Summer, presidential holiday both end
The loud clatter of low flying helicopters late Sunday afternoon signaled an end to the much ballyhooed Martha's Vineyard vacation of President Barack Obama and his family. It ended just as it began, with no fanfare or public opportunity for Island residents to express their well wishes.
Undeterred by the cordon of security and the President's notable lack of public interaction throughout the week, well wishers turned out along the route of the impressive Presidential motorcade that led from Blue Heron Farm to Martha's Vineyard Airport to wave goodbye.
At 4:20 pm the First Family boarded Marine One, part of a five-helicopter formation, and traveled to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod where Air Force One waited on the tarmac.
Before traveling back to Washington, Barack and Michelle Obama met for approximately ten minutes with the South Yarmouth family of Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, 21, killed in July by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
For the most part, the week-long Presidential vacation was a private affair spent interacting with family and friends from the sanctuary provided by the Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark.
The president played golf with friends at Farm Neck Golf club in Oak Bluffs, Mink Meadows golf club in Tisbury, and the Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown.
Family outings included several hours at the private Oyster-Watcha beach in Edgartown and a bicycle outing on Thursday with friends Eric Whitaker and Konrad Ng along Lobsterville Beach in Aquinnah that included a side trip to the Gay Head Lighthouse.
Joan LeLacheur, who along with her husband Richard Skidmore, manages the light for the Martha's Vineyard Museum, said the Secret Service had contacted her about a possible visit. On Thursday she caught wind of the fact that the First Family was bike riding nearby.
"All of a sudden," she said, "he was walking up with his family."
The First Family toured the light. Ms. LeLacheur was not allowed to have a camera. Her only photographic keepsake came when Tom Wallace, the Edgartown realtor who had helped arrange the Blue Heron Farm rental and the lighthouse visit, was allowed to snap a photo.
The President and First Lady interrupted their vacation to attend the funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy in Boston on Saturday. The couple flew out Friday evening and returned to the Vineyard Saturday afternoon.
On Sunday morning the Presidential motorcade made a surprise stop at Alley's General Store in West Tisbury. Aside from a stop to pick up take-out food at Nancy's on Oak Bluffs Harbor Wednesday, it was the First Family's most public outing.
At 10:40 am the motorcade left Blue Heron Farm and pulled into the Alley's parking lot.
The entourage included President Obama, his daughters Malia and Sasha, and his niece Suhaila, the daughter of Maya Soetoro Ng.
The four browsed in the general store for a short five minutes, according to press pool reports. The President wore a White Sox cap, jeans and a black fleece jacket. Malia was in a tee-shirt and black jacket, Sasha and Suhaila in pink jackets.
"Malia, did you figure something out?" Mr. Obama asked. He wandered around the store pointing out suggestions for the girls. "Hey, what about these, Malia?" he said, standing in front of a display of earrings.
He bought candies - nerds and astronaut ice cream - at the cash register for the girls, and asked the cashier: "Hey, what's your name?" At the response, "Maya," he said; "Hey, that's my sister's name."
Then he pointed to Suhaila. "Her mom's name is Maya."
The expedition party then headed across the parking lot to Garcia's Deli and Bakery. The President shook hands with a handful of people outside, then went in, and chatted briefly with owner Paul Garcia. "We wanted to stop by before we left," he said. "I think a cookie sounds about right."
He bought an oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookie wrapped in plastic, and shook it in the air saying "this is a classic" and chatted with employees and posed for a photo before heading out. The entire outing took 12 minutes.