Adventures in the Villa



2019-05-30 – Traveling West – Memphis, TN

Today was a day of contrasts…

First the silly:


The RV park is right next to the Graceland Visitors Center, so we sort of had to visit… Of course, I never miss an opportunity to visit an interesting house, and this one certainly qualifies…


We toured the first floor of the house, and visited the basement recreation room.  Elvis bought the house in 1957 and lived here for 20 years until his death in 1977.  Every room was outrageously decorated in the latest 1960s and 1970s style.  I won’t insult your eyes to show many pictures…

The 15′ long sofa in the Living was impressive…


Dining Room has china remarkingly similar to our own…


The kitchen is total 1970s…


The “Media Room” has the latest in TVs…


The record collection!


The racquetball court!


The property is quite beautiful… over 13 acres…


The grave site of Elvis, his mother and father, and his grandmother…


Something I had not known:  Elvis had a twin brother who was still-born…


Not sure what this guy is doing on the roof…


We left the house tour and returned to the Visitors Center and walked through the exhibits… The only interesting area that I liked were all of Elvis’ cars… Continental Mark II, two Mercedes 600 limousines, MGA, a few Cadillacs, and more…

No photos though…

We returned to the Villa, and caught an Uber into an area just a few blocks south of Downtown…


We were unprepared for this…


Those of you who are my age (or older) know what this is…


The Lorraine Motel went into bankruptcy a few years later, but was purchased by a local non-profit in 1982.  Today it is the site of the National Civil Rights Museum…


The museum was very sobering.  Starting with the history of slavery, then moving on through the eras of the build-up to the Civil War, the war itself, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow era.  It clearly outlined how the 13th amendment ended slavery, the 14th amendment granted citizenship to all former slaves, and the 15th amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all citizens.  That was 1870.  Except that in 1877 the Reconstruction era ended and the Federal troops left the south.  One by one the southern states all ignored the US Constitution and rewrote their state constitutions and laws to take away these rights and to mandate racial segregation.

Apparently no one in the Federal government cared, nor did the Supreme Court…

In 1896 the Supreme Court (nine old white men) ignored the amendments and, in Plessy v. Ferguson, they gave the green light to “separate but equal”… Jim Crow was now the law in the south…

The museum continued through the world wars, and finally Brown vs Board of Education, in 1954.  The case for integrated education and the elimination of “separate but equal” (which was always unequal) was heard before the court in 1952, but a highly divided court couldn’t make a ruling.  Finally, with Earl Warren newly sworn in as Chief Justice, Warren wrangled the other justices into a unanimous decision and the Supreme Court (nine old white men) said that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional.

Again, the southern states refused; in 1955 the court mandated that that they all comply.  It took Federal troops at the University of Mississippi to enroll James Meredith in 1962, it until 1963 that the University of Alabama admitted its first black students, and the State of Mississippi finally eliminated their “colored” schools in 1970.

The museum continued with the Freedom Riders, and Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, the Montgomery bus boycott and Rosa Parks.  And the Children’s crusade. And the KKK.  And the church bombings.  And the lynchings… As I said, it was a very sobering exhibit.

The museum ends with visitors walking past and viewing the room where Martin Luther King was staying when he was shot…

(As good as the museum was, it dealt strictly with African Americans in the south.  There was no mention of discrimination of against Chinese in California, or of segregated schools in Massachusetts…)

We then walked across the street to see where James Earl Ray fired the single shot that killed Dr. King; the boarding house is the brick building beyond… The entrance tunnel leads to the basement; we went to the top floor…


The bathroom window where the shots were fired…


The view of room 306 in the motel…


The exhibits in the boarding house are all about the search for Ray.  Even though there were FBI agents watching Dr. King along with 11 Memphis city police at the fire station across the street, Ray escaped.  He wasn’t captured until six weeks later, in London.

I had read an extensive book many years ago on James Earl Ray, and his six weeks on the run, and all the conspiracy theories…  We didn’t need to spend much time here…

But now it was late afternoon… We walked to downtown Memphis, about five blocks away…

We found Beale Street; home of the Blues…


We found the ballpark, but didn’t stick around for the game…


We had a drink at the Corner Bar at the Peabody Hotel…


And we had dinner at Cafe Society, a nice French Bistro…


We returned to the Villa, and an enjoyable time was had by all…


2017-07-19 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Vermont, New Hampshire, and into Maine!

Today is a four State day!

We left Topsfield Fairgrounds at 4;45 am to get an early start on the day.  We are heading for Vermont!

