A Travellerspoint blog

October 2007

Day 60 (10.31.07) - Old Mystic Seaport

I spent so long here, we didn't visit anything else, but it was worth it!

sunny 64 °F

Happy Halloween!

Summary: I visited Old Mystic Seaport, a leading maritime museum including three tall ships and a recreated 1870's seafaring village.

Logistics: Miles Driven - 76, Weather - Sunny, mid 60's F, Camped at Hartford Wal-mart. Mom elected to stay in the RV today, I'm not sure why but maybe she just needed a day off.

Details: Warning - I've always liked sailboats. My favorite book as a kid was a book full of paintings of old sailing ships. Put me in a museum village full of tall ships, small ships, ship support businesses - this blog entry might get a little long winded (yes, even more than normal if that's possible).

Old Mystic Seaport consists of 17 acres in the town of Mystic, Connecticut. It is a museum and preserves, restores and displays a number of things. Primarily, it recreates a bit of a seafaring village from 1870 - the last golden years of the great sailing vessels. There are three tall masted ships in the water at her wharfs. There are also quite a few buildings - some representing ship building and businesses that supported ships, but also the types of buildings you would find an any village in 1870 - a grocery store, bank, church, school, printing office and homes. There are also exhibits and displays you can go through as well as the ever present gift shop.

The main part of the museum is set up as a seafaring village with ships at their wharf.


I started at the far left end of the museum, which consists of the Shipyard.


This is part of the museum, it contains signs explaining what things are, historic diesel engines and saws as well as lots of wood (yes, even historic wood). However it is also a working museum. They use this to maintain and restore wood ships.

Next I visited the first couple of wooden ships along the wharf. This first one is quite small and plain looking, 'nothing to shake a stick at' so to speak. The picture isn't that good either, the cabin is somewhat lost in the small ferry behind her.


The sign explains more - this is the Gerda III, built in 1928 for the Danish lighthouse and bouy service. In 1943, her crew felt they could use their boat to help rescue Danish Jew's from the Nazi's and ferry them to safety in Sweden. With some help from their boss, they rescued about 300 people in small groups of 10 to 15 at a time. The rescues on the Gerda III were part of a spontaneous effort that rescued more than 7,000 Jews from the Nazi's in Denmark.

Next to the Gerda III was one of the tall ships at the museum, the L.A. Dunton


The L.A. Dunton is a fishing schooner built in 1921 that made about 18 trips a year in search of halibut or haddack. Engines were later added and in her final working days, she served as a coastal freightor until about 1963 when she was sold to Mystic Seaport for preservation. You can go aboard this ship. Here is a picture of her forecastle, where the crew slept and ate when they weren't working.


In addition to these boats, I went though buildings used by the United States Life Savings Service (a predessor to the Coast Guard), a Lobster Shack, a fishing shack and more. One building housed a ship skeleton - a sailing boat that had been used during the Civil War by the Confederates to try to run the blockade the Union put around the South. A Union gunboat caught sight of her and gave chase, whereupon the captain ran aground by error or accident. The Union captured the captain and crew and put them on trial. They also sold the boat at auction.

One building particularly caught my eye - the Plymouth Cordage Company:


Plymouth Cordage was founded in 1824 by Bourne Spooner, who ran the company until 1870. By the end of the 1800's new machinery had made buildings like this largely obsolete (it was called a ropewalk and was originally over 1,000 feet long). In 1950, company employee's saved this section of the building and reassembled it at Old Mystic Seaport, together with it's machinery. Besides being an interesting study in itself, it is a good example of the types of exhibits at this museum - including a mix of signage to explain things and antique buildings and machines. In some exhibits (but not this one), museum employees are available to explain or demonstrate various things.

Here are a couple of the boards and pictures that describe the history and process of rope making (If you're new to this blog, these are 'thumbnails'. You can click on them to enlarge them):


Now, here are pictures of the machines that made the rope in Plymouth Cordage Company:


With a little less detail, here are a few more examples of some of the other buildings in the museum:


The general store might use a little more background. This is a local, neighborhood store from 1870 (the period represented by the whole village). This was a time when packaged goods were just beginning to replace bulk products, so in this store you see both - some canned goods, some large boxes. It also sold many household appliances and goods, such as this butter mold.


