Stop me if you have heard this one before......my friend Gina and I were on a whirlwind tour of Cape Cod. Ha ha ha....you have. This part of my Cape Cod Trilogy is all about Plymouth, MA. And while Plymouth isn't technically on the Cape, it is close enough. I was super excited to see Plymouth Rock, the rock where the pilgrims first landed as taught by US History teachers across the good ole USA. The funny thing about it is, the pilgrims were originally destined for what is now Virginia, but they ran out of beer. So, they decided to park it in Massachusetts to grow some stuff to make more beer. They even had a man named John Alden aboard. He was specifically asked to join the voyage because beer was his trade. Talk about a VIP with mad brewing skills.
But enough about hops and barley, back to Plymouth. I did not know what to expect when we entered Plymouth. I'm not gonna lie, I was half expecting to see the residents of Plymouth walking around in black and white outfits with hats and shoes that had buckles on them; their pants tucked into their knee high white socks. In other words....I was expecting the Quaker Oats man. Yea...so turns out Plymouth is not trapped in some really huge bubble that modern times has not been able to penetrate like the mind of Chrissy had conjured. It's actually a nice little town with a beach, a rock, a really big ship and a fantastic crab shack restaurant.
Granted there are parts of Plymouth that are much like Colonial Williamsburg but I only saw the coast. In fact, when we stepped off the bus I forgot for a moment why we were there. It is very much like Cape Cod. There are little shops and family owned restaurants lining the street across from the harbor (Haw-ba in Massachessette speak.Drop the "r"s.). There were lots of boats sitting along the dock of the bay and a rock jetty encasing the harbor. (I think I spell jetty wrong. Is it getty? Not sure. Screw it. Too lazy to look up the correct spelling.)
Gina and I were scoping out the gift shops across the street from the harbor. I was hoping one of the shops would have some souvenir patches. I collect patches from places I have been. They are getting harder to come by so when I do find one, I am a very happy camper. As I turned to my left to look down towards a little general store I saw when we entered Plymouth, I noticed a lot of the elders had wandered down the road to a park. I could see this beautiful stone Greek structure that reminded me of a portico or the Parthenon, but smaller. I noticed small crowds of people mulling about the structure. I was intrigued. I love Greek and Romanesque architecture.
I turned to Gina and asked her if she knew what that stunning building was. She said she believed it was Plymouth Rock. I gave her a strange look. She returned the strange look and pointed to the sign that said, "Plymouth Rock". We decided to talk a walk down the path to see if it was really Plymouth Rock. (Cuz why would the sign be enough for me to believe it was actually in there? Last I heard it was a big rock not a Greek building. Maybe they built a building out of the rock? That is when I told myself to STFU.)
|Read the sign Dork!|
When we came upon the building I was expecting to see the rock on a stone table (I really am not right in the head.) or on the ground surrounded by rope. It wasn't there. "What the hell?" I thought to myself. Maybe it is near the building but not directly in the building. There is a wrought iron fence in the building. We walk to it. Below us, lying in the sand is......Plymouth Rock. Etched on the stone was the date "1620." My first thought upon laying eyes on the stone, "It's little." I didn't realize I said it aloud but Gina agreed with me. It was definitely much smaller than we were expecting.
Turns out the original rock was thought to be about 20,000 lbs or 10 tons. Back in the 1700's the people of Plymouth split the rock. Half was left on the beach in it's original spot and half was moved to the town meeting hall. Over the years the rock was moved several times. People were also chipping off portions of the rock to sell or keep as souvenirs. There are several pieces of the rock stored in various places in the town of Plymouth as well as in the Smithsonian. What was left of the rock was preserved and brought back to it's original resting place.
I leaned over the fence, taking in the rock, trying to imagine what Plymouth must have looked like 386 years prior to my visit. I wondered if this really was the very first rock William Bradford stepped upon or was it one of many in the area. How could they be so sure? Did he mark it or something? Did the boat hit the rock? Did the rock put a hole in the boat? Was the rock slippery? Did anyone fall off the rock? Why am I asking myself all these crazy questions that don't really have an exact answer? Because that is what I do. I drive myself nuts. Sometimes I take the people around me for the ride as well. Gina and I take a few pictures of this historic rock. I take it in one more time, searing it into my memory bank while breathing in the pilgrim air. We then head towards the Mayflower II because we are on a time frame people!
|It is size does not impair it's significance.|
Gina and I stroll through Pilgrim Memorial Park as we head to the dock anchoring the Mayflower II boat museum. It is a very nice well kept park with beautiful landscaping. The grass is dark green, almost like a pine tree green. We notice people picnicking in the park and realize we are both starving. We decide after the boat we are going to the Crabby Shack for lunch. Gina is not a big seafood fan, she eats some, but she loves the atmosphere of seafood restaurants. I tell her they probably have chicken and burgers on the menu too. Most seafood places offer other options because of the very fact that not everyone likes seafood. It's good marketing to be honest.
