VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. – President Obama had a simple task for his first morning on vacation: shoot over to a Martha’s Vineyard bookstore to fill out his daughters’ summer reading list and grab himself a novel.

Easier said than done.

His SUV, part of a 20-vehicle motorcade, passed through a cordon of Massachusetts State Police motorcycle officers, in a protective cocoon of Secret Service agents. Tagging along for the quick trip Friday were White House communications trucks, an ambulance and two vans full of reporters and photographers.

It was the same drill Saturday when he went to the beach for a picnic lunch with his family.

This may be down time for Obama, but like all modern presidents, celebrities and some wannabes, he must move about with a not insignificant entourage. It includes security officers and their array of arms, as well as advisers, friends in and out of politics, and a cook who doubles as a golfing buddy.

“They all have it and they all hate it,” said Ron Kaufman, political director for former President George H.W. Bush. “Every president that I know has been accused of taking off too much timebut the truth is, they never get away from it.”

Mike McCurry, press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, said: “the president can be commander in chief wherever he goes. That’s why you have that communications truck go everywhere he goes.”