STATE 04: MASSACHUSETTS
After a couple nights spent in Cabela’s parking lot in Hudson, MA, we were pretty excited and slightly anxious to get to Boston, our first “major” city stop on the tour.
But before we made the trek into Boston, we visited the closer-by city of Salem where the infamous witch trials took place in the 1690s. It’s been interesting to visit cities across this country and learn what they are known for. Salem is the first city I’ve ever been to that is known for its, well, witchcraft. As we walked through the town, we would pass shop windows filled with trinkets and souvenirs exhibiting images of witches, cauldrons, brooms, ghosts, and everything in-between. Men dressed as zombies stood on the corners in hopes of persuading tourists to take a ghost tour of the cemetery later that night.
While we passed on the night-time stroll through the graveyard, Tyler and I walk through “The Burying Point,” the oldest cemetery in the city. As we read through the tilted and worn gravestones, we came across a gravestone that belonged to a Mayflower Pilgrim who lived to be 84 years-old!
We then walked through the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, reading the names of the twenty people, most of them women, that were accused of witchcraft by mere teenagers then executed during the most well-known case of mass hysteria in colonial America. Although seeming distant in history, it was still moving to read through how the women were accused, simply for not adhering to the community’s expectations placed on women at that time. Showing skepticism of the trails only led to others being charged with witchcraft as well. Needless to say, it’s a chilling reminder of how influential false accusations and beliefs can be.
On a lighter note, while walking toward the water, it hit me that it totally felt like we were in Halloweentown. Remember that Disney Channel movie? Actually, MULTIPLE movies? I kept expecting to round the corner and run into a werewolf or something.
Anyway, we walked toward the water and saw where the Friendship of Salem would normally be docked. A replica of the 1797 boat built in Salem, it was away for renovation in New York but there were volunteers working on rehabilitating and reweaving its masts along the water. Mistakenly walking into the boathouse, a nice guy gave us an impromptu tour of the renovation project and area. Wood stacks, tools, and blue prints of the boat were strewn everywhere and the cedar-wooden smell brought me back to my grandfather’s garage.
We stayed at the Boston Minuteman Campground located in Littleton, MA, about an hour away from Boston. Because we need to stay at campgrounds and RV parks while we conduct state projects, we typically will find a place an hour to a half-an-hour away from the town we’re visiting. Although it adds a bit of a commute back and forth, we’ve come to love it as it gives us the best of both worlds, time in the city and time in the country.
The site at this campground was beautiful, totally surrounded by trees providing us shade and keeping the trailer nice and cool. We bought a simple linen tablecloth from Target so that we could enjoy a couple of dinners out on the picnic table, including a tofu recipe given to me by my friend Nate.
Food plays a big part in this tour, especially for me. I think Tyler would be happy having PB&J’s every night for dinner but I think it’s an important thing about travel. Since we don’t have the funds to eat out all of the time, I’ve enjoyed grocery shopping at local stores (and many Trader Joe’s) and attempting regional dishes. Making familiar dishes from home has also given us comfort in our continually shifting environments.
Finally came the day to head into Boston! We parked on the outskirts and walked across the channel where the Boston Tea Party protest happened in 1773, “No taxation without representation!” This is going to turn into a history lesson, isn’t it?
Towered over by the financial district’s buildings, the Old State House stands in the middle of it all. Symbols of the United Kingdom, the gold crown-wearing lion and unicorn sit atop the house’s corners. The site of the Boston Massacre that was publicized by revolutionists to promote the rebellion against the British, the Declaration of Independence was also read from the balcony on July 18, 1776, in which the lion and the unicorn were taken down and burned on King street. I’m thinking there is no other way to send a clearer message than that.
On our way to Boston’s North End, Tyler and I walked through the six towers of the New England Holocaust Memorial, representing the six million Jewish people that died in the six main death camps during the six years of the terrible “Final Solution,” the most deadly phase of the holocaust.
The walls of the tower are inscribed with seven-digit numbers representing the tattoos given to concentration camp prisoners. As you walk through, you notice the steam rising from the grates below you. It’s quite a literal way to represent the horrifying gas chambers of the concentration camps but there is no beating around the bush when it comes to coming to face an ugly portion of human history.
Sadly, only days after we visited and days after the neo-Nazi rally happened in Charlottesville, VA, the memorial was vandalized for the second time that summer. Those weeks that summer were a particularly bleak time socially in our country and it was difficult not knowing what the future held in the places we were headed to.
All the while communities and groups across the nation were having conversations of the present and future, we felt we were in a particularly unique situation to be walking through this country’s past.
Walking through the North End along the Freedom Trail, Boston’s oldest residential community dating back to the 1630s, we saw not only Paul Revere’s house but also walked through the church where he displayed his lantern in its steeple to warn that the British were coming.
The North End is also known as Little Italy and while we didn’t eat in the area, we had a great time walking through the winding and tight streets, looking up at the old brick buildings, feeling transported back in time.
As we were walking by the King’s Chapel Burial Ground, the oldest cemetery in Boston, I noticed on the plaque that “Captain Roger Clap” was buried there and told Tyler that he was probably an ancestor of mine. His response? To not be presumptuous. Unfortunately the cemetery had closed just a half-hour before so we couldn’t go see the grave, but that encounter inspired me to start digging into my family history online. I will elaborate on the research and findings later on!
