The morning swim at Nantasket Beach with the mild New England temperatures and a light sea breeze became my morning fix. By mid July the water temperatures in the chilly Cape Cod Bay, was teetering on the edge of 60. The sensation from diving headfirst under a wave and the rush of cold water shocks and revitalizes my entire core.
Hull Beach with its clear water and fine dark-grey sand is one of the best kept secrets in the state. Its vast stretch of debris-free sand offers less congestion and more affordability than neighboring Cape Cod. It was only half an hour from Boston and there was always plenty of parking – even in the peak of summer.
After lunch, I wanted to take another swim. But now it was time to beat feet to Bean Town to meet with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) the next day. I was impressed that Mass is one of the few states that has a whole department dedicated to just ensuring equal access in public places.
I normally drive to South of Washington (SOWA) where I find my habitual parking spot by the Boston Water and Sewage Commission. I’m at peace there – it’s safe and no one bothers me.
But for some fateful reason today I missed my exit and found myself amidst the cranes and loading docks of the South Boston seaport. – not a bad place since I was in the neighborhood of truckers. So I easily found parking where I wouldn’t stand out nearby a large gathering of young professionals dressed in T-shirts, slacks and blazers under a huge canopy with a Harpoon Beer sign. Looks very much like a startup conference to me.
It immediately piqued my interest and it brought back fond memories of my earlier days several years ago building a startup from the ground up. And to this day, I’m still working my startup each and every day. Certainly I had to check it out.
I soon learned that I had stumbled upon Mass Challenge, the largest zero-equity accelerator in the world. They were hosting a tech startup conference and there were lots of young entrepreneurs from every major industry all over the world.
There’s nothing like working at a startup. Your entire life and livelihood depends on your perseverance and hard work. You don’t ever stop working and you keep living the dream.
I learned a lot from Mass Challenge and the Harpoon IPA and craft cider was amazing. I knew how important it is to cater to young entrepreneurs. The primary reason why I was on the road today was not to make a living trucking, but to discover amazing underrated restaurants and retail in small towns across the USA. And I just stumbled on the big kahuna.
That’s why I started RUNINOut nine years ago and that’s why I’m still working it and on the road today. And that’s why I got arrested.
It used to be the playground for the rich and famous. The super wealthy from all over New England vacationed here and stayed at beach-front homes.
Over a hundred years ago, Paragon Park was a popular amusement park with rides and entertainment for all ages. Tourists from all over flocked here in the summer to swim, relax and catch a thrill on the 98-foot wooden coaster, the tallest in the world.
The beach, overlooking Boston harbor, was less than an hour from New England’s most populous city, and people could come here by car, train or ferry.
Sadly, much has changed much over the years. Nantasket Beach rapidly started losing crowds to nearby Cape Cod with its increasingly-fashionable Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
In 1984, Paragon Park closed, and the coaster was torn down and sold at an auction for a song and a dance to Six Flags in Bowie, Maryland.
While the amusement was dead, the views were still in demand. The park was transformed into a condominium complex with breathtaking views of Nantasket Beach and Massachusetts Bay.
It was a prime spot, but developers fell on hard times with rising interest rates and an earth-shattering rash of foreclosures. Many of the condominiums were never built and today there is a large tract of vacant land that was once filled with rides and parkgoers.
Thirty years later, there is not much here to attract tourism dollars – just the calming sounds of the ocean and the miles of secluded coastline.
There are a few fancy restaurants to attract the deep-pockets and bars and night clubs for millennials to party at.
Hull has slipped into a culinary wasteland with ample vacancy and distressed property that yearns to attract the lost crowd that once came in droves.
The only remnant of the historic park is the the carousel built in 1928. And even that is dilapidated and shows years of neglect.
It’s a travesty, especially since Hull with it’s pristine beaches and treasured history has a lot to offer.
That’s why I was both delighted and shocked that I would be the only one enjoying my cold-water swim catching a wave as I dived head first into the Massachusetts Bay.
This was followed by a long, steady run on the beach. With an extreme ebb tide, I could run a good distance without running directly into other people. The soothing sand under my feet, a steady breeze blowing from the harbor.
Once the skies cleared up, I continued my trek downtown. I was greeted by an elegant, golden-tiled arch. A pair of bronze statutes flanked the sides. Unlike DC’s tiny and rapidly diminishing enclave, Chinatown Boston has established a strong foothold. In existence since the late 19th century, it is now the only surviving Sino-Chinese community in New England.
In the mid 1800’s, the lure of gold and construction of the transcontinental railroad brought the first wave of Chinese immigrants to America. The Chinese were paid lower wages than their counterparts causing the Whites to begin fearing for their jobs resulting in anti-Chinese sentiment. To escape the discrimination, many of the Chinese moved east and their communities became increasingly segregated.
The first Chinese migrated to Boston from San Francisco in 1870 to break up a strike at the Sampson Shoe Factory. Chinatown along Harrison Street was created due to the anti-Chinese movement and the desire to separate the community from the rest of the city.