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Vermont welcomes us, we had a lovely breakfast, and we added a sticker:

2017-07-19 Map Vermont

A few minutes later we were in New Hampshire. We had a beautiful drive, stopping for fuel and adding a sticker:

2017-07-19 Map New Hampshire

We proceeded to Maine, and we stopped at Cabella’s in Scarborough to make a deposit; we had caught up with the rest of the caravan that had left Topsfield at 9:00 am or so:

2017-07-19 Cabellas

And we added another sticker:

2017-07-19 Map Maine

This completes our eastbound journey – coast to coast, from the Southwest to the Northeast:

2017-07-19 Map Eastbound

We stopped to shop at LL Bean in Freeport, and met up with more friends:

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I bought two pairs of shoes (actually moccasins…).  And we headed for the final destination of the day: Searsport RV Park:

2017-07-19 Searsport - The Villa

We set up and settled in…

Tonight we have a campfire and something called s’mores.  I don’t get why you would ruin a perfectly good marshmallow like that…

2017-07-19 Searsport - Campfire

We had a long day. And an enjoyable time was had by all.








2017-07-18 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Boston, day 2

Again on the bus into Boston; this time to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum:

2017-07-18 Boston JFK 01

The tour started with a short movie, depicting his early life, leading up to his nomination for the Presidency in 1960 at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles (recently demolished). Kennedy’s campaign headquarters was in the Biltmore Hotel, in what is now the Lobby. (At that time it was a large meeting room.  It was converted to the Lobby when the main entrance of the hotel was moved from Olive St. to Grand Ave.)

The movie was mostly the spoken words of JFK. At the beginning, I was struck by what he said at the Yale commencement in 1962:

Too often we hold fast to the cliche’s of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. Mythology distracts us everywhere. For the great enemy of the truth is very often not a lie: deliberate, contrived, and dishonest; but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.

I found this statement very relevant today…


The exhibits followed, detailing the election and his presidency; It was a very interesting design: The campaign and election displays were like storefronts in Anytown, USA, including products specific to the time: televisions, appliances, record players – things you might see in store windows in any small town main street; the presidency displays were in a reproduction of the lower level of the White House.  All in all a very interesting museum.  Outside, along the water, was JFK’s boat:

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We had a nice walk along the waterfront:

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Then we were taken by the bus to see the USS Constitution: Old Ironsides:

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Old Ironsides does not have iron sides; The ship is built with solid oak, about 24″ think, and it is clad in copper.  The British coined the term “Old Ironsides” when they saw their cannonballs bounce harmlessly off the sides of the ship in the first battle of the War of 1812.


Unfortunately, the ship is being restored, again, and is in dry-dock, where it has been for a long time. They are moving it this coming weekend, so it was not open for tours.  We spent some time in the adjacent museum, then headed to the Bunker Hill Memorial:

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2017-07-18 Boston - Bunker Hill Monument 02

The Memorial commemorates the Battle for Bunker Hill.  It is located on Bleeds Hill, where the battle actually took place.  (You can’t make this stuff up…)  The British won this battle, but at a heavy cost.  Shortly after, the British evacuated Boston and never returned…

So this concludes our two days in Boston. The bus took us back to the Airstreams and we prepared the rig for travel tomorrow… We’re moving on!











2017-07-17 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Boston, day 1

Knowing what traffic is like in Boston, we were grateful that the Caravan provided a nice Prevost bus to take us in to the heart of Boston:

2017-07-17 Boston Bus

Today we will have an opportunity to take a trolley tour to get oriented around Boston; after the trolley we can further explore areas as we wish…

From the bus we first saw the Boston Skyline:

2017-07-17 Boston - Skyline

And then the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge:

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2017-07-17 Boston - Zakim Bridge 1

This is a cable-stayed bridge, not a suspension bridge.  The difference is that a cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers, from which cables directly support the bridge deck. A distinctive feature are the cables which run directly from the tower to the deck, normally forming a fan-like pattern or a series of parallel lines. This is in contrast to the modern suspension bridge, where the cables supporting the deck are suspended vertically from the main cable, anchored at both ends of the bridge and running between the towers. The cable-stayed bridge is optimal for spans longer than cantilever bridges and shorter than suspension bridges.

The lead designers were Theodore Zoli (from HNTB) and W. Denney Pate (from FIGG).  It has a striking, graceful appearance that is meant to echo the tower of the Bunker Hill Monument (more on this tomorrow), which is within view of the bridge, and the white cables evoke imagery of the rigging of the USS Constitution, docked nearby (more on this tomorrow).

