Massachusetts

Head of the Charles

Head of the Charles - the largest regatta in the U.S.
View of the Charles River from our hotel room

October 18 & 19 — We’ve joined Kelsey at several of her Wisconsin Rowing regattas over the last three years, but this one takes the cake – literally – it’s the largest two-day regatta in the world.  We were so excited she got to make the trip with her UW team as that meant we would join her in Boston for this one, too.

In ‘head’ races, the 1-, 2-, 4-, and 8-man sculls race against each other and the clock in a time trial.  Here in Boston the race is 4,800 meters (3 miles) with boats starting sequentially about 15 seconds apart.  There are 60 different race events with some 10,500 athletes from around the world here this weekend, and approximately 400,000 spectators watching from bridges and all along the shorelines.

Head of the Charles
View of Saturday’s racing from one of the bridges.  Boats rowed up river to the starting line using the left side of the river (left bridge opening), then raced down to the finish line using the center and right side of the river and those two bridge openings.
Wisco Four
Wisconsin Women’s Fours – this is a freshman boat that took 3rd out of 59 teams during Saturday’s race.  Wisconsin has a really strong rowing program – way to go, ladies!

 

Not that I need to point this out, but just in case you can’t tell by the quality… above are my photos; below are Fred’s.  He was out taking photos on both race days – Saturday and Sunday.  He took nearly 3,000 images and got a lot of great shots!  We’ll spare you looking at all of them for now; here’s just a couple we thought the Wisco women would like.

Wisco Varsity 8
Wisconsin Women’s Championship Eights – they rowed in the most difficult category and came in 9th which was very good.
Wisco Varsity 8
While rowing looks graceful, it’s a grueling sport.  These women could all kick our butts!

It was such a treat to see Kelsey this weekend!  She’s doing very well in this, her senior year at UW, and we are already looking forward to seeing her at Thanksgiving back in Wisconsin.  We love you, honey, and are very proud of you!  Thanks for sharing your great weekend with us!

Boston’s Freedom Trail

Paul Revere
Paul Revere
The Freedom Trail in Boston
The Freedom Trail

October 17 — We are up in Boston this weekend for the Head of the Charles regatta and have the opportunity to walk The Freedom Trail.  Both of us have been to Boston countless times in our past pre-Charley-on-the-road lives and we have walked on parts of it, but this is the first time either of us have followed the red bricks and walked it end to end.  Walking The Trail, you walk past 15 historical sites organized into four “chapters” that tell the story of the American Revolution.  From Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church where lanterns were hung in accordance with his one-if-by-land-two-if-by-sea code; the site of the oldest public school in America (thank you Benjamin Franklin) and the site where Sam Adams and his cohorts decided to start the Boston Tea Party (we’re glad your preference turned to beer); the USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”) and the Bunker Hill Monument – the 2.5 mile walk was a perfect thing to do on this lovely fall Friday afternoon.  Boston history is, indeed, Boston Strong!

New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

Whaling out of the port in New Bedford, Mass.October 10th — While this NHP wasn’t on our radar screen initially, we learned that our campsite was about 30 minutes from here, so we headed to New Bedford on another lovely fall day where we learned all about the rich whaling history for which this town is known.  New Bedford was the world’s foremost whaling port during the heyday of whaling.  In the 1840’s, of the world’s 739 whaling ships, nearly 400 were home ported here.

The NPS Visitor Center movie, The City that Lit the World, provided us with wonderful insight into the lucrative-for-a-few, treacherous-for-most-everyone-else whaling industry.  Demand for whale byproducts was high as people used lamps and candles to light their homes, and whale oil was used for both.  Baleen, too, was in high demand for use to stiffen corsets & collars, make umbrella ribs, riding crops, buggy whips, and hat brims.  Whale ships could spend a few years out at sea with one voyage, and there was no guarantee that that they even came home; it took strong women to be married to whalers, and more than a few were made widowers by this dangerous profession.

