CATHY MATTSCHECK / TEACHER AND RVer / RACE POINT BEACH
Cathy Mattscheck, a retired educator from Douglas, south of Worcester, has been camping on Race Point Beach in Provincetown for more than six decades. Last September, she and her RV neighbors hunkered down in their rigs to ride out Hurricane Ida. Here’s Cathy in her own words, recorded last fall.
I was three years old the first time that I came down to Race Point Beach. I remember going for a walk with my mom down the beach and just the pounding surf. I was a little bit afraid of it at first. Since we started beach buggying in 1958, there is not one single summer that I have not been on the beach — 63 years down on the beach, yeah.
The very first visit down on the beach at the beginning of each season, you kind of look to the left and the right to see what happened to the beach through the winter and the springtime. You notice the dunes. Are they steeper or more shallow? Where is the high-tide mark? Where should I park my camper? How far back? You take an inventory.
My first night on the beach, I have a traditional dinner. I always have a Caprese salad and a glass of red wine and watch the sunset. You don’t always sleep well that first night. You’re getting used to the sounds of the ocean that close to you again. And then the second day is lovely. You wake up to the sound of the ocean, and you’re on the beach for the whole day.
After a few days on the beach, you develop a rhythm. I’ll wake up early and see the sun rise, and then read for a while, have breakfast. You get in your bathing suit right away and slathered with sunscreen, head to toe. I go for walks, go swimming as much as we can, as shallow as we can, because of the shark issue.
If it’s a nice night, we sit outside and build a fire. People are surprised that it’s the middle of August and we’re sitting around a fire, but you’re in sweatshirts and long pants by that time. And if it’s not a nice night, then we visit each other’s campers and play card games or dice games, or just talk.
I absolutely love my camper. I call my camper “my suite on wheels.” There are times when I am at home and I’ll take a cup of tea out to my camper and read a book and just be distanced from real life for a little bit.
Our very first camper was a hand-me-down from my mom and dad. And then, as we added children to the family, we needed a little bit more sleeping space, so we bought another camper. And now I’m on my fourth camper. I have pictures of all three of my children in the camper, catching their first fish. I have pictures of my mom and dad, my brother and sister, and my grandkids down on the beach.
I’ve been a teacher for 30 years. This is the first summer that I’ve been on the beach since I’ve been retired. In years past, I always brought down lesson plans to prep out and seating charts to make and classroom management things to do. And that’s what I would work on when the sun was strongest and I couldn’t sit outside. I read books a lot more this summer because I had a lot more time that was dedicated to me rather than my job.
I came home on Sept. 18 — the longest stay I’ve ever had down there. We went through two hurricanes. Hurricane Henri kind of petered out. When the second hurricane came through, Hurricane Ida, they predicted 30- to 35-mile-an-hour winds, which is no big deal. That’s like a northeast storm down on the beach. And we’ve been through that many, many times before. However, they recorded gusts of up to 71 miles per hour.
We made a mistake. We should have left the beach that night. The wind was horrible. My camper was rocking. It is the most scared I’ve ever been in my whole life down there on the beach. And I was alone. We had moved our campers back to the edge of the dune, so our campers were parked on a slant. And because of that and the wind blowing, it felt with a few gusts that we might tip over.
The very next day, the wind died down quite a bit. The water was all churned up. There was a lot of seaweed and stuff mixed in it. But on the second day after, it was just beautiful, clear blue skies, not a cloud to be seen. The breezes had died down, and we moved the campers back down on the beach and got back to our regular routines.