The bus dropped us off at the waterfront; we boarded the trolley for a 90 minute tour of the historic and civic landmarks of Boston.  We were dropped back at the waterfront, leaving us the rest of the day to focus on our own interests.

Boston has nicely marked its sidewalks with a red stripe as a path they call the “Freedom Trail”.  So after our trolley tour we walked the trail and saw many famous sights, most related to the War for Independence.

You will recall the Longfellow poem I quoted when we visited Concord and Lexington:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive 
Who remembers that famous day and year.

It goes on to say:

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

So we went to see the Old North Church:2017-07-17 Boston Old North Church

And Paul Revere’s house:

2017-07-17 Boston - Paul Revere House


Along the way we saw the location of Cheers bar; Exterior photos of this place were used in the TV show, although the bar inside is nothing like the TV set. The owner has recreated the TV set in another Cheers bar location near the waterfront…

2017-07-17 Boston - Cheers


We saw the Charles River; a little regatta or sailing lessons are going on today:

2017-07-17 Boston - Charles River


Fenway Park; they play baseball here:

2017-07-17 Boston - Fenway Park


We really wanted to see Trinity Church, located in Copley Square; we walked and walked and when we finally got there we saw that it was closed on Mondays. Who ever heard of a church being closed on Mondays? What’s next? Closing the Stockbridge dump on Thanksgiving?

We did get in a nice lunch at La Famiglia Giorgio’s.  And lots of walking.  The bus took us back to the Villa and we slept soundly that night… a good thing, because we come back tomorrow!



2017-07-16 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Whale Watching and Rockport, MA

Today was Whale Watching Day!  We carpooled and convoyed to Gloucester and boarded the big ship…

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I takes awhile to board; conversation was lively:

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Our intrepid caravan leader, Cape Cod resident, Trevor Lake:

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Once the boat was underway we could enjoy the sights of the harbor:

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We were headed about 30-40 miles out, about halfway to Provincetown on Cape Cod…

Our first sighting of a whale:

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Due to the natural features of the ocean bottom and other sea life in the area, whales return to about the same areas to feed, providing easy viewing for tourists like us on our boat and all these other boats in the area.

Whales generally travel together is loose associations (not pods – pods are livelong “families” of whales).  They seem to do two things:  surface and spout, and dive. I was hoping to see them jump out of the ocean like in the insurance commercial, but no luck.

The whales were plentiful today, as they surfaced and spouted:

2017-07-16 Gloucester Whale Watching 34

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When they dive, we get to see their great tails; the people who study these whales identify them by the markings on their tails:

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After seeing many, many whales, we headed back to Gloucester; then we headed to Rockport to see this picturesque town and have lunch.  Rockport was crazy busy this afternoon…

Our carpool buddies, Victoria and John:

2017-07-16 Rockport MA 05


The town and harbor of Rockport:

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This church was having a little work done; notice the top of the steeple sitting on the ground:

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We had a delightful lunch of lobster rolls, with a nice white wine from New Zealand.  We headed back to the Villa; we have a meeting tonight to discuss our next two days as we travel to Boston!

PS:  As an update to our visit to Fallingwater on June 22, we saw on the news today that Mill Run, the creek that runs beneath Fallingwater, is at flood stage due to recent rains; the news story featured this photo of the team rescuing a statue that was toppled in the flood:

2017-07-16 Fallingwater Flood Topples Statue

(Sorry for the size… blame the newspaper…)

We had seen the statue, sitting adjacent to the plunge pool:

2017-06-22 Fallingwater 010d

Apparently, all is now well…





2017-07-15 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Lexington, Concord, and The Shot Heard ‘Round the World; Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer…

We had a free day to explore the region. We chose to tour Concord and Lexington.  After driving to Lexington we joined a trolley ride for a 90 minute to drive along the roads between Lexington and Concord; our guide told us the history of the Battle of Concord and Lexington, the start of the War for Independence.


2017-07-15 Concord Lexington 01

Our trolley tour told of the first shots fired – it was it Lexington, but no one knows who fired first.  Paul Revere and William Dawes had ridden in from Boston to warn the town that the British were coming. (Although everyone here was British at the time…)

Also, because Longfellow told us, everyone knows:

Listen, my children, and you shall hear 
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; 
Hardly a man is now alive 
Who remembers that famous day and year. 


In 1896 Helen F. Moore, dismayed that William Dawes had been forgotten by Longfellow, penned a parody of Longfellow’s poem:

‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear—
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

Revere was arrested, but the word was out. The main confrontation occurred in Concord, as memorialized in the first verse of the Concord Hymn:

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.

