2010-10-12

A Weekend on the Cape

For the past three years, my sweetie has been following a tradition: instead of getting stuff from her parents for her birthday, she asks for a "birthday experience." Her parents take her out on a nice weekend trip, typically involving staying at bed & breakfasts, outdoor photography, and nice dinners out. This year's much belated (January birthday!) experience was Cape Cod--and I was invited along!

We all piled into Sarah's folks' minivan, and drove down late on Friday night in a constant rain. However, Saturday's weather turned out beautifully--we had to check out the beach near our B&B (a house attached to An English Garden in Dennisport). Next up was Marconi Beach on Cape Cod National Seashore.


We then went on a a guided tour of a working Cape Cod Cranberry bog and farm. All of us are geeks (Sarah's dad is a retired GE steam turbine engineer), so we all had a fun time figuring out how things worked, checking out the machinery, and the irrigation system. It was really fun and informative... the farming couple were a great bunch of characters, with classic thick New England accents.


One thing I did not realize--that classic image you see of a flooded cranberry bog--is only one of two ways to harvest cranberries: that is a "wet harvest." You're unlikely to catch that event on a random visit--they have to move fast once they flood, so it's only happening one day out of 365 in a given bog. They flood the fields, have a machine that beats the cranberries off the plants, they float to the surface, and they gather them up and suck them out with a giant truck-mounted vacuum cleaner. Then they go straight to a processing plant--frozen, canned, craisins, etc.

However, the berries do not last once they have gotten soaked in a wet harvest. So any time you get a bag of fresh cranberries, they have been "dry harvested." It's a big machine that thrashes on the plants, and scoops them up:

video
We got to walk out on one of the bogs, which had already been harvested (dry picked). One surprise is that the "bog" is pretty dry.. the plants kinda "crunch" underfoot. Also, cranberry plants are low creeping vines--when they are harvesting, you have to carefully make sure you are driving your machine along the correct "nap" direction--or else you'll make a disastrous mess.



We swung up to Chatham Light... there's a sign on a pole that says: DANGER: ROUGH BAR, with a flashing yellow light:


Huh... the Hell's Angels are in town? Actually, it is an indicator of the condition of the inlet into the harbor, which is a break in the sand bar. The Coast Guard has established a rough bar advisory light, 62' above the water, on a skeleton tower near Chatham Light.... The light will be activated when the seas exceed 2' in height and are considered hazardous for small boats.

And yet more after that--Chatham Fish Pier--no fishing boats coming in that day, but still a great place to check out the working boats and the harbor seals. And take pictures.... my sweetie had her killer digital SLR out for this trip.




I also geeked out at this Coast Guard rescue boat--a newspaper article about these new boats circa 2008... they are made by SAFE Boats International--I think it is a "Full Cabin Archangel Class". Pretty neat technology... it has a flotation collar around the perimeter: "solid polyethylene (closed cell foam) collar encapsulated by a marinized polyurethane membrane with extreme rip-stop reinforcement."

The polyethylene foam for the SAFE Boats collar system was designed to insulate the Alaska oil-pipeline. It is inherently UV stable, impervious to petroleum products, harsh solvents and extreme weather conditions.

The Standard SAFE Boats collar system has been proven to stop small-arms fire from penetrating the hull. With the addition of ballistic material placed behind or actually laminated into the collar, it has been shown to withstand ammunition of up to 7.62 mm. A recent test was performed at a 3-meter stand off and with both hardball and JHP-rounds.


Day-umn. Yeah, they make military boats.


Wandering around Chatham, we ended up in a very touristy store: "Do not eat collectible rocks please. Adult supervision". Wow... Wonder how many times that has happened...


They also had a sign that you could buy, saying:

WHAT HAPPENS ON THE CAPE STAYS ON THE CAPE

Um... yeah. I've never really associated Cape Cod with debauched Vegas-style excess. I'm imagining the regrets of the day after a weekend bender of upscale shopping and antiquing... "Holy s*** man, I was passed out on the floor of my bed and breakfast... and when I came to, I looked around, and there was all this furniture with lace all around me. What the f' did I do last night?"

And we wrapped up with a fantastic dinner at The Impudent Oyster in Chatham--strong recommend. As the Yelp review says, "This spot stands out among tedious Cape Cod dining options"--yep, true enough! Seafood on the Cape... in the off season, with fewer tourists, and the nights chilling down... very nice.

Sunday we drove out to Provincetown, and did the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum--"the tallest all-granite structure in the United States."


A great view from the top--with the telescope (or the super zoom lens on the DSLR), we could make out the Boston skyline!


An amusing story about the tower--it was patterned after Torre del Mangia in Tuscany. When they first proposed the design, they mocked it because, well, Boston already has a copy of the Torre del Mangia! ("...they say they've already got one...") It's a former firehouse, which is now the Pine Street Inn--and we saw it from I-93 on the drive back!

We headed down into P-Town proper, wandered around, and had lunch at The Lobster Pot--excellent Portuguese Kale Soup... and check out the lobster-shaped "you're-table's-ready" buzzers!


A lovely town... very much what I expected, but I mean that in a good way. Some annoyingly touristy crowded parts (still, this late in the season), but I'm guessing that's expected.

Also, I had a giggle at The Prince Albert Guest House. Yes, it's true, it could be meant entirely innocently. On the other hand, maybe not. [Link Not Safe for Work!]

I had to explain to my sweetie what that meaning of a Prince Albert was. I have to ask my guy friends--it's probably a normal reaction to protectively grab your boys when reading that Wikipedia article, right?

Anyway, we wrapped up the evening and headed back up to Boston that night. A fun weekend--thanks so much to Sarah's folks for putting all of that together!