The Boston Tea Party, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the Liberty Tree, Sam Adams, the Sons of Liberty – is there any city more distinctly American than Boston? Well, maybe, but the American Revolution started here and the history of both the city and country are well preserved at quite a few sites in and around the city. We drove down from Montreal, crossed through Vermont and New Hampshire, and celebrated our first night back in America with pizza. We parked the bus in a beautiful spot right next to the woods at the outer edge of the Hanscom Air Force Base family camp, with hiking trails right out the door and no one else within 100 yards. We woke up every morning to birds and chattering squirrels in the trees outside our windows.
The weather was gorgeous – sunny and warm! It was a welcome change from the cold rain of the last few weeks since leaving Marquette. Over the next few days we hit the highlights, knowing that we simply couldn’t see it all. In downtown Boston we followed the Freedom Trail from Boston Common to Faneuil Hall, past the cemetery where John Hancock and Sam Adams are buried, the site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old State House, all with a tour guide dressed as a British Army officer of the period. He showed flashes of wit and enthusiasm but we all wished that he had taken a few more swigs from his flask before starting the tour. We did a quick tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, known as “Old Ironsides” for the way cannonballs would bounce harmlessly off her solid oak hull. From there we climbed to the Bunker Hill Monument, site of the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, where the American commanding officer famously instructed the Minutemen, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
On Saturday we drove down to the whaling museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts, with a quick stop outside Providence, Rhode Island for a delicious breakfast at Honey Dew Donuts. The whaling museum was amazing! At the height of the whaling industry, over half of all whaling ships in the world sailed out of the New Bedford and Fairhaven harbor. Herman Melville sailed from this port in 1841. Like many whalemen at the time he attended services in the Seaman’s Bethel, which he then immortalized as The Whalemen’s Chapel in Moby Dick. His pew is still marked and the walls of the chapel are still covered with memorial plaques to sailors lost at sea. When the New Bedford Whaling Museum was built, it blocked the Bethel chapel’s beautiful view of the harbor and sea, an affront that has never been forgiven – that was in 1908.
From New Bedford we drove over to Cape Cod for some beach time. We can’t be that close to the ocean without skipping stones over the waves, running barefoot in the surf, and listening to waves crashing on the sand. Carson and Sam had their traditional sprint down the beach, we saw a seal bobbing about 20 yards offshore, watching us curiously, and saw the nearly full moon come up over the Atlantic. After a delicious dinner at the Lost Dog Pub (“Come. Sit. Stay.”), we headed home to the bus.
Sunday brought clouds and the beginning of what would turn into steady rain ahead of Hurricane Sandy. We took advantage of the few hours we had left to see the Old North Church (of “one if by land, two if by sea” fame) and Paul Revere’s home. We had just enough time to stop in at Mike’s Pastry for coffee and cannoli! In the afternoon it was Cambridge and Harvard Square. By evening Sandy was bearing down so we unplugged the bus, hooked up the Jeep, said our goodbyes to a couple of new friends, and then it was “On the Road Again!”