But today, the opposite is happening. In Chinatowns all across America, gentrification has taken hold and the Whites and Wealthy are steadily moving back in. Since the beginning, the Chinese have weathered a lot of cultural challenges and abuse in America, but thankfully, today, Americans have prudently learned to embrace the heritage and cuisines imported from mainland China.
Such is the case of dim sum. In ancient China, weary travelers trekking the Silk Road to Europe stopped along the way at roadside tea-houses for rest and replenishment. Several hundred years later, restaurants in Hong Kong, adding the freshest ingredients, refined the dishes to a classical culinary art form The delicious recipes were exported to the U.S. when thousands of Chinese immigrated to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of the 1850’s. Now it is a staple in every excursion to Chinatown. Thankfully, there are several high-profile dim sum eateries in Boston. Famished and forlorn, I entered the very first eatery I discovered.
The establishment initially appeared modest from the outside but once inside it opened up into a large banquet room filled with gigantic tables packed with extended multi-generational families. Hei La Moon is a highly-rated sprawling, bi-level banquet hall filled with office workers, tourists to wedding parties. Usually there’s a long wait – today being the holidays, my timing was fortuitous and I was able to secure a seat right away next to an elderly American couple from Rhode Island who journeyed this far just for a bite of shrimp dumpling.
If you’re wishy-washy like me, you’ve come to the right place. The prices of each dish is so reasonable, you can usually afford to order everything that catches the eye. If you don’t like the fluffy steam buns (char siu bao) or the chewy, translucent skin in the shrimp dumpling (har gow), you simply don’t have to take a second bite. You do not need to speak a lick of Chinese. You can just wait for the steamy, hot carts to come to you with ladies yelling out their offerings and point to the dish that you’re eager to try. The server will stamp your sheet, and you’ll be rewarded with bite-sized morsels that do more to tease than to satisfy. During the lunch hour madness, it can be quite a chaotic scene.
It’s better if you’re dining with others so you order a wide variety and have at it. Cheung fun (steamed sheets of filled rice noodles served with sweet soy), steamed pork ribs, chicken feet, tripe, congee with preserved egg, you name it.
But even going solo, the portions are small enough that you can consume lots of dishes before you’re ready to take on your final round of dessert — normally an egg-filled custard that’s both crispy and sweet, washed down generously with miniature cups of boiling hot tea.
The service wasn’t the best and neither was the cleanliness. But you go for dim sum not expecting white linen service. If you’re a dim sum enthusiast, it may not be the best tasting or freshest ingredients you’ve ever had, but if you want dim sum and you’re in Boston, Hei La Moon must be on your bucket list.
My drive to the Granite State was uneventful and unharrowing. I dropped off the 40 footer grain trailer in Plaistow located just over the border line and a suburb of greater Boston.
Within half an hour I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the Ted Williams Tunnel, traveling under the Boston Harbor where in 1773, American patriots disguised as Native Americans boarded British ships and destroyed an entire shipment of tea spurring the American Revolution. This is the birthplace of America and a must-stop along my route back home to DC by the fourth.
As I drove through Chinatown and onto Harrison to SOWA, I was surprised to see the number of elderly, homeless people congregating near Boston Medical. There are lots of homeless in DC also but with a colder climate, Boston’s situation is more dire. I wanted to get away from the downtown congestion so I could find street-side parking without a lot of hassle or enforcement.
Luckily, I found an apartment building undergoing renovation surrounded by scaffolding and safety netting on Thorndike. Nobody would question me here – my work truck looked every bit a part of the construction.
There was no need for sunscreen – the clouds were thick and dark with a menacing hint of rain. With my knapsack over my shoulder and ID in my hand, I headed up Harrison to explore the neighborhood known as SOWA (South of Washington). This booming art and design district reminded me of DC ‘s NOMA (North of Massachusetts), a one-time rough and seedy neighborhood that has undergone a rapid transformation. Homeless people coexisted with luxury condos and eco-friendly amenities such as Whole Foods and Health Works.
Several blocks later, I was elated to discover a festive, pet-friendly open market with hundreds of locals – kids in tow — enjoying a wide array of offerings from some of the city’s most-raved food trucks. A beer garden offering tasty suds from a local brewer was popular and the five taps were constantly pouring. Meanwhile an up-and-coming indie-rock band was performing catchy originals while a group of teens and twenty-somethings were playing a relaxing game of corn hole, stopping to clap after every song.
Just as I grabbed my Ipswich Ale and a seat to enjoy the music the skies began to open. Just a few warning drops at first which rapidly overflowed to buckets as the handicraft and jewelry vendors dumped their wares in big barrels, not even bothering to keep things together.
I found shelter under a patio umbrella and waited a good thirty minutes for the storm to pass. Been sweaty and grungy from the road, I personally didn’t mind a rain shower, but my backpack and macbook were not as resistant to weather, so I waited patiently until the storm clouds subsided.