i went to bed last night at 1:00 after reading a few more chapters of clash of kings.1 it was actually cold for a change. i crawled underneath the blankets for the first time in weeks. cooler temperature makes for better sleep though. i woke up around 7:00 and couldn't fall back to unconsciousness. maybe i was anxious about seeing whales. originally i planned on waking up 30 minutes before leaving for boston, but this way i had plenty of time to get ready and not have to rush. i watched a little morning news, used the bathroom, took a shower, made myself some oatmeal for breakfast, and surfed the web.
i left by 9:00. it takes just 30 minutes to get into boston - if i don't get hit by a car. i wasn't really looking forward to riding into the city during rush hour. i just have to get over the fact that there will be other bikers out there and more than likely they're going to pass me. i packed a bottle of frozen water, wore a white shirt over my t-shirt (in case it got cold on the boat), and put some sunblock on my face (even i know my limits when it comes to UV rays). i also took a bonine tablet, knowing my past bad experience with motion sickness on boats.
as predicted, i was eventually passed by no less than 10 other bikers on the cycling convoy heading into boston. i have to learn to not take it personally. maybe i can even make a game out of it, see if i can beat today's passing record.
i made very good time and arrived at the aquarium MBTA stop by 9:20. i parked my bike by the nearby bike lock and made my way to the pier. since i had more than half an hour before departure, i was just wandering around, standing in shade to stay cool. that's when it hit me: maybe i should try to board the boat early, so i could get a good position. by the time i made that realization and made my way to gate 4, there was already a long line of whalewatchers waiting to board. next time, get in line early!
once onboard, i went to the upper deck, the best place to watch. there was no space along the railing, every inch of spot already claimed. i hovered around the center of the deck, by the railing circling the staircase to the level below. before we left, there was several announcements over loudspeakers warning passengers that the whole trip takes 4 hours, not the 3 hours quoted in the brochure, and if anyone had any kind of schedule conflict, they should choose a different day.
we gently eased out of the pier. once we got far enough though, the captain kicked it into high gear. not sure what kind of boat we were on (a type of ferry boat?) but it was large enough to hold several hundred passengers. the water was choppy, and standing on the upper deck, it was like riding a rollercoaster, a lot of ups and downs threatening to throw people into the ocean if they didn't hang on to something. water sprayed on my face and i could taste the salt. it was a little scary at first but then it became fun, like riding a bucking bronco.
a trio of asians held the railing next to me. from their unidentifiable language to the headscarf the girl was wearing, i assumed they were malaysians (or indonesians). the guy standing next to me asked, "where are you from?" i knew exactly what he was asking but wasn't feeling particularly helpful so i gave him the vague, "i'm american," response. i asked if they were malaysians, he said yes. moments later i felt a little bad at giving him such a snippy answer so i told him what he wanted to know, that i'm originally from taiwan. i knew malaysians speak a bunch of different languages so out of curiosity i asked him if he spoke mandarin. he said yes, so we started chatting in chinese.
i shouldn't be too surprised that chinese is the lingua franca of asia. in cambodia i haggled with chinese fruit vendors and hung out with chinese moto drivers, in vietnam i visited a chinese confucian temple, in thailand i saw trilingual english-chinese-thai schools, in japan i could recognize the kanji characters, and in burma i chatted with chinese immigrants in the markets. knowing a bit of chinese can open more doors when traveling through asia. over thousands of years, chinese culture (including the language) has permeated much of the area.
my new malaysian friend was named vincent, his other friend tom. their girl friend was busy elsewhere taking photos, i don't think she spoke any chinese. vincent learned chinese in school, where he took the language for six years. i was pretty amazed because he spoke without accent and just hearing him talk it'd be impossible to know he wasn't chinese. they were both students, here in boston attending business classes (at harvard? they actually live pretty close to me) for the summer. vincent was a mechanical engineer, and tom was chemical. tom still had another year of school, but vincent would graduate when he returns to malaysia (they have a different academic schedule over there). vincent confessed that he started talking to me because i looked like a classmate of his from back home. when i told him how old i was, he couldn't believe it, he thought i was as young as him.
"what's good to eat here?" was one of the first things vincent asked me. his friend nodded in shared interest. ah, true asians! not so much interested in sightseeing as they are in finding new culinary delights. i told them about lobsters and clam chowder, and couldn't think of anything else. they were also fascinated about winter, having never seen snow before. when i told them how cold it gets, they wondered how can anyone ever live here. vincent definitely wasn't used to the cold, and when below deck a few times to escape the chilling winds.
i asked them if they ever got seasick, and they said no. tom said he crewed a boat once while he had explosive diarrhea and the ship captain wouldn't let him off the boat to relieve himself. vincent had been in crowded ferries packed like sardines for 3-hour long trips. they were used to sea travel, so a little trip into boston harbor was nothing to them.
at the hour-long mark, vincent came back up and said he overheard some people talking and there was another 40 minutes before we reached the whale watch site. no wonder this whole trip takes 4 hours! most of that is just in traveling time. i took out my GPS to check our location. we were traveling southeast going roughtly 30mph. that's when i started to get a little green. just riding the boat was no problem, but reading on a moving vehicle (be it car or ship) induces immediate motion sickness (although never in planes or trains). i wasn't alone: just looking around, you could tell those who were okay and those who were ill. i saw people shambling about clutching motion sickness bags. a group was hovering over an open trash can. i quickly put my GPS away and concentrated on the horizon.
