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Biking With Bob: New England Adventure, Train To California

Editor’s Note: After more than 4,000 miles on the road, area resident Bob Kaspar completes his epic solo ride across America, from the beach in Southern California to his hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts, where the adventurer put his kickstand down to refresh some fond memories.

Finally, trading his bike ride for a train ride, the wandering cyclist returns to Oakhurst. This is his final missive on the trip. Fortunately, he’ll be back. We look forward to hearing more from Bob as the August 2017 solar eclipse approaches. In the meantime, he wraps up this tremendous trip, starting with a glimpse into his camp on the sand at Duxbury, Massachusetts.

My first night’s camp on Duxbury Beach. Nobody around. I looked forward to sunrise over the ocean.

Sunrise over the Atlantic from Duxbury Beach did not disappoint.

I hadn’t seen or spoken with my friends Dana and Kathy Staples for decades and it was really great to spend some time with them.

The Staples are a classic New England family who have worked on the sea for generations. He knows the best seafood places. I may be the only person to bike 4,000 miles and gain a few pounds.

I phoned Dana only about a day before arriving and said “Hey Dana, this is Rob Kaspar and I’m in New England on a bicycle.”  After a short pause he said “Heh, heh, heh!”

Part of the Green Harbor lobster fleet down the street from our summer house at Brant Rock. I remember meals at the Staples’ house across the street and the common complaint “Do we have to eat lobster again?!”

Having grown up since about age eight in California, I have no New England accent, but after only a day or so I found myself lapsing back into it. The primal sounds must still lurk in my head. It must be back in theyah somewheah.

There are groundhogs everywhere in the East. Being on a bike you are quiet and can come up behind them, unheard. Then you can shout and they launch about a foot into the air and squeak before running off. Very cool. I was only attacked once.

Most people at Brant Rock don’t know that it was the site of the first transatlantic radio broadcast. On Christmas Eve in 1906, radio pioneer Reginald Fessenden broadcast a program containing music, poetry and commentary from his laboratory and 420-foot tower at Brant Rock.

Fessenden’s tower was demolished in 1917 and all that remains is the base which sits among trailers in a mobile home park.

I took this picture and didn’t realize until later that it was the exact same view as this postcard, below, from 1906.

The photographer in 1906 was standing atop Bluefish Rock, as was I. In my photo, the tower would extend well above the photo frame.

This indentation in Bluefish Rock was known as the “King’s Chair,” when I was a child and probably now. It was fought over, fang and claw, by five-year-old children to see who would sit in it. The carnage that occurred here may have rivaled many battlefields of the Civil War.

Tides are the result of the gravitational effect of the moon. The average tidal range in New England is about nine-feet.

The result of this is the formation of tidal flats which support a distinct ecosystem and control access to the bays and estuaries.

Life here, from man to mollusk, is largely controlled by the tides and, by extension, the moon. Low tide at Powder Point Bridge over Duxbury Bay. Moon in background.

Tidal marshes are characteristic of New England and typically form around river estuaries.  Estuary at confluence of three rivers at Duxbury back bay.

On the left is my grandparents’ house where I first lived. My grandfather built it in the late 1940s. On the right is the house built by my father where I lived until we left for California in 1958. 

On the lawn just under the window on the right, is the stump of a maple tree I planted when I was about four years old. 

My father complained that my grandfather always built crappy foundations. I chanced upon the current owner in the yard. In conversation he said he was in the process of submitting an insurance claim for the foundation.

Brockton, Massachusetts is a mid-sized industrial city south of Boston. It has become a tough town with significant crime, drug and economic problems. 

During the industrial revolution it was a center for shoe production. 

In later years the town produced boxing champions Marvin Hagler and Rocky Marciano, a classmate of my parents. 

Like most of the East, reminders of the past are everywhere. Pictured here is the classic entrance steps to old Brockton High School. Closed since the early 1970s, my parents met here.

I also stopped by Pearl Street Methodist Church where everyone in the neighborhood attended every Sunday. I remember the pews being wood, cold and uncomfortable, perhaps by design.

From nowhere a voice said: “You have the power to stop what you’re doing right now and chart a new course for your life.” Huh? “So let us rise and join in song.”

Whhhhaat? As it turns out, every Sunday morning the service from the local church is broadcast live into Dunkin Donuts, including into the men’s room.

South Station Boston. On the first Tuesday of each month Chess Grandmaster Larry Christiansen takes on all comers and plays up to 25 games at once.

He has never lost.

Some people come from all over the country to play.

Since anyone can simply walk up and join in, I considered playing just to see what happened since I’ve never played chess. But there was lots of security around so I didn’t.

Time to get on the train for a return to California.

The Amtrak observation car.  I spent most of the four-day trip here. It, and the train in general, are remarkably smooth and quiet.

Bulk Carrier, Toledo, Ohio. Characteristic of the Great Lakes Fleet, bulk carriers carry generally carry ore and grain. This one is offloading grain to the silos behind.

The Chicago skyline with the Sears (original name) Tower at center. It was once the world’s tallest building. Contrary to conventional knowledge, the skyscraper originated here and not in New York.

Day 3, climbing into the Front Range of the Rockies west of Denver.

Winding through Glen Canyon, Colorado.

Exiting Glen Canyon.

Sacramento Station.  I switched trains here for the short trip to Merced where Martha picked me up.

After two months and nearly 4,000 miles, home at last. When we got back, our little Trumpet the Beagle went bat-crazy for about five minutes. Baying uncontrollably, he ran over furniture, under furniture, and into walls. Our other dog, not knowing what was going on, hid in the other room. He finally calmed down.

I really love Beagles.

Read Bob Kaspar’s earlier exploits here.

 

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