Sunday Afternoon Drive on Shelter Island

Written By: Marian McEnroe

We drive down on the Ram Island causeway and my NYC friend points up to a large nest on top of a telephone pole and asks if Pterodactyl are native to the area. “No”, I reply, ” they’re extinct, it’s an Osprey McNest”. It appears that the larger the homes on Ram Island become the larger the Ospreys’ build their nests. “Oh”, she says not challenging my reply. We drive past the causeway and head up the road passing home after home, one larger then the next. We come toward a wooded section and stop to allow three deer to cross the street. “Oh”, she says, “do the deer here have pierced ears?” “No”, I say they don’t have cell phones or drivers licenses so they put tags on their ears so they can keep track of them for tick information”. “Oh”, she says again not challenging my response. We leave Ram Island and head toward Hay Beach. I pull into Menhaden Beach. She observes a large forbidding sign in large black letters that says, “THIS IS NOT A SWIMMING BEACH”. She says, “If it’s not a swimming beach then what is it”. I tell her, “It’s a long story. A man on the island complained to one of those environmental agencies about how beaches can’t be public if they don’t have restrooms. So the town obliged the complaint by putting up the signs”. “Oh”, she says, “I thought it was because it was too close to Plum Island”. We continue our Sunday afternoon drive around Hay Beach. She says, “doesn’t anyone do laundry around here?” I said, “why do you ask?”. She says, “no one has any clothes hanging on their lines”. “Oh”, I say, “I think they have a stipulation in their area that says they’re not allowed to”. “Oh”, she says. We swirl around Hay Beach then head toward Cartwright Road. At the intersection of Hudson we stop the car because there are about ten wild turkeys standing in the middle of the road. One of the turkeys keeps strutting in place puffing his breast out to three times its original size. My friend looks at me and says, “Aren’t they afraid will run them over?” “No”, I say, “they’re very arrogant. We’re more afraid of them then they are of us. I once tried to shoo them away and they started to chase me and boy can they run fast. I’m not taking any chances. Be patient eventually they will cross the street. The turkeys’ pass then we head down the road a few hundred feet. She exclaims, “Stop the car, look at that gorgeous house!” I’m glad she’s on my side. I tell her that half the Island is divided when it comes to that particular house. There are many people that feel a house shouldn’t be painted lime green, pink, yellow and orange. I tell her whenever I pass the house it makes me feel happy. We leave the Cartwright road area and head down South Ferry Road. We stop at O’s Gas Station for coffee. In front of the station is a painted car, a painted boat, and painted gas tank. “Wow”, she says, “this is the wildest looking gas station I’ve ever been to”, as she observes the paint splattered cement floor we walk on”. I give her some back round about Harold. I tell her how he landed on the Island from West Virginia and has been a fixture here ever since. We both get a cup of freshly brewed coffee and drive on. We pass a man on a bicycle with a piece of canvas under his arm. “Yes”, I tell her, “that’s Harold, he’s probably on his way to a doctor’s appointment and plans on paying the bill with the painting he has under his are”. It’s getting late and eventually she has to catch the Jitney back. It tell her she can’t leave till we drive past Sun Set Beach. We head down West Neck Road which leads to Shore Road. We drive by real slow and observe all the fancy boats and people till we come to the stop sign in front of the hotel. As we stop a man in a tiny red and orange bikini stands in front of us talking on his cell phone. We wait patiently at the stop sign in front of the pedestrian cross walk. Then my friend says; “Why don’t you beep your horn?”. I tell her, “only an outcast would use their horn on Shelter Island, be patient”. Eventually he finishes his conversation and crosses the remainder of the cross walk. We leave the beach an head down New York Avenue toward the ferry. There are four bicyclist riding in front of the car. The road is too narrow to pass them. They keep riding without going single file to the side of the road. My friend becomes anxious and says, “Now you really should beep the horn”. I tell her that would be rude. My friend annoyed says, “I don’t get this Island. “Where else do wild turkeys, Sun Set beach guests, and bicyclists have the extended right of way”. I tell her if you live here long enough you’ll understand. We arrive at the ferry and wait on line. We wait our turn while the cars pull off the ferry and we wait to get on. Suddenly a huge black Mercedes SUV cuts in front of us and takes the last space on the boat. The gates close so we have to wait for the next boat. My friend says, “Did you see that!” “Yes”, I reply but it’s OK, you won’t miss the bus. She looks at me annoyed and says, “Why didn’t you say something”. I said, “because we still have time”. We wait fro the next ferry and we’re the first ones on. I tell the ferry man about the black SUV that cut ahead of us. The ferry man jokes with us and tells us, “Don’t you know that people with SUV’s always have the right of way. If you did that with your 1995 Ford you’d be the laughing stock of the ferry”. I drop my friend off at the Jitney and her parting words are, “Despite the fact your Island has all it’s idiosyncrasies, it’s still a beautiful place to visit, but I could never live in a place where I couldn’t get lost. Have a nice trip back.