Off the Rock

High school senior Isaiah Maynard with his trusty steed, a Trek 520 touring bicycle outfitted for the road. He plans to ride the bike 3,750 miles across the country this summer. — Photo courtesy of Isaiah Maynard

Life after high school will begin with a 3,750-mile bicycle trip across America for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School senior Isaiah Maynard. Inspired by his dad’s stories of two similar cross-country bicycle trips, one in 1984 and one including both his mother and father in the early 90s, Isaiah has planned his own. His father is Hudson Maynard of Vineyard Haven. His mother, Jessica Maynard, lives in Port Townsend, Washington. The younger Mr. Maynard has a twin sister, Willoe. They live in Vineyard Haven.

“The idea began, I think, with my dad telling me stories about when he did it,” he said. “So the idea has always been in the back of my mind. However, I really considered it when I decided I don’t want to go straight into college — or any time soon, for that matter. I wanted to do something cool and productive, something where I could grow as a person. This trip kind of answered all my needs — adventure, freedom, thinking time, a cool story, a physical challenge. It’s going to be amazing.”

Isaiah will set out after graduation from his mother’s home in Washington in June. He plans to take about two months, arriving on the Vineyard in August.

It will be a solo trip. ”I am choosing to go alone because it is a personal trip,” Isaiah said. “I plan to spend time enjoying nature and thinking about what I really want to do with my life.“

His plan to pay for the trip begins with saving the money he earns working as a lifeguard at the YMCA after school and on weekends. He is also selling tee-shirts with his website name, “Follow Me Across America,” emblazoned on the front to help finance the trip.

The trip will have a philanthropic purpose as well. “I believe you have to give something in order to receive something,” Isaiah said, so he will be accepting donations for the USANA True Health Foundation, a nonprofit supported by USANA, a health supplement manufacturer and retailer, whose mission, according to its website, is to provide the human necessities to those in need.

“I have an ambitious goal of raising $10,000,” he said. “Honestly, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how I’m going to do that. I am planning on getting people to pledge donations per mile I bike, or something similar.”

For the two months on the road his constant companion will be his bike. He will be pedaling his new steel frame Trek 520 touring bike, set up for the road with fenders, a back rack and panniers. “It is really sweet; I love it,” he said. “I even kept it in my room for a few days after I bought it.”

Isaiah expects to fill some of his time listening to audio books during his hours on the road. “I really like listening to audio books, and I should be able to go through as many as I can afford to buy.”

Isaiah said that his father’s experience has convinced him he can pack light for the journey. “I am not going to be making my own food and really ‘camping out,’” he said. “I will be staying in national parks, hostels, people’s houses, churches, you name it.” He also intends to use a website called warmshowers.org that bills itself as “a community for touring cyclists and hosts” that helps connect riders and people willing to give them a place to stay.

His bike has two stickers. One, a prompt, reads “Patience.” The other, a proclamation, is “Cycling. Living. Giving.” His bike bags, called panniers, carry the slogan “Everything we do helps you love life and live it.” They will hold a change or two of clothes, some comfy shoes, snacks, a sleeping bag/tent, and accessories — a camera, solar charger, bike tools, and a journal.

His route is about the most northerly route a cyclist can take and stay in the United States. He sets out toward Glacier National Park, 650 miles from his mother’s home, climbing over the Sierra Nevada, via Route 2. He will continue east across northern Montana, then through North Dakota, across Minnesota and northern Wisconsin and into upper Michigan, then south through lower Michigan, across northern Ohio and Pennsylvania, through New England, arriving on the Vineyard sometime in August.

Isaiah’s experience as a member of the high school track and cross-country teams will help him with the endurance he will need to cover the 80 to 100 miles a day he plans to ride, but he is not relying on that alone. “I am training for it, just by getting as much riding done as I can. In actuality though, nothing can really prepare me for being in the saddle for eight hours a day, biking up mountain passes. But all the riding I can do now will really help out.” He also rides a stationary bike either before or after school at the Y.

He has plotted his route on his website, followmeacrossamerica.org, where he intends to chart his progress. He already has several sponsors listed on the site, including Holmes Hole Builders, owned by his uncle, Gary Maynard of Chilmark. Tee-shirts can be purchased and donations may be made on the website as well.

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Trails from Saddleback's summit offer sweeping views of the Rangeley Lakes below. — Photo courtesy of Saddleback Mou

To the outrage of my native Vineyard companions, including my boyfriend, I’ve always found the mountains superior to the sea. Perhaps it’s because I grew up landlocked. Maybe I just haven’t acquired my sea legs yet — a windy day on the ferry still turns my stomach over. I’ve dragged my boyfriend westward on several occasions, but the tide always pulls him back to Martha’s Vineyard. I understand. It calls me back too.