Before I had a chance to explore all of these buildings, I heard someone playing an old style accordian. He was one of the Mystic Seaport people who work throughout the museum to help us landlubbers get our sea legs, and was actually quite good. I'm sorry I didn't get the beginning of this, but at least it may get you into the spirit!

So, now that you've been properly entertained - lets go back across the street to the Print Shop.


My sister Penny actually used a small hand printing press to make business cards when she was in High School and can probably tell you a lot about movable type, typesetting, etc. I did learn a couple of interesting things. Look carefully at the type trays below that have been set up to work from:


Capital letters are in the tray on the top or upper tray, small letters on the bottom or lower tray - hence the terms 'Upper' and 'Lower' case letters. However, my sister is the one who ran the printing business - what I know can probably be summed up in a big 'duh?', so I should probably let an expert explain the process to you:

Finally I did make it to the other two tall ships. The first one, Joseph Conrad is used as a floating dormitory for various programs and not open to the public.


The Charles W. Morgan is the last surviving wooden whaling ship. She was built in 1841 and sailed 37 voyages before retiring in 1941.


Visitors are allowed to board this ship, which of course I took full advantage of... (again, click to enlarge or get more descriptions of these images):


By this time I was getting pretty tired, so decided to check out the Tavern, which somehow I forgot to upload a picture of. It was a tavern, but also sold sandwiches, root beer, and 'Fruit of the Forest' Pie slices. Dana, the Tavern Keeper, not only had to deal with roudy tourists, but also had to bake the pies and keep the books for the Tavern - can't get much more real than that! By the way, she was also very friendly and her pie was delicious...


So having been somewhat thoroughly emersed in the seafaring village of Old Mystic Seaport, I reluctantly realized I had an RV out in the parking lot and needed to move on. It was already after 5 PM by then, far too late to visit any place else today. So knowing that the local RV parks were closed for the season (the one we stayed at last night was their last night open until next spring), I decided to (reluctantly) hit the freeway and zip (to the extent you can in an RV) up to Hartford Connecticut.

I pulled off approximately where Mapquest showed the Hartford Wal-mart to be, but it was wrong. While I fired up the laptop to recheck my locations (and set up the GPS mapping software), Mom decided to try to get help the old fashioned way - to check the local gas station. The GPS software (combined with an accurate address) did locate the Wal-mart correctly, but Mom's approach was even better.

The gas station attendant casually threw out a few directions, which didn't help too much, so another patron told her not to bother with him and offered to drive us there herself! It turned out that we were several miles off course, the correct direction required an unusual exit off the left side of the freeway - so her help was greatly appreciated! Unfortunately she didn't pull over once we got to Wal-mart, so we didn't have time to thank her, but this has to be the best and most kind local assistance we've seen yet!

Posted by jl98584 19:31 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 59 (10.30.07) - We make it to Connecticut

And visited a very old lighthouse and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum


Summary: Beach at Charlestown Beachway, RI, Old Lighthouse Museum in Stonington, CT and Mashantucket Pequot Museum

Logistics: Miles Driven - 55, Weather - Sunny & Cool, Camped at Seaside Campground, Mystic, CT

Detail: We decided to visit the beach again in the daylight (it was only a hundred yards or so from the camping area). Even though it was still quite cool, the bright sunshine made for a very lovely sight. Sandpipers were everywhere (as well as gulls and a few other sea birds). I've decided that beaches are always nice, regardless of where they're located or what the weather.


As we were leaving town, I saw a most unusual arrangement for a pickup truck (unusual for me at least). Out west, I've seen pickup trucks with all sorts of things mounted on them, ox horns, gun racks, snow blades, etc. I'd never seen fishing poles mounted like this before - I guess these Rhode Island folks are serious about their fishing!


We had no poles of course and were heading in the opposite direction, so drove on. After a little confusion about the map, we thought we'd figured out the road to get to the "Old Lighthouse Museum" in Stonington, CT. However we soon found ourselves in a very quaint town with very narrow streets and no lighthouse in sight. I saw a big parking lot so pulled in to ask - it was the parking lot for a seafood processing area on the bay and it smelled like a lot of dead seafood. I wish I could post oder's on the blog to share the experience with you! I also looked around for a lighthouse, but seeing none, Mom asked one of the local fishermen for directions. It turned out we were on the right course, just needed to keep going. (We thought that's what he said, their accents are quite different up here).

