We drove close to 200 miles to our next campground in South Carver, Mass just outside Plymouth. Shady Acres was a funky campground with a lot of seasonal campers. A seasonal camper rents the campsite for an entire (usually summer) season. They move in and set up shop; building decks, landscaping and even adding storage buildings. It was Columbus Day weekend and most campgrounds were totally booked. It was also the last weekend that most of the campgrounds are open. So we definitely have to move south from here. We chose this area so we could visit Plymouth and Boston.
Our first stop was Plymouth and Plymouth Rock. What I learned about the rock made me a little disappointed with the whole story.The rock had lain at the foot of Cole’s Hill until 100 years after the Pilgrims’ landing in 1620. When plans were made to build a wharf at the Pilgrims’ landing site, a 94 year old elder of the church, living three miles from the spot, declared that he knew the precise boulder on which the Mayflower pilgrims first stepped when disembarking. The man claimed that his father and several of the original Mayflower passenger had, when he was a youth, identified the precise rock to him. There have been doubts hinted about the accuracy of the identification, in view of his age and the dates of the landing and his birth, but there is no doubt that he grew up in Plymouth at a time when many of the original passengers were still there. Bill Bryson in Made in America says, “The one thing the Pilgrims certainly did not do was step ashore on Plymouth Rock. Quite apart from the consideration that it may have stood well above the high-water mark in 1620, no prudent mariner would try to bring a ship alongside a boulder on a heaving December sea when a sheltered inlet beckoned from nearby.” Having been a sailor in the San Francisco Bay for 14 years, I totally agree. So you can understand my disappointment.
Our next stop was the Mayflower II docked nearby. It is a replica of the 17th century ship Mayflower. It was built in Devon, England in 1955 from blueprints held by Plimoth Plantation (a museum with the old spelling so as to differentiate it from the town) using traditional methods. The ship is 106 ft long and 25 ft wide. That’s not a large ship and it carried 102 passengers and all of their cargo as well as supplies for the voyage. And for most of the passage, those not sailing the ship were below deck. It took them 55 days to make the crossing. Sounds like a nightmare if you ask me. But they did it; and all for the right to believe what they wanted to believe.
Plimoth Plantation was the last place we visited in Plymouth. Plimoth Plantation was founded in 1947 and is a living history museum that shows the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in 1627. The interpreters have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriately for the period. They interact with their “strange” visitors in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and participating in tasks such as cooking, planting, blacksmithing and animal husbandry. The interpreters were so knowledgeable spoke in that 17th century way; it was fascinating.
There was also a re-creation of a Wampanoag home site to demonstrate how the Native Americans lived and interacted with the settlers. It was very educational and interesting.
I attended the Cranberry Harvest Festival in Wareham. I took a bus out to the cranberry bogs and watched as they harvested the cranberries. The cranberries grow in water on vines and when they are ready they shake the vines and the cranberries float to the top of the water. A large vacuum sucks up the cranberries and loads them into a large semi-truck trailer and off they go for processing. Ocean Spray is actually a co-op of cranberry growers. Again, educational and interesting!
Boston and the Freedom Trail
We took the T Commuter Rail into Boston the next day. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The 45 minute train ride gave us an opportunity to see the area outside Boston. It reminded me of riding the train in Europe. Public transportation in the East is sooooo much better than out West. We debarked at South Station and it was only a short walk through downtown Boston to the beginning of the Freedom Trail.
The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. The path winds from Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. The trail includes stops at explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable church’s and buildings and a naval frigate. We visited Boston Common, the oldest city park in the US (1634); a cemetery founded in 1660 that is the final resting place for Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine and Paul Revere; the first public school in the US (Boston Latin School); the Old South Meeting House built in 1729 which was the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party; and the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony to jubilant crowds and Paul Revere’s house. The information plaques in these locations brought to life the struggle of the Colonists against British rule and taxation. The straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed the Colonists to fight for independence was that fact that the British could search Colonists’ homes and businesses at any time without cause. After many battles with the British, the Colonists won their independence. We ended our day by the harbor where the Boston Tea Party occurred.
The Boston Tea Party has always been a significant event for me, but not for the reason you may think. When I was in the 5th grade my Social Studies teacher asked me about the Boston Tea Party. I hadn’t done the reading so I hesitated before answering. He said, “Was it a ladies tea party with women in hats?” I answered, “Yes.” The entire class erupted in laughter and I was so embarrassed. I was never unprepared for class again! I think that event shaped me into the prepared person I am today.
Next stop Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.