After having an early dinner of pizza and pasta at MAST, we walked to the historical neighborhood of Beacon Hill that has narrow cobblestone streets with names like “Chestnut” and “Acorn” and federal-style houses adorned with window boxes. Most stoops on the streets still have their iron or brass boot scrapers. While some minds may go to thinking about the mud and snow, mine went to thinking of all the horse poop scraped off by those suckers way back in the day!
Walking by thee Cheers Bar, we then visited the Boston Common and Public Garden that was bustling with people taking their evening walks after getting out of work. Not trying to acknowledge how much our feet hurt, we continued to make our way through the city to the Boston Public Library. The library has a beautiful entry with elaborate tile-work and two grand staircases that scream, yep, this is where knowledge lies. We were able to spend a few quiet moments in the courtyard before the library closed, listening to the peaceful foundation in the heart of a busy city.
The next two days we facilitated the Massachusetts state project days with Veteran Anthony Marquez and designer Fish McGill. We were introduced to Anthony by Andy Biggs who organizes the Boston Wounded Vet Run. Although a Veteran himself, he referred us to Anthony who was staying with Andy while he was in town working on a chainsaw carving for his XVII Carvings project. A huge help, Andy even allowed us to use his home for the first project day which was super fun as he had dogs, turkeys, and chickens! We got to see Anthony work on a chainsaw carving in the driveway. The second design day was at Fish’s design studio in Boston. It was great being able to see the both of them in their element with their work, but more on that in the Massachusetts state project.
After the second design day, we visited Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts which is probably one of our favorite museums we’ve been to on this tour. Then we got the BIGGEST slices of pizza on Mission Hill before going to Wally’s Cafe Jazz Club, the oldest continually operated jazz club in the country and the first New England jazz club owned by an African American, Joseph Walcott- AKA “Wally.” It’s a good thing we got there early and snagged a spot at the bar because it got incredibly busy but for good reason, it was such a fun evening listening to up and coming jazz musicians. It was the perfect way to end our Boston visit.
The next day we packed up our site at Minuteman and were just about to leave when I asked Tyler if Noel was in the truck (usually she climbs under the seat so we can’t see her very easily). After confirming that she was and putting the gear into drive, we see Noel running up some rocks across from our campsite like a little mountain lion. Turns out, Tyler had left his door open when he did the last walk-around the Airstream to make sure everything was situated and Noel snuck out. And to think we almost pulled out. Noel is funny in that when she does “escape,” she just runs back to the Airstream and goes underneath it. I guess it’s nice to know that she feels safe there.
We got her back in the truck and we were on our way to… IKEA! Having lived in the Airstream for a little over a month, we got rid of a few things that we didn’t need and came up with a list of things that we thought might help. Tyler pushed me around in the parking lot in the cart afterward and even did some fun cart choreography himself that involved a very nicely pointed toe.
We stopped at a Walmart in Plymouth for the night where I, um, well I had a moment. The next day was my birthday and it was the first time spending it away from my family. I had baked a pink cake and bought some balloons to get me more excited for it but, at the end of the night, I found myself crying in bed while blowing up said balloons. The next day I was able to look back on the hilarity of it, crying in a Walmart parking lot. It’s not one of my proudest moments, that’s for sure.
I did have a nice birthday surprise the next morning when Tyler had gone into Walmart and got me a Nintendo Switch! They had been sold out everywhere we had gone until then; we had checked GameStops, Targets, and stores from Michigan to Massachusetts. Apparently they had been shipped one that morning, completely at random, and had just put it out on display when Tyler walked in. It was an terrific birthday surprise and I can’t thank Tyler enough for always making me smile, including when he spilled his coffee fifteen minutes later. And yes, I may have had cake for breakfast that next morning — and the morning after, and possibly after that, too. It was delicious!
We set up at our site at Nickerson State Park, our first stay on the tour without any hookups that wasn’t in a parking lot. We headed to the beach where we saw packs of seals swimming along the shore. It was our first time seeing seals in the wild so we got pretty excited and were those people running down the beach chasing them wherever they went.
The next day we woke up to the sound of rain and had a cozy morning in while the sky cleared up. Eventually, we went out to go walk the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail that led out to the ocean. We had packed a little picnic and watched as the sun set, creating a rainbow of colors across the sky. We sat on a bluff looking out to the ocean and in the distance we could see little black dots that were seals in the water. It was one of my favorite moments in Massachusetts.
After setting up our new campsite at Shady Knolls in the Cape the next day, we headed to Provincetown, AKA P-Town! It was Pride week so houses were decorated and tons of people were out and about on the streets celebrating. We had a great meal at the Canteen that involved frozé, yes that’s frozen rosé. It was delicious. The and trip to the Cape ended with us seeing the sunset at Herring Cove Beach. Ahhh, summer.
*View the Massachusetts state project we facilitated with U.S. Marines Veteran Anthony Marquez, designer Fish McGill, videographer Richard Fomo from Fomo Video, and photographer Ajai Bharadwaj from Ajai B Photography. Their collaborative design is entitled “XVII,” a stylized interpretation of the chainsaw carvings Anthony was inspired to create as a way to honor the 17 Marines his unit lost during his last deployment in 2011 in Sangin, Afghanistan.