The main street in downtown Stonington is so narrow, they split it into two - one way streets. The direction we were on had some big trucks parked on the side, leaving very little room to go by. Then a third truck pulled out in front of us and just stopped. We saw a whole bunch of kindergarten aged kids dressed up in costumes, so I assume the downtown Stonington merchants were hosting some sort of Halloween 'Trick-or-Treat' for the kiddies and the third truck just wanted to wait until they were safely past him. All the kids were cute, but these two just take the cake (sorry about the rear view mirror strut in the picture, I didn't have time to get out, pose, etc.):


Finally the kids were safely past and the truck in front of us decided to drive on his way. The narrow one way streets recombined into a narrow two way street. With parking allowed on one side, there wasn't enough room for two cars to pass each other safely - so a traffic sign warned drivers to pull over for oncoming cars!

Somehow, we managed to navigate this and made it to the lighthouse. It was not out on the point, as you would expect for a lighthouse, but up the hill a little bit, sandwiched between two other regular houses. But we found it.


The first lighthouse established by the Federal Government was built in 1823 or 1824 in a smaller granite building farther out on the point. It was moved to this location in 1840 due to erosion and rebuilt in it's current configuration. This was decommissioned in 1879 and has since been turned into a museum. It is not a museum about lighthouses however, as I was expecting, but is a very nice little museum about the village of Stonington and it's history - which was much more interesting than I realized.

While the British attacked Stonington during the Revolutionary War, it wasn't a very serious attack. During the War of 1812 however, the British bombed the village with five warships for three days. The local townsfolk refused to surrender, used their two (?) cannon to great affect, and successfully defended their town. The museum houses some interesting artifacts from this battle.

This 24 lb cannon ball was shot from a British ship during the battle on August 9, 1814 and lodged itself into this hearthstone of the Trumbull House.


This is a Congreve Rocket used by the British during the battle. It is the same type of weapon that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "... By the Rocket's Red Glare..." in our National Anthem.


The museum also had a number of exhibits of early life, such as the open fire toasters and peel (flat, long handled device to put/remove bread in an oven). What I really liked was that each device was very nicely labeled, making it easier for a person who didn't live back then (such as myself) to know what the objects were. I went to mention this to the lady at the front desk, who turned out to be the Curator! Louise was very nice and even agreed to let me put her picture up on the blog!


She really tries hard to keep the museum exhibits interesting and said she sometimes has trouble getting the information to properly label the exhibits also, but always has fun learning. She also pointed out a couple of unique features - the floor in one room has glass plates to expose an old cistern built below the building, which I had seen, but also an old well that is now under a staircase, that I hadn't noticed. These allows you to see how some of the older buildings took care of their basic needs, such as water, before cities provided such services. This shot is of the cistern.


An interesting facet of museums is learning the source of odd phrases we use in everyday life - that many of them came from terms with a more literal meaning. Here is a 'hook, line & sinker' on display in this museum. It probably came from the South Pacific and was brought back as a souvenir by one of the ships that sailed out of Stonington.


Now I should admit, there are a couple of exhibits specific to lighthouses. One is the tower itself, since it doesn't have to be used as a light house anymore, you can climb up into it. The climb is short (only 29 steps) and steep, but has a great view. You can see three states from here (RI, CT, and NY), but not necessarily in this shot. There is also a "fourth order Fresnel Lens" on display. This is slightly larger than the one used in this lighthouse (it was a sixth order Fresnel lens). These large, glass lenses were hand blown (this one was at least 2 feet tall, I'm not a very good judge of such things).


After we left the Old Lighthouse Museum but before we left Stonington, I had to take a picture of the two cannon the townfolk had used to defend themselves in 1814 - now proudly displayed in the town square. The monument reads: "These two guns, of 18 pounds caliber, were heroically used in repelling the attack on Stoninton, of the English Naval vessels Ramilies 74 guns, Pactolus 44, Dispatch 20, Nimrod 20, and the bomb ship Terror." Wikepedia has a good article on this battle and town, worth a look if you have the time:



I also took one picture of one of the homes in Stonington - I don't know if this is one of their old ones or not, but I liked the color combination - yellow with white trim and dark shutters. It seemed a little unusual to me.


