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Day 53 (10.24.07) - Boston, USS Constitution & Bunker Hill

We actually took the RV through the 'big dig' and survived to visit the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill.


Summary: Visited the U.S.S. Constitution, built in 1797 and still an active U.S. Navy ship, and the U.S.S. Constitution Museum. We drove up to Bunker Hill and visited that site and a brand new Museum they've opened across the street.

Logistics: Mileage: 51 (from Campground, to Boston mostly)
Weather: Overcast, some light rain
Camped: Wal-mart, Lynn, MA

Details: We left the campground a little late this morning so I could print out some paperwork that needed to be completed (I did print it, but it still needs to be completed - Ugh). Also, since we stayed at a really nice campground last night, we did all the RV maintenance stuff before leaving (just like at home, but different). Mom is not too fond of the fancy GPS software I bought, so I also bought a detailed street map of Boston to try to help us navigate. The people at the campground store were very nice, but also advised me to take the subway to Boston, they said they were even afraid of driving there. But I'm fearless (or a fool), so drove on.

That's not exactly true, I considered the options carefully. The subway is probably a good alternative for most folks, but I thought this would be harder for Mom with her walker. She also gets tired, so it's very nice to have the RV handy if she doesn't feel like going through something. I had also called a Trolley company that drives around Boston and they said there was parking down by the Aquarium we could fit into. However, they only ran until 3:30 PM and we were leaving so late it wouldn't give us very much time - at $30 apiece!

Finally since it is past the prime tourist season, we had found Lexington and Concord to be quite manageable - parking was sometimes tight, but could be found, especially since Mom has a handicapped tag. So I decided to try to wing it on our own, then go to a different plan if that didn't prove feasible. Besides, we're from the Seattle area which has some of the worst traffic in the Country. I'd driven the RV in Seattle before, while not fun - it can be done (before you try this on your own, keep in mind that my rig is 8 inches narrower than most RV's, which can make a big difference on narrow streets).

So off we headed to downtown Boston, about forty miles from the RV camp. We had driven through downtown on I-93 after we left Dedham (to visit the Fairbanks house), so I knew I could survive it (as long as the ceiling doesn't fall down). This stretch of highway includes a 3.5 mile tunnel under the heart of Boston commonly known as 'the big dig'. Very intesting if you want to read up on it:


We were trying to decide whether to head to the Boston Public Library to try again to locate information about Mom's grandfather or to go to the Aquarium where I knew there would be parking. However we weren't exactly sure what exit we needed to take to get to either one. In spite of the map - Boston's streets are a bit of a mess and missed the exit we needed so we drove through the tunnel to the next exit. It still might have gotten us to our intended destinations, but we ended up in the right lane when we needed to turn left, so I decided to go to the U.S.S Constitution instead, which was on our right. The roads weren't really well marked, so I just tried turning where it looked logical and we got down to an area that looked like waterfront so I started looking for parking. There basically wasn't any, except for one spot reserved for handicapped licence plates - so I took it. Mom was a little confused by the signage, but I was pretty sure I was legally parked (or they'd have to be pretty mean to tow a vehicle with a handicapped tag). Fortunately, it was only a hundred feet or so farther than the Trolley Stop for the Constitution!

This turns out to be in the area called the "Charleston Navy Yard". This was established in 1800 and remained in active service until 1974. When it was closed, 30 acres were set aside as part of the Boston National Historic Park. While some of the buildings are now offices or retail shops, you still get a sense of the work done there in the past. We really liked this building, it is the "Muster House. The bell was rung to assemble workers in the surrounding plants.


Across the streets is one of the first two granite dry docks in America. Prior to dry docks, boat hulls were repaired or serviced by laying the boat over on it's side - a process called careening. This was very difficult and time consuming. It was also very stressful for wooden hulled ships and some actually sank during the process.


Dry Dock 1 was built in 1833 to make the repair of naval ships faster, easier and safer. In time of war, fast turnaround for repairs can also make a big difference in ships available to fight. The first ship to use Dry Dock 1 was the U.S.S. Constitution.


Just beyond this is the U.S.S. Constitution Museum in a building that used to be the pumphouse for Dry Dock 1. We learned a lot more about the early history of the U.S. Navy and the U.S.S. Constitution. Maybe I should spare you from having to read all this however, since the information is readily available elsewhere?


Anyway, as I've always loved old sailing ships - this was quite a treat for me, to be able to see this grand old ship in person. It was just beyond the Museum.