As we approach the dock of The Mayflower II, we notice a sign stating that it is an exact replica of the original Mayflower. It was built in England in 1954. The English then sailed the wooden ship over the Atlantic to the United States exactly the way the Pilgrims sailed to the New World centuries before. No modern amenities were used on the voyage however there were definitely less people aboard. I found that to be very cool. It gave the boat more authenticity in my opinion. I wish I could sail across the Atlantic too. That would be fun. I may need some modern amenities though. Not many but a few.
|The Mayflower II|
I gaze up at the hulking wooden ship rocking next to the dock. I had never been on a big wooden ship before. I imagined pirate ships I had seen in movies or the big battle ships the English and Spanish sailed before the industrial era took it's place in the history books. This ship definitely wasn't as grand nor as fancy as those in the movies, but it was still quite large. As we step aboard and walk around the deck I could hear the wood groan and creek as it swayed in the choppy water. You can definitely feel the sway on this boat.
The masts were sturdy and very tall. I was awed by the fact that sailors used to climb those masts. You definitely need a big set of balls and a great sense of balance to climb those poles I laugh. I wonder how many people have fallen off of them. Did they die or did they just injure themselves? Probably both I tell myself. It's not necessarily the sway of the ocean that could make you lose balance but the wind in the open water can definitely be gusty to say the least.
|It was very dark in the boat so this is the best pic I have.|
Looking around it becomes quite apparent that there is absolutely no privacy on this boat what so ever. The quarters are very small and communal. How did all these people fit on here I wonder with amazement? Another time and another place I remind myself. Back then most families lived, ate and slept in a one room house. Only wealthy people had large homes. And what were once considered to be mansions back in the day, are sometimes the average sized home in modern days. Privacy was a luxury to only those who could afford it.
Gina and I look over the side of the ship at the life boat. A man next to us points out that had the Mayflower sunk, most of it's passengers would have gone down with the ship. The life boat was not large enough for even a 1/4th of the passengers. As intrigued as I am with history and days gone by, as much as I wonder what it would be like to live in another place and another time, right now I find myself thankful that I am in this time. This boat ride could not have been easy journey. Add the sickness and disease that spread through the boat on it's journey over to the New World and it's almost a small miracle that they arrived at all.
|The lone lifeboat.|
Gina and I exit the boat and head to lunch. They day is gray. Rainstorms have been teasing us all morning. We have lunch at the Crabby Shack. The crab cake sandwich is very tasty and filled with tons of crabmeat. I am a very happy gal. I love shellfish and it is such a treat for me to have. I got my fill on this trip for sure. After lunch we visit the souvenir shops and general stores lined across from the harbor. I find quite a few patches from different places around the cape in the General Store. Score!!
After our little shopping excursion we pile back into the bus for the next leg of our tour. As we roll down main street and out of Plymouth, I feel this sense of depth, for lack of a better word. I just witnessed a huge part of American history. I am very awed to have witnessed this history and while I feel a sense of accomplishment I also feel something else. Don't have an exact word for what was going on in my head and in my heart so let me break it down into many words. Hahaha.
Sometimes we can feel so small and insignificant in this great big world of 6 billion plus human souls. We can feel so lost and meaningless. Where do we belong? Who do we belong too? Where do I start? Am I just another misguided, insignificant statistic meant to live out an insignificant and meaningless existence? Truth is, we are all statistics. We are sub-categorized by gender, race, ethnicity, hair color, eye color, age, religious preference, origin of birth, year of birth, etc. We are broken down and stacked into an emotionless modern day excel spread sheet. We are just another number amongst many numbers.
Yet, every single number has a personality. Every single number lives and breathes and feels. Every single number has a story. Click on a number and you discover the living, breathing human being behind that number. They take on life and personality. Their life. Their personality. Nothing small about that at all. That number you clicked on is now larger than life. You are larger than life.
None of us are small or insignificant. We all change the course of history each and every day in our own way. How can that be small and insignificant? How can that be nothing less than beautiful?
Part I of the Cape Cod Trilogy
Part II of the Cape Cod Trilogy