Honestly, we didn't spend all day in Stonington, maybe only a couple of hours. But the next place we visited didn't allow photography, so I'm afraid will get the short end of the blog by necessity! This was the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, about 7 or 8 miles up the road (away from the coast) from Stonington. We did spend the rest of our day there, but I only have the one photo of the exterior.


The museum tells the story of the Pequot People in their land of Mashantucket using a combination of technologies. Since it has only been open for a year or two, everything is quite state of the art and very well done. The most striking features are the diorama's, all of which use life sized figures and are very realistic. These include:

Land during the Ice Age - how the glaciers formed the land in New England and probably provided the land bridge for the earliest people to migrate to the America's. (You take an escalator down through a seeming ice cave, with lots of dripping water and pools).

Caribou Hunt - showing Pequot hunters in various stages of the hunt and cleaning the killed Caribou, in fairly graphic detail. There are several interpretive screens located around the circular diorama to help you understand what you are seeing.

16th Century (pre-contact) Pequot Village - you can actually walk through the village and observe very realistic, life size models in their day to day activities. Before entering the village, museum staff give you audio devices so as you explore, you can key in codes (based on plates in the floor) and hear a recording describing what is going. There are 36 different audio units in total and about 6 huts with maybe 40 - 50 Pequot figures (plus 3 huts and additional figures showing a post-contact village from about 1637).

The major post contact display uses mostly signs, reader boards, and video's with actor's in period dress talking from writings of the period to show the different points of view, English, Dutch, and Pequot. The pivotal event was the 1637 war between the English and Peqout which ended in the near destruction of the Pequot people.

It is hard to capture all this without photo's, but take my word for it. If you are ever in this area - the Museum is well worth a visit. But you should allow yourselves at least 3 hours to go through it (which we didn't quite have of course).

By the time we finished going through the museum, we were both quite tired (and a little nippy I'm afraid), but made our way back to Mystic, CT. We found a campground (again, it closes tomorrow - so I guess after that we will be on our own again?). Tomorrow morning, we hope to see what Mystic is all about (traditional seaport?), then head up to Hartford (Mark Twain & Harriet Beecher Stowe homes) and Bristol (watch & clock museum). We should make it to New York by Thursday, depending on how side tracked we get...

Posted by jl98584 17:03 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 58 (10.29.07) - Gardens & Mansions & Bridges, Oh My!

We visited the Newport, Rhode Island area today, never did make it to Portsmouth!

sunny 50 °F

Summary: Sites Visited, "Green Animals Topiary Garden", the Breakers (summer home of the Vanderbilts), and drove across the Pell and Jamestown Bridges (both very long & high) - in an RV!

Logistics: Miles Driven - 55
Weather - Clear, Sunny and Cold (but no wind, which would have made driving over those bridges awfully scary)
Camped at Charlestown Beachway City Park, Rhode Island.

Details: The campground we stayed in last night was very close to something called the "Green Animals Topiary Garden". I wasn't particularly interested in this, but Mom was, so I figured I might as well give it a try also. We got there shortly after they opened, and given the time of year, pretty much had the place to ourselves (except for some of the people who work there). The lady at the gift shop recommended we tour the gardens first, so we did this. She also saw my camera and offered to take a picture of the both of us (how nice, I didn't even have to pull out the tripod for this!) You can see it was pretty cold, as we both bundled up pretty good.


Topiary is the ancient art of training and pruning plants into geometric designs or animal shapes. The gardens are on a seven acre estate purchased by Thomas Brayton in 1875 for use as a summer home. In 1905, he hired a Portuguese gardener, Joseph Careiro to start the garden. There are about 80 pieces of topiary, including 21 animals, in the garden, as well as roses, crab apples, dahlia's and other plants. Some of these were still in bloom! We both took a lot of pictures, I tried to upload only the best?


There was a giant tree in the front yard that Mom thought my brother, Art, would like to climb. We were told it was a Copper Beech tree. If you look closely, you can see Mom taking a picture of the tree also, she is in the lower left - that's how big the tree trunk is!


