Massachusetts Part II: Plymouth

For our second stop in Massachusetts we elected to stay at a place called Sandy Pond Campground outside of Plymouth. We figured that would be a great spot because from there we could take the train north to Boston; we could drive south to Cape Cod; and we could visit Plymouth to see where the pilgrims arrived on our continent.  Our drive from Western Mass to our new location near the coast was easy breezy until we got to about 9 miles from our final destination. Summer is winding down in New England, and it seemed like everyone was headed to the closest beach for one last hurrah. We were just commenting to ourselves about how smoothly our morning was going when we came upon a massive traffic jam. The scene looked like we were back in Houston during a hurricane exodus (only this time everyone was heading to the water instead of away from it). It took us an hour and 15 minutes to crawl along Route 25 toward the RV park.  However, we were still feeling lucky after we got set up and situated because that was the only glitch of the day. The power was good, the water pressure was good, we didn’t have any leaks, and we even had strong signals for satellite cable, internet and cell phones.

We had planned to stay two weeks in this part of the state, but we only made a reservation for one week at first. Most RV parks expect deposits, or sometimes full payment, upon securing the reservation and they do not give refunds for leaving early. The rate at Sandy Pond was a little above our budget, and we had located another campground nearby that was slightly less expensive. On our second day in camp we ventured out to find the other place and check it out. We wanted to see what it was like and if it would be worth moving after a week. We drove past many cranberry bogs on our way, and even passed Ocean Spray Boulevard! We did locate the alternate park, and the staff was nice enough to let us drive through and take a look. Turns out the sites were more crowded, the place was a little trashy, and there were many more trees (which means our phone, DirecTV, and internet signals would not be as strong). Also, this park was located farther east than Sandy Pond, so it would be a longer drive to Plymouth and the Cape. There was only a difference of about 8 miles, but that traffic jam had scared us and we didn’t want to fight that chaos on any of our daytrips.  The final deciding factor was that Sandy Pond Campground gave us access to Little Sandy Pond, a small lake were Mike could fish. He was happy to pay more money if he could walk to a fishing spot. Decision made. We would suck it up and bust our budget to stay where we were.

Our first daytrip from here was to Nantucket Island via a ferry from Hyannis. Hyannis was about a 45-minute drive from where we were camped. Dogs were allowed on the ferry, so we set our alarm and all four of us left early to make the drive, find a parking spot, and catch the 9:30 AM departure. We had two options for our trip across Nantucket Sound.  The high speed ferry only took about an hour and 15 minutes, but cost $77 per person for a round trip ticket. The traditional ferry left from the same port and the trip lasted almost 2 hours, but the tickets were only $45 per person for the same trip. It was a pretty day, so we decided to save money and take the longer route. The dogs were very popular on the ride over. At least 6 people approached us to visit with them. Piper and Cessna have learned to go with the flow after 8 months on our “Lower 48 in 48 Tour”.  They weren’t too anxious about this whole new ferry experience, but they weren’t completely relaxed either. They enjoyed lots of petting and attention as each of our visitors told us all about their own dogs at home. It all turned out great because the extra love they got helped ease their nerves, making it an enjoyable ride for them as well.

We didn’t have a car, so we were limited to seeing only what we could get to on foot. We only had about 5 hours for exploring before we were scheduled to catch the return ferry back to Hyannis, so we would not have been able to see all the attractions on the island anyway. The population of Nantucket is about 10,000, but increases to over 50,000 in the summer months. It is definitely a tourist destination. Wikipedia says “the National Park Service cites the Nantucket Historic District, comprising all of Nantucket Island, as being the ‘finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town’”. The National Park Service is spot on. Before it was a getaway location for English settlers, it was a refuge from Indians who travelled by boat to the island to get away from the white people invading Cape Cod. That is funny to me. By the mid-1600’s English merchants and whalers began to settle in the area. Almost all of the historic homes in the downtown area were built by sea captains and have been meticulously preserved or restored. There is a LOT of money on this island. I think I walked around the whole day with my jaw dropped.

