Category Archives: Massachusetts

Exploring Massachusetts: The Shot Heard Round the World

Old North Bridge, Concord Massachusetts

It was May 1977 and Mark and I were canoeing on the Concord River under the Old North Bridge. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temps close to 80 degrees. We had no idea that a freak snow storm would hit the next day. We were finishing up two weeks of army training at Fort Devens which included a rather unpleasant exercise where we had to try and escape the “enemy” while navigating a large wooded area at night. We were eventually captured and wound up in a mock prisoner of war camp. The canoe trip was the perfect break and a chance to connect with history.

Revolutionary War British Major near the Bridge

Forty-one years later we were back at the North Bridge although this time not in canoes but on foot. In late August 2018 we visited the historical sites of Concord and Lexington where the Revolutionary War first began. It was at the North Bridge on April 19, 1775 when Colonial Minutemen first fired at advancing British soldiers with the skirmish leaving two colonists and three redcoats dead. On one side of the bridge is the Minute Man statue dedicated on July 4, 1885 at the 100th anniversary of the battle. Inscribed is the opening stanza of a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world.”

Minute Man Statue at North Bridge

The National Park Service operates a visitor center in a former homestead near the Bridge. There are other sites of interest as well including the Battle Road Trail which is popular with walkers and bikers. The five mile trail begins in Concord and ends in Lexington, covering much of the original route where Colonial militia and the British skirmished during the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Along the way are spots of historical interest such as a monument to Paul Revere who was captured on this route during his midnight ride to warn the colonists.

Battle Road from Concord to Lexington

The Hartwell Tavern completed in 1733 is located along the trail and has been restored with much of the original building intact. This family home and tavern was a witness to the Revolutionary War events along the Battle Road.

Hartwell Tavern

National Park staff regularly give walking tours along the road explaining significant events. In the photo below, our guide points out a place on the road called “Bloody Angle” where the heaviest fighting took place on April 19, 1775. The British suffered heavy losses after an ambush was set up by the Colonialists at this bend in the road.

Battle Road Bloody Angle Site

We wandered the Green or historic town common at Lexington where opening shots fired by the British signaled the beginning of the War. The event started after British troops left Boston to search for weapons and ammunition supposedly stored at a Concord farm.

Marker on the Lexington Green

After being warned by Paul Revere that the British were advancing, Colonial Militia met at Buckman Tavern before facing British soldiers on Lexington Green. It was on the Green where they suffered their first losses before the British marched on to the North Bridge at Concord.

Buckman Tavern

I love seeing old churches and the Lexington First Parish Church located across from the Green is a beautiful historic building.

First Parish Church of Lexington

I took an interesting tour of an author’s home in Concord. If any of you have read “Little Women” or seen the movie you will know about Louisa May Alcott who based the book on her life. I loved reading this book in my youth. She lived in Orchard House with her parents and two sisters from 1858-1877. The tour included most rooms of the house including Louisa’s bedroom with the desk near the window where she wrote her famous novel. The house seems quite authentic since 80% of the furnishings originally belonged to the Alcotts. Even artwork sketched on the walls by Louisa’s artistic sister May can still be seen.

Louisa May Alcott Home

Thanks for checking in! Our next blog moves us across the country to the Arizona desert.

New Bedford – Historic Whaling Town with America’s Longest Painting


Lagoda Whale Ship Model

While staying in Rhode Island we took a day trip to the town of New Bedford in Massachusetts. During the 19th century the town was nicknamed “The Whaling City” as it was one of the most important whaling ports in the world. Today, along cobblestoned streets you can visit historic buildings operated by the National Park Service and tour the New Bedford Whaling Museum. This museum was the reason I wanted to come to the city because it was noted as being one of the best whaling museums in America.

Try Pots

The museum has a number of interesting exhibits with the “Lagoda,” an 89 foot, half scale model of a whaleship the centerpiece. During our visit, museum staff dressed up in period costumes and playing various parts, put on a play of a whaling ship getting ready to go to sea. I watched for awhile and then moved on to see what the rest of the museum had to offer. There were skeletons of whales, descriptions of whaling methods including use of small boats to catch the whales. The try pots pictured above were kept on the ship deck and used to render oil from blubber after the whale had been cut in pieces.

First Solo Trip Around the World

In one of the rooms was an exhibit of the first man to sail solo around the world. In 1895, Joshua Slocum at the age of 54 left Boston in a sloop he rebuilt called the “Spray.” He made it around the world in a little over three years coming back with artifacts from his voyage, some on display at the museum. He paid his way by giving lectures at various ports. Mr. Slocum wrote a popular book about his voyage that was published in 1900. Since I enjoy reading about sea voyages and this one was important historically, I downloaded his book on my kindle and right now in the process of reading it. So far it is quite interesting and he is a very good writer. Mr. Slocum and the Spray disappeared in 1909 while traveling to South America and were never seen again. The most surprising thing about this man of the sea? He didn’t know how to swim.

