Somehow I think the Pilgrims had an easier time getting to America than we did traveling the I-95 corridor to Plymouth, Massachusetts on Labor Day weekend, 2007.
Like a large percentage of Americans, we didn’t have a car with GPS (we do now, thank goodness) and I had looked at a map before we left to plan our route. Pretty simple – I-95 North to Providence, Rhode Island, grab Route 44 East and take it all the way into Plymouth. Once there, I felt confident we could find the Mayflower. (Or rather, the Mayflower 2, since the one on display is a reconstruction).
Unfortunately, you know what they say about the best-laid plans – they don’t take into account road construction.
Our exit in Providence was closed, so we were detoured past the Capitol building. All went well until the orange detour signs just . . . disappeared. Like into thin air. And we were stuck in the middle of downtown Providence with no clue how to get out and onto Route 44.
I felt like Bugs Bunny when he always says “I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”
We kept circling around, looking for signs, but nothing. Finally, I spotted an Avis rental place and we begged a map from them. We still managed to get lost.
An hour later, we were on our way to Plymouth, looking for food because the gang in the back seat was getting hungry. Guess how many roadside food stops there are on Route 44?
If you guessed not many, you’d be right.
But at last! Plymouth and a pizza place. How the Pilgrims sailed across an ocean for weeks at a time, I have no idea. But we reminded the guys how lucky they were when we showed them the cramped interiors of the Mayflower.
There are costumed guides on the ship available to answer any questions, but what is most powerful is the size. It’s just so small to have traveled with so many people. They were cramped and tired and then when they got here, there wasn’t a nice hotel with a swimming pool to laze around in.
We spent about an hour on the ship and the information panels detailing the voyage, then moseyed over to the famous Plymouth Rock.
It’s in a protective little area and you can’t actually touch it, but if you bend over the railing, you get a halfway decent view of . . . a rock.
Whether this is the real rock they landed near isn’t the point. It’s the idea that in 1620, hardy men, women, and children left to find freedom. That’s the concept I wanted to convey to my guys, but I admit, it’s a little easier for them to understand when you follow up a visit to the Mayflower with Plimouth Plantation.
It’s at Plimouth Plantation, where you can visit a historical recreation of an English village seven years after they arrived AND a Wampanoag homesite that you get a better understanding of life back in 1627.
Why 1627? Because by then they had built houses and a fort. In 1620, all you’d see is grass and who wants to look at that?
At the visitor center, we felt it was important to get an overview of what happened before we wandered through the historical recreations (it’s self-guided). By spending some time reading and listening to both perspectives of English settlement in the ‘new land’, the guys went way beyond the traditional Thanksgiving story (which is not exactly popular with the Wampanoag).
The Wampanoag homesite isn’t staffed by actors dressed up in costume. These are real Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe sharing their culture, their history, and their past in traditional clothing. Before we went into any areas, we hammered this point into our boys.
Respect for another’s culture and traditions is probably the best thing gained from traveling. This was my boys’ beginning.
Inside the wetus (or houses), you’ll see storytellers and learn centuries-old techniques for drying herbs and making boats. Asking questions is important, and my boys asked several including simple ones like ‘What are you doing?’ to a man stripping reeds for a boat.
Separated by a wooden wall, you then pass into the recreation of an English village, circa 1627. The costumed actors have taken on the histories and roles of village people and you can wander around, going into homes, and asking questions.
The role players do a pretty good job of staying in their role. Tell them about airplanes and they’ll scoff at you, telling you it’s the devil’s work to think men can fly. They’ll also test your knowledge.
When one person asked where we were from and my oldest said New York, they remarked that we didn’t look Dutch. I had to pause until I realized that around that period in history, New York was settled by the Dutch.
The kids also were amazed by the lack of space. One room and how many people? Add to that the list of chores they would have to do if they lived back in 1627 and my guys were more than happy to return to present day.
The Mayflower and Plimouth Plantation – it gave a whole new meaning to the concept of Thanksgiving. For more info: http://www.plimouth.org
Eleven ‘places’ visited, 489 to go.
Next: Boston Common and the Freedom Trail