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.

Railroad Progress Moves Along

by Max Hartshorne on July 30, 2014

A logging machine takes a turn and then heads right down the railroad tracks today in South Deerfield, MA.

A logging machine takes a turn and then heads right down the railroad tracks today in South Deerfield, MA.

I watched this giant logging machine chew small sticks and move big logs around by the railroad tracks. The current project adding continuous rail track includes lots of tree removal. This guy had just finished his work and he swung the big six-wheeler right up over the tracks, the 3′ wide tires easily just bounced right over the tracks.

I am curious about the machine that will lift the tracks up and put in the new continuous rail and sidings, I saw a new machine parked in South Deerfield that appeared to be just off the factory shelf. It has picks that are about a track’s width wide. So this might be what I’m looking for.

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Chef, directed and starring Jon Favreau.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new movie Chef since it first came out. But the reasons I liked the film so much were different than I had expected them to be.  I love the inner workings of a restaurant, the people who together, figure out how to get all of the food out of the kitchen right on time for the clients waiting at their tables.

It’s a gritty, profane place to work, and the chef we meet in the movie has the requisite battle  scars…tattooed fingers, arms and the big gut that comes with eating too late and drinking too much. His beautiful thin ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and others tell him he’s gaining weight.

He’s working in a high end restaurant with a guarantee he can cook the way he wants. That is, Until the owner, Vero, (Dustin Hoffman) lays down the line  and pulls rank–squashing the creative ideas, pushing the chef into a box, and making him awfully mad. What else could happen? Our man walks out. Then what?  His wife keeps trying to get him to open a food truck, but how?

We’ve gotten to know Percy, the Chef’s 10-year-old son, and we know he has the skills that most 10 year olds pick up, that is, being total masters of the social media universe and well versed in anything on line. This helps out the chef after a fight with a food critic blows up into a viral internet sensation, and suddenly, he’s being attacked on Twitter and needs to find a way to connect. A YouTube video makes it all worse. Thank God little Percy is there.

We follow the story as a food truck materializes through the good graces of his wife’s former husband, a loveable germaphobic played by Robert Downey Jr. A filthy disgusting truck emerges, and father and son set to work to clean it up. Here we see the bonding begin. Father and son with a major league task and a mission.

A chance for pop to get back in touch with what really means something between them. When the two are just sitting around figuring out some logistics, Percy says to his dad, ‘why can’t we do more of this?’  Dad finally gets what he is saying and then it’s time for a final roadtrip home via New Orleans and Austin to Los Angeles.  Percy becomes a sous chef aboard the newly refurbished “El Jefe” food truck and Cuban sandwiches are their specialty.  Business is great.

Watching the father and son grow closer, and following the progress as the little guy’s social media marketing brings throngs of customers to the curb, it all works out and life is good for a guy we feel deserved a break. The Hollywood ending might be a little bit over the top, but good on Jon Favreau for making a film that is about so much more than food trucks and success.

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Scenes from a Coastal Journey

by Max Hartshorne on July 25, 2014

We are still a little rolling and rocking after our seven-day voyage on the M/V Grande Caribe up the New England coast. We can’t say enough good things about the company, Blount Small Ship Adventures, or our wonderful cast of fellow cruisers. To a person they were fun, well-educated, eager to share stories and most of all, a lot of fun to spend time with. Here are some of my favorite photos from the voyage.

Sunset from the water in Vineyard Haven harbor, Martha's Vineyard MA.

Sunset from the water in Vineyard Haven harbor, Martha’s Vineyard MA.

Gay Head cliffs, Marthas Vineyard

Gay Head cliffs, Aquinnah, Marthas Vineyard

Helping to launch

Blount’s staff takes care of anyone with mobility issues and makes it safe for them to board tenders and go up stairs.

Straignt Wharf, Nantucket

The launch in Nantucket’s Straight Wharf.

Larry Ellison museum Beechwood newport

Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is restoring the Beechwood mansion in Newport to open a public museum for his vast collection of 17th and 18th century art.