What the tourist brochure didn't mention is that it's not just the gardens that are open to tour. The main house used as Thomas Brayton's summer home is also open. Mr. Brayton's daughter Alice inherited the house and lived in it until her death in 1972. When she died, she donated the house and garden to the Preservation Society of Newport County. Since it remained in her possession until she died, it still has the original furniture and art work - which makes it much more interesting to tour of course. Upstairs is a toy and doll house display, which was also quite interesting. While we couldn't take pictures inside, these give you some idea what the house looks like at least.


I went back to the gift shop before we left to make sure I took home an appropriate quantity of souvenirs and we got to talking a bit more with some of the ladies that work at the house and garden.


From left to right:

Mary, who is 90, is Joseph Carreiro's daughter and was born in his house also on the property. She has lived there all her life, with her husband and raised her three sons there.

Anita works with the Preservation Society of Newport and showed us the Brayton House. She is holding Bruce the cat, who was quite friendly but about twice as big as my cat.

Mom, who is on the trip with me. She was enjoying the sun and company of these women so much I don't think she would have minded if I just left her there (until they told her she couldn't live in the house with the doll museum, of course).

Linda, who runs the gift shop. Linda's husband is in the military. She loves to travel also and has stayed in KOA cabins during previous trips between duty stations (rather than hotels - which I could relate to).

So if you ever have a chance to visit the topiary gardens near Newport, RI - keep in mind, it's not just the gardens, but also a really cool old house, toy museum, and some very nice people and one cat!

However since I'm not planning to move to Rhode Island and I would like Mom to stop complaining about the cold, I finally pulled her away and we moved on to the next stop. The gardens are part of a package tour run by the Preservation Society. Given that we were trying not to spend 8 months in Rhode Island, I only purchased tickets for two sites - the gardens and the Breakers - the largest of the mansions open for touring. Newport seems to be as famous for it's Mansions as anything else.


This was built for Cornelius Vanderbilt II as a summer residence between 1893 and 1895 after his first summer home on this site burned down. The house takes up one acre of land on a 13 acre parcel, contains 70 rooms with about 138,000 square feet. There are 23 bathrooms, some have bathtubes carved from a solid piece of marble. The rooms are all very ornate, one could say over the top even. But no photos are allowed inside so I could only get some exterior shots:


These two are full views of the side and the front (or back?) facing the ocean. It just seemed like a thumbnail didn't do them justice.


Although I couldn't take pictures inside, you can get a little more information and pictures of both the Topiary Garden and the Breakers at the Preservation Society's web site:


While there are several other mansions available to tour, and each one is different, we felt one was enough for us so decided to move on. Before leaving town, we did stop at a beach - perhaps not the best one around (or so I've heard), but I think it's a decent view of a Newport, RI beach?


We also stopped by a place called "Prescott Farms". This represents farming from the 1700 - 1800's, but the buildings were closed when we were there and we could only tour the grounds.


The sign on the red house says "In this house the British General Prescott was taken prisoner on the night of July 9, 1777 by Lieutenant-Colonel Barton of the Rhode Island Line"

Since there wasn't much more we could do at the Prescott Farm, we decided to head over the bridge west from Newport. There are a lot more interesting things in Newport (sailing, forts, the oldest operating tavern in the US, shopping, restaraunts, a very old library...) - but we are pretty far behind our original schedule already, so I decided to move on. We also decided to skip Providence, RI for the same reasons. Ah, the compromises one has to make!

The Pell Bridge out of Newport is a toll bridge ($2.00), very long, and curves up pretty high over the water. I was busy driving, so didn't get a picture of it - but you can see it here:


Fortunately, it wasn't windy today so I managed to get across it (it was pretty scary as it was). At the end of the Pell Bridge is a small island, then a second bridge on the other side to the mainland. Off to the side was another lighthouse/channel marker that looked kind of cute. We couldn't pull over, of course, and the railing was too high to avoid, so Mom got out the camera and took the best shot she could - not too bad considering the conditions.


Can you believe this is our second day in Rhode Island and we haven't been to a visitors center yet? There was one in Newport, but I was trying to hurry so didn't stop there. I saw one after we got off the bridge and started heading south, so decided I'd better find out what we'd been missing. It turns out there are several things behind us that look of interest (Lighthouses, an Aldridge mansion in Warwick and the Museum of Primative Culture in Wackfield). Rhode Island is small, so we might go back tomorrow, but I'm not sure.

