WEST YARMOUTH -- In his heyday, broadcaster Kevin O'Keefe (real name: Arthur Mctague ) would have fallen all over himself coining names for summer weekend traffic here. His rush-hour classics -- "stall and crawl" and "snail trail"-- would have overstated the progress. Cape Codder Dodder, maybe? Hyannis Hobble? Cape Creep?
There's no denying that Route 28 between Hyannis and Harwich gets a bad rap from drivers and their captive families trying to reach the beaches or summer cottages along Nantucket Sound. As you pull out of Hyannis on Route 28 south (east is south on this section of road), long, low, and undistinguished carpet and flooring stores, discount furniture outlets, and auto glass replacement shops do little to hint at summer fun.
But fun is in the eye of the beholder, and if the beholder is, say, 7 years old, the slow road may be the best road on Cape Cod. Things start looking up as soon as drivers cross the line into West Yarmouth. On the left stands a little beige building shared by Cape Cod Chocolatier and Steve & Sue's Soft Serve & Hard Ice Cream.
"Actually, summer is the slowest time of year for gourmet chocolatiers," says Rob Cronin , co-owner of the candy shop. "In the summer, it's all about the fudge." A case contains fudge flavors that range from traditional chocolate and penuche to pecan turtle and even a light pink cranberry. "People like to buy a box of fudge to bring back home to the cat sitter," Cronin says.
As for Steve & Sue's, well, wherever there's mini-golf on Cape Cod, ice cream isn't far away. Sure enough, the ice cream stand and chocolatier share a large parking lot with the mini-links of Wild Animal Lagoon . Owner Chad Doe bought the former Thunder Falls a year and a half ago.
Doe nods toward daughters Emma , 9, and Olivia , 5, who are playing the fourth hole. "The girls helped me redo it all," Doe says. "They came up with the animals and gave me ideas on layout." They also came up with cute names for the holes, such as Shark Bite and Hippo Hideaway , that retain the old-fashioned charm of more innocent times.
Nearby Putter's Paradise is hard to miss from the road. The water-spouting white whale is a dead giveaway. Once inside, putters find Ahab (of course), a lighthouse, fisherman, lobsterman, and a most unusual pink octopus -- all fashioned from concrete by a local artist.
"We opened in 1979 ," says co-owner Leanne Hurley . "We've seen a lot of kids grow up." Mini-golf isn't just for tykes, she points out. "We have quite a few tournament players. It's mostly guys. They're very competitive."
The game requires more strategy than the casual observer might realize. "Most holes have one shot for a hole in one," theorizes Lowell Barnes , who is playing at Skull Island Adventure Golf with his wife, Marjorie , and adult son Cliff as part of a Mensa outing. "It's usually a bank shot," he asserts. Indeed, all three are playing the caroms off the sides of each hole -- though Cliff is the only one so far to record a hole in one.
Skull Island, like the nearby Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf , is part of a new breed of mini-golf courses. "My grandfather built the mini-golf course back in 1960 ," says Greg Nickinello , the third generation of the family in the Route 28 amusement business. The course was completely overhauled in 2000. "We had to stay with the times," Nickinello says. "More of a Walt Disney atmosphere with more water features -- that's what people are looking for these days."
The same complex also offers a driving range, batting cages, video arcade, and a skateboard park.
Well, they might go down the road to ZooQuarium , especially if they have young children in tow. This small roadside zoo features the turtles, fish, raccoons, and porcupines that live on Cape Cod and the farm creatures brought to these shores nearly four centuries ago. Toddlers, however, are most taken with the exotic creatures in the petting zoo. It is hard to pass up the slightly dopey charm of llamas Wilma, Pebbles, and Betty , or the almost ridiculous bulk of Icelandic sheep as they balance on slender little legs. ZooQuarium is a big birthday venue for the preschool set, and birthday boys and girls get to select the animal for one of the show-and-tell talks in the outdoor theater.
The cud-chewing llamas, sheep, and goats of ZooQuarium have nothing on small children digging into a bag of saltwater taffy. This practical confection -- it only melts when jammed into the seat cushions of a hot car -- is available all along Route 28. Cape Cod Salt Water Taffy, a roadside stand in South Yarmouth, displays 30 flavors "made on Cape Cod by Cape Codders." It is a well-known fact that children whose mouths are cemented with taffy cannot ask, "Are we there yet?"
The pent-up energy of a Route 28 ride needs release somewhere along the line, and there are excellent opportunities on both ends of the Slow Road. Admittedly, there's a 225-pound weight limit at Jump on Us trampolines in West Yarmouth, which might rule out some older folks in the car, but they can wait for the bumper boats or batting cage at Grand Slam Entertainment in Harwich Port. "A lot of folks come in and say, ' Give me some tokens for the batting cage. I wanna hit something,' " says co-owner D.J. Thiele .
Or the whole family can release their road rage at Holiday Hill Plaza , where the patriotic-themed mini-golf course is augmented by a rock 'em, sock 'em indoor bumper car arcade. If you need incentive, just think about the guy with New York plates who cut you off.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon, authors of "Cape Cod" in the Compass American Guide series, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.