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July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts) < Previous News  |  Next News >

 

 

Lexington:  Birthplace of the Revolution

After a great weekend with Julie, I left Boston on Monday morning and drove to Lexington, a leafy Boston suburb filled with nice old houses, certainly more expensive than I could ever afford.  It's no surprise that the great PBS show "This Old House" got its start in this area.

 

Lexington, of course, is also where "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" was fired during the first skirmish of the American Revolution between the British Army and the patriot Minutemen on April 19, 1775.  This happened while the British Army marched towards nearby Concord to confiscate weapons that the Patriots had stockpiled there.  Personally, though, I think they were looking for Krispy Kreme donuts.  

 

       

Above left:  Two of my oldest and best friends:  Julie and my Toyota truck.  They both still run great..  

Above center:  After saying goodbye to Julie, I headed out to Lexington where the first skirmish of the American Revolution was fought here on Lexington Green.  To this day, no one knows which side fired first.

Above right:  Some friendly costumed interpreters at a Minuteman National Park site near Lexington. 

 

Beware of Lonely Rangers

I spent an hour at Lexington getting a personal tour of the Lexington Green from a pretty tour guide, then hopped into my truck and continued west along "Battle Road."  If you ever visit this area, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center at Minuteman National Park outside of Lexington where they present a terrific 20-minute film depicting the battles of Lexington and Concord.  Other than the last scene in "Titanic," I don't often get goose bumps while watching a movie, but I did after watching this presentation.  Judging from the silence at the end of the film, I think everyone else in the theatre did, as well.

 

Concord, Massachusetts, a few miles west of Lexington, was the cradle of the Revolutionary War in the 1700s and the cradle of American literature in the 1800s.  Today, it's a cradle of gawking tourists.  And of course, it's also the birthplace of the famous Concord Jam.  

 

Before getting to Concord, as you fight your way through the Concord Jam, you pass two interesting old houses on the north side of the two-lane highway.  One was owned by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne back in the 1800s and the other, a short distance away, was owned by Louisa May Alcott's family (Louisa, of course, was the author of "Little Women.")  The Alcott house is privately-owned (though open to tours) but the Hawthorne house is owned by my favorite federal agency, the National Park Service.  The NPS has turned the Hawthorne house into a National Historic Site and has converted Nathaniel's old barn into a nice, air-conditioned Visitor Center.  

 

I visited Concord once before briefly in June, 1995 during one of my drives around America and made the mistake of walking into the Hawthorne House Visitor Center, where I was immediately pounced on by three very lonely Park Rangers.  Apparently this was at the beginning of the tourist season and I could tell that these rangers were desperate to tell someone, anyone, all about Nathaniel Hawthorne.  

 

One of the rangers asked if I'd like a tour of the house and, since she was kind of cute, I reluctantly said yes.  She took me into the 100-seat amphitheatre (which is no longer there, for obvious reasons) and proceeded to give me a very well-rehearsed speech on the entire life of Nathaniel Hawthorne.  She had obviously written and rehearsed the speech for a large audience (silly her), so I felt a little foolish sitting alone in the front row of the auditorium with this ranger standing only three feet from me waving her arms, talking glowingly of Nathaniel, and making eye contact with the numerous rows of empty benches.  

 

After her presentation in the Visitor Center, we got up to walk over to the house when another ranger peered out the window of the Visitor Center and excitedly announced, "Here come two more visitors!"  All I could think of was: "Suckers!"  The three of us spent the next hour politely strolling through Nathaniel's house with the cute ranger, learning more about Hawthorne than any of us ever cared to.  Actually I thought Hawthorne was a talented writer -- I just didn't want to spend two hours inspecting his bathroom.  

 

Anyway, I briefly stopped at the Hawthorne house and walked into the Visitor Center.  With memories of the 1995 visit dancing in my head, however, I kindly declined a tour of the house.

 

       

Above left:  Concord, Massachusetts was a literary haven during the 1800s, with residents such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Louisa May Alcott.  This is "The Wayside," owned by the Alcotts.  Later, it became the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne and today it's a National Park Historic Site, though a lonely one at that.

Above center:  Right next door is "Orchard House."  The Alcott family moved here after selling "The Wayside" to Hawthorne.  Louisa May Alcott wrote "Little Women" in her room on the second floor, center.  She based the book, though, on her childhood experiences in The Wayside (above left).  It costs $7 to tour the house.