New Bedford whaling ship replica

In New Bedford, there is a three-story whaling museum that not only tells the story of the whalers, but the facts of today’s whales too.

Newport harbor

Newport Rhode Island is the sailing capital of New England, with all sizes of yachts and all manner of small sailing craft.

Newport cliffwalk

Just below the impressive stately lawns of Newport’s mansions is the Cliff Walk, where you can hike 3 1/2 miles along the shore without any admission charge.

Seaweed cliffwalk

The Cliff Walk is a highlight of Newport.

To the beach block island

Block Island has the best beaches in New England, enjoyed by people of all ages.

 

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Approaching Vineyard Haven harbor on Martha's Vineyard.

Approaching Vineyard Haven harbor on Martha’s Vineyard.

Nantucket's organic flower and produce market.

Nantucket’s organic flower and produce market.

Lobsta Bake! cooked on a grill with seaweed.

Lobsta Bake! cooked on a grill with seaweed.

Mark Alan Lovewell sings sea chanties aboard ship.

Mark Alan Lovewell of Vineyard Haven sings sea chanties aboard ship.

Cocktails, wine and beer flow freely aboard the MV Grand Caribe.

Cocktails, wine and beer flow freely aboard the MV Grand Caribe.

Old New Bedford from the third floor of the city's wonderful whaling museum.

Old New Bedford from the third floor of the city’s wonderful whaling museum.

On whaling ships in the 1800s, captain’s wives often accompanied their husbands on the years-long journeys around Cape Horn, and there was a special flag that was flown to indicate a woman was aboard the ship. When another whaling ship passed, if they too were flying this pennant, the ships would rendezvous and the ladies would get together for what was known as a ‘gam.’ A ‘gamming chair’ was lowered from one ship to the other to allow the women to be transferred to the other’s ship, and the fine china they brought on board would be used for their tea and dinners together.

This is the just one of the many fascinating tidbits we learned today at New Bedford’s Whaling Museum. It’s a three-story building that contains a half-scale replica of a whaling ship, several full size hanging whale skeletons, and thousands of artifacts like harpoons, bottles of whale oil, and whaling skiffs used in this, New England’s most lucrative business of the 1800s.

What I especially like about this museum is how wide the range of information that is given about current protections of whales, their breeding, habitats and physiology, and the many details, photos, and even movies, you can see about the lives of those men who spent years in crowded ships barely making a living. But the exhibits don’t only focus on the men who killed these beloved ocean mammals but on the animals themselves.

This excursion was our daily activity on this fantastic cruise about the M/V Grande Caribe, part of a fleet of small ships owned by Blount Small Ship Adventures. The company in Warren RI also makes its own ships, and we have met several couples who are on their 8th and 9th cruise with Blount because they had so much fun each time they cruised.

The ships are small–only 88 passengers, and about 17 crew members. There is no charge to use the wifi, no lotteries and scratch games they’re trying to sell you, and the daily excursions are all priced fairly. The food is hearty, delicious and varied. And most of all, every member of the staff we’ve met has been friendly, engaging and interested in helping out any way they can.

But even more enjoyable have been the people who choose to sail on a cruise like this. To a person they have been interesting, well-educated, open minded, non-complaining and best of all, a whole lot of fun to spend time with. Blount really does it right, and this being my first cruise, I am delighted to be here and glad we have a few more ports to visit before we say goodbye.

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A Few Days at Sea, with New Friends in Familiar Places

July 20, 2014

Tweet We have been at sea since Friday afternoon, and as I sit here we are docked at Vineyard Haven. It’s just about four am, and as has become my shipboard custom, I’m awake and in the big salon of the Grand Caribe after a bout of insomnia. Sleeping on a boat isn’t like sleeping [...]

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Watching the Honda Dealership Get Demolished in ‘Hamp

July 18, 2014

Tweet Today my travels brought me down to Northampton and as I drove down King St on my way home, I swung into Foster-Farrar so I could get a better look at the demolition taking place at the former Northampton Honda.  There have been so many times we drove past this hulking ugly weed-strewn building [...]

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