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Autumn at the Neck

by Saralee Perel

Sandy Neck Beach on Cape Cod Bay is other-worldly all year 'round, but it's most incredible during the fall. That's when my husband, Bob, and I have done most of our camping in a slide-on truck camper. That's a little metal home the size of a meatball, which fits on the back of a pickup.

We campers have a bad reputation. I'm here to debunk, once and for all, the stereotype of the Cape Cod RV owner.

In our storage compartments, there are no guns or beer cans. (Well, I do keep a dicing knife under my pillow. You never know.) We're a gentle bunch. We like to do nothing but sit and sweat. Our days consist of applying three thousand layers of sticky bug repellent.

You'll often find us looking for shells, collecting sea glass and trying to find places in the camper to stuff things, like frying pans, without getting in really bad moods and wanting to stomp on the toes of anyone who bumps into us while we're trying to move two lousy inches in these claustrophobic phone booth size barracks! Sorry. I'm okay now.

Regardless of what you've heard, we like the plovers. We care about wildlife and we care about the environment. Our units are self-contained, meaning we don't leave any of our water from dishwashing (or whatever) behind.

In the fall, it's cool enough for a fire. Imagine seeing the sunset casting pale pink reflections off the waters of Cape Cod Bay while nestled in a sweatshirt and jeans by a small sizzling campfire.

This leads me to the best part of the cool, sultry nights. The part when everyone's animalistic nature becomes sensually alive. Dinner. As the evening takes over and hues of autumnal pastels awaken o'er the flats at low tide, we try to find garbage containers for the $14.99 steaks that fell in the campfire. Something with a deadbolt lock so that Einstein's raccoons don't open it.

On windy nights (they all are) a look down the beach reveals dozens of cozy campers hovering around their campfires with their guitars, which they are frantically swishing back and forth to keep the flames from enveloping their $800 custom made awnings that keep dipping dangerously close to their fires.

One of the most spectacular sights this time of year is the crimson sumac, the luscious red beach plums (Or are they rose hips? Nobody knows the difference) and the purple and scarlet hues of the poison ivy. I don't mean the plant. I mean our itchy blistering skin.

In the fall, the greenhead flies are mutants of the seven hundred species that fly all summer long and therefore are now evolutionarily advanced – meaning they're just two big teeth with wings.

Sleeping in the camper, while listening to the waves on chilly autumn nights, is my idea of peace. Unless of course the dog puts her snout at the window's edge and emits a low drawn-out growl. That takes the peace part out of the picture and replaces it with a screeching noise, which is me frantically trying to wake Bob, who then emits the same kind of growl, but with a different meaning.

Saralee Perel is an award-winning nationally syndicated columnist. Her new book, Cracked Nuts & Sentimental Journeys: Stories From a Life Out of Balance, is available in local bookstores.

It can also be ordered through Amazon, or directly from the publisher, as well as from Saralee for a personalized signed copy.

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is also available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, please visit her website: or e-mail her at

Cracked Nuts Raw Nerves

The last time the growling occurred, Bob refused to get dressed and go outside. The dog didn't want to go either. I grabbed my dicing knife and tiptoed out in the darkness. Moonlight and wind made shadows appear to move all around me. I heard rustling in the beach grasses and I froze.

A coyote, feral and majestic, stood at the top of the dune behind the camper. Even in the dark I could see that he was scraggly and thin, but that didn't take away from his magnificence. I was, of course, terrified. He may have been too.

I'm sure he saw me, but we didn't make eye contact, a wise lesson I learned from my dog. He turned and ran away. And the moment was gone.

The sensuous splendor of Sandy Neck in autumn is something I treasure whether I'm camping or simply sitting in my car looking at the sand and sea.

The heavenly smell of wood fires, the feel of flannel against skin, the return of the mergansers and the harbor seals portend to the impending winter when the beach will be barren of leafy vegetation and campers, yet filled with life.

Sandy Neck camper

Bob and Gracie at the camper on Sandy Neck. Photograph by Saralee Perel