As all vacations must, President Clinton's sojourn amid the gray shingles, salt grasses and golf courses of Martha's Vineyard had to come to an end.
Clinton seems to like this island so much that Washington - its politics, its byzantine folkways, its machinations and its ability to mount relentless and never-ending opposition - may seem even worse by comparison.And when Clinton finished the seventh and final golf game of his 12-day vacation Tuesday, golf pro Tim Spring appeared to sum it up: "He seemed kind of depressed. I don't think he wants to go home."
The president and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton boarded Air Force One at midday Wednesday and were flying back to the capital. Their daughter, Chelsea, 14, already has returned to the White House to get ready for school.
The Clintons will reside temporarily across the street in the Blair House while renovations to the executive mansion are completed, officials said Wednesday. Workman were still making renovations to the heating and cooling systems and removing asbestos. The Clinton should be able to return to the White House living quarters on Sunday.
Unlike other places he visits, Martha's Vineyard was totally devoid of demonstrators or signs denouncing Clinton, his wife or this or that policy.
The crowds he met in clusters of 25 at country crossroads or the beach were uniformly curious, eager, friendly and smiling.
If Clinton had an obvious regret it was that he didn't achieve his dream of breaking 80 in 18 holes of golf, something he definitely wants to do before he turns 50 two years from now.
On his last outing Tuesday he concentrated on giving pointers to his wife, who had joined him on the course for the second day in a row.
"I just piddled; I didn't even take a score card," Clinton said. "We were just practicing with Hillary, trying to get her into golf."
Clinton wasn't scheduled to return to work until Thursday. His schedule then includes breakfast with religious leaders and lunch with Vice President Al Gore, who will have just returned from a trip abroad.
On Friday, the president flies to New Orleans to deliver a speech that will highlight his fall agenda, including pushes to pass health-care reform and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and state visits from Russian President Boris Yeltsin and South African President Nelson Mandela.
While in New Orleans, Clinton will also meet with the National Conference of Black Mayors and attend a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser. The DNC event is an indication of what will consume the remainder of Clinton's fall agenda - the midterm elections set for Nov. 8.