorships, contact Beverly Wright, chairwoman of the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee, at gayhead10k@gayheadlight.org.

The Tisbury Fire Fighters Association car show is Sunday. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Tisbury Fire Department will hold its 8th Annual Car Show Sunday, August 31, on Main Street in Vineyard Haven, which will be closed from 1 to 5 pm from the Mansion House Inn to the Bunch of Grapes bookstore.

In addition to classic cars and motorcycles on display, there will be food, drink, and music by the Serendipity and Tristan Israel bands. Two “funny cars,” a nitro car and the alcohol-burning “Fireball Monza,” will rev up between 2:30 and 3 pm at a simulated New England Dragway starting line, according to Dick Pratt, one of the show’s organizers. Parking will be available at the Tisbury School parking lot on Spring Street, with shuttle service to and from Main Street by the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA).

Showgoers will vote for their favorite vehicles, and the winners will be featured on an annual calendar. A special trophy for Best in Show will be awarded this year in memory of Erick “Ricky” Vanderhoop, and the Kids’ Choice Award is sponsored by Summit Racing.

“This is an all-Island car show,” Tisbury firefighter and show organizer Ken Maciel told The Times. “We had 87 cars last year, and hopefully we’ll have more this year. It’s the owners’ chance to show them off.”

The rain date is Sept. 1. Proceeds benefit the Tisbury Fallen Firefighters Fund.

The cost to exhibit a vehicle is $10 if pre-registered and $12 if registering on show day. Pre-registration is available at DYFY Games at 365 State Street.

“We’ve had tremendous support from local merchants, and also the Steamship Authority,” Mr. Pratt said. For more information, visit the Tisbury Firefighters Association Car Show page on Facebook or call 774-836-5631.