At least we found out that there was still a State Park open for camping along the southern coast, so we headed to Charlestown Beach SP. It is very cold here tonight, but surpisingly full - it turns out that yesterday there was quite a fish run that had come through here - people were practically picking up fish with their bare hands! So they called all their buddies and came back today, but I watched people fishing for over 30 mintues and didn't see anyone catch anything. I guess fishing is like that. However, it was nice to see the fathers and sons out doing something together - and an occasional mother & son. And the sunset was just to die for:


Posted by jl98584 16:53 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 57 (10.28.97) - Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA

Fall River, MA has the largest collection of World War II naval vessels in the world. We also finally made it into Rhode Island.


Summary: I visited Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts for several hours (there are a lot of ships to go through). We also just made it into Rhode Island by the end of the day.

Logistics: Miles Driven, 40
Weather, Sunny, Clear, Windy and Cool (50 F)

Detail: We actually looked for campgrounds in Connecticut this morning! Since Rhode Island is quite small, we were pretty sure we'd get through it in one day. We decided to head to Newport, RI before Providence just to see what was there. As we drove down Hwy 24, I saw a brown sign saying something about "Battleship Cove". Brown signs usually signify something like a park or museum and this sounded interesting so I took the next exit without reading the sign very carefully. Mom probably wasn't sure what I was up to - but I didn't know either, it was just a whim.

We drove through this town which seemed quite unusual to me. All the houses we passed at first were right up against the sidewalks - no front yards whatsoever. Later, we saw houses with some yards, but very small.


We also saw a lot of abandoned, brick buildings that looked like mill or manufacturing buildings. I couldn't pull over to take pictures of the more interesting ones, but did get this abandoned police station and later a mill type building that looked like it had been converted to offices:


I found out later that between 1870 and 1920, Fall River was the second largest cotton manufacturing center in the US. So the city has had an interesting history, but has had some difficulty redefining itself.


I had failed to notice which exit to take to get to this 'Battleship Cove', so we ended up driving through Fall River a little more then we otherwise would have, but of course that's when we saw all the abandoned mills and yard-less homes. I finally did manage to locate the waterfront area and "Battleship Cove". It is exactly what it said it was - a museum on the water with the largest collection of World War II naval vessels in the world - including a battleship, the USS Massachusetts. Mom doesn't care for military stuff at all, so decided to wait in the RV where she had other things to do (and was much warmer).

In the gift shop, I saw some signs about sleeping on the battleship, so asked the two women who worked there.


Carol and Jessica explained that yes, people can stay overnight on the USS Massachusetts for about $45 - $55 per night. You stay on one of the original crew cots (2" mattress), don't have much privacy of course, but get to experience sleeping on a battleship much as a WWII sailor would have! They were very friendly and helpful and would be glad to help you out if you're interested in trying something like this:


Of course, I had no idea how long it would take to go through something like this - but it was just too fantastic an opportunity not to try. It did take me the rest of the afternoon even though I tried to hurry, didn't take as many pictures as I'd have liked, and didn't even try to tour the boats extensively or read all the signs!

Here is the short list of the big 'exhibits' (I guess this is the correct term, but somehow calling floating naval vessels exhibits feels a little odd). Notice the phrase about 'overnighters' as discussed previously:


However in addition to the ships are a few other exhibits, such as the Huey and Cobra helicopters from the Vietnam War:


There was also a very informative board about Quonset Hut's. The first of these were built on Quonset Point, Rhode Island - which is where they got their name. They were the dominent structure in military buildings during WWII and after the war many were converted to various civilian purposes after the war, some are even in use today.


There was also a LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized) built in 1944 that somehow wasn't listed on the main sign. These were designed to unload a 30 ton tank or 120 combat soldiers onto a contested beach (as in D-Day). Before she headed back to the RV, Mom managed to capture me piloting this one.


The two PT boats were both indoors, one in a regular steel building and the other in the Quonset Hut. The second one actually has a wooden hull, which I found surprising for a WWII naval boat. However, the Navy considered these expendable and duty on a PT boat was quite hazardous. The boats are about 80' long. During WWII, we had about 48 squadrons of about 12 boats each. Also shown is a picture I took of a very nice model of a PT Boat base in the Solomon Islands.