With the discovery of oil in 1859 and the dwindling whale populations making these already-dangerous and lengthy whale excursions even more difficult, the bottom fell out of the whale business.  The last whaler went out of New Bedford in 1927, and it’s a good thing as continued whaling most likely would have driven many whale species to extinction.

A couple of noteworthy facts about whales & whaling:

— Herman Melville drew his inspiration for Moby Dick by venturing out on one of these whaling ships

— Living in the traditions of their ancestors, Inupiat on the Alaskan slope as well as several other native Alaskan tribes still hunt whale as part of their nutritional & cultural life

— Many of the oarsmen and harpooners – the men who did the difficult work – were escaped or recently-freed slaves, as well as immigrants to the U.S. hoping that whaling would provide them with a better life – um, not so much!

Centotaph on the wall of Seamen's Bethel
Cenotaph on the wall of Seamen’s Bethel – “… his death occurred in nine hours after being bitten by a shark, while bathing near the ship…”
Cenotaph on the wall of Seamen's Bethel
Cenotaph on the wall of Seamen’s Bethel – “This worthy man, after fastning to a whale, was carried overboard by the line and drowned.  May 19, 1844”

One other stop we made in New Bedford was the Seamen’s Bethel.  Built in 1831 and and having several uses including a school, seamen’s register, library, and reading room, the Seamen’s Bethel still serves this seafaring community.  It’s a non-denominational chapel with a prow-shaped pulpit and cenotaphs surrounding the sanctuary with some pretty horrid descriptions of seamen losing their lives.

As always, we learn a lot when we come to places like this, and once again, we are grateful to have U.S. history preserved in such a wonderful way.

Prow-shaped pulpit in the Seamen's Bethel
Prow-shaped pulpit in the Seamen’s Bethel

Cape Cod National Seashore

“A man may stand there and put all America behind him.”  

                                                                                                   ~Henry David Thoreau

Cape Cod National SeashoreRelief map in the Visitor CenterOld Harbor Life-Saving StationCape Cod National SeashoreProvincetownProvincetownOctober 9th — Our first National Seashore, and what a great one this is!  Neither of us have been here before, so we were happy to be in this part of New England so we could visit.  Of course, I as the CLO planned that our campground made this an easy day trek for us.

We had a perfect fall day to drive up the “arm” – stopping at the two Visitor Centers to get a good lay of the land as well as get passport stamps for our books.  :)  We also enjoyed visiting the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station which is a replica of one of about a dozen of these stations that were built along The Cape in the late 1800’s to assist shipwrecked victims.  The original Old Harbor station was built in 1898, and very appropriate and much appreciated, the NPS Volunteer who manned this location is the grandson of one of the original surfmen here.

It was interesting to learn in the video shown at the NPS Visitor Center how all of this land was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age.  And change is constant with the shoreline being ever redefined due to the shifting sands and pounding seas.

We drove along a scenic road that took us through the protected dunes areas, and it was a big relief to see very little development around most parts.  We had a nice lunch in Provincetown all the way out at the tip (which is commercialized), followed by a walk about the town.  P-town, as it’s known, felt to us a lot like Key West, but less raucous – perhaps because we were there on a fall afternoon rather than a summer night.

This marks our 34th National Park Unit – NP (National Park), NHP (National Historical Park), NB (National Battlefield), NM (National Memorial), etc.  There are over 400 NP Units now, and our goal is to see as many as we can along the way; our larger goal is still to visit all 59 National Parks.  On we go….

 

 

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock
1620 – nearly 400 years ago!

October 8th — We arrived in Cape Cod this morning and have three nights to enjoy the seashore.  Neither of us have been here before, so we will do some exploring.  First stop:  Plymouth Rock.