The first thing we did when we got off the ferry was walk the dogs through downtown, with its original cobblestone streets, and into the adjoining residential district. They needed to stretch their legs, and we wanted to expend some of their energy so they would sit tight when the time came to find a place to park ourselves for lunch. Mike told me to take the lead, so I wandered ahead blindly with no idea of where we were going. I was so enamored with all the homes and gardens we were passing, I got us a little lost. We didn’t have a map, but it soon became obvious we were far from any commercial area. The dogs needed water and we both needed a restroom, so it was time to stop a local and ask how to get back to the Harbor. Damn tourists. We were much farther than expected from where we wanted to be, but we had no agenda and this just meant I got to gawk at many more beautiful homes and cottages on our way back.

Mike and I both agreed that the time had come for cocktails. He was a little tired of hearing me say “I could live there” over and over again. Since we had the dogs, we needed to find a place with a patio. We stumbled across a small place at the corner of Easy and Broad Streets. I ordered a Cape Codder and Mike tasted a local brew. The place had a good menu, but our view was of another ferry terminal. A steady line of 18-wheelers were cueing up to catch a ride back to the mainland. We figured it was silly to be watching this commercial transportation routine instead of enjoying the fine architectural example of 18th –century buildings all around us. Time to move. We wandered back toward the harbor and found a waterfront restaurant with outside seating, but they wouldn’t allow Piper and Cessna to join us. We explored the area around the docks for a bit, trying to act nonchalant about the mega-million dollar yachts we were passing. Pretty soon our stomachs were growling so we ditched that route and headed back toward the center of downtown. We finally found a place called The Tavern where the host was happy to seat us at an outside table along the railing. He said we could tie the dogs to the sidewalk side of the patio rail. He even gave us a spot away from the most congested area of the sidewalk when I explained our two hounds weren’t exactly the most well –behaved canines when it came to interacting with other dogs. Our waitress even brought them a bowl of water before she handed us our menus. The dogs behaved themselves and we had a great lunch of chowder and fried cod (when in Rome…).  I stepped into a few shops after lunch, and pretty soon it was time to catch the ferry again.

We drove into Plymouth three times during our stay at Sandy Pond. As it turns out, a small section of Plymouth beach was the only dog friendly beach anywhere near us. We have discovered most beaches in most states don’t allow dogs on them, so we are always happy when we find one that does. One morning we loaded up our coolers, chairs, and beach blankets and headed for La Playa. The key thing about this beach was that all dogs had to be on leash. This is best for us. Even though Cessna and Piper adore each other, they want to fight with all other dogs we come across. There are lots of Golden Retriever genes these mixed-breeds did not get. They don’t care about the tennis ball, they aren’t interested in swimming, and they don’t love all creatures – only all humans (except the ones Piper has bitten). Needless to say, these two can be a challenge at times. Because all dogs had to be on leash at this beach, we could park ourselves on our blanket and avoid any embarrassing conflicts with the other nice pooches that passed by us. As we paid our $10 parking fee at the gate, the lady told us the beach was skinny that day due to the giant moon making high tide extra high. Since the beach was more narrow than usual, it was pretty crowded. All-in-all it was a beautiful beach day, full of sun and the clear blue waters of Cape Cod Bay. We soaked up some rays and got in some good people watching before it was time to go back home.

Later that afternoon, we turned around and went back to Plymouth. This time we were headed into downtown for a free community concert on the waterfront. An arts foundation in town was hosting a summer concert series on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30.  The night we went featured two bands. The first group was called Blood, Sweat and Gears. They were out of Boston and only played trucker music. I can’t remember the name of the second act, but they played a lot of peppy country swing. Before the night was over, these guys had the crowds up and dancing. It was a beautiful evening as we listened to the performances and watched the incredibly huge moon rise up over the harbor. We couldn’t dance because Cessna is afraid of the dark. (She doesn’t like fire-crackers, and has learned that when it gets dark is the time that fireworks start exploding. We have encountered lots of fireworks on this trip… mainly private individuals shooting them off during their camping vacations). We spent most of our energy trying to get her to settle down and trying to prevent Piper from trying to attack every other dog that came near our chairs. We did have a good time in spite of the dogs’ antics.

