48 Hours in Provincetown

Text by Janice Rohlf

For reasons that shouldn’t need explanation, 2020 is the year of the road trip vacation. It also marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage from England to the New World, where the Pilgrims first landed in what we know today as Provincetown. So when my partner and I were offered the opportunity to drive a Chevy Bolt EV from Boston to the tip of Cape Cod, we jumped at the chance. In the months leading up to the historic anniversary, there was lots of hoopla and celebration-planning, including having an exact replica of the Mayflower II visit Provincetown this fall. Then came the pandemic. As we all know, people pivoted and many plans were scrapped. The Mayflower II may not have stopped by, but that didn’t take the wind out of Provincetown’s sails. It’s always a great place to visit.

We packed up the Bolt EV (its storage is deceptively spacious) and headed south. One hundred and thirty miles from where we live, in Arlington, Mass., our destination was easily reachable without the need to stop along the way to recharge. In fact, we arrived at the hotel, (which had four recharging stations for guest use) with over half the battery’s charge capacity remaining.

While my partner drove, I connected to the Bolt EV’s WiFi network and worked on my computer. Once we crossed the Sagamore Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, we decided to take Route 6A. Also known as Old King’s Highway, this windy, picturesque road is designated a Historic District and is a nice alternative to the Mid-Cape Highway if you’re not in a hurry and enjoy taking in the sights. Gas stations are sparse along this route, but in our Bolt EV that was the least of our worries. We were much more concerned with where to stop for lunch.

Full disclosure: I lived on the Cape for 20 years, so most of the decisions I made for this trip were based on experience or reliable hearsay, including our lunch. Because I had heard so much about the fried clams at Kate’s, but had never tried them, we pulled over to this no-frills roadside eatery with outdoor picnic tables for an order of clams and a Cape Cod Reuben—fried cod on marbled rye with Russian dressing. Never have I tasted fresher fried clams in a crunchy batter which, we guessed, had cornmeal in the batter.

From here it was about a 10-minute drive to the Orleans Rotary, which I always think of as the threshold to the Outer Cape. The rest of the way to Provincetown, about 25 miles, the scenery changes from houses (many antique) and small businesses on either side of the road to a mostly natural landscape of pitch pine and oak forest, beaches, sea cliffs, and dunes. A good portion of this landscape has been preserved as the 44,600-acre Cape Cod National Seashore. Driving along this stretch in a Chevy Bolt EV seemed an appropriate, environmentally friendly way to travel, producing no emissions. There are several opportunities to stop along the way for short hikes, bike rides and even spots to launch a kayak—all good pandemic recreation.

After 2.5 hours of driving, we pulled into the Seaglass Inn & Spa, located on four sprawling acres a short distance from the heart of Provincetown. First up, charging the car. While the Bolt EV charged, we walked the short distance into town for a stroll along its always-lively main artery, Commercial Street, about three miles long and lined with one-of-a-kind shops, eclectic galleries and some of the finest restaurants on the peninsula, many of which had beefed up their outdoor dining sections in deference to social distancing. Early in the week before Labor Day proved to be an auspicious time to go. The weather was perfect, with sunshine and low humidity, and the summer crowds (if there were any this year) had thinned.

The next day, we finished our tour of Commercial Street by strolling its East End, loosely bounded by local landmarks the iconic Lobster Pot restaurant on one end and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) at the other. With many of its galleries located in the East End, Provincetown continues to uphold its reputation as America’s oldest continuous art colony mixed with a flourishing contemporary art scene. PAAM­ is easy to spot due to its outdoor sculpture garden and modern wing attached to the original 1890s sea captain’s house in which the museum was founded in 1914. We enjoyed viewing the featured exhibits along with gems from the museum’s important Permanent Collection.

After an outdoor lunch with a gorgeous ocean view at The Canteen, we rented bikes from Gale Force Bike Rentals, just down the hill from the Sea Glass Inn, and pedaled off to the nearby Province Lands Bike Trail, the first bike trail ever built by the National Park Service. Covering 10 miles, it’s a sometimes steep and windy loop around Beech Forest, with spurs leading to Race Point Beach, Herring Cove Beach and a nature walking trail in Beech Forest.

A dip in the Sea Glass Inn’s large and inviting pool was just the ticket to refresh us for our 30-minute drive to Wellfleet to meet friends for dinner at C-Shore, which, like most restaurants in the area, had pivoted to accommodate diners outdoors, with tables under a large tent and also around a fire pit. Our timing was off to catch a movie at the nearby Wellfleet Drive-In, the last of its kind on Cape Cod, and one of about 300 left in the country, but it’s a fun activity to keep in mind for next time.

Overnight, we charged the Bolt EV and the next morning headed home. Had we needed to find a charging station nearby, there are a number of ways to incorporate battery charging along the way. The MyChevrolet app integrated into the Bolt EV includes an Energy Assist feature to help you find your next charge. There are also several websites/phone apps that work similarly.

We hadn’t had time to visit the Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown, so we stopped at the larger version of this fascinating museum in Yarmouth on the way home. Discovered by underwater explorer Barry Clifford in 1984, the Whydah was wrecked off Wellfleet in 1717, taking with her the treasure of 50 plundered ships and all but two of its 146-man crew, including its commander, the pirate Sam Bellamy. The museum is home to thousands of items from the Whydah and houses the largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world.

We arrived home energized, entertained, educated and well fed. Again, with over half the Bolt EV’s battery capacity left. Can’t wait for the next time we hit the road again!


Photo credits:

Race Point Lighthouse by Paul Scharff

PAAM Museum by James Zimmerman

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