Regardless, I always jump at the chance to view the world from more than 300 feet above sea level, especially in the lull of the winter months. A mid-winter ski trip with my boyfriend and six other friends seemed the perfect opportunity.

Planning a ski trip with seven other people necessitates flexibility. We were skiers and snowboarders, beginners and experts, park shredding daredevils and glade shooting speed demons. I fancied myself an expert skier as a youth, but I hadn’t set a ski on the slopes in more than 10 years. The one thing we had in common was none of us had much money. After an extensive search, the best deal was a ski and stay package at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley, Maine.

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Most of the lodging at Saddleback ski area is ski in, ski out.

As it turned out, Saddleback was a wise choice for our spectrum of skill sets. There was a good selection of groomers, glades, and parks, despite the disappointing closure of the western side of the mountain. At 4,120 feet, with a 2,000 foot vertical drop, Saddleback boasts “a big mountain with a small mountain feel,” and it delivers. The mountain only felt as big as you wanted it to be. Some runs hugged the base lodge, while others wound through miles of scenic vistas. There were wide, easy rides, and harrowingly steep backcountry chutes. There was something for everybody, with room to grow.

Unlike my sea legs, I found my ski legs were stable. Though the black diamonds racked my nerves, my muscles remembered how to execute each turn, how to lean into each acceleration, and glide to a stop. Just like riding a bike. I followed my most advanced friends into every challenge, eager to earn my stripes, even though sometimes it meant falling directly on my face. (Public service announcement: always wear a helmet).

By the time the lifts closed, our bodies were ready to follow the sun down the mountain. We walked languidly back to our cabin to dethaw our gear — and limbs — in front of the propane fireplace. We home cooked our meals in the fully equipped kitchen and ate them under the high, wood-beamed canopy of the common area. Each evening, through the expansive glass windows, a dusting of snow fluttered down in answer to our repeated wishes.

By the final run of the last day, the sun was setting behind the mountain. An orange glow was cast on the runway of snow descending from our feet, where the mountain dropped off suddenly into a basin of lakes. I smiled, squinting into the last rays, then I turned to my boyfriend, who was still buckling into the bindings of his snowboard. “I told you so,” I wanted to say, but I swallowed my words. Whether we were 4,000 feet above sea level or 300, it didn’t matter. The feeling I got looking down from the mountain was a lot like watching the ocean disappear into the sky. The world felt huge, limitless, and I wanted to carve into it at a high speed. There was something out there for everybody, with room to grow.

Getting to Saddleback

  • Rangeley, ME is roughly six hours from Woods Hole. Take 95 North as far as Auburn, ME, and follow a map from there. Careful: GPS devices and phones don’t always work in the boonies of Maine.
  • The best deal at Saddleback is the Ski & Stay package: $69 per person, per day (two day minimum). (207-864-5671; saddlebackmaine.com).
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Fishing, snowshoeing, skating, and snowmobiling are also popular sports around Rangeley Lake.

Other Things to Do in Rangeley, ME

From Saddleback Mountain, the town of Rangeley is only about a ten minute drive, and since the lifts close at 4 pm, there’s plenty of time to explore in the evenings.

  • The Red Onion, which presides over the village’s main street, serves great pizza with homemade dough and any topping they can dream up. (207-864-5022; rangeleyredonion.com).
  • The Moose Alley bowling and billiards center offers food, drinks, and an indoor fire pit: a low-key way to unwind after a day on the slopes. (207-864-9955; moosealleymaine.com).
  • If your legs somehow muster more energy, Haley Pond, right in town, is cleared of snow and lit up each evening for public skating.
  • The region is a huge hub for snowmobilers, with plenty of areas devoted to the sport.
  • Vineyarders should also bring their fishing poles and ice fishing set-ups — trophy sized landlocked salmon and brook trout dwell in Rangeley Lake and surrounding bodies of water.

Going someplace interesting this winter? We’d love to hear about it. Send photos or travel dispatches (or questions for other travelers) to us at onisland@mvtimes.com.

Ok, this isn't on the Vineyard. But if you have any Parisian tips for Danielle — especially off-the-beaten-track museums or bike tours, send'em along! — Photo by Thesupermat, courtesy o
We admit it: also not Martha's Vineyard, or even Falmouth. Been to Prague? This is their old town square, and Danielle's going soon. Send your insider advice to us at onIsland@mvtimes.com.
We admit it: also not Martha’s Vineyard, or even Falmouth. Been to Prague? This is their old town square, and Danielle’s going soon. Send your insider advice to us at onIsland@mvtimes.com.