Mom decided to take the tour with me even though it meant climbing some difficult stairs, so off we went. This is still an active ship in the U.S. Navy and is manned by U.S. Navy personnel who serve as tour guides. Most even wear cloths appropriate for a mid 1800's navy ship.


The ship has four decks, three of which are on the tour, the top or 'spar deck', the second or 'gun deck' and the 'berth deck' for the crew. The lowest deck (orlop) was for storage only and is not on the tour. I probably could have taken a thousand pictures, but maybe was in too much awe or something so only took a few, and uploaded even fewer.


Proof that Mom actually made it down those steep stairs!


After a thoroughly enjoyable tour on 'Old Ironsides', we decided to visit Bunker Hill. Most folks would walk since it is right above the Charleston Naval Yard, but Mom said her toe was hurting and I looked at the walk and decided it would be just too much for her even if her foot hadn't hurt. Maybe I was a little overconfident since we'd found parking so easily at the naval yard.

The drive to Bunker Hill isn't as straightforward as the walk, but somehow we managed to follow the right path in the maze (called streets in this area) and found the monument site, but no parking. Actually, we found a lot of parking, but it all had signs - 'Tow Zone - Resident Parking Only'. After driving around in a circle a bit, I located a spot that didn't appear to have any no parking signs. Interestingly, it was right behind a handicapped spot that had a car without an appropriate sticker or license. Hmm, maybe they don't enforce that here? Just to play it safe, we went ahead and put Mom's hanger in the window (I take it down to drive so it won't block my vision). To give you an idea of the streets I was trying to navigate, this one is directly across from Bunker Hill (a little narrow):


Half a block up the hill was the front corner of the National Park.


We walked up to the top and found out that in addition to the granite obelisk monument, there is an exhibit lodge. Mom waited there while I went back to the RV for my 'National Park Passport', not realizing that Bunker Hill was one such place. On the way back, I also shot a picture of Colonel Wm. Prescott, who lead the colonials defense.


The granite monument is 221 feet tall and can be climbed (no elevator). I hadn't been getting much exercise and it looked like the view from the top might be pretty good, so 294 steps later,


...I got a pretty good shot of Boston. On the lower left, you can see the masts of the U.S.S Constitution. Then, across the Charles River is Old Boston.


Mom and I also went through a new museum that has opened up across the street from the battlefield and I did take pictures inside, but will spare you the pain of having to wade through them. However, having been through the exhibits and reading the material we picked up at the park and the museum, I have certainly developed a much greater appreciation of the events that took place here June 18, 1775.

Many say the British won the battle, since on their third attempt, they succeeded in chasing the colonists off the high ground. However, they suffered so many casualties that they were unable to capitalize on their 'victory' and unable to break the siege of Boston and start attacking the militia surrounding them. The colonists certainly gained a 'moral' victory in that the proved to themselves that they could stand up against the best army in the world. So who 'won' depends on your definition of 'winning' I suppose.

So what we have learned so far: Lexington was the first armed skirmish and Colonist casualties, Concord the first organized battle and British casualties, and Bunker Hill the first major and planned battle with extensive casualties. And all three were part of the same campaign that started with the British attempt to confiscate munitions and arrest ringleaders and ended with the British evacuating Boston.

That's enough to make anybody tired, not just Mom, so we headed north to a Wal-mart I found on the internet. In addition to not wanting to drive 40 miles to an expensive (but nice) RV park, Mom has some prescriptions that still need to be filled (her doctor only called in one when we were at Acadia, so now the other two are almost gone). Since Wal-marts have pharmacies - it was a logical choice for tonight.

This time, we used the GPS software and it got us out of Boston just fine. We are in Lynn, MA at Wal-mart for tonight. When we went into the store to get her prescriptions, I met a couple of really nice local girls, Josipa & Ana (I think - if I got these wrong I hope they log in and drop me a comment and let me know, I can edit these). I like to try to meet local people as we travel and get their two cents on the area. They weren't that fond of Lynn, but like the Boston area in general. Josipa said she worked at the Omni Parker House, the longest continuously operating luxury hotel in America, originally opened in 1855. After looking it up, I can see why she was proud of working there.


BTW - if anyone finds an error or omission, drop me a comment - I can go back and edit old blog entries!

Signing off -

Posted by jl98584 19:01 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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You know, the British probably thought of the colonists attacking them on their way to Boston as terrorists...Que

by drque

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