On the way back to the car we passed the famous Plymouth Rock. I was expecting a BIG ROCK… sort of like maybe a giant sea cliff that marked the geographic boundary of land at Plymouth. Not so. The Plymouth Rock is a dinky boulder in the sand with 1620 carved into it. The setting is majestic because it is surrounded by a beautiful open-air concrete monument with a railing in the center that allows visitors to peer down at the pebble. The structure is land-based on three sides, and opens out onto the water on the eastern side. There is no way the Pilgrims could have “landed on the rock”. I guess they landed near the rock, and it was the only boulder in the area, so it became famous. It isn’t like they could have spotted the rock from a far distance and sailed toward it in anticipation of a long-awaited landfall. They just must have had to avoid it as they guided the Mayflower in from the ocean. I have to admit I was a little disappointed with this. My expectations had greatly exceeded the reality of the situation. Somehow it was not as glamorous or dramatic as I imagined during elementary school history lessons.

The third time we went into Plymouth was on a Sunday morning. Even though the music concert earlier in the week was at Pilgrim’s Memorial Park in downtown, we had only walked directly from our car to the park and back. “America’s Home Town” was full of more historic architecture and we wanted to take some time to walk around and explore all the sights. The downtown was full of cute shops, restaurants, bakeries, galleries, and taverns – along with many wonderful churches, civic buildings and public green spaces. We loaded the dogs back in the car that morning and walked down each street in the Central Business District. Once the dogs were worn out, we found a place with a patio on Water Street and enjoyed a yummy breakfast with a view of the harbor. I really enjoyed Plymouth. There are lots of things we didn’t do… like tour the Mayflower Ship, walk the Pilgrim Path, or catch a whale-watching excursion. There is just never enough time to cover everything in every place we visit. We have learned to enjoy seeing what we see, and make a list of things we would like to return to in the future. More relaxing and less stressful.

The time had come for a return trip to Boston and we selected a day when the forecasters predicted good weather. Unlike our first visit when it poured rain the entire time, we were ready to explore the city in dry clothes without umbrellas. It was a Friday and we didn’t want to deal with traffic or parking, so we decided to take the train into The Hub.  Kingston station was only about a 20-minute drive from our camp. The train from Kingston took us all the way into South Station at the center of everything. Our tickets were $40 for both of us, but we would have easily paid that in parking, so the train was definitely the best option for a variety of reasons. With all the stops, it took us about an hour and 40 minutes to get there after we parked our car. We left the dogs at home this time because we didn’t think they could ride on the train (we later found out they could have gone). This put us in a bit of a hurry to get there, look around, and get back. Piper and Cessna were already going to be cooped up in the bathroom for about nine-hours and they wouldn’t be able to last much longer than that.

We got there just before the lunch hour and made our way to Boston Commons. My idea was to spend our day walking the Freedom Trail. The Visitor Center in Boston Commons had maps of the trail, so this was our starting point. We could have taken a guided tour and learned lots more stuff, but we wanted to control the pace so we did the self-guided thing. We followed the red brick path to each stop; I read a small blurb aloud to us from the brochure, and we kept moving. It was kind of like a tour of Boston on steroids. About 1/3 of the way through the trail we stopped near Beacon Hill to have lunch. We found a cute pub that wasn’t too crowded. Mike had a delicious Sheppard’s Pie and I devoured a Reuben Sandwich with a side of Mac & Cheese. I figured we would be walking all day, so calories didn’t count.