The last time I was in Europe I had hauled a cheap backpack around and ate La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow) cheese triangles (you can buy them at Stop & Shop, so much for authentic French fromage). I showered sporadically and never stepped foot in a real restaurant. Now I’m all grown up with more sophisticated expectations, so I’m trying to whittle down a list of good restaurants in Paris and in Prague that will make up for what I didn’t get to experience as a student.

Also, we are looking for some more unique and off track museums to explore.  We want to intersperse some more esoteric museums with the biggies like D’Orsay and the Louvre.

Anyone ever take a bike tour in either Paris or Prague?  Or have experience with the rental bike systems in either city?

Got any advice for Danielle? Got a question for readers? Comment online or email us at onisland@mvtimes.com.

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Hop the Patriot boat to Falmouth for a night "off the rock," or just to get your shopping done. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

If you’ve only got a day or two to spare, a long drive can feel more like a waste of time than a refreshing trip off Island. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay at home this February break. There are plenty of destinations around Vineyard Sound that only take one quick trip by boat or plane. Get packing, because getting off the rock just got much easier.

Falmouth/Woods Hole

How to get there: You can take the Steamship Authority (SSA) ferry if you want to bring your car along, but the Patriot boat to Falmouth offers a free shuttle service that will bring you to the Falmouth Mall or Falmouth Plaza (might as well get some shopping done while you’re in America). One way tickets are $12. (patriotpartyboats.com).

Trip time: About 30 minutes.

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Sea Crest Beach Hotel, Falmouth.

Where to stay: The Sea Crest Beach Hotel in North Falmouth offers a Cape and Island resident rate, starting at $79 per night. The heated indoor saline pool and jacuzzi await guests who have been missing out on a good soak this winter. (508-540-9400; seacrestbeachhotel.com).

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Anejo, Falmouth.

Where to eat: One of our editors once missed the boat because she couldn’t leave Falmouth without getting chinese takeout at Peking Palace (508-540-8204; pekingpalacefalmouth.com). Another swears by a Mexican meal and a margarita at Anejo (508-388-7631; anejomexicanbistro.com).

What to do: If you like learning about the marine wildlife around the Vineyard, visit the seals and other critters at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium (aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov). If your family spends a lot of time at the Ryan Family Amusements arcade in Oak Bluffs, take them to the Ryan Family bowling alley in Falmouth. (508-540-4877; ryanfamily.com).

New Bedford

 

Insider secrets: “Flying into New Bedford is such a gem, it’s an easy flight because Cape Air is the only airline in the airport. The car rental is right there, so we see a lot of people pick up a car and get their shopping done at the box stores. Another little known secret is the Airport’s restaurant, the Airport Grille, is fantastic. It’s sophisticated but comfortable, there’s always great entertainment and excellent food. We see people fly into New Bedford just to eat and fly home. (508-994-7455; airportgrille.com).” — Trish Lorino, Vice President, Marketing & Public Relations, Cape Air & Nantucket Airlines

How to get there: Book a Cape Air flight from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) to New Bedford (EWB). Flights start at around $55 each way. (capeair.com).

Trip time: Approximately 17 minutes.

Where to stay: Cozy up with the whole family at the Davenport House B&B, a well-reviewed Jacobethan architectural gem just a ten minute walk from downtown. Rates range from $95 to $150 a night, but there’s only three rooms to choose from. (bbonline.com).

Where to eat: The Portuguese restaurant Churrascaria Novo Mundo, which boasts the “holy grail” of barbecued chicken, was featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Go see if you agree. (508-991-8661).

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Seamen’s Bethel, New Bedford.

What to do: If you like fishing, join a free tour of the Whaling National Historic Park, which explores the same whaling industry that captivated Herman Melville. Our editors thought the Seamen’s Bethel — described as the “Whalemen’s Chapel” in “Moby Dick” — was the highlight of the tour. (nps.gov/nebe). If the winter weather has you feeling cooped up, get moving at Carabiner’s indoor climbing center. (508-984-0808; carabiners.com).

