Autumn in New England 2008 travel blog

camped under the bridge


railroad bridge

Last time we visited Cape Cod it was summer and crazy busy with bumper to bumper traffic. We couldn't stay as long as we wished because all the campgrounds were full. Hopefully after Labor Day we will have a different experience this time.

It was an easy drive from Boston to Cape Cod, but the seasons changed along the way. A high overcast and breezes from the ocean have removed all thoughts of swimming from our minds. We are camped at the Cape Cod Canal, next to the thin strip of water that separates the cape from the mainland. Cape Cod is shaped like a boot and takes a long time to sail around. A canal makes the whole place much more accessible for boats.

The idea of linking two tidal rivers to create an all-water route across the seven mile isthmus of Cape Cod was first proposed by Captain Miles Standish of the Plimoth Colony. But Standish's dream for a waterway through the isthmus was far too large a task for a small band of pilgrims. During the American Revolution, a canal at Cape Cod took on an importance as a way to circumvent British harbor blockades. Throughout the nineteenth century, many plans were made, but none succeeded. It would take a wealthy New York financier named August Belmont and modern engineering to finally make the pilgrim's dream a reality.

The grand opening of the Cape Cod Canal was July 29, 1914. Belmont's canal was expensive for mariners. As much as $16.00 was charged for a trip by schooner, a considerable amount in those days. This, along with the narrow 100 foot width and shallow depth of the canal made many mariners continue to use the routes around the cape. As a result, tolls did not live up to expectations and the Cape Cod Canal became a losing proposition.

Finally, the Cape Cod Canal was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1928. The waterway was widened and deepened to nearly 500 feet wide and 32 feet deep. All this work employed a total of 1400 men during the Great Depression. By 1940 the completed Cape Cod Canal represented the widest sea-level canal in the world. Ship traffic could safely transit the waterway and now over 20,000 vessels of all types use the Canal annually.

There's a bike trail along both sides of the canal. We can admire the ships going by as we peddle along.

The last time we were in this area many moons ago, whole lobster dinners cost $10. They were a simple meal with a cob of corn and a cup of potato salad, but what a deal. We ate them every night for twelve days. According to the paper lobster prices have been depressed, and the same meal only costs $20 today, not bad when you adjust for inflation. Much feasting lies ahead.

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