Each PT boat carryed a crew of 12 enlisted men and two officers. They didn't have much room, but looked more comfortable than some of the other naval boats I've looked at.


The first of the larger 'exhibits' I went on was the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr.


This is a destroyer that was built in 1945 and remained in service until 1973. A Destroyer is a fast and maneuverable long distance warship designed to escort larger vessels in a fleet or battle group. This ship was named after President JFK's older brother who was killed in World War II. It was newer than the battleship and submarine in the Museum and had been upgraded during her long years of service, so has a more modern look and feel than the others.


Next to the destroyer is the USS Lionfish, a WWII submarine:


While this was older than the USS Albacore we visited earlier, in some ways I liked it better. It actually seemed a little roomier inside (while still VERY cramped). The museum also left decommissioned torpedo's onboard and had one with a cutaway and signs explaining how it worked (also done for one of the engines). I also liked it that all of the big boats were in the water still. On the submarine, it made it sound like a submarine (You can hear sounds echo on the metal hull). It was very difficult walking through this boat, but it was worth the effort.


Next to the submarine was a Russian Missile Corvette that had been used by the East German Navy, the Hiddensee. It was built in 1984 and retired in 1991. Somehow, I forgot to take a picture of it, but did get a few of the inside.


You can also see more photo's at other web sites, such as this:


Finally, I made it to the queen of the museum the battleship USS Massachusetts, or "Big Maimie" as her WWII crew called her.


This is the ship you can sleep on if you wish. A battleship is basically designed to be a floating gun platform. She carried a crew of about 2,000 men, had 9 - 16 inch guns, 20 - 5 inch guns, and 59 cannon. The USS Massachusetts was completed in 1941 and saw quite a bit of action during WWII including at Casablanca, then later in the Pacific Theater. However during WWII the US built only 8 battleships vs 35 aircraft carriers. The battleship, with all her power, had been eclipsed by newer technology.

Walking around a WWII battleship is even harder than walking around a submarine! There are lots and lots of stairs (more like ladders in that they are quite steep) and hatches (all must be climbed through, you can't just step through them). There are few long passageways, the interior of the ship is more like a maze than anything else! The scale was also much larger, a galley that cooks for 2,000 will be quite different than one that cooks for 200 of course. Here is a recipe for biscuits on the Massachusetts:

Sugar 16 pounds
Salt 5 pounds
Shortening 48 pounds
Flour 200 pounds
Baking Powder 22 pounds

However, as big as this ship was, I'm not sure the men had much more room than on any of the other ships - the ship was bigger, but also carried more men, more guns, more supplies, etc.


There were plenty of signs around the ship explaning how the guns worked and ammunation was fed from magazines below deck up to the guns on the deck. These are for the 5 inch guns:


There was also a very interesting exhibit on computers! Did you know that before WWII, a computer was defined as a person who computes, but that after WWII, a computer was defined as a machine that computes! The first computers were built to help the navy compute targeting information.


I probably could have stayed several more days, but felt it was probably time to get moving. Before I left the waterfront area at Fall River, I also noticed a channel light - while not a full lighthouse, it was still kind of cute, and this lovely fellow (to pretty not to take a picture of him).


Leaving town however, it was easy to get to Rhode Island - it is on the city limits. We could also see why the state motto is "The Ocean State"


It was only about 5 PM as we rolled into "The Ocean State", but we stumbled into a nice RV Campground run by the city of Portsmouth - they actually close Nov 1st, so we're still on the edge of New England closing down. Anyway, I decided to stay there for the night and hit Newport, RI in the morning, mansions and all (or whatever we find of interest).

Posted by jl98584 17:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 56 (10.27.07) - Plimoth Plantation, Two Cultures

We get lost on Cape Cod first (and as usual, find really cool things), then experience Plimoth Plantation as the Wampanoag and Pilgrims lived in 1627.

overcast 60 °F

Summary: Old Country Store (1880), Politics in Action, and a recreation of the Pilgrim's colony as it was in 1627 - called Plimoth Plantation.

