Birthplace of the Revolution
great weekend with Julie, I
left Boston on Monday morning and drove to Lexington, a leafy Boston suburb filled with
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.
left: Two of my oldest and best friends: Julie and my Toyota truck.
They both still run great..
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.
right: Some friendly costumed interpreters at a Minuteman National Park site near
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
center: Minuteman statue at the
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).
or Life in the Woods"
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,
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
right: Beach scene at Walden Pond. Not quite the way that
Thoreau remembered it, I'm sure...
left: A drawing of
Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.
center: His original cabin no
longer stands but a replica was built near the parking lot.
right: The inside of the replica cabin is furnished much the same way
Thoreau had furnished his, with a simple table, stove, and bed.
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
greatly enjoyed my visit to Walden Pond, thanks mostly to Brad.
center: Surreal image in my rear-view mirror -- leaving Walden Pond
at rush hour.
right: Concord jam (har, har)
August 6, 2001 (Manlius, New York)
22, 2001 (Boston, Massachusetts)
20, 2001 (Pomfret, Connecticut)
18, 2001 (Denton, Maryland)
16, 2001 (Cumberland, Virginia)
14, 2001 (Roanoke, Virginia)
9, 2001 (Sevierville, Tennessee)
8, 2001 (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)
5, 2001 (Manchester, Tennessee)
30, 2001 (Hohenwald, Tennessee)
29, 2001 (Corinth, Mississippi)
27, 2001 (Natchez, Mississippi)
24, 2001 (Austin, Texas)
20, 2001 (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)
18, 2001 (Clay Canyon, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 2 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
15, 2001 -- Part 1 (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)
14, 2001 (San Diego, California)
11, 2001 (San Jose, California)
2, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
19, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
30, 2001 (Hillsboro, Oregon)
19, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
5, 2001 (Bellingham, Washington)
* * * * * * *
Travels (2001-02) >
U.S. Trip >
July 23, 2001