Nantucket

 

Insider Secrets: “Packed in January just as much as July, beloved local hotspot LoLa 41 is open for dinner nightly and lunch from Monday-Saturday. Staying for the long weekend?  Check LoLa out on Sunday Nights for buy one get one Sushi Sunday. This Presidents Day weekend, chic boutiques are opening their doors for huge savings. Word on Washington Street is that Milly & Grace has $400 dresses on sale for just $60. Saturday nights during the off-season mean DJ nights at Pazzo. This mid-island restaurant turns into a dance party with DJ’s from all over the globe. Best part? No cover. Shows start at 10pm. Take a Sconset Bluff Walk tour on the east side of the island. While out there, make sure to get a shot of Sankaty lighthouse. (lola41.com; millyandgrace.com).” — Holly Finigan, the Nantucket blACKbook

How to get there: Book a Cape Air flight from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) to Nantucket (ACK). Flights are only about 20 minutes and start at around $45 each way. (capeair.com).

Trip time: Approximately 20 minutes.

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The Jared Coffin House, Nantucket.

Where to stay: The Jared Coffin House won a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013, and has a great library where guests can kick back and enjoy an afternoon snack. Our editors say their brunch is killer too. Rates start at $135 per night. (jaredcoffinhouse.com).

Where to eat: Though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, the cool wooden sign at Brotherhood of Thieves will draw you in. Our editors say the hearty — but local and organic — food and fresh draught beer will make you stay. (508-228-2551; brotherhoodofthieves.com). If you’ve been missing Morning Glory Farm in the off-season, Nantucket’s Bartlett’s Farm serves up similar fare and vibes. (508-228-9403;bartlettsfarm.com).

What to do: If you like tossing frisbees at the Riverhead Disc Golf Course in the State Forest, the Nantucket Disc Golf Course will be a fun and scenic challenge. (nantucketdiscgolf.org). If sampling the latest brews at Offshore Ale is your idea of a good time, take a tour of Nantucket’s Cisco brewery, winery, and distillery. (508-325-5929; ciscobrewers.com).

A Bajan fisherman throws a cast net over a school of baitfish. — Photo by Glenn Burnell
Nelson and Norma Sigelman picked a scenic stop for a photo overlooking the west side of Barbados.
Nelson and Norma Sigelman picked a scenic stop for a photo overlooking the west side of Barbados.

Last February, at the invitation of friends, my wife and I left cold, gray Martha’s Vineyard behind and traveled to Barbados, the easternmost island in the Caribbean, for one week of blue water set against an azure sky, an endless pitcher of rum punch, fried flying fish basted in spices, and plentiful Bajan hospitality.

I caught one fish, a small needlenose creature called a garfish. But an encounter on the last day of our stay provided me with one of the more memorable fishing experiences of my life, and there was not a fish in sight.

Our trip was not intended as a fishing vacation, but I have a firm rule: never travel to any destination where the air and water temperature are both above 80 degrees without a fishing rod. I also packed a Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hat, to give away when the time seemed right.

The Derby embodies the Vineyard spirit of community, the natural beauty of our shoreline, and the exciting fishing that makes our Island unique. Each entrant in the month-long fishing contest receives a hat emblazoned with the Derby name, the date 1946, the year the contest started, and an image of an arching striped bass, a fish emblematic of the currents that swirl around our Island.

I have acquired quite a collection of hats over more than 25 years of fishing the Derby. Years ago, I realized they make great gifts to take along on trips and the recipients enjoy receiving something unique to the Vineyard.

A Bajan fisherman scans the shallow water for signs of baitfish.
A Bajan fisherman scans the shallow water for signs of baitfish.

Our winter escape to a warm Caribbean island was an anomaly. We had never been beach people in the conventional American sense, content to baste in the hot sun in a semi-comatose state. For years, our trip planning revolved around our daughter, now 22, and school vacation. Several years we went to Maine, one year to Montreal. There was a trip to London and one to Amsterdam. The common thread, intended or not, was always cold, damp weather.

When the opportunity to go to Barbados presented itself I needed to convince my wife Norma that there was something to be said for getting closer to the equator in February. She was resistant, wondering what we would do, but agreed. Once in Barbados she rarely left the white sand beach and bath temperature water.

We flew from New York and arrived that afternoon at the house of our hosts located a short stroll from Gibbs Beach on the west coast of Barbados, in the parish of St. Peter. We dropped our bags and went to the beach.

My second cast I hooked a fish on a one-ounce, green Spofford’s needlefish, a lure that is irresistible to many Vineyard species, including striped bass and false albacore, and had lost none of its fish attracting abilities over the long flight south. The garfish was not big but it was interesting in its appearance with a slender snake-like body, and long, beak of a mouth with sharp, needle teeth, hence its alternate names, needlefish and sea needle.