Logistics: Miles Driven: 65
Weather: Overcast, occasional rain
Camped at KOA Boston/Cape Cod, in Middleboro, MA

Details: We planned to visit Plimoth Plantation today, but took the wrong exit and ended up somewhere else. What luck! We ran into an Old Country Store, built in 1880 and run today using an interesting combination of old (1914 cash register) and new (coffee & pastries for breakfast). Pat has been running this store for 40 years and still rings up the sales on the old cash register. Two of her regular customers, Fred and Patty were asking us about our RV, as they are hoping to purchases something similar and start doing some traveling themselves. When Pat found out about our trip, she insisted on buying us breakfast! From left to right, these are Pat, Patty, Fred & Mom enjoying making some new friends:


Here is Pat and her cash register (again, I must apologize - I forgot to remove the sun hood before taking flash pictures - ugh, that's what causes the shadow):


We also found a Post Office (finally), and met a man out stumping for votes. This is Gregory Milne who is running for Charter Commissioner.


Mom couldn't see why I was taking a picture of a politician that I don't know anything about and from another part of the country than my voting district. However, after all that we've been learning about how our forefathers worked so hard to secure our right to govern ourselves, I think it's nice to see some democracy in action. After all the bad press we give our politicians, perhaps we should consider where we'd be if nobody was willing to run for office anymore?

Anyway, after finally unloading many pounds of mail to send back home (the RV is just too small to keep everything that we collect for the whole trip) - we got back on the highway towards the Plimoth Plantation. It turns out there are two Exit 4's, one on each side of the Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal. Everything to the east of the canal is Cape Cod and the highway changes from Hwy 3 to Hwy 6. We were on Hwy 6, but needed to cross over the bridge where it turns into Hwy 3 and take that Exit 4. (I'm sure glad we made that mistake though and got to meet all those interesting people).

We got to Plimoth Plantation and found out that in the 1600's there wasn't any 'correct' way to spell things. People often spelled things they way they sounded to them, which might be a little different than the way they were spelled by someone else. So we have spellings such as 'Strawbery Banke' and Plimoth or Plymouth. The museum uses a spelling from William Bradford, Plymouth Colony's second governor.

It was a little cool and rainy when we got to the museum, so we bundled up pretty good. The main entrance is the last modern building we'd see for the next several hours.


This is a living history museum of the Plymouth Colony as it looked in 1627 and a nearby Wampanoag home. There are quite a few role-players and other staff that really help you feel what it might have been like to live as the people did in 1627 and experience the two cultures from each others perspectives. To save a little time, I'll just post the thumbnails of the photo's I took. You can click to enlarge and get a little more information (I didn't make a thorough inventory however, as in who lived in each house, etc.)

Wampanoag Home:


The whole Plimoth Plantation is located along the Eel River (as Plymouth was located along the Plymouth River). As we walked from the Wampanoag home and the 1627 Plimoth Village, we saw a swan in the river. If you've been following our trip, you know we rarely pass up animal, bird, or pretty scenery pictures!


We then walked to the re-creation of Plymouth Village as it was in 1627. Actually, in 1627 there were 28 homes in Plymouth, but the plantation has only about half that number - but it's still quite impressive (and realistic). Many of the buildings had role-players in them who interpret history "in-character". They talk in the language of Shakespeare's time and reflect the political and cultural views of the time. While the village and furnishings are as authentic as possible, they are recreations so you can walk around, touch things and experience early pilgrim life in a more realistic setting (not locked behind glass cabinets).


Finally, after enjoying both the Wampanoag home and Colonist village, we went through the Craft Center. This is where modern day craftsmen & women demonstrate how various things were made back in the 1600's. Most of the products actually used by the Pilgrims were brought over from England, but the techniques are still appropriate to the period items whether manufactured in England, or later in the colonies.


We spent some more money in the gift shops (I keep reminding myself - this is a once in a lifetime trip, this is a once in a lifetime trip, this is...), then finally started towards Rhode Island shortly a little after 5 PM. A few miles down the road we passed a KOA Campground and it was actually open. It was late, raining, and I was very tired - so I decided to pull in. We'll tackle the next state on our circumnavigation tomorrow. In the meantime, here's a nice little treat for the adventurer in all of us (aka - if you get lost, look for the hidden gem's where you end up!):

Posted by jl98584 23:10 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

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