We walked along the area of the first battle, and across the bridge. (Not the original bridge…):

2017-07-15 Concord Lexington 01a

2017-07-15 Concord Lexington 02


There are graves of British here, too:

2017-07-15 Concord Lexington 04


Along the trolley tour we saw the houses of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  Thoreau’s house is about 1 1/2 miles from Walden Pond, so for all those months when Thoreau was isolated and alone at the pond, he usually walked home for dinner in the evening…

We walked about to see several historic houses in Lexington; this is the house that Revere (and Dawes) were riding to:

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I know it’s a really old house, but this house (especially the door…) needs some attention:

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The Munroe Tavern was occupied by the British as their headquarters:

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After our memories of the history of the war with the British were refreshed, we needed to be refreshed with a little French food:

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We walked about the town a bit, and headed back to the truck:

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I had been in this area in 2008, on a bus tour, but not to see historic sights; we were here to see architecture.  I recalled a neighborhood of modernist houses, but I didn’t know where they were or whose houses they were.  I did remember the bus driver pointing out Walden Pond, so I thought we should check out the area and see what we could find.

We easily found the pond.  So I tried turning down some small roads to see what we could find; on my second try we found it!

This is the Walter Gropius house:

2017-07-15 Gropius 02

Walter Gropius founded The Bauhaus in Germany in the 1920s, revolutionizing modern architecture around the world. Apparently, the Germans were not impressed, because they closed The Bauhaus and Gropius fled Germany in the 1930s. After a time as a refugee in London, Gropius was hired to head Harvard’s Architecture Department.  As his fame and influence spread, a nice lady offered Gropius $20,000 and 4 1/2 acres of land for him to build himself a house; here it is:

2017-07-15 Gropius 01

It is Gropius’ idea of a modern New England cottage; wood siding, but vertical, not horizontal; also, horizontal windows, not vertical. Flat roof, not pitched… Plus an angled front porch and a spiral stair just for fun.

Inside the house is wonderful; the entry hall with the traditional center stair:

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The study, with an interior wall of glass block to share light with the Dining Room beyond:

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The Dining Room, with the screened porch beyond:

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Upstairs is a lovely deck, with one wall painted his custom-designed color, Bauhaus Pink:

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And the view down from the deck towards the screened porch:

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After all, what says “New England cottage” more than a screened porch?

Other views around the house:


Much of the furniture inside the house was designed by Gropius’ colleague, Marcel Breuer.  Breuer was also given land next door to build his house, along with three other people this lady with the land liked… The other houses are privately owned and were not open, but back in 2008 we were permitted to walk the grounds.

Walter Gropius and his wife lived in the house until their deaths in 1969 and 1980, whereupon it was donated to the Historic Society…

We headed back to the Villa and enjoyed another GAM (Get Acquainted Meeting) with the other caravanners… Once again, an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-07-14 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Camping at the Topsfield Fair Grounds…

Today is moving day once again. We traveled from Plymouth to Topsfield. The trick, though, was to avoid Boston and their bridges and tunnels that prohibit propane… So it was a relatively long drive, about 125 miles, 2 1/2 – 3 hours.  We are camped on the grounds of the Topsfield Fair:

2017-07-15 Topsfield 01

No defined camp sites, just a lot of grass:

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It was fun to be all by ourselves – just the Airstreams and the Caravanners – no one else anywhere around…

That evening we once again had a meeting to discuss the tourism opportunities in this part of the country:

2017-07-15 Topsfield 03

Since this day has little other opportunities for photos, I post pictures of my grandchildren; they are at the beach in California:

2017-07-15 McAnoy

And an enjoyable time was had by all…





2017-07-13 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Plymouth, National Monument to the Forefathers, and the Grist Mill…

Once again it was raining. We convoyed to Plymouth to see and hear about The National Monument to the Forefathers:


2017-07-13 Monument Forefathers 02

This thing is huge. Not Statue of Liberty huge, but impressive, none the less… It is 81′ tall.

The original concept dates to around 1820, with actual planning beginning in 1850. The cornerstone was laid August 2, 1859 and the monument was completed in October 1888. It was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on August 1, 1889.

Our guide, in Pilgrim garb, explained the monument:

2017-07-13 Monument Forefathers 05

He was a little preachy, and it was hard to tell when he was talking as a Pilgrim and when he was talking about today. But the Monument has a lot to say.