we knew we were close because 2 people went to the front of the ship (which had been chained off) with clipboards and binoculars. we also picked up speed, although i don't know how much faster because i was afraid to check it on my GPS. it was fast enough that it felt like being in a wind tunnel and had the funny effect of puffy up jackets.
the whale watch site was no secret and there were a few other boats, all much smaller personal water crafts. our boat came to a stop as everyone went to the side peering out into the ocean in hopes of glimpsing whales. the last time i went whale watching was in 5th grade, in 1985. i don't remember much but i do remember the boat tilting to one side because everyone had crowded over to see the whales. this time around we were on a much bigger boat, so there was no tilting, but people still crowded over to one side as soon as somebody spotted something in the water. i checked my GPS one last time: N 42°09'24.1" W 070°17'59.5". actually very close to provincetown, just northwest of the tip, close enough to see the pilgrim monument like a vertical line on the horizon.
there was a trio of humpback whales. the two women who went to the front of the ship were narrating what it is we were seeing, explaining whale behaviors and identification. the whales would dive and we'd catch a glimpse of hump or possible some part of the tail before they'd submerge for 7-10 minutes before coming up for air again. every time they came up they'd also blow water into the air like a geyser, so that was one way to spot them.
we were probably only at the whale watch site for 30 minutes. i took photos for the first half, then became too seasick and sleepy and just wanted to sit down. it also didn't help that i took a second bonine tablet, hoping it'd stave off the nausea. i never got to the point where i wanted to puke, but i didn't feel well. while everyone was watching whales, i was watching the back of the ship, waiting for us to leave so i could have some relief.
once the boat started moving again and the breeze came back i felt a little better. i was hoping to stay on the upper deck, but it was just too windy and cold, now that the captain was picking up the pace to get us all back in time. i went to the bottom-most deck, an enclosed space sort of like the interior of an airplane was wider and with tabled booths along the sides. i said in the center, one of the folding seats, and quickly fell asleep. 2 hours before we get back to boston.
i woke up when i saw the boston harbor islands and went back to the upper deck to take photos. i wasn't seasick anymore, maybe the sleep had helped. this was probably why victor and his girlfriend didn't try to go again on the whale watch and gave me the rain check ticket instead: two much work for too little reward, especially if you're one of the lucky few who get motion sickness. enduring a nearly 4 hour round trip boat ride just to see some whale humps and whale tails is a lot to bear. it's nice to do it once in your life, but 4 hours in boston can be spent doing better things. also, whale watching would be better if one left from provincetown, since the watch site is just nearby. skip all the 4 hours of travel time and go directly to whale watching!
we pulled in right around 2:00. i said good bye to the malaysians, and then went to retrieve my bike. i went to haymarket to pick up a few things (cherries, grapes, basil, pluots) before heading back to cambridge.
i was sort of pressed for time since the whale watch took 4 hours instead of 3. i was meeting my bike seller back in cambridge at 3:00. i thought about calling her to reschedule, but figured i still had time if i hurried up. i didn't leave boston until almost 2:30, and it'd take me half an hour to get back. once again i made record time and returned home in 20 minutes. i took a few minutes to catch my breath and to clean up a bit before going back.
the meeting place was a nearby street corner. nancy was already there with the bike. it the photo the bike looked brand new. in reality, there was definitely some wear and tear. most glaring was the frame, which was covered in this white film which gave it a matte finish instead of glossy. turns out this was something nancy had done herself, something about borax powder to prevent rust. she also pointed out to other things wrong with the bike: the seat post couldn't be adjusted (it was just a matter of loosening the bolt), the rear brake doesn't work (just needed some oil in the casing), and it wouldn't shift (most likely cable issue as well). it almost seemed like she was trying to talk me out of buying it. but $40 for a bike with all original parts (except for the front tire which was replaced) was pretty good. i paid her and then rode back to my place, just 3 blocks away.
i gave the bike a more thorough inspection once i was home. i like the double rear reflectors, it's something i've only seen on ross bikes. the seat looks nice, but it's really lumpy and i could feel the springs hitting my butt. one area of concern was the front wheel, the chrome finish had flaked off on the sidewall. not sure how this could happen unless this was a very cheap wheel.
i thought all 3-speed hubs were sturmey-archer, so i was surprised to find this bike had a shimano 3-speed hub.
my father came by later to pick up the bike and the stuff i bought from haymarket.
i went over to bruce's place, who had inherited a bunch of old things after moving his mother out of their childhood home and into an assisted living center. he showed me the boxes of old coins and the heirloom gold pocket watches. the coins (the ones that weren't worth anything) he wanted to sell for the silver. i thought him how to tell if i coin is silver by striking it with another coin and listening for the tell-tale chiming. some of the watches still worked after winding them up. a few had secret compartments to hold inscriptions or photos. i was surprised he wanted to sell them as well, since they'd been in his family for 100+ years. turns out he's not too sentimental when it comes to objects.
i left with some presents: an italian "ass coin," a south arabia coin, and a tiny turkish penny (slightly bigger than a paper punch hole). he also had a lot of old dishware which i didn't need. i did take a few old cotton towels for bread making purposes.
1 i realize reading book 2 of a song of ice and fire series will spoil game of thrones for me next season but i can't stop myself. i'm about 60% through the book and it seems to be still building up the plot for something really big to happen - at least that's what i hope. there are a lot more special effect elements which i'm curious how the creators of the show will deal with without going over budget (e.g. maturing dragons, bigger direwolves, more magic).