Plymouth Rock surround
Neo-Classical portico that surrounds The Rock

I guess I was expecting something a little more grand and/or impressive.  What is impressive is the history of this hunk.  While the Pilgrims arrived here in 1620, the rock wasn’t identified as the Pilgrims’ landing place until 120 years later!  By then this thing was smack dab in the middle of a busy wharf with people occasionally sweeping it off, and according to the historical placard, a hammer and chisel were kept nearby for souvenir seekers.  No doubt that’s a big reason that in 1620 the rock was three times larger than it is today.  Another factor is that it was broken in 1774, moved around a bunch, then reunited with its bottom half in the late 1800’s when “1620” was carved into it, replacing painted numerals.

Fred & The Rock
Fred photographing Plymouth Rock
Plymouth Rock
A little worse for the wear, but this is Plymouth Rock

Finally in 1920, the 300th anniversary of this significant place in the history of America, a new portico was built to protect it more, and mortar helped to stabilize the two halves.  Although Plymouth Rock is a lot smaller than what I was expecting, it nonetheless has remained an everlasting icon in our history for nearly 400 years.

Walden Pond

Fall leaves reflection
Fall leaves reflection on Walden Pond

Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts, has been on our list of must-see places since we conceived of this road-trip five years ago, and while we’re in the vicinity to visit Lexington and Concord and other important places from early colonial times, we were drawn to this tranquil place on a lovely fall afternoon.

I remember reading Walden in an Advanced Literature class in the 11th grade where I was exposed to poet authors like Thoreau and Whitman and Frost, and while the subject matter of these great writers was sometimes a little over the heads of a classroom of 17-year-olds like me who couldn’t really relate to living in the woods by myself (his self-reliance theme) – even before the everything-is-connected Internet Age – nor did I want much to do with his concept of simple living.  Even so, back in 1981 I knew I liked this prose and something in these verses resonated with me.

My romantic, Fred, reading from Thoreau's Walden
Fred reading from Thoreau’s Walden on the edge of Walden Pond

In Walden, Henry David Thoreau eloquently writes of a simple life in the woods, so to see where he drew his inspiration for over two years, see a model of the house in which he lived, take a walk around Walden Pond on a gorgeous afternoon… it was very meaningful to be in his sanctuary.

Fred, too, has embraced a lot of Thoreau’s transcendental notions.  And ever the romantic, he read me passages from Walden as we sat by the pond’s edge.  By chance (or was it…?), the one he turned to first was this:

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.

 

Incidentally, I have several Henry David Thoreau sayings randomly appearing in the Quote Of The Day section of our blog.  Among my favorites, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”  Looking back, I know that words like this were pretty powerful and inspiring for a young girl from Wisconsin who wanted to go to college to get an education, then go live a good and happy life.  Thank you Henry David Thoreau!

Hover your cursor over the photo, below, then click on the arrows to scroll through photos from our afternoon at Walden Pond:

For more information on the bubbleguy (James Dichter) seen in the photos, check out his website:  Bubbleguy.  What a treat it was to find him at the bathhouse beach when we returned from our walk around the pond.  Of course, we had to stop and photograph him and his wonderful bubbles!

I saw Jackie tonight!

Jackie & I stealing two hours together at her hotel outside Boston
Jackie & I stealing two hours together at her hotel right near our campground outside Boston

October 7th – We’re here outside Boston visiting the Minute Man National Historical Park (a.k.a. Lexington and Concord) and also Walden Pond.  Jackie calls me a week ago and lets me know she’s going to be in Boston.  When?  October 5-7.  Turns out we are overlapping our time here!  It is one of those ‘couldn’t have planned it better if we tried’ events.  Jackie finished her meetings and we were able to steal two precious hours together before she left for Logan where she’s jetting off to Switzerland for a month of work over there.

Roommates in college and a true BFF ever since, we have shared in all of the ups and downs of life.  Love ya, Jack!  I already miss you.  Safe travels.  See you in Texas in February.

 

When the roses lose their fragrance,
and the world seems at an end,
When the day has lost its gladness,
what a blessing is a Friend.