The Freedom Trail is excellent because it takes you through many different sections of downtown Boston.  There is literally a red brick trail in the sidewalk, so it is idiot proof. Just follow the red line – but look up once in a while to see the sights. We passed tons of pubs, shops and restaurants. We wandered through a couple of markets and one historic building that had been converted to an enormous food court.   We saw a restaurant called Cheers, but I don’t think it was THE Cheers. It was all glass, and had an outdoor patio on two sides. That is not what the building looks like in the TV show. We finally found our way to the Little Italy section where I could have lingered all day, enjoying the smells of garlic and marinara sauce seeping out onto the sidewalks from every restaurant. We passed Paul Revere’s house (I didn’t know he had 16 kids), and saw the church steeple where the two lanterns were hung. The last two stops on the Freedom Trail are across the Charlestown Bridge. When we got to this point, we were worried about the time. It was, after all, a Friday afternoon before one of the last weekends of summer. The people up here cherish warm sunny days, since they have a limited number of them. We were hoping to catch the 5:00 train back to Kingston, and we figured it was going to be crowded with commuters getting out of town after work. We didn’t want to miss it because that would delay getting back and letting the dogs out of prison. We had a brief family conference to review our timeline. We made the decision to duck into one of those Italian restaurants and have a drink (and use their restroom). After we were refreshed, we got off the trail walked back down Commercial Street and Atlantic Avenue, passing 13 wharfs, until we reached South Station. We didn’t make it to Cambridge, or see the Tea Party Museum, or visit Fenway Park. Not enough time. We needed a full week in Boston to really see it all, but we got a taste and we loved it.

Art and Culture are big on Cape Cod. They even have their own Symphony. While I was researching options for things to do during our stay, I learned the Cape Cod Symphony was having their 24th Annual Pops in the Park festival while we were “in town”. We drove to Orleans late one afternoon to catch the show. The outdoor concert was held in a big sports field adjacent to the local High School. Sort of like Tanglewood in Lennox, arts patrons had brought fancy picnics to enjoy on the lawn before the concert started… only this time the lawn was a bit less luxurious baseball field. The performance was wonderful. The symphony played a variety of music. Mike was excited because one of the numbers was a montage of Star Trek music. They did some classical stuff and even a number from the musical Chicago. The show featured a singer that performed a couple of songs with the help of the symphony, and they even had a local congressman read the Gettysburg Address set to background music. The finale was a patriotic military salute, and those always get me. The weather was chilly when the sun went down, as it should be on Cape Cod. It was a wonderful evening all around, and we were so glad we decide to take advantage of the opportunity.

On our last day in Massachusetts we drove to the end of the Cape to see Provincetown. We took the scenic route on the way over. Judging from the line on the map, Route 6A hugged the water the whole time. This is one of the things that surprised me about Cape Cod. I was expecting beach, beach, water, and beach. Not the case. It seems like you don’t see any beaches or water in Cape Cod unless you are directly on the shoreline. What you mainly see is the scenery of green hilly woods and pine trees. The two lane highway ambled through tiny town after tiny town, but we didn’t see any water on our drive until we came into Provincetown, parked our car, and got out on foot. The region is still beautiful, just different than I expected.

We took the dogs with us on this trip too, so our first objective was to walk them and wear them out. As with any tiny waterfront town at the end of the road, it was packed with tourists and seasonal guests. The streets were so crowded; cars could only drive about 2 miles an hour down the main Commercial Street. No one moved for them. Pedestrians ruled. I kind of felt like I was in Key West again. The town center was jammed with shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars. There were lots of rainbow flags hanging above the street from sidewalk to sidewalk. It was all very festive. After a few short minutes on our walk, it all sort of clicked for me that the main demographic in Ptown is gay and lesbian. I did notice an extraordinary ratio of men to women.  I guess I started to put two and two together after we passed our third bondage shop. It was all confirmed when we passed places like the Macho bar and the Leather Club.  I started making a list in my head of all my gay friends. I wanted to tell them to be sure and come visit here on a vacation. They would love it.

