President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters left the Vineyard quietly last Sunday night, departing the Island on Marine One in a steady drizzle. The departure, like most of the president’s visit, was out of the public eye.
There were no public events during the nine-day vacation, and the Obamas spent their time like most families do on a summer vacation: going to the beach and visiting friends, hitting the golf course and eating out at favorite restaurants. The weather was mostly picture-perfect for August, sunny and warm with temperatures in the high 70s during the day, in the low 60s at night.
This is the fourth time the president has visited the Island since he was first elected in 2008. He also vacationed here before that time.
The family rented a 5,000-square-foot contemporary-style home on Snail Road in Chilmark, on a ridge overlooking Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. In a departure from other years, Obama daughters Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, were at summer camp and arrived on the Island Thursday.
The family’s Portuguese water dog, Bo, joined the family on the trip.
The president and first lady visited favorite Vineyard dinner spots. They ate with friends at Sweet Life Cafe in Oak Bluffs on Sunday and at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury Wednesday. On Tuesday they had dinner and split a piece of blueberry cake at Beach Plum Inn and Restaurant in Chilmark.
All told, the president spent more than 25 hours on the golf course, hitting the links six times. Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown was a favorite for the president; he played there three times. He also visited Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs twice and Mink Meadows in Vineyard Haven once.
His golfing partners included former U.S. Trade representative Ron Kirk and World Bank president Jim Kim. Clinton advisor Vernon Jordan, Comcast executive Brian Roberts, television star Larry David and investor Glenn Hutchins, all seasonal Vineyard residents, were part of the president’s foursome at some point.
On a rainy Tuesday the president stopped by perennial favorite Nancy’s Snack Bar in Oak Bluffs to pick up an order of fried shrimp and oysters, french fries and onion rings, greeting about 40 people outside the restaurant. He took the meal to senior advisor Valerie Jarrett’s Oak Bluffs rental home on Seaview avenue extension.
When Oak Bluffs School students return to their classrooms Sept. 9, they again will have a distinct honor: the president played basketball in their school gym.
The president and first lady also attended a cocktail party at the West Tisbury home of campaign advisor Broderick Johnson and former NPR host Michele Norris Johnson, and attended an event at Mr. Roberts’s West Tisbury home. On Friday night the family watched the annual Oak Bluffs fireworks show from Ms. Jarrett’s house. Onlookers gathered around at the foot of Sea View avenue extension hoping for a glimpse.
The first family went on a bike ride together through Manuel F. Correllus State Forest on Friday and visited a private beach off Pohogonot Road in Edgartown on Saturday.
On Saturday evening the Obamas departed from routine and came into downtown Edgartown to have dinner at the private Boathouse restaurant.
National security advisor Susan E. Rice joined the president on the trip, and briefed the president about unfolding violence in Egypt. On August 15, the president issued a statement outside the rental home in Chilmark condemning the violence and announced that the United States will cancel joint military exercises with the Egyptian government.
“The Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen over the last several days,” the president told the White House press pool.
With the exception of brief photo opportunities during the bicycle ride, while visiting Nancy’s and during a golf game, the president was largely out of sight from both the press and the public.
But there were still hints around the Island: a big yellow bus for the media was parked outside West Tisbury town hall on most days, and state police motorcycles and officers with dogs stationed at the entrance to Vineyard Golf Club. Handmade signs bearing messages to the president were posted on Island roads, especially up-Island. One sign down the road from where the president was staying read: “Thank you Mr. President, keep up the good fight! From the Ambulos family.”
The board outside Alley’s General Store said “Mr. President, a beach ball?”
Wherever the president was, there was likely to be a crowd hoping for a picture or a glimpse. People lined Edgartown-West Tisbury Road to see the motorcade pass by after President Obama arrived, and a crowd was gathered outside Alley’s. The scene was more subdued a week and a day later for the departure, as just a few people stood outside in a late evening rain to wave at the motorcade from the side of the road.
When the first family came to Edgartown Saturday night, yellow tape blocked traffic on lower Main street and onlookers holding ice cream cones gathered across the street from the restaurant where the Obamas were dining at the foot of Main street. When SUVs started moving, the crowd began to buzz: would the president wave or come say hello? A Secret Service agent eyed the crowed and cell phone screens were trained toward a doorway across the street. Then the buzz grew louder and, unseen by most, the president and his family slipped into a waiting car. In a flash, car after car sped off. An agent stayed behind to take down the yellow tape. People spilled into the street and went back to their Saturday evening plans.