Above right:  Here are a couple of Little Women.  On the left, that's Louisa May Alcott, who I thought looked a lot like Monica Lewinsky.  That's Louisa's sister Anna on the right.

 

       

Above left:  Here's the North Bridge in Concord where the first real battle of the American Revolution took place.  After the skirmish at Lexington, the British advanced over the bridge from the right but were turned back by the Minutemen.  

Above center:  Minuteman statue at the North Bridge.

Above right:  After driving the Redcoats out of Concord, the Minutemen hid behind rock fences and fired on the retreating Redcoats as they fled on "Battle Road" all the way back to Boston.  Many Redcoats were killed on this, the first day of the Revolutionary War.  The war would end five years later in Yorktown, Virginia (see News: July 18, 2001 for pictures of my visit to Yorktown).

 

"Walden, or Life in the Woods"

After brief visits to the Hawthorne and Alcott houses, I drove into Concord and visited the North Bridge.  However, I soon beat a retreat just as the British Army had done 226 years earlier because the weather was pretty hot and sticky, reaching 98 degrees.  It seemed that even the bronze statues here were starting to wilt.  One site in the Concord area that I had never been to, however, was Walden Pond.  

 

Of course, Walden Pond was where Henry David Thoreau (whose real name was David Henry Thoreau... maybe he was dyslexic) decided to take a break from civilization for a couple of years and write a flowery book that no one can understand.  Seriously, though, Thoreau was a pretty cool guy and he moved onto a small, wooded lot here in 1845, built a cabin, and lived simply and alone amidst nature for two years... which sounds pretty appealing to me.  

 

Today, Walden Pond is a park and a very popular one at that.  I think Thoreau would have gagged at the $5 entrance fee, but I paid it and parked there in the huge, crowded lot, filled with cooler-toting beachgoers.  There were, oh, about a gazillion people at the Walden Pond beach on this muggy afternoon, but, interestingly enough, hardly anyone was at Thoreau's cabin site a mile away.  Although I enjoyed visiting the quiet cabin site, I was a bit discouraged once again after passing the mob scene at the beach on my way back to the parking lot.  Near the parking lot, though, I spotted a replica of Thoreau's cabin and had a very pleasant and uplifting conversation there with a local Thoreau enthusiast named Brad Parker.

 

After talking to Brad for an hour and learning more about Thoreau, I felt a strong kinship with him -- Thoreau, that is, not Brad.  I was so inspired that I walked back down to the beach and dipped my hand into the water since, as Brad had told me, "You can't come to Walden Pond without touching the water."  He was right... the water here did feel different.  But maybe it was just the residue from a thousand unwashed bodies.

 

After visiting Walden Pond, I decided to camp that night at a State Park on the coast near Salisbury, Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, this being the middle of summer and Salisbury being on a beautiful beach and only an hour from Boston, the huge campground there was filled to the brim, so I turned my truck around and headed down to a place called Harold Parker State Park.  I'd camped here once before, during my 1995 trip.  With its $12 campsites, I mused that this park was probably the only lodging available in the Boston area that night for less than a hundred bucks.  I think Thoreau, with his lifelong devotion to simplicity, would've been proud.

 

       

Above left:  Walden Pond, near Concord, where Henry David Thoreau decided to take a two-year sabbatical from life.  Hey, that sounds like a great idea... maybe I'll do that!

Above center:  Thoreau really wasn't the recluse that some have claimed, since he visited nearby Concord quite often during his stay at Walden Pond.  He was a quiet man who sought solace in nature, emphasized simplicity in life, and strongly believed in moral principles.  

Above right:  Beach scene at Walden Pond.  Not quite the way that Thoreau remembered it, I'm sure...

 

       

Above left:  A drawing of Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.

Above center:  His original cabin no longer stands but a replica was built near the parking lot.

Above right:  The inside of the replica cabin is furnished much the same way Thoreau had furnished his, with a simple table, stove, and bed.

 

       

Above left:  Brad Parker, a local Thoreau enthusiast, spent an hour with me at the cabin telling me stories about Thoreau.  The more I learned about Thoreau, the more I realized how similar were our personalities.  Thoreau died at age 44 of tuberculosis and is buried in Concord.  I greatly enjoyed my visit to Walden Pond, thanks mostly to Brad. 

Above center:  Surreal image in my rear-view mirror -- leaving Walden Pond at rush hour.

Above right:  Concord jam (har, har)

 

 

Next News

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

 

Previous News

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington) 

 

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Home > Travels (2001-02) > U.S. Trip > July 23, 2001