this will be my 3rd trip to deer island, one of my favorite spots in the greater boston area. the first time was bruce, on a picture perfect august day last year. then a few months later in october, i went with my former italian roommate marco. we went by bike that time, in what would be a surreal trip on an unusually foggy day where we couldn't see anything but mist.
traveling by bike is actually better in that we get to see more than taking the MBTA. the subway/bus route might've even been longer, requiring a red-orange-blue line transfer, then taking another bus from orient heights. it was also a route i'd never taken before, so there were a lot more unknowns than simply biking. of course there's nothing simple about getting to deer island from cambridge. much of the time it involves riding on roads not designed for bikes. there were even some points not even fit for pedestrian use, like the mcardle bridge connecting chelsea to east boston, where i had to lift my bike out into trafficked road in order to get around poorly placed cement light posts.
since there'd be a lot of biking, i made sure to have a big breakfast. i made some french toast and fried up the last of my bacon (which ended up sticking up the house for the rest of the day).
we didn't leave the house until 10:20. the first part of our route took us to: union square, sullivan square, schrafft's building, alford street bridge (including the active wind turbine on the everett side of the bridge), and the everett industrial zone. when we got to chelsea, drew was immediately drawn to the tobin bridge. we spent some time exploring the admiral's hill area. drew surmised that the large old granite building on top of the hill used to be a naval hospital of some sort. across the water we could see the schrafft's building (1928, where we just were), as well as harvard's memorial hall (1877, cambridge), and st. francis de sales church (1862, charlestown). i've been to the mary o'malley waterfront park on a few occasions, but it's always been high tide with the except of today. i even had the opportunity to climb down to the rocky beach and take some photos.
looking across the water we could see all manners of industry. it's all very mysterious, made me wish for was a field guide to identifying large industrial machinery and structures. like the large dome west of the park (across island end river): what is that? later back at home i did some research, and came across a photo for a cement factory that had a similar setup, with a large storage dome accompanied by silos. from there i had enough clues to finally figure out that it's the everett shipping terminal of the boston sand and gravel company. the facility uses self-unloading barges to receive cement shipments.
another interesting spot in the area was down winnisimmet street. what caught my attention was the cobblestone path, which indicated some piece of old history. the street name itself was unique: "winnisimmet" apparently was the indian name for chelsea. the end of the street ended at a fenced-off pier, and the nearby buildings looked like former warehouses with storefront mooring bollards. turns out this area was the site of the chelsea-boston ferry that operated for 286 years before finally closing in 1917. back in those days, the land route to boston took the entire day, so it was much faster traveling by boat. even today, getting to chelsea is not that easy. even though it's right across the water from boston, there are no subway stations, but instead the area is served by several bus routes.
we continued onwards across the mcardle bridge from chelsea to east boston. there was a big cargo ship nyon (switzerland) unloading salt onto the red-white-blue salt piles like a giant version of an arcade claw crane. from condor to connected to saratoga, ending up at orient heights. from here we could see something that looked like a golden babylonian tower. unbeknownst to us, that's the queen of the universe national shrine, housing a 35 feet madonna statue.
from orient heights we kept following saratoga to bowdoin (a moderne style house sits at the intersection), bowdoin to river, river to washington (bear left, past the elks lodge), washington to shirley (bear right at the true value hardware store), then shirley south to deer island park. i was so hot by the time we arrived, i'd already removed my two layers of jackets and my long-sleeved henley, wearing nothing but my t-shirt on this day seemed to be getting warmer the longer we stayed out in the sun (temperature in the 60's).
deer island: come for the waste treatment, stay for the birds! that includes airplanes, which were flying over the winthrop town water tower. it wasn't too bad, either there weren't many planes, or the wind direction made them divert their take-offs/landings to another direction.
there were also shore birds. i brought my along my binoculars so drew could get a better view of the lighthouses, but they were just as useful for birdwatching. there were white-winged scoters with their white teardrop eyes and red bills and legs; eiders; cormorants; red-breasted mergansers; and ring-billed and herring gulls. fairly typical, nothing i haven't seen before.
it was low tide, so much of the coast along the edge of deer island was exposed. it looked deceptively easy to just climb down and go exploring but the water can creep up pretty quickly and i didn't want to risk getting stranded.
a cargo ship (csav rio aysen, united kingdom) we saw back in mystic river was making quick speed as it barreled out of boston harbor. later i'd learn it was destined for bayonne, new jersey. out in the harbor was another big ship, a tanker called stena concert (bermuda), heading out to new york.
i don't remember it smelling bad on deer island despite the waste treatment plant. however, when we got close to the "eggs" (digesters) we whiffed the faint odor of rotten eggs. it wasn't too bad and once we got upwind of it we couldn't smell it anymore.
from the southern tip of deer island you can see 5 lighthouses dotting the area around boston harbor. my favorite is minot's ledge light all the way in cohasset (approximately 11 miles away), which one can make out on the horizon (much easier to see with a pair of binoculars, which conveniently enough there's a free non-coin-operated one).
before we left deer island, drew wanted a photo of himself dipping his feet into the atlantic ocean. so we climbed down to the flat rocky shores close to the entrance, where there was zero danger of being swallowed up by the high tide. drew complained that the water was bitterly cold, which surprised me since he grew up in canada and i thought all canadians were hardy northerners. i also got him to take a few snapshots of me, much to the amusement of passing pedestrians.
it took 11 miles to get to deer island and it'd take another 11 miles to get back to cambridge. fortunately we didn't get lost and the ride back was textbook. i was pretty hungry and at one point stopped and remembered i had a granola bar in my bag which i split with drew.
back at the house, my generic baseball cap from amazon.com arrived. i like it because it has no logos, just a simple hat. for $7 it's not made from the best material but should serve it's purpose, which is to be combined with my bike helmet so i can have a visor to shield my eyes from the sun's glare. of course this requires me wearing the bike helmet, which i usually don't.
i left for belmont around 3:30. when my father returned home from the cafe i gave him the LED maglite upgrade i purchased. when he tried to replace the old bulb, the new LED bulb wouldn't fit. why? because the flashlight isn't a true maglite, but a brookstone knockoff called the "watchdog" which also has buttons to turn on either the noise of a police siren or a barking dog.
fortunately the 2nd piece of upgrade i had worked out a bit better. i'd also purchased an 8w 12v bulb for a broken 1980's fiber-optic encased flowers display. i've seen them for sale on ebay for $30 (yirng shehng brand, made in taiwan, back before a time when anything was made in china). it's the right bulb, but for some reason the socket was just a bit too small. my father managed to fix the problem by splitting open the socket to provide a bit more wiggle room for the bulb. once everything was reassembled, the flower display worked like it once did back in the 80's.
earlier in the afternoon my parents had gone to costco and brought back one of their large everything pizza for $10. i actually had a few slices when i got to belmont. i didn't think i'd be hungry for dinner but i had a bowl of xuelihong noodles.
drew wasn't home when i returned to cambridge, having gone out to dinner with a friend. he didn't get back until after midnight.