One who takes you as she finds you,
caring not who is to blame,
One who knows all your shortcomings,
but who loves you just the same.

Heaven sends a gift each morn,
of a bright new day to spend,
What a joy it is to share it with,
God’s greatest gift…A Friend

Minute Man National Historical Park

Paul Revere rides out warning locals in the countryside that the British are on their way to seize ammo & weapons
Paul Revere rides out warning the colonists in the countryside that the British were on their way

Long-simmering tensions between American colonists and British regulars finally came to a head on a day that would forever change history.  The day began in the middle of the night, actually, with the famed rides by three brave revolutionaries out into the countryside to warn that the British troops were on their way.  It ended some 20 hours later with 100+ men dead and 200+ men injured.  This is the day – April 19, 1775 – that a bloody revolution began.  Eight years later it would lead to the birth of a new nation.

Going back to add more color and detail to the story for my two youngest nieces [Hi Elizabeth and Natalie!] who I hope are reading and learning from this ~ girls, here’s your history lesson:

Leading Up To This Day

In the period between 1765-1770, Britain began taxing its American colonies to pay for the French and Indian War.  (This war was known by the rest of the world as the Seven Years War.)  Colonials protested, not believing Britain has the right to tax them.  British soldiers were sent to Boston, tensions mounted, and when they fired into a mob, they killed five colonists in what rebels call the Boston Massacre.

In 1773-1774 most of the taxes were repealed – all but the tax on tea.  The rebels responded by dumping tea into the harbor – the Boston Tea Party.  Britain then closed the port and put more restrictions on Massachusetts (remember this was still a colony and not yet a state in the United States; that didn’t come until years later) so it was recommended that the local towns get together companies of “minute men” who kept their their weapons ready at all times so they could march on a minute’s notice if need be to defend their colonies.

At the beginning of 1775, tensions were very high.  The British Army was patrolling beyond Boston.  Militia companies and the minute men prepared themselves to fight.  Colonists out in the outskirts of town stockpiled gunpowder and supplies so if conflict did break out they were ready.

April 19, 1775

Paul Revere, a patriot living in Boston, learned that the British Army was preparing to cross the Charles River and march to Concord to capture weapons and ammunition that had been stockpiled there.  He had worked out a code to warn colonists which path these British soldiers would take from Boston to Concord: one lantern would be hung in North Church if they were coming south over the land; two lanterns would be hung if they were taking a ferry across the river and then the northern route out to Concord.

Two lanterns were hung, Revere mounted his horse and took off on the north route; William Dawes galloped along the southern route.  A third rider, Samuel Prescott, joined them in spreading the alarm.  But around 1 a.m. a British patrol surprised them along the road and captured Paul Revere.  Dawes and Prescott got away and kept racing west, arousing the colonials and militia companies along the way.

North Bridge
North Bridge, part of the NHP; site of the ‘shot heard ’round the world’

By 7 a.m., around 700 British soldiers had arrived in Concord and began searching for military supplies.  Several hundred militia men gathered and watched from nearby hills.  Smoke was seen in Concord and was mistakenly thought to be the British burning houses.  It turned out they were burning weapons and ammunition, but this further angered the colonists who confronted the British soldiers at North Bridge outside of Concord around 9:30 a.m.  The British regulars fired warning shots, then a volley of rounds which killed two colonials.  Militia officer John Buttrick, on the front lines at the bridge, ordered his men to return fire; an act of treason against the British government.  This is remembered today as ‘the shot heard ’round the world.’

Battle Road 1775
Fighting along Battle Road as the colonists pushed the British regulars back to Boston

Fighting ensued, and the British regulars retreated.  They regrouped and headed back towards Boston, but they were met by more militia companies waiting for them.  The minute men opened fire at Meriam’s Corner, and so began the battle back to Boston.  In all, some 4,000 colonists poured out of the nearby towns and villages and unleashed incessant fire on the regulars for hours as they drove them back to safety in Charlestown.  By evening, the colonists surrounded and laid siege to Boston and the Revolutionary War had begun.

