Readuponit: Travel and voracious reading

Max Hartshorne, travel website editor, sharing some of the stuff I read, hear and see with you. Updated every day. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

A New Bicycle Highway System Around the US

by Max Hartshorne on December 17, 2014

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials today announced that their Special Committee on U.S. Route Numbering has approved 1,253 miles of new U.S. Bicycle Routes (USBRs): USBR 1 in Massachusetts and Florida, USBR 10 in Michigan, USBR 11 in Maryland, and USBR 90 in Florida. Realignments were also approved for USBR 76 and USBR 1 in Virginia, which were originally designated in 1982. The U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) now encompasses 8,042 miles of routes in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

This system is creating a huge continent-wide system of bike routes, and right here in Massachusetts we have our own 18 miles of bike highways.

U.S. Bicycle Route 1 in Massachusetts (18 miles)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has designated two new segments along U.S. Bicycle Route 1, adding 18 miles to the route, which now totals 38 miles. The two new segments offer a glimpse of what makes Massachusetts a special place for local and long-distance travelers alike, with an array of landscapes and settlements along urban and rural byways.

The more northerly segment of USBR 1 in Salisbury and Newburyport straddles the majestic Merrimack River. USBR 1 here offers views of watercraft and reminders of the area’s rich nautical history. While the Salisbury Old Eastern Marsh Trail provides proximity to expansive Atlantic Ocean beaches, Newburyport’s Clipper City Rail Trail reminds riders that the City’s clipper ships were once the fastest on the seas, spawning a global maritime trade. Both communities also offer nature preserves and museums in close proximity to USBR 1.

Further south, USBR 1 traverses through the communities of Topsfield, Wenham, Danvers, and Peabody, which are removed from the Atlantic and offer a different experience of Massachusetts. The Topsfield Linear Common and Wenham Swamp Walk wind their way through these communities, and riders are treated to a number of river crossings. Wetlands remind cyclists of glacial epochs long past, and boardwalks provide opportunities to explore these landscapes and natural history. Timeless town centers and deep woods also attract riders. Further south, USBR 1 enters busier settlements via the Danvers Rail Trail and Independence Greenway where cyclists can buy needed provisions.

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Navigating the Massachusetts Health Care Maze for 2015

by Max Hartshorne on December 14, 2014

I spent four and a half hours in the hospital on Friday, but I wasn’t sick at all.  No, it was because I needed their assistance to navigate and figure out my options for health insurance in 2015.  You no doubt have seen the ads, and heard the many news stories about how my health insurance provider, Boston Medical, had a dispute with Baystate Health Systems which means that any customers of this company can no longer be treated at either the big Baystate in Springfield nor the smaller very convenient Baystate Franklin.

This isn’t a big problem for me, I am happy with Cooley Dickinson, but I was there to figure out how to sign up and get into the system to choose a new plan and a new company.  Their system is a first-come, first-serve. So you show up, take a number and then they limit this after a certain number of people have the paper tabs.  My fellow customers and I waited and waited. Up at Franklin Medical Center they have a similar assistance program, but there you make firm appointments.  It’s hit or miss at Cooley, so many of the people waiting with me had been there a long time or had tried before and come back to try again.

Despite what it says on TV, it’s NOT easy getting past the initial log in and password on the Mass Health Connector website. In fact if you have a name with a middle initial, it causes errors which lead it to not allow you to proceed!

The patient and overworked staff member at Cooley Dickinson, Miriam, tried and tried but we could never get the names on the forms to agree–and after an hour and filling in lots of on-line forms, we were stopped and forced to do it all over again on paper.

But because I have been more successful this year than last, I no longer qualified for any of their subsidized plans. Which is overall good, because it means my business is doing better. Maybe you can call me a success story, having graduated from subsidized plans to being a member of the class of people who pay big bucks for monthly premiums.  I am now part of the great wave of Americans who are paying and thus helping those who earn less than us get the nearly free care. It’s classic wealth re-distribution but I understand the big picture, and it means fewer people using the emergency room as their primary care doctor.

If you’ve begun navigating this, remember that it’s only difficult for those who are trying to get a subsidy. The rest of us, me included now will take the tax deduction from the large monthly premiums and now get used to a new price and the hefty deductible.  But when I added up the cost of a plan without the deductible, the yearly total was higher than with the deductible. So I’ll just be ready to fork over $2000 a year in cash and pay relatively lower premiums in exchange.

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Interstate 91 Changed the Valley Like Nothing Else Ever Has

by Max Hartshorne on December 5, 2014

Laying down stones on Interstate 91 under construction in 1962.

Laying down stones on Interstate 91 under construction in 1962.

In 1919, after World War I, the army wanted to test out its fleet of vehicles to see what they needed to improve.  They created a three-mile long caravan of trucks, jeeps and soldiers, plus a marching band, and set off across the US. The roads were ridiculously bed, and on one day they collapsed 41 bridges trying to drive over them.

Thankfully there was one young officer along the trip who would remember how bad the roads were, and he became President Dwight Eisenhower.  Ike soon launched what would become the biggest civic construction project ever undertaken in history, costing upwards of $13o billion and changing our country forever.

We learned about the advent of the Interstate highway system tonight at a riveting lecture by Barry Deitz, a North Carolina transplant who has researched the question of what happens when a highway is built through your town.

Though Deitz has been a radio talk show host, host of a movie review show, and acted in theater, he said he prefers to be called simply a storyteller. His clear emphatic voice, with the southern accent, is made for telling long stories.  The crowd was mostly an older one, mostly people who lived here in the Valley before 91 was built. It was completed in the early 1970s.

Deitz now lives in Bernardston, and moved here about a year ago.  He said he marveled at how rural the side of our interstate is–where he grew up, it’s all built up all along I-95, and our 91 veers through cow pastures, farm fields and tobacco barns.

His talk focused on the building of the Interstates beginning in 1956, specifically when the road came through Deerfield, Greenfield and Bernardston.  Famed headmaster Frank Boyden is famous for his phone call that supposedly changed the route of the highway so that historic Deerfield could be preserved.  Many beautiful sections of our towns were destroyed to make way for the road, since each mile required around 30 acres of land to be taken.  Hundreds of houses were moved, and rivers were re-routed to make way for progress.

 

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Now That’s a Marching Band

by Max Hartshorne on December 3, 2014

The Pride and Class of New England, the University of Massachusetts Marching Band!

The Pride and Class of New England, the University of Massachusetts Marching Band!

 

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Where We GOES? To Meet the Customs and Border Patrol

December 2, 2014

Tweet The alarm on my phone began chirping after I was already out of bed, it was set for 5:20 am, but I always get up earlier when duty forces me to rise with the birds. Today I have a mission, to complete a process started nine months ago. I am going to visit US […]

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MeetUps Bring People Together for All Sorts of Great Reasons

November 25, 2014

Tweet Serendipity brought me something on Facebook that turned into something by email that lead me last night to a group of musicians who play jazz in a Northampton apartment every Monday night. It was a Meet Up ,and I now realize that I have former Vermont Governor Howard Dean to thank for that. I […]

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