We made our way to the end of Commercial Street to First Landing Pilgrim Park. I was getting very confused on my history. The Pilgrims actually landed here first, and then made their way to Plymouth… this is not what I remember learning in elementary school. Anyway, we saw where they landed and turned around to make our way back to the busy town center. You guessed it; we were ready for a drink and a snack. We stumbled upon a place called Governor Bradford Restaurant & Club because they had a big sign in their window that said “Dogs Welcome”. We grabbed a table outside and I ordered my ‘usual’: a codder with a splash of club soda. I decided I was going to drink Cape Cods while in Cape Cod – but the locals call them “codders”. We had a patio table, but the view wasn’t that great. We were facing the back side of three old run-down houses. I checked with urbanspoon to see what the rating of the place was. After we learned that only 30% liked the restaurant, we decided to limit our order to drinks and one appetizer. I started googling other pet-friendly restaurants in town. I found a website called www.bringfido.com and learned there were 8 places we could choose from. We decided to try Pepe’s Wharf because it was on the water. We were hoping for a better view and a higher score. We paid our tab and joined the masses back on the sidewalk. We located Pepe’s a little further down the street, and grabbed a table on their upper deck. The dogs got tons of attention from the host and other wait staff. Mike had his last lobster roll in Massachusetts and I ordered some Portuguese Kale Soup and boiled shrimp. We had a great time. The view was wonderful and the service was excellent. My friend Becky had told me we needed to climb to the top of Pilgrim Monument while we were there. We would have done so, but it was so foggy we wouldn’t have been able to see anything when we reached the top. We skipped the climb up the 252’ tall tower and made our way back to the car after Pepe’s.

The following day was a travel day, so it was time to get home and rested before the morning. We had planned to make our way to Rhode Island after Massachusetts, but Labor Day weekend was coming up and all of the campgrounds in Rhode Island that could accommodate our rig were already booked. We were heading to Connecticut first, and then planned to backtrack just a bit to catch Rhode Island on the flip side. Time to leave Massachusetts, but not New England.

 

Boston Commons

Boston Commons

We saw the AVIVA when we entered Nantucket Harbor. She belongs to the owner of the San Antonio Spurs.

We saw the AVIVA when we entered Nantucket Harbor. She belongs to the owner of the San Antonio Spurs.

The view from Pepe's Wharf Restaurant in Provincetown. We visited because they were one of the few establishments that allowed dogs on their patio, and discovered a good find!

The view from Pepe’s Wharf Restaurant in Provincetown. We visited because they were one of the few establishments that allowed dogs on their patio, and discovered a good find!

Our spot at Sandy Pond Campground.

Our spot at Sandy Pond Campground.

Little Sandy Pond.

Little Sandy Pond.

Fresh clams in Hyannis Harbor being delivered directly to the restaurant's truck.

Fresh clams in Hyannis Harbor being delivered directly to the restaurant’s truck.

Getting ready for a church festival in the Little Italy section of Boston

Getting ready for a church festival in the Little Italy section of Boston

Cobblestone streets in Nantucket

Cobblestone streets in Nantucket

Jung-Ho Pack, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra.

Jung-Ho Pack, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra.

Falmouth Harbor

Falmouth Harbor

Mike's bounty from one afternoon in his Kayak on Little Sandy Pond.

Mike’s bounty from one afternoon in his Kayak on Little Sandy Pond.

Very James Bond.

Very James Bond.

Nantucket Harbor

Nantucket Harbor

Lighthouse approaching Nantucket Harbor

Lighthouse approaching Nantucket Harbor

Nantucket Island

Nantucket Island

Low tide in Plymouth

Low tide in Plymouth

Plymouth waterfront

Plymouth waterfront

LOTS of rainbow flags in Provincetown.

LOTS of rainbow flags in Provincetown.

The swimming hole at Little Sandy Pond

The swimming hole at Little Sandy Pond

It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to go the last 9 miles to our Campground near Cape Cod. This traffic is all headed to the Bourne Bridge crossing the Cape Cod Canal.

It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to go the last 9 miles to our Campground near Cape Cod. This traffic is all headed to the Bourne Bridge crossing the Cape Cod Canal.

Enjoying Plymouth Beach

Enjoying Plymouth Beach

 

 

 

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