Such bravery on the part of these part-time citizen militia who armed themselves and went to battle to defend their communities and their liberties.  The events of April 19, 1775, took Massachusetts and the other colonies a major step closer to Independence.  Casualties in Lexington, then Concord, then on the road back to Boston, marked a turning point in the decade-long struggle.

On July 2, 1775, George Washington, a planter from Virginia, took charge of this army.  Eight months later, on March 17, 1776, British troops evacuated Boston.  In Massachusetts the fighting was over, but the War for Independence had only begun.

Minute man statue in Lexington, Mass.
Minute man statue in Lexington

As we always do, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit here in yet another of America’s great treasures.  Minute Man National Historical Park truly brings life to the historic events which happened in and around this area.  There are two Visitor Centers in this park.  At the Minute Man Visitor Center, we began our visit with the award-winning multi-media presentation “The Road to Revolution” and commented that if history was made this fascinating in classrooms around the country, we’d have a lot more engaged citizens who truly understand the meanings and value of words like ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘Independence’ – it was outstanding!  The North Bridge Visitor Center features a shorter film that depicts the events that happened there at the North Bridge.

At the North Bridge, this statue commemorates  'the shot heard 'round the world'
Minute man statue at the North Bridge to commemorate ‘the shot heard ’round the world’

We then drove along the 5-mile Battle Road Trail, stopping to visit several houses, important locations, and a tavern that played significant roles in the day.  If anyone is reading this who hasn’t visited this park yet, we highly recommend it, and we would also recommend bringing your bikes to bike along the historical trail.  Both Visitor Centers offer terrific hiking trails, as well, and while the gorgeous fall day beckoned us to stay longer to enjoy more of the nature offered here in this park, our stomachs let us know it was about three hours past lunchtime – my, how time flies when you’re having fun! – so we headed into Concord for some very late lunch.  Thank you to the NPS, rangers and volunteers for making this such a wonderful park!

 

Goodbye Vermont – Hello Massachusetts/Rhode Island/Connecticut

Fall Foliage Breakfast
Pam & I ready for our Fall Foliage Breakfast

Sunday, October 5 — With nighttime temperatures consistently in the 40s now, it’s time to think about heading south.  Mornings are definitely chilly in Charley until we get the furnace kicking off a little bit of heat, and, having hit peak fall color in the way north (near the Canadian border) we are now hoping to chase it south for as long as we can.  So goodbye northern New England and hello warmer coastal New England!

Pomfret turkey dinner
Turkey dinner in Pomfret to benefit the local school

Over the weekend we had another delightful visit with Pam and Stan at their home in central Vermont, and once again, they gave us a real sense of ‘home’ for which we will be forever grateful.  Fires in the fireplace, more of Stan’s cosmopolitans, a dinner party with friends on Friday night, a chili cook-off Saturday on the village green in Woodstock, turkey dinner at the Pomfret (pop. 997) Town Hall on Saturday night that brought 300 people out in spite of the rain, Fall Foliage Breakfast in Barnard (pop. 958) at the Town Hall Sunday morning that brought everyone out again – it was local Vermont homespun goodness at its very best!

Fall Foliage Breakfast at the Barnard Town Hall
Fall Foliage Breakfast at the Barnard Town Hall

We will spend the next three nights outside Boston where we plan to stretch our legs around Walden Pond.  And nearby is Minute Man National Historical Park where ‘the shot heard ’round the world’ was fired and the Revolutionary War was begun.  I’ll post about these two places in the coming couple of days and we will keep moving south now for a while, but with all of our new friends’ help, we said goodbye to Vermont in fine style this past weekend.

Thank you, once again, Pam and Stan, for your most gracious hospitality.  We look forward to seeing you on the road early next year!  xo