Scrimshaw

My favorite exhibit was a room filled with scrimshaw – historic carvings made on whale bone, usually teeth of sperm whales. It became a hobby of whalers and seamen who created intricate and beautiful designs. Common themes were clipper ships, whaling boats, the whale hunt and even famous people like George and Martha Washington. The scrimshaw in the photo above was done on a sperm whale tooth caught near the Galápagos Islands in the year 1817. The whale gave 100 barrels of oil for the ship. I like that the description was written on the tooth. Below are more examples of scrimshaw.

Scrimshaw

The view from the top floor deck of the museum gives a scenic view of the town of New Bedford and the harbor.

View of New Bedford From the Whaling Museum

After our museum visit we headed over to see the historic Mariners’ Home, a boarding house for whalers and fishermen which is now used for exhibits. It is next to the Seamen’s Bethel, the chapel of the whalemen. It was here that author Herman Melville attended services and later in his book “Moby Dick” referenced the chapel and the sermon given there in a pulpit shaped like the bow of a ship. (Google Orson Wells and Moby Dick to see a powerful film version of the sermon). In 1961, a boat builder constructed a replica pulpit like the one described in the book. On the walls of the chapel are the names of New Bedford whalers and fishermen who lost their lives at sea. All of the remembrance plaques as well as the bow shaped pulpit really give a feel that this was a church for whaling families. A few scenes from other films have also been made at the Bethel.

Bow Shaped Pulpit Inside the Seamen’s Bethel

Our last exhibit stop was away from the historical district in an event building. A very large room was needed for the exhibit of the longest painting in America. The 1,275 foot long “Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World” is one of the more unusual and amazing things I have seen during our travels. It was painted in 1848 by two men and as the title implies, shows a whaling voyage around the world that started from New Bedford. Benjamin Russell had sailed aboard a whaling ship to earn some money and decided to recreate his voyage with the help of an assistant. The Panorama detailed people and places that Benjamin encountered and was painted on cotton sheeting with a water based paint.

Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage – Leaving from New Bedford

Historically, moving panoramas like this one were mounted on spools and scrolled much like celluloid film. The painting traveled to a number of U.S. cities before it was donated to the New Bedford Whaling Museum 100 years ago. After 150 years of travel it had tears, worn spots and burns. In 2017, the museum completed a major restoration of the Panorama. Since rolling the painting would put it at risk of damage, it is displayed at its full length. Below is a photo showing the painting covering both sides of the room.

Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage

The painting shows the typical route of a whaler in the mid-19th century, with stops in the Azores, Cabo Verde, Rio de Janeiro, Chile and many ports in the Pacific. Below is a photo of the Volcano at Fogo (mountain of fire) in Cape Verde which erupted in 1847.

Grand Panorama – Volcano Erupting in Cape Verde

Since this was a whaling voyage, there are numerous scenes of whale hunts such as in the photo below.

Grand Panorama Whale Hunt

The Grand Panorama is a wondrous spectacle and I felt fortunate that I was in New Bedford at the time it was being displayed after restoration. It took a long time to walk beside the cotton sheeting and see all of the painted images and follow this voyage around the world. I doubt my photos do it justice, especially in the size of the painting. It made a big impression on me and I thought about the Panorama many times after my visit. I might have come to New Bedford for the whaling museum, but it ended up being the Panorama that was the reason to come.

Tia Maria’s Portuguese Restaurant

So who were all the whalers that were drawn to whaling in New Bedford? They came from many different places and included Americans from New England, Basques. the British, Dutch, the Portuguese, native Hawaiians and escaped African American slaves. It seemed fitting for us to end our day eating dinner at a Portuguese Restaurant called Tia Maria’s in the historic part of the city.

I hope you enjoyed a look at the whaling history in New Bedford!

A Year on the Road

On August 25 we hit an anniversary – one year of traveling with our RV on the road!   We reached this date while staying at Boston Minuteman Campground, located in Massachusetts.   I thought it was interesting that Massachusetts was our 25th state to visit, so we are now halfway through our goal of visiting all the states.  To clarify, we won’t be able to visit them all – Hawaii is out of reach and at this time we don’t have the desire to make the long trek to Alaska, but the remaining 23 seem to be doable.  It has been quite a year – we have stayed in 49 different campgrounds, visited many historical sites, museums, National Parks, State Parks, towns, cities and attractions.  Below is another picture of our anniversary site, with perhaps the tallest and densest trees we have camped under!