On the main pedestal stands the heroic figure of “Faith”, with her right hand pointing toward heaven and her left hand clutching the Bible. Upon the four buttresses also are seated figures emblematic of the principles upon which the Pilgrims founded their Commonwealth; counter-clockwise from the east are Morality, Law, Education, and Liberty. Each was carved from a solid block of granite, posed in the sitting position upon chairs with a high relief on either side of minor characteristics. Under “Morality” stand “Prophet” and “Evangelist”; under “Law” stand “Justice” and “Mercy”; under “Education” are “Youth” and “Wisdom”; and under “Liberty” stand “Tyranny Overthrown” and “Peace”. On the face of the buttresses, beneath these figures are high reliefs in marble, representing scenes from Pilgrim history. Under “Morality” is “Embarcation”; under “Law” is “Treaty”; under “Education” is “Compact”; and under “Freedom” is “Landing”. Upon the four faces of the main pedestal are large panels for records. The front panel is inscribed as follows: “National Monument to the Forefathers. Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty.” The right and left panels contain the names of those who came over in the Mayflower, including distant relatives of Irvine’s own Kirk Winslow.  The rear panel, which was not engraved until recently, contains a quote from Governor William Bradford’s famous history, Of Plymouth Plantation:

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all praise.”

The overall scheme was designed by architect Hammatt Billings.

The rear:

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The close-up:

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After we learned everything and more about the Monument, we walked down to see a recreation of a 17th century grist mill.  It is a fully functioning mill, and it operates on the weekends, and it sells its flour to the public.

The water wheel:

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The millstones – 2,500 lbs each:

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The two millstones are apart for display purposes. When the mill is operating, the one that you see vertical is turned and set atop the lower stone. The upper stone is fixed in place, and the lower stone is turned by the power of the water wheel and the gears below the floor:

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These wheels and gears are the heart of the mill.  It is a fascinating operation and display of the incredible power water and simple tools have. The first public grist mill was built about 10 years after the Pilgrims arrived – before that, all grain had to be ground by hand… not an enjoyable time…

After our time at the grist mill we went to lunch at a local pub. Unlike the early Pilgrims, an enjoyable time was had by all…




























2017-07-12 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Provincetown

Today is wasn’t raining – yet.  It is a free day, so we can do whatever we want to enjoy Cape Cod. We had seen the normal sights when we were here in 2004 – Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannis, light houses, beaches and sand dunes… We also didn’t want to fight the summertime traffic, so instead, we headed back to Plymouth and caught a fast boat to Provincetown.

2017-07-12 Cape Cod

You can see that it is a quick boat ride, about 1 1/2 hours. To drive, in no traffic (and there is ALWAYS traffic…) is 1 1/2 hours. It was an easy call…

The weather in Plymouth was a little foggy, but nothing to obstruct the views.  The little temple on the shore is the “canopy” over Plymouth Rock:

2017-07-12 Plymouth Rock Temple


In the outer harbor are houses and a lighthouse along a tiny sand spit:

2017-07-12 Plymouth Harbor


The entrance to Provincetown Harbor:

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Looming over the town is this giant tower:

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It is the Pilgrim Monument:

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The Pilgrim Monument was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in Provincetown on November 21, 1620. It was dedicated by President Taft.

Yes! The Pilgrims in the Mayflower landed at Provincetown, not Plymouth! It is where the Mayflower Compact was written and signed.  We’ve been lied to all these years! After they landed at Provincetown, and saw that there was no fresh water, and that the sand was no good for farming, they set out in a small boat to explore Cape Cod Bay.  They found Plymouth, with a natural harbor, fresh water in a flowing creek, and land good for farming, at least once you clear away the rocks. Lots of rocks!

It claims to be the tallest all-granite structure in the United States.  The tower is 252 feet, 7.5 inches (77 meters) tall and rises 350 feet above sea level. So, of course, we had to climb the tower. It was raining at the top:

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Provincetown prospered as a fishing village and as a whaling center.  Whale oil had always been the principal light source in the United States.  Kerosene was cheaper, but it was smelly and smokey.  John D. Rockefeller (see my earlier posts) hired research chemists from Yale to develop a cleaner burning kerosene. They succeeded.  In the late nineteenth century the whaling industry died as kerosene replaced whale oil as a lighting  source. Another New England industry bites the dust, and John D. Rockefeller gets rich.

(As electric lights became available, kerosene became another dead industry.  Luckily, by that time JDR was refining gasoline for the new-fangled automobiles…)

We spent the day wandering the delightfully crowded and narrow streets, peeking into shops, and enjoying the day. We had a late lunch and followed up with an ice cream cone… The boat ride back to Plymouth was uneventful. I may have dosed off a bit. An enjoyable time was had by all…





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