I like to walk along the beach and cast every 50 yards or so. It is as much about the activity, walking and listening to the sea wash up on the sand, as it is about the likelihood of catching a fish. On Barbados, outfitted with a light spinning rod and a small bag of lures, wearing my favorite tan Derby fishing hat against the bright sun, the fact that I was fishing at all proved to be an easy conversation starter with the wide range of people I encountered on my lengthy strolls. Many wondered what I expected to catch. My answer was, “I have no idea.”

The local fishermen who motored along the beach in wooden skiffs, cast net at the ready, had no doubts about their quarry. It was a type of bait fish we would call sprat. “They’re very quick, you only get one chance,” one Bajan fisherman told me as he gathered his net on the beach into neat coils.

The government of Barbados supports fishermen through a series of government operated markets where locals, chefs and bolder visitors go to purchase day-caught fish. The market closest to our residence was more like a stall, where mahi-mahi sat in ice bins, and hefty Bajan women with toothless grins cleaned and packaged flying fish, an island specialty. Several times over the course of the week I made my way to the market to watch the give and take of Bajan commerce.

Smokey at work in his fish market domain.
Smokey at work in his fish market domain.

The centerpiece of the action was a man who went by the name “Smokey,” a no-nonsense fish cutter who was ruler of the domain. On order he would pull a mahi-mahi from the bin and fillet it on request after which he named the price. Smokey had a reputation. He was said to not be particularly friendly.

Perhaps. But I was intrigued watching him clean mahi-mahi, peeling off the skin after several deft cuts, and on my multiple trips to the market he answered my questions, even if he did not smile.

“It’s not as difficult as it seems,” Smokey said about his method. “You just have to do what comes naturally.”

Fishermen on Barbados as on the Vineyard keep to their own schedule. “Some guys will go out in the morning,” he said. “Some guys go out at night and come in in the morning, 7 am, but you won’t find me here that early.” Not a smile punctuated his remarks. Ever, to me or anyone else. I had my man.

Our last day on Barbados I took my fishing rod and started out on the long walk to the fish market. I walked past sites that had become familiar, the luxury villas and hotels where vacationing Brits turned from white to lobster red, the rum shop where a group of Bajans hung out laughing and playing dominoes and a long-grounded fishing boat on the beach.

Smokey was cutting fish. “Smokey,” I said, “Do you know where Martha’s Vineyard is?”

It can grow tiring to hear some editorialists genuflect to our specialness. It was refreshing to hear Smokey say he only vaguely knew where Martha’s Vineyard was located.

“Well, it’s an Island and every year there is a fishing contest,” I said, “called the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. It’s a very big deal.”

I handed him the blue Derby hat I had packed away one week earlier. “There are only two people on Barbados with a Derby hat,” I said. “You and me.” I waited for his reaction.

Smokey put the hat on his bald, brown head and smiled. “How do I look,” he said with a grin. It was not exactly a Lone Ranger silver bullet moment, but it felt pretty good.

A sunset over Gibbs Bay.
A sunset over Gibbs Bay.

I began walking back up the beach, stopping periodically to cast and linger in the warm water flowing around my bare feet. Suddenly, a young, lanky Bajan who seemed to be about 12 years of age came running up to me and asked me what I was doing. He was smiling, fidgety and genuinely excited. He peppered me with questions and grabbed at the fishing rod, anxious to give it a try.

His actions and mannerisms did not reflect his age and were awkward enough to suggest something else was at work beyond his youth.

He wanted to cast. Luckily, I had enough experience to stay well back as he whipped the lure to the side. I did my best to improve his casting skills without success.

He told me his name was Jadon. I assumed his father was one of the laborers on a seaside project and he was on his own on the beach. We walked together up the beach until we came to a rocky point. It was time to part company.

I told him he could go no further. Spontaneously, and with a huge smile on his face, he jumped up on my back and hugged me. I removed my well-worn fishing hat and put it on his head. “I want you to have this hat,” I told him. “This is a pretty special hat where I come from.”

Jadon looked at me with a huge grin. Then he went running back down the beach waving the hat and yelling for joy.

How we got there
We drove to the Kingston, R.I. Amtrak station (free parking) and caught an afternoon train to New York City where we spent the night with our hosts. The next morning we boarded Jet Blue’s 8 am direct flight from New York City and arrived in sunny, warm Bridgetown, Barbados about 1:30 pm. Six days later we departed on an afternoon Jet Blue flight and arrived back in New York about 7 pm. The next day, to our delight, our car was still parked in Kingston when we arrived at the train station.