During this past year we visited the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, listened to folk music in Arkansas and Cajun music in Louisiana.   We saw the swamps and bayous of the South and antebellum mansions in Mississippi.   In Alabama we camped right next to the waters of Mobile Bay and enjoyed the turquoise ocean and white sands of the Florida Panhandle.   We walked the historic streets and sat in the squares of Savannah, Georgia.  While in South Carolina we visited the only tea plantation in America and discovered lots of history in the narrow streets of Charleston.  While traveling through Virginia we saw the homes of former presidents and the first colony at Jamestown.  We explored Philadelphia with family and camped in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.  In Maine we visited a new National Park and on scenic drives admired miles of rocky coastline.   We discovered beautiful waterfalls in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and traveled up to the tallest mountain in the Northeast.   These are just a few of the many highlights during a year of exploring and learning much about this wonderful country we are blessed to call home.   In the picture below, we got a warm welcome when arriving to our park near Mobile, Alabama.

I was thinking recently how different each state is as they each have their own look, “feel” and culture.   I can just tell I am in a different state and not because of the welcome sign on the road.  They really have their own uniqueness and that is one of the things that makes exploring such an adventure.  There is always that anticipation of what the next state will be like and what we will find there.   During our year of travel, a few of the states we had visited before, but most were new to us and there has been much to appreciate in every state we have been.   Some touched a special place in my heart and I found myself a little sad when leaving.  But I always reminded myself that there would be more memorable and special places to come and this has truly happened.   It can be hard to leave a great place behind, but without moving on, we would not have explored 25 remarkable states.  Below is a picture of the park we stayed at in Louisiana, one of our favorite states and the place where we experienced a surprise snow storm in December.

So, traveling and sightseeing aside, how has it been living in a 21-foot trailer?   It can certainly be a challenge.   The lack of space for all our things is probably the biggest challenge but there are others.   The ability to move around freely inside and spread out is tough.   Our comfort is compromised, my days of lounging on the couch like I did at home while watching a movie or reading a book are a thing of the past.   Trying to prepare food and cook in a small kitchen area can at times elicit some groans from me as I struggle to manage the ingredients I am cutting up or finding space for a dish or pot.   Since our refrigerator is small we can only fit limited amounts of food so grocery shopping has to be more frequent.   When trying to find something in our long, deep food pantry, I often have to take stuff out and stack it on our bed, as I reach my arm into the dark space trying to feel for that can or box.

Above is a picture of a scene that awaited us when we arrived in Vermont, another challenge we have dealt with from time to time.   Although we try to secure everything when moving the trailer from one campsite to another, a few times we have found frozen food items on the floor or even one time a cabbage that somehow popped out from the refrigerator and ended up near our bed.   On one stop we found our large glass mixing bowl in pieces on the stovetop.   The shattered dishes pictured above we discovered after arriving in Vermont.   I didn’t expect Corelle Ware to break into so many tiny pieces.  We do use paper plates and bowls from time to time, but for some things dishes are better.

For the most part we have tried to stay at least a week or more every where we have been, but that time goes by so fast and it seems before we know it, it is time to pack up and move on to the next spot.   The life of a nomad is certainly an interesting one.   There are always new places and situations to become accustomed to.   We have been fortunate to find quiet and pleasant neighbors at every place we have stayed.   It has been nice to talk to other travelers and find out about their experiences, where they have come from and where they are traveling next.  Some have had some good tips on places to camp or attractions to visit.   It is always great to share expertise on the road!   We have met a few full time travelers, but most are seasonal who are only RVing for part of the year or taking a short vacation from their home.  The RV park owners and staff have also been kind and helpful and have never lost our reservations!  I have to admit that as we drove to each new location, I would wonder if this would be the time that we would be told, “Sorry, we don’t have a spot for you!”   We were blessed with few issues along the way that have hampered our progress.   Below is a picture from our last campground in Maine which featured a lovely area to sit and walk along the waterfront.

Where do we go from here?   Although I had good intentions, my blog has continued to be so behind, because I always have much I want to write about making it hard to keep up.   Although we left Maine the first part of August, I still have more to write about our time in that wonderful state.   We have since had shorter stays in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and our current spot in Rhode Island.   We will be visiting Connecticut next and then start making our way to the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountain states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.   We plan to visit those states through the rest of September, October and into early November.   We will then begin our trek back to California where we look forward to spending the holiday season.   Below is a sunset picture at our campground in New Hampshire.

We thank you for taking the time this past year to check out the blog and for the comments you have made.  It can get lonely on the road so it is much appreciated to hear from you!